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Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya Hardcover – November 24, 2008
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About the Author
is founding president of the Center for Maya Research in North Carolina and the former Staff Archaeologist of the National Geographic Society.
Top Customer Reviews
All this time later, one would be very hard-pressed to find better-informed authors on the Maya than George Stuart and his son, David. They are top experts in the field.
I really enjoyed this book as it provides a real concept of the history of this famous and beautiful site, bringing it and its rulers to life in a way I've not encountered elsewhere. The authors do go into the history of the rediscovery of the site, as some other reviewers have complained, but I found it all fascinating. It's astounding to realize just how much we now know about the dynastic rulers of this powerful city, including one female ruler, its battles with neighboring cities and about specific buildings. It's overwhelming to see how far our knowledge of the Maya has come in just the last 3 decades or so. And still only about 2% of the city has been carefully excavated!
This book strives to provide a lot of information without confusing the reader. Details can be difficult to follow at times, particularly when the text refers to specific aspects of drawings or photos that are sometimes too small for the details to be clearly seen, a universal problem with reproductions of Mayan art. Maya symbolism is so difficult, it is often hard to believe anyone can actually read their ultra-complex writing system, but the Stuarts almost make it sound easy. Included among the numerous and excellent line-drawings and photos are the best of the magnificent, recently discovered carvings and huge incense stands found in Temples XIX and XXI, all of which were part of a recent traveling exhibit here in the U.S. called "The Courtly Art of the Maya." Of course, Pakal's life, death and tomb are thoroughly explored in a logical fashion, unlike the garbage interpretations being proposed by more and more authors and TV filmmakers out to exploit the totally unfounded apocalyptic predictions for December 21 (or 23rd) of 2012.
Two sections at the end of the book, "Summary Histories of the Rulers of Palenque" and a chart of "The Palenque Dynasty", are invaluable to the reader. Without these, the curious fact that 5 rulers preceding the great Pakal shared names in reverse order with 5 of his successors, leading the authors to cautiously speculate that Pakal and his successors may have actually foreseen the portents in the calendar round that predicted the abandonment of the city a couple hundred years before it happened. Or did the prediction help bring about the abandonment?
It's all fascinating! I highly recommend this book and am currently reading David Stuart's most recent volume, THE ORDER OF DAYS. Good stuff as well!