Through the entrance you follow a short road and a few steps up to Palenque ’s main plaza. The first two temples on your right are Temple XII and XIII, known as Funerary Corridor for their deathly ornamentation and content.
Temple XII is also known as Temple of the Skull, so named for the stucco relief of a rabbit skull, visible at the base of one of the pillars on the upper temple, and probably representing a god of the underworld. (Unfortunately, you can’t climb the stairs to get a better look.) In the 1990s, archaeologists uncovered a passageway leading from that same upper patio to a sarcophagus deep in the structure’s interior, just as was famously discovered in the site’s Temple of the Inscriptions . Inside the tomb were the remains of a leader, as yet unidentified, plus several other bodies, most likely the leader’s servants. Alas, the passage and tomb are also off-limits to visitors.
To the left is Temple XIII, which also contains a newly discovered crypt. Dubbed the Tomb of the Red Queen, the three-room chamber has a large stone sarcophagus in which archaeologists discovered the remains of a woman. The woman had been interred with a rich collection of jade jewelry and was covered in cinnabar powder, a prized red pigment, hence the evocative name. The woman’s identity hasn’t been determined, thanks to the lack of inscriptions of any kind, but archaeologists suspect it was the mother of Pakal the Great, Palenque ’s most influential leader.
The remains of the mysterious Red Queen have been removed, but visitors can see the tomb and sarcophagus (which is itself painted red) via a passageway near the bottom of the stairs. This is not the original entryway, however; it was created to study—and now showcase—the inner tomb. The original entry has not yet been discovered.