Richard Miles: A Graphic History


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Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four 

Episode 2 “The Search for Civilisation”

Palenque was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century.

John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood visited the site in 1840. At that time, many of the now-famous Maya sites were unknown even to the indigenous people of the region. The centuries had slowly covered the great temples and pyramids, turning them into mounds of green hills and there were no accurate maps of the region. Stephens and Catherwood traveled without any of the extensive entourage which usually accompanied 19th century explorations. They had a crudely drawn map which they had already been told was inaccurate.  

They were astonished at their findings and first surmised that the site must have been built by some long forgotten people as they couldn’t imagine the native Mayans as having lived in the city. They documented the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Foliated Cross. In the Temple of the Inscriptions they discovered what they thought it was a cross. But Stephens and Catherwood became convinced, after only a short time in the region, that the theories regarding Hebrew or Egyptian or Christian or Atlantean origins for the Maya ruins and glyphs were wrong and that the structures and language were both autochthonous. They thought it was entirely possible that there was a new world civilization not connected anyway to the old world. Palenque was built by local Mayan people, ancestors of the people that still lived -and live- in the area.


Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Filed under richard miles Archaeology: A Secret History The Search for Civilisation the maya Palenque mexico John Lloyd Stephens Frederick Catherwood chiapas pre-columbian america archaeology BBC FOUR screencap

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