Palenque is a Maya ceremonial center built in the modern state of Chiapas, Mexico. It is part of the frontier region of the Classic Maya renowned for its architecture and rich history of rulers. Palenque's history began on March 11, A.D. 431, according to the heiroglyphic texts. The main construction phase began in the 7th century and lasted until about 810 AD. No one knows why the Maya civilization collapsed, but clearly there was a progressive abandonment, and Palenque was one of the first major centers to be given back to the jungle.
The physical isolation of Palenque emphasizes the magnificence of its buildings, and the delicacy of the stucco ornamentation. In this way Palenque was unique among the Mayan cities.
Two rulers at Palenque, Pacal and Chan-Bahlum, were responsible for the majority of construction. Their ancestry and accomplishments are immortalized in the temples and palaces, as well in the glyphs and stucco tablets adorning the temples. Maya history is recorded in glyph writing, such as seen in the background of these pages, and in the visual artwork of the tablets, such as the image on the right. The Palenque rulers were priest-kings and military rulers that claimed divine descent. Palenque had twelve such rulers, Pacal and Chan-Bahlum being the most remarkable.
Pacal, whose name translates to "Shield", is seen on the tablet to the left receiving the divine crownship from his mother, Lady Zac Kuk, who served for short time as ruler. Pacal claimed the throne through his mother by proclaiming she was the mother deity of the three major gods of Maya religion. He did this to override the tradition that descent to the throne can only be achieved through the male line. In the tablet we see Lady Zac Kuk passing the crown to Pacal who is seated on the Double-headed Jaguar Throne. The glyphs in the tablet have the names of the participants, and the explanation of Pacal's accession to the throne. Toward the end of his reign Pacal constructed the Temple of Inscriptions, a masterpiece of Maya architecture, under which his tomb lies. Pacal reigned for 67 years, and was succeeded by his son, Chan-Bahlum ("Snake Jaguar").
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