Distinguished by its highly expressive relief sculpture, Palenque comprises temples, terraces, plazas, altars, burial grounds, and a ball court. It was discovered accidentally in 1740, when a Spanish priest named Antonio de Solis struck a buried wall with his spade while planting a field. In its heyday, the city encompassed an area of almost 50 square miles. The most important buildings date to the sixth to ninth centuries A.D., including the 75-foot-tall Temple of the Inscriptions. The temple was dedicated to the great ruler Pacal, who has been called the "Mesoamerican Charlemagne." His tomb, found by Mexican archeologists in 1952, lies at the bottom of a set of steps leading 80 feet down from the top of the temple.

Palenque The ruins of Palenque rise above the surrounding Chiapas plain.

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