Site of Palenque

During lecture I found the site of Palenque very interesting. The fact that there was the ball court, where they played ballgames grabbed my attention. The fact that the ball games were very dangerous and the depth of skill set needed to play them made it all the more interesting. I did some further research on these ballgames and found that there wasn’t as much information on it as I thought there would be. Even though a vast amount of research has been done, archaeologists still don’t fully understand the meaning, social factors and political reasons for the ball court. I did find that the ball court is one of the oldest structures at Palenque. Palenque was a Mayan city-state in southern Mexico and dates back to 226 BC, and falls around 1123 AD. The ball court dates back to around 500AD and is the only ball court in Palenque. We do know that the ball court is typical of the Mayan society, and very important in religious aspects. It was connected with the circle of life and with the growth of corn. The ball court is also one of the entrances to the underworld. The first two players of this ball game were the Hero twin’s father and uncle. They were playing the game so close to the underworld that the Lord got angry about the noise that he sent owls to captured the twin brothers. Their names were Hunahpu and Ixbalanque. They ended up playing the game and defeating the Lord of the Underworld, Lord Xibalba. When the Mayan play the ballgame, they play it to symbolize the victory over the Lord of the Underworld.
Aside from the ball courts, Palenque contains some of the finest architecture, sculptures and carving that the Mayans’ produced. It is a medium-sized site, but much smaller site compared to Tikal and Copan. A vast majority of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed form the readings of the hieroglyphics inscribed on the many monuments. From these hieroglyphics, archaeologists have been able to discover long sequences of the ruling dynasty of Palenque in the 5th century. Along with this they have also been able to understand and gain a great amount of knowledge about the rivalry between city-states like Calakmul and Tinina. Palenque is unlike any other Mayan art formation. It is characterized by fineness and lightness due to a new form of construction techniques and draining methods. These new construction methods were able to reduce the thickness of the walls and expanded interior space and allowed for multiple opening. The uses of galleries give the architecture a sense of rare elegance due to its richly decoration of sculptures and the form of stucco, a wall plaster decoration that had never been previously seem. This influence extended as far as the western border of the Mayan cultural zone.