Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Palenque: Mystery of the Mayan Royal Tomb

Category: Maya

Today, what we know about ancient Mayan city of Palenque we know because of decades of exca­vations and research. In 1945. Alberto Ruz Lhuillier took over the excavations. Almost from the start Ruz took an interest in the Temple of Inscriptions. The temple was a very imposing structure that stood on top of a high terraced pyramid. Ruz’s curiosity had been alerted when he realized that the walls of the temple appeared to continue beneath the flagstone floor. In the center of the room was an enomious stone with two rows of circular holes drilled around its edges. Ruz decided to raise the drilled stone on a hunch that something may be hidden beneath. As soon as the workmen lifted the stone the outlines of a narrow stairway appeared. I lowever the passageway had been Tilled with rubble and heavy rocks. The task of removing the rubble was amazingly difficult in the oppressive heal and humidity. In addition, fumes from the excavators gasoline powered lamps made digging for long periods impossible.

After three years of digging, Ruz had only managed to find two jade earplugs in a small masonry box. Then, in 1952. his men had tunneled about seventy-three feet into the heart of the pyramid when they broke into a corridor. Here they found a cache of artifacts that were meant for a ceremo­nial offering. Excited by their find, they now turned their attention towards a second massive wall that was blocking the passageway. The wall turned out to be more than twelve feet thick. Once thru, they discovered a crypt containing six badly decomposed bodies who had been sacrificed so that the ruler would be guarded and attended in afterlife. Next, they found a doorway sealed by a large stone. Finally, after removing the stone they discovered a burial chamber. The entire room was filled with a great carved stone slab coffin or sarcophagus. The stone slab was twelve feel long and seven feet wide, and it sat in the center of the burial chamber. The chamber had vaulted ceilings and it was twenty-nine feet high and thirteen feet wide. Adorning the walls were nine human figures made of stucco relief.

Next, Ruz had jacks placed under all four corners of the five ton stone. Inch by inch the excavators moved the massive stone upward. Before long, they were surprised to discover another, smaller inner cover seven feet long and thirty inches wide. Then, when the stone had been lifted to a height of fifteen inches Ruz squeezed inside. There in the coffin he found green jade ornaments, red painted teeth and bones, and fragments of what remanded of a mask. Ruz. stated, “I was gazing at the death face of him for all this stupendous work-the crypt, the sculpture, the stairway, the great pyramid with it’s crowning temple-had been built.” The corpse had fingers, ear plugs, a necklace, and a headdress made of jade, there was a small jade stone in his mouth, it was there so that he would have money in the afterlife. Even his magnificent mask was jade mosaic.

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