|Intro 1998 1999||Page 1 - 2 - 3|
The Motiepa Group is arranged on the hillside from Palenque's main plateau down to the edge of the flood plains. Topography that appears to be an approximately twenty meter wide, dried watercourse runs down through the middle of the group. Calcified ledges stepping down the hillside, much like those in the Motiepa and Otulum cascades, are the evidence that water once flowed through the area in large quantity.
There are forty-five structures and ten residential courtyards. Exposed architecture exists on the surfaces of structures M2, 11 and 13. In addition, a subterranean chamber of unknown character was detected in between structures M42 and M41. Looters have dug two separate pits into structure M2, one revealing an entrance into an intact inner chamber.
While no water management features were securely identified, the aforementioned dried watercourse running through the Motiepa Group seems controlled in its placement.
While surveying at the top of the dried watercourse, just below structure M10, the team noticed many bats flying around in the middle of the day. As bats are nocturnal, the presence of a cave or underground opening was suspected to be nearby. Though none was found, the possibility that it exists is still quite high. An extinct spring emerging from a cave would neatly explain the presence of the dried watercourse.
Group G, also called "Blom's Group G", was one of the locations identified during the 1920's expedition of Franz Blom. As with most of Blom's identified groups, his attention was given to the group due to its accessible tombs.
While Blom's drawing of Group G (1927) identified only two structures, the PMP map identifies twenty structures and five small courtyards. One large platform, structure G12, forms the step down in between Group G's two flat areas. Structures G3, 6, 12 and 17 have exposed architecture. G17's visible architecture is accessed through a hole in its half-meter tall platform and appears to be a pair of small tomb chambers. G3, recorded first by Blom, is a two meters tall structure with a collapse hole in its top. The structure's interior is still in good condition with stucco on the walls and two intact doorways (one sealed up).
The wide plateau below and to the north of Group G is an area of unique character. Though it is a flat, upland plateau, ideal for residential construction, the land is completely empty of buildings. The 1983 Robertson map identifies it as a "1968 milpa". The area's north end drops sharply off an approximately ten-meter tall limestone cliff. The face of that cliff is highly eroded and calcified, indicating prolonged exposure to flowing water.
This water run-off evidence combined with the plateau's oddly empty state, lead the survey team to suspect it may have been a small, inner-city milpa. Unfortunately, its use as a milpa in modern times may have precluded phosphate soil testing to confirm or deny its ancient identity.
This group was named after Don Moises Morales, long-time advocate of the ruins and Palenque's most knowledgeable tour guide. The editors of Robertson's 1983 map gave the group its name. Though originally identified as the group's central large complex (the platform unifying structures MR21, 24, 32 and 33) the PMP has expanded its definition to include the surrounding smaller structures as well.
Moises' Retreat sits upon almost completely flat land and commands a beautiful view of the plains below. There are sixty structures in the group and nineteen small courtyards. Tall terraces bound the group to the north and south, architecturally separating it from the G and Xinil Pa' Groups. Within the group there are three low-lying terraces in its eastern section. The central complex (comprised of structures MR21, 24, 32 and 33) sits upon a single large platform containing subterranean architecture.
Much of the complex has exposed architecture, allowing interior investigation. Project members Jim Eckhardt and Heather Hurst crawled inside each subterranean chamber and passageway in order to record dimensions and descriptions. The long dark corridors encountered inside are reminiscent of those underneath Palenque's central Palace.
Elsewhere in the group, exposed architecture was found on the surfaces of structures MR4, 5, 8, 25, 26 and 28. MR4, in particular, is in a very good state of preservation. In addition, intact walls were found along the face of Moises' Retreat's northern terrace, held in place by calcification. A small tomb chamber has collapsed in, revealing its internal architecture two meters to the east of structure MR28. Evidence of looting was recorded in structures MR21, 24, 26, 32 and on the platform directly north of MR34.
Two separate areas of water management were detected within Moises' Retreat. The smaller of the two is a seasonally flowing spring two meters to the east of structure MR22. The terrace there appears to have been intentionally in-set to provide an architectural opening from which the spring could flow downhill in a controlled fashion.
The second, larger area of water management is located to the west of the group's main complex and flows out of the nearby Piedras Bolas. There are two tributaries that appear to have been redirected to flow in between structures, one in between MR25 and 26 and the other in between MR26 and 27. Both join together just before dropping off into a small ravine which curves to rejoin the Piedras Bolas downstream.
Sporadic areas of wet and dry along the courses of the tributaries indicate water is seeping under the patio they cross, likely re-emerging from a spring detected at the base of the ravine. This area is one of the best examples of Palenque's architecture harmonizing with its natural setting.
The Xinil Pa' group is a densely arranged group of structures climbing uphill in between the Piedras Bolas and Motiepa Rivers. A series of eight terraces step forty-two meters up the hillside creating flat surfaces for Xinil Pa's seventy-eight structures and fifteen small courtyards. The two largest structures in Xinil Pa', XP1 and 2, are located at its northernmost edge, bordering Moises' Retreat. XP1 is the largest and has an associated altar-like feature on its eastern side patio. XP2 flanks the Piedras Bolas and has an almost completely intact western wall.
The southern section of the Xinil Pa' group, containing the highest density of structures, may be the area of Robertson's map named the "Great House Group". Location discrepancies make map comparisons less than clear. Considering the interconnected nature of the construction as it climbs up the hillside, the entire area was included under the Xinil Pa' Group name. Robertson's map also records a large structure named "Bates Pyramid". Though map comparison was again unclear, structure XP36 appears to be the most likely candidate for Bates Pyramid.
Inaccessibility and many small structures arranged around private courtyards give the area a highly residential character. Eleven structures in the Xinil Pa' Group have exposed architecture, including structures XP2, 3, 13, 18, 31, 33, 35, 43, 55, 69 and 72. Looter's pits were found in only two structures, XP 40 and 54.
Water management evidence in the Xinil Pa' Group is concentrated around the Piedras Bolas River. Drain-like features are visible in the river's bank west of structures XP13 and 30. Large amounts of cut stone lie strewn around in the Piedras Bolas River from structure XP12 down to Moises' Retreat structure MR61.
On the opposite side of the group, the dry arroyo between structures XP40 and 43 feeds down into the Motiepa River without cutting into the surrounding architecture, suggesting at minimum that its course was accounted for during construction, if not created by the construction. Lastly, a word on the Xinil Pa' terraces.
At their great size and the fact that they are the platforms for most of the group's residential courtyards, they seem to be evidence of a large communal labor force.
Like the nearby Xinil Pa' Group, the Piedras Bolas Group climbs up the hillside partially using four wide terraces as leveled building surfaces. The group runs primarily along the western bank of the Piedras Bolas River, hence its given name. There are sixty-seven structures and twelve small courtyards contained within the group. None of the structures appear obviously non-residential. Exposed architecture was documented on structures PB1, 7, 9, 15, 18, 31, 32, 39 and 48.
Looter's pits were found in only three structures, PB1, 15 and 35. The southernmost structures of the Piedras Bolas Group are built into a steep hillside as long, narrow platforms. Above those platforms the hill rises another twenty-five meters to a flat, natural plateau (not yet documented on the PMP map).
Though the plateau was reconnaissance for a full day, no structures were found. The plateau did, however, contain three interesting pits, ten meters in average diameter and one to two meters in depth, with large limestone chunks scattered around their edges. Their form suggests quarry pits. Given that no structures were encountered on the plateau, the decision was made to hold off on formally surveying the area and to spend the team's limited time in the areas of settlement below.
One of Palenque's more interesting water management features was documented in the northwest part of the Piedras Bolas Group. Structure PB7 has a pool connected to its southern side. The pool is walled on all four sides and has a spring welling up from its southwest corner. The pool drains by a conduit travelling underneath structure PB7.
The water flows out of the structure's north side, travels under an arroyo level stone-covered channel (2m in length) and then winds eastward to join the Piedras Bolas. At that point of the Piedras Bolas' course most of its water is being fed into it via this small arroyo. The pool at the arroyo's origin still functions to collect water from the spring that it was built around.