Today, the Jungle. Tomorrow, the River.

A stunning day. No other way to describe it. Yesterday Dave & I ran around the central Palenque site and got permission to go down into Pacal’s tomb. Today we had a special guide — the amazing Dr. Ed Barnhart. We did a couple hours worth of podcasts with Ed — I’m not sure when we’ll be able to post them, so stay tuned.

Ed took us around the main Palenque site, and shed new light on a number of the spots where Dave and I had poked around yesterday. We spent a great deal of time with the Cross group, the three temples called The Temple of the Sun, The Temple of the Cross, and The Temple of the Foliated Cross. This group of temples was built by Pacal’s son Chan-Bahlun to celebrate his prediction that both Saturn and Jupiter would enter their second retrograde in July of 690. The Temple of the Sun is also interesting in that it tracks the sun separately from the Maya calendar. Ed explained that the Maya calendar, at 365 days, was a bit off — so they tracked the sun separately in order to plant and harvest at the appropriate time of year. While talking about the math, science and religion of the Maya, we got off into what happened to their civilization. The cities were abandoned — without evidence of wide-spread disease, starvation, or war. Palenque was one of a number of independent city-states across the Maya civilization, and they all appeared to have been abandoned at approximately the same time. You’ll have to wait for the podcast to hear some of Dr. Ed’s ideas about what happened.

Ed runs the Maya Exploration Center — an amazing outfit he’s put together with some other archaeologists. It is forever desperately in need of funding, so let me take a moment and encourage anyone who wants to support a true explorer to take a second to donate online to support the work Dr. Ed leads. When their website says that your donations support “groundbreaking archaeological research” and “the discovery and mapping of new archaeological sites”, they’re not kidding. Dr. Ed lead the Palenque Mapping Project, a 3 year effort to map the entire site Palenque. Today, after our tour of the standard tourist sites, Dr. Ed lead us off the beaten track and into the jungle, pointing out un-excavated structures every few meters. The green mounds were like the ghosts of buildings, completely covered and consumed by the jungle, but as Dr. Ed described the structures and layout of the town, they started to take shape and become clear. It was a truly amazing experience to be with an expert and have him illuminate this ancient city for me. If I had been walking through the jungle myself, I never would have seen or imagined that I was in the middle of a once-bustling city. But Ed’s trained eye and articulate explanations brought the site alive, and filled me with absolute wonder — wonder at the ancient Maya, and wonder at Ed’s own skill and knowledge. We managed to record a significant chunk of our off-the-beaten track excursion, which Dave and I hope to turn into a podcast soon. But it won’t be tomorrow, though, because we’re off on the river tomorrow to explore some more.

Photos from today coming soon. And podcasts. I swear.

One Response to “Today, the Jungle. Tomorrow, the River.”

  1. Nathaniel Says:

    We ought to know each other. I had a awesome time seeing Uxmal and other Mayan sites recently.

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