Archaeological Mexico

September 16th, 2005

Visiting Pakal’s Tomb

King Pakal’s tomb, discovered in 1952 deep inside the magnificent Temple of the Inscriptions, has been temporarily put out-of-bounds to the visiting public.

When – rather than ‘if’ - the public is given access to the tomb again, the procedure for arranging a visit will almost certainly remain unchanged.

This works as follows:

  • Anyone can request permission.
  • Head for the INAH offices at the on-site museum as early as possible after 08:00 on the morning of the same day you wish to enter the tomb.
  • Dory McDonald is usually the woman in charge of granting a permiso especial. Write her a paragraph, explaining why you want to see the tomb and how many people you want to bring in with you. You will need to list all their names and nationalities.
  • The reason doesn’t have to be scientific, but too spiritual a reason is not good; singing (no matter how good), chanting, or out-loud praying is not allowed.
  • The custodians will check their schedule and assign you (and anyone accompanying you) a 20 minute slot between 15:30 – 16:30, provided the slots are not already booked. It is first-come, first-served. 
  • A maximum of ten people can enter the tomb at one time.
  • When your time slot arrives, walk around the back of the temple and hand your permission slip to the ‘guard’.

This was the procedure…and probably will be again once normal service resumes.

Once inside, marvel at the beautiful 15-ton carved-stone sarcophagus slab, showing Pakal transformed into a God at the moment of his descent into the underworld, clambering down a celestial tree into the mortal embrace of a serpent.

For Pakal, who died aged 80 after 68 years in power, it seems to have been a glorious exi

Into the Tomb of King Pakal: Listen to a podcast

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Palenque

August 9th, 2005

‘Junglecasts’ reveal Palenque secrets

Quick link: Junglecasts

What’s a ‘junglecast’ you might be thinking; a podcast from the jungle, of course – audio recordings that can be downloaded from the internet on to any device that will play an .mp3 file.

Dave Pentacost (left) and Nicco Mele

Dave Pentacost (left) and Nicco Mele at Palenque

To be more precise, we can listen in to Nicco Mele (Echoditto) and Dave Pentecost (The Daily Glyph) as they walk around the ancient site of Palenque, accompanied by their guide, Maya specialist Ed Barnhart of the Maya Exploration Center.

This has certainly grabbed my attention this week. This afternoon I downloaded a couple of the ”soundseeing” podcasts to my PC. I then ’bluetoothed’ these files to my mobile phone for listening on the train.

On my commute home, I eavesdropped on “Dr Ed” conveying various pieces of the Palenque story.

It’s fascinating stuff. There’s a backing track, too; I could also make out some of the forest sounds – the distant echoes of howler monkeys, the raucous calls of parrots and other exotic birds. And some Mexican schoolkids.

I was transported back to Palenque. I remember exploring the grassy plazas, excavated structures and overgrown mounds. 

There is no better guide than Ed with whom to go stomping around jungle ruins. He and his team discovered hundreds of Maya buildings and temples buried beneath centuries of jungle growth, and now he’s sharing his findings with tourists and students.

His Palenque Mapping Project was a three-year effort to survey and map the unknown sections of Palenque’s ruins. Over 1,100 new structures were documented, bringing the site total to almost 1,500.

The resultant map [pdf] has been celebrated as one of the most detailed and accurate ever made of a Maya ruin.

Pioneering stuff.

An introduction to podcasting – broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live, 1 June 2005

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Palenque

November 11th, 2004

Tulum, Mexican Riviera

Tulum, Mexican Riviera
Originally uploaded by Bradak

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Yucatán & Mayan Mexico

September 21st, 2004

King Pacal and the Red Queen

Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Museum of Anthropology) , one of the ten most important museums of its type in the world, celebrated its 40th birthday on 17 September.

Pacal's Burial MaskThere is really too much to take in during one visit, but don’t miss the newly re-opened Maya Rooms. Dave Pentecost’s excellent blog, The Daily Glyph, also reports that the jade masks of La Reina Roja (the Red Queen) and el Rey Pacal, ruler of Palenque, have been brought together for the first time in 1500 years in the Museum’s Rostros Mayas exhibition.

Pacal’s mask, incidentally, was once famously taken in an audacious heist in 1985.

Museo Nacional de Antropología, Paseo de la Reforma, Bosque de Chapultepec. Open: Tues-Sat 9:00am-7:00pm, Sun and holidays 10:00am-6:00pm. Entrance: 37 pesos. Poor website.

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Palenque

March 25th, 2003

New Sunday charges

XlapakFor as long as I can remember guidebooks to Mexico have made a point about admission to archaeological sites and museums being free on Sundays.

This all changed on 11th February. The Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia abolished the free Sunday pass to enter INAH-run sites and museums.

You now have to pay – unless, that is, you are a Mexican citizen, a non-Mexican who can prove residency in the country, a child under 13, over 60 years of age, etc…

For example, cost of admission to both the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City and Chichén Itzá in Yucatan is 37 pesos – about $3.50 dollars – on Sundays (more Tues-Sat).

Thanks to Maria Diaz in Oaxaca and ‘Adventure Guide to the Yucatan’ author Bruce Conord for getting the ‘official’ line from INAH’s Museums Office.

I should stress here that I have absolutely no quibble with the new charges – only seems the right thing to do – but I hadn’t been able to confirm the change on the INAH website or elsewhere.

Photo: caretaker’s hut, Xlapak

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Traveller's Tales

March 23rd, 2003

All Misty eyed

I rose at 4:15am on the 21st.

DzibilchaltunWithin 15 minutes I was in my car and had joined a convoy of other vehicles heading northeast out of sleeping Merida to witness the Spring Equinox at Dzibilchaltun – one of the most ancient of Mayan settlements.

It didn’t take long to cover the 21km (15 miles) to the site.

A few minutes later, I was treading gingerly in the gloom trying my best not to trip over loose stones – the remnants of a sacbe (ancient road) to get a better view of the Temple of the Seven Dolls (or Temple of the Sun) – a deceptively simple quadrangular structure dating back to around AD 700.

Twice a year, on the Equinox, the rising sun shines through the east-west portal, a stunning example of how the Maya incorporated their advanced understanding of astronomy into their architecture.

On Friday the heavy dew made the going somewhat treacherous underfoot, but I eventually settled on a spot to watch and wait.

I’d estimate that between 2,000-5,000 people (mostly Mexicans), many clothed in all white (“to be ‘clean’ in both body and spirit”) squinted in the direction of the rising sun. It was rising… but then so was the mist – swirling mischieviously to shroud the temple and disappoint me and the rest of the gathered multitude.

It cheekily appeared above the mist – and the temple – as I was leaving. Posters around town – and the photo here show what I hoped to see.

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Events & Festivals, Yucatán & Mayan Mexico

March 17th, 2003

How big is your footprint?

Chichen ItzaMore than 8.3m tourists visited Mexico’s archaeological zones in 2002. A disturbing article in Reforma yesterday suggests some of them (us?) literally leave their mark.

Yesterday at Chichén Itzá (pictured) – the second most visited site in Mexico after Teotihuacán with 975,000 visitors – we witnessed at least one person scale a wooden barrier and climb to the top of the Templo de los Guerreros in order to photo (I assume) the Chac Mool.

To be generous, perhaps there needs to be better signage. However, Reforma quotes a warden as saying “…between 5 and 6 people are thrown out of Chichén Itzá each week due to damage they’ve caused to the buildings.”

One result of this action is for ever more structures to be fenced off to the public (e.g. in recent years ‘El Caracol’ at Chichén Itzá and the Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal). The bottom line: respect the signs and travel responsibly.

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Chichén Itzá, Responsible Tourism

March 8th, 2003

Uxmal: “don’t upset the iguanas”

UxmalI’m a little late posting this; got distracted by Martin Bashir’s Michael Jackson interview, which Televisa aired tonight.

Nevertheless, still buzzing from our visit Friday afternoon to the majestic late Classic Mayan site at Uxmal in the Puuc hills.

We left Mérida at 2:45pm and reached the site little more than an hour later, passing many tour buses travelling in the opposite direction.

For an hour we gawped in awe at the Pyramid of the Magician, circled the House of the Turtles and clambered up & down the Great Pyramid – virtually alone (bar several huge but sociable iguanas).

The setting sun cast a warm glow on the 1,000 year old structures and intensified their elegant sense of geometry.

We re-entered the site at 7:00pm to take our seats under the stars for the moderately good 45-minute ‘Sound & Light’ show.

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Yucatán & Mayan Mexico