The bone remains found were the ultimate clue about the most important discovery in Mayan history: they were located across the tomb of K'inich Janaab' Pakal, the last Mayan ruler of Palenque.
Right in the middle of the jungle in the Mexican Southeast, the Mayan city of Palenque remained hidden for over 500 years, from the time it was abandoned until the end of the 18th century, when it was rediscovered by the first Spanish colonial expeditions, whose members found some stone blocks and the remains of ancient structures lost in the middle of the jungle.
It is probable that these explorers have never imagined that each step put them closer to uncovering the remains of dozens of temples, public squares, palaces, tombs, and aqueducts that existed in the capital of a powerful empire that ruled over 8 thousand people.
On June 15, 1952, the most important archeological discovery in Mexico took place.
After locating a large slab of stone on top of the Temple of The Inscriptions, a team of archeologists led by Alberto Ruz Lhuillier set out to find a hollow space inside the pyramid. It took them three years of hard work removing rubble to clear a path to the bottom of the temple where, after 42 stone steps, the team reached the 21-square-meter burial chamber.
The remains of six people confirmed then one of the main hypothesis about the site: it was the tomb of K'inich Janaab' Pakal, the last Mayan ruler of Palenque.
However, in order to reach the casket, they had to overcome another obstacle: a 7-ton tombstone inscribed with a mysterious and detailed bas-relief that depicted the ruler in his journey to the underworld, a pictorial description of Mayan cosmogony and ideas about what happens after death.
When the researchers presented these findings to the press, the tombstone was misinterpreted and conspiracy peddlers promoted the idea that it depicted a space ship or a plane control dashboard, and Pakal became known as the Mayan "astronaut" from Palenque.
The bone remains were laid side by side with burial offerings including a jade necklace, ear flares, rings, and bracelets. His face was covered in a mask made with over 300 pieces of jade. These valuable items were supposed to accompany him in his journey to the underworld.
Almost seven decades after its discovery, the entrance to Pakal's Tomb is still closed to the public to prevent its further decay, considering the millions of tourists who have visited the site ever since it opened to the public. However, you can view replicas of the tomb in the site museum and in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
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