Palenque (Spanish pronunciation: [pa'leŋke]; Yucatec Maya: Bàakʼ /ɓàːkʼ/), also anciently known as Lakamha (Big Water), was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century. The Palenque ruins date from ca. 226 BC to ca. AD 799. After its decline, it was absorbed into the jungle of cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees, but has since been excavated and restored. It is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
The city was founded during the Late Preclassic, which corresponds to the beginning of the Christian era. Its first inhabitants probably migrated from other sites in the nearby region. They always shared the cultural features which define the Maya culture, as well as a level of development that allowed them to adapt to the natural environment. After several centuries, ca. 500 A.D., the city rose to be a powerful capital within a regional political unit. Without a buffer zone the total area of the archeological site is 1780 hectares, 09 areas and 49 square meters and 1,400 buildings have been recorded, of which only about 10% have been explored. Palenque has been the object of interest of numerous travelers, explorers and researchers since the 18th century. It illustrates one of the most significant achievements of mankind in the American continent. The ancient city has a planned urban layout, with monumental edifices and some of the largest clearings found in all the Maya area. Numerous residential areas with habitation units, funerary, ritual and productive activity areas were placed around the administrative and civic ceremonial centre.
The palencano style is unique for its high degree of refinement, lightness and harmony. It includes buildings with vaulted roofs upon which pierced crestings emphasized its height. Its architecture is also characterized by its interior sanctuaries and modeled stucco scenes found on its freezes, columns, walls, crests, as well as ogival vaults, vaulted halls connecting galleries and T-shaped windows, among other unique architectural features. The sophisticated architectural designs and the rich decoration reflect the history and ideology of the ruling class and incorporate the writing and calendaric systems. The architecture of the site is integrated in the landscape, creating a city of unique beauty.
By 2005, the discovered area covered up to 2.5 km², but it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city is explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle.