How to get to Palenque, Mexico – Where to stay in Palenque – The history of the Palenque ruins – King Pakal – What is unusual about King Pakal – The controversial theories about the lid of King Pakal’s sarcophagus – Was King Pakal an Ancient Astronaut? – Some more interesting facts about Palenque – Other “Ancient Astronauts” in Mexico
One of my bucket-list “Ancient Aliens” destinations has always been Palenque. Nestled in the thick of the Mexican jungle, this archaeological site is the home of what has been widely known as the Ancient Astronaut.
Palenque is a city in the Mexican province of Chiapas. The city itself is located only a couple of miles from a large park, where you will find the Palengue Archaeological Zone, the old Mayan city.
There are several ways to get there. You can fly straight to Palenque, but those flights are rather hard to find.
The alternative route (which we took) would be to fly to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico, Cancun. Then you can hop into one of the ADO buses or rent a car and drive to Palenque by yourself.
We arrived to Palenque late in the evening. It was already getting dark, so we drove through the heart of a busy downtown, full of street food kiosks and markets. After a couple of miles the road ended abruptly with a big gate, but the GPS suggested we go left. We found ourselves literally in the jungle, with our way being lit only by our headlights.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in a small bed&breakfast called Margarita and Ed’s, which offers everything from very cheap camping-like cabanas to air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. An air-conditioned room was the only choice we could make this time a year due to heat, but it didn’t break the bank. It was only US $25 a night!
In the morning we woke up to a beautiful natural environment: a small village of El Panchán, catering to Palenque tourists. It consists of several hotels and hostels, situated right in the thick of a rain forest. Howler monkeys were screaming around numerous restaurants and tourist stands.
After breakfast, we embarked on our adventure of the day: the ancient Mayan city of Palenque.
TIP: There are many tour guides at the entrance, offering tours, and one of them seemed particularly good, speaking great English and spiking our curiosity with interesting facts. Keep in mind that they will start at a very high price – at least 100 US dollars! Then they will say they will give you a discount and do the tour for only $80. Just say that you know for a fact that the tour shouldn’t cost most than 500 pesos (which is true, at least for 2018). Our new guide Edgar agreed on this price without blinking an eye and was happy.
What is Palenque?
The archaeological site of Palenque was founded during the Late Preclassic period (about the same time as the beginning of the Christian era). By ca. 500 AD the city rose to be a powerful capital. The most flourishing period of the city occurred from 600 to 800 AD, a lot of it during the rule of one of its most famous king: K’inich Janaab Pakal, or Pakal the Great.
What is Unusual About King Pakal?
After the researchers deciphered the way Maya counted numbers, it was easy to deduct that King Pakal lived from 603 to 683 AD – all together 80 years. It was an incredible age for people of his time!
Having ascended to the throne at the age of 12, he ended up being the king that ruled the longest in the whole history of the Americas. Besides, he was involved in the expansion of Palenque’s power to the western part of the lowland Mayan territory, as well as the growth of art and engineering. He was the one who had built this incredible complex, which had running water and even a sewer system.
The city’s most notable ruin, the Temple of the Inscriptions, a 90-foot high pyramid, contains some of the most detailed Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. It is assumed to have been a religious center until 1952, when the French-Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz discovered the tomb of Pakal underneath. He found a massive sarcophagus, hidden for more than a 1000 years.
The Controversial Carvings on the Lid of King Pakal’s Sarcophagus
The lid of the sarcophagus is made out of a single stone. It is rectangular in shape, measuring roughly 9-11.5 inches thick, 7 by 12 feet wide and weighs seven tons. The lid has carvings both on the sides and the top.
So it is exactly this magnificent carving on the top of the sarcophagus that has become one of the leading artifacts in the Ancient Alien theory. The theory talks about the connection between Maya and the higher intelligence and even claims the Ancient Astronaut King Pakal was in close contact with the alien civilization.
The official version of the Pakal’s tomb lid describes him being introduced into the afterlife. It is a story of his rebirth in the underworld. It is well presented in the Palenque museum guides.
But what about the other version? What if the scholars, who had researched the great carving in the past, and who established the current official point of view, didn’t see something that we can only see in our modern technological era?
The Alternative Theory and the Ancient Astronaut
They say if you want to annoy a Maya specialist, talk to him about Erich Von Daniken 😀 . The controversial writer of many books, including the world bestseller “Chariots of the Gods?”, has a different view on Pakal’s tomb. He says it is a depiction of the ruler, piloting a spacecraft.
Did he really die or did he simply return home to the stars? In fact, it is known, that the analysis of the teeth of the skeleton in Pakal’s tomb places the age of the owner at death as a 40 year old. However, we know for a fact that Pakal was 80 when he died. Who is really buried in the tomb, and if it is Pakal, how come his body hasn’t aged? The scientists still argue about it.
The opinion that King Pakal was an astronaut is widely supported in the world of Ancient Astronaut Theory followers. They believe that the artist simply attempted to depict what he’s seen with his own eyes. Since he didn’t understand what it was exactly, he made parallels with something Maya knew: ritualistic and cosmology objects.
Other Interesting and Controversial Facts About Palenque
And really, it is not just the Ancient Astronaut that is thrilling the minds of the researchers. Why are there sarcophagi in Palenque at all? Maya has been known to bury their ancestors in a very simple way. However in Palenque we find Pakal, as well as the Red Queen, buried in exactly same way as the pharaohs of the Ancient Egypt: inside stone sarcophagi, with inscriptions and carvings, within secret rooms in the pyramids.
In many temples in Palenque you can see large stone tables, used by the kings to meditate on. They did it apparently in lotus-like positions, just like in India.
There are depictions of dragons on the temple walls, which closely resemble those of China.
These nations were not supposed to communicate. Different continents, different eras…Why so many similarities? Coincidence? There’s something out there. We and our guide Edgar had a great conversation about it, walking around the ancient city. At one point Edgar said to us with a smile: “hey, you should listen to what the night guards of Palenque say… You know, they’ve seen things…They still do… weird lights at night and stuff”.
Other “Ancient Astronauts” in Mexico
And last but not least, there is another astronaut that raises a great deal of curiosity, not too far from Palenque, in La Venta, Mexico. This “astronaut” is a bit less known, but, in my opinion, only proves the theory about King Pakal. A monument of the Olmec culture (pre-Maya), called “Man in Serpent”, shows a person in a helmet inside some machine-like environment, trying to reach pedals, with some mechanisms above his head. He holds an ever-present “purse” in his hand that we see so often in the hands of Sumerian and Egyptian gods.
Curious, isn’t it?
I cannot stress it enough, that if you are interested in the Ancient Astronaut theory, visit the fascinating Mayan city of Palenque. Maybe, looking at the King Pakal’s tomb, you will find other meanings of what is carved on his sarcophagus and finally solve the puzzle?
And what do you think about the Ancient Astronaut? Do you support the theory that King Pakal is piloting a spacecraft or do you think that what is shown on the sarcophagus is simply his metaphorical journey to the underworld? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments !
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