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Pakal the Great | by Travis S.
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Pakal the Great

The mortuary crypt of the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque is perhaps the most complex mausoleum from the Classic period. It was designed to contain the mortal remains of K'inich Hanab Pakal, also known as Pakal the Great. The sarcophagus contained the body wrapped in a funerary bundle covered with cinnabar, a highly toxic, red-colored mineral. His body was adorned with many jade objects that are displayed here on a modern reproduction of Pakal's body. The mortuary mask, incrusted with more than 200 tiny carved polished and perfectly assembled bits of jade mosaic, is an extraordinary masterpiece.


The proportions of the mask and the skull are the same, so it is clearly a faithful portrait of the ruler in life Pakal wore a diadem on his forehead and ear spools as well as a complex pectoral of tubular and squash-shaped beads. His hands held a sphere and a cube, as well as rings on each of his fingers. All of this finery was fashioned of jade.


The green color of jade suggests a relationship with the agricultural cycle and the annual, renovation of nature. With his jade mask, Pakal was transformed into the Young Maize God, who awaits his opportunity to return as the new vegetation to continue the annual corn cycle. This significance is reinforced by the figurine placed below to the right, which represents the patron god of the month known as Pax, mentioned in the inscriptions as te', "tree" alluding to Pakal as the seed that augured the illustrious promise of the ruling lineage.


The texts and archaeology suggest that Pakal passed away before the completion of the Temple of the Inscriptions, a task that fell to his eldest son, Kan Balam II. Many late inscriptions refer to Pakal as "the lord of the pyramid", which implies that the construction of this building was an event of particular significance for Palenque.

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Taken on December 31, 2008