Temple of the Mayan King Pakal

Ancient Inscriptions Decoded at the Spectacular Temple of the Mayan King Pakal

(Read the article on one page)

Hieroglyphic inscriptions on the tomb of an ancient Mayan King have been translated more than 60 years after archaeologists discovered the hidden burial crypt in the rainforests of Mexico.

The glyphs were found on the spectacular Temple of the Inscriptions of Palenque which houses a tomb attributed to the ancient Mayan King Pakal. The newly-deciphered glyphs read “The House of the Nine Sharpened Spears”, revealed a team of researchers led by epigraphist Guillermo Bernal Romero from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Bernal, from UNAM’s Mayan Studies Center, and colleagues have deciphered the Mayan glyph T514, “Yej”, which means “cutting edge”, reports Latin-American news site Prensa Latina . The Yej glyph was found 63 years ago at the top of the Temple of the Inscriptions in Chiapas, Mexico, which holds the tomb of the most famous king of Palenque, K'inich Janaab' Pakal . Once translated, the glyph, or badge, was identified in more than 50 other inscriptions “depicting events like taking war prisoners, military entries to cities and other martial events of the Maya Classic period.”

Researchers were able to use this key to finally decipher the numerous other inscriptions, including the text at the top at the tomb of Pakal—“The House of the Nine Sharpened Spears.”

The ancient Palace of Palenque.

The ancient Palace of Palenque. Wikimedia Commons

The Guardian reports that Bernal, from UNAM’s Mayan Studies Center, said that “The House of the Nine Sharpened Spears’ is a denomination represented by the nine warriors in the walls of the tomb.”

King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal came to power at the age of 12 in the seventh century, and lived until he was 80. During Pakal’s youth, Palenque (then known as Lakamha, or “Big Water”) suffered many raids by Kaan (or Calakmul), a powerful Mayan city. His mother, Ix Sak K'uk', ruled as Queen at Palenque until Pakal reached the age of maturity, at which time he became the king, or ‘Ajaw’, and she served as Regent. His reign as king was prosperous, and he ruled for some 68 years—the longest known reign in Western Hemisphere history. He and his government were responsible for the building of some of the finest architecture, bas-relief carvings, and sculpture that the Maya ever produced.

Sculpture of King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, or “Pakal the Great”. National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Sculpture of King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, or “Pakal the Great”. National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Wikimedia Commons

The iconic Temple of the Inscriptions is the largest Mesoamerican stepped pyramid structure. Built as a funerary monument to Pakal, the impressive architecture has nine levels and five entrances.  When archaeologists rediscovered the monument in 1952 they found excellently preserved hieroglyphic texts, sculptural panels, the skeletons of several male and female sacrificial victims, and the tomb and rich grave goods of the king.

A reconstruction of Pakal's tomb in the Museo Nacional de Antropología.

A reconstruction of Pakal's tomb in the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Wikimedia Commons

David Stuart of the University of Texas said of Pakal’s tomb in a lecture, it’s “the American equivalent, if there is one, to King Tut’s tomb. He [Pakal] was really venerated by later kings, his descendants, as a great historical figure that really brought Palenque back from the brink,” reports LiveScience.

Detail of one of the bas-relief found at Palenque, Mexico.

Detail of one of the bas-relief found at Palenque, Mexico. Wikimedia Commons

In an incredible find, Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier (sometimes called the "Hitchcock of Archaeology") was doing temple excavations in the rainforest in the early 1950’s when he uncovered a floor panel which hid a secret staircase choked with rubble. When the debris was finally cleared after four years, Ruz was able to squeeze into the revealed burial chamber deep inside the pyramid which held the untouched tomb of an ancient King. 

The magnificent sarcophagus lid of Pakal.

The magnificent sarcophagus lid of Pakal. Asaf Braverman / Flickr

Pakal had been buried with several male and female human sacrifices, and grave goods included jade figures, jewelry, and a jade funerary mask found on the king’s remains.

The jade mask and ornaments found with King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, or “Pakal the Great” at Palenque.

The jade mask and ornaments found with King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, or “Pakal the Great” at Palenque. Wikimedia Commons

The Guardian writes, “The Maya civilization, which developed hieroglyphic writing, a calendar and astronomical system, reached its peak of influence between AD 250 and 900, extending its reach over what is now Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.”

Between 700 AD and 800 AD the Maya culture approached collapse. The Mesoamerican city of Palenque was eventually mysteriously abandoned, and the amazing temples, homes, and art were devoured by the rainforest and not seen again for nearly 1000 years.

Comments

Happy to have fo found this site.v

I wonder why so little of this city has been cleared and explored. Are national and local officials standing in the way? Is there no money for research expeditions? Is there civil unrest which places scientists in danger? Are there no archaeologists graduating from our universities? Are there other more interesting sites in other countries?

Well if the politicians over there are anything like the ones we have here nothing will be done unless there's money in it for them

There are several dangers with any expedition, greedy cartels, thieves to outsiders and they don't care who you are. Any expedition needs to be planned well, well funded, plan to stay a while meaning long term dedication which also means money. Besides money, food and water may need to be transported in, making it vulnerable to smugglers, thus archeological searches more difficult. Also articfacts found are vulnerable to smugglers, lying traders whop appear to be helpful. Also dangerous animals, insects and disease can make some fearful. I wonder however if there is a program where the curious and very interested can join some monthly Long expedition to go there. But one has to have time on their hands, have interest and willing to be in danger most of the time. Unpredictable.

The name of the famous tomb of king Pakal in Palenque is not "House of the nine sharpened spears", as Dr. Bernal suggested. This reading is incorrect, as the German epigraphist Dr. Nikolai Grube has confirmed, among others. In my 25-page article "De cómo la lanza maya perdió su filo..." I have shown and explained, how that name must be read correctly. This article is also available in German. See www.facebook.com/lacambalam.

I don't have facebook nor do I want it, I am interested in you're Translations do you have some other place I can read them? and are they in English?

Hey wondering, keep wondering if your not going on facebook, there really are no other sites, if you find one let me know. Maybe try Google+

Mario Juarez's picture

Has anyone noticed that the skull you see in the image of this article “Detail of one of the bas-relief found at Palenque, Mexico" does not seem to be a typical human skull?

Mario Juarez

A few remarkable technologies emerged from this totally flawed society based upon the resource of slavery where life and death was very unpredictable for all except the elite.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Frederick Barbarossa awards the city of Haarlem with a sword for its shield or coat-of-arms. By Pieter de Greber, 1630.
Some people believe they were born for greatness but fall short and some go on to exceed all expectations. Frederick I Barbarossa falls into the second category. His ambition for power was limitless and it seems he believed his authority second only to God. Certainly, he thought the Pope his inferior, and, although a fearless supporter of the religious crusades of the Latin Church, he could not accept the authority of the Papacy over his own.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article