Lecture 6. Palenque: The Rebirth of Rulers and their Patron Deities (AD 550 – 750)

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Carolyn Tate

from the module:

Shaping Place in Mesoamerica

Palenque, whose ancient names were Lakam-ha “Big Waters” and Baak, “Kingdom of Bone,“ was a small kingdom that has had a huge impact on modern understandings of the ancient Maya. Not only is it often referred to as an “architectural jewel” due to the elegant proportions of its structures and its innovative roofing and vaulting systems, but its hieroglyphic texts and bas-relief sculpture reveal much about ancient Maya history, ritual, and cosmology. Moreover, nowhere else is the shaping of place as fundamental to our understanding of the site. Today we will focus on several of the major buildings: The Temple of Inscriptions, which is the tomb of Pakal the Great, the Palace he built, and a ballcourt; as well as the Cross Group, which consists of three temples and a central platform. These were built by the son of Pakal, King Kan-Bahlam. Both the Temple of Inscriptions and the Cross Group present complex visual narratives through stone carving and modeled stucco reliefs. Both focus on death and rebirth in a way seen nowhere else in Mesoamerica. Key Buildings and dates. 1. The introductory section looks at the relation of the site to surrounding waterways. 2. Pakal’s buildings: Houses E, A, and the Prisoner’s court in the Palace; images of the king and his ancestors; painted stuccoes; innovations in vaulting; summer solstice alignment; the Temple of Inscriptions and winter solstice alignment. AD 620 – 680. 3. The Cross Group of K’an Balam. How the ruler built these three temples as new shrines for the Patron Deities which Calakmul had overthrown. AD 692.

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