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Drawing From the Past
Maya Antiquity Through the Eyes of Frederick Catherwood

Plate 6, General View of Palenque

Plate 6, General View of Palenque

Plate 6, General View of Palenque
(on stone, by A. Picken)

This image depicts the Temple of Inscriptions (center) and the Palace (left), two of the most famous structures at Palenque in southern Mexico’s Chiapas region. The buildings are set off against a magnificent backdrop of wooded hills and have been almost completely reclaimed by the forest. Catherwood writes that this particular scene was especially difficult to draw due to the foliage which obstructed a clear view of the entire site.

Stephens and Catherwood both felt the overgrown state of the ruins reflected a detestable disregard of antiquity on the part of the 19th-century Palencanos. The explorers decided to take action by gaining proprietary rights to the site. Stephens already believed himself a rightful owner of the ruins, viewing them as part of the cultural heritage of the United States due to their location on the “American” continent; in the end, however, he failed to actually purchase them. Meanwhile, Catherwood hired an American acquaintance to make plaster casts of Palenque’s primary monuments. However, this effort was halted by the protest of three Palencanos who felt their ancestral rights to the ruins were being violated, confirming that they were not as indifferent as Stephens and Catherwood had supposed. [Spanish version].

CLAIRE WILSON

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