Photos from the ancient Maya site of Palenque

Palenque is an ancient jewel set at the foot of the Chiapas Mountains in Mexico

Palenque sits like a jewel against the Chiapas Mountains overlooking the broad coastal plain that came to be known as Nonowal and Xicalanco to later peoples in Mesoamerica. The ancient Palenque people constructed their palaces, temples, and houses on natural and manufactured terraces that rise up the northern side of the first ridge of these forest-covered limestone mountains. They called their city Lakam Ha, "Big Water," and their kingdom Bak, "Bone."

Linda Schele and Peter Mathews, The Code of Kings, p. 95

The Palenque king, Pacal, whose name means "shield," and his oldest son, Chan-Bahlum, "snake-jaguar," stand out as primary contributors to the history of their city. They are both members of that class of remarkable people who are responsible for creating what we call a civilization's "golden age." Not only did they make their kingdom into a power among the many Maya royal houses of the seventh century; they also inspired and nurtured the exceptional beauty of Palenque's art, the innovative quality of its architecture, and the eloquence of the political and theological visions displayed in its inscriptions and imagery. The royal literature commanded by these men represents the most detailed dynastic history to survive from Classic times. Their vision wove it into the most beautiful and far-reaching expression of the religious and mythological rationale of Maya kingship left to modern contemplation."

Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, p. 217, 221