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

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