Alberto Ruz was a Mexican archaeologist known for his discovery of the tomb of K’inich Janaab Pakal, one of the greatest kings of the Maya Classic period. It was the first royal tomb found intact inside a pyramid. The discovery changed the concept that the Maya pyramids were not mortuary temples.
Ruz was born in Paris in 1906. His father was Cuban and his mother was French. Through his father, Ruz is related to Cuba’s Fidel Castro Ruz. He went to school in Paris and Havana until 1936 when he moved to Mexico. There he adopted Mexican citizenship.
In 1945, he began his excavations at Palenque as southern director of Pre-Hispanic Monuments for Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH).
After years of being puzzled by a stone on the floor of the Temple of the Inscriptions that had a few holes drilled in it, Ruz decided in 1948 to pull that stone and start digging. Four years later, in June 1952, he entered the chamber that contained the sarcophagus of Palenque’s great king.
Ruz died in Montreal, Canada, in 1979. His remains are buried in Palenque, in a small monument almost facing the structure where he made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.
Top right: Photo of the archaeologist sliding under the multi-ton sarcophagus lid kept raised by jacks is from the Center of Maya Studies of Mexico’s national university (UNAM) publication of 1981 paying homage to Alberto Ruz.
Bottom right: Photo of the Temple of the Inscriptions with the small monument containing the remains of Alberto Ruz is by George Fery.