The Superior Sauna research team started their journey with an 8-hour shuttle ride to the Mayan treasure of Chiapas, also known as Palenque. Arriving late into the night and in the midst of a thunderstorm, the crew unpacked their luggage and hustled to their bungalows at Chan-Kah Resort Village.

They started their expedition touring one of the most important ruins in Mayan culture - the Palenque Archaeological Zone. There they met their guide, archaeologist, and translator Alfonso Morales who led them through the historical site. Morales has dedicated his life to researching Mayan culture and received his PhD in Archaeology from the University of Texas in Austin. He has spent much of his life traveling between Mexico and America, having dual citizenship with family on both sides of the border.


This unique city was believed to be populated from 226 BC up until 799 AD. What made the city famous was the discovery of the tomb of King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, the “holy lord of B’aakal” and ruler of Palenque. Pakal is among the most memorable Maya individuals today due to the discovery of his tomb, his artistic representations of Palenque, and the extensive hieroglyphic texts that walk you through his life and death. He began ruling Palenque at the age of 12 and lived to be 80 years old. Upon his death, his son Kan B’ahlam II ascended the throne.

“The site is very special for a couple of reasons. First, because of the beautiful art. Second, because of the extensive writings. We can interpret about 80% of the history here which is extremely impressive,” says Morales.

The structural designs and artwork were inspired by the individual rulers which has helped archaeologists determine what each king looked like. The tomb that Pakal was buried in shows us that the king had a long and well-defined nose with his lower lip hanging down. Pakal was extremely knowledgeable in mathematics, astronomy, and architecture. This knowledge helped to enhance the beauty and art that went into the ruins.


By the time the ruins had been discovered by the Spanish priests in 1576 AD, much of the information regarding the steam rooms had washed away. What we know is that there were steam rooms on site that were used for three primary health and wellness reasons: ceremonial, spiritual, and healing purposes. The rooms were heated by volcanic rocks with steam that was produced by pouring water over the rocks. Before entering the steam room, one would have to wash their body in preparation for their souls to be cleansed.

The shaman leading the ceremony would use various blends of plants and herbs to heal different ailments. Plants such as eucalyptus leaves, rosemary, mullein, and pepper were sprinkled over the rocks during the cleansing. The plant oils would vaporize and soak into the bather’s pores. It would end with cold water being poured on their bodies to close their pores.

The rooms were designed for more of a practical use versus ritual – they were longer lengths but shorter in height with holes drilled into the ground for the water to run underground. The stones were estimated to weigh 8 kilos; however, these have yet to be found.


Upon returning to the Chan-Kah Resort Village, the team took some time to sit down and recap the day during dinner. On their walk back to their rooms, they wound up finding a family of howler monkeys up above in the trees. Elliot happened upon a scorpion in his room and Kassie discovered two large spiders near her shoes. Jim pointed out a Peccary that was searching for fruits near his room.

Their next stop is Yaxchilan, which is located right on the border of Mexico and Guatemala.

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  • Elliot Wood