Built at the height of the Classic period surrounded by jungle, Palenque is one of the most beautiful of all the Maya ruins in Mexico. From about the fourth century AD, Palenque grew from a small agricultural village to one of the most important cities in the pre-Hispanic world between AD 600 and 800.
It was built for strategic purposes, with evidence of defensive apertures in some retaining walls. In the centre of the site is the Palace, a massive warren of buildings with an asymmetrical tower (probably used as an astronomical observatory and a watchtower) rising above them, and fine views to the north.
Since its discovery, choked by the encroaching jungle scaling its walls and creeping up the stairs to its temples, once climbed by rulers, priests and acolytes, the architecture of Palenque has elicited praise and admiration, while crying out for reconstruction. The corbelled vaults, the arrangement of its groupings of buildings, the impression of lightness created by walls broken by pillars and open spaces, make Palenque-style architecture unique. It was only later that archaeologists and art historians realised that the architecture of Palenque was created mainly to accommodate the extraordinary sculptures and texts that referred not only to historical individuals and the important events in their lives, but also to mythological beings who endorsed the claims of dynastic continuity or ‘divine right’ of the rulers of this great city.