From Merida we moved on to Chiapas and the Palenque ruins. The vegetation changed quite a bit and became more jungle like. The city itself is also older with the creation myth claiming the original ruler reigned something about 1000BC. Then, however, there’s no trace of another ruler until some 1500 years later, shedding just the tiniest bit of doubt on their creation myth. There is one exception “Casper I” who apparently reigned around 300BC. If you’re wondering why Casper seems to have such a European name, that’s because the archaeologists named all unknown rulers Casper.. Surprisingly the list contains only two Caspers, one of which is likely mythological.. The Mayans did enjoy documenting everything that happened.
The most famous building is the temple of inscriptions. The guide books go and on about how beautiful and unique the inscriptions are, only to reveal at the very end that tourists are no longer allowed to climb and view said inscriptions. One is however, still permitted to visit the woman’s tomb, probably the wife of the ruler buried in the temple of inscriptions, in the pyramid next door.
This tomb however does not have any kind of decorations, making it quite easy to take the scene it at the first sight. We would see (a replica of.. the original is in Mexico City like most interesting things found in Maya ruins) the sarcophagus of Pakal later on in the on-site museum, which is absolutely worth a visit! The sarcophagus alone weighs 20 tons and is absolutely huge. Some people live in rooms smaller than that sarcophagus. The decorations on it are incredibly well preserved and show his ancestors with corn, symbolizing their possible rebirth. Or, of course, according to our good friend Erich von Däniken, it’s an alien astronaut. Everything is aliens according to him.
Apart from the temple of inscriptions Palenque is very accessible, we got to climb around almost all the ruins to our hearts desire and especially in the palace we got lost more than once. I’m almost certain we managed to see all the rooms though! One thing that stood out in the palace was the roman tower. It looked so much like a European medival church tower, that we had to check four to five times that it wasn’t added by the discoverers. But it is definitely part of the original palace and was probably used for astronomical observations.
Southwest of the palace lies the ‘group of the cross’. The group features three temples dedicated to each of the three founding deities of the city god one, god two and god three as their names are unknown as well. It took us a while to figure out that GI, GII and GIII aren’t actually Mayan names, just abbreviations. The temples were built in form of symbolic steam baths, which were the place of labor and birth. Thereby the temples symbolically became the place of birth of these gods.
The name “group of the cross” stems from one of the reliefs which shows the world tree in a cross shape inside one of the temples. Unfortunately, access doesn’t necessarily guarantee understanding and while we saw the reliefs, I’m really not quite sure which of them was the one with the cross in it. We decided to call it the group of the cross because of the fascinating stone criss-cross on top of the temples. We tried to figure out the ‘deeper meaning’ but we’re not sure there is any.