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Palace of Palenque roof was originally painted red

A project led by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico, through the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), has determined that the roof at the Palace of Palenque (El Palacio) was originally painted red.

Palenque, also known in the Itza Language as Lakamha (meaning “Big Water or Big Waters”), was a Maya city state in southern Mexico.

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Palenque is a medium-sized city, smaller than Tikal, Chichén Itzá, or Copán, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings of the Maya world.

The Palace of Palenque is the largest complex within the ruins, that archaeologists believe served as the ceremonial and administrative centre. The complex interior is a maze of 12 rooms or “houses”, two courts and the tower, a four-level square structure known today as “The Observation Tower”.

As part of a four-year conservation project of the houses designated as B, C, D and E, the restorers have reconstructed parts of the structures from the archaeological remains of the roofs and their foundations.

Within house D, the team identified red polychromy, suggesting that the roof was originally painted red. The red pigment was produced from a mixture of iron oxides and other minerals, preserved in layers of paster made from lime and sand.

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Pigments held an important symbolic value and ceremonial significance for the ancient Maya, leading to the researchers to rethink the role the roof on the structures at Palenque played for the inhabitants.

INAH

Header Image Credit : Zaruba Ondrej

 

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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