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Title: Ancient America, in Notes on American Archaeology
Author: Baldwin, John D. (John Denison), 1809-1883
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note

A number of typographical errors and inconsistencies have been
maintained in this version of this book. They have been marked with a
[TN-#], which refers to a description in the complete list found at the
end of the text.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Gateway at Labna. [See p. 144.]




              NEW YORK:

  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by
  In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


The purpose of this volume is to give a summary of what is known of
American Antiquities, with some thoughts and suggestions relative to
their significance. It aims at nothing more. No similar work, I believe,
has been published in English or in any other language. What is known of
American Archæology is recorded in a great many volumes, English,
French, Spanish, and German, each work being confined to some particular
department of the subject, or containing only an intelligent traveler’s
brief sketches of what he saw as he went through some of the districts
where the old ruins are found. Many of the more important of these works
are either in French or Spanish, or in great English quartos and folios
which are not accessible to general readers, and not one of them
attempts to give a comprehensive view of the whole subject.

Therefore I have prepared this work for publication, believing it will
be acceptable to many who are not now much acquainted with the remains
of Ancient America, and that some who read it may be induced to study
the but as Ancient America covers all time previous to the discovery by
Columbus, they may not be deemed out of place. Materials for the paper
on “Antiquities of the Pacific Islands” came to me from the Pacific
World while I was preparing the others. The discovery of the Pacific is
so intimately connected with the discovery of America, that this paper
would not be out of place even if the Mexican and Peruvian traditions
did not mention that a foreign people communicated with the western
coast of America in very ancient times.

WORCESTER, MASS., _November_, 1871.


     I. ANCIENT AMERICA.--THE MOUND-BUILDERS                    13
        Works of the Mound-Builders                             14
        Extent of their Settlements                             31
        Their Civilization                                      33
        Their Ancient Mining Works                              43

    II. ANTIQUITY OF THE MOUND-BUILDERS                         47
        How long were they here?                                51

   III. WHO WERE THE MOUND-BUILDERS?                            57
        Not Ancestors of the Wild Indians                       58
        Brereton’s Story                                        62
        American Ethnology                                      65
        Who the Mound-Builders were                             70

    IV. MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA                              76
        Their Northern Remains                                  77
        The “Seven Cities of Cevola”                            85
        Central Mexico                                          89
        The great Ruins at the South                            93

     V. MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA                             103
        Palenque                                               104
        Copan and Quiragua[TN-1]                               111
        Mitla                                                  117
        An Astronomical Monument                               122
        Ruins farther South                                    123
        The Ruins in Yucatan                                   125
        Mayapan                                                127
        Uxmal                                                  131
        Kabah                                                  137
        Chichen-Itza                                           140
        Other Ruins                                            144

    VI. ANTIQUITY OF THE RUINS                                 151
        Distinct Eras traced                                   155
        Nothing perishable left                                156
        “The Oldest of Civilizations”                          159
        American Cities seen by Tyrians                        161

   VII. WHENCE CAME THIS CIVILIZATION?                         165
        The “Lost Tribes of Israel”                            166
        The “Malay” Theory                                     167
        The Phœnician Theory                                   171
        The “Atlantic” Theory                                  174
        It was an original Civilization                        184

  VIII. AMERICAN ANCIENT HISTORY                               187
        The Old Books not all lost                             189
        The Ancient History sketched                           197
        The Toltecs our Mound-Builders                         200
        Some confirmation of the History                       205

    IX. THE AZTEC CIVILIZATION                                 207
        The Discovery and Invasion                             209
        The City of Mexico                                     211
        The Conquest                                           213
        Who were the Aztecs?                                   216
        They came from the South                               217

     X. ANCIENT PERU                                           222
        The Spanish Hunt for Peru                              223
        The Ruins near Lake Titicaca                           226
        Other Ruins in Peru                                    237
        The great Peruvian Roads                               243
        The Peruvian Civilization                              246

    XI. PERUVIAN ANCIENT HISTORY                               257
        Garcilasso’s History                                   258
        Fernando Montesinos                                    261
        His Scheme of Peruvian History                         264
        Probabilities                                          268
        Conclusion                                             272

  APPENDIX                                                     277
        A. The Northmen in America                             279
        B. The Welsh in America                                285
        C. Antiquities of the Pacific Islands                  288
        D. Deciphering the Inscriptions                        292


   1. Gateway at Labna                             _Frontispiece._
   2. Great Mound near Miamisburg                               16
   3. Square Mound near Marietta                                18
   4. Works at Cedar Bank, Ohio                                 19
   5. Works in Washington County, Mississippi                   20
   6. Works at Hopeton, Ohio                                    22
   7. Principal Figures of the Hopeton Works                    23
   8. Graded Way near Piketon, Ohio                             25
   9. Great Serpent Inclosure                                   29
  10. Fortified Hill, Butler County, Ohio                       30
  11. Stone-work in Paint Creek Valley, Ohio                    35
  12. Work on North Fork of Paint Creek                         36
  13. Ancient Work, Pike County, Ohio                           38
  14. Work near Brownsville, Ohio                               38
  15. Works near Liberty, Ohio                                  39
  16. Work in Randolph County, Indiana                          40
  17. } Vases from the Mounds                                   41
  18. }
  19. Ancient Mining Shaft                                      45
  20. Pueblo Ruin at Pecos                                      80
  21. Modern Zuni                                               81
  22. Ruins in the Valley of the Gila                           83
  23. Pueblo Building restored                                  87
  24. Ground Plan of the Building                               88
  25. Arch of Los[TN-2] Monjas, Uxmal                           98
  26. Arch most common in the Ruins                            100
  27. Casa No. 1, Palenque                                     107
  28. Casa No. 2 (La Cruz), Palenque                           108
  29. Great Wall at Copan                                      112
  30. Ruins at Mitla                                           116
  31. Great Hall at Mitla                                      118
  32. A ruined “Palace” at Mitla                               119
  33. Mosaic Decoration at Mitla                               120
  34. Great Mound at Mayapan                                   127
  35. Circular Edifice at Mayapan                              129
  36. Casa del Gobernador, Uxmal                               132
  37. Ground Plan                                              132
  38. Two-headed Figure at Uxmal                               133
  39. Decorations over Doorway, Uxmal                          134
  40. Ground Plan of Las Monjas, Uxmal                         136
  41. Ruined Arch at Kabah                                     139
  42. Casa Colorada, Chichen-Itza                              141
  43. Great Stone Ring                                         143
  44. Great Mound at Xcoch                                     145
  45. Bottom of an Aguada                                      146
  46. Subterranean Reservoir                                   147
  47. Plan of the Walls of Tuloom                              148
  48. Watch-tower at Tuloom                                    149
  49. Specimen of Inscriptions on Stone                        190
  50. Specimen of the Manuscript Writing                       191
  51. Ancient Masonry at Cuzco                                 227
  52. Ruins of a “Temple” on the Island of Titicaca            228
  53. Ruin on the Island of Titicaca                           229
  54. Ruin on the Island of Coati                              231
  55. Monolithic Gateway at Tiahuanaco                         233
  56. Remains of Fortress Walls at Cuzco                       234
  57. End View of Fortress Walls at Cuzco                      235
  58. End View of Walls at Gran-Chimu                          238
  59. } Decorations at Chimu-Canchu                            238
  60. }
  61. Edifice at Old Huanuco                                   239
  62. Ground Plan of the Edifice                               240
  63. “Look-out” at Old Huanuco                                240
  64. Ruins at Pachacamac                                      242
  65. Peruvian Copper Knives                                   249
  66. Copper Tweezers                                          249
  67. Golden Vase of Ancient Peru                              251
  68. Ancient Peruvian Silver Vase                             251
  69. Ancient Peruvian Pottery                                 252
  70. Ancient Peruvian Pottery                                 253




One of the most learned writers on American antiquities, a Frenchman,
speaking of discoveries in Peru, exclaims, “America is to be again
discovered! We must remove the veil in which Spanish politics has sought
to bury its ancient civilization!” In this case, quite as much is due to
the ignorance, indifference, unscrupulous greed, and religious
fanaticism of the Spaniards, as to Spanish politics. The gold-hunting
marauders who subjugated Mexico and Peru could be robbers and
destroyers, but they were not qualified in any respect to become
intelligent students of American antiquity. What a select company of
investigators, such as could be organized in our time, might have done
in Mexico and Central America, for instance, three hundred and fifty
years ago, is easily understood. In what they did, and in what they
failed to do, the Spaniards who went there acted in strict accordance
with such character as they had; and yet we are not wholly without
obligation to some of the more intelligent Spaniards connected with the

There are existing monuments of an American ancient history which invite
study, and most of which might, doubtless, have been studied more
successfully in the first part of the sixteenth century, before nearly
all the old books of Central America had been destroyed by Spanish
fanaticism, than at present. Remains of ancient civilizations, differing
to some extent in degree and character, are found in three great
sections of the American continent: the west side of South America,
between Chili and the first or second degree of north latitude; Central
America and Mexico; and the valleys of the Mississippi and the Ohio.
These regions have all been explored to some extent--not completely, but
sufficiently to show the significance and importance of their
archæological remains, most of which were already mysterious antiquities
when the continent was discovered by Columbus. I propose to give some
account of these antiquities, not for the edification of those already
learned in American archæology, but for general readers who have not
made the subject a study. My sketches will begin with the Mississippi
Valley and the regions connected with it.


An ancient and unknown people left remains of settled life, and of a
certain degree of civilization, in the valleys of the Mississippi and
its tributaries. We have no authentic name for them either as a nation
or a race; therefore they are called “Mound-Builders,” this name
having been suggested by an important class of their works.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--The Great Mound, near Miamisburg.]

Prominent among the remains by which we know that such a people once
inhabited that region are artificial mounds constructed with
intelligence and great labor. Most of them are terraced and truncated
pyramids. In shape they are usually square or rectangular, but sometimes
hexagonal or octagonal, and the higher mounds appear to have been
constructed with winding stairways on the outside leading to their
summits. Many of these structures have a close resemblance to the
_teocallis_ of Mexico. They differ considerably in size. The great mound
at Grave Creek, West Virginia, is 70 feet high and 1000 feet in
circumference at the base. A mound in Miamisburg, Ohio, is 68 feet high
and 852 feet in circumference. The great truncated pyramid at Cahokia,
Illinois, is 700 feet long, 500 wide, and 90 in height. Generally,
however, these mounds range from 6 to 30 feet high. In the lower valley
of the Mississippi they are usually larger in horizontal extent, with
less elevation.

Figure 2 represents the great mound near Miamisburg, Ohio, which may be
compared with a similar structure at Mayapan, Yucatan (Fig. 34). Figure
3 shows a square mound near Marietta, Ohio.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--Square Mound, near Marietta.]

There have been a great many conjectures in regard to the purposes for
which these mounds were built, some of them rather fanciful. I find it
most reasonable to believe that the mounds in this part of the continent
were used precisely as similar structures were used in Mexico and
Central America. The lower mounds, or most of them, must have been
constructed as foundations of the more important edifices of the
mound-building people. Many of the great buildings erected on such
pyramidal foundations, at Palenque, Uxmal, and elsewhere in that region,
have not disappeared, because they were built of hewn stone laid in
mortar. For reasons not difficult to understand, the Mound-Builders,
beginning their works on the lower Mississippi, constructed such
edifices of wood or some other perishable material; therefore not a
trace of them remains. The higher mounds, with broad, flat summits,
reached by flights of steps on the outside, are like the Mexican
_teocallis_, or temples. In Mexico and Central America these structures
were very numerous. They are described as solid pyramidal masses of
earth, cased with brick or stone, level at the top, and furnished with
ascending ranges of steps on the outside. The resemblance is striking,
and the most reasonable explanation seems to be that in both regions
mounds of this class were intended for the same uses. Figure 4 shows the
works at Cedar Bank, Ohio, inclosing a mound. The mound within the
inclosure is 245 feet long by 150 broad. Figure 5 shows a group of
mounds in Washington County, Mississippi, some of which are connected by
means of causeways.

[Illustration: Fig. 4--Works at Cedar Bank, Ohio.]

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--Works in Washington County, Mississippi.]

Another class of these antiquities consists of inclosures formed by
heavy embankments of earth and stone. There is nothing to explain these
constructions so clearly as to leave no room for conjecture and
speculation. It has been suggested that some of them may have been
intended for defense, others for religious purposes. A portion of them,
it may be, encircled villages or towns. In some cases the ditches or
fosses were on the inside, in others on the outside. But no one can
fully explain why they were made. We know only that they were
prepared intelligently, with great labor, for human uses. “Lines of
embankment varying from 5 to 30 feet in height, and inclosing from 1 to
50 acres, are very common, while inclosures containing from 100 to 200
acres are not infrequent, and occasional works are found inclosing as
many as 400 acres.” Figures 6 and 7 give views of the Hopeton works,
four miles north of Chillicothe, Ohio. Combinations of the square and
circle are common in these ancient works, and the figures are always
perfect. This perfection of the figures proves, as Squier and Davis
remark, that “the builders possessed a standard of measurement, and had
a means of determining angles.”

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--Works at Hopeton, Ohio.]

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--Principal Figures of the Hopeton Works.]

About 100 inclosures and 500 mounds have been examined in Ross County,
Ohio. The number of mounds in the whole state is estimated at over
10,000, and the number of inclosures at more than 1500. The great number
of these ancient remains in the regions occupied by the Mound-Builders
is really surprising. They are more numerous in the regions on the lower
Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico than any where else; and here, in
some cases, sun-dried brick was used in the embankments.

One peculiarity at the South is, that while the inclosures are generally
smaller and comparatively less numerous, there is a greater proportion
of low mounds, and these are often larger in extent. Harrison Mound, in
South Carolina, is 480 feet in circumference and 15 feet high. Another
is described as 500 feet in circumference at the base, 225 at the
summit, and 34 feet high. In a small mound near this, which was opened,
there was found “an urn holding 46 quarts,” and also a considerable
deposit of beads and shell ornaments very much decomposed. Broad
terraces of various heights, mounds with several stages, elevated
passages, and long avenues, and aguadas or artificial ponds, are common
at the South. Figure 8 shows the remains of a graded way of this ancient
people near Piketon, Ohio.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--Graded Way near Piketon, Ohio.]

At Seltzertown, Mississippi, there is a mound 600 feet long, 400 wide,
and 40 feet high. The area of its level summit measures 4 acres. There
was a ditch around it, and near it are smaller mounds. Mr. J. R.
Bartlett says, on the authority of Dr. M. W. Dickeson, “The north side
of this mound is supported by a wall of sun-dried brick two feet thick,
filled with grass, rushes, and leaves.” Dr. Dickeson mentions angular
tumuli, with corners “still quite perfect,” and “formed of large bricks
bearing the impression of human hands.” In Louisiana, near the Trinity,
there is a great inclosure partially faced with sun-dried bricks of
large size; and in this neighborhood ditches and artificial ponds have
been examined. In the Southern States these works appear to assume a
closer resemblance to the mound work of Central America.

The result of intelligent exploration and study of these antiquities is
stated as follows: “Although possessing throughout certain general
points of resemblance going to establish a kindred origin, these works
nevertheless resolve themselves into three grand geographical divisions,
which present in many respects striking contrasts, yet so gradually
merge into each other that it is impossible to determine where one
series terminates and another begins.” On the upper lakes, and to a
certain extent in Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri, but particularly in
Wisconsin, the outlines of the inclosures (elsewhere more regular in
form) were designed in the forms of animals, birds, serpents, and even
men, appearing on the surface of the country like huge _relievos_. The
embankment of an irregular inclosure in Adams County, Ohio, is
described as follows by Squier and Davis, Mr. Squier having made the
drawing of it for the work published by the Smithsonian Institution:

“It is in the form of a serpent, upward of 1000 feet in length, extended
in graceful curves, and terminating in a triple coil at the tail. The
embankment constituting this figure is more than 5 feet high, with a
base 30 feet wide at the centre of the body, diminishing somewhat toward
the head and tail. The neck of the figure is stretched out and slightly
curved. The mouth is wide open, and seems in the act of swallowing or
ejecting an oval figure which rests partly within the distended jaws.
This oval is formed by an embankment 4 feet high, and is perfectly
regular in outline, its transverse and conjugate diameters being
respectively 160 and 80 feet. The combined figure has been regarded as a
symbolical illustration of the Oriental cosmological idea of the serpent
and the egg; but, however this may be, little doubt can exist of the
symbolical character of the monument.”

Figure 9 gives a view of this work.

No symbolic device is more common among the antiquities of Mexico and
Central America than the form of the serpent, and it was sometimes
reproduced in part in architectural constructions. One of the old books,
giving account of a temple dedicated to Quetzalcohuatl, says, “It was
circular in form, and the entrance represented the mouth of a serpent,
opened in a frightful manner, and extremely terrifying to those who
approached it for the first time.”

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--Great Serpent, Adams County, Ohio.]

On the Ohio and its tributaries, and farther south, where the mounds are
numerous, the inclosures have more regular forms; and in the Ohio Valley
very often their great extent has incited speculation. At Newark, Ohio,
when first discovered, they were spread over an area more than two miles
square, and still showed more than twelve miles of embankment from two to
twenty feet high. Farther south, as already stated, the inclosures are
fewer and smaller, or, to speak more exactly, the great inclosures and
high mounds are much less common than low truncated pyramids, and
pyramidal platforms or foundations with dependent works. Passing up the
valley, it is found that Marietta, Newark, Portsmouth, Chillicothe,
Circleville, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri, and Frankfort, Kentucky, were
favorite seats of the Mound-Builders. This leads one of the most
intelligent investigators to remark that “the centres of population are
now where they were when the mysterious race of Mound-Builders existed.”
There is, however, this difference: the remains indicate that their most
populous and advanced communities were at the South. Figure 10 shows a
fortified hill in Butler County, Ohio.

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--Fortified Hill, Butler County, Ohio.]

Among those who have examined and described remains of the
Mound-Builders, Messrs. Squier and Davis rank first in importance,
because they have done most to give a particular and comprehensive
account of them. Their great work, published by the Smithsonian
Institution, must be regarded as the highest authority, and those who
desire to study the whole subject more in detail will find that work


Careful study of what is shown in the many reports on these ancient
remains seems plainly to authorize the conclusion that the
Mound-Builders entered the country at the South, and began their
settlements near the Gulf. Here they must have been very numerous, while
their works at every point on the limit of their distribution, north,
east, and west, indicate a much less numerous border population. Remains
of their works have been traced through a great extent of country. They
are found in West Virginia, and are spread through Michigan, Wisconsin,
and Iowa to Nebraska. Lewis and Clarke reported seeing them on the
Missouri River, a thousand miles above its junction with the
Mississippi; but this report has not been satisfactorily verified. They
have been observed on the Kansas, Platte, and other remote Western
rivers, it is said. They are found all over the intermediate and the
more southern country, being most numerous in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Texas.

This ancient race seems to have occupied nearly the whole basin of the
Mississippi and its tributaries, with the fertile plains along the Gulf,
and their settlements were continued across the Rio Grande into Mexico;
but toward their eastern, northern, and western limit the population was
evidently smaller, and their occupation of the territory less complete
than in the Valley of the Ohio, and from that point down to the Gulf. No
other united people previous to our time can be supposed to have
occupied so large an extent of territory in this part of North America.

It has heretofore been stated that remains of this people exist in
Western New York, but a more intelligent and careful examination shows
that the works in Western New York are not remains of the
Mound-Builders. This is now the opinion of Mr. Squier, formed on
personal investigation since the great work of Squier and Davis was


It is usual to rank the civilized life of the Mound-Builders much below
that of the ancient people of Mexico and Central America. This may be
correct, for the remains as they now exist appear to justify it. But if
all the ancient stone-work in Central America, with its finely-carved
inscriptions and wonderful decorations, had disappeared in the ages
before Europeans visited this continent, the difference might not appear
to be so great; for then the Central American remains, consisting only
of earth-works, truncated pyramids, pyramidal foundations, and their
connected works made of earth, would have a closer resemblance to works
of the Mound-Builders, to those especially found on the lower
Mississippi. On the other hand, if we now had in the Ohio and
Mississippi Valleys remains of the more important edifices anciently
constructed there, the Mound-Builders might be placed considerably
higher in the scale of civilization than it has been customary to allow.

It can be seen, without long study of their works as we know them, that
the Mound-Builders had a certain degree of civilization which raised
them far above the condition of savages. To make such works possible
under any circumstances, there must be settled life, with its
accumulations and intelligently organized industry. Fixed habits of
useful work, directed by intelligence, are what barbarous tribes lack
most of all. A profound change in this respect is indispensable to the
beginning of civilization in such tribes.

No savage tribe found here by Europeans could have undertaken such
constructions as those of the Mound-Builders. The wild Indians found in
North America lived rudely in tribes. They had only such organization as
was required by their nomadic habits, and their methods of hunting and
fighting. These barbarous Indians gave no sign of being capable of the
systematic application to useful industry which promotes intelligence,
elevates the condition of life, accumulates wealth, and undertakes great
works. This condition of industry, of which the worn and decayed works
of the Mound-Builders are unmistakable monuments, means civilization.

Albert Gallatin, who gave considerable attention to their remains,
thought their works indicated not only “a dense agricultural
population,” but also a state of society essentially different from that
of the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians. He was sure that the people who
established such settlements and built such works must have been
“eminently agricultural.” No trace of their ordinary dwellings is left.
These must have been constructed of perishable materials, which went to
dust long before great forests had again covered most of the regions
through which they were scattered. Doubtless their dwellings and other
edifices were made of wood, and they must have been numerous. It is
abundantly evident that there were large towns at such places as Newark,
Circleville, and Marietta, in Ohio. Figures 11 and 12 give views of
works on Paint Creek, Ohio.

[Illustration: Fig. 11.--Stone-work in Paint Creek Valley, Ohio.]

Their agricultural products may have been similar to many of those found
in Mexico; and it is not improbable that the barbarous Indians, who
afterward occupied the country, learned from them the cultivation of
maize. Their unity as a people, which is every where so manifest, must
have been expressed in political organization, else it could not have
been maintained.

[Illustration: Fig. 12.--Work on North Fork of Paint Creek.]

[Illustration: Fig. 13.--Ancient Work, Pike County, Ohio.]

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--Elliptical Work near Brownsville, Ohio.]

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--Works near Liberty, Ohio.]

In the details of their works, and in manufactured articles taken from
the mounds, there is evidence of considerable civilization. For
instance, it has been ascertained that the circular inclosures are
perfect circles, and the square inclosures perfect squares. They were
constructed with a geometrical precision which implies a kind of
knowledge in the builders that may be called scientific. Figures 13, 14,
15, 16 show some of the more important works of the Mound-Builders,
chiefly in Ohio. Relics of art have been dug from some of the mounds,
consisting of a considerable variety of ornaments and implements, made
of copper, silver, obsidian, porphyry, and greenstone, finely wrought.
There are axes, single and double; adzes, chisels, drills or gravers,
lance-heads, knives, bracelets, pendants, beads, and the like, made of
copper. There are articles of pottery, elegantly designed and finished;
ornaments made of silver, bone, mica from the Alleghanies, and shells
from the Gulf of Mexico.

[Illustration: Fig. 16.--Rectangular Work, Randolph County, Indiana.]

The articles made of stone show fine workmanship; some of them are
elaborately carved. Tools of some very hard material must have been
required to work the porphyry in this manner. Obsidian is a volcanic
product largely used by the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians for arms and
cutting instruments. It is found in its natural state nowhere nearer the
Mississippi Valley than the Mexican mountains of Cerro Gordo.

There appears to be evidence that the Mound-Builders had the art of
spinning and weaving, for cloth has been found among their remains. At
the meeting of the International Congress of Pre-Historic Archæology
held at Norwich, England, in 1868, one of the speakers stated this fact
as follows: “Fragments of charred cloth made of spun fibres have been
found in the mounds. A specimen of such cloth, taken from a mound in
Butler County, Ohio, is in Blackmore Museum, Salisbury. In the same
collection are several lumps of burnt clay which formed part of the
‘altar,’ so called, in a mound in Ross County, Ohio: to this clay a few
charred threads are still attached.” Figures 17 and 18 represent
specimens of vases taken from the mounds.

[Illustration: Figs. 17, 18.--Vases from the Mounds.]

Mr. Schoolcraft gives this account of a discovery made in West Virginia:
“_Antique tube: telescopic device._ In the course of excavations made in
1842 in the easternmost of the three mounds of the Elizabethtown group,
several tubes of stone were disclosed, the precise object of which has
been the subject of various opinions. The longest measured twelve
inches, the shortest eight. Three of them were carved out of steatite,
being skillfully cut and polished. The diameter of the tube externally
was one inch and four tenths; the bore, eight tenths of an inch. This
calibre was continued till within three eighths of an inch of the sight
end, when it diminishes to two tenths of an inch. By placing the eye at
the diminished end, the extraneous light is shut from the pupil, and
distant objects are more clearly discerned.”

He points out that the carving and workmanship generally are very
superior to Indian pipe carvings, and adds, if this article was a work
of the Mound-Builders “intended for a telescopic tube, it is a most
interesting relic.” An ancient Peruvian relic, found a few years since,
shows the figure of a man wrought in silver, in the act of studying the
heavens through such a tube. Similar tubes have been found among relics
of the Mound-Builders in Ohio and elsewhere. In Mexico, Captain Dupaix
saw sculptured on a peculiar stone structure the figure of a man making
use of one. Astronomical devices were sculptured below the figure. This
structure he supposed to have been used for observation of the stars.
His account of it will be given in the chapter on Mexican and Central
American ruins.

The Mound-Builders used large quantities of copper such as that taken
from the copper beds on Lake Superior, where the extensive mines yield
copper, not in the ore, but as pure metal. It exists in those beds in
immense masses, in small veins, and in separated lumps of various sizes.
The Mound-Builders worked this copper without smelting it. Spots of pure
silver are frequently found studding the surface of Lake Superior
copper, and appearing as if welded to it, but not alloyed with it. No
other copper has this peculiarity; but copper with similar blotches of
silver has been dug from the mounds. It was naturally inferred from this
fact that the ancient people represented by these antiquities had some
knowledge of the art of mining copper which had been used in the copper
region of Lake Superior. This inference finally became an ascertained


Remains of their mining works were first discovered in 1848 by Mr. S. O.
Knapp, agent of the Minnesota Mining Company, and in 1849 they were
described by Dr. Charles T. Jackson, in his geological report to the
national government. Those described were found at the Minnesota mine,
in upper Michigan, near Lake Superior. Their mining was chiefly surface
work; that is to say, they worked the surface of the veins in open pits
and trenches. At the Minnesota mine, the greatest depth of their
excavations was thirty feet; and here, “not far below the bottom of a
trough-like cavity, among a mass of leaves, sticks, and water, Mr. Knapp
discovered a detached mass of copper weighing nearly six tons. It lay
upon a cob-work of round logs or skids six or eight inches in diameter,
the ends of which showed plainly the marks of a small axe or cutting
tool about two and a half inches wide. They soon shriveled and decayed
when exposed to the air. The mass of copper had been raised several
feet, along the foot of the lode, on timbers, by means of wedges.” At
this place was found a stone maul weighing thirty-six pounds, and also a
copper maul or sledge weighing twenty-five pounds. Old trees showing 395
rings of annual growth stood in the débris, and “the fallen and decayed
trunks of trees of a former generation were seen lying across the pits.”
Figure 19 (opposite) presents a section of this mining shaft of the
Mound-Builders: _a_ shows the mass of copper; _b_ the bottom of the
shaft; _c_ the earth and débris which had been thrown out. The dark
spots are masses of copper.

The modern mining works are mostly confined to that part of the copper
region known as Keweenaw Point. This is a projection of land extending
into Lake Superior, and described as having the shape of an immense
horn. It is about eighty miles in length, and, at the place where it
joins the main land, about forty-five miles in width. All through this
district, wherever modern miners have worked, remains of ancient mining
works are abundant; and they are extensive on the adjacent island, known
as Isle Royale. The area covered by the ancient works is larger than
that which includes the modern mines, for they are known to exist in the
dense forests of other districts, to which the modern mining has not
yet been extended.

[Illustration: Fig. 19.--Ancient Mining Shaft.]

One remarkable mining excavation of the Mound-Builders was found near
the Waterbury mine. Here, in the face of a vertical bluff, was
discovered “an ancient, artificial, cavern-like recess, twenty-five feet
in horizontal length, fifteen feet high, and twelve feet deep. In front
of it is a pile of excavated rock on which are standing, in full size,
the forest trees common to this region.” Some of the blocks of stone
removed from this recess would weigh two or three tons, and must have
required levers to get them out. Beneath the surface rubbish were the
remains of a gutter or trough made of cedar, placed there to carry off
water from the mine. At the bottom of the excavation a piece of white
cedar timber was found on which were the marks of an axe. Cedar shovels,
mauls, copper gads or wedges, charcoal, and ashes were discovered, over
which “primeval” forest trees had grown to full size.

Modern mining on Lake Superior began effectively in 1845. The whole
copper region has not been fully explored. Works of the ancient miners
are found at all the mines of any importance; and they show remarkable
skill in discovering and tracing actual veins of the metal. Colonel
Charles Whittlesey, one of the best authorities on this point, believes
the Mound-Builders worked the copper-beds of that region during “a great
length of time,” and more of their works will undoubtedly be explored
when the forests shall be cleared away from those portions of the copper
region not yet worked by modern miners. So far as they have been traced,
they every where show the same methods, the same implements, and the
same peculiarities of both knowledge and lack of knowledge in the old



That the Mound-Builders and their works belong to a distant period in
the past is evident; but, of course, we have no means of determining
their antiquity with any approach to accuracy, no scheme of chronology
by which their distance from us in time can be measured. Nevertheless,
some things observed in their remains make it certain that the works are
very ancient.

1. One fact showing this is pointed out by those who have examined them
carefully as follows: None of these works (mounds and inclosures) occur
on the lowest-formed of the river terraces, which mark the subsidence of
the western streams; and as there is no good reason why their builders
should have avoided erecting them on that terrace, while they raised
them promiscuously on all the others, it follows, not unreasonably, that
this terrace has been formed since the works were erected. It is
apparent, also, that in some cases the works were long ago partly
destroyed by streams which have since receded more than half a mile, and
at present could not reach them under any circumstances. Those streams
generally show four successive terraces, which mark four distinct eras
of their subsidence since they began to flow in their present courses.
The fourth terrace, on which none of the works are found, marks the
last and longest of these periods; and it marks also the time since the
Mound-Builders ceased to occupy the river-valleys where it was formed.
The period marked by this fourth terrace must be the longest, because
the excavating power of such streams necessarily diminishes as their
channels grow deeper. This geological change, which has taken place
since the latest of the mounds and inclosures were constructed, shows
that the works are very old; no one can tell how old. To count the years
is impossible; but we can see that the date, if found, would take us
back to a remote period in the past.

2. Great antiquity is indicated by the skeletons taken from the mounds.
Every skeleton of a Mound-Builder is found in a condition of extreme
decay. It sometimes appears that the surface of a mound has been used by
the wild Indians for interments; but their skeletons, which are always
found well preserved, can be readily distinguished by their position in
the mounds, as well as by other peculiarities. The decayed bones of
Mound-Builders are invariably found within the mounds, never on the
surface, usually at the bottom of the structure, and nearly always “in
such a state of decay as to render all attempts to restore the skull,
or, indeed, any part of the skeleton, entirely hopeless.” Not more than
one or two skeletons of that people have been recovered in a condition
suitable for intelligent examination. It is stated in the work of Squier
and Davis that the only skull belonging incontestably to an individual
of the Mound-Building race, which has been preserved entire, was taken
from a mound situated on a knoll (itself artificial apparently) on the
summit of a hill, in the Scioto Valley, four miles below Chillicothe.

What, save time itself, can have brought these skeletons to a condition
in which they fall to pieces when touched, and are ready to dissolve and
become dust? All the circumstances attending their burial were unusually
favorable for their preservation. The earth around them has invariably
been found “wonderfully compact and dry.” And yet, when exhumed, they
are in such a decomposed and crumbling condition that to restore them is
impossible. Sound and well-preserved skeletons, known to be nearly two
thousand years old, have been taken from burial-places in England, and
other European countries less favorable for preserving them. The
condition of an ancient skeleton can not be used as an accurate measure
of time, but it is sufficiently accurate to show the difference between
the ancient and the modern, and in this case it allows us to assume that
these extremely decayed skeletons of the Mound-Builders are much more
than two thousand years old.

Those familiar with the facts established by geologists and
palæontologists are aware that remains of human skeletons have been
discovered in deposits of the “Age of Stone” in Western Europe; not to
any great extent, it is true, although the discoveries are sufficient to
show that fragments of skeletons belonging to that age still exist. It
is not without reason, therefore, that the condition of decay in which
all skeletons of the Mound-Builders are exhumed from their burial-places
is considered a proof of their great antiquity. There is no other
explanation which, so far as appears, can be reasonably accepted.

3. The great age of these mounds and inclosures is shown by their
relation to the primeval forests in which most of them were discovered.
I say _primeval_ forests, because they seemed primeval to the first
white men who explored them. Of course there were no unbroken forests at
such points as the Ohio Valley, for instance, while they were occupied
by the Mound-Builders, who were a settled agricultural people, whose
civilized industry is attested by their remains. If they found forests
in the valleys they occupied, these were cleared away to make room for
their towns, inclosures, mounds, and cultivated fields; and when, after
many ages of such occupation, they finally left, or were driven away, a
long period must have elapsed before the trees began to grow freely in
and around their abandoned works. Moreover, observation shows that the
trees which first make their appearance in such deserted places are not
regular forest trees. The beginning of such growths as will cover them
with great forests comes later, when other preliminary growths have
appeared and gone to decay.

When the Ohio Valley was first visited by Europeans it was covered by an
unbroken forest, most of the trees being of great age and size; and it
was manifest that several generations of great forest trees had preceded
those found standing in the soil. The mounds and inclosures were
discovered in this forest, with great trees growing in them. Eight
hundred rings of annual growth were counted in the trunk of a tree
mentioned by Sir Charles Lyell and others, which was found growing on a
mound at Marietta. In the same way, successive generations of forest
trees had grown over their extensive mining works near Lake Superior,
and many of those works are still hidden in what seem to be primeval

General Harrison made the following suggestion in regard to the
establishment of these forests in Ohio. When the individual trees that
first got possession of the soil had died out one after another, they
would, in many cases, be succeeded by other kinds, till at last, after a
great number of centuries, that remarkable diversity of species
characteristic of North America would be established. His suggestion,
the result of practical observation and study, is not without reason. It
is certain, in any case, that the period when these old constructions
were deserted is so far back in the past, that sufficient time has since
passed for the abandoned towns and fields to remain for years, and
perhaps centuries, as waste places, pass through the transition from
waste lands to the beginning of forest growths, and then be covered by
several generations of such great forest trees as were cleared away to
prepare the soil for the settlements, towns, and farms of our people.


There are many indications to warrant the conclusion that the
Mound-Builders occupied their principal seats in the Ohio and
Mississippi Valleys during a very long period. If they came from the
south, as appears evident, their settlements must have been extended up
the valley gradually. After their first communities were established in
the Gulf regions, considerable time must have elapsed before their
advancing settlements were extended northward, through the intervening
region, into the Valley of the Ohio. On the Ohio and in the valleys of
its tributaries their settlements were very numerous, and evidently
populous. The surprising abundance of their works in this region, which
have been traced in our time, shows that they dwelt here in great
numbers, and had no lack of industry.

This region seems to have been one of the principal centres from which
their settlements were advanced into the western part of Virginia; into
Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. The spread
of their settlements was necessarily gradual, and a long period must
have been required to extend them over all the country where remains of
their works are known to exist. If their civilization was chiefly
developed after their arrival in the country, which is unlikely, many
years must have elapsed before colonies went forth, to any great extent,
from the original seat of its development. In any case, time was
required to make their chief settlements sufficiently old and populous
to send forth colonies. It is manifest in their remains that the
communities of this ancient people most remote from the populous centres
on the Ohio, east, north, and west, were, like all border settlements,
the rudest and least populous. The remains at these points do not
indicate either as much wealth or as many workers, and the places where
these borderers settled must have been the latest occupied and the
earliest abandoned. One diligent investigator, who believes they came
originally from Mexico, speaks of the time of their stay in the country
as follows:

“When we consider the time required to people the whole extent of the
territory where their remains are found, and bring that people into a
condition to construct such monuments, and when we reflect on the
interval that must have passed after their construction until the epoch
of their abandonment, we are constrained to accord them a very high

He points out that they were sun worshipers, like the Mexicans and
Peruvians, and calls attention to the disks dug from their mounds, which
appear to have been designed as representations of the sun and moon.

Their long occupation of the country is suggested by the great extent of
their mining works. All who have examined these works agree with Colonel
Whittlesey that they worked the Lake Superior copper mines “for a great
length of time.” How long they had dwelt in the Ohio Valley when this
mining began can not be told, but a very considerable period must have
elapsed after their arrival at that point before the mines were
discovered. We can not suppose the first settlers who came up from the
Gulf region to the Ohio Valley went on immediately, through the
wilderness a thousand miles, to hunt for copper mines on Lake Superior;
and, even after they began to explore that region, some time must have
passed before the copper was found.

After they discovered the mines and began to work them, their progress
could not have been rapid. As their open trenches and pits could be
worked only in the summers, and by methods that made their operations
much slower than those of modern miners, no great advance of their work
was possible during the working time of each season; and yet remains of
their mining works have been discovered wherever mines have been opened
in our day; and, as previously stated, they are known to exist in heavy
forests, where the modern mining works have not yet been established.
There is nothing to indicate that they had settlements any where in the
mining region. Colonel Whittlesey, and others whose study of the subject
gives their opinion much weight, believe the Mound-Builders went up from
the settlements farther south in the summers, remained in the copper
region through the season, and worked the mines in organized companies
until the advance of winter terminated their operations.

Colonel Whittlesey says: “As yet, no remains of cities, graves,
domiciles, or highways have been found in the copper region;” and adds,
“as the race appears to have been farther advanced in civilization than
their successors, whom we call aborigines, they probably had better
means of transportation than bark canoes.” It may be said, also, that
the accumulations called wealth were necessary to make this regular and
systematic mining possible. Without these they could not have provided
the supplies of every kind required to sustain organized companies of
miners through a single season. A great many summers must have passed
away before such companies of miners, with all needed tools and
supplies, could have made their works so extensive by means of such
methods as they were able to use.

They probably occupied the country on the Gulf and Lower Mississippi
much longer than any other portion of the great valley. Their oldest and
latest abandoned settlements appear to have been in this region, where,
we may reasonably suppose, they continued to dwell long after they were
driven from the Ohio Valley and other places at the north.

The Natchez Indians found settled on the Lower Mississippi may have been
a degenerate remnant of the Mound-Builders. They differed in language,
customs, and condition from all other Indians in the country; and their
own traditions connected them with Mexico. Like the Mexicans, they had
temples or sacred buildings in which the “perpetual fire” was
maintained. Each of their villages was furnished with a sacred building
of this kind. They had also peculiarities of social and political
organization different from those of other tribes. They were
sun-worshipers, and claimed that their chief derived his descent from
the sun. The Natchez were more settled and civilized than the other
Indians, and, in most respects, seemed like another race. One learned
investigator classes them with the Nahuatl or Toltec race, thinks they
came from Mexico, and finds that, like the ancient people of Panuco and
Colhuacan, they had the phallic ceremonies among their religious
observances. Their history can not be given, and there is little or
nothing but conjecture to connect them with the Mound-Builders. The
Natchez were exterminated in 1730 by the French, whom they had treated
with great kindness. Of the few who escaped death, some were received
among the Chickasaws and Muskogees, but more were sent to Santo Domingo
and sold as slaves.

No view that can be taken of the relics left by the Mound-Builders will
permit us to believe their stay in the country was short. Any hypothesis
based on the shortest possible estimate of the time must count the years
by centuries.



This ancient people, whose remains indicate unity and civilization, must
have been organized as a nation, with a central administration which all
recognized. They must have had a national name, but nobody can tell
certainly what it was. No record or tradition has preserved it, unless
discovery of it can be made in a national designation found, without
clear explanation, in the old books and traditions of Central America,
and applied to some country situated at a distance from that part of the
continent in the northeast. These old books and traditions mention
“Huehue-Tlapalan” as a distant northeastern country, from which the
Nahuas or Toltecs came to Mexico; and Brasseur de Bourbourg, who has
translated one of the old books and given much attention to others,
supposes the Toltecs and the Mound-Builders to be the same people, or
did suppose this previous to the appearance of his “Atlantic theory.”
But this point will be more fully considered when we come to the Central
American antiquities.

Some antiquaries suggest that the Mound-Builders were the people called
“Allighewi” in old traditions of the Iroquois, but we have nothing to
make this very probable. The Iroquois were somewhat superior to the
other great family of barbarous Indians in organization for the business
of fighting. There are some reasons for believing they came to the lake
regions and the Ohio Valley much earlier than the Algonquin branch of
the wild Indian race. It is permissible, at least, to conjecture, if one
feels inclined to do so, that it was the Iroquois migration from the
northwest, or that of the great family to which the Iroquois family
belonged, which expelled the Mound-Builders from their border
settlements, cut them off from the copper mines, and finally pushed them
down the Mississippi; but nothing more than conjecture is possible in
this case, and the supposition gives the Iroquois migration a greater
antiquity than may be allowable. Moreover, the traditionary lore of the
wild Indians had nothing to say of the Mound-Builders, who appear to
have been as unknown and mysterious to these Indians as they are to us.


Some inquirers, not always without hesitation, suggest that the Indians
inhabiting the United States two hundred years ago were degenerate
descendants of the Mound-Builders. The history of the world shows that
civilized communities may lose their enlightenment, and sink to a
condition of barbarism; but the degraded descendants of a civilized
people usually retain traditional recollections of their ancestors, or
some traces of the lost civilization, perceptible in their customs and
their legendary lore. The barbarism of the wild Indians of North America
had nothing of this kind. It was original barbarism. There was nothing
to indicate that either the Indians inhabiting our part of the
continent, or their ancestors near or remote, had ever been civilized,
even to the extent of becoming capable of settled life and organized
industry. And, besides, the constant tradition of these Indians,
supported by concurring circumstantial evidence, appears to warrant the
belief that they came to this part of the continent originally from the
west or northwest, at a period too late to connect them in this way with
the Mound-Builders.

Two hundred years ago the Valley of the Mississippi, and the regions
east of it, were occupied by two great families of Indians, the Iroquois
and the Algonquins, each divided into separate tribes. Between these two
families there was a radical difference of language. The Indians of New
England were Algonquins. The Iroquois dwelt chiefly in New York, and
around Lake Erie, from Niagara to Detroit, although separate communities
of the group to which they immediately belonged were found in other
places, such as the Dacotahs and Winnebagoes at the West, and the
isolated Tuscaroras of the Carolinas. Mr. Lewis H. Morgan, who has
discussed “Indian Migrations” in several interesting papers printed in
the North American Review, thinks the Iroquois were separated very early
from the same original stem which produced the great Dacotah family. The
Algonquins were spread most widely over the country when it was first
visited by Europeans.

Among all these Indians there was a tradition that their ancestors came
from a distant region in the Northwest, and this tradition is accepted
as true by those who have studied them most carefully. Mr. Morgan
supposes they came across the continent, and estimates that not less
than a thousand years must have passed between the departure of the
various groups of the Algonquin family from a common centre in the
northwest and the condition in which they were found two hundred years
ago. When Europeans began to explore North America, this family had
become divided into several branches, and each of these branches had a
modified form of the common language, which, in turn, had developed
several dialects. A long period was required to effect so great a
change; but, whatever estimate of the time may be accepted, it seems to
be a fact that the Algonquins came to the Mississippi Valley long after
the Mound-Builders left it, and also later than the Iroquois or Dacotah
family. That the Iroquois preceded the Algonquins at the East appears to
be indicated by the relative position of the two families in this part
of the country. Mr. Parkman, in his work on “The Jesuits in North
America,” describes it as follows: “Like a great island in the midst of
the Algonquins lay the country of tribes speaking the generic tongue of
the Iroquois.”

There is no trace or probability of any direct relationship whatever
between the Mound-Builders and the barbarous Indians found in the
country. The wild Indians of this continent had never known such a
condition as that of the Mound-Builders. They had nothing in common with
it. In Africa, Asia, and elsewhere among the more uncultivated families
of the human race, there is not as much really _original_ barbarism as
some anthropologists are inclined to assume; but there can be no serious
doubt that the wild Indians of North America were original barbarians,
born of a stock which had never, at any time, been either civilized or
closely associated with the influences of civilization.

Some of the pottery and wrought ornaments of the Mound-Builders is equal
in finish and beauty to the finest manufactured by the ancient
Peruvians. They constructed artificial ponds like the aguadas in Central
America. They used sun-dried brick, especially at the South, where walls
of this material have been discovered supporting some of the mounds and
embankments. They manufactured cloth. But their intelligence, skill, and
civilized ways are shown not only by their constructions and
manufactures, but also by their mining works. Who can imagine the
Iroquois or the Algonquins working the copper mines with such
intelligence and skill, and such a combination of systematic and
persistent industry! They had no tradition of such a condition of life,
no trace of it. It is absurd to suppose a relationship, or a connection
of any kind, between the original barbarism of these Indians and the
civilization of the Mound-Builders. The two peoples were entirely
distinct and separate from each other. If they really belonged to the
same race, which is extremely doubtful, we must go back through
unnumbered ages to find their common origin and the date of their


Those who seek to identify the Mound-Builders with the barbarous Indians
find nothing that will support their hypothesis. Nevertheless, some of
them have tried very strangely to give it aid by one or two quotations
from early voyagers to America. The most important are taken from
Brereton’s account of Gosnold’s voyage in 1602. The following occurred
on the coast of Maine:

“Eight Indians, in a Basque shallop, with mast and sail, an iron
grapple, and a kettle, came boldly aboard us, one of them appareled with
a waistcoat and breeches of black serge, made after our sea fashion,
hose and shoes on his feet: all the rest (saving one that had a pair of
breeches of blue cloth) were naked.”

It is known that the Basques were accustomed to send fishing vessels to
the northeastern coast of America long before this continent was
discovered by Columbus. They continued to do this after the discovery.
These Indians had evidently become well acquainted with the Basques,
and, therefore, did not fear to approach Gosnold’s ship. Probably some
of them had been employed on board Basque fishing vessels. Certainly
their boat and apparel came from the Basque fishermen, and did not show
them to be Mound-Builders. Of the Indians on the coast of Massachusetts,
Brereton says:

“They had great store of copper, some very red, some of a paler color;
none of them but have chains, earrings, or collars of this metal. They
had some of their arrows herewith, much like our broad arrow-heads,
very workmanly made. Their chains are many hollow pieces cemented
together, each piece of the bigness of one of our reeds, a finger in
length, ten or twelve of them together on a string, which they wear
about their necks: their collars they wear about their bodies like
bandeliers a handful broad, all hollow pieces like the other, but
somewhat shorter, four hundred pieces in a collar, very fine and evenly
set together.” He adds: “I am persuaded they have great store (of flax)
growing upon the main, as also mines and many other rich commodities,
which we, wanting time, could not possibly discover.”

If all this had been true, it would not serve the purpose for which it
is quoted; for remains of the Mound-Builders have never existed in
Massachusetts, and we should necessarily suppose these Indians had
procured copper and copper ornaments by trading with the Basques or with
other French voyagers. If only one or two Indians had been represented
as wearing ornaments made of copper, this explanation could be readily
accepted. But he avers that they had “great store of copper,” and adds,
“None of them but have chains, earrings, or collars of this metal.”
Therefore his statement is incredible. The following considerations will
show why it must not be regarded as honest, unadorned truth.

1. Those interested in Gosnold’s voyage aimed to establish a colony on
that coast; and all who served them, or were controlled by them, were
easily moved to tell seductive stories of the country “upon the main.”
The chief aim of Brereton’s account of this voyage was to incite
emigration. Therefore he gave this wonderfully colored account of
mines, flax-growing, copper chains and collars, and “other rich
commodities” among the wild Indians of Massachusetts. Settlements on
that coast, it was believed, would bring profit to those in whose
interest he wrote. Gosnold actually proposed at that time to establish a
colony on one of the islands in Buzzard’s Bay, and had with him twenty
men who were expected to stay as colonists, but finally refused to do
so. He saw a great deal of the Indians, and knew much more of their
actual condition than the story admits.

2. Eighteen years later the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth from the
Mayflower. Neither copper mines nor flax fields were then known in
Massachusetts. No Indians with “great store” of copper and flax, and
covered with copper ornaments, were seen or heard of by the Pilgrims,
either at that time or afterward. In 1602, Brereton, or any other writer
employed to write in such a way as would promote emigration, could tell
such stories, and romance freely concerning the Indians, without fear of
contradiction. Afterward, when the actual barbarism of the Indian tribes
in New England and other parts of the country had become generally
known, no one could describe any of these Indians as successful miners
and flax-growers, and assert gravely that they had such stores of copper
that “none of them” lacked great abundance of copper “chains, earrings,
collars,” and the like, without being laughed at. Brereton’s story must
be regarded as an invention designed to serve a special purpose, but not
warranted by any thing seen during the voyage he describes. Neither in
New England nor any where else in our part of the continent did the
early colonists find Indians who worked copper mines and had “great
store of copper.” What Brereton says was not true of any Indians known
to our first colonists or to their successors. It corresponds to no
reality found in any part of our territory during the last two hundred
and fifty years. Therefore, to use his story in support of an absurd
hypothesis is not a satisfactory proceeding.


It may be true that all the aboriginal peoples found inhabiting North
and South America, save the Esquimaux, belonged originally to the same
race. Some writers assume it to be true, although it seems strongly
improbable, not to say impossible. If they were all of the same race,
time and development, under different conditions of life, had divided
this race into at least two extremely unlike branches. The wild Indians
of North America were profoundly different from the ancient people of
Central America and Peru. The Pueblo or Village Indians of New Mexico
have scarcely any thing in common with the Apaches, Comanches, and
Sioux. Even the uncivilized Indians of South America are different from
those in the United States. Our wild Indians have more resemblance to
the nomadic Koraks and Chookchees found in Eastern Siberia, throughout
the region that extends to Behring’s Strait, than to any people on this
continent. Those who have seen these Siberians, traveled with them, and
lived in their tents, have found the resemblance very striking; but I
infer from what they say that the Korak or Chookchee is superior to the
Indian. See Kennan’s “Tent Life in Siberia.”

Mr. Lewis H. Morgan finds evidence that the American aborigines had a
common origin in what he calls “their systems of consanguinity and
affinity.” If it can be made to appear beyond question that these
systems prevail and are identical every where from Patagonia to the
Arctic Zone, his argument will have great force. But this has not yet
been shown. He says: “The Indian nations, from the Atlantic to the Rocky
Mountains, and from the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, with the
exception of the Esquimaux, have the same system. It is elaborate and
complicated in its general form and details; and, while deviations from
uniformity occur in the systems of different stocks, the radical
features are, in the main, constant. This identity in the essential
characteristics of a system so remarkable tends to show that it must
have been transmitted with the blood to each stock from a common
original source. It affords the strongest evidence yet obtained of unity
in origin of the Indian nations within the region defined.”

But unity in race among wild Indians found within the region specified
would be sufficiently manifest without this evidence. That the same
system of consanguinity and affinity, with precisely the same features
of identity, ever was extended over the whole continent, remains
unproved. The supposed traces of it among the Pueblos are by no means
clear. A more complete and accurate research is required to show that
identically the same system ever has existed any where between the
United States and Patagonia. A system not wholly unlike it, though not
the same, might grow up any where in widely separated tribal communities
of barbarous peoples, without doing any thing more than the tribal
system itself to show a common origin in race.

The aborigines of America may have been originally all of the same race.
There are some considerations in favor of this hypothesis which have
been used by writers entitled to great respect; but it can not yet be
claimed with reason that they have been able to settle this question
beyond the reach of doubt, even in their own minds. Therefore, to speak
moderately, it would be premature to assume that the Mound-Builders were
even remotely of the same race with the wild Indians, from whom they
were so different in all we know of them.

The attempt to establish this hypothesis of identity in race has given
rise to a tendency to underrate the development of the ancient people of
Mexico and Central America, and to lower the estimate of their
attainments sufficiently to bring them within reach of close
relationship to the wild Indians. The difficulty being reduced in this
way, there follows an attempt to get rid of it entirely, and establish
connection between these unlike peoples, by talking of “Semi-Village
Indians.” But the hypothesis used in this case is not well warranted by
facts. Such “Semi-Village Indians” as are supposed, really standing half
way between the savages and the Pueblos, and being actually savages half
developed into Pueblos, have never had a clearly defined and
unquestionable existence here since the continent became known to
Europeans. In the border region between the northern wild Indians and
the old Mexican race there are exceptional communities formed by
association or mixture, but we can not reasonably give them the
significance claimed for the supposed “Semi-Village Indians.” Moreover,
these exceptional communities are usually Pueblos whose habits have been
changed and their civilization lessened by association with wild
Indians, or in some other way. The Navajos began their present condition
by fleeing to the mountains from the Spaniards. The Mound-Builders, who
must have been, still more than the Pueblos, unlike the barbarous
Indians, can not be explained by any reference whatever to such
communities. If they were of the same race, they were far from being the
same people.

Some ethnologists, whose suggestions are entitled to respectful
attention whether accepted or rejected, specify considerations which
they believe forbid us to regard the ancient Mexicans and the northern
wild Indians as identical in race. They point to the well known fact
that the fauna of the American continent below the northern frontier of
Mexico is remarkably different from that between this line and the
Arctic Sea. At the north, America abounds in species similar to those of
Europe and Asia, with some admixture of forms wholly American, while at
the south the old-world forms disappear, and the fauna of the whole
region between Mexico and Cape Horn becomes “as peculiar as that of

The explanation given is, that during the glacial period the larger
part of North America, like Northern Asia and Europe, was covered with
ice and partly submerged, and that the fauna found in this part of North
America was introduced after the glacial period by immigration from Asia
and Europe over connecting lands or islands at the northwest and the
northeast, and perhaps by some migration from the south; the fauna at
the south meanwhile remaining very much as it was before, with very
little change through later migrations from the north.

Professor Huxley called attention to this subject in a brief address to
the London Ethnological Society in 1869. After stating the case, he
presented the following queries and suggestions: “The Austro-Columbian
fauna, as a whole, therefore, existed antecedently to the glacial epoch.
Did man form part of that fauna? To this profoundly interesting question
no positive answer can be given; but the discovery of human remains
associated with extinct animals in the caves of Brazil, by Lund, lends
some color to the supposition. Assuming this supposition to be correct,
we should have to look in the human population of America, as in the
fauna generally, for an indigenous or Austro-Columbian element, and an
immigrant or ‘Arctogeal’ element.” He then suggests that the Esquimaux
may now represent the immigrant element, and the old Mexican and South
American race that which was indigenous, and that the “Red Indians of
North America” may have appeared originally as a mixture of these two
races. He adds, very reasonably, “It is easy to suggest such problems as
these, but quite impossible, in the present state of our knowledge, to
solve them.”


They were unquestionably American aborigines, and not immigrants from
another continent. That appears to me the most reasonable suggestion
which assumes that the Mound-Builders came originally from Mexico and
Central America. It explains many facts connected with their remains. In
the Great Valley their most populous settlements were at the south.
Coming from Mexico and Central America, they would begin their
settlements on the Gulf coast, and afterward advance gradually up the
river to the Ohio Valley. It seems evident that they came by this route;
and their remains show that their only connection with the coast was at
the south. Their settlements did not reach the coast at any other point.

Their constructions were similar in design and arrangement to those
found in Mexico and Central America. Like the Mexicans and Central
Americans, they had many of the smaller structures known as _teocallis_,
and also large high mounds, with level summits, reached by great flights
of steps. Pyramidal platforms or foundations for important edifices
appear in both regions, and are very much alike. In Central America
important edifices were built of hewn stone, and can still be examined
in their ruins. The Mound-Builders, like some of the ancient people of
Mexico and Yucatan, used wood, sun-dried brick, or some other material
that could not resist decay. There is evidence that they used timber for
building purposes. In one of the mounds opened in the Ohio Valley two
chambers were found with remains of the timber of which the walls were
made, and with arched ceilings precisely like those in Central America,
even to the overlapping stones. Chambers have been found in some of the
Central American and Mexican mounds, but there hewn stones were used for
the walls. In both regions the elevated and terraced foundations remain,
and can be compared. I have already called attention to the close
resemblance between them, but the fact is so important in any endeavor
to explain the Mound-Builders that I must bring it to view here.

Consider, then, that elevated and terraced foundations for important
buildings are peculiar to the ancient Mexicans and Central Americans;
that this method of construction, which, with them, was the rule, is
found nowhere else, save that terraced elevations, carefully
constructed, and precisely like theirs in form and appearance, occupy a
chief place among the remaining works of the Mound-Builders. The use
made of these foundations at Palenque, Uxmal, and Chichen-Itza, shows
the purpose for which they were constructed in the Mississippi Valley.
The resemblance is not due to chance. The explanation appears to me very
manifest. This method of construction was brought to the Mississippi
Valley from Mexico and Central America, the ancient inhabitants of that
region and the Mound-Builders being the same people in race, and also in
civilization, when it was brought here.

A very large proportion of the old structures in Ohio and farther south
called “mounds,” namely, those which are low in proportion to their
horizontal extent, are terraced foundations for buildings, and if they
were situated in Yucatan, Guatemala, and Southern Mexico, they would
never be mistaken for any thing else. The high mounds also in the two
regions are remarkably alike. In both cases they are pyramidal in shape,
and have level summits of considerable extent, which were reached by
means of stairways on the outside. The great mound at Chichen-Itza is 75
feet high, and has on its summit a ruined stone edifice; that at Uxmal
is 60 feet high, and has a similar ruin on its summit; that at Mayapan
is 60 feet high; the edifice placed on its summit has disappeared. The
great mound at Miamisburg, Ohio, is 68 feet high; and that at Grave
Creek, West Virginia, is 75 feet high. Both had level summits, and
stairways on the outside, but no trace of any structure remains on them.
All these mounds were constructed for religious uses, and they are, in
their way, as much alike as any five Gothic churches.

Could these works of the Mound-Builders be restored to the condition in
which they were when the country was filled with their busy communities,
we should doubtless see great edifices, similar in style to those in
Yucatan, standing on the upper terraces of all the low and extended
“mounds,” and smaller structures on the high mounds, such as those above
named. There would seem to be an extension of ancient Mexico and Central
America through Texas into the Mississippi and Ohio valleys; and so, if
there were no massive stone-work in the old ruins of those countries, it
might seem that the Mound-Builders’ works were anciently extended into
them by way of Texas.

The fact that the settlements and works of the Mound-Builders extended
through Texas and across the Rio Grande indicates very plainly their
connection with the people of Mexico, and goes far to explain their
origin. We have other evidence of intercourse between the two peoples;
for the obsidian dug from the mounds, and perhaps the porphyry also, can
be explained only by supposing commercial relations between them.

We can not suppose the Mound-Builders to have come from any other part
of North America, for nowhere else north of the Isthmus was there any
other people capable of producing such works as they left in the places
where they dwelt. Beyond the relics of the Mound-Builders themselves, no
traces of the former existence of such a people have been discovered in
any part of North America save Mexico, and Central America, and
districts immediately connected with them. At the same time, it is not
unreasonable to suppose the civilized people of these regions extended
their settlements through Texas, and also migrated across the Gulf into
the Mississippi Valley. In fact, the connection of settlements by way of
Texas appears to have been unbroken from Ohio to Mexico.

This colonizing extension of the old Mexican race must have taken place
at a remote period in the past; for what has been said of the antiquity
of the Mound-Builders shows that a very long period, far more than two
thousand years, it may be, must have elapsed since they left the Valley
of the Ohio. Perhaps they found the country mostly unoccupied, and saw
there but little of any other people until an irruption of warlike
barbarians came upon them from the Northwest.

In speculating on the causes of their withdrawal after centuries of
occupation, absolute certainty is impossible, and we have no means of
going much beyond mere conjecture. We may suppose as most probable that
an influx of barbarians destroyed their border settlements, interrupted
their mining operations, and caused them to retire gradually toward the
Gulf. Fragments of their communities may have become incorporated with
the barbarous tribes. This conjecture has been used to explain certain
exceptional peculiarities noticed in some of the wild Indian tribes. For
instance, it has been suggested that the Mandan Indians were a separated
and lost fragment of the mound-building people, they being noticeably
unlike other Indians in many respects, lighter in color, and peculiar in
manners and customs. What is conjectured may be true, but we have no
means of proving its truth. That the Mandans were like what a lost
community of Mound-Builders might have become by degeneration through
mixture and association with barbarians may be supposed, but the actual
history of that remarkable tribe might give its peculiarities a very
different explanation. The Mandans were supposed to be a branch of the
Dacotahs. They may have been, like the Navajos, a changed community of
Pueblos, but any attempt to explain them by means of conjecture is

The supposition that the Toltecs and the Mound-Builders were the same
people seems to me not improbable. The reasons for it will be stated
when we come to a discussion of the antiquities, books, and traditions
of Central America. I will only say here that, according to dates given
in the Central American books, the Toltecs came from “Huehue-Tlapalan,”
a distant country in the northeast, long previous to the Christian era.
They played a great part and had a long career in Mexico previous to the
rise of their successors in power, the Aztecs, who were overthrown by
the Spaniards.



Ruins and other vestiges revealing an ancient civilization are found
throughout the whole southern section of North America, extending as far
north as New Mexico and Arizona. But here the antiquities do not all
belong to the same period in the past, nor exhibit unvarying likeness
and unity of civilized life. They are somewhat less homogeneous, and do
not constantly represent the same degree of civilization. In this
region, the monuments suggest successive and varying periods in the
civilized condition of the old inhabitants, some of the oldest and most
mysterious monuments seeming to indicate the highest development.

In the northern part of this region we find ruins of great buildings
similar in plan and arrangement to those still used by the Pueblos, but
far superior as monuments of architecture, science, and skill, and much
more unlike those farther south than is apparent in the principal
structures of the Mound-Builders. They show that the old settlers in the
Mississippi Valley did not belong to the Pueblo branch of the Mexican
race. Farther south, in the central part of the region specified,
development was more advanced. Here, in the last ages of American
ancient history, was the seat of the Mexican or Aztec civilization,
but the monuments in this part of the country are mostly older than the
Aztec period. The most astonishing remains are found still farther
south, in Chiapa, Tabasco, Oxaca, Yucatan, Honduras, Tehuantepec,
Guatemala, and other parts of Central America. In this southern region,
mostly buried in heavy forests, are wonderful ruins of great cities and
temples. Only a small part of modern Mexico is included in the region
where these ruins are situated, and most of them, probably, were not
much better understood by the ancient Mexicans than they are by us. Many
of those explored in later times were unknown to that people, just as
others, more in number, doubtless, than those already described, still
remain unvisited and unknown in the great and almost impenetrable
forests of the country.


The ruins in Northern Mexico, including New Mexico and Arizona, consist
chiefly, as already stated, of the remains of structures similar in
general design and purpose to those of the Village Indians, the Pueblos.
In the more ancient times, doubtless, as at present, a large proportion
of the dwellings and other edifices, like those in the Mississippi
Valley, were built of perishable materials which have left no trace.
Many of them, however, were built of stone, and have left ruins which
show their character. Stone ruins are common in this northern region,
although wood and adobe seems to have been more commonly used as
building material. Some of the ruined stone edifices were inhabited when
the country was conquered by the Spaniards. The remains present every
where the same characteristics. They represent a people who built always
in the same way, with some variations in the forms of their structures,
and had substantially the same condition of life; but the ruins are not
all of the same age. Their character can be sufficiently shown by
describing a few of them.

In New Mexico, west of the Rio Grande, between the head waters of the
San Jose and Zuni rivers, a bluff or ridge rises in a valley two hundred
feet high. The Spaniards named it “El Moro.” One side of this bluff is
vertical, and shows yellowish-white sandstone rock, on the face of which
are inscriptions; “Spanish inscriptions and Indian hieroglyphics.” It
was carefully described in 1849 by Lieutenant Simpson, and was explored
again four or five years later by Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, who
described it in his report to the government, published in the third
volume of “Explorations and Surveys for a Railroad Route to the
Pacific.” On the summit of this height, which Lieutenant Simpson named
“Inscription Rock,” are the ruins of an extensive Pueblo edifice built
of stone. The walls were built “with considerable skill.” In some places
they are still “perfect to the height of six or eight feet, vertical,
straight, and smooth; and the masonry is well executed, the stones being
of uniform size--about fourteen inches long and six wide.” The layers
are horizontal, each successive layer breaking joints with that below
it. Remains of cedar beams were discovered, and also obsidian
arrow-heads, painted pottery, and other relics. Another ruin was seen on
a height across the gorge. It was found to be similar to this, both in
character and condition of decay.

Lieutenant Whipple went westward along the thirty-fifth parallel. We can
not do better than follow the report of what he saw.

[Illustration: Fig. 20.--Pueblo Ruin at Pecos.]

His next stopping-place, after leaving “El Moro,” was in the beautiful
valley of Ojo Pescado. Here, close by a spring that showed artificial
stone-work of ancient date, were two old Pueblo buildings in ruins, “so
ancient that the traditions of present races do not reach them.” Not far
away is a deserted town of later date. The two ancient structures were
circular in form and equal in size, each being about eight hundred feet
in circumference. They were built of stone, but the walls have crumbled
and become chiefly heaps of rubbish. The pottery found here, like that
at “El Moro,” is “painted with bright colors, in checks, bands, and
wavy stripes; many fragments show a beautiful polish. A few pieces were
discovered larger in size, inferior in color and quality, but indicating
a more fanciful taste. United, they formed an urn with a curious handle;
a frog painted on the outside and a butterfly within.” In the same
neighborhood, on the summit of a cliff twenty feet high, was another old
ruin “strongly walled around.” In the centre was a mound on which were
traces of a circular edifice.

The next place of encampment was at Zuni, where, as shown in Figure 21,
can be seen one of these great Pueblo buildings inhabited by two
thousand people (Lieutenant Whipple’s estimate). It has five stories,
the walls of each receding from those below it. Looking from the top, he
says it reminded him of a busy ant-hill, turkeys and tamed eagles
constituting a portion of its inhabitants. Not more than a league away
is an “old Zuni” which shows nothing but ruins. Its crumbling walls,
worn away until they are only from two to twelve feet high, are “crowded
together in confused heaps over several acres of ground.” This old town
became a ruin in ancient times. After remaining long in a ruined
condition it was again rebuilt, and again deserted after a considerable
period of occupation. It is still easy to distinguish the differences in
construction between the two periods. “The standing walls rest upon
ruins of greater antiquity;” and while the primitive masonry is about
six feet thick, that of the later period is only from a foot to a foot
and a half thick. Small blocks of sandstone were used for the latter.
Heaps of débris cover a considerable space, in which, among other
things, are relics of pottery and of ornaments made of sea-shells.
Pieces of quaintly-carved cedar posts were found here, and their
condition of decay, compared with that of the cedar beams at “El Moro,”
“indicated great antiquity.” The place of this ruin is now one of the
consecrated places of the Village Indians; it has “a Zuni altar” which
is constantly used and greatly venerated. On leaving the place, their
guide blew a white powder toward the altar three times, and muttered a
prayer. This, he explained, was “asking a blessing of Montezuma and the
sun.” This altar seems to represent recollections of the ancient

[Illustration: Fig. 21--Modern Zuni.]

At a place west of Zuni ancient relics were found, indicating that an
extensive Pueblo town had formerly stood there, but “the structures were
probably of adobes,” as there was no débris of stone walls, and only
very faint traces of foundations. Near the Colorado Chiquito is an
extensive ruin, on the summit of an isolated hill of sandstone, the
faces of its walls being here and there visible above heaps of débris.
It appears to be very old. As near as could be ascertained, the great
rectangular Pueblo building was three hundred and sixty feet in extent
on one side, and one hundred and twenty on the other. In some places the
walls are ten feet thick, “with small rooms inserted in them.” Stone
axes, painted pottery, and other articles are found in the débris: “The
indented pottery, said to be so very ancient, is found here in many
patterns.” On a ridge overlooking the valley of Pueblo Creek are traces
of an old settlement of large extent, supposed to have been that heard
of in 1539 by the friar Marco de Niça as “the kingdom of Totonteac.”
Adobe seems to have been used here for building. Traces of other ruins
were seen in various places, and springs along the route showing ancient
stone-work are mentioned.

[Illustration: Fig. 22.--Pueblo Ruins in the Valley of the Gila.]

Ruins are abundant in the Rio Verde Valley down to the confluence of
that river with the Rio Salinas. It is manifest that this whole region
was anciently far more populous than it is now. Lieutenant Whipple says,
“Large fields in the valley of the Rio Gila, and many spots among the
Pinal Lena Mountains, are marked with the foundations of adobe houses.”
Figure 22 represents a Pueblo ruin in the Valley of the Gila. “In
Cañon Chelly, near San Francisco Mountain, and upon Rio Verde, there
are ruins of more permanent structures of stone, which in their day must
have excelled the famed Pueblos of New Mexico.” There was a higher
degree of civilization in the ancient times, so far as relates to
architecture and skill in the arts and appliances of life, than has been
shown by people of the same race dwelling there in our time; but the
ancient condition of life seems to have been maintained from age to age
without material change.


In the New Mexican valley of the Chaco, one degree or more north of
Zuni, are ruins of what some suppose to have been the famous “Seven
Cities of Cevola.” In 1540, Spanish cupidity having been strongly
incited by tales of the greatness and vast wealth of Cevola, Coronado,
then governor of New Galicia, set out with an army to conquer and rob
its cities. The report in which he tells the story of this conquest and
of his disappointment is still in existence. The Cevolans defended
themselves with arrows and spears, and hurled stones upon his army from
the tops of their buildings. But resistance was of no avail; Cevola was
conquered by Coronado, and immediately deserted by all its inhabitants
who escaped death. The conquering buccaneer, however, did not find the
treasures of gold and silver he expected. Three hundred and thirty years
or more have passed away since this expedition of the Spanish marauders
was undertaken, but the “Seven Cities of Cevola” (if they really were
the “cities” whose remains are found in the Chaco Valley), although much
dilapidated, are still sufficiently well preserved to show us what they

There are seven ruins in the Chaco Valley, all of the same age, from one
to three miles apart, the whole line along which they are situated being
not more than ten miles in extent. Coronado said of Cevola, “The seven
cities are seven small towns, standing all within four leagues
together;” and “all together they are called Cevola.” The Chaco ruins
show that each of these “cities” was, Pueblo fashion, a single edifice
of vast size, capable of accommodating from five hundred to three
thousand people. They were all built of stone, around three sides of a
square, the side opposite the main building being left open. Figure 23
represents one of these buildings restored, according to Lieutenant
Simpson. Figure 24 is a ground plan of this structure. The outer faces
of the walls were constructed with thin and regular blocks of sandstone;
the inner surfaces were made of cobblestone laid in mortar, and the
outer walls were three feet thick. They were four or five stories high,
and the only entrances to them were “window openings” in the second
story. Above the cañon inclosing the valley containing these ruins, at a
distance of thirteen miles, are the remains of another “city” of
precisely the same kind. Its walls are at present between twenty and
thirty feet high, their foundations being deeply sunk into the earth.
Lieutenant Simpson, who explored that region in 1849, says it was built
of tabular pieces of hard, fine-grained, compact gray sandstone, none of
the layers being more than three inches thick. He adds, “It discovers
in the masonry a combination of science and art which can only be
referred to a higher stage of civilization and refinement than is
discoverable in the work of Mexicans or Pueblos of the present day.
Indeed, so beautifully diminutive and true are the details of the
structure as to cause it at a little distance to have all the appearance
of a magnificent piece of mosaic.”

[Illustration: Fig. 23.--Pueblo Building, restored.]

[Illustration: Fig. 24.--Ground Plan of Pueblo Building.]

Other ruins have been examined in this northern part of the old Mexican
territory, and more will be brought to light, for the whole region has
not been carefully examined, and new discoveries are constantly


As we go down into Central Mexico, the remains assume another character,
and become more important; but the antiquities in this part of the
country have not been very completely explored and described, the
attention of explorers having been drawn more to the south. Some of them
are well known, and it can be seen that to a large extent they are much
older than the time of the Aztecs whom Cortez found in power.

In the northern part of the Mexican Valley was the city of Tulha, the
ancient capital of the Toltecs. At the time of the conquest its site was
an extensive field of ruins. At Xochicalco, in the State of Mexico, is a
remarkable pyramid, with a still more remarkable base. It was
constructed with five stages or stories, and stands on a hill consisting
chiefly of rock, which was excavated and hollowed for the construction
of galleries and chambers. The opening serves as an entrance to several
galleries, which are six feet high and paved with cement, their sides
and ceilings seeming to have been covered with some very durable
preparation which made them smooth and glistening. Captain Dupaix found
the main gallery sixty yards, or one hundred and eighty feet long,
terminating at two chambers which are separated only by two massive
square pillars carefully fashioned of portions of the rock left for the
purpose by the excavators. Over a part of the inner chamber, toward one
corner, is a dome or cupola six feet in diameter at the base, and rather
more in height. It has a regular slope, and was faced with square stones
well prepared and admirably laid in cement. From the top went up a tube
or circular aperture nine inches in diameter, which probably reached the
open air or some point in the pyramid.

In this part of Mexico can be seen, among other things, the great
pyramid or mound of Cholulu, the very ancient and remarkable pyramidal
structures at Teotihuacan, and an uncounted number of _teocallis_ or
pyramids of smaller size. The pyramid of Cholulu covers an area of
forty-five acres. It was terraced and built with four stages. When
measured by Humboldt it was 1400 feet square at the base, and 160 feet
high. At present it is a ruin, and, to superficial observers, seems
little more than a huge artificial mound of earth. Its condition of
decay indicates that it is much older than even the Toltec period. The
largest structure at Teotihuacan covers eleven acres. These structures,
and the Mexican _teocallis_ generally, were made of earth, and faced
with brick or stone.

Captain Dupaix saw, not far from Antequera, two truncated pyramids which
were penetrated by two carefully constructed galleries. A gallery lined
with hewn stone, bearing sculptured decorations, went through one of
them. A similar gallery went partly through the other, and two branches
were extended at right angles still farther, but terminating within. He
mentions also the ruins of elaborately decorated edifices which had
stood on elevated terraces. At one place he excavated a terraced mound,
and discovered burnt brick; and he describes two ancient bridges of the
Tlascalans, both built of hewn stone laid in cement, one of them being
200 feet long and 36 wide. Obelisks or pillars 42 feet high stood at the
corners of these bridges. Important remains of the ancient people exist
in many other places; and “thousands of other monuments unrecorded by
the antiquaries invest every sierra and valley of Mexico with profound

At Papantla, in the State of Vera Cruz, there is a very ancient
pyramidal structure somewhat peculiar in style and character. It is
known that important ruins exist in the forests of Papantla and Mesantla
which have never been described. The remarkable pyramid at Papantla was
examined and described by Humboldt. The only material employed in
constructing it was hewn stone. The stone was prepared in immense
blocks, which were laid in mortar. The pyramid was an exact square at
the base, each side being 82 feet in length, and the height about 60
feet. The stones were admirably cut and polished, and the structure was
remarkably symmetrical. Six stages could be discerned by Humboldt, and
his account of it says, “A seventh appears to be concealed by the
vegetation which covers the sides of the pyramid.” A great flight of
steps leads to the level summit, by the sides of which are smaller
nights. “The facing of the stones is decorated with hieroglyphics, in
which serpents and crocodiles carved in relievo are visible. Each story
contains a great number of square niches symmetrically distributed. In
the first story there are 24 on each side, in the second 20, and in the
third 16. There are 366 of these niches on the whole pyramid, and 12 in
the stairs toward the east.”

The civilization of the Aztecs who built the old city of Mexico will be
made a separate topic; but it may be said here that when they came into
the Valley of Mexico they were much less advanced in civilization than
their predecessors. There is no reason whatever to doubt that they had
always resided in the country as an obscure branch of the aboriginal
people. Some have assumed, without much warrant, that they came to
Mexico from the North. Mr. Squier shows, with much probability, that
they came from the southern part of the country, where communities are
still found speaking the Aztec language. When they rose to supremacy
they adopted, so far as their condition allowed, the superior knowledge
of their predecessors, and continued, in a certain way, and with a lower
standard, the civilization of the Toltecs. It has been said, not without
reason, that the civilization found in Mexico by the Spanish conquerors
consisted, to a large extent, of “fragments from the wreck that befell
the American civilization of antiquity.”


To find the chief seats and most abundant remains of the most remarkable
civilization of this old American race, we must go still farther south
into Central America and some of the more southern states of Mexico.
Here ruins of many ancient cities have been discovered, cities which
must have been deserted and left to decay in ages previous to the
beginning of the Aztec supremacy. Most of these ruins were found buried
in dense forests, where, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, they had
been long hidden from observation.

The ruins known as Palenque, for instance, seem to have been entirely
unknown to both natives and Spaniards until about the year 1750. Cortez
and some of his companions went through the open region near the forest
in which these ruins are situated without hearing of them or suspecting
their existence. The great ruins known as Copan were in like manner
unknown in the time of Cortez. The Spaniards assaulted and captured a
native town not far from the forest that covered them, but heard nothing
of the ruins. The captured town, called Copan, afterward gave its name
to the remains of this nameless ancient city, which were first
discovered in 1576, and described by the Spanish licentiate Palacios.
This was little more than forty years after the native town was
captured; but, although Palacios tried, “in all possible ways,” to get
from the older and more intelligent natives some account of the origin
and history of the ruined city, they could tell him nothing about it.
To them the ruins were entirely mythical and mysterious. With the facts
so accessible, and the antiquity of the ruins so manifest, it is very
singular that Mr. Stephens fell into the mistake of confounding this
ruined city, situated in an old forest that was almost impenetrable,
with the town captured by the Spaniards. The ruins here were discovered
accidentally; and to approach them it was necessary, as at Palenque, to
cut paths through the dense tropical undergrowth of the forest.

To understand the situation of most of the old ruins in Central America,
one must know something of the wild condition of the country. Mr. Squier

“By far the greater proportion of the country is in its primeval state,
and covered with dense, tangled, and almost impenetrable tropical
forests, rendering fruitless all attempts at systematic investigation.
There are vast tracts untrodden by human feet, or traversed only by
Indians who have a superstitious reverence for the moss-covered and
crumbling monuments hidden in the depths of the wilderness. * * * For
these and other reasons, it will be long before the treasures of the
past, in Central America, can become fully known.”

A great forest of this character covers the southern-half of Yucatan,
and extends far into Guatemala, which is half covered by it. It extends
also into Chiapa and Tabasco, and reaches into Honduras. The ruins known
as Copan and Palenque are in this forest, not far from its southern
edge. Its vast depths have never been much explored. There are ruins in
it which none but wandering natives have ever seen, and some, perhaps,
which no human foot has approached for ages. It is believed that ruins
exist in nearly every part of this vast wilderness.

According to the old Central American books and traditions, some of the
principal seats of the earliest civilization, that of the “Colhuas,” was
in this forest-covered region. In their time the whole was cultivated
and filled with inhabitants. Here was a populous and important part of
the Colhuan kingdom of “Xibalba,” which, after a long existence, was
broken up by the Toltecs, and which had a relation, in time, to the
Aztec dominion of Montezuma, much like that of the old monarchy of Egypt
to the kingdom of the Ptolemies.

In the time of the Spaniards there was in the forest at Lake Peten a
solitary native town, founded nearly a century previous to their time by
a Maya prince of Itza, who, with a portion of his people, fled from
Yucatan to that lonely region to escape from the disorder and bloodshed
of a civil war. This was the civil war which destroyed Mayapan, and
broke up the Maya kingdom of Yucatan. In 1695, Don Martin Ursua, a
Spanish official, built a road from Yucatan to Lake Peten, captured the
town, and destroyed it. He reported that the builders of this road found
evidence that “wrecks of ancient cities lie buried in this wilderness.”
All along the route they discovered vestiges of ruins, and special
mention is made of “remains of edifices on raised terraces, deserted and
overgrown, and apparently very ancient.”


Should you visit the ruins of one of these mysterious old cities, you
would see scattered over a large area great edifices in different stages
of decay, which were erected on the level summits of low pyramidal
mounds or platforms. The summits of these mounds are usually of
sufficient extent to furnish space for extensive terraces or “grounds,”
as well as room for the buildings. The edifices were built of hewn stone
laid in a mortar of lime and sand, the masonry being admirable, and the
ornamentation, in most cases, very abundant. The pyramid-foundations of
earth were faced with hewn stone, and provided with great stone
stairways. These, we may suppose, were the most important buildings in
the old city. The ordinary dwellings, and all the other less important
structures, must have been made chiefly of wood or some other material,
which had perished entirely long ago and left no trace, for at present
their remains are no more visible than those of the forest leaves which
grew five hundred years ago.

One explorer of Palenque says: “For five days did I wander up and down
among these crumbling monuments of a city which, I hazard little in
saying, must have been one of the largest ever seen.” There is, however,
nothing to show us certainly the actual size of any of these ancient
cities. It is manifest that some of them were very large; but, as only
the great structures made of stone remain to be examined, the actual
extent of the areas covered by the other buildings can not be

[Illustration: Fig. 25.--Arch of Las Monjas.]

The chief peculiarity of these ruins, that which especially invites
attention, is the evidence they furnish that their builders had
remarkable skill in architecture and architectural ornamentation. All
who have visited them bear witness that the workmanship was of a high
order. The rooms and corridors in these edifices were finely and often
elaborately finished, plaster, stucco, and sculpture being used. In one
room of a great building at Uxmal Mr. Stephens says “the walls were
coated with a very fine plaster of Paris, equal to the best seen on
walls in this country.” Speaking of the construction of this edifice, he
says, “throughout, the laying and polishing of the stones are as perfect
as under the rules of the best modern masonry.” All the ruins explored
have masonry of the same character. The floors, especially of the courts
and corridors, were made sometimes of flat stones admirably wrought and
finely polished, and sometimes of cement, which is now “as hard as
stone.” Mr. Stephens, describing corridors of the “Palace” at Palenque,
says “the floors are of cement, as hard as the best seen in the remains
of Roman baths and cisterns.” We give two illustrations of their method
of constructing the arch. Figure 25 shows an arch of Las Monjas, at
Uxmal. Figure 26 shows the most common form of the arch in the older

[Illustration: Fig. 26--Common Form of Arch.]

The ornamentation is no less remarkable than the masonry and
architectural finish. It is found on the walls within and without, and
appears in elaborate designs on the heavy cornices. The exterior
ornamentation is generally carved or sculptured on the smooth surface
of the stone, and must have required a vast amount of time and labor, as
well as skillful artists. In some of the ruins inscriptions are
abundant, being found on walls, tablets, and pillars. The general effect
of the exterior decoration is thus described by Mr. Stephens in the
account of his first view of the ruins at Palenque: “We saw before us a
large building richly ornamented with stuccoed figures on pilasters,
curious and elegant; trees growing close to it, and their branches
entering the doors; the style and effect of structure and ornament
unique, extraordinary, and mournfully beautiful.” In a description of
the walls around an interior court of a building at Uxmal, we have this
tribute to the artistic skill of the decorators: “It would be
difficult, in arranging four sides facing a court-yard, to have more
variety, and, at the same time, more harmony of ornament.”

In some of the ruins, and especially at Copan, there are clusters of
four-sided stone pillars or obelisks varying from twelve to over twenty
feet high. These are elaborately sculptured, and show human figures,
ornamental designs, and many inscriptions. One or two statues have been
discovered, and a statuette twelve inches high is described; “it is made
of baked clay, very hard, and the surface is smooth as if coated with
enamel.” At Palenque are remains of a well-built aqueduct; and near the
ruins, especially in Yucatan, are frequently found the remains of many
finely constructed aguadas or artificial lakes. The bottoms of these
lakes were made of flat stones laid in cement, several layers deep. In
Yucatan traces of a very ancient paved road have been found. This road
ran north and south, and probably led to cities in the region now
covered by the great wilderness. It was raised above the graded level of
the ground, and made very smooth.

These antiquities show that this section of the continent was anciently
occupied by a people admirably skilled in the arts of masonry, building,
and architectural decoration. Some of their works can not be excelled by
the best of our constructors and decorators. They were highly skilled,
also, in the appliances of civilized life, and they had the art of
writing, a fact placed beyond dispute by their many inscriptions.

A more particular account of some of these ruins will be given in the
next chapter. Among the more important works relating to them are those
of Stephens and Catherwood, some of the volumes of Mr. Squier, Frederick
Waldeck’s work, and a recent French volume by Desiré Charnay, which is
accompanied by a folio volume of photographs. Palacios, who described
Copan in 1576, may properly be called the first explorer. A brief
account of Palenque was prepared by Captain Del Rio in 1787, and
published in 1822. Captain Dupaix’s folios, in French, with the drawings
of Casteñada, contain the first really important memoir on these ruins.
It was prepared in 1807, detained in Mexico during the Mexican
Revolution, and finally published at Paris in 1834-5. The volumes of
Brasseur de Bourbourg are valuable. They relate chiefly to matters not
always understood, and seldom discussed with care, by those who merely
visit and describe the monuments, such as the writing, books, and
traditions of the ancient Mexican and Central American people. His style
is diffuse, sometimes confused, and rather tedious; and some of his
theories are very fanciful. But he has discovered the key to the Maya
alphabet and translated one of the old Central American books. No
careful student of American archæology can afford to neglect what he has
written on this subject.



To understand the situation and historical significance of the more
important antiquities in Southern Mexico and Central America, we must
keep in view their situation relative to the great unexplored forest to
which attention has been called. Examine carefully any good map of
Mexico and Central America, and consider well that the ruins already
explored or visited are wholly in the northern half of Yucatan, or far
away from this region, at the south, beyond the great wilderness, or in
the southern edge of it. Uxmal, Mayapan, Chichen-Itza, and many others,
are in Yucatan. Palenque, Copan, and others are in the southern part of
the wilderness, in Chiapa, Honduras, and Guatemala. Mr. Squier visited
ruins much farther south, in San Salvador, and in the western parts of
Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The vast forest which is spread over the northern half of Guatemala and
the southern half of Yucatan, and extended into other states, covers an
area considerably larger in extent than Ohio or Pennsylvania. Does its
position relative to the known ruins afford no suggestion concerning the
ancient history of this forest-covered region? It is manifest that, in
the remote ages when the older of the cities now in ruins were built,
this region was a populous and important part of the country. And this
is shown also by the antiquities found wherever it has been penetrated
by explorers who knew how to make discoveries, as well as by the old
books and traditions. Therefore it is not unreasonable to assume that
Copan and Palenque are specimens of great ruins that lie buried in it.
The ruins of which something is known have merely been visited and
described in part by explorers, some of whom brought away drawings of
the principal objects. In giving a brief account of the more important
ruins, I will begin with the old city of which most has been heard.


No one can tell the true name of the ancient city now called Palenque.
It is known to us by this name because the ruins are situated a few
miles distant from the town of Palenque, now a village, but formerly a
place of some importance. The ruins are in the northern part of the
Mexican State of Chiapa, hidden out of sight in the forest, where they
seem to have been forgotten long before the time of Cortez. More than
two hundred years passed after the arrival of the Spaniards before their
existence became known to Europeans. They were discovered about the year
1750. Since that year decay has made some progress in them. Captain Del
Rio, who visited and described them in 1787, examined “fourteen
edifices” admirably built of hewn stone, and estimated the extent of the
ruins to be “seven or eight leagues one way [along the River Chacamas],
and half a league the other.” He mentions “a subterranean aqueduct of
great solidity and durability, which passes under the largest building.”

Other explorers have since visited Palenque, and reported on the ruins
by pen and pencil; but it is not certain that all the ruined edifices
belonging to them have been seen, nor that the explorations have made it
possible to determine the ancient extent of the city with any approach
to accuracy. The very great difficulties which obstruct all attempts at
complete exploration have not allowed any explorer to say he has
examined or discovered all the mouldering monuments hidden in the dense
and tangled forest, even within the space allowed by Del Rio’s “half
league” from the river, not to speak of what may lie buried and unknown
in the dense mass of trees and undergrowth beyond this limit.

The largest known building at Palenque is called the “Palace.” It stands
near the river, on a terraced pyramidal foundation 40 feet high and 310
feet long, by 260 broad at the base. The edifice itself is 228 feet
long, 180 wide, and 25 feet high. It faces the east, and has 14 doorways
on each side, with 11 at the ends. It was built entirely of hewn stone,
laid with admirable precision in mortar which seems to have been of the
best quality. A corridor 9 feet wide, and roofed by a pointed arch, went
round the building on the outside; and this was separated from another
within of equal width. The “Palace” has four interior courts, the
largest being 70 by 80 feet in extent. These are surrounded by
corridors, and the architectural work facing them is richly decorated.
Within the building were many rooms. From the north side of one of the
smaller courts rises a high tower, or pagoda-like structure, thirty feet
square at the base, which goes up far above the highest elevation of the
building, and seems to have been still higher when the whole structure
was in perfect condition. The great rectangular mound used for the
foundation was cased with hewn stone, the workmanship here, and every
where else throughout the structure, being very superior. The piers
around the courts are “covered with figures in stucco, or plaster,
which, where broken, reveals six or more coats or layers, each revealing
traces of painting.” This indicates that the building had been used so
long before it was deserted that the plastering needed to be many times
renewed. There is some evidence that painting was used as a means of
decoration; but that which most engages attention is the artistic
management of the stone-work, and, above all, the beautifully executed
sculptures for ornamentation.

Two other buildings at Palenque, marked by Mr. Stephens, in his plan of
the ruins, as “Casa No. 1” and “Casa No. 2,” views of which are shown in
Figures 27 and 28, are smaller, but in some respects still more
remarkable. The first of these, 75 feet long by 25 wide, stands on the
summit of a high truncated pyramid, and has solid walls on all sides
save the north, where there are five doorways. Within are a corridor and
three rooms. Between the doorways leading from the corridor to these
rooms are great tablets, each 13 feet long and 8 feet high, and all
covered with elegantly-carved inscriptions. A similar but smaller
tablet, covered with an inscription, appears on the wall of the central

[Illustration: Fig. 27.--Casa No. 1, Palenque--Front View and Ground

“Casa No. 2” consists of a steep and lofty truncated pyramid, which
stands on a terraced foundation, and has its level summit crowned with a
building 50 feet long by 31 wide, which has three doorways at the south,
and within a corridor and three rooms. This edifice, sometimes called
“La Cruz,” has, above the height required for the rooms, what is
described as “two stories of interlaced stucco-work, resembling a high,
fanciful lattice.” Here, too, inscribed tablets appear on the walls; but
the inscriptions, which are abundant at Palenque, are by no means
confined to tablets. As to the ornamentation, the walls, piers, and
cornices are covered with it. Every where the masterly workmanship and
artistic skill of the old constructors compel admiration; Mr. Stephens
going so far as to say of sculptured human figures found in fragments,
“In justness of proportion and symmetry they must have approached the
Greek models.”

[Illustration: Fig. 28.--Casa No. 2, Palenque (La Cruz)--Front View and
Ground Plan.]

“Casa No. 2” of Mr. Stephens is usually called “La Cruz” because the
most prominent object within the building is a great bas-relief on which
are sculptured a cross and several human figures. This building stands
on the high pyramid, and is approached by a flight of steps. Dupaix
says, “It is impossible to describe adequately the interior decorations
of this sumptuous temple.” The cross is supposed to have been the
central object of interest. It was wonderfully sculptured and decorated;
human figures stand near it, and some grave ceremony seems to be
represented. The infant held toward the cross by one of the figures
suggests a christening ceremony. The cross is one of the most common
emblems present in all the ruins. This led the Catholic missionaries to
assume that knowledge of Christianity had been brought to that part of
America long before their arrival; and they adopted the belief that the
Gospel was preached there by St. Thomas. This furnished excellent
material for the hagiologists of that age; but, like every thing else
peculiar to these monkish romancers, it betrayed great lack of

The cross, even the so-called Latin cross, is not exclusively a
Christian emblem. It was used in the Oriental world many centuries
(perhaps millenniums) before the Christian era. It was a religious
emblem of the Phœnicians, associated with Astarte, who is usually
figured bearing what is called a Latin cross. She is seen so figured on
Phœnician coin. The cross is found in the ruins of Nineveh. Mr. Layard,
describing one of the finest specimens of Assyrian sculpture (the figure
of “an early Nimrod king” he calls it), says: “Round his neck are hung
the four sacred signs; the crescent, the star or sun, the trident, and
_the cross_.” These “signs,” the cross included, appear suspended from
the necks or collars of Oriental prisoners figured on Egyptian monuments
known to be fifteen hundred years older than the Christian era. The
cross was a common emblem in ancient Egypt, and the Latin form of it was
used in the religious mysteries of that country, in connection with a
monogram of the moon. It was to degrade this religious emblem of the
Phœnicians that Alexander ordered the execution of two thousand
principal citizens of Tyre by crucifixion.

The cross, as an emblem, is very common among the antiquities of Western
Europe, where archæological investigation has sometimes been embarrassed
and confused by the assumption that any old monument bearing the figure
of a cross can not be as old as Christianity.

What more will be found at Palenque, when the whole field of its ruins
has been explored, can not now be reported. The chief difficulty by
which explorers are embarrassed is manifest in this statement of Mr.
Stephens: “Without a guide, we might have gone within a hundred feet of
the buildings without discovering one of them.” More has been discovered
there than I have mentioned, my purpose being to give an accurate view
of the style, finish, decoration, and general character of the
architecture and artistic work found in the ruins rather than a
complete account of every thing connected with them. The ruins of
Palenque are deemed important by archæologists partly on account of the
great abundance of inscriptions found there, which, it is believed, will
at length be deciphered, the written characters being similar to those
of the Mayas, which are now understood.


The ruins known as Copan are situated in the extreme western part of
Honduras, where they are densely covered by the forest. As already
stated, they were first discovered by Europeans about forty years after
the war of the conquest swept through that part of the country, and were
at that time wholly mysterious to the natives. The monuments seem older
than those at Palenque, but we have only scant descriptions of them.
They are situated in a wild and solitary part of the country, where the
natives “see as little of strangers as the Arabs about Mount Sinai, and
are more suspicious.” For this reason they have not been very carefully
explored. It is known that these ruins extend two or three miles along
the left bank of the River Copan. Not much has been done to discover how
far they extend from the river into the forest.

[Illustration: Fig. 29.--Great Wall at Copan.]

Mr. Stephens describes as follows his first view of them: “We came to
the right bank of the river, and saw directly opposite a stone wall from
60 to 90 feet high, with furze growing out of the top, running north and
south along the river 624 feet, in some places fallen, in others
entire.” This great wall supported the rear side of the elevated
foundation of a great edifice. It was made of cut stone well laid in
mortar or cement, the blocks of stone being 6 feet long. Figure 29 shows
the wall somewhat imperfectly. He saw next a square stone column
standing by itself, 14 feet high and 3 feet on each side. From top to
bottom it was richly ornamented with sculptured designs on two opposite
sides, the other sides being covered with inscriptions finely carved on
the stone. On the front face, surrounded by the sculptured ornaments,
was the figure of a man. Fourteen other obelisks of the same kind were
seen, some of them being higher than this. Some of them had fallen.
These sculptured and inscribed pillars constitute the chief peculiarity
of Copan. Mr. Squier says of them: “The ruins of Copan, and the
corresponding monuments which I examined in the valley of the
Chamelican, are distinguished by singular and elaborately carved
_monoliths_, which seem to have been replaced at Palenque by equally
elaborate _basso relievos_, belonging, it would seem, to a later and
more advanced period of art.”

The great building first noticed stands, or stood, on a pyramidal
foundation, which is supported along the river by that high back wall.
The structure extends 624 feet on the river line. Mr. Stephens described
it as an “oblong inclosure,” and states that it has a wide terrace
nearly 100 feet above the river, on which great trees are growing, some
of them more than 20 feet in circumference. Here, as at Palenque, the
ornamentation was “rich and abundant.” The ruins, greatly worn by decay,
still show that “architecture, sculpture, painting, and all the arts
that embellish life had flourished in this overgrown forest.” Some
beautifully executed sculptures were found buried in the earth, and
there can be no doubt that extensive excavation, if it were possible in
that almost invincible forest, would lead to important and valuable
discoveries. Besides the great building and the monoliths, several
pyramidal structures are mentioned by Mr. Stephens, who points out that
extensive exploration is impossible unless one shall first clear away
the forest and burn up the trees.

Palacios, who described this ruined city nearly three hundred years ago,
saw much more than Mr. Stephens. He described “the ruins of superb
edifices, built of hewn stone, which manifestly belonged to a large
city.” He mentions, in connection with the great wall, an enormous
eagle carved in stone, which bore a square shield on its breast covered
with undecipherable characters. He mentions, also, a “stone giant,” and
a “stone cross” with one arm broken. He saw a “plaza,” circular in form,
surrounded by ranges of steps or seats, which reminded him of the
Coliseum at Rome, “as many as eighty ranges still remaining in some
places.” This “plaza” was “paved with beautiful stones, all square and
well worked.” Six of the great obelisks, which he described as
“statues,” stood in this inclosure, and in its centre was a great stone

A history of Guatemala, by a writer named Huarros, states that the
“Circus of Copan,” as he calls the “plaza” described by Palacios, was
still entire in the year 1700. He mentions gateways which led into the
inclosure, and says it was surrounded on the outside by stone pyramids
six yards high, near which were standing sculptured figures or obelisks.
No doubt, remains of this remarkable “circus” would be found now, if the
forest should be removed. What else could be found there by means of
careful and thorough exploration may never be known, for the region is
uninviting, the forest very difficult, and such an exploration would
require much more than the means and efforts of one or two individuals.

Not very far away, in the neighboring State of Guatemala, on the right
bank of the River Motagua, to which the Copan is a tributary, are the
ruins called Quirigua. It is manifest that a great city once stood here.
These ruins have a close resemblance to those at Copan, but they appear
to be much older, for they have, to a great extent, become little
more than heaps of rubbish. Over a large space of ground traces of what
has gone to decay are visible. Doubtless important relics of the old
city are now more abundant below the surface than above it. Mr.
Stephens, describing what he saw there, confines his attention chiefly
to a pyramidal structure with flights of steps, and monoliths larger and
higher than those at Copan, but otherwise similar. He states, however,
that while they have the same general style, the sculptures are in lower
relief and hardly so rich in design. One of the obelisks here is twenty
feet high, five feet six inches wide, and two feet eight inches thick.
The chief figures carved on it are that of a man on the front, and that
of a woman on the back. The sides are covered with inscriptions similar
in appearance to those at Copan. Some of the other standing obelisks are
higher than this. It seems reasonable to infer that the structures at
Quirigua were more ancient than those at Copan.

[Illustration: Fig. 30.--Ruins at Mitla.]


The ruins called Mitla are in the Mexican State of Oxaca, about twelve
leagues east from the city of Oxaca. They are situated in the upper part
of a great valley, and surrounded by a waste, uncultivated region. At
the time of the Spanish Conquest they were old and much worn by time and
the elements, but a very large area was then covered by remains of
ancient buildings. At present only six decaying edifices and three
ruined pyramids, which were very finely terraced, remain for
examination, the other structures being now reduced to the last stage
of decay. Figures 30 and 31 present views of some of these structures,
as given by Von Temski. Figure 32, from Charnay’s photograph, shows a
ruin at Mitla.

[Illustration: Fig. 31.--Great Hall at Mitla.]

These important ruins were not described by Stephens and Catherwood.
Captain Dupaix’s work gives some account of them, and Desiré Charnay,
who saw them since 1860, brought away photographs of some of the
monuments. Four of the standing edifices are described by Dupaix as
“palaces,” and these, he says, “were erected with lavish magnificence;
* * * they combine the solidity of the works of Egypt with the elegance
of those of Greece.” And he adds, “But what is most remarkable,
interesting, and striking in these monuments, and which alone would be
sufficient to give them the first rank among all known orders of
architecture, is the execution of their mosaic relievos, very different
from plain mosaic, and consequently requiring more ingenious combination
and greater art and labor. They are inlaid on the surface of the wall,
and their duration is owing to the method of fixing the prepared stones
into the stone surface, which made their union with it perfect.” Figure
33, taken from Charnay’s photograph, shows part of the mosaic decoration
on a wall of one of the great edifices at Mitla.

[Illustration: Fig. 32.--Ruined Palace at Mitla.]

[Illustration: Fig. 33.--Mosaics at Mitla.]

The general character of the architecture and masonry is much like that
seen in the structures at Palenque, but the finish of the workmanship
appears to have been more artistic and admirable. These ruins are
remarkable among those of the country where they are found. All who have
seen them speak much as Dupaix speaks of the perfection of the masonry,
the admirable design and finish of the work, and the beauty of the
decorations. Their beauty, says M. Charnay, can be matched only by the
monuments of Greece and Rome in their best days. One fact presented by
some of the edifices at Mitla has a certain degree of historical
significance. There appears to be evidence that they were occupied at
some period by people less advanced in civilization than their builders.
M. Charnay, describing one of them, points out this fact. He says of the

“It is a bewildering maze of courts and buildings, with facings
ornamented with mosaics in relief of the purest design; but under the
projections are found traces of paintings wholly primitive in style, in
which the right line is not even respected. These are rude figures of
idols, and meandering lines that have no significance. Similar paintings
appear, with the same imperfection, on every great edifice, in places
which have allowed them shelter against the ravages of time. These rude
designs, associated with palaces so correct in architecture, and so
ornamented with panels of mosaic of such marvelous workmanship, put
strange thoughts in the mind. To find the explanation of this
phenomenon, must we not suppose these palaces were occupied by a race
less advanced in civilization than their first builders?”

Two miles or more away from the great edifices here mentioned, toward
the west, is the “Castle of Mitla.” It was built on the summit of an
isolated and precipitous hill of rock, which is accessible only on the
east side. The whole leveled summit of this hill is inclosed by a solid
wall of hewn stone twenty-one feet thick and eighteen feet high. This
wall has salient and retiring angles, with curtains interposed. On the
east side it is flanked by double walls. Within the inclosure are the
remains of several small buildings. The field of these ruins was very
large three hundred years ago. At that time it may have included this


In this part of Mexico Captain Dupaix examined a peculiar ruin, of which
he gave the following account: “Near the road from the village of
Tlalmanalco to that called Mecamecan, about three miles east of the
latter, there is an isolated granite rock, which was artificially
formed into a kind of pyramid with six hewn steps facing the east. The
summit of this structure is a platform, or horizontal plane, well
adapted to observation of the stars on every side of the hemisphere. It
is almost demonstrable that this very ancient monument was exclusively
devoted to astronomical observations, for on the south side of the rock
are sculptured several hieroglyphical figures having relation to
astronomy. The most striking figure in the group is that of a man in
profile, standing erect, and directing his view to the rising stars in
the sky. He holds to his eye a tube or optical instrument. Below his
feet is a frieze divided into six compartments, with as many celestial
signs carved on its surface.” It has been already stated that
finely-wrought “telescopic tubes” have been found among remains of the
Mound-Builders. They were used, it seems, by the ancient people of
Mexico and Central America, and they were known also in ancient Peru,
where a silver figure of a man in the act of using such a tube has been
discovered in one of the old tombs.


Old ruins, of which but little is known, exist in Guatemala, Honduras,
San Salvador, and the more southern portion of Central America. Mr.
Squier, who tells us more of them than any other explorer, says, “I
heard of remains and monuments in Honduras and San Salvador equal to
those of Copan in extent and interest.” He mentions the ruins of Opico,
near San Vincente, in San Salvador, which “cover nearly two square
miles, and consist of vast terraces, ruins of edifices, circular and
square towers, and subterranean galleries, all built of cut stones: a
single carving has been found here on a block of stone.” Remains of
“immense works” exist in the district of Chontales, near the northern
shore of Lake Nicaragua; and pottery found in Nicaragua “equals the best
specimens of Mexico and Peru.” Don Jose Antonio Urritia, curé of
Jutiapa, gave the following account of a great ruin on a mountain in San
Salvador, near the town of Comapa: it is called Cinaca-Mecallo:

“The walls, or remains of the city wall, describe an oval figure, within
which roads or streets may be traced, and there are various subterranean
passages and many ruined edifices. The materials of construction are
chiefly thin stones, or a species of slate, united by a kind of cement
which in appearance resembles melted lead.” It does not appear that he
made a complete examination of the monuments, but he mentions three that
gained his attention, and left upon his mind a very strong impression.
“The first is a temple consecrated to the sun, chiefly excavated in the
solid rock, and having its entrance toward the east. On the archway of
the entrance are carved representations of the sun and moon.
Hieroglyphics are found in the interior. Besides the sculptured _bassi
relievi_, these stones bear hieroglyphics painted with a kind of red
varnish which remains unimpaired. The second is a great stone slab
covered with inscriptions or hieroglyphics. The third is the figure of a
wild animal sculptured on a rock or stone, of “great size.”[TN-3]


The remains of ancient cities are abundant in the settled portion of
Yucatan, which lies north of the great forest. Charnay found “the
country covered with them from north to south.” Stephens states, in the
Preface to his work on Yucatan, that he visited “forty-four ruined
cities or places” in which such remains are still found, most of which
were unknown to white men, even to those inhabiting the country; and he
adds that “time and the elements are hastening them to utter

Previous to the Spanish Conquest, the region known to us as Yucatan was
called Maya. It is still called Maya by the natives among themselves,
and this is the true name of the country. Why the Spaniards called it
Yucatan is unknown, but the name is wholly arbitrary and without reason.
It is said to have arisen from an odd mistake like that which occasioned
the name given to one of the capes by Hernandez de Cordova. Being on the
coast in 1517, he met some of the natives. Their cacique said to him,
“Conèx cotoch,” meaning “Come to our town.” The Spaniard, supposing he
had mentioned the name of the place, immediately named the projecting
point of land “Cape Cotoche,” and it is called so still.

At that time the country was occupied by the people still known as
Mayas. They all spoke the same language, which was one of a closely
related family of tongues spoken in Guatemala, Chiapas, Western
Honduras, and in some other districts of Central America and Mexico.
Yucatan was then much more populous than at present. The people had more
civilization, more regular industry, and more wealth. They were much
more highly skilled in the arts of civilized life. They had cities and
large towns; and dwelling-houses, built of timber and covered with
thatch, like those common in England, were scattered over all the rural
districts. Some of the cities now found in ruins were then inhabited.
This peninsula had been the seat of an important feudal monarchy, which
arose probably after the Toltecs overthrew the very ancient kingdom of
Xibalba. It was broken up by a rebellion of the feudal lords about a
hundred years previous to the arrival of the Spaniards. According to the
Maya chronicles, its downfall occurred in the year 1420. Mayapan, the
capital of this kingdom, was destroyed at that time, and never afterward

Merida, the present capital of Yucatan, was built on the site of an
ancient Maya city called Tihoo. It is stated in the old Spanish accounts
of Merida that it was built on that site because there was in the ruins
an abundance of building material. There is mention of two “mounds”
which furnished a vast amount of hewn stone. Mr. Stephens noticed in
some of the edifices stones with “sculptured figures, from the ruins of
ancient buildings;” and he mentions that a portion of an ancient
building, including an arch in the Maya style, was retained in the
construction of the Franciscan convent.


[Illustration: Fig. 34.--Great Mound at Mayapan.]

We shall notice only some of the principal ruins in Yucatan, beginning
with Mayapan, the ancient capital. The remains of this city are situated
about ten leagues, in a southern direction, from Merida. They are spread
over an extensive plain, and overgrown by trees and other vegetation.
The most prominent object seen by the approaching explorer is a great
mound, 60 feet high and 100 feet square at the base. It is an imposing
structure, seen through the trees, and is itself overgrown like a wooded
hill. Figure 34 shows one view of this. Four stairways, in a ruinous
condition, 25 feet wide, lead up to an esplanade within 6 feet of the
top, which is reached by a smaller stairway. The summit is a plain stone
platform 15 feet square. This, of course, was a temple. Sculptured
stones are scattered around the base, and within the mound subterranean
chambers have been discovered.

It is probable that the principal edifices at Mayapan were not all built
wholly of stone, for they have mostly disappeared. Only one remains, a
circular stone building 25 feet in diameter, which stands on a pyramidal
foundation 35 feet high. This is represented in Figure 35. On the
southwest side of it, on a terrace projecting from the mound, was a
double row of columns without capitals, 8 feet apart. There are
indications that this city was old, and that the buildings had been more
than once renewed. Brasseur de Bourbourg classes some of the foundations
at Mayapan with the oldest seen at Palenque and Copan. This point,
however, can not be determined with sufficient accuracy to remove all
doubt. Mayapan may have stood upon the foundations of a very ancient
city which was several times rebuilt, but the city destroyed in 1420
could not have been as old as either Palenque or Copan.

[Illustration: Fig. 35.--Circular Edifice at Mayapan.]


The ruins of Uxmal have been regarded as the most important in Yucatan,
partly on account of the edifices that remain standing, but chiefly
because they have been more visited and explored than the others. It is
supposed, and circumstantial evidence appears to warrant the
supposition, that this city had not been wholly deserted at the time of
the Spanish Conquest, although it had previously begun to be a ruin. It
was wholly a ruin in 1673. The area covered by its remains is extensive.
Charnay makes it a league or more in diameter; but most of the
structures have fallen, and exist now only in fragments scattered over
the ground. It may be that many of them were not built wholly of hewn
stone, and had not “Egyptian solidity” with their other characteristics.

The most important of those remaining was named “Casa del Gobernador” by
the Spaniards. It is 320 feet long, and was built of hewn stone laid in
mortar or cement. The faces of the walls are smooth up to the cornice.
Then follows, on all the four sides, “one solid mass of rich,
complicated, and elaborately sculptured ornaments, forming a sort of
arabesque.” Figure 36 gives a view of the south end of this edifice, but
no engraving can show all the details of the ornamentation.

[Illustration: Fig. 36.--Casa del Gobernador, Uxmal.]

This building has eleven doorways in front, and one at each end, all
having wooden lintels, which have fallen. The two principal rooms are 60
feet long, and from 11 to 13 feet wide. This structure is long and
narrow The arrangement and number of the rooms are shown in the
following ground plan of the building (Figure 37):

[Illustration: Fig. 37.--Ground Plan of Casa del Gobernador]

[Illustration: Fig. 38.--Double-headed Figure, Casa del Gobernador.]

[Illustration: Fig. 39.--Decorations over Doorway, Casa del

It stands on the summit of one of the grandest of the terraced
foundations. This foundation, like all the others, is pyramidal. It has
three terraces. The lowest is 3 feet high, 15 wide, and 575 long; the
second is 20 feet high, 275 wide, and 545 long; the third, 19 feet high,
30 wide, and 360 long. Structures formerly existed on the second
terrace, remains of which are visible. At the northwest corner one of
them still shows its dilapidated walls, portions of them being
sufficiently complete to show what they were. This edifice was 94 feet
long and 34 wide. It seems to have been finely finished in a style more
simple than that of the great “casa” on the upper terrace. The figures
of turtles sculptured along the upper edge of the cornice have given it
the current designation, “House of the Turtles.” Sculptured monuments
have been found buried in the soil of the second terrace. The opening of
a small, low mound situated on it brought to view the double-headed
figure shown in No. 38. Figure 39 shows part of the sculptured
decoration over the centre doorway of Casa del Gobernador.

Another important edifice at Uxmal has been named “Casa de las Monjas,”
House of the Nuns. It stands on a terraced foundation, and is arranged
around a quadrangular court-yard 258 feet one way and 214 the other. The
front structure is 279 feet long, and has a gateway in the centre 10
feet 8 inches wide leading into the court, and four doors on each side
of it. The outer face of the wall, above the cornice, is ornamented with
sculptures. The terrace without and within the inclosure was found
covered with a very dense growth of vegetation, which it was necessary
to clear away before the walls could be carefully examined. All the
doorways, save those in front, open on the court. Mr. Stephens found the
four great façades fronting the court-yard “ornamented from one end to
the other with the richest and most intricate carving known to the
builders of Uxmal, presenting a scene of strange magnificence which
surpasses any other now seen among its ruins.” The long outer
structure, on the side facing the entrance, had high turret-like
elevations over each of its thirteen doorways, all covered with
sculptured ornaments. This building appears to have inclosed another of
older date. Figure 40 shows the ground plan of “Las Monjas.”

[Illustration: Fig. 40.--Ground Plan of Las Monjas, Uxmal.]

Other less important edifices in the ruins of Uxmal have been described
by explorers, some of which stand on high pyramidal mounds; and
inscriptions are found here, but they are not so abundant as at Palenque
and Copan.


The ruins known as Kabah are on the site of what must have been one of
the most imposing and important of the more ancient cities. Here the
most conspicuous object is a stone-faced mound 180 feet square at the
base, with a range of ruined apartments at the bottom. Three or four
hundred yards from this mound is a terraced foundation 20 feet high and
200 by 142 in extent, on which stand the remains of a great edifice. At
the right of the esplanade before it is a “high range of ruined
structures overgrown with trees, with an immense back wall on the outer
line of the esplanade perpendicular to the bottom of the terrace.” On
the left is another range of ruined buildings, and in the centre a stone
inclosure 27 feet square and 7 feet high, with sculptures and
inscriptions around the base. Some of the ornamentation of this building
has been described in the strongest terms of admiration. Mr. Stephens
said of it, “The cornice running over the doorways, tried by the
severest rules of art recognized among us, would embellish the
architecture of any known era.” At Uxmal the walls were smooth below the
cornice; here they are covered with decorations from top to bottom.

This field of ruins is extensive, and only a portion of it has been
examined. It is so overgrown that exploration is very difficult. The
buildings and mounds are much decayed, and they seem to be very old. It
is believed that ruined edifices of which nothing is known are hidden
among the trees in places which no explorer has approached. Mr. Stephens
gave the first account of Kabah, and described three other important
edifices besides that already named. One of these he thought was, when
entire, the most imposing structure at Kabah. It was 147 feet long by
106 wide, and had three distinct stories, each successive story being
smaller than that below it. Another, standing on the upper terrace of an
elevated foundation 170 feet long by 110 broad, was 164 feet in length,
and comparatively narrow. It is mentioned as a peculiarity of this
edifice that it had pillars in its doorways, used as supports. The
other, found standing on a terrace, is also long and narrow, and has a
comparatively plain front.

Remains of other buildings are visible, but in all cases they are so
completely in ruins as to be little more than heaps of débris. Some of
the ruins in the woods beyond that part of the field which is most
accessible, are visible from the great mound described. A resolute
attempt to penetrate the forest brought the explorers in view of great
edifices standing on an elevated terrace estimated to be 800 feet long
by 100 feet wide. The decorations seemed to have been abundant and very
rich, but the structures were in a sad state of dilapidation. One
remarkable monument found at Kabah resembles a triumphal arch. It stands
by itself on a ruined mound apart from the other structures. It is
described as a “lonely arch, having a span of 14 feet,” rising on the
field of ruins “in solitary grandeur.” Figure 41 gives a view of it.

[Illustration: Fig. 41.--Ruined Arch at Kabah.]

Kabah was an ancient city. The ruins are old, and the city may have
belonged to the first age of the Maya period.


The ruins of Chichen-Itza are situated east of Mayapan, about half way
between the eastern and western coasts of the peninsula of Yucatan. A
public road runs through the space of ground over which they are spread.
The area covered by them is something less than a mile in diameter. The
general character of the ruined structures found here is in every
respect like that shown by ruins already described.

One of the great buildings at this place has a rude, unornamental
exterior, and does not stand on an artificial terrace, although the
ground before it was excavated so as to give the appearance of an
elevated foundation. It is one hundred and forty-nine feet long by
forty-eight deep. Its special peculiarity consists of a stone lintel, in
a very dark inner room, which has an inscription and a sculptured figure
on the under side. The writing closely resembles that seen at Palenque
and Copan. Was this sculptured stone made originally for the place it
now occupies, or was it taken from the ruins of some older city which
flourished and went to decay before Chichen-Itza was built?

Another structure seen here closely resembles Las Monjas at Uxmal, and
bears the same name, but it differs somewhat from the Uxmal Monjas in
arrangement. In the descriptions, special mention is made of “the
richness and beauty” of its ornaments.

A noticeable edifice connected with the Monjas, called the “Church,” is
26 feet long, 14 deep, 31 high, and has three cornices, the spaces
between them being covered with carved ornaments. There is but one room
in it. One of the most picturesque ruins at Chichen-Itza is circular in
form, and stands on the upper level of a double-terraced platform. It is
22 feet in diameter, and has four doors, which face the cardinal points.
Above the cornice it slopes gradually almost to a point, and the top is
about 60 feet above the ground. The grand staircase of 20 steps, leading
up to this building, is 45 feet wide, and has a sort of balustrade
formed of the entwined bodies of huge serpents. At some distance from
this is the ruined structure known as the “Casa Colorada,” or Red House.
This is shown in Figure 42.

[Illustration: Fig. 42.--Casa Colorada.]

It is 43 feet long by 23 deep, and stands on a platform 62 feet long by
55 wide. It was ornamented above the cornice, but the decorations are
much defaced by decay. A stone tablet extending the whole length of the
back wall, inside, is covered by an inscription.

A remarkable structure is found at this place, which Mr. Stephens called
the “Gymnasium, or Tennis Court.” It consists of two immense parallel
walls 274 feet long, 30 thick, and 120 apart. On elevations facing the
two ends of the open space between them, 100 feet from the ends of the
walls, stand two edifices much ruined, but showing, in their remains,
that they were richly ornamented. Midway in the length of the walls,
facing each other, and 20 feet above the ground, are two massive stone
rings or circles 4 feet in diameter, each having in the centre a hole 1
foot and 7 inches in diameter. On the borders around these holes two
entwined serpents are sculptured, as seen in Figure 43.

There was a similar structure in the old city of Mexico, and remains of
one like it are found at Mayapan. They were, probably, used for games of
some kind. Among the other ruins at Chichen-Itza are the remains of a
lofty edifice which has two high ranges or stories. On the outside the
ornamentation is simple and tasteful, but the walls of its chambers are
very elaborately decorated, mostly with sculptured designs, which seem
to have been painted. In one of the upper rooms Mr. Stephens found a
beam of sapote wood used as a lintel, which was covered with very
elegantly carved decorations. The walls of this room were covered, from
the bottom to the top of the arched ceiling, with painted designs
similar to those seen in the Mexican “picture writing.” Decay had
mutilated these “pictures,” but the colors were still bright. There are
indications that painting was generally used by the aboriginal builders,
even on their sculptures. The colors seen in this room were green, red,
yellow, blue, and reddish-brown. Another edifice, standing on a high
mound, is reached by means of the usual great stairway, which begins at
the bottom, with a sort of balustrade on each side, the ends of which
are stone figures of heads of immense serpents.

[Illustration: Fig. 43.--Great Stone Ring.]

Not far from this is a singular ruin, consisting of groups of small
columns standing in rows five abreast, the tallest being not more than
six feet high. Many of them have fallen. It is impossible to determine
how they were used, or what they mean.


Izamal, Labna, Zayi, and some of the other ruins are sufficiently
important for special notice; but they present every where the same
characteristics, differing a little in the style or method of
ornamentation. At Labna there is among the ruins an ancient gateway,
beautiful in design and construction, a view of which is given in the
Frontispiece. The best account of some of the other ruins on this
peninsula can be found in the volumes of Mr. Stephens, entitled
“Incidents of Travel in Yucatan.” At Zayi there is a singular building,
which, as seen at a distance by Mr. Stephens, “had the appearance of a
New England factory.” But what seemed to be a “factory” is, in fact,
nothing more than a massive wall with oblong openings, which runs along
the middle of the roof, and rises thirty feet above it. The building was
below this wall, but the front part of it had fallen. Among the remains
at Xcoch is the great mound represented in Figure 44.

There is a remarkable ruin at Ake, at the south, which deserves mention.
Here, on the summit of a great mound, very level, and 225 feet by 50 in
extent, stand 36 shafts or columns, in three parallel rows. The columns
are about 15 feet high and 4 feet square. The ruins of Ake, which cover
a great space, are ruder and more massive than most of the others. The
island of Cozumel and the adjacent coast of Yucatan were populous when
the Spaniards first went there, but the great towns then inhabited are
now in ruins.

[Illustration: Fig. 44.--Great Mound at Xcoch.]

Water is scarce on this peninsula, and a sufficient supply is not
obtained without considerable difficulty. The ancient inhabitants
provided for this lack of water by constructing aguadas or artificial
ponds. These, or many of them, doubtless, are as old as the oldest of
the ruined cities. Intelligence, much skill in masonry, and much labor
were required to construct them. They were paved with several courses of
stone laid in cement, and in their bottoms wells or cavities were
constructed. More than forty such wells were found in the bottom of one
of these aguadas at Galal, which has been repaired and restored to use.
A section of the bottom of this aguada is shown in Figure 45. In some
places long subterranean passages lead down to pools of water, which are
used in the dry season. One of these subterranean reservoirs, and the
cavernous passage leading to it, are shown in Figure 46. The reservoir
is 450 feet below the surface of the ground, and the passage leading to
it is about 1400 feet long. Branching passages, not shown, lead to two
or three other basins of water.

[Illustration: Fig. 45.--Bottom of an Aguada.]

[Illustration: Fig. 46.--Subterranean Reservoir.]

The wooden lintels, which are common in Yucatan, do not appear in the
other ruins, and there is a difference in the style of ornamentation
between those at Palenque or Copan, for instance, and those at Uxmal,
but every where the architecture is regulated by the same idea, the
differences indicating nothing more than different periods and
different phases of development in the history of the same people.

[Illustration: Fig. 47.--Plan of the Walls at Tuloom.]

Some of the great edifices in these old ruins, such as the “Palace” at
Palenque, and the “Casa del Gobernador” at Uxmal, remind us of the
“communal buildings” of the Pueblos, and yet there is a wide difference
between them. They are not alike either in character or purpose,
although such great buildings as the “Palace” may have been designed for
the occupation of several families. There is no indication that
“communal” residences were ever common in this part of the country. At
the time of the Conquest the houses of the people were ordinary family
dwellings, made of wood, and we may reasonably suppose this fashion of
building was handed down from the earlier ages. Herrera, who supposed,
mistakenly, that all the great stone edifices were temples, said, in
his account of Yucatan, “There were so many and such stately stone
buildings that it was amazing; and the greatest wonder was that, having
no use of any metal, they were able to raise such structures, which seem
to have been temples; for their houses were all of timber, and
thatched.” But they had the use of metals, and they had the art of
making some of them admirable for use in cutting stone and carving wood.

[Illustration: Fig. 48.--Watch-tower at Tuloom.]

Among the buildings of later date are some of those on the western
coast, which were still inhabited three hundred and fifty years ago. The
city of Tuloom was inhabited then. Figure 47 shows a ground plan of the
walls of this city, with the position of some of the ruined monuments.

Within the walls are remains of finely constructed buildings on elevated
foundations, none of them, however, very large. One of them had a wooden
roof, and timber seems to have been considerably used here. The walls
still standing were made of hewn stone. Remains of stone edifices exist
all along this coast, but the whole region is now covered by a dense
growth of trees and other vegetation. Tuloom was seen in 1518 by
Grijalva, who sailed along the coast. At that time the island of
Cozumel, where noteworthy ruins are found, was inhabited by many people.
Figure 48 shows one of the watch-towers on the walls of Tuloom.



The Mexican and Central American ruins make it certain that in ancient
times an important civilization existed in that part of the continent,
which must have begun at a remote period in the past. If they have any
significance, this must be accepted as an ascertained fact. A large
proportion of them had been forgotten in the forests, or become mythical
and mysterious, long before the arrival of the Spaniards.

In 1520, three hundred and fifty years ago, the forest which so largely
covers Yucatan, Guatemala, and Chiapa was growing as it grows now; yes,
four hundred and fifty years ago, for it was there a century previous to
this date, when, the Maya kingdom being broken up, one of its princes
fled into this forest with a portion of his people, the Itzas, and
settled at Lake Peten. It was the same then as now. How many additional
centuries it had existed no one can tell. If its age could be told, it
would still be necessary to consider that the ruins hidden in it are
much older than the forest, and that the period of civilization they
represent closed long before it was established.

In the ages previous to the beginning of this immense forest, the region
it covers was the seat of a civilization which grew up to a high degree
of development, flourished a long time, and finally declined, until its
cities were deserted, and its cultivated fields left to the wild
influences of nature. It may be safely assumed that both the
forest-covered ruins and the forest itself are far older than the Aztec
period; but who can tell how much older? Copan, first discovered and
described three hundred years ago, was then as strange to the natives
dwelling near it as the old Chaldean ruins are to the Arabs who wander
over the wasted plains of Lower Mesopotamia. Native tradition had
forgotten its history and become silent in regard to it. How long had
ruined Copan been in this condition? No one can tell. Manifestly it was
forgotten, left buried in the forest without recollection of its
history, long before Montezuma’s people, the Aztecs, rose to power; and
it is easily understood that this old city had an important history
previous to that unknown time in the past when war, revolution, or some
other agency of destruction put an end to its career and left it to
become what it is now.

Moreover, these old ruins, in all cases, show us only the cities last
occupied in the periods to which they belong. Doubtless others still
older preceded them; and, besides, it can be seen that some of the
ruined cities which can now be traced were several times renewed by
reconstructions. We must consider, also, that building magnificent
cities is not the first work of an original civilization. The
development was necessarily gradual. Its first period was more or less
rude. The art of building and ornamenting such edifices arose slowly.
Many ages must have been required to develop such admirable skill in
masonry and ornamentation. Therefore the period between the beginning of
this mysterious development of civilized life and the first builders who
used cut stone laid in mortar and cement, and covered their work with
beautifully sculptured ornaments and inscriptions, must have been very

We have no measure of the time, no clew to the old dates, nothing
whatever, beyond such considerations as I have stated, to warrant even a
vague hypothesis. It can be seen clearly that the beginning of this old
civilization was much older than the earliest great cities, and, also,
that these were much more ancient than the time when any of the later
built or reconstructed cities whose relics still exist, were left to
decay. If we suppose Palenque to have been deserted some six hundred
years previous to the Spanish Conquest, this date will carry us back
only to the last days of its history as an inhabited city. Beyond it, in
the distant past, is a vast period, in which the civilization
represented by Palenque was developed, made capable of building such
cities, and then carried on through the many ages during which cities
became numerous, flourished, grew old, and gave place to others, until
the long history of Palenque itself began.

Those who have sought to discredit what is told of the Aztec
civilization and the empire of Montezuma have never failed to admit
fully the significance of Copan, Palenque, and Mitla. One or two
writers, pursuing the assumption that the barbarous tribes at the north
and the old Mexicans were of the same race, and substantially the same
people, have undertaken to give us the history of Montezuma’s empire
“entirely rewritten,” and show that his people were “Mexican savages.”
In their hands Montezuma is transformed into a barbarous Indian chief,
and the city of Mexico becomes a rude Indian village, situated among the
islands and lagoons of an everglade which afforded unusual facilities
“for fishing and snaring birds.” One goes so far as to maintain this
with considerable vehemence and amusing unconsciousness of absurdity. He
is sure that Montezuma was nothing more than the principal chief of a
parcel of wild Indian tribes, and that the Pueblos are wild Indians
changed to their present condition by Spanish influence. There is
something in this akin to lunacy.

But this topic will receive more attention in another place. I bring it
to view here because those who maintain so strangely that the Aztecs
were Indian savages, admit all that is claimed for the wonderful ruins
at the south, and give them a very great antiquity. They maintain,
however, that the civilization represented by these ruins was brought to
this continent in remote pre-historic times by the people known as
Phœnicians, and their method of finding the Phœnicians at Palenque,
Copan, and every where else, is similar in character and value to that
by which they transform the Aztec empire into a rude confederacy of wild


It is a point of no little interest that these old constructions belong
to different periods in the past, and represent somewhat different
phases of civilization. Uxmal, which is supposed to have been partly
inhabited when the Spaniards arrived in the country, is plainly much
more modern than Copan or Palenque. This is easily traced in the ruins.
Its edifices were finished in a different style, and show fewer
inscriptions. Round pillars, somewhat in the Doric style, are found at
Uxmal, but none like the square, richly-carved pillars, bearing
inscriptions, discovered in some of the other ruins. Copan and Palenque,
and even Kabah, in Yucatan, may have been very old cities, if not
already old ruins, when Uxmal was built. Accepting the reports of
explorers as correct, there is evidence in the ruins that Quirigua is
older than Copan, and that Copan is older than Palenque. The old
monuments in Yucatan represent several distinct epochs in the ancient
history of that peninsula. Some of them are kindred to those hidden in
the great forest, and remind us more of Palenque than of Uxmal. Among
those described, the most modern, or most of these, are in Yucatan; they
belong to the time when the kingdom of the Mayas flourished. Many of the
others belong to ages previous to the rise of this kingdom; and in ages
still earlier, ages older than the great forest, there were other
cities, doubtless, whose remains have perished utterly, or were long ago
removed for use in the later constructions.

The evidence of repeated reconstructions in some of the cities before
they were deserted has been pointed out by explorers. I have quoted what
Charnay says of it in his description of Mitla. At Palenque, as at
Mitla, the oldest work is the most artistic and admirable. Over this
feature of the monuments, and the manifest signs of their difference in
age, the attention of investigators has lingered in speculation. They
find in them a significance which is stated as follows by Brasseur de
Bourbourg: “Among the edifices forgotten by time in the forests of
Mexico and Central America, we find architectural characteristics so
different from each other, that it is as impossible to attribute them
all to the same people as to believe they were all built at the same
epoch.” In his view, “the substructions at Mayapan, some of those at
Tulha, and a great part of those at Palenque,” are among the older
remains. These are not the oldest cities whose remains are still
visible, but they may have been built, in part, upon the foundations of
cities much more ancient.


No well considered theory of these ruins can avoid the conclusion that
most of them are very ancient, and that, to find the origin of the
civilization they represent, we must go far back into the “deeps of
antiquity.” On all the fields of desolation where they exist, every
thing perishable has disappeared. Wooden lintels are mentioned, but
these can hardly be regarded as constituting an exception when the
character of the wood, and the circumstances that contributed to their
preservation, are considered. Moreover, wooden lintels seem to have been
peculiar to Yucatan, where many of the great edifices were constructed
in the later times, and some of them of perishable materials. Every
where in the older ruins, nothing remains but the artificial mounds and
foundations of earth, the stone, the cement, the stucco hard as marble,
and other imperishable materials used by the builders.

If the edifices had all been made of wood, there would now be nothing to
show us that the older cities had ever existed. Every trace of them
would have been obliterated long before our time, and most of them would
have disappeared entirely long before the country was seen by the
Spaniards. The places where they stood, with no relics save the mounds
and pyramidal platforms, would resemble the works of our Mound-Builders,
and not a few “sound historical critics” would consider it in the
highest degree absurd to suggest that cities with such structures have
ever existed there. Under the circumstances supposed, how wisely
skepticism could talk against a suggestion of this kind at Copan, Mitla,
or Palenque! and how difficult it would be to find a satisfactory answer
to its reasonings! Nevertheless, those mysterious structures have not
wholly disappeared, and we can easily understand that there was a time
when large areas connected with them were covered with buildings of a
less durable character.

I have referred to a writer who maintains, with more vehemence than
candor, that the Aztecs, and all the other people found in the
country, were “savages” not greatly different from the wild Indians
farther north, while he admits the significance and great antiquity of
these ruins. His conception of their antiquity is somewhat extreme, for
he says they must have existed “for thousands of years” when the
Spaniards arrived. If he had maintained that civilized communities were
there “thousands of years” previous to that time, developing the skill
in architecture, decoration, and writing, to which the monuments bear
witness, it might be possible to agree with him. Some of us, however,
would probably stipulate that he should not count too many “thousands,”
nor claim a similar antiquity for the ruins now visible. It is not easy
to suppose that any of these old monuments, with their well-preserved
sculptures and inscriptions, represent the first period of the ancient
history they suggest, nor that they have existed as ruins many
“thousands of years,” for the climate of Mexico and Central America does
not preserve such remains like that of Egypt.

Nevertheless, some of them must be very old. The forest established
since the ruin began, the entire disappearance of every thing more
perishable than stone, the utter oblivion which veiled their history in
the time of Montezuma, and probably long previous to his time, all these
facts bear witness to their great antiquity. In many of them, as at
Quirigua and Kabah, the stone structures have become masses of débris;
and even at Copan, Palenque, and Mitla, only a few of them are
sufficently[TN-4] well preserved to show us what they were in the
great days of their history. Meanwhile, keep in mind that the ruined
cities did not begin their present condition until the civilization that
created them had declined; and, also, that if we could determine exactly
the date when they were deserted and left to decay, we should only reach
that point in the past where their history as inhabited cities was
brought to a close.

Take Copan, for instance. This city may have become a ruin during the
time of the Toltecs, which began long before the Christian era, and
ended some five or six centuries probably before the country was invaded
by Cortez. It was built before their time, for the style of writing, and
many features of the architecture and ornamentation, show the
workmanship of their predecessors, judging by the historical intimations
found in the old books and traditions. We may suppose it to have been an
old city at the time of the Toltec invasion, although not one of the
first cities built by that more ancient and more cultivated people by
whom this old American civilization was originated. The present
condition of the monuments at Quirigua is still more suggestive of great


Some investigators, who have given much study to the antiquities,
traditions, old books, and probable geological history of Mexico and
Central America, believe that the first civilization the world ever saw
appeared in this part of Ancient America, or was immediately connected
with it. They hold that the human race first rose to civilized life in
America, which is, geologically, the oldest of the continents; and that,
ages ago, the portion of this continent on which the first civilizers
appeared was sunk beneath the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Usually the
ingulfing of this portion of the land is supposed to have been effected
by some tremendous convulsion of nature; and there is appeal to
recollections of such a catastrophe, said to have been preserved in the
old books of Central America, and also in those of Egypt, from which
Solon received an account of the lost Atlantis.

According to this hypothesis, the American continent formerly extended
from Mexico, Central America, and New Granada far into the Atlantic
Ocean toward Europe and Africa, covering all the space now occupied by
the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the West India islands, and
going far beyond them toward the east and northeast. This lost portion
of the continent was the Atlantis of which the old annals of Egypt told
so much in the time of Solon, as we learn from Plato; and it was the
original seat of the first human civilization, which, after the great
cataclysm, was renewed and perpetuated in the region where we now trace
the mysterious remains of ancient cities. Those desiring to know what
can be said in support of this view of Ancient America must read the
later volumes of Brasseur de Bourbourg, especially his “Quatre Lettres
sur le Mexique,” and his “Sources de l’Histoire Primitive du Mexique,”
etc. He is not a perspicuous writer; he uses but little system in
treating the subject, and he introduces many fanciful speculations which
do more to embarrass than to help the discussion; but those who read
the books patiently can find and bring together all that relates to the
point in question, and consider it in their own way. They can also find
it set forth and defended in a small volume by George Catlin, entitled
“The Lifted and Subsided Rocks of America,” published in London, not
long since, by Trübner and Company.

I shall give more attention to this theory in the next chapter. I refer
to it here on account of the very great antiquity it claims for the
ancient American civilization. It represents that the advanced human
development whose crumbling monuments are studied at Copan, Mitla, and
Palenque antedates every thing else in the human period of our globe,
excepting, perhaps, an earlier time of barbarism and pastoral
simplicity; that its history goes back through all the misty ages of
pre-historic time to an unknown date previous to the beginning of such
civilization in any part of the Old World. It is hardly possible to make
it more ancient.


The view just stated touches the imagination and stirs the feelings like
a genuine “wonder story;” but this should not be allowed to deny it a
fair hearing. Those who reject it should disprove it before they hasten
to pronounce it “absurd” and “impossible,” else it may be suspected that
their accustomed views of antiquity are due more to education, and to
the habit of following a given fashion of thinking, than to actual
reflection. It needs demonstration; and we may reasonably suggest that,
in the present state of our knowledge of the past, demonstration is
impossible. Meanwhile, a clear historical record appears to make it
certain that flourishing towns and cities were seen and visited in
America three thousand years ago, by persons who went to them across the

It is said, more or less clearly, by more than one Greek writer, that
the Phœnicians and Carthaginians knew the way to a continent beyond
the Atlantic. One fact preserved in the annals of Tyrian commerce, and
mentioned by several ancient writers, is related by Diodorus Siculus
very particularly as a matter of authentic history. His narration begins
with the following statement:

“Over against Africa lies a very great island, in the vast ocean, many
days’ sail from Libya westward. The soil there is very fruitful, a great
part whereof is mountainous, but much likewise champaign, which is the
most sweet and pleasant part, for it is watered by several navigable
streams, and beautified with many gardens of pleasure planted with
divers sorts of trees and an abundance of orchards. The towns are
adorned with stately buildings and banqueting houses pleasantly situated
in their gardens and orchards.” The great ruins in Yucatan, and
elsewhere in Mexico and Central America, bear witness that there was,
anciently, such a country as this, across the ocean, “many days’ sail
from Libya westward;” but Diodorus Siculus lived before the Christian
era, and how was this known to him and others more than fifteen hundred
years before America was discovered by Columbus? He tells us as follows:
“The Phœnicians (Tyrians) having found out the coasts beyond the
Pillars of Hercules, sailed along by the coast of Africa. One of their
ships, on a sudden, was driven by a furious storm far off into the main
ocean. After they had lain under this violent tempest many days, they at
length arrived at this island.”

This reminds us of the constrained voyage of Biarni, the Northman, from
Iceland to the coast of Massachusetts, in the year 985 A.D.[163-*] He,
too, was storm-driven “many days,” and in this way forced to the
discovery of New England. He started for Greenland, and finally reached
it by way of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. The tempest-driven ship of
the Tyrians must have been carried to the West Indies, and to the coast
of Honduras or Yucatan, where the Tyrians saw the gardens, cities, and
stately edifices. The description of what they saw brings to mind
similar accounts of what was seen in Yucatan by the Spaniards, when they
began to sail along the coast of that peninsula in the beginning of the
sixteenth century; Juan Diaz de Solis and Vincente Yañez Pinçon in 1506,
and Hernandez de Cordova in 1517. They, too, saw handsome towns and
stately buildings.

This undesigned voyage of the Tyrian ship seems to have been made
previous to the building of Gadir, or Gades. Perhaps they made other
voyages to that region, but it was a custom of the Phœnicians to be
very secret in regard to the methods and paths of their commerce. A
complete history of their commerce and navigation from the earliest
times would unquestionably give us views of the past quite as startling
to the prevalent assuming, unreasoning habits of belief, or rather
disbelief, concerning antiquity, as that hypothesis of Atlantis and the
earliest civilization. What is told by Diodorus authorizes us to suppose
that the Tyrians who went across the Atlantic as described beheld some
of the ancient American cities which are now found in ruins, for it is
certain that nothing of the kind existed any where else “many days’ sail
from Libya [Northern Africa] westward.” Their voyage was made more than
eleven hundred years previous to the Christian era. If the old Central
American books may be trusted, this was not very long previous to the
beginning of the Toltec domination.

Beyond this date, the history of the “Colhuas,” who are described as the
original civilizers, must have covered a very long period; how long we
may imagine, but can not know. Gadir, now Cadiz, founded eleven hundred
years previous to the Christian era, is still an inhabited city; it has
been several times reconstructed, but never deserted. When it was built,
Tartessus, then a very old city, still existed, although it was in ruins
long before Christ appeared. How long had Palenque been in existence
when that Tyrian ship was driven across the Atlantic? And how long had
that region been a region of cities and civilization? There is no
history which can answer these questions.


[163-*] See Appendix A.



Various theories, some of them very wild and irrational, have been
advanced to explain the origin of what is seen in these relics of
Ancient America. If it had been the fashion to explore and study them as
their importance deserves, as Egypt and Nineveh have been explored and
studied, our knowledge of them would now be much more extensive and
valuable, and it might be possible to go farther toward a solution of
the problem they present. But not many persons have sought to explore
and understand these remains, and not more than two or three have really
sought in earnest to examine the old traditions and books of the
country. The abundant inscriptions at Palenque fade in their forest
solitude while waiting for the Champollion who shall interpret their
mysteries. Something is known, but we have no history of these old
cities, no authentic historical record of the people who built them.
Therefore theorizing has very naturally been stimulated to great
activity, and most of this theorizing has been regulated by the old,
unreasoning assumption that civilization found in any place, especially
in the olden times, must have been brought and established there as a
foreign production. Generally the hypotheses used in this case have
presumed as a matter of course that the original civilizers came to
this continent from Europe or Asia.


One of these theories is (or was), that the original civilizers of
Mexico and Central America were the “lost ten tribes of Israel.” This
extremely remarkable explanation of the mystery was devised very early,
and it has been persistently defended by some persons, although nothing
can be more unwarranted or more absurd. It was put forward by the
Spanish monks who first established missions in the country, a class of
men to whom the world is indebted for a great variety of amazing
contributions to the literature of hagiology; and the same men, in a way
equally conclusive, explained the sculptured crosses found in the old
ruins by assuming that the Gospel was preached in America by St. Thomas.
Lord Kingsborough adopted their views, and gave up nearly the whole of
one of his immense volumes on Mexican Antiquities to an elaborate digest
of all that had been written to explain and support these absurdities.
Others have maintained this Israelitish hypothesis without deeming it
necessary to estimate in a reasonable way what was possible to those

According to this truly monkish theory, the “lost ten tribes of Israel”
left Palestine, Syria, Assyria, or whatever country they dwelt in at the
time, traversed the whole extent of Asia, crossed over into America at
Behring’s Strait, went down the Pacific coast, and established a
wonderful civilization in that part of the continent where the great
ruins are found. The kingdom of the ten tribes was destroyed not long
previous to the year 700 B.C. How many years are allowed, after their
escape from captivity, for this unparalleled journey, has not yet been
ascertained. But, if such a journey had been possible, it would have
resulted in utter barbarism rather than any notable phase of civilized
life. Even the Jews who remained faithful to Moses, although important
on account of their scriptures and their religion, were not remarkable
for civilization. They were incapable of building their own Temple
without aid from the Tyrians. Moreover, there is not any where either a
fact, a suggestion, or a circumstance of any kind to show that the “lost
ten tribes” ever left the countries of Southwestern Asia, where they
dwelt after the destruction of their kingdom. They were “lost” to the
Jewish nation because they rebelled, apostatized, and, after their
subjugation by the Assyrians in 721 B.C., were to a great extent
absorbed by other peoples in that part of Asia. Some of them probably
were still in Palestine when Christ appeared. This wild notion, called a
theory, scarcely deserves so much attention. It is a lunatic fancy,
possible only to men of a certain class, which in our time does not


Another hypothesis, much less improbable, though not satisfactory, is
that civilization was brought to America in ancient times by the Malays.
There was a great island empire of the Malays, whose history extended
far back into pre-historic times, how far back can not now be known. It
was still in existence when the Portuguese first went to India around
the Cape of Good Hope; and we have several accounts of this empire
written by travelers who saw and described it six hundred years before
this first Indian voyage of the Portuguese was undertaken. El Mas’údí,
who was one of these travelers, used very strong terms to describe its
extent, intelligence, and power. Speaking of its sovereign, he said,
“The islands under his sceptre are so numerous that the fastest sailing
vessel is not able to go round them in two years,” implying that his
sway was acknowledged by the island world over a large portion of the
Pacific. This Malayan empire was maritime and commercial; it had fleets
of great ships; and there is evidence that its influence reached most of
the Pacific islands. This is shown by the fact that dialects of the
Malay language have been found in most of these islands as far in this
direction as Easter Island. The language of the Sandwich Islanders, for
instance, is Malayan, and has a close relationship to that now spoken in
the Malay islands.

The metropolis of this great empire was in the island of Java, where old
ruins still bear witness to the former “civilization, wealth, and
splendor” celebrated by El Mas’údí. Mr. A. R. Wallace, in his work on
the Malay Archipelago, says, “Few Englishmen are aware of the number and
beauty of the architectural remains in Java. They have never been
popularly illustrated or described, and it will therefore take most
persons by surprise to learn that they far surpass those of Central
America, perhaps even those of India.” The purpose of his visit to the
island did not allow him to explore ruins, but he describes some of
them. He saw what still remains of an ancient city called “Modjo-pahit,”
and says, “There were two lofty brick masses, apparently the sides of a
gateway. The extreme perfection and beauty of the brick-work astonished
me. The bricks are exceedingly fine and hard, with sharp angles and true
surfaces. They were laid with great exactness, without visible mortar or
cement, yet somehow fastened together so that the joints are hardly
perceptible, and sometimes the two surfaces coalesce in a most
incomprehensible manner. Such admirable brick-work I have never seen
before or since. There was no sculpture here, but abundance of bold
projections and finely-worked mouldings. Traces of buildings exist for
many miles in every direction, and almost every road and pathway shows a
foundation of brick-work beneath it, the paved roads of the old city.”
In other places he saw sculptures and beautifully carved figures in high

The Malays still read and write, have some literature, and retain many
of the arts and usages of civilization, but they are now very far below
the condition indicated by these ruins, and described by El Mas’údí, who
traveled among them a thousand years ago. It is by no means improbable
that their ships visited the western coast of America, and traded with
the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians in the days of their greatest power
and activity. It is not easy to believe they could fail to do so after
taking such control of Easter Island as to leave their language there;
and, according to the old traditions of both Mexico and Peru, the
Pacific coast in both countries was anciently visited by a foreign
people who came in ships. But they did not come to America as
civilizers; there is nothing Malayan in either the antiquities or the
ancient speech of these countries.

What is known of the former great condition and power of the Malays
furnishes important suggestions relative to the ancient history of the
islands of Eastern Asia and the Pacific Ocean,[170-*] as well as those
of the Indian Ocean.

The people who inhabit the eastern side of Formosa, it is said, use a
Malay dialect, and have no resemblance whatever to the Mongols. Who can
fully explain the little known Ainos, who formerly occupied the whole,
or nearly the whole of Japan? The unmistakable traces of Malay influence
every where in the islands of the Pacific can have but one meaning. The
Malays formerly sailed on that ocean, occupied its islands, and
doubtless visited America.

That there was communication between Eastern Asia and America in very
ancient times, through the Malays or otherwise, is in a high degree
probable. This continent was known to the Japanese and Chinese long
before the time of Columbus. Accounts of it were recorded in their books
previous to his time. They called it “Fusang,” and evidently, at some
period, had been accustomed to make voyages to some part of the American
coast. But neither the Malays, the Chinese, nor the Japanese came here
as civilizers, for there is no trace of either of these peoples in the
old ruins, in the ancient language of the country, or in any thing we
know of the people whom these American ruins represent.


Some of the more intelligent investigators have maintained, with no
little confidence, that this ancient American civilization came
originally from the Phœnicians. Among those who use reason in their
inquiries sufficiently to be incapable of accepting the absurdities of
monkish fancy, this hypothesis has found more favor than any other.
Wherever inquiry begins by assuming that the original civilizers came
from some other part of the world, it seems more reasonable than any
other, for more can be said to give it the appearance of probability.

The people known to us as Phœnicians were pre-eminent as the colonizing
navigators of antiquity. They were an enlightened and enterprising
maritime people, whose commerce traversed every known sea, and extended
its operations beyond the “Pillars of Hercules” into the “great exterior
ocean.” The early Greeks called them Ethiopians (not meaning either
black men or Africans), and said they went every where, establishing
their colonies and their commerce in all the coast regions, “from the
extreme east to the extreme west.” But the great ages of this people are
in the distant past, far beyond the beginning of what we call history.
History has knowledge only of a few of their later communities, the
Sabeans of Southern Arabia, the Phœnicians (meaning chiefly the
Tyrians), and the Carthaginians. What a change there would be in the
prevalent conceptions of the past if we could have a complete record of
this race from the beginning of its development!

It is not difficult to believe that communities of the Phœnician or
Ethiopian race were established all around the Mediterranean, and even
beyond the Strait of Gibraltar, in ages quite as old as Egypt or
Chaldea, and that they had communication with America before Tyre or
Sidon was built. Why did the ancients say so much of a “great Saturnian
continent” beyond the Atlantic if nobody in the pre-historic ages had
ever seen that continent? It was there, as they said and as we know; but
whence came their knowledge of it, and such knowledge as led them to
describe it as “larger than Asia (meaning Asia Minor), Europe, and Libya
together?” This ancient belief must have been due to Phœnician or
Ethiopian communication with America in earlier times, which was
imperfectly recollected, or perhaps never completely revealed to other
nations; and this must have taken place at a very remote period, for
imperfect recollection of the great continent across the Atlantic,
including what Solon heard in Egypt of Atlantis, was more ancient than
the constrained voyage of that Tyrian ship of which Diodorus Siculus
gives an account; and it can be seen that the early Greeks had a better
knowledge even of Western Europe than those of later times. A dark age,
so far as relates to geographical knowledge, set in upon the countries
around the Ægean Sea and on the coast of Asia Minor after the
independence and enterprise of Tyre and the other Phœnician cities were
destroyed by the Assyrians, toward the close of the ninth century before
Christ, which was disturbed some four hundred and fifty or five hundred
years later by the conquests of Alexander the Great.

The known enterprise of the Phœnician race, and this ancient knowledge
of America, so variously expressed, strongly encourage the hypothesis
that the people called Phœnicians came to this continent, established
colonies in the region where ruined cities are found, and filled it with
civilized life. It is argued that they made voyages on the “great
exterior ocean,” and that such navigators must have crossed the
Atlantic; and it is added that symbolic devices similar to those of the
Phœnicians are found in the American ruins, and that an old tradition of
the native Mexicans and Central Americans described the first civilizers
as “bearded white men,” who “came from the East in ships.” Therefore, it
is urged, the people described in the native books and traditions as
“Colhuas” must have been Phœnicians.

But if it were true that the civilization found in Mexico and Central
America came from people of the Phœnician race, it would be true also
that they built in America as they never built any where else, that they
established a language here radically unlike their own, and that they
used a style of writing totally different from that which they carried
into every other region occupied by their colonies. All the forms of
alphabetical writing used at present in Europe and Southwestern Asia
came directly or indirectly from that anciently invented by the race to
which the Phœnicians belonged, and they have traces of a common
relationship which can easily be detected. Now the writing of the
inscriptions at Palenque, Copan, and elsewhere in the ruins has no more
relatedness to the Phœnician than to the Chinese writing. It has not a
single characteristic that can be called Phœnician any more than the
language of the inscriptions or the style of architecture with which it
is associated; therefore we can not reasonably suppose this American
civilization was originated by people of the Phœnician race, whatever
may be thought relative to the supposed ancient communication between
the two continents and its probable influence on civilized communities
already existing here.


I have already stated in general terms the hypothesis advanced by
Brasseur de Bourbourg and some other writers. This may be called the
“Atlantic” theory, for it attributes the civilization of Ancient America
to the Atlantides or Atlantic race, who occupied the lost “island of
Atlantis.” Brasseur de Bourbourg has studied the monuments, writings,
and traditions left by this civilization more carefully and thoroughly
than any other man living. He has fancies which may be safely rejected,
and he has theories which, doubtless, will always lack confirmation; but
he has much, also, which demands respectful consideration. There is a
great deal in his books to provoke criticism; those well acquainted with
the antiquities and ancient speech of Egypt may reasonably give way to
a smile of incredulity while reading what he says in support of the
notion that the great civilization of Egypt also came originally from
this Atlantic race. Nevertheless, his volumes are important, because
they furnish materials which others can use more carefully, and because
he has learned to decipher some of the Central American writings and
brought to view certain paths of inquiry which others may pursue with a
more rigid method.

As already stated, his Atlantic theory of the old American civilization
is, that it was originated on this continent, but on a portion of the
continent which is now below the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It
supposes the continent extended, anciently, from New Granada, Central
America, and Mexico in a long, irregular peninsula, so far across the
Atlantic that the Canary, Madeira, and Azores or Western Islands may be
remains of this portion of it. High mountains stood where we now find
the West India islands. Beyond these, toward Africa and Europe, was a
great extent of fertile and beautiful land, and here arose the first
civilization of mankind, which flourished many ages, until at length
this extended portion of the continent was ingulfed by a tremendous
convulsion of nature, or by a succession of such convulsions which made
the ruin complete. After the cataclysm, a part of the Atlantic people
who escaped destruction settled in Central America, where perhaps their
civilization had been previously introduced. The reasons urged in
support of this hypothesis make it seem plausible, if not probable, to
imaginative minds.

In the first place, Brasseur de Bourbourg claims that there is in the
old Central American books a constant tradition of an immense
catastrophe of the character supposed; that this tradition existed every
where among the people when they first became known to Europeans; and
that recollections of the catastrophe were preserved in some of their
festivals, especially in one celebrated in the month of _Izcalli_, which
was instituted to commemorate this frightful destruction of land and
people, and in which “princes and people humbled themselves before the
divinity, and besought Him to withhold a return of such terrible
calamities.” This tradition affirms that a part of the continent
extending into the Atlantic was destroyed in the manner supposed, and
appears to indicate that the destruction was accomplished by a
succession of frightful convulsions. Three are constantly mentioned, and
sometimes there is mention of one or two others. “The land was shaken by
frightful earthquakes, and the waves of the sea combined with volcanic
fires to overwhelm and ingulf it.” Each convulsion swept away portions
of the land, until the whole disappeared, leaving the line of the coast
as it is now. Most of the inhabitants, overtaken amid their regular
employments, were destroyed; but some escaped in ships, and some fled
for safety to the summits of high mountains, or to portions of the land
which, for the time, escaped immediate destruction. Quotations are made
from the old books in which this tradition is recorded which appear to
verify his report of what is found in them. To criticise intelligently
his interpretation of their significance, one needs to have a knowledge
of those books and traditions equal at least to his own.

In the second place, he appeals to the story of Atlantis, preserved in
the annals of Egypt, and related to Solon by the priests of Sais. It is
stated in Plutarch’s life of Solon that while in Egypt “he conferred
with the priests of Psenophis, Sonchis, Heliopolis, and Sais, and
learned from them the story of Atlantis.” Brasseur de Bourbourg cites
Cousin’s translation of Plato’s record of this story as follows:

“Among the great deeds of Athens, of which recollection is preserved in
our books, there is one which should be placed above all others. Our
books tell that the Athenians destroyed an army which came across the
Atlantic Sea, and insolently invaded Europe and Asia; for this sea was
then navigable, and beyond the strait where you place the Pillars of
Hercules there was an island larger than Asia [Minor] and Libya
combined. From this island one could pass easily to the other islands,
and from these to the continent which lies around the interior sea. The
sea on this side of the strait (the Mediterranean) of which we speak
resembles a harbor with a narrow entrance; but there is a genuine sea,
and the land which surrounds it is a veritable continent. In the island
of Atlantis reigned three kings with great and marvelous power. They had
under their dominion the whole of Atlantis, several other islands, and
some parts of the continent. At one time their power extended into
Libya, and into Europe as far as Tyrrhenia; and, uniting their whole
force, they sought to destroy our countries at a blow, but their defeat
stopped the invasion and gave entire independence to all the countries
on this side of the Pillars of Hercules. Afterward, in one day and one
fatal night, there came mighty earthquakes and inundations, which
ingulfed that warlike people; Atlantis disappeared beneath the sea, and
then that sea became inaccessible, so that navigation on it ceased on
account of the quantity of mud which the ingulfed island left in its

This invasion took place many ages before Athens was known as a Greek
city. It is referred to an extremely remote antiquity. The festival
known as the “Lesser Panathenæa,” which, as symbolic devices used in it
show, commemorated this triumph over the Atlantes, is said to have been
instituted by the mythical Erichthonius in the earliest times remembered
by Athenian tradition. Solon had knowledge of the Atlantes before he
went to Egypt, but he heard there, for the first time, this account of
their “island” and of its disappearance in a frightful cataclysm. But
Atlantis is mentioned by other ancient writers. An extract preserved in
Proclus, taken from a work now lost, which is quoted by Boeckh in his
commentary on Plato, mentions islands in the exterior sea beyond the
Pillars of Hercules, and says it was known that in one of these islands
“the inhabitants preserved from their ancestors a remembrance of
Atlantis, an extremely large island, which for a long time held dominion
over all the islands of the Atlantic Ocean.”

Brasseur de Bourbourg claims that these traditions, on both sides of the
Atlantic, mean the same thing. The “island of Atlantis,” larger than
Libya and Asia Minor together, was the extended portion of the American
continent. These concurring traditions can not be devoid of historical
significance. The constant references by ancient Greek writers to the
Atlantes, who are always placed at the extremity of Europe and Africa,
on the ocean which bears their name, may reasonably be regarded as vague
and faded recollections of such a history connected with that ocean as
that implied by what was said of their island in the annals of Egypt. In
support of his view of what is meant by the traditions, he adds this
philological argument:

“The words _Atlas_ and _Atlantic_ have no satisfactory etymology in any
language known to Europe. They are not Greek, and can not be referred to
any known language of the Old World. But in the Nahuatl language we find
immediately the radical _a_, _atl_, which signifies water, war, and the
top of the head. (Molina, _Vocab. en lengua mexicana y castellana_,
etc.) From this comes a series of words, such as _atlan_, on the border
of or amid the water, from which we have the adjective _Atlantic_. We
have also atlaça, to combat or be in agony; it means likewise to hurl or
dart from the water, and in the preterit makes _atlaz_. A city named
_Atlan_ existed when the continent was discovered by Columbus, at the
entrance of the Gulf of Uraba, in Darien, with a good harbor; it is now
reduced to an unimportant pueblo named _Acla_.”

In the third place, he quotes opinions expressed without any regard
whatever to his theory to show that scientific men who have considered
the question believe that there was formerly a great extension of the
land into the Atlantic in the manner supposed. The first quotation is
from Moreau de Saint-Mery’s “Description topographique et politique de
la Partie Espagnole a l’Isle de Saint-Domingue,” published in 1796, as

“There are those who, in examining the map of America, do not confine
themselves to thinking with the French Pliny that the innumerable
islands situated from the mouth of the Orinoco to the Bahama Channel
(islands which include several _Grenadins_ not always visible in very
high tides or great agitations of the sea) should be considered as
summits of vast mountains whose bases and sides are covered with water,
but who go farther, and suppose these islands to be the tops of the most
elevated of a chain of mountains which crowned a portion of the
continent whose submersion has produced the Gulf of Mexico. But to
sustain this opinion it must be added that another vast surface of land
which united the islands of this archipelago to the continent, from
Yucatan to the mouth of the Orinoco, was submerged in the same way, and
also a third surface which connected them with the peninsula of Florida
and with whatever land may have constituted the northern termination;
for we can not imagine that these mountains whose summits appear above
water stood on the terminating line of the continent.”

He quotes, also, another authority which “can not be suspected,” namely,
M. Charles Martins, who said, in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ for March
1, 1867, “Now, hydrography, geology, and botany agree in teaching us
that the Azores, the Canaries, and Madeira are the remains of a great
continent which formerly united Europe to North America.” He could have
added other quotations in the same strain. Those geologists who believe
that “our continents have long remained in nearly the same relative
position” would probably give the supposed change a much greater
antiquity than Brasseur de Bourbourg would be likely to accept; and the
geological “Uniformitarians” would deny with emphasis that so great a
change in the shape of a continent was ever effected by such means, or
with such rapidity as he supposes. But the latest and most advanced
school of geological speculation does not exclude “Catastrophism,” and,
therefore, will not deny the possibility of sudden and great changes by
this method.

Doubtless the antiquity of the human race is much greater than is
usually assumed by those whose views of the past are still regulated by
mediæval systems of chronology. Archæology and linguistic science, not
to speak here of geology, make it certain that the period between the
beginning of the human race and the birth of Christ would be more
accurately stated if the centuries counted in the longest estimate of
the rabbinical chronologies should be changed to millenniums. And they
present also another fact, namely, that the antiquity of civilization is
very great, and suggest that in remote ages it may have existed, with
important developments, in regions of the earth now described as
barbarous, and even, as Brasseur de Bourbourg supposes, on ancient
continents or portions of continents now out of sight below the surface
of the oceans. The representation of some speculators that the condition
of the human race since its first appearance on earth has been a
condition of universal and hopeless savagery down to a comparatively
modern date, is an assumption merely, an unwarranted assumption used in
support of an unproved and unprovable theory of man’s origin. Its use in
the name of science by advocates of this theory, like the theory itself,
shows that the constructive power of fancy and imagination will
sometimes supersede every thing else, and substitute its ingenious
constructions for legitimate conclusions, even in scientific

We may claim reasonably that Brasseur de Bourbourg’s Atlantic theory is
not proved, and on this ground refuse to accept it. So far as appears,
it is a fanciful theory which can not be proved. No one is under
obligation to attempt disproving it. It may, in some cases, win
supporters by enlisting in its favor all the forces of imagination, to
which it appeals with seductive plausibility. On the other hand, it will
be rejected without much regard to what can be said in its favor, for it
interferes with current unreasoning beliefs concerning antiquity and
ancient history, and must encounter vehement contradiction from habits
of thought fixed by these beliefs. True, some of the stock views of
antiquity, by which it will be earnestly opposed, are themselves far
more destitute of foundation in either fact or reason; but this will
make no difference, as the habit of never allowing them to be subjected
to the searching power of reason does not permit such persons either to
believe or deny any thing connected with this topic in a reasonable

Some of the uses made of this theory can not endure criticism. For
instance, when he makes it the basis of an assumption that all the
civilization of the Old World went originally from America, and claims
particularly that the supposed “Atlantic race” created Egypt, he goes
quite beyond reach of the considerations used to give his hypothesis a
certain air of probability. It may be, as he says, that for every
pyramid in Egypt there are a thousand in Mexico and Central America, but
the ruins in Egypt and those in America have nothing in common. The two
countries were entirely different in their language, in their styles of
architecture, in their written characters, and in the physical
characteristics of their earliest people, as they are seen sculptured or
painted on the monuments. An Egyptian pyramid is no more the same thing
as a Mexican pyramid than a Chinese pagoda is the same thing as an
English light-house. It was not made in the same way, nor for the same
uses. The ruined monuments show, in generals and in particulars, that
the original civilizers in America were profoundly different from the
ancient Egyptians. The two peoples can not explain each other.

This, however, does not require us to assert positively that the Central
American “Colhuas” and the legendary Atlantes could not possibly have
been the same people, or people of the same race. Room may be left for
any amount of conjecture not inconsistent with known facts, without
making it necessary to accept a theory of the origin of the old Mexican
race which at present can neither be proved nor disproved.


It has been said, very justly, by one explorer of the Mexican and
Central American ruins, that “the American monuments are different from
those of any other known people, of a new order, and entirely and
absolutely anomalous; they stand alone.” The more we study them, the
more we find it necessary to believe that the civilization they
represent was originated in America, and probably in the region where
they are found. It did not come from the Old World; it was the work of
some remarkably gifted branch of the race found on the southern part of
this continent when it was discovered in 1492. Undoubtedly it was very
old. Its original beginning may have been as old as Egypt, or even
farther back in the past than the ages to which Atlantis must be
referred; and it may have been later than the beginning of Egypt. Who
can certainly tell its age? Whether earlier or later, it was original.

Its constructions seem to have been a refined and artistic development
of a style of building different from that of any other people, which
began with ruder forms, but in all the periods of its history preserved
the same general conception. They show us the idea of the Mound-Builders
wrought out in stone and embellished by art. The decorations, and the
writing also, are wholly original. There is no imitation of the work of
any people ever known in Asia, Africa, or Europe. It appears evident
that the method of building seen in the great ruins began with the ruder
forms of mound-work, and became what we find it by gradual development,
as the advancing civilization supplied new ideas and gave higher skill.
But the culture and the work were wholly original, wholly American.

The civilized life of the ancient Mexicans and Central Americans may
have had its original beginning somewhere in South America, for they
seem more closely related to the ancient South Americans than to the
wild Indians north of the Mexican border; but the peculiar development
of it represented by the ruins must have begun in the region where they
are found. I find myself more and more inclined to the opinion that the
aboriginal South Americans are the oldest people on this continent; that
they are distinct in race; and that the wild Indians of the North came
originally from Asia, where the race to which they belong seems still
represented by the Koraks and Chookchees found in that part of Asia
which extends to Behring’s Strait.

If, as there is reason to believe, the countries on the Mediterranean
had communication with America in very ancient times, they found here a
civilization already developed, and contributed nothing to change its
style of building and decorating cities. They may have influenced it in
other respects; for, if such communication was opened across the
Atlantic, it was probably continued for a long time, and its
interruption may or may not be due, as Brasseur de Bourbourg supposes,
to the cataclysm which ingulfed Atlantis. Religious symbols are found
in the American ruins which remind us of those of the Phœnicians, such
as figures of the serpent, which appear constantly, and the cross,
supposed by some to represent the mounting of the magnetic needle,
which was among the emblems peculiar to the goddess Astarte. A figure
appears occasionally in the sculptures, in which some have sought to
recognize Astarte, one at Palenque being described as follows: “It is a
female figure moulded in stucco, holding a child on her left arm and
hand, just as Astarte appears on the Sidonian medals.” I find it
impossible to see that this figure has any resemblance whatever to the
Phœnician goddess. They are not alike either in dress, posture, or
expression. Dupaix describes it correctly in saying it represents a
person apparently “absorbed in devotion”--a worshiper, and not a
goddess. Moreover, Astarte usually appears on the medals standing on
the forward deck of a vessel, holding a cross with one hand, and
pointing forward with the other. And, finally, this figure seems to
represent, not a woman, but a priest. There was sun-worship in America,
and the phallic ceremonies existed in some places in the time of
Cortez. In Asia these ceremonies and figures of the serpent were
usually associated with sun-worship. Humboldt was sure that these
symbols came to America from the Old World. A more careful study of the
subject might have led him to modify this belief. But, whether we adopt
his explanation or some other, the traditions on both sides of the
Atlantic are without meaning unless it be admitted that there was
communication between the two continents in times of which we have no


[170-*] See Appendix C.



If a consecutive history of the ancient people of Central America and
Mexico were ever written, it has been lost. Probably nothing of the kind
ever was written in the manner which we call history, although there
must have been regular annals of some kind. The ruins show that they had
the art of writing, and that, at the south, this art was more developed,
more like a phonetic system of writing than that found in use among the
Aztecs. The inscriptions of Palenque, and the characters used in some of
the manuscript books that have been preserved, are not the same as the
“Mexican Picture Writing.” It is known that books or manuscript writings
were abundant among them in the ages previous to the Aztec period. They
had an accurate measure of the solar year and a system of chronology,
and many of their writings were historical. Among the Mayas, and in
other communities of the same family, writing was largely used in the
time of the Spaniards. It was common also among the Aztecs, but they
used “picture writing.” Las Casas wrote on this point as follows:

“It should be known that in all the commonwealths of these countries, in
the kingdoms of New Spain and elsewhere, among other professions duly
filled by suitable persons was that of chronicler and historian. These
chroniclers had knowledge of the origin of the kingdoms, and of whatever
related to religion and the gods, as well as to the founders of towns
and cities. They recorded the history of kings, and of the modes of
their election and succession; of their labors, actions, wars, and
memorable deeds, good and bad; of the virtuous men or heroes of former
days, their great deeds, the wars they had waged, and how they had
distinguished themselves; who had been the earliest settlers, what had
been their ancient customs, their triumphs, and defeats. They knew, in
fact, whatever pertained to history, and were able to give an account of
all past events. * * * These chroniclers had likewise to calculate the
days, months, and years; and though they had no writing like ours, they
had their symbols and characters through which they understood every
thing; and they had great books, which were composed with such ingenuity
and art that our characters were really of no great assistance to them.
Our priests have seen those books, and I myself have seen them likewise,
though many were burned at the instigation of the monks, who were afraid
they might impede the work of conversion.”

Books such as those here described by Las Casas must have contained
important historical information. The older books, belonging to the ages
of Copan and Palenque, went to decay doubtless long previous to his
time, in the wars and revolutions of the Toltec period, or by the wear
of time. The later books, not otherwise lost, were destroyed by Aztec
and Spanish vandalism. According to tradition, and the testimony of
writings still in existence when the Spaniards went there, the Aztec or
Mexican sovereign Ytzcoatl destroyed many of the old Toltec books. His
aim was probably to exterminate among the people all memory of the
previous times. Such things have been done with similar motives, as we
know, in other countries, by successful usurpers and conquerors. We
learn from Spanish writers that a still greater destruction of the old
books was effected by the more ignorant and fanatical of the Spanish
priests who were established in the country as missionaries after the
Conquest. This is stated by Las Casas, himself one of the missionaries.
Besides the many smaller bonfires of this fanaticism, there is record of
a great conflagration, under the auspices of Bishop Zumarraga, in which
a vast collection of these old writings was consumed. As the writing was
all on paper (which had long been used in the country), the burning was
easily accomplished.


The Franciscan and Dominican fanatics, whose learning and religion
consisted of ignorance and bigotry, hoped to exterminate among the
people all recollection of their former history, ideas, and religious
customs. A few of the books, however, escaped; none, indeed, that were
very old, for it does not appear that any of the manuscripts rescued
from destruction were written or copied earlier than the age which
closed the Aztec domination. None of the great books of annals
described by Las Casas are among them, but they relate to the ancient
times, and most of them are copies or reproductions of much older books.

[Illustration: Fig. 49.--Inscriptions carved on Stone.]

Among these destroying Spanish ecclesiastics, there was here and there
one who quietly secured some of the manuscripts, or copies of them.
These were kept from the flames. Others were secreted by the people; and
subsequently, in years after the conquest was completed, some of the
more intelligent churchmen wrote histories of the country, or portions
of it, which were preserved in manuscript. Sahagun wrote such a history,
which shows that he had studied the traditions and some of the old
books; this work is printed in the great collection of Lord
Kingsborough. Diego de Landa, first bishop of Yucatan, wrote a history
of the Mayas and their country, which was preserved in manuscript at
Madrid in the library of the Royal Academy of History. It is one of the
most important works on the country written by a Spaniard, because it
contains a description and explanation of the phonetic alphabet of the
Mayas. Landa’s manuscript seems to have lain neglected in the library,
for little or nothing was heard of it until it was discovered and
studied by Brasseur de Bourbourg, who, by means of it, has deciphered
some of the old American writings. He says “the alphabet and signs
explained by Landa have been to me a Rosetta stone.” Figure 49
represents a specimen of the inscriptions as carved upon stone. Figure
50 gives them as they appear in manuscript.

[Illustration: Fig. 50.--Manuscript Writing.]

An extensive and important manuscript work, written two hundred years
ago by Francisco Ximenes, an ecclesiastic, is preserved in Guatemala.
He, being drawn to inquiries concerning the antiquities and ancient
history of the country, was able to get possession of several of the
old books, one of them being that known as “Popol-Vuh.” His manuscript,
arranged in four great volumes (one of which, it is said, has
disappeared), contains valuable information in regard to the ancient
history and traditions of Guatemala. One of the volumes has a copy of
the “Popol-Vuh” in the native tongue, and another has a Spanish
translation of the work. He left also a manuscript Dictionary of the
principal Guatemalan dialects (which belong to the Maya family),
entitled “Tesoro de las Lenguas Quiché, Cakchiquel, y Tzutohil.”
Probably other manuscripts of the same character exist at Madrid and in
Central America which are not yet known to those who can understand
their importance.

As already stated, none of the great books of annals have been
discovered, but some of the old American manuscripts now preserved in
several of the libraries and private collections of Europe are
important. Three are specified as particularly valuable to students of
American antiquity: that called the “Codex Chimalpopoca,” an old Toltec
book, written in the Toltec language; one now entitled the “Codex
Cakchiquel;” and the “Popol-Vuh.” The latter, written in the Quiché
dialect, was translated into Spanish two hundred years ago by Ximenes,
but his translation remained in Guatemala unprinted and quite unknown
until it was discovered in our time. Brasseur de Bourbourg, who is
master of the Quiché language, and to whom we are indebted for most that
is known of the manuscripts of Ximenes, thought this Spanish translation
very imperfect; therefore he has translated the work into French.

The “Popol-Vuh” was written in 1558 as an abridged reproduction of a
very ancient Quiché book which contained an account of the history,
traditions, religion, and cosmogony of the Quichés. The first part of it
is devoted to the cosmogony and traditional lore; the rest gives an
account of the Quichés, who, at the time of the Conquest, were the
dominant people in the Central American regions south of the great
forest. If the history were consecutive and clear, it would not take us
back into the past more than three or four centuries beyond 1558, for
the Quiché domination was probably not much older than that of the
Aztecs. But the history is not clear. Putting aside the mythical and
legendary portion of it which relates to origins and migrations, we can
see that it extends over some fourteen generations, which may indicate
that Quiché became an independent and ruling power about 1200 A.D.

For those who study the book it is full of interest. It shows us their
conceptions of the Supreme Being and his relation to the world; it
enables us to see what they admired in character as virtue, heroism,
nobleness, and beauty; it discloses their mythology and their notions of
religious worship; in a word, it bears witness to the fact that the
various families of mankind are all of “one blood,” so far, at least, as
to be precisely alike in nature.

The cosmogony and mythical lore of the Quichés seem to have their root
in the beliefs and facts of a time far more ancient than the national
beginning of this people. In assuming the form in which we find them,
they must have passed through several phases of growth, which changed
their appearance and obscured their meaning. Manifestly the history of
the country did not begin with the Quichés. The account of the creation,
with every thing else in this cosmogony and mythology, is original, like
the civilization to which they belong.

According to the “Popol-Vuh,” the world had a beginning. There was a
time when it did not exist. Only “Heaven” existed, below which all space
was an empty, silent, unchanging solitude. Nothing existed there,
neither man, nor animal, nor earth, nor tree. Then appeared a vast
expanse of water on which divine beings moved in brightness. “They said
‘earth!’ and instantly the earth was created. It came into being like a
vapor; mountains rose above the waters like lobsters and were made. Thus
was the earth created by the Heart of Heaven.” Next came the creation of
animals; but the gods were disappointed because the animals could
neither tell their names nor worship the Heart of Heaven.

Therefore it was resolved that man should be created. First, man was
made of earth, but his flesh had no cohesion; he was inert, could not
turn his head, and had no mind, although he could speak; therefore he
was consumed in the water. Next, men were made of wood, and these
multiplied, but they had neither heart nor intellect, and could not
worship, and so they withered up and disappeared in the waters. A third
attempt followed: man was made of a tree called tzité, and woman of the
pith of a reed; but these failed to think, speak, or worship, and were
destroyed, all save a remnant which still exists as a race of small
monkeys found in forests.

A fourth attempt to create the human race was successful, but the
circumstances attending this creation are veiled in mystery. It took
place before the beginning of dawn, when neither sun nor moon had risen,
and was a wonder-work of the Heart of Heaven. Four men were created, and
they could reason, speak, and see in such a manner as to know all things
at once. They worshiped the Creator with thanks for existence, but the
gods, dismayed and scared, breathed clouds on their eyes to limit their
vision, and cause them to be men and not gods. Afterward, while the four
men were asleep, the gods made for them beautiful wives, and from these
came all the tribes and families of the earth.

No account of the rescued fragments of this old literature of Ancient
America should omit giving due credit to Chevalier Boturini, the
Milanese, who went from Italy to America in 1735 as an agent of the
Countess Santibañey, who claimed to be a descendant of Montezuma. He,
too, was a devotee, and believed that St. Thomas preached the Gospel in
America; but he had antiquarian tastes, and was sufficiently intelligent
to understand the importance of the old manuscripts which had furnished
so much fuel for the bonfires of fanaticism. During the eight years of
his residence in Mexico and Central America he hunted diligently for
those still in existence, and made a considerable collection, including
in it some of the Mexican “picture writings.” But when about to leave,
he was despoiled of his treasure and flung into prison by the Spanish
viceroy. He finally left the country with a portion of them, but was
captured by an English cruiser and again despoiled. The manuscripts
left in Mexico were finally sold at auction while Humboldt was there; he
secured a portion of them. Another portion was brought to France about
1830 by M. Aubin, who made important additions to it. M. Aubin himself
spent years searching for remains of the old writings, and he has now,
it is supposed, the most valuable collection in Europe.

It is likely that most of the recovered books may be translated by those
who can bring to the work habits of patient study and a thorough
knowledge of the native dialects. Dictionaries of these dialects, as
they were spoken at the time of the Conquest, were prepared by some of
the Spanish priests, and other facilities are not wanting. It is
surprising, however, that no one has translated the “Codex Chimalpopoca”
(which seems the most important) if the language in which it is written
is in fact sufficiently modern to be managed as easily as that of “Popol
Vuh.” It must be translatable, for its general tenor is known, and
passages of it are quoted. Brasseur de Bourbourg states that he has
undertaken a translation. But who will translate the inscriptions at
Copan and Palenque? Is the language in which they were written an old
form of speech, from which the dialects of the Maya family, or a portion
of them, were derived? They have not been translated. No one has found a
clew to their meaning. The characters are understood, but they appear to
show an older form of the language, which at present can not be
deciphered. Brasseur de Bourbourg’s “Rosetta Stone,” discovered in
Landa’s manuscript, will not serve him here. Another more potent must
be found before these old inscriptions can be made to give up their


It is impossible to know what was contained in the books of annals
written by the official chroniclers of these ancient American countries,
for these books are lost. They existed at the time of the Conquest; some
of them were seen and described by Las Casas; but, so far as is known,
not one of these books of regular annals, such as he described, has
escaped destruction; therefore it is impossible to know any thing
certainly of their character as histories.

The books preserved furnish little more than vague outlines of the past,
with obscure views of distinct periods in the history, created by
successive dominations of different peoples or different branches of the
same people. What they enable us to know of the old history resembles
what is known of the early times of the Greeks, who had no ancient
histories excepting such as were furnished by their “poets of the
cycle.” In one case we are told of Pelasgians, Leleges, Cadmeans,
Argives, and Eolians very much as in the other we are told of Colhuas,
Chichimecs, Quinames, and Nahuas.

But the outline is not wholly dark; it does not exclude the possibility
of a reasonable attempt at hypothesis. When Cortez entered Mexico, the
Aztecs, Montezuma’s people, had been in power more than two centuries.
Most of the ancient history, of which something is said in these books,
relates to ages previous to their time, and chiefly to their
predecessors, the Toltecs. According to these writings, the country
where the ruins are found was occupied in successive periods by three
distinct peoples, the Chichimecs, the Colhuas, and the Toltecs or
Nahuas. The Toltecs are said to have come into the country about a
thousand years before the Christian era. Their supremacy appears to have
ceased, and left the country broken up into small states, two or three
centuries before the Aztecs appeared. They were preceded by the Colhuas,
by whom this old civilization was originated and developed. The most
ancient people, those found in the country by the Colhuas, are called
Chichimecs. They are described as a barbarous people who lived by
hunting and fishing, and had neither towns nor agriculture. This term
Chichimecs appears to have been a generic appellation for all
uncivilized aborigines. Brasseur de Bourbourg says, “Under the generic
name Chichimecs, which has much embarrassed some writers, the Mexican
traditions include the whole aboriginal population of the New World, and
especially the people by whom it was first occupied at the beginning of

Some of the traditions state that the Colhuas came from the east in
ships. Sahagun mentions that a tradition to this effect was current in
Yucatan. The precise value of these traditional reports is uncertain;
but, if accepted as vague historical recollections, they could be
explained by supposing the civilized people called Colhuas came from
South America through the Caribbean Sea, and landed in Yucatan and
Tabasco. They are uniformly described as the people who first
established civilization and built great cities. They taught the
Chichimecs to cook their food, cultivate the earth, and adopt the ways
of civilized life; and the Chichimecs civilized by their influence are
sometimes called Quinames.

The Colhuas are connected with vague references to a long and important
period in the history previous to the Toltec ages. They seem to have
been, in some respects, more advanced in civilization than the Toltecs.
What is said of events in their history relates chiefly to their great
city called Xibalba, the capital of an important kingdom to which this
name was given. The Toltecs, in alliance with the uncivilized Chichimecs
of the mountains, subjugated this city and kingdom, and thus brought to
a close the period which may be termed Colhuan. This kingdom appears to
have included Guatemala, Yucatan, Tabasco, Tehuantepec, Chiapa,
Honduras, and other districts in Central America; and it may have
included all Southern Mexico, for places north of the Tampico River are
mentioned as being within its limits when the Toltecs came into the
country. Some of the principal seats of the Colhuan civilization were in
the region now covered by the great forest. Some investigators have
sought to identify the city of Xibalba with the ruined city known to us
as Palenque. Brasseur de Bourbourg says: “Palenque appears to have been
the same city to which the books give the name of Xibalba;” but this is
nothing but conjecture. We may as reasonably suppose Copan, Quirigua, or
some other old ruin, to have been Xibalba.

Those who attempt to believe this old American civilization was brought
across the Atlantic by the Phœnicians in very remote times, assume,
against the plain testimony of the monuments, that the Colhuas came to
America from some country on the Mediterranean. They may have come from
some other part of this continent. In my judgment, it is not improbable
that they came by sea from South America. Brasseur de Bourbourg would
say they were people of the Atlantic race, who, having escaped
destruction by the cataclysm, found their way to Yucatan and Tabasco.
But there is little beside conjecture to support any theory of their
origin. We have only the fact that, according to the old books and
traditions of the country, they occupied that region at a remote period,
and originated the civilization whose monuments are found there.
Tradition places their first settlements on the Gulf coast in Tabasco,
between Tehuantepec and Yucatan. It is inferred that the Mayas,
Tzendals, Quichés, and some other communities of the old race, were
descendants of the Colhuas, their speech being more highly developed
than that of any native community not connected with this family, and
their written characters having a close resemblance to those of the
oldest inscriptions.


As the remains of the Mound-Builders show clearly that they had
commercial intercourse with the Mexican and Central American countries,
and as it seems probable that they had otherwise a very close relation
to the people of those countries, it would be surprising to find no
mention of their country in the old books and traditions of the Central
Americans and Mexicans. If we could have the lost books, especially
those of the more ancient time, and learn to read them, it might be
possible to know something of the origin and history of the
Mound-Builders. It is believed that distinct reference to their country
has been found in the books still in existence, and there appears to be
reason for this belief. Brasseur de Bourbourg, one of the few
investigators who have explored them, says:

“Previous to the history of the Toltec domination in Mexico, we notice
in the annals of the country two facts of great importance, but equally
obscure in their details: first, the tradition concerning the landing of
a foreign race, conducted by an illustrious personage, who came from an
eastern country; and, second, the existence of an ancient empire known
as Huehue-Tlapalan, from which the Toltecs or Nahuas came to Mexico, in
consequence of a revolution or invasion, and from which they had a long
and toilsome migration to the Aztec plateau.”

He believes that Huehue-Tlapalan was the country of the Mound-Builders
in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. According to the native books he
has examined, it was somewhere at a distance in the northeast; and it is
constantly said that some of the Toltecs came by land and some by sea.
Sahagun learned from the old books and traditions, and stated in the
introduction to the first book of his history, that the Toltecs came
from that distant northeastern country; and he mentions a company that
came by sea, settled near the Tampico River, and built a town called
Panuco. Brasseur de Bourbourg finds that an account of this or another
company was preserved at Xilanco, an ancient city situated on the point
of an island between Lake Terminos and the sea, and famous for its
commerce, wealth, and intelligence. The company described in this
account came from the northeast in the same way, it is said, to the
Tampico River, and landed at Panuco. It consisted of twenty chiefs and a
numerous company of people. Torquemada found a record which describes
them as people of fine appearance. They went forward into the country
and were well received. He says they were industrious, orderly, and
intelligent, and that they worked metals, and were skillful artists and
lapidaries. All the accounts say the Toltecs came at different times, by
land and sea, mostly in small companies, and always from the northeast.
This can be explained only by supposing they came by sea from the mouth
of the Mississippi River or from the Gulf coast near it, and by land
through Texas. But the country from which they came was invariably

Cabrera says Huehue-Tlapalan was the ancient country of the Toltecs. Its
simple name was Tlapalan, but they called it Huehue, old, to distinguish
it from three other Tlapalans which they founded in the districts of
their new kingdom. Torquemada says the same. We are not authorized to
reject a fact so distinctly stated and so constantly reported in the old
books. The most we can do against it with any show of reason is to
receive it with doubt. Therefore it seems not improbable that the “Old
Tlapalan” of Central American tradition was the country of our

Another circumstance mentioned is not without significance. It is said,
in connection with this account of the Toltec migration, that
Huehue-Tlapalan was successfully invaded by Chichimecs, meaning
barbarous aboriginal tribes, who were united under one great leader.
Here is one statement (a little condensed) touching this point: “There
was a terrible struggle, but, after about thirteen years, the Toltecs,
no longer able to resist successfully, were obliged to abandon their
country to escape complete subjugation. Two chiefs guided the march of
the emigrating nation. At length they reached a region near the sea
named ‘Tlapalan-Conco,’ where they remained several years. But they
finally undertook another migration and reached Mexico, where they built
a town called ‘Tollanzinco,’ and later the city of Tullan, which became
the seat of their government.”

This is substantially what is told of the defeat and migrations of the
Toltecs. The history of Ixtlilxochitl adds doubtful modifications and
particulars not found in the “Codex Chimalpopoca.” (See Quatre Lettres,
etc.) This Chichimec invasion of Huehue-Tlapalan is placed at a period
which, in the chronology of the native books, was long previous to the
Christian era, and is mentioned to explain the beginning of the Toltec
movement toward Mexico; but the account of it is obscure.

To find a system of chronology in these old books is not surprising when
we consider that even the Aztecs of Montezuma’s time knew enough of
astronomy to have a correct measure of the year. The Aztecs adopted the
methods of astronomy and chronology which were used by their
predecessors. They divided the year into eighteen months of twenty days
each; but, as this gave the year only three hundred and sixty days, five
supplementary days were added to each year, and a sixth day to every
fourth year. The bissextile is known to have been used by the Mayas,
Tzendals, and Quichés, and it was probably common.

We can not reasonably refuse to give some attention to their chronology,
even while doubting its value as a means of fixing dates and measuring
historical periods. Its method was to count by equal periods of years,
as we count by centuries, and their chronology presents a series of
periods which carries back their history to a very remote time in the
past. Brasseur de Bourbourg says: “In the histories written in the
Nahuatl language, the oldest certain date is nine hundred and fifty-five
years before Christ.” This, he means, is the oldest date in the history
of the Nahuas or Toltecs which has been accurately determined. The
calculation by which it is found is quoted from the later portion of the
“Codex Chimalpopoca” as follows: “Six times 400 years plus 113 years”
previous to the year 1558 A.D. This is given as the date of a division
of the land by the Nahuas. The division was made 2513 years previous to
1558 A.D., or in 955 B.C. If this date could be accepted as authentic,
it would follow that the Nahuas or Toltecs left Huehue-Tlapalan more
than a thousand years previous to the Christian era, for they dwelt a
long time in the country of Xibalba as peaceable settlers before they
organized the civil war which raised them to power.


That the ancient history of the country was something like what is
reported in the old writings seems not improbable when we consider the
condition in which the native population was found three hundred and
fifty years ago. This shows that Mexico and Central America had been
subjected to disrupting political changes caused by violent transfers of
supreme influence from one people to another several times in the course
of a long history. Such a history is indicated by the monuments, and its
traces were noticeable in peculiarities of the native inhabitants of the
various districts at the time of the Spanish Conquest. They are still
manifest to travelers who study the existing representatives of the old
race and the old dialects sufficiently to find them. There were several
distinct families or groups of language, and, in many cases, the people
represented by each family of dialects were in a state of separation or
disruption. To a considerable extent they existed in fragmentary
communities, sometimes widely separated.

The most important group of related dialects was that which included the
speech of the Mayas, Quichés, and Tzendals, which, it is supposed,
represented the language of the original civilizers, the Colhuas.
Dialects of this family are found on both sides of the great forest.
There were other dialects supposed to indicate Toltec communities; and
there were communities south of Mexico, in Nicaragua, and even farther
south, which used the Aztec speech. Very likely all these differing
groups of language came originally from the same source, and really
represent a single race, but comparative philology has not yet reported
on them. Mention is made of another people, called Waiknas or Caribs,
and conjecture sees in them remains of the aboriginal barbarians termed
Chichimecs. They dwelt chiefly in the “dense, dank forests” found
growing on the low alluvion of the Atlantic coast. So far as is known,
their speech had no affinity with that of any other native community.
People of this race constitute a chief element in the mixed population
of the “Mosquito Coast,” known as Moscos.

In Yucatan the old inhabitants were Mayas, and people using dialects
related to theirs were numerous in Tabasco, Chiapa, Guatemala, and the
neighboring districts, while all around the country were scattered
communities supposed to be of Toltec origin, as their speech could not
be classed with these dialects nor with that of the Aztecs. The most
reasonable explanation of this condition of the people is that furnished
by the old chronicles and traditions. The country must have been
occupied, during successive periods, by different peoples, who are
represented by these broken communities and unlike groups of language.
When all the native writings still in existence shall have been
translated, and especially when the multitude of inscriptions found in
the ruins shall have been deciphered, we may be able to see in a clearer
light the ruins, the people, and their history.


[197-*] See Appendix D.



If a clever gleaner of the curious and notable things in literature
should write on the curiosities of historical speculation, he would be
sure to take some account of “A New History of the Conquest of Mexico”
published in Philadelphia in 1859. The special aim of this work is to
deny utterly the civilization of the Aztecs. The author has ability,
earnestness, and knowledge of what has been written on the subject; he
writes with vigor, and with a charming extravagance of dogmatic
assumption, which must be liked for its heartiness, while it fails to
convince those who study it. This writer fully admits the significance
of the old ruins, and maintains that a great civilization formerly
existed in that part of the continent. This he ascribes to the
Phœnicians, while he gives it an extreme antiquity, and thinks the
present ruins have existed as ruins “for thousands of years,” explaining
these words to mean that their history “is separated by a cycle of
thousands of years from the civilization of our day.” In his view, the
people who constructed the old cities were subjugated and destroyed,
long ages since, “by inroads of northern savages,” who were the only
people in the country when the Spaniards arrived.

The chief business of this “New History” is to set forth these views.
Under the treatment of its author, Montezuma becomes a rude Indian
sachem, his kingdom a confederation of barbarous Indian tribes like that
of the Iroquois, the city of Mexico a cluster of mud huts or wigwams in
an everglade, its causeways rude Indian footpaths, its temples and
palaces pure fictions of lying Spanish romance, and all previous
histories of the Aztecs and their country extravagant inventions with a
“Moorish coloring.” He would have us believe that what he calls “the
pretended civilization of Montezuma and his Aztecs” was a monstrous
fable of the Spaniards, a “pure fabrication,” encouraged by the civil
authority in Spain, and supported by the censorship of the Inquisition.
Therefore he undertakes to destroy “the fabric of lies,” unveil those
“Mexican savages” the Aztecs, and tell a “new” story of their actual
character and condition.

Of course, views so preposterous do not find much favor. If the Mexicans
had been nothing more than this, the experience of Cortez among them
would have been like that of De Soto in his long and disastrous march
through Florida, the Gulf regions, and the country on the lower
Mississippi. Cortez and his men had a different fortune, because their
march was among people who had towns, cities, settled communities, and
the appliances and accumulations of civilized life. Doubtless some of
the Spaniards exaggerated and romanced for effect in Spain, but they did
not invent either the city of Mexico or the kingdom of Montezuma. We can
see clearly that the Mexicans were a civilized people, that Montezuma’s
city of Mexico was larger than the present city, and that an important
empire was substantially conquered when that city was finally subjugated
and destroyed.

That the ancient city of Mexico was a great city, well built partly of
timber and partly of cut stone laid in a mortar of lime, appears in all
that is said of the siege, and of the dealings of Cortez with its people
and their rulers. Montezuma, wishing to remove false notions of the
Spaniards concerning his wealth, said to Cortez during their first
interview, “The Tlascalans, I know, have told you that I am like a god,
and that all about me is gold, silver, and precious stones; but you now
see that I am mere flesh and blood, and that _my houses are built of
lime, stone, and timber_.” Lime, stone, and timber! This was the poorest
view of the old city of Mexico that could be given to those who saw it.
It is not easy to understand how a denial of the Aztec civilization was


The first inhabitants of that part of the continent seen by Spaniards
were Mayas from Yucatan. Columbus met them in 1502 at an island near
Ruatan, off the coast of Honduras. While he was stopping at this island,
these Mayas came there “in a vessel of considerable size” from a port in
Yucatan, thirty leagues distant. It was a trading vessel, freighted with
a variety of merchandise, and it used sails. Its cargo consisted of a
variety of textile fabrics of divers colors, wearing apparel, arms,
household furniture, and cacao, and the crew numbered twenty men.
Columbus, who treated them very kindly, described these strangers as
well clothed, intelligent, and altogether superior to any other people
he had discovered in America. Adventurers hunting for prey soon began to
make voyages in that direction and report what they saw. Sailing along
the coast of Yucatan, they discovered cities, and “the grandeur of the
buildings filled them with astonishment.” On the main land and on one or
two islands they saw great edifices built of stone. The seeming riches
and other attractions of the country led the Spaniards to invade
Yucatan, but they were defeated and driven off. At this time they gained
considerable knowledge of Mexico, and persuaded themselves that immense
wealth could be found there.

Finally, in March, 1519, Cortez landed near the place where Vera Cruz
was afterward built, and moved on through the country toward the city of
Mexico. Studying, in all the histories of the Conquest, only their
incidental references to the civilized condition of the people, we can
see plainly what it was. As the invaders approached Tlascala, they found
“beautiful whitewashed houses” scattered over the country. The
Tlascalans had towns, cities, agriculture, and markets. Cortez found
among them all that was needed by his troops. His supremacy in Tlascala
was easily established; and it was not difficult to induce the people to
aid him cordially in his operations against Mexico, for they hated the
Aztecs, by whom they had recently been subjugated. In a description of
their capital, he stated that it was as large as the city of Granada, in

He went next to Cholulu, where, near the great mound, was an important
city, in which they saw a “great plaza.” Bernal Diaz said of this city,
“I well remember, when we first entered this town and looked up to the
elevated white temples, how the whole place put us completely in mind of
Valladolid.” The “white temples” were “elevated” because they stood on
high pyramidal foundations, just as they are seen in the old ruins. It
is probable, however, that these were built of adobe bricks or of
timber. The city very likely was much older than the Aztec empire. A
Spanish officer named Ordaz ascended Mount Popocatapetl, and one thing
he saw was “the Valley of Mexico, with its city, its lagunas and
islands, and its scattered hamlets, a busy throng of life being every
where visible.”


At the city of Mexico Cortez had a great reception, negotiation having
established the form of friendly relations between him and Montezuma.
Quarters were provided in the city for the Spanish portion of his army,
a vast edifice being set apart for their use which furnished ample
accommodations for the whole force. The place could be entered only by
causeways. They marched on a wide avenue which led through the heart of
the city, beholding the size, architecture, and beauty of the Aztec
capital with astonishment. This avenue was lined with some of the finest
houses, built of a porous red stone dug from quarries in the
neighborhood. The people gathered in crowds on the streets, on the flat
roofs, in the doorways, and at the windows to witness the arrival of the
Spaniards. Most of the streets were narrow, and had houses of a much
less imposing character. The great streets went over numerous canals, on
well-built bridges. Montezuma’s palace was a low, irregular pile of
stone structures extending over a large space of ground.

Among the _teocallis_ of the Aztec capital the “great temple” stood
foremost. It was situated in the centre of a vast inclosure, which was
surrounded by a heavy wall eight feet high, built of prepared stone.
This inclosure was entered by four gateways opening on the four
principal streets of the city. The “temple” was a solid structure built
of earth and pebbles, and faced from top to bottom with hewn stone laid
in mortar. It had five stages, each receding so as to be smaller than
that below it. In general outline it was a rectangular pyramid three
hundred feet square at the base, with a level summit of considerable
extent, on which were two towers, and two altars where “perpetual fires”
were maintained. Here the religious ceremonies were conducted. The
ascent was by a circular flight of steps on the outside which went four
times around the structure. The water in the lagoons being salt, the
city was supplied with water by means of an aqueduct which extended to

Such substantially is the account given of the old city of Mexico and
its great temple by every writer who saw them before the Conquest, and
all the struggles which took place for possession of this capital had a
character that would have been impossible any where save in a large
city. In every account of the attacks on the great temple, we can see
that it was a great temple; and we may perceive what the old city was by
reading any account of the desperate and bloody battles in which the
Spaniards were driven from it, after standing a ten days’ siege in the
great stone building they occupied.


This battle took place in the latter part of June, 1520, several months
after the friendly reception, and was occasioned by the treacherous and
most atrocious proceedings of the Spaniards, which drove the Mexicans to
madness. Nearly a year passed before Cortez made another attack on the
Mexican capital. During this time he found means among the Tlascalans to
build a flotilla of thirteen vessels, which were transported in pieces
to Lake Tezcuco and there put together. This would have been impossible
if he had not found in the country suitable tools and mechanics. By
means of these vessels armed with cannon, and assisted by a great army
of native allies consisting of Tlascalans, Cholulans, and many others,
he took control of the lagunas, secured possession of the causeways, and
attacked the city in vain for forty-five days, although his men several
times penetrated to the great square. He now resolved to enter by
gradual advances, and destroy every thing as he went. This he did,
burning what was combustible, and tearing down most of the edifices
built of stone; nevertheless, thirty or forty days more passed before
this work of destruction was complete. The inhabitants of the city were
given over to extermination.

The conquerors proceeded immediately to rebuild the city, native
architects chiefly being employed to do the work. Materials for the
rebuilding were taken from the ruins; probably many of the old Aztec
foundations were retained, and there may now be edifices in the city of
Mexico which stand on some of these foundations. Twelve acres of the
great inclosure of the Aztec temple were taken for a Spanish plaza, and
are still used for this purpose, while the site of the temple is
occupied by a cathedral. The plaza is paved with marble. Like the rest
of the great inclosure, it was paved when the Spaniards first saw it,
and the paving was so perfect and so smooth that their horses were
liable to slip and fall when they attempted to ride over it.

Some relics recovered from ruins of the old temple have been preserved.
Among them is the great Aztec calendar which belonged to it, on which
are carved hieroglyphics representing the months of the year. This
calendar was found in 1790 buried in the great square. It was carved
from a mass of porous basalt, and made eleven feet eight inches in
diameter. It was a fixture of the Aztec temple; it is now walled into
one side of the cathedral. The “stone of sacrifice,” another relic of
the temple, nine feet in diameter, and covered with sculptured
hieroglyphics, can still be seen in the city, and in the suburbs, it is
said, vestiges of the ruins of long lines of edifices can be traced.
Calendars made of gold and silver were common in Mexico. Before Cortez
reached the capital, Montezuma sent him two “as large as cartwheels,”
one representing the sun, the other the moon, both “richly carved.”
During the sack of the city a calendar of gold was found by a soldier in
a pond of Guatemozin’s garden. But these Spaniards did not go to Mexico
to study Aztec astronomy, nor to collect curiosities. In their hands
every article of gold was speedily transformed into coin.

In every Spanish description of the city we can see its resemblance to
cities whose ruins are found farther south. If the Spaniards had
invented the temple, they would not have made it unlike any thing they
had ever before seen or heard of, by placing its altar on the summit of
a high pyramid. This method of constructing temples is seen in the old
ruins, but it was unknown to Cortez and his men until they found it in
Mexico. The only reasonable or possible explanation of what they said of
it is, that the temple actually existed at the Aztec capital, and that
the Spaniards, being there, described what they saw. The uniform
testimony of all who saw the country at that time shows that the
edifices of towns and cities, wherever they went, were most commonly
built of cut stone laid in mortar, or of timber, and that in the more
rural districts thatch was frequently used for the roofs of dwellings.
Moreover, we are told repeatedly that the Spaniards employed “Mexican
masons,” and found them “very expert” in the arts of building and
plastering. There is no good reason to doubt that the civilized
condition of the country, when the Spaniards found it, was superior to
what it has been at any time since the Conquest.


The Mexicans, or Aztecs, subjugated by Cortez, were themselves invaders,
whose extended dominion was probably less than two hundred and fifty
years old, although they had been much longer in the Valley of Mexico.
There were important portions of the country, especially at the south,
to which their rule had not been extended. In several districts besides
those of the Mayas and the Quichés the natives still maintained
independent governments. The Aztec conquest of the central region,
between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, was completed only a few
years previous to the arrival of the Spaniards, and the conquest of this
region had not been fully secured at some points, as appeared in the
readiness of the Tlascalans and others to act in alliance with Cortez.
But the Aztecs did not come from abroad. They belonged in the country,
and seem to have been originally an obscure and somewhat rude branch of
the native race.

It is very probable that the Colhuas and Nahuas or Toltecs of the old
books and traditions, together with the Aztecs, were all substantially
the same people. They established in the country three distinct family
groups of language, it is said, but the actual significance of this
difference in speech has not been clearly determined. These unlike
groups of language have not been sufficiently analyzed and studied to
justify us in assuming that they did not all come from the same original
source, or that there is a more radical difference between them than
between the Sclavonic, Teutonic, and Scandinavian groups in Europe.
These ancient Americans were distinct from each other at the time of the
Conquest, but not so distinct as to show much difference in their
religious ideas, their mythology, their ceremonies of worship, their
methods of building, or in the general character of their civilization.

If the Toltecs and our Mound-Builders were the same people, they
probably went from Mexico and Central America to the Valley of the
Mississippi at a very remote period, as Colhuan colonies, and after a
long residence there returned so much changed in speech and in other
respects as to seem a distinct people. The Aztecs appear to have dwelt
obscurely in the south before they rose to power. They must have been at
first much less advanced in civilization than their predecessors, but
ready to adopt the superior knowledge and methods of the country they


It has sometimes been assumed that the Aztecs came to Mexico from the
north, but there is nothing to warrant this assumption, nothing to make
it probable, nothing even to explain the fact that some persons have
entertained it. People of the ancient Mexican and Central American race
are not found farther north than New Mexico and Arizona, where they are
known as Pueblos, or Village Indians. In the old times that was a
frontier region, and the Pueblos seem to represent ancient settlers who
went there from the south. There was the border line between the Mexican
race and the wild Indians, and the distinction between the Pueblos and
the savage tribes is every way so uniform and so great that it is
well-nigh impossible to believe they all belong to the same race. In
fact, no people really like our wild Indians of North America have ever
been found in Mexico, Central America, or South America.

Investigation has made it probable that the Mexicans or Aztecs went to
the Valley of Mexico from the south. Mr. Squier says: “The hypothesis of
a migration from Nicaragua and Cuscutlan to Anahuac is altogether more
consonant with probabilities and with tradition than that which derives
the Mexicans from the north; and it is a significant fact, that in the
map of their migrations presented by Gemelli, the place of the origin of
the Aztecs is designated by the sign of water (_atl_ standing for
Aztlan), a pyramidal temple with grades, and near these a palm-tree.”
Humboldt thought this indicated a southern origin.

Communities of Aztecs still exist as far south as Nicaragua and Costa
Rica, with some variations in their speech, but not so great, probably,
as to make them unintelligible to each other. The Spanish historian,
Oviedo, called attention to the fact that an isolated community of
Aztecs was found occupying the territory between Lake Nicaragua and the
Pacific. They were called Niquirans, and Mr. Squier seems to have
verified this fact. The result of his investigation is that the people
of the district specified are Aztecs, and that, “from the comparative
lateness of the separation or some other cause,” their distinguishing
features were easily recognized, their speech being nearly identical
with the native speech heard in the Valley of Mexico. Oviedo said of
them: “The Niquirans who speak the Mexican language have the same
manners and appearance as the people of New Spain (Mexico).” In the
neighboring districts, communities closely related to the Mayas are
found, and others that appear to belong to the Toltec family. Aztecs are
found still farther south, and there appear to be conclusive reasons for
believing that Montezuma’s people went from the south to Anahuac or

According to the native histories as reported by Clavigero, the Aztecs
began their migration northward from Aztlan about the year 1160 A.D.,
and founded the more important of their first settlements in the Valley
of Mexico about the year 1216 A.D., a little over three hundred years
previous to the Spanish invasion. Another result of investigation adds a
century to this estimate. This result is reached as follows: the
Mexicans stated constantly that their calendar was reformed some time
after they left Aztlan, and that in the year 1519 eight cycles of
fifty-two years each and thirteen years of a ninth cycle had passed
since that reform was made. This carries back the beginning of their
migration considerably beyond the year 1090 A.D.

Their sway seems to have been confined for a long time to Anahuac. They
grew to supremacy in part probably by the arrival of new immigrants,
but chiefly by conquest of the small states into which the country was
divided. They could learn from their more cultivated neighbors to reform
their calendar, compute time with greater accuracy, and make important
improvements in other respects. They must also have modified their
religious system to some extent, for it does not appear that they had
adopted the worship of Kukulcan (whose name they transformed into
Quetzalcohuatl) before they came to Mexico. But they brought with them
an effective political organization, and very likely they were better
fitted than most of their new neighbors for the rude work of war.

Before the city of Mexico was built, the seat of their government was at
Tezcuco. The character of their civilization after they rose to
pre-eminence was shown in their organization, in their skill as
builders, in the varied forms of their industry, and in the development
of their religious ceremonies. It is manifest that they adopted all the
astronomical knowledge and appliances found in the neighboring states
which they subjugated. Their measure of the solar year and their
numbering of the months were precisely like what had long existed in
this part of the country; and they had the same astronomical implements
or contrivances. One of these contrivances, found at Chapultepec, is
described as follows:

“On the horizontal plane of a large, carefully-worked stone, three
arrows were cut in relief, so that the shaft ends came together and made
equal angles in the centre. The points were directed eastward, the two
outside showing the two solstitial points, and that in the centre the
equinoctial. A line on the carved band holding them together was in
range with holes in two stones which stood exactly north and south. A
cord drawn tightly through the holes in these two stones would, at the
moment of noon, cast its shadow on the line drawn across the band. It
was a perfect instrument for ascertaining east and west with precision,
and for determining the exact time by the rising and setting of the sun
at the equinoxes and solstices. This stone has now been broken up and
used to construct a furnace.”

These Aztecs were manifestly something very different from “Mexican
savages.” At the same time, they were less advanced in many things than
their predecessors. Their skill in architecture and architectural
ornamentation did not enable them to build such cities as Mitla and
Palenque, and their “picture writing” was a much ruder form of the
graphic art than the phonetic system of the Mayas and Quichés. It does
not appear that they ever went so far in literary improvement as to
adopt this simpler and more complete system for any purpose whatever. If
the country had never, in the previous ages, felt the influence of a
higher culture than that of the Aztecs, it would not have now, and never
could have had, ruined cities like Mitla, Copan, and Palenque. Not only
was the system of writing shown by the countless inscriptions quite
beyond the attainments of Aztec art, but also the abundant sculptures
and the whole system of decoration found in the old ruins.



The ruins of Ancient Peru are found chiefly on the elevated table-lands
of the Andes, between Quito and Lake Titicaca; but they can be traced
five hundred miles farther south, to Chili, and throughout the region
connecting these high plateaus with the Pacific coast. The great
district to which they belong extends north and south about two thousand
miles. When the marauding Spaniards arrived in the country, this whole
region was the seat of a populous and prosperous empire, complete in its
civil organization, supported by an efficient system of industry, and
presenting a very notable development of some of the more important arts
of civilized life. These ruins differ from those in Mexico and Central
America. No inscriptions are found in Peru; there is no longer a
“marvelous abundance of decorations;” nothing is seen like the monoliths
of Copan or the bas-reliefs of Palenque. The method of building is
different; the Peruvian temples were not high truncated pyramids, and
the great edifices were not erected on pyramidal foundations. The
Peruvian ruins show us remains of cities, temples, palaces, other
edifices of various kinds, fortresses, aqueducts (one of them four
hundred and fifty miles long), great roads (extending through the whole
length of the empire), and terraces on the sides of mountains. For all
these constructions the builders used cut stone laid in mortar or
cement, and their work was done admirably, but it is every where seen
that the masonry, although sometimes ornamented, was generally plain in
style and always massive. The antiquities in this region have not been
as much explored and described as those north of the isthmus, but their
general character is known, and particular descriptions of some of them
have been published.


The Spanish conquest of Peru furnishes one of the most remarkable
chapters in the history of audacious villainy. It was the work of
successful buccaneers as unscrupulous as any crew of pirates that ever
robbed and murdered on the ocean. After their settlements began on the
islands and the Atlantic coast, rumors came to them of a wonderful
country somewhere at a distance in the west. They knew nothing of
another ocean between them and the Indies; the western side of the
continent was a veiled land of mystery, but the rumors, constantly
repeated, assured them that there was a country in that unknown region
where gold was more abundant than iron among themselves. Their strongest
passions were moved; greed for the precious metals and thirst for

Balboa was hunting for Peru when he discovered the Pacific, about 1511
A.D. He was guided across the isthmus by a young native chief, who told
him of that ocean, saying it was the best way to the country where all
the common household utensils were made of gold. At the Bay of Panama
Balboa heard more of Peru, and went down the coast to find it, but did
not go south much beyond the eighth degree of north latitude. In his
company of adventurers at this time was Francisco Pizarro, by whom Peru
was found, subjugated, robbed, and ruined, some fifteen or twenty years
later. Balboa was superseded by Pedrarias, another greedy adventurer,
whose jealousy arrested his operations and finally put him to death. The
town of Panama was founded in 1519 by this Pedrarias, chiefly as a point
on the Pacific from which he could seek and attack Peru. Under his
direction, in 1522, the search was attempted by Pascual de Andagoya, but
he failed to get down the coast beyond the limit of Balboa’s
exploration. Meanwhile clearer and more abundant reports of the rich and
marvelous nation to be found somewhere below that point were circulated
among the Spaniards, and their eagerness to reach it became intense.

In 1524, three men could have been seen in Panama busily engaged
preparing another expedition to go in search of the golden country.
These were Francisco Pizarro, a bold and capable adventurer, who could
neither read nor write; Diego de Almagro, an impulsive, passionate,
reckless soldier of fortune, and Hernando de Luque, a Spanish
ecclesiastic, Vicar of Panama, and a man well acquainted with the world
and skilled in reading character, acting at this time, it is said, for
another person who kept out of view. They had formed an alliance to
discover and rob Peru. Luque would furnish most of the funds, and wait
in Panama for the others to do the work. Pizarro would be
commander-in-chief. The vessels used would necessarily be such as could
be built at Panama, and, therefore, not very efficient.

Pizarro went down the coast, landing from time to time to explore and
rob villages, until he reached about the fourth degree of north
latitude, when he was obliged to return for supplies and repairs. It
became necessary to reconstruct the contract and allow Pedrarias an
interest in it. On the next voyage, one of the vessels went half a
degree south of the equator, and encountered a vessel “like a European
caravel,” which was, in fact, a Peruvian _balsa_, loaded with
merchandise, vases, mirrors of burnished silver, and curious fabrics of
cotton and woolen.

It became again indispensable to send back to Panama for supplies and
repairs, and Pizarro was doomed to wait for them seven months on an
island. He next visited Tumbez, in Peru, and went to the ninth degree of
south latitude; but he was obliged to visit Spain to get necessary aid
before he could attempt any thing more, and it was not until the year
1531 that the conquest of Peru was actually undertaken.

In 1531 Pizarro finally entered Tumbez with his buccaneers, and marched
into the country, sending word to the Inca that he came to aid him
against his enemies. There had been a civil war in the country, which
had been divided by the great Inca, Huayna Capac, the conqueror of
Quito, between his two sons, Huascar and Atahuallpa, and Huascar had
been defeated and thrown into prison, and finally put to death. At a
city called Caxamalca, Pizarro contrived, by means of the most atrocious
treachery, to seize the Inca and massacre some ten thousand of the
principal Peruvians, who came to his camp unarmed on a friendly visit.
This threw the whole empire into confusion, and made the conquest easy.
The Inca filled a room with gold as the price of his ransom; the
Spaniards took the gold, broke their promise, and put him to death.


It is now agreed that the Peruvian antiquities represent two distinct
periods in the ancient history of the country, one being much older than
the other. Mr. Prescott accepts and repeats the opinion that “there
existed in the country a race advanced in civilization before the time
of the Incas,” and that the ruins on the shores of Lake Titicaca are
older than the reign of the first Inca. In the work of Rivero and Von
Tschudi, it is stated that a critical examination of the monuments
“indicates two very different epochs in Peruvian art, at least so far as
concerns architecture; one before and the other after the arrival of the
first Inca.” Among the ruins which belong to the older civilization are
those at Lake Titicaca, old Huanuco, Tiahuanaco, and Gran-Chimu, and it
probably originated the roads and aqueducts. At Cuzco and other places
are remains of buildings which represent the later time; but Cuzco of
the Incas appears to have occupied the site of a ruined city of the
older period. Figure 51 gives a view of the ancient Peruvian masonry.
Montesinos supposes the name of Cuzco was derived from _cosca_, a
Peruvian word signifying to level, or from heaps of earth called
_coscos_, which abounded there. In his account of the previous times
there is mention that an old city built there was in ruins. Perhaps the
first Inca found on its site nothing but _coscos_, or heaps of ruins.

[Illustration: Fig. 51.--Ancient Peruvian Masonry.]

[Illustration: Fig. 52.--Ruins of “Temple” on the Island of Titicaca.]

[Illustration: Fig. 53.--Ruins on Titicaca Island.]

At Lake Titicaca some of the more important remains are on the islands.
On Titicaca Island are the ruins of a great edifice described as “a
palace or temple.” Remains of other structures exist, but their ruins
are old, much older than the time of the Incas. Figures 52 and 53
represent different ruins on the island of Titicaca. They were all built
of hewn stone, and had doors and windows, with posts, sills, and
thresholds of stone, the doorways being narrower above than below. On
the island of Coati there are remarkable ruins. The largest building
here is also described as “a palace or temple,” although it may have
been something else. It was not high, but very large in extent. It stood
around three sides of a parallelogram, with some peculiarities of
construction connected with the ends or wings. Making allowance for the
absence of the pyramidal foundations, it has more resemblance to some of
the great constructions in Central America than to any thing peculiar to
the later period of Peruvian architecture. Another ruin on this island
is shown in Figure 54. The antiquities on the islands and shores of this
lake need to be more completely explored and described, and probably
interesting discoveries could be made at some points by means of
well-directed excavations.

[Illustration: Fig. 54.--Ruins on the Island of Coati.]

A few miles from Lake Titicaca, at Tiahuanaco, are ruins which were very
imposing when first seen by the Spaniards in the time of Pizarro. It is
usual to speak of them as the oldest ruins in Peru, which may or may
not be correct. They must, however, be classed with those at the lake.
Not much now remains of the edifices, which were in a very ruinous
condition three hundred and forty years ago. They were described by
Cieça de Leon, who accompanied Pizarro, and also by Diego d’Alcobaça.
Cieça de Leon mentions “great edifices” that were in ruins, “an
artificial hill raised on a groundwork of stone,” and “two stone idols
resembling the human figure, and apparently made by skillful
artificers.” These “idols” were great statues, ten or twelve feet high.
One of them, which was carried to La Paz in 1842, measured “three and a
half yards” in length. Sculptured decorations appear on them, and,
according to Cieça de Leon, the figures seemed to be “clothed in long
vestments” different from those worn in the time of the Incas. Of a very
remarkable edifice, whose foundations could be traced near these
statues, nothing remained then “but a well-built wall, which must have
been there for ages, the stones being very much worn and crumbled.”
Cieça de Leon’s description goes on as follows:

“In this place, also, there are stones so large and so overgrown that
our wonder is incited, it being incomprehensible how the power of man
could have placed them where we see them. They are variously wrought,
and some of them, having the form of men, must have been idols. Near the
walls are many caves and excavations under the earth, but in another
place, farther west, are other and greater monuments, such as large
gateways with hinges, platforms, and porches, each made of a single
stone. It surprised me to see these enormous gateways made of great
masses of stone, some of which were thirty feet long, fifteen high, and
six thick.”

[Illustration: Fig. 55.--Monolithic Gateway at Tiahuanaco.]

Many of the stone monuments at Tiahuanaco have been removed, some for
building, some for other purposes. In one case, “large masses of
sculptured stone ten yards in length and six in width” were used to make
grinding stones for a chocolate mill. The principal monuments now seen
on this field of ruins are a vast mound covering several acres, where
there seems to have been a great edifice, fragments of columns, erect
slabs of stone which formed parts of buildings, and several of the
monolithic gateways, the largest of which was made of a single stone ten
feet high and thirteen broad. Figure 55 gives a view of one. The doorway
is six feet four inches high, and three feet two inches wide. Above it,
along the whole length of the stone, which is now broken, is a cornice
covered with sculptured figures. “The whole neighborhood,” says Mr.
Squier, “is strewn with immense blocks of stone elaborately wrought,
equaling, if not surpassing in size, any known to exist in Egypt or

[Illustration: Fig. 56.--Remains of Fortress Walls at Cuzco.]

[Illustration: Fig. 57.--End View of Fortress Walls at Cuzco.]

At Cuzco, two or more degrees north of Lake Titicaca, there are ruins of
buildings that were occupied until the rule of the Incas was overthrown.
Remains of the old structures are seen in various parts of the present
town, some of them incorporated into new edifices built by the
Spaniards. Cyclopean remains of walls of the Temple of the Sun now
constitute a portion of the Convent of St. Domingo. In the days of the
Incas, this temple stood “a circuit of more than four hundred paces,”
and was surrounded by a great wall built of cut stone. Remains of the
old fortifications are seen; and there is an extensive ruin here which
shows what is supposed to be all that remains of the palace of the
Incas. Figures 56 and 57 give views of remains of the ancient fortress
walls at Cuzco. Occasionally there is search at Cuzco, by means of
excavation, for antiquities. Within a few years an important discovery
has been made; a lunar calendar of the Incas, made of gold, has been
exhumed. At first it was described as “a gold breastplate or sun;” but
William Bollaert, who gives an account of it, finds that it is a
calendar, the first discovered in Peru. Many others, probably, went to
the melting-pot at the time of the Conquest. This is not quite circular.
The outer ring is five inches and three tenths in diameter, and the
inner four inches. It was made to be fastened to the breast of an Inca
or priest. The figures were stamped on it, and there “seem to be
twenty-four compartments, large and small, including three at the top.
At the bottom are two spaces; figures may or may not have been there,
but it looks as if they had been worn away.” It was found about the year

The uniform and constant report of Peruvian tradition places the
beginning of this old civilization in the Valley of Cuzco, near Lake
Titicaca. There appeared the first civilizers and the first civilized
communities. This beautiful valley is the most elevated table-land on
the continent, Lake Titicaca being 12,846 feet above the sea level. Were
it not within the tropics, it would be a region of eternal snow, for it
is more than 4000 feet higher than the beginning of perpetual snow on
Mont Blanc. Near it are some of the higher peaks of the Andes, among
them Sorato, Illimani, and Sahama.


The ancient Peru conquered and robbed by Pizarro is now divided into
Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chili as far down as the thirty-seventh
degree of south latitude. Its remains are found to some extent in all
these countries, although most abundantly in Peru.

The ruins known as “the Palaces of Gran-Chimu” are situated in the
northwestern part of Peru, near Truxillo. Here, in the time of the first
Incas, was an independent state, which was subjugated by the Inca set
down in the list of Montesinos as the grandfather of Huayna Capac, about
a century before the Spaniards arrived. For what is known of these ruins
we are chiefly indebted to Mariano Rivero, director of the National
Museum at Lima. They cover a space of three quarters of a league,
without including the walled squares found on every side. The chief
objects of interest are the remains of two great edifices called
palaces. “These palaces are immense areas surrounded by high walls of
brick, the walls being now ten or twelve yards high and six feet thick
at the base.” There was in each case another wall exterior to this.
Within the palace walls were squares and dwellings, with narrow passages
between them, and the walls are decorated. In the largest palace are the
remains of a great reservoir for water, which was brought to it by
subterranean aqueducts from the River Moche, two miles distant. Outside
the inclosures of these palaces are remains of a vast number of
buildings, which indicate that the city contained a great population.
The Spaniards took vast quantities of gold from the _huacas_ or tombs
at this place. The amount taken from a single tomb in the years 1566 and
1592 was officially estimated at nearly a million dollars. Figure 58
presents an end view of the walls at Gran-Chimu. Figures 59 and 60
represent some of the decorations at Chimu-Canchu.

[Illustration: Fig. 58.--End View of Walls at Gran-Chimu.]

[Illustration: Figs. 59 and 60.--Decorations at Chimu-Canchu.]

[Illustration: Fig. 61.--Edifice, with Gateway, at Old Huanuco.]

Remarkable ruins exist at Cuelap, in Northern Peru. “They consist of a
wall of wrought stones 3600 feet long, 560 broad, and 150 high,
constituting a solid mass with a level summit.” Probably the interior
was made of earth. On this mass was another, “600 feet long, 500 broad,
and 150 high.” In this, and also in the lower structure, there are many
rooms made of wrought stone, in which are a great number of niches or
cells one or two yards deep, which were used as tombs. Other old
structures exist in that neighborhood. Farther south, at Huanuco el
Viego, or Old Huanuco, are two peculiar edifices and a terrace, and near
them the faded traces of a large town. The two edifices were built of a
composition of pebbles and clay, faced with hewn stone. One of them is
called the “Look-out,” but it is impossible to discover the purpose for
which it was built. The interior of the other is crossed by six walls,
in each of which is a gateway, the outer one being finely finished, and
showing a sculptured animal on each of the upper corners. It has a large
court, and rooms made of cut stones. Connected with this structure was a
well-built aqueduct. Figures 61 and 62 give views of the so-called
palace and its ground plan. Figure 63 represents the Look-out.

[Illustration: Fig. 62.--Ground Plan of Edifice at Old Huanuco.]

[Illustration: Fig. 63.--“Look-out” at Old Huanuco.]

[Illustration: Fig. 64.--Ruins at Pachacamac.]

Seven leagues from Lima, near the sea, are the much-dilapidated ruins,
shown in Figure 64, of a large city of the Incas, which was built
chiefly of adobes or sun-dried bricks. It is called Pachacamac. Ruins of
towns, castles, fortresses, and other structures are found all about the
country. At one place, near Chavin de Huanta, there are remarkable ruins
which are very old. The material used here was like that seen at Old
Huanuco. From the interior of one of the great buildings there is a
subterranean passage which, it is said, goes under the river to the
opposite bank. Very ancient ruins, showing remains of large and
remarkable edifices, were seen near Huamanga, and described by Cieça de
Leon. The native traditions said this city was built by “bearded white
men, who came there long before the time of the Incas, and established a
settlement.” It is noticed every where that the ancient Peruvians made
large use of aqueducts, which they built with notable skill, using hewn
stones and cement, and making them very substantial. Some of them are
still in use. They were used to carry water to the cities and to
irrigate the cultivated lands. A few of them were very long. There is
mention of one which was a hundred and fifty miles long, and of another
which was extended four hundred and fifty miles across sierras and over
rivers, from south to north.


Nothing in Ancient Peru was more remarkable than the public roads. No
ancient people has left traces of works more astonishing than these, so
vast was their extent, and so great the skill and labor required to
construct them. One of these roads ran along the mountains through the
whole length of the empire, from Quito to Chili. Another, starting from
this at Cuzco, went down to the coast and extended northward to the
equator. These roads were built on beds or “deep under-structures” of
masonry. The width of the roadways varied from twenty to twenty-five
feet, and they were made level and smooth by paving, and in some places
by a sort of macadamizing with pulverized stone mixed with lime and
bituminous cement. This cement was used in all the masonry. On each side
of the roadway was “a very strong wall more than a fathom in thickness.”
These roads went over marshes, rivers, and great chasms of the sierras,
and through rocky precipices and mountain sides. The great road passing
along the mountains was a marvelous work. In many places its way was cut
through rock for leagues. Great ravines were filled up with solid
masonry. Rivers were crossed by means of a curious kind of suspension
bridges, and no obstruction was encountered which the builders did not
overcome. The builders of our Pacific Railroad, with their superior
engineering skill and mechanical appliances, might reasonably shrink
from the cost and the difficulties of such a work as this. Extending
from one degree north of Quito to Cuzco, and from Cuzco to Chili, it was
quite as long as the two Pacific railroads, and its wild route among the
mountains was far more difficult.

Sarmiento, describing it, said, “It seems to me that if the emperor
(Charles V.) should see fit to order the construction of another road
like that which leads from Quito to Cuzco, or that which from Cuzco goes
toward Chili, I certainly think he would not be able to make it, with
all his power.” Humboldt examined some of the remains of this road, and
described as follows a portion of it seen in a pass of the Andes,
between Mansi and Loxa: “Our eyes rested continually on superb remains
of a paved road of the Incas. The roadway, paved with well-cut, dark
porphyritic stone, was twenty feet wide, and rested on deep foundations.
This road was marvelous. None of the Roman roads I have seen in Italy,
in the South of France, or in Spain, appeared to me more imposing than
this work of the ancient Peruvians.” He saw remains of several other
shorter roads which were built in the same way, some of them between
Loxa and the River Amazon. Along these roads at equal distances were
edifices, a kind of caravanseras, built of hewn stone, for the
accommodation of travelers.

These great works were described by every Spanish writer on Peru, and in
some accounts of them we find suggestions in regard to their history.
They are called “roads of the Incas,” but they were probably much older
than the time of these rulers. The mountain road running toward Quito
was much older than the Inca Huayna Capac, to whom it has sometimes been
attributed. It is stated that when he started by this route to invade
the Quitús, the road was so bad that “he found great difficulties in the
passage.” It was then an old road, much out of repair, and he
immediately ordered the necessary reconstructions. Gomara says, “Huayna
Capac restored, enlarged, and completed these roads, but he did not
build them, as some pretend.” These great artificial highways were
broken up and made useless at the time of the Conquest, and the
subsequent barbarous rule of the Spaniards allowed them to go to decay.
Now only broken remains of them exist to show their former character.


The development of civilization in Peru was very different from that in
Mexico and Central America. In both regions the people were
sun-worshipers, but their religious organizations, as well as their
methods of building temples, were unlike. Neither of these peoples seems
to have borrowed from the other. It may be that all the old American
civilizations had a common origin in South America, and that all the
ancient Americans whose civilization can be traced in remains found
north of the Isthmus came originally from that part of the continent.
This hypothesis appears to me more probable than any other I have heard
suggested. But, assuming this to be true, the first migration of
civilized people from South America must have taken place at a very
distant period in the past, for it preceded not only the history
indicated by the existing antiquities, but also an earlier history,
during which the Peruvians and Central Americans grew to be as different
from their ancestors as from each other. In each case, the development
of civilization represented by existing monuments, so far as we can
study it, appears to have been original.

In some respects the Peruvian civilization was developed to such a
degree as challenged admiration. The Peruvians were highly skilled in
agriculture and in some kinds of manufactures. No people ever had a more
efficient system of industry. This created their wealth and made
possible their great public works. All accounts of the country at the
time of the Conquest agree in the statement that they cultivated the
soil in a very admirable way and with remarkable success, using
aqueducts for irrigation, and employing guano as one of their most
important fertilizers. Europeans learned from them the value of this
fertilizer, and its name, _guano_, is Peruvian. The remains of their
works show what they were as builders. Their skill in cutting stone and
their wonderful masonry can be seen and admired by modern builders in
what is left of their aqueducts, their roads, their temples, and their
other great edifices.

They had great proficiency in the arts of spinning, weaving, and dyeing.
For their cloth they used cotton and the wool of four varieties of the
llama, that of the vicuña being the finest. Some of their cloth had
interwoven designs and ornaments very skillfully executed. Many of their
fabrics had rare excellence in the eyes of the Spaniards. Garcilasso
says, “The coverings of the beds were blankets and friezes of the wool
of the vicuña, which is so fine and so much prized that, among other
precious things from that land, they have been brought for the bed of
Don Philip II.” Of their dyes, this account is given in the work of
Rivero and Von Tschudi:

“They possessed the secret of fixing the dye of all colors,
flesh-color, yellow, gray, blue, green, black, etc., so firmly in the
thread, or in the cloth already woven, that they never faded during the
lapse of ages, even when exposed to the air or buried (in tombs) under
ground. Only the cotton became slightly discolored, while the woolen
fabrics preserved their primitive lustre. It is a circumstance worth
remarking that chemical analyses made of pieces of cloth of all the
different dyes prove that the Peruvians extracted all their colors from
the vegetable and none from the mineral kingdom. In fact, the natives of
the Peruvian mountains now use plants unknown to Europeans, producing
from them bright and lasting colors.”

They had great skill in the art of working metals, especially gold and
silver. Besides these precious metals, they had copper, tin, lead, and
quicksilver. Figures 65 and 66 show some of the implements used by the
Peruvians. Iron was unknown to them in the time of the Incas, although
some maintain that they had it in the previous ages, to which belong the
ruins at Lake Titicaca. Iron ore was and still is very abundant in Peru.
It is impossible to conceive how the Peruvians were able to cut and work
stone in such a masterly way, or to construct their great roads and
aqueducts without the use of iron tools. Some of the languages of the
country, and perhaps all, had names for iron; in official Peruvian it
was called _quillay_, and in the old Chilian tongue _panilic_. “It is
remarkable,” observes Molina, “that iron, which has been thought unknown
to the ancient Americans, has particular names in some of their
tongues.” It is not easy to understand why they had names for this
metal, if they never at any time had knowledge of the metal itself. In
the Mercurio Peruano, tome i., p. 201, 1791, it is stated that,
anciently, the Peruvian sovereigns “worked magnificent iron mines at
Ancoriames, on the west shore of Lake Titicaca;” but I can not give the
evidence used in support of this statement.

[Illustration: Fig. 65.--Copper Knives.]

[Illustration: Fig. 66.--Copper Tweezers.]

Their goldsmiths and silversmiths had attained very great proficiency.
They could melt the metals in furnaces, cast them in moulds made of clay
and gypsum, hammer their work with remarkable dexterity, inlay it, and
solder it with great perfection. The gold and silver work of these
artists was extremely abundant in the country at the time of the
Conquest, but Spanish greed had it all melted for coinage. It was with
articles of this gold-work that the Inca Atahuallpa filled a room in
his vain endeavor to purchase release from captivity. One of the old
chroniclers mentions “statuary, jars, vases, and every species of
vessels, all of fine gold.” Describing one of the palaces, he said:
“They had an artificial garden, the soil of which was made of small
pieces of fine gold, and this was artificially sowed with different
kinds of maize which were of gold, their stems, leaves, and ears.
Besides this, they had more than twenty sheep (llamas), with their
lambs, attended by shepherds, all made of gold.” This may be the same
artificial garden which was mentioned by Francisco Lopez de Gomara, who
places it on “an island near Puna.” Similar gardens of gold are
mentioned by others. It is believed that a large quantity of Peruvian
gold-work was thrown into Lake Titicaca to keep it from the Spanish
robbers. In a description of one lot of golden articles sent to Spain in
1534 by Pizarro, there is mention of “four llamas, ten statues of women
of full size, and a cistern of gold so curious that it incited the
wonder of all.”

Nothing is more constantly mentioned by the old Spanish chroniclers than
the vast abundance of gold in Peru. It was more common than any other
metal. Temples and palaces were covered with it, and it was very
beautifully wrought into ornaments, temple furniture, articles for
household use, and imitations of almost every object in nature. In the
course of twenty-five years after the Conquest, the Spaniards sent from
Peru to Spain more than four hundred million ducats (800,000,000
dollars) worth of gold, all or nearly all of it having been taken from
the subjugated Peruvians as “booty.”

Figures 67 and 68 show a golden and a silver vase, reduced from the
actual size. Figures 69 and 70 represent various articles of pottery;
all these illustrations are copies from articles taken from old Peruvian

[Illustration: Fig. 67.--Golden Vase.]

[Illustration: Fig. 68.--Silver Vase.]

The most perfectly manufactured articles of Peruvian pottery were used
in the tombs. Some of those made for other uses were very curious. A
considerable number of articles made for common use have been preserved.
Mariano Rivero, a Peruvian, says: “At this day there exist in many
houses pitchers, large jars, and earthen pots of this manufacture, which
are preferred for their solidity to those manufactured by our own
potters.” The ancient Peruvians were inferior to the Central Americans
in the arts of ornamentation and sculpture.

[Illustration: Fig. 69.--Articles of Pottery.]

[Illustration: Fig. 70.--Articles of Pottery.]

Science among the Peruvians was not very highly developed, but
engineering skill of some kind is indicated by the great roads and
aqueducts. Their knowledge of the art of preparing colors and certain
useful medicines implied a study of plants. Their progress in astronomy
was not equal to that found in Central America; nevertheless, they had
an accurate measure of the solar year, but, unlike the Central
Americans, they divided the year into twelve months, and they used
mechanical contrivances successfully to fix the times of the solstices
and equinoxes. A class of men called _amautas_ was trained to preserve
and teach whatever knowledge existed in the country. It was their
business to understand the _quippus_, keep in memory the historical
poems, give attention to the science and practice of medicine, and train
their pupils in knowledge. These were not priests; they were the
“learned men” of Peru, and the government allowed them every facility
for study and for communicating instruction. How much they knew of
astronomy it is not easy to say. They had knowledge of some of the
planets, and it is claimed that there is some reason to believe they
used aids to eyesight in studying the heavens, such as some suppose
were used by our Mound-Builders. A discovery made in Bolivia a few years
since is cited in support of this belief. It is the figure of a man in
the act of using a tube to aid vision, which was taken from an ancient
tomb. Mr. David Forbes, an English chemist and geologist, obtained it in
Bolivia, and carried it to England in 1864. William Bollaert describes
it as follows in a paper read to the London Anthropological Society:

“It is a nude figure, of silver, two inches and a half in height, on a
flat, pointed pedestal. In the right hand it has the mask of a human
face, but in the left a tube over half an inch in length, the narrow
part placed to the left eye in a diagonal position, as if observing some
celestial object. This is the first specimen of a figure in the act of
looking through a hollow tube directed to the heavens that has been
found in the New World. We can not suppose the Peruvians had any thing
that more nearly resembled a telescope. It was found in a chulpa, or
ancient Indian tomb, at Caquingora, near Corocoro (lat. 17° 15' S., and
long. 68° 35' W.), in Bolivia.” He forgets the astronomical monument
described by Captain Dupaix.

The art of writing in alphabetical characters, so far as appears, was
unknown to the Peruvians in the time of the Incas. No Peruvian books
existed at that time, and no inscriptions have been found in any of the
ruins. They had a method of recording events, keeping accounts, and
making reports to the government by means of the _quippu_. This was made
of cords of twisted wool fastened to a base prepared for the purpose.
These cords were of various sizes and colors, and every size and color
had its meaning. The record was made by means of an elaborate system of
knots and artificial intertwinings. The _amautas_ were carefully
educated to the business of understanding and using the _quippus_, and
“this science was so much perfected that those skilled in it attained
the art of recording historical events, laws, and decrees, so as to
transmit to their descendants the most striking events of the empire;
thus the _quippus_ could supply the place of documents.” Each _quippu_
was a book full of information for those who could read it.

Among the _amautas_ memory was educated to retain and transmit to
posterity songs, historical narratives, and long historical poems. It is
said, also, that tragedies and comedies were composed and preserved in
this way, and that dramatic performances were among the regular
entertainments encouraged and supported by the Incas. Whether the art of
writing ever existed in the country can not now be determined. Some of
the Peruvian tongues had names for paper; the people knew that a kind of
paper or parchment could be made of plantain leaves, and, according to
Montesinos, writing and books were common in the older times, that is to
say, in ages long previous to the Incas. He explains how the art was
lost, as I shall presently show.

It is not improbable that a kind of hieroglyphical writing existed in
some of the Peruvian communities, especially among the Aymaraes.
Humboldt mentions books of hieroglyphical writing found among the
Panoes, on the River Ucayali, which were “bundles of their paper
resembling our volumes in quarto.” A Franciscan missionary found an old
man sitting at the foot of a palm-tree and reading one of these books to
several young persons. The Franciscan was told that the writing
“contained hidden things which no stranger ought to know.” It was seen
that the pages of the book were “covered with figures of men, animals,
and isolated characters, deemed hieroglyphical, and arranged in lines
with order and symmetry.” The Panoes said these books “were transmitted
to them by their ancestors, and had relation to wanderings and ancient
wars.” There is similar writing on a prepared llama skin found among
other antiquities on a peninsula in Lake Titicaca, which is now in the
museum at La Paz, Bolivia. It appears to be a record of atrocities
perpetrated by the Spaniards at the time of the Conquest, and shows that
some of the Aymaraes could at that time write hieroglyphics.



The Peruvians, like most other important peoples in all ages, had
mythical wonder-stories instead of authentic ancient history to explain
the origin of their nation. These were told in traditions and legends
preserved and transmitted from generation to generation by the
_amautas_. If they were also recorded in secret books of hieroglyphical
writing, such as those found among the Panoes on the Ucayali, which
“contained hidden things that no stranger ought to know,” satisfactory
evidence of the fact has never been brought to light. In addition to
these, they had many historical traditions of much more importance,
related in long poems and preserved in the same way; and there were
annals and national documents recorded in the _quippus_.

Some of the Spanish writers on Peru, who described what they saw in the
country at the time of the Conquest, discussed its history. If they had
used the proper sources of information with a more penetrating and
complete investigation, and studied the subject as it might have been
studied at that time, their historical sketches would now have great
value. The two most important works written at this time, the “Relacion”
of Sarmiento and the “Relaciones” of Polo de Ondegardo, were never
printed. But none of these writers sought to study Peruvian antiquity
beyond the period of the Incas, although some of them (Acosta for
instance) inquired sufficiently to see that Manco Capac was a mythical
personage prefixed to the dynastic line of the Incas without actually
belonging to it. This limited view of the ancient history, which was
inconsistent with what could be seen in the antiquities and traditions
of the country, was generally accepted, because nothing more could be
known in Europe, and its influence was established by the undue
importance accorded to the “Commentarios Reales” of Garcilasso de la
Vega, published in 1609.


Garcilasso de la Vega, the son of a distinguished Spaniard of the same
name, was born at Cuzco in 1540. His mother, named Ñusta, was a niece of
the great Inca Huayna Capac, and granddaughter of his no less eminent
predecessor, Tupac Yupanqui. The intimate blood relationship which
connected him with the Incas naturally drew attention to his work, and,
with more haste than reason, was treated as the best possible
qualification for writing Peruvian history; therefore his “Commentarios”
acquired a very great celebrity, and came to be regarded as the highest
authority on all questions relating to Peru previous to the Conquest.
The work never deserved this reputation, although it was not without
value as an addition to what had been written on the subject by
Spaniards. Garcilasso was not well qualified to write a faithful history
of Peru either by his knowledge or by the temper of his mind. His aim
was to glorify the Incas and their times, and much of his work was in
the strain of tales heard in childhood from his mother.

The “Commentarios Reales” were written just as their author’s training
had prepared him to write them. He lived in Cuzco without education
until he was nearly twenty years old, his intellectual development being
confined to the instruction necessary to make him a good Catholic. He
then went to Spain and never returned to Peru. The next period of his
life was devoted to seeking distinction in the Spanish military service;
but political influence was against him, and he could not attain the
object of his ambition. He finally retired to Cordova, acquired some
literary culture, and resolved to win distinction by writing a history
of his native country. His materials for such a history, in addition to
what could be learned from the earlier Spanish writers, consisted
entirely of what he had learned of his mother and his early Peruvian
associates at Cuzco, and of such acquisitions as could be gained by
means of correspondence with his acquaintances in Peru, after the
purpose to write a history was formed. It can be seen readily that
Garcilasso’s history written in this way might have a certain value,
while it could not be safely accepted as an authority. The first part of
his work was published in 1609, when he was nearly seventy years old.

According to his version of the Peruvian annals, the rule of the Incas
began with the mythical Manco Capac, and lasted over five hundred years;
and this version, with some variations in estimates of the time, has
been repeated ever since. The dynastic line of the Incas thus determined
is given in the work of Rivero and Von Tschudi as follows:

1. Manco-Capac, mysterious “son of the sun,” who began to reign in 1021
A.D., and died in 1062, having reigned forty years. 2. Sinchi-Rocca,
who reigned thirty years, from 1062 to 1091. 3. Lloque-Yupanqui,
reigned thirty-five years, from 1091 to 1126. 4. Mayta-Capac, thirty
years, from 1126 to 1156. 5. Capac-Yupanqui, forty-one years, from 1156
to 1197. 6. Inca Rocca, fifty-one years, from 1197 to 1249. 7.
Yahuar-Capac, forty years, from 1249 to 1289. 8. Viracocha, fifty-one
years, from 1289 to 1340; his son Inca Urco reigned after him eleven
days, and was then deposed “as a fool incapable of governing.” 9.
Titu-Manco-Capac-Pachacutec, sixty years, from 1340 to 1400, living,
says tradition, to be one hundred and three years old. 10. Yupanqui,
thirty-nine years, from 1400 to 1439. 11. Tupac-Yupanqui (Garcilasso’s
great-grandfather) thirty-six years, from 1439 to 1475. 12.
Huayna-Capac, “the most glorious of the Incas,” fifty years, from 1475
to 1525. After his death the empire was divided between his two sons
Huascar and Atahuallpa. This caused a civil war, which ended with the
death of Huascar in 1532. One year later Atahuallpa was himself
destroyed by Cortez.

Manco-Capac, here set down as the first Inca, with a marvelous story of
his mysterious origin and his miraculous powers as a civilizer, was
undoubtedly borrowed from traditions of the origin of civilization in
the more ancient times, which had been used by the Incas in support of
their claim to direct descent from the sun. In reality, the first Inca
was Rocca, or Sinchi-Rocca, and several of the early Spanish writers
were sufficiently well informed to see this. The period of the Incas
must have been less than five hundred years if their dynasty consisted
of no more than twelve or thirteen sovereigns. In other respects, this
table of the sovereigns may be substantially correct, for there is a
general agreement in regard to the names and the order of succession,
although Montesinos maintains that the fifth Inca on the list was
borrowed by Garcilasso from traditions of a much more ancient sovereign
who was greatly celebrated in the historical poems, or confounded with
him. The period of the Incas was very distinct in Peruvian history, but
it is now understood that they represent only the last period in the
history of a civilization which began much farther back in the past.


The only Spanish writer who really studied the ancient history of Peru
in the traditional and other records of the country was Fernando
Montesinos, who went there about a century after the Conquest. He was
sent from Spain on service which took him to every part of Peru, and
gave him the best possible opportunities for investigation. He was a
scholar and a worker, with a strong inclination to such studies, and,
during two periods of residence in the country, he devoted fifteen years
to these inquiries with unremitting industry and great success. He soon
learned to communicate freely with the Peruvians in their own language;
then he applied himself to collect the historical poems, narratives, and
traditions. He succeeded in getting assistance from many of the older
men who had learned of the _amautas_, and especially of those who were
trained to read the _quippus_. Nothing was omitted which could aid his
purpose. In this way Montesinos made a great collection of what may be
called the _old Peruvian documents_, and gained a vast amount of
information which no other writer had used or even sought to acquire.

The materials collected were more important than is at once understood
by those accustomed to depend wholly on writing and printing for the
preservation of literature, because they can not easily realize to what
extent the faculty of memory may be sharpened and developed by a class
of men devoted to this culture in communities where such mechanical aids
do not exist. It is known that long poems, stories, and historical
narratives have been preserved by unlettered peoples much below the
civilized condition of the Peruvians. Long poems, extending to three and
four hundred lines, were retained by memory, and transmitted from
generation to generation among the Sandwich Islanders. Many scholars
have believed that all the early literature of Greece, including the
Iliad, the Odyssey, and all other “poems of the Cycle,” was preserved in
this way by the Rhapsodists for centuries, down to the time of
Peisistratus, and then for the first time reduced to writing. This shows
at least what they have believed was possible. In Max Müller’s “History
of Ancient Sanskrit Literature” it is argued strongly that the Vedas
were not written at first, but were transmitted orally, being learned by
heart in the great religious schools of the Indo-Aryans as an
indispensable part of education. This is likely to be true, whether we
assume that the Indo-Aryans had or had not the art of writing; for, in
the Vaidic age, the divine songs of the Veda were so intimately
associated with the mysteries of their religion that they may have been
held too sacred to be made common by written characters.

Therefore it is no wise incredible, nor even surprising, that a
considerable amount of literature existed in Peru without the aid of
writing. On the contrary, it would be surprising if they had failed to
do what has been done by every other people in like circumstances. The
schools of the _amautas_ were national institutions specially set apart
for the business of preserving and increasing knowledge, teaching, and
literary work of every kind. In a country where civilization was so much
advanced in many respects, they could not have been entirely barren.
Those who criticise Montesinos admit that “his advantages were great,”
that “no one equaled him in archæological knowledge of Peru,” and that
“he became acquainted with original instruments which he occasionally
transferred to his own pages, and which it would now be difficult to
meet elsewhere.” The results of his investigation are embodied in a work
entitled “Memorias Antiguas Historiales del Peru.” This, with another
work on the Conquest entitled “Annales,” remained in manuscript at
Madrid until the “Memorias” was translated into French by M.
Ternaux-Compans, and printed in his collection of original documents
relating to the discovery and exploration of America.


According to Montesinos, there were three distinct periods in the
history of Peru. First, there was a period which began with the origin
of civilization, and lasted until the first or second century of the
Christian era. Second, there was a period of disintegration, decline,
and disorder, introduced by successful invasions from the east and
southeast, during which the country was broken up into small states, and
many of the arts of civilization were lost; this period lasted more than
a thousand years. Third and last came the period of the Incas, who
revived civilization and restored the empire. He discards the
wonder-stories told of Manco-Capac and Mama Oello, and gives the
Peruvian nation a beginning which is, at least, not incredible. It was
originated, he says, by a people led by four brothers, who settled in
the Valley of Cuzco, and developed civilization there in a very human
way. The youngest of these brothers assumed supreme authority, and
became the first of a long line of sovereigns.

Montesinos gives a list of sixty-four sovereigns who reigned in the
first period. The first was Pûhua Manco, or Ayar-Uchu-Topa, the youngest
of the four brothers, whose power was increased by the willing
submission of “neighboring nations.” His successor, called Manco-Capac,
is described as a remarkable character; “adjacent nations dreaded his
power,” and in his time the kingdom was much increased. Next came
Huainaevi-Pishua, and “during his reign was known the use of letters,
and the _amautas_ taught astrology and the art of writing on leaves of
the plantain tree.” Sinchi-Cozque won victories, and “adorned and
fortified the city of Cuzco.” Inti-Capac-Yupanqui, another remarkable
character, divided the kingdom into districts and subdistricts,
introduced a complete civil organization, instituted the solar year of
three hundred and sixty-five days, and established the system of
couriers. Manco-Capac II. “made great roads from Cuzco to the
provinces.” These are the first six rulers named on the list.

In the next thirteen reigns nothing special is noted save attention to
civil affairs, occasional conquests, and “a great plague.” The twentieth
sovereign, called Huascar-Titupac, “gave all the provinces new governors
of royal blood, and introduced in the army a cuirass made of cotton and
copper.” The twenty-first, Manco-Capac-Amauta, “being addicted to
astronomy, convened a scientific council, which agreed that the sun was
at a greater distance from the earth than the moon, and that they
followed different courses.” In the next twelve reigns, wars, conquests,
and some indications of religious controversy are noted. The
thirty-fourth ruler, called Ayay-Manco, “assembled the _amautas_ in
Cuzco to reform the calendar, and it was decided that the year should be
divided into months of thirty days, and weeks of ten days, calling the
five days at the end of the year a small week; they also collected the
years into decades or groups of tens, and determined that each group of
ten decades should form a sun.”

Among the next twenty-nine sovereigns, Capac-Raymi-Amauta, the
thirty-eighth of the line, and Yahuar-Huquiz, the fifty-first, were
“celebrated for astronomical knowledge,” and the latter “intercalated a
year at the end of four centuries.” Manco-Capac III., the sixtieth
sovereign of this line, is supposed to have reigned at the beginning of
the Christian era, and in his time “Peru had reached her greatest
elevation and extension.” The next three reigns covered thirty-two
years, it is said. Then came Titu-Yupanqui-Pachacuti, the sixty-fourth
and last sovereign of the old kingdom, who was killed in battle with a
horde of invaders who came from the east and southeast across the Andes.
His death threw the kingdom into confusion. There was rebellion as well
as invasion, by which it was broken up into small states. The account of
what happened says: “Many ambitious ones, taking advantage of the new
king’s youth, denied him obedience, drew away from him the people, and
usurped several provinces. Those who remained faithful to the heir of
Titu-Yupanqui conducted him to Tambotoco, whose inhabitants offered him
obedience. From this it happened that this monarch took the title of
King of Tambotoco.”

During the next twenty-six reigns the sway of the old royal house was
confined to this little state. These twenty-six successors of the old
sovereigns were merely kings of Tambotoco. The country, overrun by rude
invaders, torn by civil war, and harried by “many simultaneous
tyrants,” became semi-barbarous; “all was found in great confusion; life
and personal safety were endangered, and civil disturbances caused an
entire loss of the use of letters.” The art of writing seems to have
been mixed up with the issues of a religious controversy in the time of
the old kingdom. It was proscribed now, even in the little state of
Tambotoco, for we read that the fourteenth of its twenty-six rulers
“prohibited, under the severest penalties, the use of _quellca_ for
writing, and forbade, also, the invention of letters. _Quellca_ was a
kind of parchment made of plantain leaves.” It is added that an
_amauta_, who sought to restore the art of writing was put to death.
This period of decline, disorder, and disintegration, which covered the
“dark ages” of Peru, lasted until the rise of the Incas brought better
times and reunited the country.

Rocca, called Inca-Rocca, was the first of the Incas. He was connected
with the old royal family, but did not stand in the direct line of
succession. The story of his rise to power is told as follows: “A
princess of royal blood, named Mama-Ciboca, contrived, by artifice and
intrigue, to raise to the throne her son called Rocca, a youth of twenty
years, and so handsome and valiant that his admirers called him _Inca_,
which means lord. This title of _Inca_ began with him, and was adopted
by all his successors.” He appears to have had great qualities as a
ruler. Not much time passed before he secured possession of Cuzco, made
war successfully against the neighboring princes, and greatly extended
his dominions. Under his successors, the empire thus begun continued to
grow, until it was extended from Quito to Chili, and became the Peruvian
empire which the Spaniards robbed and destroyed.


It has been the fashion to depreciate Montesinos, but I find it
impossible to discover the reasons by which this depreciation can be
justified. It is alleged that he uses fanciful hypotheses to explain
Peru. The reply to this seems to me conclusive. In the first place, he
is, in this respect, like all other writers of his time. That was an age
of fanciful theories. Montesinos is certainly no worse than others in
this respect, while he has the merit of being somewhat more original. He
brought the Peruvian civilization from Armenia, and argued that Peru was
Solomon’s Ophir. Undue importance has been accorded to several of the
old Spanish chroniclers, whose works contain suggestions and fancies
much more irrational. In the second place, his theories have nothing
whatever to do with his facts, by which they are sometimes contradicted.
He found in Peru materials for the scheme of its ancient history, which
he sets forth. Readers will form their own estimates of its value, but
no reasonable critic will confound this part of his work with his
fanciful explanations, which are sometimes inconsistent with it. For
instance, his theory assumes that the first monarch of the old kingdom
began his reign as far back in the past as the year 2500 B.C. But he
reports only sixty-four rulers of that old kingdom. Now, if there were
so many as sixty-four, and if we allow an average of twenty years to
each reign (which is sufficient), we can not carry back the beginning of
that first reign to the year 1200 B.C.

There is another objection, which must be stated in the words of one of
the critics who have urged it: “Montesinos treats the ancient history of
Peru in a mode so original and distinct from all others that we can
perceive it to be a production alike novel and unknown.” If this means
any thing, it means that it was highly improper for Montesinos to find
in Peru what was “unknown” to poorly-informed and superficial Spanish
writers, who had already been accepted as “authorities.” It would have
been singular if his careful investigation, continued through fifteen
years, had not given him a great amount of information which others had
never taken pains to acquire. His treatment of the subject was “original
and distinct from all others,” because he knew what other writers did
not know. His information did not allow him to repeat the marvelous
story of Manco-Capac and Mama Oello, nor to confine Peruvian history to
the time of the Incas. But when the result of his inquiries was
announced in Europe, Garcilasso and others regulated the fashion of
Peruvian studies, and the influence of their limited and superficial
knowledge of the subject has been felt ever since.

The curious theories of Montesinos may be brushed aside as rubbish, or
be studied with other vagaries of that age in order to understand its
difference from ours; but whoever undertakes to criticise his facts
needs to be his equal in knowledge of Peru. His works, however, tell us
all that can ever be known of Peruvian ancient history, for the
facilities for investigation which existed in his time are no longer
possible. It may, however, be useful to consider that the main fact in
his report on the subject is no more “original and distinct” than the
testimony of the monuments around Lake Titicaca. The significance of
this testimony is now generally admitted. There _was_ a period in the
history of Peruvian civilization much earlier than that of the Incas, a
period still represented by these old monuments which, so far as relates
to this point, are as “novel” and “original” as Montesinos himself.

That the civilization found in the country was much older than the Incas
can be seen in what we know of their history. Their empire had grown to
be what Pizarro found it by subjugating and absorbing a considerable
number of small states, which had existed as civilized states before
their time. The conquest of Quito, which was not inferior to the Valley
of Cuzco in civilization, had just been completed when the Spaniards
arrived. The Chimus, subjugated a few years earlier, are described as
even more advanced in civilization than any other Peruvian community.
The small states thus absorbed by Peru were much alike in manners,
customs, manufactures, methods of building, and general culture. It is
manifest that their civilization had a common origin, and that to find
its origin we must go back into the past far beyond Inca-Rocco, the
first of his line, who began the work of uniting them under one

Moreover, there were civilized communities in that part of the
continent which the Incas had not subjugated, such as the Muyscas on the
table-land of Bogota, north of Quito, who had a remarkable civil and
religious organization, a temple of the sun built with stone columns, a
regular system of computing time, a peculiar calendar, and who used
small circular gold plates as coin. They were described by Humboldt.

The condition of the people composing the Peruvian empire at the time of
the Conquest bore witness to an ancient history something like that
reported by Montesinos. There were indications that the country had
undergone important revolutionary changes before this empire was
established. The Peruvians at that time were not all one people. The
political union was complete, but there were differences of speech, and,
to some extent, of physical characteristics. Three numerous and
important branches of the population were known as Aymaraes, Chinchas,
and Huancas. They used different tongues, although the Quichua dialect,
spoken by the Incas, and doubtless a dialect of the Aymaraes, to whom
the Incas belonged, was the official language in every part of the
empire. There was a separated and fragmentary condition of the
communities with respect to their unlike characteristics, which implied
something different from a quiet and uniform political history. These
differences and peculiarities suggest that there was a period when Peru,
after an important career of civilization and empire, was subjected to
great political changes brought about by invasion and revolution, by
which the nation was for a long time broken up into separate states.

Here, as in Mexico and Central America, there was in the traditions
frequent mention of strangers or foreigners who came by sea to the
Pacific coast and held intercourse with the people; but this was in the
time of the old kingdom. As the Malays and other island people under
their influence formerly traversed the Pacific, this is not improbable.
Some have assumed that the Peruvians had no communication with the
Mexicans and Central Americans, and that the two peoples were unknown to
each other. This, however, seems to be contradicted by the fact that an
accurate knowledge of Peru was found among the people inhabiting the
Isthmus and the region north of it. The Spaniards heard of Peru on the
Atlantic coast of South America, but on the Isthmus Balboa gained clear
information in regard to that country from natives who had evidently
seen it. To what extent there was intercourse between the two civilized
portions of the continent is unknown. They had vessels quite as good as
most of those constructed at Panama by the Spanish hunters for Peru,
such as the _balsas_ of the Peruvians and the “shallop” of the Mayas
seen by Columbus, which made communication possible up and down the
coast; but whether regular intercourse between them was ever
established, and every thing else relating to this matter, must
necessarily be left to a calculation of probabilities.


If, as seems most likely, there was in South America an ancient
development of civilized human life, out of which arose the
civilizations found in Peru and Central America, its antiquity was much
greater than can be comprehended by the current chronologies. This,
however, can not make it improbable, for these chronologies are really
no more reasonable than the monkish fancies used in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries to explain these civilizations. We find the
hagiologists very absurd, but the condition of mind which made them
possible is closely akin to that which moves some men in our time to
deny or limit the past, and reject the results of any investigation
which tend to enlarge it. Rational inquiry constantly forces upon us the
suggestion that there was more in the unwritten history of the human
race than our inherited modes of thinking have allowed us to suppose,
and that the beginning of civilization is far more ancient than our long
accepted theories of antiquity are able to admit.

What may be discovered in South America by a more complete geological
and palæontological investigation it is not now possible to say.
Professor Orton, in his recent book, “The Andes and the Amazon,” far
exceeds Montesinos in his estimate of the antiquity of Peruvian
civilization. He says on this point:

“Geology and archæology are combining to prove that Sorato and
Chimborazo have looked down upon a civilization far more ancient than
that of the Incas, and perhaps coeval with the flint-flakes of Cornwall
and the shell-mounds of Denmark. On the shores of Lake Titicaca are
extensive ruins which antedate the advent of Manco-Capac, and may be as
venerable as the lake-dwellings of Geneva. Wilson has traced six
terraces in going up from the sea through the province of Esmeraldas
toward Quito, and underneath the living forest, which is older than the
Spanish invasion, many gold, copper, and stone vestiges of a lost
population were found. In all cases these relics are situated below the
high-tide mark, in a bed of marine sediment, from which he infers that
this part of the country formerly stood higher above the sea. If this be
true, vast must be the antiquity of these remains, for the upheaval and
subsidence of the coast is exceedingly slow.”--P. 109.

This refers to discoveries made on the coast of Ecuador in 1860, by
James S. Wilson, Esq. At various points along this coast he found
“ancient or fossil pottery, vessels, images,” and other manufactured
articles, all finely wrought. Some of these articles were made of gold.
The most remarkable fact connected with them is that they were taken
from “a stratum of ancient surface earth” which was covered with a
marine deposit six feet thick. The geological formation where these
remains were found is reported to be “as old as the drift strata of
Europe,” and “identical with that of Guayaquil in which bones of the
mastodon are met with.” The ancient surface earth or vegetable mould,
with its pottery, gold-work, and other relics of civilized human life,
was, therefore, below the sea when that marine deposit was spread over
it. This land, after being occupied by men, had subsided and settled
below the ocean, remained there long enough to accumulate the marine
deposit, and again been elevated to its former position above the sea
level. Since this elevation, forests have been established over it
which are older than the Spanish Conquest, and now it is once more
subsiding. In 1862, at a meeting of the Royal Geological Society, Sir
Roderick Murchison spoke of these discoveries as follows:

“The discoveries Mr. Wilson has made of the existence of the works of
man in a stratum of mould beneath the sea level, and covered by several
feet of clay, the phenomenon being persistent for sixty miles, are of
the highest interest to physical geographers and geologists. The facts
seem to demonstrate that, within the human period, the lands on the west
coast of Equatorial America were depressed and submerged, and that after
the accumulation of marine clays above the terrestrial relics the whole
coast was elevated to its present position.”

Assuming the facts to be as Mr. Wilson reports (and they have not been
called in question), it follows that there was human civilization to a
certain extent in South America at the time of the older stone age of
Western Europe. The oldest Peruvian date of Montesinos is quite modern
compared with this. The fact may be considered in connection with
another mentioned in the section on American Ethnology, namely, that the
most ancient fauna on this continent, man probably included, is that of
South America. But, without regard to what may be signified by these
discoveries of Mr. Wilson, there is good reason for believing that the
Peruvian civilization was much more ancient than it has been the fashion
to admit.

Peru would now be a very different country if the Spaniards had been
sufficiently controlled by Christianity and civilization to treat the
Peruvians justly, and seek nothing more than friendly intercourse with
them. But they went there as greedy buccaneers, unscrupulous robbers,
and brought every thing to ruin. At no time since the Spanish Conquest
has the country been as orderly, as prosperous, or as populous as they
found it. It has fallen to a much lower condition. Industry and thrift
have been supplanted by laziness and beggarly poverty. Ignorance and
incapacity have taken the place of that intelligence and enterprise
which enabled the old Peruvians to maintain their remarkable system of
agriculture, complete their great works, and made them so industrious
and skillful in their manufactures. The region covered by the Peruvian
empire has not half as many people now as it had in the time of the
Incas. Is it possible to imagine the present inhabitants of Ecuador,
Peru, and Bolivia cultivating their soil with intelligent industry,
building aqueducts five hundred miles long, and constructing
magnificently paved roads through the rocks and across the ravines of
the Andes, from Quito to Chili? One of the scholars connected with the
scientific expedition which visited South America in 1867, describing
the ancient greatness and present inferior condition of Quito, exclaims,
“May the future bring it days equal to those when it was called the
‘City of the Incas!’” He might appropriately utter a similar wish for
the whole country.





It is generally known, I suppose, that original manuscript records of
Norse voyages to this continent have been carefully preserved in
Iceland, and that they were first published at Copenhagen in 1837, with
a Danish and a Latin translation. These narratives are plain,
straightforward, business-like accounts of actual voyages made by the
Northmen, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, to Greenland,
Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode
Island. Within the whole range of the literature of discovery and
adventure no volumes can be found which have more abundant internal
evidence of authenticity. It always happens, when something important is
unexpectedly added to our knowledge of the past, that somebody will
blindly disbelieve. Dugald Stewart could see nothing but “frauds of
arch-forgers” in what was added to our knowledge of ancient India when
the Sanskrit language and literature were discovered. In the same way,
here and there a doubter has hesitated to accept the fact communicated
by these Norse records; but, with the evidence before us, we may as
reasonably doubt any unquestioned fact of history which depends on
similar testimony.

Any account of these voyages should be prefaced by some notice of
Iceland. Look on a map at the position of Iceland, and you will see at
once that it should not be classed as a European island. It belongs to
North America. It was, in fact, unknown to modern Europe until the year
861 A.D., when it was discovered by Nadodd, a Norse rover. There is some
reason to believe the Irish had previously sailed to this island, but no
settlement was established in it previous to the year 875, when it was
occupied by a colony of Norwegians under a chief named Ingolf. Owing to
civil troubles in Norway, he was soon followed by many of the most
intelligent, wealthy, and honorable of his countrymen.

Thus Iceland, away in the Northern Ocean, became a place of great
interest. In the tenth and eleventh centuries the Icelanders had
become eminent among the Norse communities for intellectual culture
and accomplishment. They were far superior to their countrymen in
Norway. To them we are indebted for the existing records of Scandinavian
mythology. They were daring and adventurous navigators, and, when we
consider how near Iceland is to America, it should not surprise us to
hear that they found the American continent; on the contrary, it would
have been surprising if they had failed to find it. They first
discovered Greenland, and in 982 established a colony there. Afterward,
in the course of many voyages, they explored the coast of America much
farther south.

Narratives of some of these voyages were carefully written and
preserved. There are two principal records. One is entitled “An Account
of Eirek the Red and Greenland.” This appears to have been written in
Greenland, where Eirek settled, and where the Northmen had a colony
consisting of two hundred and eighty settlements. The other record is an
“Account of Thorfinn Karlsefne.” This was written in Iceland by a
bishop, one of Thorfinn’s immediate descendants. The Norse narrative
introduces Eirek’s voyage of discovery as follows:

“There was a man of noble family, whose name was Thorvald. He and his
son Eirek, surnamed the Red, were obliged to flee from Jadir (in the
southwest part of Norway) because, in some feud that arose, they
committed a homicide. They went to Iceland, which, at that time, was
thoroughly colonized.”

Thorvald died soon after reaching Iceland, but Eirek inherited his
restless spirit. The record says he was at length involved in another
feud in Iceland. Eirek, being unjustly treated by some of his neighbors,
committed another homicide, and the narrative relates what followed:
“Having been condemned by the court, he resolved to leave Iceland. His
vessel being prepared, and every thing ready, Eirek’s partisans in the
quarrel accompanied him some distance. He told them he had determined to
quit Iceland and settle somewhere else, adding that he was going in
search of the land Gunniborn had seen when driven by a storm into the
Western Ocean, and promising to revisit them if his search should be
successful. Sailing from the western side of Iceland, Eirek steered
boldly to the west. At length he found land, and called the place
Midjokul. Then, coasting along the shore in a southerly direction, he
sought to find a place more suitable for settlement. He spent the winter
on a part of the coast which he named “Eirek’s Island.” A satisfactory
situation for his colony was found, and he remained there two

On returning to Iceland he called the discovered country “Greenland,”
saying to his confidential friends, “A name so inviting will induce men
to emigrate thither.” Finally, he went again to Greenland, accompanied
by “twenty-five ships” filled with emigrants and stores, and his colony
was established. “This happened,” says the chronicle, “fifteen winters
before the Christian religion was introduced into Iceland;” that is to
say, Eirek made this second voyage to Greenland fifteen years previous
to 1000 A.D. Biarni, son of Heriulf, a chief man among these colonists,
was absent in Norway when his father left Iceland. On returning, he
decided to follow and join the colony, although neither he nor any of
his companions had ever seen Greenland, or sailed on the “Greenland
Ocean.” Having arranged his business, he set sail, and made one of the
most remarkable and fearful voyages on record.

On leaving Iceland they sailed three days with a fair wind; then arose a
storm of northeasterly winds, accompanied by very cloudy, thick weather.
They were driven before this storm for many days, they knew not whither.
At length the weather cleared, and they could see the sky. Then they
sailed west another day, and saw land different from any they had
previously known, for it “was not mountainous.” In reply to the anxious
sailors, Biarni said this could not be Greenland. They put the ship
about and steered in a northeasterly direction two days more. Again they
saw land which was low and level. Biarni thought this could not be
Greenland. For three more days they sailed in the same direction, and
came to a land that was “mountainous, and covered with ice.” This proved
to be an island, around which they sailed. Steering toward the north,
they sailed four days and again discovered land, which Biarni thought
was Greenland, and so it proved. They were on the southern coast, near
the new settlement.

It is manifest that the first land Biarni saw was either Nantucket or
Cape Cod; the next was Nova Scotia, around Cape Sable; and the island
around which they coasted was Newfoundland. This voyage was made five
hundred and seven years earlier than the first voyage of Columbus.

Biarni’s report of his discoveries was heard with great interest, and
caused much speculation; but the settlers in Greenland were too busy
making their new homes to undertake voyages in that direction
immediately. Fourteen years later, Leif, a son of Eirek the Red, being
in Norway, was incited to fit out an expedition to go in search of the
strange lands Biarni had seen. On returning to Greenland “he had an
interview with Biarni, and bought his ship, which he fitted out and
manned with thirty-five men.” The first land seen by Leif, after he
sailed from Greenland, was the island around which Biarni sailed. This
he named Helluland (the land of broad stones). Sailing on toward the
south, they came next to a land that was low and level, and covered with
wood. This they called Markland (the land of woods). The narrative goes
on: “They now put to sea with a northeast wind, and, sailing still
toward the south, after two days touched at an island [Nantucket?] which
lay opposite the northeast part of the main land.” Then they “sailed
through a bay between this island and a cape running northeast, and,
going westward, sailed past the Cape;” and at length they “passed up a
river into a bay,” where they landed. They had probably reached Mount
Hope Bay.

They constructed rude dwellings, and prepared to spend the winter at
this place. It was about mid-autumn, and, finding wild grapes, they
called the country Vinland. Leif and his people were much pleased with
“the mildness of the climate and goodness of the soil.” The next spring
they loaded their vessels with timber and returned to Greenland, where,
Eirek the Red having died, Leif inherited his estate and authority, and
left exploring expeditions to others.

The next year Leif’s brother Thorvald went to Vinland with one ship and
thirty men, and there passed the winter. The following summer he
explored the coast westward and southward, and seems to have gone as far
south as the Carolinas. In the autumn they returned to Vinland, where
they passed another winter. The next summer they coasted around Cape Cod
toward Boston Harbor, and, getting aground on Cape Cod, they called it
_Kialarness_, Keel Cape. Here the chronicle first speaks of the natives,
whom it calls “Skrællings.” It says: “They perceived on the sandy shore
of the bay three small elevations. On going to them they found three
boats made of skins, and under each boat three men. They seized all the
men but one, who was so nimble as to escape with his boat;” and “_they
killed all those whom they had taken_.” The doctrine of “natural
enemies” was more current among the old Northmen than that of human

A retribution followed swiftly. They were presently attacked by a swarm
of natives in boats. The “Skrællings” were beaten off; but Thorvald,
being fatally wounded in the skirmish, died, and was buried on a
neighboring promontory. His companions, after passing a third winter in
Vinland, returned to Greenland, having been absent three years. This,
considering the circumstances, was an adventurous voyage, a brave
exploring expedition sent from the arctic regions to make discoveries in
the mysterious world at the south. On reading the narrative, one longs
for that more ample account of the voyage which would have been given if
Thorvald himself had lived to return.

The “Account of Eirek the Red and Greenland” tells of an expedition
planned by Eirek’s youngest son, Thorstein, which was prevented by
Thorstein’s death. It relates the particulars of a voyage to Vinland
made by Eirek’s daughter, Freydis, with her husband and his two
brothers. Freydis is described as a cruel, hard-hearted, enterprising
woman, “mindful only of gain.” The chronicle says her husband, named
Thorvald, was “weak-minded,” and that she married him because he was
rich. During the voyage she contrived to destroy her husband’s brothers
and seize their ship, for which evil deed she was made to feel her
brother Leif’s anger on her return. The same chronicle gives an account
of a voyage northward, up Baffin’s Bay, and through what is now called
Wellington Channel. There is also a romantic story of Thorstein’s widow,
Gudrid, an exceedingly beautiful and noble-minded woman, which tells how
she was courted and married by Thorfinn Karlsefne, a man of
distinguished character and rank, who came from Iceland with ships, and
was entertained by Leif.

Thorfinn came to Greenland in the year 1006, and, having married Gudrid,
Thorstein’s widow, was induced by her to undertake a voyage to Vinland.
They left Greenland with three ships and a hundred and sixty men, taking
with them livestock and all things necessary to the establishment of a
colony. The vessels touched at Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and, having
reached Vinland, they passed up Buzzard’s Bay, disembarked their
livestock, and preparations were made for winter residence. Here they
passed the winter; and here Gudrid gave birth to a son, who lived and
grew to manhood, and among whose lineal descendants was Thorvaldsen, the
Danish sculptor.

The winter was severe; their provisions began to fail, and they were
threatened with famine. This occasioned many anxieties and some
adventures. One of the company, a fierce, resolute man, bewailed their
apostasy from the old religion, and declared that to find relief they
must return to the worship of Thor. But they found a supply of
provisions without trying this experiment. Thor’s worshiper afterward
left the company with a few companions to pursue an expedition of his
own, and was killed by the natives.

The next spring Thorfinn explored the coast farther west and south. Then
he went to the bay where Leif spent the winter, and there passed his
second winter in Vinland. He called the bay Hóp. The Indians called it
Haup; we call it Hope. During the next season they saw many natives and
had much intercourse with them, which finally led to hostilities. The
natives, in great numbers, attacked them fiercely, but were signally
defeated. Freydis, being with the company, fought desperately in this
battle, and greatly distinguished herself as a terrible combatant,
although in that peculiar condition which does not specially qualify a
woman for such exploits. Thorfinn afterward explored Massachusetts Bay,
spent a third winter in Vinland, and then, with part of the company,
returned to Greenland. He finally went back to his home in Iceland, and
there remained during the rest of his life.

The Indians had traditions which appear to have preserved recollections
of these visits of the Northmen. In 1787, Michael Lort, Vice-president
of the London Antiquarian Society, published a work, in which he quoted
the following extract of a letter from New England, dated more than half
a century earlier: “There was a tradition current with the oldest
Indians in these parts that there came a wooden house, and men of
another country in it, swimming up the Assoonet, as this (Taunton) river
was then called, who fought the Indians with mighty success.”

There was now a settlement in Vinland, at Hóp Bay, and voyages to that
region became frequent. The old Norse narrative says: “Expeditions to
Vinland now became very frequent matters of consideration, for these
expeditions were considered both lucrative and honorable.” The following
appears in Wheaton’s History of the Northmen: “A part of Thorfinn’s
company remained in Vinland, and were afterward joined by two Icelandic
chieftains. * * In the year 1059, it is said, an Irish or Saxon priest
named Jon or John, who had spent some time in Iceland, went to preach to
the colonists in Vinland, where he was murdered by the heathen.” The
following is from the Introduction to Henderson’s Iceland: “In the year
1121, Eirek, bishop of Greenland, made a voyage to Vinland.”

Thus it appears to be an authenticated fact that the Northmen had a
settlement or settlements in New England six hundred years previous to
the arrival of English settlers. It is probable that their Vinland
settlements consisted chiefly of trading and lumbering establishments.
The first explorers “loaded their vessels with timber” when ready to
return to Greenland, where the lack of timber was so great that the
settlers found it necessary to use stone for building material. The
Vinland timber-trade became naturally an important business, but neither
Greenland nor Iceland could furnish emigrants to occupy the country.
Traces of the old Norse settlements in Greenland are still visible in
the ruins of stone buildings. Near the Bay of Igalito, in Greenland, are
remains of a stone church. Vinland was covered with great forests, and
there it was much easier and cheaper to build houses of wood.

The Norse records speak also of a region south of Vinland to which
voyages were made. It is called Huitramannaland. Indeed, two great
regions farther south are mentioned. There is a romantic story of one
Biorn Asbrandson, a noble Icelander, who, being crossed in his
matrimonial desires, went away toward Vinland; but his vessel was driven
much farther south by a storm. Nothing was heard of him until part of
the crew of a Norse vessel, on a voyage to Huitramannaland, were
captured by the natives, among whom Biorn was living as a chief. He
discovered an old acquaintance among the prisoners whom he found means
to release. He talked freely with his old friend of the past, and of
Iceland, but would not leave his savage friends.

How little we know of what has been in the past ages, notwithstanding
our many volumes of history! We listen attentively to what gets a wide
and brilliant publication, and either fail to hear or doubt every thing
else. If these Norse adventurers had sailed from England or Spain, those
countries being what they were in the time of Columbus, their colonies
would not have failed, through lack of men and means to support and
extend them, and the story of their discoveries would have been told in
every language and community of the civilized world. But the little
communities in Iceland and Greenland were very different from rich and
powerful nations. Instead of being in direct communication with the
great movements of human life in Europe, recorded in what we read as
history, they were far off in the Northern Ocean, and, out of Norway,
almost unknown to Europe. Afterward, when the name and discoveries of
Columbus had taken control of thought and imagination, it became
difficult for even intelligent men, with the old Norse records before
them, to see the claims of the Northmen.



The story of the emigration to America of Prince Madoc, or Madog, is
told in the old Welsh books as follows:

About the year 1168 or 1169 A.D., Owen Gwynedd, ruling prince of North
Wales, died, and among his sons there was a contest for the succession,
which, becoming angry and fierce, produced a civil war. His son Madoc,
who had “command of the fleet,” took no part in this strife. Greatly
disturbed by the public trouble, and not being able to make the
combatants hear reason, he resolved to leave Wales and go across the
ocean to the land at the west. Accordingly, in the year 1170 A.D., he
left with a few ships, going south of Ireland, and steering westward.
The purpose of this voyage was to explore the western land and select a
place for settlement. He found a pleasant and fertile region, where his
settlement was established. Leaving one hundred and twenty persons, he
returned to Wales, prepared ten ships, prevailed on a large company,
some of whom were Irish, to join him, and sailed again to America.
Nothing more was ever heard in Wales of Prince Madog or his settlement.

All this is related in old Welsh annals preserved in the abbeys of
Conway and Strat Flur. These annals were used by Humphrey Llwyd in his
translation and continuation of Caradoc’s History of Wales, the
continuation extending from 1157 to 1270 A.D. This emigration of Prince
Madog is mentioned in the preserved works of several Welsh bards who
lived before the time of Columbus. It is mentioned by Hakluyt, who had
his account of it from writings of the bard Guttun Owen. As the Northmen
had been in New England over one hundred and fifty years when Prince
Madog went forth to select a place for his settlement, he knew very well
there was a continent on the other side of the Atlantic, for he had
knowledge of their voyages to America; and knowledge of them was also
prevalent in Ireland. His emigration took place when Henry II. was king
of England, but in that age the English knew little or nothing of Welsh
affairs in such a way as to connect them with English history very

It is supposed that Madog settled somewhere in the Carolinas, and that
his colony, unsupported by new arrivals from Europe, and cut off from
communicated[TN-6] with that side of the ocean, became weak, and, after
being much reduced, was destroyed or absorbed by some powerful tribe of
Indians. In our colony times, and later, there was no lack of reports
that relics of Madog’s Welshmen, and even their language, had been
discovered among the Indians; but generally they were entitled to no
credit. The only report of this kind having any show of claim to
respectful consideration is that of Rev. Morgan Jones, made in 1686, in
a letter giving an account of his adventures among the Tuscaroras. These
Tuscarora Indians were lighter in color than the other tribes, and this
peculiarity was so noticeable that they were frequently mentioned as
“White Indians.” Mr. Jones’s account of his experiences among them was
written in March, 1686, and published in the Gentleman’s Magazine for
the year 1740, as follows:


     “These presents certify all persons whatever, that in the year
     1660, being an inhabitant of Virginia, and chaplain to Major
     General Bennet, of Mansoman County, the said Major General Bennet
     and Sir William Berkeley sent two ships to Port Royal, now called
     South Carolina, which is sixty leagues southward of Cape Fair, and
     I was sent therewith to be their minister. Upon the 8th of April we
     set out from Virginia, and arrived at the harbor’s mouth of Port
     Royal the 19th of the same month, where we waited for the rest of
     the fleet that was to sail from Barbadoes and Bermuda with one Mr.
     West, who was to be deputy governor of said place. As soon as the
     fleet came in, the smallest vessels that were with us sailed up the
     river to a place called the Oyster Point; there I continued about
     eight months, all which time being almost starved for want of
     provisions: I and five more traveled through the wilderness till we
     came to the Tuscarora country.

     “There the Tuscarora Indians took us prisoners because we told them
     that we were bound to Roanock. That night they carried us to their
     town and shut us up close, to our no small dread. The next day they
     entered into a consultation about us, and, after it was over, their
     interpreter told us that we must prepare ourselves to die next
     morning, whereupon, being very much dejected, I spoke to this
     effect in the British [Welsh] tongue: ‘Have I escaped so many
     dangers, and must I now be knocked on the head like a dog!’ Then
     presently came an Indian to me, which afterward appeared to be a
     war captain belonging to the sachem of the Doegs (whose original, I
     find, must needs be from the Old Britons), and took me up by the
     middle, and told me in the British [Welsh] tongue I should not die,
     and thereupon went to the emperor of Tuscarora, and agreed for my
     ransom and the men that were with me.

     “They (the Doegs) then welcomed us to their town, and entertained
     us very civilly and cordially four months, during which time I had
     the opportunity of conversing with them familiarly in the British
     [Welsh] language, and did preach to them in the same language three
     times a week, and they would confer with me about any thing that
     was difficult therein, and at our departure they abundantly
     supplied us with whatever was necessary to our support and well
     doing. They are settled upon Pontigo River, not far from Cape
     Atros. This is a brief recital of my travels among the Doeg


     “the son of John Jones, of Basateg, near Newport, in the County of
     Monmouth. I am ready to conduct any Welshman or others to the

     “New York, March 10th, 1685-6.”

Other accounts of his “travels” among the “Doegs” of the Tuscarora
nation were published much earlier, but no other has been preserved. His
veracity was never questioned. What shall be said of his statement? Were
the remains of Prince Madog’s company represented in these “Doeg”
Tuscaroras? He is very explicit in regard to the matter of language, and
it is not easy to see how he could be mistaken. They understood his
Welsh, not without needing explanation of some things “difficult
therein.” He was able to converse with them and preach to them in Welsh;
and yet, if he got an explanation of the existence of the Welsh language
among these “Doegs,” or sought to know any thing in regard to their
traditional history, he omits entirely to say so. Without meaning to
doubt his veracity, one feels skeptical, and desires a more intelligent
and complete account of these “travels.”



There are indications that the Pacific world had an important ancient
history, and these multiply as our knowledge of that world increases.
The wide diffusion of Malay dialects in the Pacific islands suggests the
controlling influence by which that ancient history was directed. The
ancient remains at Easter Island are known; two of the “great images”
found there are now in the British Museum. All who have examined this
island believe these remains “were the work of a former race,” and that
it had formerly “an abundant population.” It is not generally known that
antiquities more important than these exist on many of the other islands
of the Pacific Ocean.

An educated and very intelligent gentleman, who has lived many years on
one of these islands, and visited a considerable portion of Polynesia,
finds that the Pacific has antiquities which deserve attention. He has
sent me papers containing descriptions of some of them, taken from the
diary of an intelligent and observant shipmaster, much of whose life as
a mariner has been passed on the Pacific. These papers were prepared for
publication in a newspaper at Sydney. The gentleman sending them says in
his letter: “These researches are not very minute or accurate, but they
indicate that there is a vast field ready for exploration in the
Pacific, as well as in Central America and Egypt.”

The papers to which I refer begin with ruins observed in the island of
Ascension or Fanipe, and describe “the great temple” at Metallanine.
This was a large edifice, well built of stone, and connected with canals
and earth-works. “Vaults, passages, and platforms, all of basaltic
stones,” are mentioned; also, “below the pavement of the main
quadrangle, on opposite sides, are two passages or gateways, each about
ten feet square, pierced through the outer wall down to the waters of
the canal.” Within the walls is a “central pyramidal chamber or temple,”
with a tree growing on it. The whole ruin is now covered with trees and
other vegetation.

Other ruins exist in the island, one or two of which are described.
“Some are close upon the sea-shore, others are on the tops of solitary
hills, and some are found on plateaus or cleared spaces far inland, but
commanding views of the sea. One of the latter kind is a congeries of
ruinous heaps of square stones, covering at least five or six acres. It
is situated on a piece of table-land, surrounded by dense forest
growths, and itself covered with low jungle. There is the appearance of
a ditch, in the form of a cross, at the intersecting angles of which are
tall mounds of ruin, of which the original form is now undistinguishable
beyond the fact that the basements, constructed of large stones,
indicate that the structures were square. The natives can not be induced
to go near this place, although it abounds in wild pigeons, which they
are extremely fond of hunting.”

These ruined structures were not built by barbarous people such as now
inhabit the island of Ascension. There is no tradition relating to their
origin or history among the present inhabitants, who, it is said,
attribute them to “mauli,” evil spirits. The “great temple” was occupied
for a time, “several generations ago,” according to the natives, by the
shipwrecked crew of a Spanish buccaneer; and relics of these outlaws are
still found in its vaults, which they used as storehouses.

On many low islands of the Marshall and Gilbert groups are curious
pyramids, tall and slender, built of stones. The natives regard them
with superstitious fear. The author of these papers, being a mariner,
suggests that they are “landmarks or relics of ancient copper-colored
voyagers of the Polynesian race during their great migrations.”
Remarkable structures of this kind are found on Tapituea, one of the
Kingsmill islands, and on Tinian, one of the Ladrones, where, also,
remarkable Cyclopean structures are found. They are solid, truncated
pyramidal columns, generally about twenty feet high and ten feet square
at the base. The monuments on Tinian were seen by M. Arago, who
accompanied Bougainville. According to his description they form two
long colonnades, the two rows being thirty feet apart, and seeming to
have once been connected by something like roofing. On Swallow’s Island,
some twelve degrees eastward of Tapituea, is a pyramid similar in
construction; and on the west side of this island is “a vast
quadrangular inclosure of stone, containing several mounds, or probably
edifices of some kind, of which the form and contents are not known by
reason of their being buried under drift-sand and guano.”

On Strong’s Island, and others connected with it, are ruins similar to
those at Metallanine. On Lele, which is separated from Strong’s Island
at the harbor by a very narrow channel, there is a “conical mountain
surrounded by a wall some twenty feet high, and of enormous thickness.”
The whole island appears to present “a series of Cyclopean inclosures
and lines of great walls every where overgrown with forest.” Some of the
inclosures are parallelograms 200 by 100 feet in extent; one is much
larger. The walls are generally twelve feet thick, and within are
vaults, artificial caverns, and secret passages. No white man is allowed
to live on Lele, and strangers are forbidden to examine the ruins, in
which, it is supposed, is concealed the plunder taken by the natives
from captured or stranded ships. On the southwest side of the harbor, at
Strong’s Island, “are many canals lined with stone. They cross each
other at right angles, and the islands between their intersections were
artificially raised, and had tall buildings erected on them, some of
which are still entire. One quadrangular tower, about forty feet high,
is very remarkable. The forest around them is dense and gloomy; the
canals are broken and choked with mangroves.” Not more than 500 people
now inhabit these islands; their tradition is, that an ancient city
formerly stood around this harbor, mostly on Lele, occupied by a
powerful people whom they call “Anut,” and who had large vessels, in
which they made long voyages east and west, “many moons” being required
for one of these voyages.

Great stone structures on some of Navigator’s Islands, of which the
natives can give no account, are mentioned without being particularly
described. Some account is given of one remarkable structure. On a
mountain ridge 1500 feet above the sea, and near the edge of a precipice
500 feet high, is a circular platform built of huge blocks of volcanic
stone. It is 150 feet in diameter, and about 20 feet high. On one side
was the precipice, and on the other a ditch that may have been
originally 20 feet deep. Trees six feet in diameter are now growing in
the ruins of this platform. Remarkable ruins exist on some of the
Marquesas Islands, but they have not been clearly described.

At first, when these antiquities were noticed by seamen, it was
suggested that they were the remains of works constructed by the old
buccaneers; but closer examination soon put aside this theory. Neither
the buccaneers, nor any other people from Europe, would have constructed
such works; and, besides, it is manifest that they were ruins before any
crew of buccaneers sailed on the Pacific. The remains on Easter Island
were described by Captain Cook. It has now been discovered that such
remains exist at various points throughout Polynesia, and greater
familiarity with the islands will very likely bring to light many that
have not yet been seen by Europeans. The author of these papers,
referring to the old discarded suggestion relative to the buccaneers,
says: “Centuries of European occupation would have been required for the
existence of such extensive remains, which are, moreover, not in any
style of architecture practiced by people of the Old World.”

It is stated that similar stone-work, consisting of “walls, strongholds,
and great inclosures,” exists on the eastern side of Formosa, which is
occupied by a people wholly distinct in race from the Mongols who
invaded and occupied the other side. The influence to which these
ancient works are due seems to have pervaded Polynesia from the
Marquesas Islands at the east, to the Ladrone and Carolina Islands at
the west, and what is said of the present inhabitants of Ascension
Island might have a wider application, namely, “They create on the mind
of a stranger the impression of a people who have degenerated from
something higher and better.” At a few points in Polynesia a small
portion of the people show Mongol traits. Dark-colored people, evidently
of the Papuan variety, somewhat mixed with the brown race it may be, are
found at various points in larger numbers; but the great body of the
Polynesians are a brown race, established (at a very remote period,
perhaps) by a mixture of the Papuans with the Malays. Now take into
consideration the former existence of a great Malayan empire, the wide
distribution of Malay dialects on the Pacific, and the various
indications that there was formerly in Polynesia something higher and
better in the condition of the people, and the ancient history indicated
by these ruins will not seem mysterious, nor shall we feel constrained
to treat as incredible the Central American and Peruvian traditions that
anciently strangers came from the Pacific world in ships to the west
coast of America for commercial intercourse with the civilized countries
existing here.

Ruins similar in character are found in the Sandwich Islands, but here
the masonry is occasionally superior to that found elsewhere. A
gentleman interested in archæological inquiries gives the following
account of a Hawaiian ruin which he visited in the interior, about
thirty miles from Hilo. He says he went with several companions to the
hill of Kukii, which he describes as follows:

“The hill is so regular in its outline that it appears like a work of
art, a giant effort of the Mound-Builders. Its general form resembles
very much the pyramid of Cholulu in Mexico, and from this fact I felt a
great interest in climbing it. We proceeded, Conway, Eldhardt, Kaiser,
and I, on foot up the grassy slope of the hill. There was an absence of
all volcanic matter; no stone on the hill except what had been brought
there by the hand of man. As we arrived near the summit we came upon
great square blocks of hewn stone overgrown by shrubbery, and on
reaching the summit we found that it had been leveled and squared
according to the cardinal points, and paved. We found two square blocks
of hewn stone imbedded in the earth in an upright position, some fifteen
feet apart, and ranging exactly east and west. Over the platform was
rank grass, and a grove of cocoanuts some hundred years old. Examining
farther, I found that the upper portion of the hill had been terraced;
the terraces near the summit could be distinctly traced, and they had
evidently been faced with hewn stone. The stones were in perfect squares
of not less than three feet in diameter, many of them of much greater
size. They were composed of a dark vitreous basalt, the most durable of
all stone. It is remarkable that every slab was faced and polished upon
every side, so that they could fit together like sheets of paper. They
reminded me much of the polished stones in some of the walls of
Tiahuanuco, and other ruins in Peru. Many of the blocks were lying
detached; probably some had been removed; but there were still some
thirty feet of the facing on the lower terrace partly in position. But
all showed the ravages of time and earthquakes, and were covered with
accumulated soil, grass, and shrubbery. Conway and myself, in descending
the hill, had our attention attracted by a direct line of shrubbery
running from the summit to the base of the hill, on the western side, to
the cocoanut grove below. Upon examination, we found it to be the
remains of a stairway, evidently of hewn stone, that had led from the
foot of the hill to the first terrace, a height of nearly 300 feet.
Within this stairway, near the base, we found a cocoanut-tree growing,
more than 200 years old, the roots pressing out the rocks. The site for
a temple is grand and imposing, and the view extensive, sweeping the
ocean, the mountains, and the great lava plain of Puna. It was also
excellent in a military point of view as a lookout. From the summit it
appeared as an ancient green island, around which had surged and rolled
a sea of lava; and so it evidently has been.

“By whom and when was this hill terraced and these stones hewn? There is
a mystery hanging around this hill which exists nowhere else in the
Sandwich Islands. The other structures so numerously scattered over the
group are made of rough stone; there is no attempt at a terrace; there
is no flight of steps leading to them; there is no hewn or polished
stone, nor is there any evidence of the same architectural skill
evinced. They are the oldest ruins yet discovered, and were evidently
erected by a people considerably advanced in arts, acquainted with the
use of metallic instruments, the cardinal points, and some mathematical
knowledge. Were they the ancestors of the present Hawaiians, or of a
different race that has passed away?”

He inquired of the oldest natives concerning the history of this ruin,
but “they could give only vague and confused traditions in regard to it,
and these were contradictory. The only point on which they agreed was
that it had never been used within the memory of man.” They also said
there was another old structure of the same kind in Kona, whose history
is lost. The language of the Sandwich Islands is so manifestly a dialect
of the Malayan tongue, that the influence of the Malays must have been
paramount in these islands in ancient times.



In the “Actes de la Société Philologique,” Paris, for March, 1870, Mons.
H. de Charencey gives some particulars of his attempt to decipher
“fragments” of one or two very brief inscriptions on the bas-relief of
the cross at Palenque. I know nothing of his qualifications for this
work, but he appears to have studied the characters of the Maya
alphabet preserved and explained by Landa. It is seen, however, that his
attempt to decipher the inscriptions is a complete failure. In fact, he
professes to have done no more than reproduce two or three words in
Roman characters. He gives us _Hunab-ku_, _Eznab_, and _Kukulcan_ as
words found on the cross. _Eznab_ is supposed to be the name of a month,
or of a day of the week, and the others names of divinities. He finds
that the characters of the inscriptions are not in all respects
identical with those found in Landa, and that Landa’s list, especially
when tested by the inscriptions, is incomplete. There is not absolute
certainty in regard to the name Kukulcan; nevertheless, M. de Charencey
makes this speculative use of it:

“The presence of the name ‘Kukulcan’ on the bas-relief of the cross is
important in a historical point of view. The name of this demigod, which
signifies ‘the serpent with the quetzal plumes,’ is the Maya form of the
Mexican name ‘Quetzalcohuatl,’ which has precisely the same meaning. But
we know that the name and worship of this god were brought to the high
plateaus of Central America toward the ninth century of our era,
consequently the bas-relief in question can not be more ancient.”

This assumes that the worship of Kukulcan was never heard of by the
Mayas until the Aztecs arrived in Mexico, an assumption for which there
is no warrant, and which proceeds in utter disregard of facts. It was
the Aztecs who had never heard of Kukulcan, or, at least, had not
adopted his worship, previous to this time. The Aztecs, when they
settled in Anahuac, did not impart new ideas, religion, or culture to
any body; on the contrary, they received much from the civilization of
their new neighbors, which was more advanced than their own. It is very
certain that neither the Mayas nor the Quichés borrowed any thing from

We need not go back so far as the ninth century to find the time when
the Aztecs adopted, or at least organized in Mexico, the worship of
Kukulcan, whose name they transformed into Quetzalcohuatl. His worship
did not begin with them; they did not introduce it; they found it in the
country as a very ancient worship, and adopted their form of it from the
people who yielded to their sway.

If M. de Charencey will inquire with a little more care, he will
discover that Kukulcan was one of the very oldest personages in Central
American mythology, as _Con_ was one of the oldest in that of Peru.
Kukulcan, sometimes as Zamnà, was associated with almost every thing in
civilization. He introduced the beginnings of civilized life, invented
the art of writing, and was to the Central Americans not wholly unlike
what Thoth was to the Egyptians, and Tautus, or Taut, to the Phœnicians.
If the bas-relief of the cross at Palenque were half as old as his
worship in Central America, it would be far more ancient than any one
has supposed.


[The figures in this Index refer to pages.]

  Adobe used in Northern Mexico, 82;
    in Peru for later constructions, 243;
    used by Mound-Builders, 27.

  Ancient history of Mexico and Central America in the old books and
      traditions, 197-200;
    Aztecs preceded by Toltecs, and Toltecs by Colhuas, 198;
    Colhuas the original civilizers, 198-9;
    they may have come from South America, 198, 200;
    Chichimecs the original barbarians, 198;
    the Colhuas first settled in Tabasco, 199;
    Mayas, Quichés, Tzendals, etc., originally Colhuas, 200, 205;
    Colhuan kingdom of Xibalba, 199;
    Colhuas, Toltecs, and Aztecs branches of the same people, 206;
    such a history implied by the political condition in which the
      country was found, 206;
    theories of this old civilization considered, 165-183;
    it was original in America, 184-6.

  Antiquity of man and civilization, 181-2, 273-5.

  Antiquity of the Mexican and Central American ruins, 151-59, 184;
    the great forest was 450 years ago what it is now, 151;
    it covers an ancient seat of civilization, 95, 151, 152;
    Copan forgotten and mysterious before the Conquest, 152;
    there was a long period of history preceded by development of the
      civilization, 152, 153;
    distinct epochs traced, 155, 156;
    no perishable materials left in the ruins, 156-159;
    an extreme notion of their antiquity, 157, 158, 207;
    another notion makes this the “oldest civilization in the world,”
    Tyrians saw the old cities 3000 years ago, 162-64.

  Antiquity of the Mound-Builders, 45-51;
    a new river terrace formed since they left, 47;
    decayed condition of their skeletons shows antiquity, 48-9;
    “primeval” forests found growing over their works, 50-1.

  Astronomical monument in Southern Mexico, 122-3;
    at Chapultepec, 220-1;
    in Peru, 254;
    Mexican calendars, 214-15;
    Peruvian calendars, 236. See Telescopic Tubes.

  Atlantis supposed to be an ingulfed part of America, 175-7;
    its destruction recorded in Egypt and related to Solon, 177-8;
    said to be recorded in old Central American books, 176;
    Proclus on remembrance of Atlantis, 178;
    derivation of the words Atlas, Atlantes, and Atlantic, 179;
    opinions relative to former existence of such land, 180-1;
    geological probabilities, 181;
    memory of war with the Atlantes preserved at Athens, 178.

  Aztec civilization denied in a “New History,” 207-8;
    facts discredit this denial, 208-9;
    Cortez found abundant supplies, 208, 210;
    found Mexican mechanics, masons, and the like, 213, 214, 215;
    the city of Mexico and its great temple, realities, 208, 212, 215;
    both described, 211-12;
    present remains of them, 214-15.

  Aztecs, the, were less civilized than their predecessors, 221;
    they came from the south, 217-18;
    when they left Aztlan, 219;
    how long they had been in Mexico, 219;
    what they learned and borrowed of their neighbors, 220-1;
    did not adopt the phonetic system of writing, 221;
    could not have left such ruined cities as Palenque and Mitla, 221;
    Aztecs still found at the south, 218-19.

  Balboa’s hunt for Peru, 223-4.

  Basques, their fishing voyages to America, 62.

  Books of ancient America destroyed in Mexico and Central America by
      the Aztec Ytzcoatl, 189;
    by Spanish fanaticism, 188-9;
    a few of the later books saved, 180-196;
    some of the more important, 195-6;
    books of hieroglyphics in Peru, 256.

  Boturini collected Mexican and Central American books, 195;
    misfortunes of his collection, 195-6.

  Brasseur de Bourbourg on the antiquity of the Mound-Builders, 53;
    on their Mexican origin, 57;
    on their religion, 53;
    on the Chichimecs, 198;
    on Huehue Tlapalan, 201;
    on Nahuatl chronology, 204;
    his “Atlantic theory,” 159, 160, 174-83;
    he has great knowledge of American traditions and antiquities, 174;
    discovered the works of Ximenes and Landa’s Maya alphabet, 191, 192;
    translated “Popol-Vuh,” 192;
    he is unsystematic, confused, and fanciful, 102, 160.

  Brereton on the wild Indians of New England, 62-5;
    his invented stories of their copper and flax, 62, 63.

  Calendars in Mexico, 214-15;
    in Peru, 236.

  Central American and Southern Mexican ruins most important, 93;
    their masonry and ornamentation, 99-101;
    a great forest covers most of them, 94, 103, 104;
    a road built into the forest in 1695, 95, 151-2;
    this forest covers a chief seat of the ancient civilization, 95;
    Cinaca-Mecallo, 124.

  Cevola, “Seven Cities” of, 85-9.

  Charencey, M. de, attempts to decipher an inscription, 292-3;
    his singular speculation concerning the worship of Kukulcan, 293.

  Charnay, Desiré, his account of Mitla, 121, 122.

  Chronology of the Mexican race, 203-4;
    of the Peruvians, 265-6.

  Civilization, antiquity of, underrated, 181-2, 273.

  Cloth of Mound-Builders, fragments of, 41.

  Coin among the Muyscas, 271.

  “Coliseum” at Copan, 114.

  Columbus and the Mayas, 209-10.

  Copan, its ruins situated in wild region, 111;
    first discovered in 1576, and were then mysterious to the natives,
      93, 111;
    what Mr. Stephens saw there, 111, 112;
    what Palacios found there 300 years ago, 113, 114;
    the inscriptions, monoliths, and decorations, 112;
    seems older than Palenque, 112, 113, 155.

  Copper of Lake Superior described, 43.

  Coronado’s conquest of “Cevola,” 85, 86.

  Cortez invades Mexico, 210;
    his progress, 210-11;
    well received at the city of Mexico, 211;
    driven from the city, 213;
    how the city was taken, 213-14;
    it was immediately rebuilt, 214;
    the plaza made of part of the inclosure of the great temple, 214;
    Cortez could not have invented the temple, 215.

  Cross, the, not originally a Christian emblem, 109;
    vastly older than Christianity as a symbolic device, 109, 110;
    common in Central American ruins, 109;
    the assumption that it was first used as a Christian emblem has
      misled inquiry as to the age and origin of antiquities, 110.

  Cuzco, Montesinos on its name, 227;
    was probably built by the Incas on the site of a ruined city of the
      older times, 226-7;
    the ruins at Cuzco, 226, 234-5.

  Egyptian pyramids totally unlike those in America, 183;
    no resemblance between Egyptians and the Mexican race, 183.

  Ethnology, American, discussed, 65-9;
    South Americans the oldest aborigines, 68, 69, 185;
    Huxley’s suggestion, 69.

  Gallatin, Albert, on Mound-Builders, 34.

  Garcilasso partly of Inca blood, 258;
    not well qualified to write a history of Peru, 258-9;
    he began with the fable of Manco-Capac, and confined all history
      to the Incas, 259-61;
    was received as an “authority,” 269;
    his influence has misdirected Peruvian studies, 269.

  Gila, valley of, its ruins, 82.

  Gold the most common metal in Peru, 250;
    astonishing abundance of Peruvian gold-work, 249-50;
    their gardens made of gold, 250;
    amount of gold sent from Peru to Spain, 238, 250;
    gold calendar found recently at Cuzco, 236.

  Herrara[TN-7] on the buildings in Yucatan, 149.

  Huehue-Tlapalan, from which the Toltecs went to Mexico, 57, 75, 201-3;
    supposed to be the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, 202, 203;
    described in old Central American books, 202;
    the Toltecs driven from Huehue-Tlapalan by the Chichimecs, or wild
      Indians, 203;
    it was at a distance northeast of Mexico, 201, 202;
    Cabrera and others on Huehue-Tlapalan, 202.

  Humboldt on Phœnician symbols in America, 186;
    on the origin of the Aztecs, 218;
    on Peruvian great roads, 245;
    on books of hieroglyphics found in Peru, 246, 255;
    describes the pyramid of Papantla, 91, 92.

  Huxley on American ethnology, 69.

  Incas of Peru, origin of the title, 267;
    they represent only the last period of Peruvian history, 261;
    their dynasty began 500 years or less before the Conquest, 260-1;
    list of the Incas, 261;
    Manco-Capac a fable, 260-1.

  Indians of North America, vain endeavors to connect them with the
      Mound-Builders, 62;
    came toward the Atlantic from the northwest, 59;
    the Iroquois group may have come first, 58;
    their distribution relative to the Algonquins, 59, 60;
    date of Algonquin migration estimated, 60;
    these Indians resemble the Koraks and Chookchees, 65, 185;
    they are entirely distinct from Mound-Builders and Pueblos, 60, 65;
    their barbarism original, 61.

  “Inscription Rock,” 78.

  Inscriptions in Central America written in Maya characters, 196;
    written perhaps in an old form of speech from which the Maya family
      of dialects was derived, 196;
    attempts to decipher them, 292.

  Iron, names for, in ancient Peru, 248.

  Israelitish theory of ancient America, 166-7.

  Keweenaw Point, a copper district, 44.

  Kukulcan, his worship, 220, 293.

  Lake Peten in the forest, Maya settlement there, 95;
    Ursua’s road from Yucatan to the lake, 95.

  Landa wrote on the Mayas of Yucatan, 191;
    preserved the Maya alphabet, with explanations, 191.

  Languages in Mexico and Central America, 200, 205;
    three groups, 216;
    probably not radically distinct, 206, 216;
    the most important group supposed to be Colhuan, 205.

  Las Casas on Central American annalists, 187-8;
    what he says of the old books and their destruction, 188.

  Maize, did Indians get it from Mound-Builders? 35.

  Malays, their ancient empire, 167-8;
    their navigation of the Pacific, 168;
    spread of their dialects, 168;
    came to America, 169, 170, 272;
    El Masúdí[TN-8] on the Malays, 168;
    were not civilizers in America, 170-1;
    ruins of Malayan cities in Java, 163-9.

  Manco-Capac a fiction of the Incas, 260-1;
    discarded by Montesinos and other early Spanish writers, 261, 269.

  Mandan Indians supposed Mound-Builders, 74.

  Mayas first seen by Columbus, 209;
    their phonetic alphabet preserved, 191;
    descendants of the first civilizers, 170.

  Mexican cities noticed by Spaniards, 211, 215;
    what Montezuma said of his building materials, 209.

  Mexican “picture-writing” a peculiarity of the Aztecs, 221;
    much inferior to the Maya writing, 221;
    something like it at Chichen-Itza, 143;
    Aztecs could not have left such inscriptions as those seen in the
      ruined cities, 221.

  Mexican ruins in the central region, 89-92;
    Tulha, 89;
    Xochicalco, 89, 90;
    Papantla, 91, 92;
    Cholula, 90;
    Teotihuacan, 90;
    pyramids with galleries, 91;
    unexplored antiquities in this region, 91.

  Mining works of Mound-Builders, 43-6;
    mining method of the Mound-Builders, 43;
    their mining tools found, 44, 46;
    they left a detached mass of copper in a mine, 43-4;
    antiquity of their mining works, 46, 53, 64.

  Mitla, its ruins show refined skill in the builders, 118, 121;
    the decorations, 121;
    present state of the ruins, 117-122.

  Montesinos, Fernando, explored and studied Peru fifteen years, 261;
    unequaled in knowledge of its antiquities and traditional history,
    his means of information, 262;
    how historical narratives and poems were preserved by the _amautas_, 263;
    how literature can be preserved by trained memory, 262-3;
    Homer and the Vedas, 262-3.

  Montesinos on Peruvian history, 264-7;
    there were three distinct periods, 264;
    he rejects the Manco-Capac fable, 264;
    does not begin the history with such stories, 264;
    reports 64 kings in the first period, 264;
    his account of the Peruvian sovereigns, 264-7;
    the art of writing existed in the older time, 265;
    how the first period closed, 266;
    the second period, for 1000 years, a period of invasions, divisions,
      small states, and general decline of civilization, 264, 267;
    in this period the art of writing was lost, 267;
    in it the 26 successors of the 64 kings were merely kings of
      Tambotoco, 266;
    how this period ended, 267-8;
    the third period began with Rocca, the first Inca, 267;
    why Montesinos has not been duly appreciated, 268-9;
    his facts stand apart from his theories, 268;
    probabilities favor his report of three periods, 270-1.

  Montezuma on his building-material, 209.

  Morgan, Lewis H., on the Indians, 59, 60, 66.

  Mound-Builders, their national name unknown, 14, 57;
    their mound-work and its uses, 17-19;
    like mound-work in Mexico and Central America, 70, 71, 72;
    their civilization, 33-39;
    used wood for building material, 70, 71;
    their inclosures, 19-24;
    their works at the south, 24, 27;
    their principal settlements, 30, 31, 34;
    their border settlements, 52;
    had commerce with Mexico, 73;
    relics of their manufactures, 40, 41, 61;
    their long stay in the country, 51-55;
    were not ancestors of wild Indians, 58-61;
    came from Mexico, 70;
    were connected with Mexico through Texas, 73;
    probably were Toltecs, 74, 200-3.

  Muyscas, their civilization, 271.

  Nahuatl or Toltec chronology, 203-4.

  Natchez Indians, were they degenerate Mound-Builders, 58, 56.

  Northmen in America, 279-85;
    they discovered Greenland, 280;
    their settlements in Greenland, 280-1, 284;
    Biarni’s constrained voyage to Massachusetts in 985 A.D., 163, 281;
    subsequent voyages to New England, 281-4;
    encounters with the Indians, 282, 283;
    the Norse settlements in Vinland were probably lumbering and trading
      establishments, 284;
    not people enough in Greenland and Iceland to make extensive
      settlements, 284;
    written narratives of these discoveries, 279-80.

  Origin of Mexican and Central American civilization, theories of,
    the “lost tribes” theory absurd, 166-7;
    the Malay theory untenable, 170-1;
    the Phœnician theory fails to explain it, 173-4;
    the Atlantic theory explained by Brasseur de Bourbourg not likely
      to be received, 182;
    it was an original American civilization, 184;
    may have begun in South America, 185, 246, 272-3.

  Orton, Prof., on Peruvian antiquity, 273, 274.

  Pacific islands, their antiquities, 288-92.

  Palenque, Stephens’s first view of, 100;
    this city’s name unknown, 104;
    supposed to have been the ancient Xibalba, 199;
    some of its ruins described, 105-9;
    extent of the old city can not be determined, 96, 105;
    difficulties of exploration, 105, 110;
    the cross at Palenque, 109;
    aqueduct, 105.

  Papantla, its remarkable stone pyramid, 91, 92;
    important ruins in the forests of Papantla and Misantla, 91.

  Paper, Peruvian name of, 267;
    manufacture of, for writing, proscribed in the second period of
      Peruvian history, 267.

  Peruvian ancient history, 257-67.

  Peruvian civilization, 246;
    differed from Central American, 222-3, 246;
    is seen in the civil and industrial organization, 247;
    in their agriculture, 247;
    in their manufactures, 247-51;
    their dyes, 247-8;
    their skill in gold-work, 249;
    the abundance of gold-work, 249-50;
    their schools of the _amautas_, 253, 263;
    their literature, 255;
    anciently had the art of writing, 255, 267;
    had names for iron, and said to have worked iron mines, 248-9.

  Peruvian ruins, where found, 222, 237;
    they represent two periods of civilization, 226;
    remains on islands in Lake Titicaca, 227-8;
    at Tiahuanaco, 233-4;
    remarkable monolithic gateways, 233-4;
    at old Huanuco, 239-40;
    at Gran-Chimu, 237-8;
    ruins of a large and populous city, 237;
    Cuelap, 239;
    Pachacamac, 243;
    subterranean passage under a river, 243;
    the aqueducts, 222, 237, 243;
    the great roads, 243-6;
    ruins at Cuzco, 234.

  Phœnicians, or people of that race, came probably to America in very
      ancient times, 172, 173;
    decline of geographical knowledge around the Ægean after Phœnicia
      was subjugated, about B.C. 813, 272-3;
    supposed Phœnician symbols in Central America, 186;
    Phœnician race may have influenced Central American civilization,
      but did not originate it, 173, 185;
    Tyrians storm-driven to America, 162, 163.

  Pizarro seeks Peru, 224-5;
    discovers the country, 225;
    goes to Spain for aid, 225;
    finally lands at Tumbez, 225;
    marches to Caxamalca, 220;
    perpetrates wholesale murder and seizes the Inca, 220;
    the Inca fills a room with gold for ransom, and is murdered, 220, 249.

  “Popol-Vuh,” an old Quiché book translated, 192;
    what it contains, 193;
    Quiché account of the creation, 194;
    four attempts to create man, 194-5;
    its mythology grew out of an older system, 193-4;
    kingdom of Quiché not older than 1200 A.D., 193.

  Pueblos, 76, 77;
    Pueblo ruins, 77-89;
    occupied northern frontier of the Mexican race, 68, 217-18;
    unlike the wild Indians, 67-8.

  Quichés, notices of, 193.

  Quippus, Peruvian, 254-5.

  Quirigua, its ruins like those of Copan, but older, 114;
    it is greatly decayed, 117;
    has inscriptions, 117.

  Quito subjugated by Huayna-Capac, 225;
    was civilized like Peru, 270;
    modern traveler’s remark on, 276.

  Savage theory of human history, 182.

  “Semi-Village Indians,” 67, 68.

  Serpent, figures of, 28;
    great serpent inclosure, 28.

  Simpson, Lieut., describes a Pueblo ruin, 88, 89.

  Spinning and weaving in Peru, 247;
    vestiges of these arts among the Mound-Builders, 41;
    the Mayas had textile fabrics, 209.

  Squier on the Aztecs, 92;
    on the more southern ruins in Central America, 123, 124;
    on the monoliths of Copan, 112;
    on Central American forests, 94;
    on the ruins of Tiahuanaco, 234.

  Telescopic tubes of the Mound-Builders, 42;
    silver figure of a Peruvian using such a tube, 254;
    such a tube on a Mexican monument, 123.

  “Tennis Court” at Chichen-Itza, 142.

  Titicaca Lake, its elevation above sea-level, 236.

  Tlascalans, what Cortez found among them, 210;
    their capital, 211;
    aided the Spaniards, 211.

  Toltecs identified with the Mound-Builders, 201-205;
    how they came to Mexico, 201, 202;
    date of their migration, 204. See Huehue Tlapalan.

  Tuloom, in Yucatan, 150.

  Uxmal described, 131-137;
    more modern than Palenque, 155;
    partly inhabited, perhaps, when Cortez invaded Mexico, 131, 155.

  Valley of Rio Verde, its ruins, 82, 85.

  Wallace, A. R., on ruins in Java, 168-9.

  Welsh, the, in America, 285-7;
    Prince Madog’s emigration, 285;
    his colony supposed to have been destroyed or absorbed by the
      Indians, 286;
    letter of Rev. Morgan Jones on his “travels” among the Doeg Indians
      who spoke Welsh, 286-7.

  Whipple, Lieut., on Pueblo ruins, 78-85.

  Whittlesey on the ancient mining, 46, 54.

  Wilson’s discoveries in Ecuador, 274-5.

  Writing, phonetic, among the Mayas, 187-91;
    Aztec writing much ruder, 221;
    writing in Peru, 254-6, 267;
    Peruvian books of hieroglyphics, 256;
    such writing on a llama skin found at Lake Titicaca, 256.

  Xibalba, an ancient Colhuan kingdom, where it was situated, 199;
    subjugated by the Toltecs, 199.

  Ximenes, Father Francisco, his manuscript work on Guatemala, 191-2;
    his dictionary of the native tongues, 192;
    discovered and translated “Popol Vuh,” 192.

  Xochicalco, its pyramidal temple situated on an excavated and chambered
      hill, 89, 90.

  Yucatan, its native name is Maya, 125;
    what is seen at Mayapan, 127, 128;
    the old edifices at Uxmal, 131-137;
    very ancient ruins at Kabah, 137-139;
    curious construction at Chichen-Itza, 142;
    remarkable remains at Ake, 144;
    aguadas in Yucatan, 145, 146;
    subterranean reservoirs, 146;
    Merida built on the site of a ruined city, 126;
    what the Spaniards saw when they first sailed along its coast,
      163, 210.

  Zuni, an inhabited Pueblo described by Lieut. Whipple, 79, 80;
    ruins of an “old Zuni” near it, 80, 81.


Transcriber’s Note

The following errors were found:

         Page  Error
  TN-1   ix    Quiragua should read Quirigua
  TN-2   xi    Los Monjas should read Las Monjas
  TN-3   124   of “great size.” should read of ‘great size.’”
  TN-4   158   sufficently should read sufficiently
  TN-5   280   there two years. should read there two years.”
  TN-6   286   communicated should read communication
  TN-7   296   Herrara should read Herrera
  TN-8   297   El Masúdí should read El Mas’údí

  The following words were inconsistently spelled or hyphenated:

  Cholula / Cholulu
  Chiapa / Chiapas
  Inca-Rocca / Inca-Rocco
  Mesantla / Misantla
  Popol-Vuh / Popol Vuh

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