In dense tropical forests of southern Mexico, the “Mists of Palenque” drape 1300-foot mountain peaks behind the ancient Mayan city called Lakam Ha – Place of Big Water. Ruins of pyramids, temples, palaces and wide plazas cluster on a narrow plateau about a quarter of the way up the steep mountains; the northern edge of the Chiapas highlands. Tall trees with draping lianas form a rain forest canopy, bathed by 120 inches of rain annually. Nine streams drain across the plateau and empty into rivers that snake across the plains below, flowing northwest to the Gulf of Mexico.
Palenque is the most mystical and magical of Mayan sites. Its architecture is unique with delicate filigreed roofcombs on temples perched on hilltops, decorated with exquisite bas relief panels of splendidly attired rulers and deities, carved with glyphs in an elegant incursive style. Looking north across the wide plains far below, the city is surrounded by lush tropical forests rich in edible fruits, plants, flowers and wildlife. The mountains rise dramatically to the south, their peaks often draped in mist.
The “Mists of Palenque” – their swirling fingers furrow through mountain crevices, hover like silvery drapes over hillsides, seep across plazas to lap at the base of stone stairways. The mists hide more than palaces and pyramids and temples. For centuries they obscured from view the lives of those ancient Maya people who once lived in this magnificent city. Now their story is told in my new novel: Mists of Palenque, Four Great Mayan Queens of Lakam Ha. Coming as an ebook series in December, 2013.
The Spaniards gave this ancient Mayan city the name Palenque, after the colonial town nearby. By 500 BCE early Mayans had settled the western area. Plentiful water and rich soil, natural protection and rivers for travel made it a desirable area. The abundant forests provided food, feathers and skins, and wood for building. The fresh mountain streams were channeled through buildings for bathing and toileting, burst into fountains in plazas, pooled in deep wells for drinking, and cascaded over boulders and down ravines bringing lyrical beauty to the environment.
By 400 CE, Lakam Ha (Palenque) had grown into a complex city that interacted with numerous others located along the mighty Usumacinta River, in the Chiapas highlands and the Peten lowlands (northern Guatemala). The Bahlam dynasty that ruled the city for 12 generations over 500 years, was founded by K’uk Bahlam I who acceded to rulership in 431 CE. Their lineage goes back over 2000 years to mythological time and divine beings in the sky. Rulers were the earthly embodiment of these ancestor gods, and kept harmony between humans and deities.