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Dupaix and Castaneda

Palenque had yielded no tangible treasures to its first investigators. It had, to be sure, stirred up some flurries of correspondence over the years immediately succeeding the investigations, but in a Spanish colony like Mexico, closed to the non-Spanish world, there were few literate travelers permitted to visit the ruins. However, in 1807 the Spanish Crown commissioned Guillermo Dupaix, a retired military captain, to embark on his third expedition to investigate and record ancient ruins in Mexico.

On that expedition he reached Palenque, accompanied by a draughtsman, Jose Luciano Castaneda. It was a difficult period for travel in Mexico -- a few years before the Revolution would wrench Mexico from Spain forever.

Temple of the Inscriptions
by Castaneda

Castaneda made a series of rather stiff and crude drawings which missed entirely the spirit of the place, turning the landscape into a desert and the elegant buildings into characterless cubes (some of two stories), but they can be recognized.

During the trip, Dupaix was jailed in the belief that he was some sort of revolutionary and after the expedition the drawings of Castaneda were shelved for twenty-seven years, until they were transported to France and spruced up for publication. Lord Kingsborough published a selection of them in his monumental work in 1834, but in that same year they were all published in Paris in a large volume entitled Antiquites Mexicaines .

In 1808 a history of Guatemala by Domingo Juarros was published there which included the first printed description of the ruins of Palenque.
Temple of the Inscriptions

The author says that "the solidity of its edifices, the stateliness of its palaces, and the magnificence of its public works, were not surpassed in importance by its vast extent: temples, altars, deities, sculptures, and monumental stones bear testimony to its great antiquity." The author ventured that the ruins must have been an Egyptian colony along with those of Tonina and Culhuacan.

The great Alexander von Humboldt was the first to publish a picture of a Palencian relief. It is to be found as Plate 11 in his great Vues des Cordilleres et Monuments des Peuples Indigenes de l'Amerique , Paris, 1810. The plate mistakenly attributes the relief as having been found in Oaxaca. The plate was made from a drawing supplied to Humboldt by the Mexican naturalist, Cervantes.

A number of years went by in which educated visitors left no literary evidence. Much of what is published during these years is a re-hashing of earlier material or romantic venturings about ancient civilizations with colonies in the New World. In April of 1831 Juan Galindo, governor of the Peten, made a visit to Palenque, where he made sketches of the ruins. He wrote several letters -- one at the ruins, dated April 27, 1831 -- and others written later from Flores, Peten. These were circulated and published in England and France, arousing no small interest on both sides of the Atlantic. While at Palenque he collected stuccos, one of which was illustrated in 1834 and now is at the Trocadero Museum in Paris.

(to be continued)

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