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Palenque . . . video by the Institutio Nacional de Antropologia e Historia and Canal 22

Palenque . . . video by the Institutio Nacional de Antropologia e Historia and Canal 22


Palenque was the principal city of the Chiapas Highlands. Perched on the edge of an escarpment, it has magnificent views of the Lowlands of Chiapas and Tabasco.  Palenque is of particular interest to Southeastern Native Americans because in 2012, the Department of Earth Sciences,  University of Minnesota, determined that the major component of Maya Blue stucco at Palenque was mined in Georgia.  The region around Palenque is also the only location in the world, outside the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern United States, where the Yaupon Holly (Sacred Black Drink) grows naturally.  Palenque was incinerated by the volcanic eruption around 800 AD. 

(One hour TV program in Spanish)

If you do not understand Spanish and the sound track irritates you.  Just turn off the sound.  The cinematography of this beautiful film is well worth the time.

Unfortunately,  it is very difficult to find English language documentaries, which adequately describe the architecture and cityscapes of Mesoamerican sites. This film does an excellent job of taking a viewer on a walk through the rugged terrain of the city.  Gringo documentaries feature a few buildings then focus in on details and small artifacts . . . reflecting the obsession among many Gringo archaeologists toward small artifacts.  Viewers are left with little understanding of what it is like to be there.  So far, Mexican archaeologists have found over 1,400 stone buildings in Palenque.  The number grows each year.  

This film also does an excellent job of portraying the streams that gush out of the mountainside and then cascade down through the city in a series of waterfalls and pools.  Palenque’s city plan cannot be understood unless you realize the important role that these had in its layout. Even today,  Palenque is vision of paradise.

On the second day I was at Palenque, I followed one of the streams up to its source . . . a large cavern.   The floor of the stream was littered with the shells of aquatic snails.  These purple and white snails are endemic in Palenque’s streams.   They make perfect necklaces, which are often portrayed in Maya murals.  Also, when boiled, the shells turn white, but the water is stained with a crimson-purple dye.  I assume that the Mayas used this dye in the fabrication of cloth, and perhaps on murals too.

Enjoy your free one hour vacation in Palenque.





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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Really interesting. Where can I go to read about the U. of Minnesota’s findings on the component in the stucco? What is the component? Thanks. – Lon

    • It was the climax of the premier of American Unearthed on December 21, 2012. The History Channel had asked for samples from several Maya cities, but INAH only gave them a sample from Palenque. The mineral is called attapulgite in the Americas and Palygorskite in the Eastern Hemisphere. There are several different deposits in Georgia and the Florida Panhandle, but fortunately the sample they used was from the same deposit that the folks in Palenque mined.

      Here is the URL –


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