At Temple 20
Micro camera reveals images of the interior of a millenary tomb a Palenque
*** The chamber contains remains of a high-rank character from the earliest stage (431-550 AD) of the Maya city
*** Images reveal walls with its original flattening painted red as well as 9 characters outlined in black, vessels, jade and shell pieces
Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) obtained images of the interior of a funerary chamber that has not been accessed for 1,500 years, in a structure called Temple 20, at the South Acropolis of Palenque Archaeological Zone, Chiapas.
The tomb was located in a sub structure in 1999 under Temple 20; nonetheless, the hard to reach location and need of consolidation of the base did not allow getting into the precinct that guards the mortal remains of a very important character of Palenque, who lived during the earliest stage of the city, between 431 and 550 of the Common Era.
A small camcorder descended 5 meters into a 15 by 15 centimeters hole open on the roof of the vault to explore it, and images captured reveal walls painted in red and human figures outlined in black. Eleven vessels and pieces of jade and shell, probably part of the funerary attire, can also be observed.
Twelve years have passed since archaeologists discovered this crypt that, unlike findings at Palenque such as the tombs of Pakal II and the Red Queen, both dated in 7th century AD, does not contain a sarcophagus. According to specialists, it is probable that the skeleton lies on the slabs of the floor.
Exploration of the funerary chamber is part of an interdisciplinary project promoted by INAH, headed by archaeologists Arnoldo Gonzalez and Martha Cuevas, designed to conserve Temple 20 as well as exploring and restoring the crypt.
The chamber located in the sub structure of Temple 20 has stepped vault, an access door formed with great slabs, and exceptionally, conserves rests of mural painting that depicts 9 characters.
Features of the funerary chamber, as declared by Dra Martha Cuevas, indicate that the osseous rests could correspond to a sacred ruler of Palenque, probably one of the beginners of the dynasty.
According to the temporality determined by INAH specialists for the mortuary precinct, the osseous remains could correspond to one of these ajau or lords: K’uk’ Bahlam I, first ruler of the city; a lord who’s name has not been translated but some authors call him Ch’away; Butz’ Aj Sak Chiik; Ahkal Mo’ Naab’ I; K’an Joy Chitam I, or Ahkal Mo’ Naab’ II, who was enthroned in 565 AD.
Archaeologist Martha Cuevas mentioned that although the precinct has not been excavated, it can be deduced parting from the type of ceramic and mural painting of the mortuary chamber, that Temple 20 was built near 400-550 of the Common Era, at the Early Classic period.
“This is the second finding in Palenque of a context of the period; another funerary one was discovered and explored in the 1959’s decade by Alberto Ruz Lhullier at Temple 23A.
“There are other coincidences with the tomb at Temple 23A. In both cases there is a vaulted precinct with painted walls and a tubular conduct that communicated the funerary chamber with the upper temple. They also share the presence of jade and shell pieces part of the funerary attire, of foreign precedence. This allows us considering South Acropolis was destined to be a royal necropolis during that age”, she mentioned.
Temple 20 was remodeled radically during Late Classic period, (600-900 AD), so the vaulted chamber was covered with a new building that was approximately 4 meters taller than the previous structure.
The building is integrated by a pyramidal base that reaches, at the east of the plaza level, more than 18 meters height; there was a temple atop but only foundations of some pilasters remain. Its façade is oriented to the east and had a 3-access portico.
The funerary chamber of Temple 20 was identified in 1999 during explorations headed by archaeologists Merle Green, recently departed, and Alfonso Morales, as part of works conducted by Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute.