Rabin Paudel '10 - Today was an important day of our trip. We started the day early heading towards Palenque National Park. I knew that today’s trip would be intense, as Alonso told us to carry at least a liter of water.
With everyone completely sprayed with insect repellent, we started the trip hiking around the unexcavated part of the Maya ruins. The path we were walking was formerly a waterfall and, of course, really steep. This unexcavated part was in the middle of a jungle, and mainly consisted of the residential ruins of the Mayas. I was really excited to see these ruins, especially after Alonso showed us the pictures comparing unexcavated and excavated archeological sites last night, during the lecture. The archeologists are still excavating this part of the Maya ruins using the latest laser-imaging technology.
The next part of the tour was the visit to the popular Mayan sites which included El Templo De La Cruz, El Templo De La Sol, and El Templo De La Inscripcion. These temples described the creation mythology of the Mayas which was closely associated with astronomical events, as well as events of the lives of their rulers. The size and architecture of these temples are simply unimaginable. We all had a hard time walking up and down the temples.
After the tour, we spent some time buying souvenirs. The local venders were selling amazing replicas of the tablets and calendars. With some help in bargaining from Adam, I bought samples of Mayan and Aztec calendars for 190 pesos, which is close to 19 American dollars.
We visited a Mayan museum after lunch. The museum consisted of some more ancient tablets. But the coolest thing in the museum was the real-size replica of the tomb of Pakal. Pakal is considered to be the one of the most important rulers of the Maya. His tomb was sacredly placed inside the Temple of Inscription. It was sad that we couldn’t see the actual tomb, as it is closed to the public, but the replica itself was AMAZING!!! It also consisted of a lid which has a carving on the top of the tomb describing important events, and is estimated to weigh 10 tons. The tomb was discovered in mid 1952. It was probably the first time that this tomb was opened since the last Mayan priest left the temple.
After we got some rest, Alonso gave a lecture on the Mayan calendar and number system. Unlike the base-ten number system, which we use today, Mayans used a base-twenty number system. The important concept about Mayan number system was the concept of zero, which they believed to be a completion rather than “void” unlike our current number system. And their calendar followed the pattern of lunar and solar cycles. Their calendar consisted of the short count 260 days T’zolkin calendar and the long count 365 days Haab calendar. The combination of these two calendars produced a 52 year calendar. Also, unlike the Western world and modern science, which believes time as being linear, the Maya believed that time, was cyclic. As a Hindu, I don’t find this uncommon. The current cycle began on August 13, 3114 BC and it will end on December 23, 2012. The predicted end of time is attracting the attention of many people all over the world, and not just those who are dedicated to the study of the Maya.
After a really tiring day today, we are now ready to go to Bonampak in the morning to explore more Mayan archeo-astronomy. Before I end this blog, I would like to share a funny incident that Alonso told us. A Discovery Channel director’s young daughter asked her dad, ‘Why do I need to do my homework? The world is ending in 2012.”
I guess if we survived Y2K in 2000, we will certainly survive the end of Mayan cyclic time in 2012.
Above Left; one of the many waterfalls the students saw as they entered the Palenque site. Right; The Temple of the Inscriptions. Lower Left; Wabash sophomore Rabin Paudel '10 looks on as our guide, Alonso, explains a stella piece.