What if it were true? Millions of people around the world believe we have been visited in the past by extraterrestrial beings. What if it were true ? Did ancient aliens really help to shape our history? And if so, what if there were clues left behind... sometimes hiding in plain sight? What if we could find the evidence?
The Tomb of the Palenque Astronaut
Deep in the jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, amid a tangle of fragrant cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees, rises one of the great Mayan step pyramids: the Temple of the Inscriptions. The funerary monument of the great Mayan king Lord Pakal, it is the largest pyramid at the ruins of Palenque, the Mayan city over which Pakal ruled for a commanding sixty-eight years. Though Spanish explorers and later archaeologists were aware of the abandoned city and its imposing palace, temples, and courtyards of gray stone as early as the sixteenth century, it wasn't until 1952 that Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz would discover the astonishing secret at the heart of the Temple of the Inscriptions.
Having ascended to the graceful temple atop the pyramid, Ruz noticed what appeared to be a sort of trapdoor inset in the temple's floor. After his crew removed the heavy stone slab, they were shocked to discover what appeared to be a stairway leading down into the interior of the pyramid. Obstructed by rubble, the stairway would not be cleared for another two years.
Ruz's patience would pay off, however—for once the stairway was cleared he found that it led to a secret chamber deep underground, a room unlike any other in the realm of Mesoamerican pyramids. Icicle-shaped stalactites dripped perilously from the ceiling, and sharp stalagmites rose menacingly from its floor.
And at the heart of this sepulchral chamber, hidden from sight for over one thousand years, stood the massive sarcophagus of King Pakal, sealed with an incredibly heavy, incredibly intricate, carved lid. The sarcophagus lid depicts Pakal within a capsulelike object, reclining in a cocoonlike seat, manipulating what appears to be a set of controls with one hand while seemingly dialing a piece of equipment with the other. The heel of his left foot rests on what looks like a pedal. He has on what looks like a face mask, with an apparatus of some type emerging from his mouth. Affixed to his chest appears to be some form of monitoring unit. From what looks to be an engine beneath the capsule, flames erupt.
Taken together, the details of the lid create an unshakable portrait of a man—or being—who is, in posture and outfit, remarkably, startlingly, like one of our own astronauts. In fact, its eerie similarity to a twenty-first-century space voyager has earned it the nickname by which it is now commonly known: the Palenque Astronaut. But the Palenque Astronaut is only one of countless mysteries the Mayans left behind, along with other Mesoamerican cultures—from eerily futuristic statues to vast and complex tunnel systems.