|K'inich Kan B'alam II ruled Palenque during its glory days in the late seventh century, AD. He was the oldest son of K'inich Janab' Pakal I and Ix Tz'akb'u Ajaw, and succeeded his father on the Palenque throne. |
K'inich Kan B'alam II was born in AD 635, when his father was 32 and beginning to rebuild the kingdom of Palenque after the disastrous attacks by Bonampak, Piedras Negras, Pomona(?), and Calakmul. He acceded to the throne in AD 684 (K'inich Janab' Pakal I died at the end of AD 683) at the age of 48. He oversaw the funeral of his father (and included himself in the sculptures of the funerary temple, the Temple of the Inscriptions), and began a long and distinguished reign. Almost immediately after his accession K'inich Kan B'alam II must have begun work on his lasting memorial and one of the most beautiful of all Maya architectural complexes: the Group of the Cross. The three temples comprising the Group of the Cross (the Temples of the Sun, Cross, and Foliated Cross) were dedicated in AD 692.
In the meantime, K'inich Kan B'alam II was also active on the military front. In AD 687 he attacked Tonina, Palenque's neighboring kingdom to the south, and captured its king "Ruler 2". During the reign of K'inich Kan B'alam II, the kingdom of Palenque probably reached its greatest extent and power. By the end of his reign, however, K'inich Kan B'alam II's kingdom was coming under threat from the new Tonina king K'inich B'aknal Chak, who made a series of military incursions into Palenque's territories between AD 692 and 696 (a later attack on Palenque by K'inich B'aknal Chak, in AD 711, would result in the capture of K'inich Kan B'alam II's successor).
K'inich Kan B'alam II died in AD 702, at the age of 66. He was succeeded by his younger brother K'inich K'an Joy Chitam II.
K'inich Kan B'alam II was a great patron of the arts, and some of the most beautiful of all Classic Maya portraits are of him. There are several exquisite stucco portrait heads of him (life-sized and modelled in the round), as well as numerous images carved in the stone tablets of the Group of the Cross. His elongated face and pendulous lower lip make him one of the most instantly recognisable of all ancient Maya kings.
PAL: Palace, House A-D,
Palace Tablet, M12
Drawing by Linda Schele