The archaeological zone of Palenque is considered to be
the most beautiful in Mexico. The ruins sit on a jungle-covered prominence overlooking the plains below and the lush vegetation adds to the exotic allure of the spot.
Palenque is the kind of spot that grows on you, the
more you see it, the more you wish to see it. The region around Palenque has the highest average rainfall in all of Mexico and for that reason the site was completely unknown, due to the overgrown jungle that hid it
from the eyes of man for centuries.
In 1773 some local Indians stumbled upon what they
called "stone houses" and brought the word to their priest. A few Spaniards visited the site starting with Fray Ramon Ordonez y Aguiar in 1773. In 1837, John L. Stephens arrived with Frederick Catherwood, his
illustrator. They cleared much of the jungle and made accurate drawings and descriptions of what they saw. This was the first scientific approach to the ruins. Since then, the Mexican government has taken complete
charge of the site which, incidentally, is called Palenque after the nearby village of Santo Domingo del Palenque founded in 1564 by the Dominicans Order.
The Pre-Classic period at Palenque dates from around
300 B.C. The Classic era appears to have reached its height at around 700 A.D. Of course the construction took hundreds of years, and possibly the abandonment of the site took as long. A few non-Maya objects have
been found, mostly from the Gulf Coast cultures, which prove possible trade with these people but also the possibility of invasion. The Post-Classic stage always denotes the decline of the civilisation in question
and in this site was quite abrupt. Probably due to the breakdown of the social structure, the efforts to restrain the jungle's encroachment were given up and the few people remaining just gave up and left. Between
the years 1000 and 1500 A.D. the site was completely abandoned and lost to the jungle and lost to the memory of men as well.