Palenque, Temple of the Cross
Palenque, Templo de la Cruz
Palenque was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century. The Palenque ruins date back to 226 BC to around 799 AD. After its decline, it was absorbed into the jungle, but has been excavated and restored. It is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas, about 150 m above sea level.
Palenque is a medium-sized site, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings that the Mayas produced. Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from reading the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the many monuments; historians now have a long sequence of the ruling dynasty of Palenque in the 5th century and extensive knowledge of the city-state's rivalry with other states such as Calakmul and Toniná. The most famous ruler of Palenque was Pacal the Great whose tomb has been found and excavated in the Temple of the Inscriptions.
By 2005, the discovered area covered up to 2.5 km², but it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city is explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle.
The Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Sun, and Temple of the Foliated Cross are a set of graceful temples atop step pyramids, each with an elaborately carved relief in the inner chamber depicting two figures presenting ritual objects and effigies to a central icon. Earlier interpretations had argued that the smaller figure was that of K'inich Janaab' Pakal while the larger figure was K'inich Kan B'ahlam. However, it is now known based on a better understanding of the iconography and epigraphy that the central tablet depicts two images of Kan B'ahlam. The smaller figure shows K'inich Kan B'ahlam during a rite of passage ritual at the age of six (188.8.131.52.3 9 Akbal 6 Xul) while the larger is of his accession to kingship at the age of 48. These temples were named by early explorers; the cross-like images in two of the reliefs actually depict the tree of creation at the center of the world in Maya mythology.