Mexico Part Tres

We’ve been in Palenque (well, El Panchan, up the road really) in the jungle, in a cute litte cabana (not sure how you put the squiggly bit over the n here, but it’s a nya sound, like pina colada – cabanya). Yesterday we got up early and went up to the “ruinas” of ancient Palenque. We took a jolly English-speaking guide with a couple of lovely Aussie girls and spent a good few hours learning all sorts about the ancient Maya people and their city. Apparently there are over a thousand buildings at the site, but over 90% of them are covered in jungle and that is more protected than the buildings, so they aren’t allowed to excavate any more of it.
This temple mausoleum was built by King Pakal for himself (he lived to the ripe old age of 80!) and the 9 levels represent the 9 levels of the underworld that the king would have to pass through before being reincarnated. He was buried with a jade mask and other treasures (to exchange for food in the underworld) and his sarcophagus was lined with a red mineral that dyed and preserved his bones so that when his tomb was discovered in 1952, the archeologist was confronted with a bright red skeleton!

The ancient Mayans were very ahead of their time – though they didn’t have the wheel, they did know a whole lot about astronomy and architecture – King Pakal’s temple has a hole at the side which allows a perfect beam of light to shine through and across the main room at the top on the day of each summer solstice. This was apparently what Pakal used to present his baby son to the people and it appeared as if the boy was being blessed by the sun.

The Maya also used these T-shaped vents as a kind of ancient air-conditioning – they were positioned in such a way (and could be blocked) so that any breeze there was, could be channelled through the buildings – pretty impressive huh?

We also learnt about the ancient ball games (like in Apocalypto), where the Maya warriors played a kind of terrible basketball game where they had to throw a flaming ball (representing the sun) through a hoop (apparently the ball would only just fit through the hoop, so it was a very difficult game). They played sometimes one-on-one and sometimes teams of 7 against each other. The men wore yokes and other wooden hoops around their elbows and hips with which to hit the ball. In the museum, the information says that the losers of the games were sacrificed, but our guide told us that it was the winners that were sacrificed (with a blow to the head), as it was a great honour – they were considered the best warriors and were therefore sent to the underworld to fight the demons, before returning with the corn harvest in the cycle of life. The losers of the game had their hands and feet cut off and died slowly and shamefully – ouch!

We had such an interesting day, learning about all the gory stuff!
More pics here.

Off to Merida tonight, then on to Chichen Itza and then finally the beach…
Love Gude x

  1. mum on July 18th, 2009

    Do you think Appocalypto was a forerunner of Quiddich? 😉 Another fascinating blog. A* for you. xxxxxxxxx

  2. David on July 20th, 2009

    Loving the detail Gude. Did chuckle at King Pakal’s skeleton being bright red and I squirmed at the thought of those poor warriors having their hands and feet cut off… such boys! 🙂  I am on such a history lesson with these blogs! Love to you both. xxx

    1. Gude on July 22nd, 2009

      hee hee, i hope you are paying attention Mr Helsby?  There will be a test in Rio you know…  ;o)

  3. Kit on July 20th, 2009

    Blimey – check you guys out with all the touristy exploring, no slacking off & taking it easy for you.

    Tilde above n = alt+n, then n again. BUT I think that’s just on the mac keyboard. I did a search for it and a couple of forums say it’s alt+164 on a PC keyboard. Good luck – here’s one to paste if you don’t have any! ñ  x

    1. Gude on July 22nd, 2009

      totally slacking off now bro and loving it!  more history to come tho i am sure…

      thanks for the ñ

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