PALENQUE, the modern name of a deserted city in Mexico, in the narrow valley of the Otolum, in the north part of the state of Chiapas, 80 m.
The original name of Palenque has been lost, and its present name is taken from the neighbouring village, Santo Domingo del Palenque.
Unlike the dead cities of the Yucatan plains, Palenque is surrounded by wooded hills and overgrown by tropical vegetation.
Probably owing to the same cause, there is less cut stone in the walls, the Palenque builders using plaster to obtain smooth surfaces.
The Palenque builders apparently used nothing but stone tools in their work.
Another and perhaps a better supposition is that they belonged to the Maya group, and represented a much earlier civilization than that of the builders of Palenque, Quirigua and Copan.
The remarkable ruins of Palenque, Uxmal, Chichenitza, Lorillard, Ixinche, Tikal, Copan and Quirigua, with their carved stonework and astonishing architectural conceptions, show that they had attained a high degree of civilization.
We have the means of comparing the personal appearance of the Mexicans and Central Americans by their portraits on early sculptures, vases, &c.; and, though there does not appear any clear distinction of race-type, the extraordinary back-sloping foreheads of such figures as those of the bas-reliefs of Palenque prove that the custom of flattening the skull in infancy prevailed in Central America to an extent quite beyond any such habit in Mexico.
The climate is much drier than that of Chiapas, and the structures are in a better state of preservation than those of Palenque, but the rank vegetation and the decay of the wooden lintels over the doorways have broken down many of the walls.
Projecting stones suggest that they were built to carry statues or figures like the roof-combs of Palenque.