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Title: The Ancient Cities of the New World - Being Travels and Explorations in Mexico and Central America From 1857-1882
Author: Charnay, Désiré
Language: English
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[Illustration: DÉSIRÉ CHARNAY.]


Being Travels and Explorations in Mexico and Central America
from 1857-1882.



With numerous Illustrations.

Translated from the French by J. Gonino and Helen S. Conant.


London: Chapman and Hall,

Charles Dickens and Evans,
Crystal Palace Press.



When the Minister of Public Instruction entrusted me with the study of
the Ancient American Civilisations, you wished to become associated
with my labours in a truly munificent spirit. You will find in the
following pages the result of my discoveries, which, you are aware,
were attended with perfect success. I strove, during the progress of
these studies, to carry out the programme laid down by you towards the
reconstruction of civilisations that have passed away. I think I have
succeeded; and I hope to have sufficiently demonstrated that these
civilisations had but one and the same origin—that they were Toltec and
comparatively modern. If the learned world shall confirm my theory, and
success crown my endeavours; if it shall be found that I have solved
this vexed American question, so hotly controverted hitherto, it will
be mainly due to your generous support.

Pray accept the dedication of this Work as a token of my deep gratitude.



The justification for having ventured to correct the spelling of
some proper names, and other slight emendations, is to be found in
the Author’s Preface, where he states that “he often trusted an
uncertain memory for his quotations, and that his book was written
between two expeditions.” There is more: it was deemed advisable, to
suit a restless and exacting generation, to reduce the bulk of the
volume, a task which was not undertaken without fear and trembling,
the Translator being painfully conscious of shortcomings, and that
retrenchment may have been where it should rather have expanded, and
expanded where it should have retrenched.


The first notice upon this work appeared in the _North American
Review_, the energetic Editor of which (Mr. A. Th. Rice) wished to be
before all his contemporaries in giving his subscribers an _aperçu_
of my labours. Unfortunately for them that publication contained
my impressions of the moment, just as I dotted them down, which,
as a natural consequence, had to be modified _pari passu_ with my
discoveries, whilst my quotations, owing to an uncertain memory, were
not much to offer readers of such intrinsic merit. A second publication
followed in the _Tour du Monde_, but although better thought out
than the first, even that was too hastily written to do justice to
the magnificent collection I now present to the public, in which the
entire design I had at heart is revealed; and if the account of my
discoveries, the issue which naturally follows, the theory I wish to
establish, are still couched in language which may appear crude and
incomplete, I ask the indulgence of my readers on the plea that this
edition received the last touch between two expeditions. On the other
hand the subject is so vast, that I only aimed at giving a broad
outline, hoping for greater leisure at some future time.

My wish has been so to write as to be easily understood by all; to
this end I have given my book the dual form of a journal as well as a
scientific account: in it I recount the history of a civilisation which
has long passed away, which is hardly known, or rather which has been
systematically misunderstood and misrepresented. My explorations led me
to the uplands of Mexico, the first establishments of the civilising
race, and enabled me to trace the Toltecs step by step to their
highest development in the various regions of Central America, and not
unfrequently to give a certain date, to re-establish historical truth.
There is nothing very extraordinary in this reconstruction, which,
at first beautifully simple, became complicated with the countless
contradictory accounts which have been published in regard to it. In
the hands of the Spanish padres, origins, however obscure, were made to
agree with the Biblical narrative both in their ponderous commentaries
and their ridiculous systems, which, starting with the confusion of
tongues, travelled on to the lost tribes of Israel, ending with the
legend which ascribes to St. Thomas the apostleship of America. Modern
historians have not been much better in this respect, and the last
century has produced a stupendous amount of the most extraordinary
publications, forming an inextricable labyrinth, of which the immense
compilation of Bancroft may serve as an example.

The cause of this confusion is twofold: first and foremost, the
destruction of nearly all the Indian documents by the conquerors; and
secondly, the small degree of interest they felt for anything that
dated before their advent. The first accounts, such as Ixtlilxochitl’s
for instance, were written from narratives more or less trustworthy,
delivered from memory by the natives, in which, as might be expected,
the most incoherent traditions are mixed up with certain historical
facts, without discrimination or the slightest spirit of criticism;
for science is but of yesterday, and archæology, anthropology, and
philology were as yet unknown. This explains why, if we except those
things which fell under their personal observation, later historians
are so infinitely superior to the ancient.

Up to the present day authentic documents have been wanting; for
without any fault or demerit on the part of the explorers, their
drawings of monuments, however carefully done, could not cope with
modern photographs and squeezes. On the other hand, each traveller
writing, it is true, from actual observation, but confining himself to
one district, could only describe a few of the principal ruins, so that
his theory respecting them was untenable when compared or applied to
the ruins of the whole country. Thus it came to pass that the various
epochs of American civilisation were dealt with as so many distinct
civilisations, producing the utmost confusion. Whereas a sound study
of American civilisation should set aside preconceived opinions and
commentaries, and confine itself to its monuments, original documents,
and such passages in ancient writers descriptive or explanatory of
the end and object of these monuments, not neglecting the powerful
aid of photography and squeezes; when a judicious and intelligent
comparison of the relation these monuments bear to one another, must
soon force the conviction that, whatever the time which divides them
or the difference in their details, they belong to one and the same
civilisation, and that of comparatively recent date—namely the Toltec.

We shall leave the question of first origins as being unnecessary for
our purpose; as also traditions, prehistoric legends, language, and
religion, confining ourselves to what may be termed history; that is,
beginning with the arrival of the cultured Toltecs in Mexico. We shall
note their establishment in the valley of Tula, their development on
the high plateaux, the disruption of their empire; how they transmitted
their industries and mechanical arts to the people who succeeded them;
and lastly, we shall follow them in their exodus and find the traces
of their civilisation everywhere on their passage and in the regions of
Central America.

With regard to my theory on the relatively recent period of American
civilisation and its Toltec origin, I am far from being the first in
upholding it, since Stephens and Humboldt affirmed it some fifty years
ago, whilst all the ancient chroniclers implied it. Is ancient Egypt
less interesting because her MSS. are now read and her origin known?
Why then should the people who raised the American monuments be less
deserving of our regard, because they built them ten centuries sooner
or ten centuries later? Does it alter the character of the monuments,
or destroy an art unknown to us hitherto?

The question of first origins has always seemed to me an idle pursuit;
and if the evolutionist doctrine is true, a perfect moral microscope
would be required to reach the remote past of man, whose countless
generations, scattered in every clime, go back to the dark period when
our rude progenitors were hardly distinguished from the brute creation.
Will it ever be possible to penetrate beyond? Besides, our ancestors
have nothing in common with the autochthones of America, whom I firmly
believe to have come from the extreme East. My reasons for this opinion
are based on the fact that their architecture is so like the Japanese
as to seem identical; that their decorative designs resemble the
Chinese; whilst their customs, habits, sculpture, language, castes,
and polity recall the Malays both in Cambodia, Annam, and Java. The
word “Lacandon,” which is the name of a tribe in Central America, is
also, according to Dr. Neis, that of a race in Indo-China, who spell
it “Lah-Canh-dong.” F. Gamier says that “the Cambodians build their
huts on piles some six or nine feet above the ground. At first sight
it might be attributed to the necessity for protecting themselves
from inundations; but as this mode of construction is found in places
where no such danger exists, it must be ascribed to the _instinct_ of
a _particular_ race” (it is the instinct of the Toltecs which caused
them to erect their edifices on esplanades and pyramids); and in his
description of the _Khmer_ monuments at Angor-Tom and Angor-Wat he
adds: “They are placed on pyramids of three to five stories high,” etc.
The analogy is also seen in the ornamentation of the buildings, where
the human figure is rudely treated, whilst great care is observable
in the other decorative designs, a point which always struck us in
American sculpture. It should also be remarked that bricks covered with
plaster, stucco decoration, cemented floors, roads, and courtyards are
common to the Malays and the Americans; whilst the corbel vault is
found in Java, Cambodia, and America. Again, some temples at Lawoe, in
Java, are built on pyramids, having a staircase on the slope leading
to the edifice, like those of the Toltecs. This resemblance has struck
every traveller, and is the more important that these monuments only
date from the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and are far removed
from those edifices which were introduced in Java by the followers of
Buddha and Brahma; but the destruction of Indian temples and Indian
beliefs was succeeded by an architectural atavism, a return to a Malay
primitive type, evidenced by the monuments at Lawoe, which I visited in
1878, a fact which I think of vital importance.

Castes are purely Asiatic and unknown among the Red Indians, but they
existed with the Toltecs, where the commonwealth was divided into
distinct classes of priests, warriors, merchants, and tillers of the
soil; whilst land was held in common, and a feudal system is apparent
with both the Toltecs and Malays. Two languages are used in Java and
Cambodia; one to address superiors, the other for the vulgar. This was
also the case with the Toltecs, and gave rise to two different written
languages. Finally, the worship of serpents as gods of wisdom, like
Quetzalcoatl, is found in India, Greece, China, Japan, and particularly
in Cambodia and Java. To us these points of resemblance are more than
mere coincidence; something better than fortuitous analogies: they
seem to point to a vast and novel field for the investigation of



    VERA CRUZ AND PUEBLA                                                1

    My former Mission—The present one—Why called
    Franco-American—Vera Cruz—Railway from
    Vera Cruz to Mexico—Warm Region—Temperate
    Region—Cordova—Orizaba—Maltrata—Cold Region—Esperanza—Puebla
    and Tlascala—The Old Route.


    MEXICO                                                             17

    Her New Appearance—Moral Transformation—Public Walks and
    Squares—Suburbs—Railway—Monuments—Cathedral—S. Domingo—S.
    Francisco—La Merced—Hats _à la_ S. Basilio—Suppression of
    Religious Orders.


    THE INDIANS                                                        35

    El Salto del Agua—Netzahualcoyotl—Noche Triste—Historical
    Museum—Tizoc’s Stone, or Gladiator’s Stone—Yoke and
    Sacrificial Stone—Holy War—Religious Cannibalism—American


    TULA                                                               75

    Journey to Tula—The Toltecs—Ancient
    Historians—Origins—Peregrinations—Foundation of Tula—Toltec
    Religion—Chief Deities—Art—Industry—Measurement of Time—The
    Word _Calli_—Architecture.


    TULA. PYRAMID OF THE SUN. ANTIQUITIES OF TULA                      93

    Shell—Tennis-ring—Tlachtli—Ancient Bas-reliefs—Toltecs
    Portrayed—Historical Jottings—The Temple of the Frog—Indian
    Vault—The Plaza—El Cerro del Tesoro.


    PALPAN AND THE TOLTECS                                            104

    Aspect of the Hill—Mogotes—The Toltecs
    and their Building Propensities—A Toltec
    House—Antiquities—Fragments—_Malacates_—Toltec Palace—Toltec
    Organisation—Dress—Customs—Education—Marriage—Orders of
    Knighthood—Philosophy—Religion—Future Life—Pulque—End of
    the Toltec Empire—Emigration.


    TEOTIHUACAN                                                       128

    Quotations—Pre-Toltec Civilisation—Egyptian and Teotihuacan
    Pyramids Compared—General Aspect of the Pyramids—Cement
    Coatings—_Tlateles_ and Pyramids—Idols and Masks—Description
    by Torquemada—S. Martin’s Village—Pulque and Mezcal—S. Juan of


    TEOTIHUACAN (_continued_)                                         141

    Ruins of a Teotihuacan Palace—Cemetery—Bull-Fighting—Pits and
    Quarries—Excavations—A Toltec Palace—Ants—Ancient
    Tombs—Sepulchral Stone.


    MOUNTAIN EXPLORATION                                              152

    Travelling Companions—S. Lazarus Station—S.
    Anita—Ayotla—Tlalmanalco—Tenango del Aire—Amecameca—A Badly
    Lighted Town—Rateros—Monte-Sacro—Volcaneros.


    TENENEPANCO AND NAHUALAC CEMETERIES                               163

    The Rancho of Tlamacas—A Funeral Station—Great
    Excavations—Bodily Remains—Toys—A Beautiful Cup—A
    Well-preserved Skull—Mispayantla Grotto—Amecameca—A Tumulus
    Explored—Expedition to Iztaccihuatl—Nahualac—A Second Cemetery.


    BELLOTE                                                           183

    Return to Vera Cruz—Toltec Cities—Quotations regarding
    Ancient Cities—Rio Tabasco at Frontera—S. Juan Bautista—Rio
    Gonzalèz—Canoas—Lagoons—Bellote Islands—_Kjœkkenmœdings_
    —Temples at Bellote—Chronological and Ornamental Slabs—Las
    Dos Bocas—Cortez—Rio Seco—Paraïso.


    COMALCALCO                                                        194

    Description of Comalcalco—Fonda—Manners—Climate—Masks and
    Figures—Ruins—El Blasillo—Old Palaces Visited—Bricks and
    Bridges—Cemented Roads—Great Pyramid and its Monuments—Palace
    Described—Vases and Jicaras—Tecomates—Towers—Bas-reliefs—Small
    Pyramids and Temples—Reflexions—Disappearance of Indian
    Populations—Return to S. Juan—Don Candido—El Carmen—A Rich


    LAS PLAYAS AND PALENQUE                                           211

    From S. Juan to Jonuta—S. Carlos—Indians and Alligators—Las
    Playas and Catasaja—Stone Cross—Rancho at Pulente—Palenque—The
    Two Slabs in the Temple of the Cross—First Engravings—Acala
    and Palenque from Cortez—Letter to the King—Palenque and
    Ocosingo mentioned by Juarros—Explorations—The Palace—Façade
    and Pyramids—Ornamentation on the Eastern Façade—An Old
    Relief Brought to Light—Palenque Artists and their Mode
    of Working—Medallions and Inner Passage—Reliefs in the
    Main Court—Apartments and Decorations—Inner Wing and
    Restoration—Western Façade—Palace Tower.


    PALENQUE TEMPLES                                                  245

    Palenque a Holy City—Bas-reliefs—Rain and Fever—A Grateful
    Cook—Temple of Inscriptions—Temple of the Sun—Temple of the
    Cross No. 1—Temple of the Cross No. 2—Altars—Mouldings and
    Photographs—Fire—Explorations—Fallen Houses—The Age of Trees
    in Connection with the Ruins—Recapitulation.


    YUCATAN, MERIDA, AND THE MAYA RACE                                262

    Early Account of Yucatan—First Explorers: F. Hernandez
    de Cordova, Juan de Grijalva—Cortez—Railroad—Henequen
    Estate—Merida—Historical Jottings—Destruction of
    all the Documents by the Historian Landa—Municipal
    Palace—Cathedral—The Conqueror’s House—Private Houses—Market
    Place—Maya Race—Types—Manners and Customs of the
    Mayas—Deformation and Tattooing—Meztizas—Dwellings—Suburbs.


    AKÉ AND IZAMAL                                                    288

    Departure—A Family Exploration—“Volan coché”—Tixpénal and
    Tixkokob—Cenoté—Ruins of Aké—Historical Rectification—Small
    Pyramid—Tlachtli—A Large Gallery—Explorations—A Strange
    Theory—Picoté—Architecture of Yucatan at Different Epochs.


    IZAMAL EN ROUTE FOR CHICHEN                                       303

    Expedition to Izamal and
    Chichen-Itza—Brigands—Cacalchen—Market Place—Great
    Pyramid—Small Pyramid and Colossal Decorative
    Figures—Cemented Roads—The Convent of the Virgin at Izamal—A
    Precarious Telegraph—Tunkas—Garrison—Quintana-Roo—An Old
    Acquaintance—Citas—A Fortified Church—Troops—Opening a
    Path—Native Entertainment—Arrival at Pisté.


    CHICHEN-ITZA                                                      323

    Chichen-Itza—El Castillo—General Survey—A Maya
    City—Aguilar—Historical Jottings—Montejo’s
    Expedition—Historians—Their Contradictions—Chichen
    Deserted—The Conqueror’s Retreat—The Nunnery—Impressions and
    Photographs—Terrestrial Haloes—An Unexpected Visitor—Electric
    Telegraph at Akab-Sib—Prison—Caracol—Cenotés—Ruined
    Temples—The Temple of the Sacred Cenoté—Tennis-Court—Monuments
    Described—Portico—Paintings—Low-reliefs—New Analogy—The
    Tlalocs of Chichen and of the Uplands—Market-place—End of Our


    KABAH AND UXMAL                                                   371

    Departure for Ticul—Uayalceh—Mucuiche—Sacalun—An Old
    Souvenir—Ticul—Excavations at S. Francisco—Failure—Yucatec
    Vases—Entertainment at the Hacienda of Yokat—A Sermon in
    Maya—Hacienda of Santa Anna—Important Remains—The Ruins
    of Kabah—Monuments Surveyed—First Palace—Ornamental
    Wall—Cisterns—Inner Apartments—Second Palace—Great
    Pyramid—Ancient Writers Quoted—Stephens’ Drawings.


    UXMAL                                                             391

    From Kabah to Santa Helena—A Maya Village—Uxmal—Hacienda—The
    Governor’s Palace—Cisterns and Reservoirs—The Nunnery
    and the Dwarf’s House—Legend—General View—“Cerro de
    los Sacrificios”—Don Peon’s Charter—Stephens’ Plan and
    Measurements—Friederichsthal—Conclusion—Our Return.


    CAMPECHE AND TENOSIQUÉ                                            414

    From Progreso to Campeche—Incidents on Board—Carmen—Old
    Acquaintances—Indian Guns—Frontera—The Grijalva—Tabasco
    Pottery—Waiting—Carnival at Frontera—Julian’s
    Success—Departure—Jonuta—Monte-Cristo—Difficulties at the
    Custom House—Cabecera—Tenosiqué—Reminiscences—Monteros—The
    Lacandones—Our Mules Come—The Usumacinta—Sea Fish—Setting
    out for the Ruins—Route—Forest Camping—Second Day—Traces
    of Monuments—Mule and Horse Lost—Cortez—Arroyo
    Yalchilan—Provisions left Behind—Crossing the Cordillera—An
    Old Montero—Traces of Lacandones—Yalchilan Pass.


    LORILLARD TOWN                                                    430

    Paso Yalchilan—Another Mule Lost—An Anxious Night—A
    Wild Boar—Encampment—Upper Usumacinta—No Canoes—A
    Difficulty—Deliverance—Surprise—A Mysterious Traveller—A
    Canoe—Fever—Down Stream—A Votive Pillar—Ruins—I
    Meet with a Stranger—General View of Lorillard—A
    Reminiscence—Stephens’ “Phantom City”—Extent of the Ruins
    Unknown—Temple—Idol—Fortress—Our Dwelling Palace—Great
    Pyramid—Second Temple—Stone Lintels and Two Kinds of
    Inscriptions—Our Return—Lacandones.


    PETEN, TAYASAL, TIKAL, AND COPAN                                  459

    Departure from Peten—The River—The Sierra—Sacluc or
    Libertad—Cortez’ Route—Marzillo’s Story—Flores—Ancient
    Tayasal—Conquest of Peten—Various Expeditions—The
    Town Captured—The Inhabitants Disappear—Monuments
    Described—Tikal—Early Explorers—Temples—Bas-reliefs on
    Wood—Retrospection—Bifurcation of the Toltec Column at
    Tikal—Tikal—Toltecs in Guatemala—Coban—Demolition of
    Copan—Quetzalcoatl—Transformation of Stone Altar Bas-reliefs
    into Monolith Idols—End of an Art Epoch—Map of Toltec


    TUMBALA. S. CRISTOBAL. MITLA                                      482

    Return to Tenosiqué—S. Domingo del Palenque
    Revisited—Departure for S. Cristobal—First Halt—No
    Tamenes—Setting out alone for Nopa—Bad Roads—No
    Food—Monkeys—Three Days Waiting at S. Pedro—The
    _Cabildo_—Hostile Attitude of the Natives—The Porters
    Arrive—They make off in the Night—From S. Pedro to Tumbala—Two
    Nights in the Forest—Tumbala—The Cura—Jajalun—Chilon—Citala—A
    Dominican Friar—Cankuk—Tenejapa—S.
    Cristobal—Valley of Chiapas—Tuxtla—Santa
    Lucia—_Marimba_—Tehuantepec—Totolapa—Oaxaca—Santa Maria del
    Tule—Ruins of Mitla.




    VIEW OF PUEBLA, TAKEN FROM ALTO                                  9

    TWO PANORAMAS OF PUEBLA                                         13

    CHURCH OF SAN DOMINGO                                           17

    EL SAGRARIO                                                     27

    CLOISTER OF THE CONVENT OF LA MERCED                            32

    MEXICAN MONKS                                                   34

    EL SALTO DEL AGUA (FOUNTAIN)                                    35

    TREE OF THE NOCHE TRISTE, AT POPOTLAN                           38

    CHAPULTEPEC                                                     44

    CHARCOAL AND BATTEAS VENDORS                                    45

    MEXICAN WATER-CARRIER                                           49

    MEXICAN TORTILLERA AND STRAW MAT SELLERS                        51

    COURT IN THE MEXICO MUSEUM                                      57

    TEOYAOMIQUI, GOD OF DEATH AND WAR                               60



    WRONG AND RIGHT SACRIFICIAL COLLARS                             68

    HUMAN SACRIFICES                                                74

    ANCIENT INDIAN POTTERY                                          75

    EXTRACTING PULQUE                                               77

    TOLTEC POTTERY                                                  82

    TLALOC, FROM A PIECE OF POTTERY                                 83

    TOLTEC CROSSES                                                  86


    COTTON SPINNING                                                 89

    CALLI, IN PROFILE                                               91

    CAPITAL, FOUND AT TULA                                          92

    THE PYRAMID OF THE SUN, TULA                                    93

    TOLTEC CARYATID, TULA                                           94

    PARTS OF A COLUMN, TULA                                         95

    TENNIS-RING, TULA                                               95

    WARRIOR’S PROFILE, FOUND AT TULA                                97

    TOLTEC BAS-RELIEFS                                              99

    YOUNG GIRLS OF TULA                                            102

    RUINS OF A TOLTEC HOUSE                                        104

        (FROM LEMAIRE)                                             105

    PLAN OF THE HILL AT TULA (ANCIENT PALPAN)                      106


    VIEW OF RUINED TOLTEC PALACE                                   109

        FATHER DURAN)                                              114

        DURAN’S “HIST. DE LAS INDIAS”)                             117

        FATHER DURAN)                                              123

    MURAL PAINTING OF TOLTEC HOUSE                                 127

    PYRAMIDS OF SUN AND MOON TEOTIHUACAN                           128


    ROAD TO S. MARTIN                                              135

    CHURCH OF S. JUAN, TEOTIHUACAN                                 137

    MILE-STONE, OR VOTIVE COLUMN, TEOTIHUACAN                      140

    RUINS OF A PALACE, TEOTIHUACAN                                 141



    VOTIVE STONES, TEOTIHUACAN                                     149

    TOLTEC SEPULCHRAL STONE, TEOTIHUACAN                           151

    RUINS OF TLALMANALCO                                           152

    SANTA ANITA CANAL                                              155

    AMECAMECA                                                      157

    HACIENDA OF TOMACOCO                                           160

    VOLCANEROS (MINERS)                                            162

    BURIAL-GROUND, TENENEPANCO                                     163

    POPOCATEPETL AND PICO DEL FRAILE                               165

    VASES FOUND AT TENENEPANCO                                     169



    CARTS, CHILDREN’S TOYS                                         175


    POND OF NAHUALAC                                               182

    QUAY OF S. JUAN BAUTISTA                                       183

    CANOA (BOAT) OF S. JUAN                                        185

    RANCHO AT BELLOTE                                              187

    TEMPLE BAS-RELIEF, BELLOTE                                     189

    TERRA-COTTA MASK, FOUND AT BELLOTE                             193

    VIRGIN FOREST NEAR COMALCALCO                                  194

    PLAN OF GREAT PYRAMID AT COMALCALCO                            197

    BAYS OF RUINED PALACE, COMALCALCO                              198

    SECTION OF RUINS AT COMALCALCO                                 199

    RUINS OF PALACE                                                201


        HALL                                                       205

    BAS-RELIEF OF WEST TOWER, COMALCALCO                           210

    S. DOMINGO DEL PALENQUE                                        211

    MOULDINGS IN THE TEMPLE OF THE CROSS NO. 1                     215

    SCULPTURED STONES, TEMPLE OF THE CROSS NO. 1                   217


    PLAN OF PALACE AT PALENQUE (NORTH SIDE)                        225


    THE PALACE, OUTER FAÇADE, PALENQUE                             227

    SCULPTURED FIGURE ON PILLAR                                    230






    FRAGMENT OF DECORATION OVER A DOOR                             235

    RESTORATION OF INNER WING OF THE PALACE                        237


    TOWER IN THE PALACE                                            241

    THE PALACE, WESTERN FAÇADE                                     243

    MEDALLION IN PASSAGE OF INNER WING                             244

    TEMPLE OF INSCRIPTIONS, PALENQUE                               245

    TEMPLE OF THE SUN, PALENQUE                                    250

    JAPANESE TEMPLE                                                251



    RUINS TO THE NORTH OF THE PALACE                               257

    STAIRCASE INSCRIPTIONS                                         261

    MUNICIPAL PALACE AND SQUARE, MERIDA                            262

    MAP                                                            264

    PANORAMIC VIEW OF MERIDA                                       267

    MONTEJO’S HOUSE, MERIDA                                        272

    CATHEDRAL                                                      273

    DON ALVARO PEON’S HOUSE                                        276

    FRUIT SELLERS                                                  277

    MAYA TYPES                                                     279

    MEZTIZOS’ HOUSE                                                283

    A STREET IN MERIDA                                             285

    HACIENDA OF ASCORRA                                            287

    VOLAN COCHÉ                                                    288

    PLAN OF THE RUINS OF AKÉ                                       294

    SMALL PYRAMID OF AKÉ                                           295

    GREAT PYRAMID AND GALLERY OF AKÉ                               297

    PILLARS OF THE GREAT GALLERY OF AKÉ                            299

    CEMENTED BAS-RELIEF OF AKÉ                                     302

    SQUARE OF TUNKAS                                               303

    GREAT PYRAMID, KINICH-KAKMÓ, AT IZAMAL                         307



    MARKET PLACE OF IZAMAL                                         313

    CENOTÉ OF XCOLAC                                               317

    CHURCH AND SQUARE, CITAS                                       322

    EL CASTILLO OF CHICHEN-ITZA                                    323

        CHICHEN-ITZA                                               334

    MAIN FAÇADE OF THE NUNNERY OF CHICHEN-ITZA                     335


    LEFT WING OF THE NUNNERY OF CHICHEN-ITZA                       339

    FAÇADE OF EL CASTILLO, CHICHEN-ITZA                            342

    TOLTEC COLUMN IN THE CASTILLO                                  343

    TOLTEC COLUMN AT TULA                                          343

    YUCATEC CAPITAL AT CHICHEN-ITZA                                344

    DOOR-POSTS IN THE CASTILLO, CHICHEN-ITZA                       345



    CHICHAN-CHOB, PRISON OF CHICHEN-ITZA                           351

    SACRED CENOTÉ, OF CHICHEN-ITZA                                 355





    TIZOC’S STONE, IN MEXICO                                       365

    STATUE OF TLALOC FOUND AT CHICHEN-ITZA                         366


    SECOND PALACE OF KABAH                                         371

    YUCATEC AND TEOTIHUACAN VASES                                  375

    TRIUMPHAL ARCH OF KABAH (FROM STEPHENS)                        379

    RUINS OF FIRST PALACE OF KABAH                                 381


    NORTH-WEST SIDE OF PYRAMID OF KABAH                            385

    BAS-RELIEFS AT KABAH (FROM STEPHENS)                           389

    HACIENDA OF UXMAL                                              391

    THE GOVERNOR’S PALACE, UXMAL                                   395

    PORTION OF THE GOVERNOR’S PALACE, UXMAL                        398

    PLAN OF NUNNERY OF UXMAL (FROM STEPHENS)                       399

    NORTH WING FAÇADE OF THE NUNNERY OF UXMAL                      400


    THE DWARF’S HOUSE OF UXMAL                                     403

    GENERAL VIEW OF THE RUINS OF UXMAL                             407


    CAMPECHE                                                       415

    HOTEL GRIJALVA AT FRONTERA                                     419

    TERRA-COTTA IDOLS OF TABASCO                                   421

    A BIT OF TENOSIQUÉ                                             423

    THE USUMACINTA AT PASO YALCHILAN                               428

    DON PÉPÉ MORA                                                  429

    ENCAMPMENT AT PASO YALCHILAN                                   430

    LACANDON CHIEF AND LACANDON TYPES                              433

    VOTIVE PILE OF LORILLARD                                       435

    MAP TAKEN FROM THE GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY                        437

    PLAN OF FIRST TEMPLE AT LORILLARD                              439

    IDOL IN LACANDON TEMPLE                                        440

    FIRST TEMPLE AT LORILLARD CITY                                 441

    LACANDON VASES FOUND AT LORILLARD CITY                         443

    MODEL OF ANCIENT TEMPLE                                        445

    PLAN OF PALACE WE INHABITED AT LORILLARD                       446

    SECOND TEMPLE OF LORILLARD                                     448

    SCULPTURED LINTEL AT LORILLARD                                 449


    SCULPTURED LINTEL AT LORILLARD                                 457

    LIBERTAD                                                       459

    FLORES, LAKE OF PETEN                                          465



    QUETZALCOATL AT COPAN                                          470

    IDOLS OF COPAN (FROM STEPHENS)                                 471

    MONOLITH IDOL OF COPAN (FROM STEPHENS)                         476


    OTHER SIDE OF SAME ALTAR                                       477

    ALTAR INSCRIPTION OF COPAN                                     479

    INSCRIPTION OF LORILLARD CITY                                  479

    STELA OF TIKAL (FROM A. MAUDSLAY)                              480


    SNUFF-BOX TORTOISE (_Cinostemon Leucostomum_)                  484

    TEHUANTEPEC WOMEN                                              497

    PLAN OF CHIEF PALACE OF MITLA                                  502

    SECTION OF PRINCIPAL HALL OF THE PALACE                        503

    GREAT HALL RESTORED (MITLA)                                    503

    GENERAL VIEW OF RUINS OF MITLA                                 505

    GREAT PALACE OF MITLA-OAXACA                                   509

    SOUTH SIDE OF FOURTH PALACE OF MITLA                           511

    TERRA-COTTA MASK FOUND AT MITLA                                512

[Illustration: MEXICO.

after the Explorations of





    My former Mission—The present one—Why called
    Franco-American—Vera Cruz—Railway from
    Vera Cruz to Mexico—Warm Region—Temperate
    Region—Cordova—Orizaba—Maltrata—Cold Region—Esperanza—Puebla
    and Tlascala—The Old Route.

When I started for Mexico in 1880, I already knew something of the
country, having, in the year 1857, been sent out as delegate for my
Government to explore parts of it. At that time I was rich in hopes and
full of grand intentions, but poor in knowledge and light of purse, and
I soon learnt that the work I had undertaken was of so difficult and
complicated a character, that the whole thing was beyond my powers;
and, finding that from want both of money and of technical knowledge I
was unable to carry out the great schemes I had imagined, I contented
myself with simply photographing some of the monuments as I visited
them, without even venturing to add any comment thereto. Now all was
different. Better prepared in every way: with additional knowledge,
backed by influential supporters, and with the aid of numerous
documents which I had collected, I felt I might reasonably hope to
be able to throw some light on one of the most obscure corners of the
history of man.

But at the very moment when the Minister of Public Instruction, on
the advice of the Commission for Missions and Travels, was again
entrusting me with the exploration of Mexico, that I might study
its monuments, it so chanced that a rich American, Mr. Lorillard,
of New York, was also minded to fit out a scientific expedition for
the same purpose, and that I was the man he had fixed upon to direct
it. The latter had already set apart a considerable sum of money for
the expedition, so that I found myself placed in a somewhat delicate
position, for, by refusing Mr. Lorillard, I should have risked a
dangerous competition in the very country and the very places I was
to explore; and, by accepting, I should have seemed to give up my
nationality, and to deprive my own country of many precious documents
and interesting collections. I felt myself, therefore, fortunate in
being able to combine the two rival expeditions, and, under the name of
a Franco-American Mission, to carry out the important work, and in this
I was assisted by the unparalleled generosity of Mr. Lorillard, who
gave up to France all the fruits of my labour, my researches, and my
discoveries. It was under such circumstances that I started on the 26th
of March, 1880, and taking New York on my way, to pay my respects to my
generous sleeping-partner, I reached Vera Cruz at the end of April.

The aspect of Vera Cruz, seen from the sea, is anything but pretty,
consisting of a monotonous line of houses, blackened by heavy rain
and the driving _Norte_. Built on a sandy shore, surrounded by barren
hills stripped of all vegetation, and low-lying lagoons, Vera Cruz
may safely be pronounced the most unhealthy place in Mexico. Yellow
fever is never absent from its shores, and with every new batch of
immigrants it becomes epidemic and violent in the extreme, fastening
on the new-comers with unusual severity. We learnt that to our cost, at
the time of the war of intervention, when our soldiers were literally
decimated by this fearful scourge. It became necessary to replace the
white troops by negro battalions, the latter withstanding better than
Europeans the fury of the epidemic.


Vera Cruz can scarcely be said to possess a harbour, having only an
indifferent anchorage, in which ships are far from safe. Fort St. Juan
affords the only shelter, but in bad weather vessels frequently break
from their moorings, and are thrown or driven on to the coast. A storm
here is synonymous with north wind, and when it blows no words can give
an adequate idea of its violence; it is not a straightforward, honest
tempest, such as every good manner knows how to cope with, but it comes
in terrific and sudden squalls, carrying whirlwinds of sand, which
penetrate the best-closed houses; consequently, on the first indication
of its approach, every dwelling is securely fastened, barges are taken
in and chained up, vessels lower their double anchors, the harbour
becomes empty, all work is suspended, and the place wears the aspect of
a deserted city. The thermometer falls suddenly, the porter, with teeth
chattering, wraps himself in his blanket, a woollen overcoat is quickly
substituted for the ordinary white holland jacket, and every one goes
about shivering with cold. The pier is soon hidden by the huge waves
raised by the disturbed element, in the harbour vessels get foul of one
another, and steamers to avoid shipwreck get up steam, ready to take
their station outside.

Vera Cruz welcomed us with one of these strong north winds, which
obliged us to stay for three days in the roadstead, unable to leave
our steamer; and when I _did_ land, I was so glad, so happy at once
more feeling the ground under my feet, that I failed to notice, as I
had done before, the very uncomfortable pavement of the town, which
consists of sharp pointed stones; but just as a sheep has a portion of
his fleece torn from him by every bramble he passes by, so does every
traveller leave some portion of his individuality in every country
which he visits—and on seeing again the places he has known before, he
thinks to himself that he will be welcomed by the same impressions,
the same friendships, nay, the same adventures as before will be
there. He believes he will find everything exactly as he left it, he
looks forward to shaking hands with a particular friend, to revisiting
a certain spot, to entering a certain house, whose kind inmates had
always had a warm welcome for him. He arrives, but the scene is
changed, the old well-remembered spot is laid waste, the house a heap
of ruins, friends dead, and Time, alas! has done its fatal work.

After two-and-twenty years’ absence, I eagerly looked forward to
shaking hands with the friends I had left. The returning traveller
looks back on two-and-twenty years as but a day; to him it seems but
yesterday that he left the place; every one will, of course, know
him again; every one will come forward and warmly welcome him back.
Heaven help him! The quarter of a century, which he has hardly taken
into account, has in reality weighed heavily on him, as upon all; even
should he be fortunate enough to recognise a few acquaintances, they
have completely forgotten him, and like Rip Van Winkle, he seems to
awake from a hundred years’ sleep—to find all changed, and everything
about him strange and new. In my own case, the only friend I found was
the oldest of all, whom I thought I was never likely to see again. But
it was not until I had told him my name that he recognised me; for
at first he saw nothing but a perfect stranger standing before him.
I inquired after A—he was no more; and B?—dead; and C?—dead also. I
stopped, I was afraid to go on. It was under the burden of impressions
such as these that I found myself once more in Vera Cruz.

And yet Vera Cruz, situated at the extremity of the Mexican gulf, is
not commonplace, but rather an Eastern city, and her origin is marked
everywhere; in her cupolas, painted white, pink, and blue, her flat
terraces, and ornaments mostly of a pyramidal form. But cities live
longer than men, and I found Vera Cruz rejuvenated, younger and more
animated than of yore.

A slight breath of French activity seems to have crossed the seas and
to pervade everything. The houses are freshly painted, the steeples
whitewashed, cupolas enamelled, and new blocks of houses and monuments
meet the eye in all directions. The square, which was formerly squalid
and intersected by watercourses, is now a charming place, paved with
marble and planted with trees, in which squirrels and ouertitis gambol
and play the whole day long. The centre is occupied by a fountain, and
the sides by arcades, giving access to magnificent _cafés_, beautiful
shops, the Cathedral and the Town Hall inlaid with gleaming tiles.

In the day-time the shade is deep and the air cool, whilst in the
evening numerous loungers and fair women, their hair chequered with
phosphorescent _cucuyos_, fill the green walks, and give it the
appearance of a huge hot-house. Vera Cruz, to those who are used to
its climate, is a very pleasant abode, and though in some respects not
so desirable as many European cities, life here, on account of the
great heat, is easier, fuller, more satisfying. Wines are not dearer
than in Paris; fish is both plentiful and excellent; tropical fruit of
every kind is to be found in the market, as well as all the feathered
tribe, varying from the laughing-bird and the parrot to the beautiful
red and green Aras of Tabasco. Add to this the constant incoming and
outgoing of every nation in the universe, eliciting a daily interchange
of news with the outer world, and in a sense annihilating the distance
which divides you from the mother country. Then, too, there is the
Gulf with its blue waters, tempting to the most delightful dives man
ever had; the jetty, which, insignificant though it be, is none the
less a favourite resort, where in the evening people go for a little
fresh air, beneath a magnificent canopied sky; and where in the day
they can watch on the horizon the white sail disappearing out of sight.
Picture to yourself this marvellous sky, filled with innumerable noisy
sea-birds and small black vultures dotting it at a dizzy height,
whilst far below, hoary, venerable pelicans, quite at home in the
harbour, from long habit seem to spend their lives in diving and
rising solemnly, then come and perch on the Custom House flag, with a
grotesque kind of dignity, as though conscious of having fully done
what was expected of them.

But the great feature about Vera Cruz is the innumerable flights
of black vultures, which fill the streets, and cover every roof
and pinnacle. They are so tame as to be scarcely disturbed by the
passers-by, and when servants throw out house refuse, there follows a
general rush and a fearful fight, in which dogs take part, without,
however, always getting the best of it. These dogs, like those of
Constantinople, are the ædiles of both town and country, which without
them would be intolerable.

Beyond Mexico Gate, a fine public walk, planted with large cocoa-trees,
leads to a suburb which has within the last few years grown into a
little town; it is the great rendezvous for sailors and coolies who
come to dance and flirt with the damsels of the place, and the evening
is generally wound up with a hot dispute with their less favoured

The coast along the Atlantic is a vast sandy plain, diversified by
marshes peopled with herons, wild ducks, iguanas, and serpents,
which are almost impervious from thickets of aromatic shrubs and
wild flowers, in the midst of which tower magnificent trees; but the
sound of no voice ever breaks on this wilderness in which lurks the
_malaria_, save the hoarse cry of a wild animal, the passing of an
eagle-fisher, or the whirling of a vulture in quest of some easy prey.

The journey from Vera Cruz to Mexico is now performed by railway, which
has replaced the once cumbrous diligence, and traffic has increased to
such an extent that the English Railway Company is unable to convey
inland goods which have come by sea.

We start on our journey with an escort, even now a necessary
precaution, for five-and-twenty years have not modified the manners of
the natives, and highway robbers are still a flourishing institution in

Pressing westward, we go through the sandy, marshy zone, and leaving
behind us Tejeria, Soledad, Paso Ancho, and Paso del Macho, we reach
the famous Chiquihuite bridge, when a glorious region succeeds to the
flat country and parched vegetation of the coast; we continue to ascend
through grander and grander scenery and more luxurious vegetation,
having on our left the river Atoyac with its precipitous course,
between deep ravines, and presently we come in sight of the iron
viaduct, which is considered one of the best works on the line.

Still pressing upwards we reach the temperate zone, where we find
coffee, tobacco, and banana plantations, spreading their broad green
leaves under the shade of great trees which shelter them against the
fierce heat of the sun; while little houses, embowered in orange-groves
and creepers, peep out coquettishly from leaf and foliage.

And now the grand outlines of the Sierra are about us, and at every
bend of the road charming views unfold before our enraptured gaze; a
dazzling light colours all things with the richest tints, and Orizaba
rears its magnificent head straight before us. Orizaba is, with the
Popocatepetl, the highest mountain in Mexico; its snowy peak is visible
for many a mile at sea. At its foot may be seen the city of the same
name, extending over a large area, with her numerous and once gorgeous
churches, now falling into decay, amidst a vast plateau, circled
by mighty mountains, once gleaming with volcanic fires and grand
summits. Mills and factories, greatly on the increase, are worked by
water-power, which is brought by aqueducts or mountain torrents.

After Orizaba, the road becomes very steep; we enter the gorges of
Infiernillo (small hell), where, along roads coasting deep ravines
and unfathomable precipices, spanned by stupendous bridges, we reach
Maltrata, where the train stops to change engines, when we ascend the
heights, or _cumbres_, leading to the plateau.


And now the road opens out in long windings, rounding the steepest
declivities; bridges and tunnels succeed each other with dazzling
rapidity, and the huge engine puffs and hisses, sending out long,
curling volumes of white smoke over the most glorious landscape; and
our journey, which has lasted three hours, brings us to Esperanza,
at an elevation of some 1,200 metres,[1] and here we breakfast at
an excellent buffet. After Esperanza, the country becomes a dreary,
monotonous, dusty plain, contrasting painfully with the brilliant
colouring of the warm zone; not a tree is to be seen, hardly any
vegetation; some rare fields of stunted maize and wheat, a few
meagre cactuses, with here and there a white hacienda, are the only
indications that this forlorn region is not wholly uninhabited.
Nevertheless, the monotony of this immense plain is relieved by the
grand outline of mountains which bound the horizon, and the sand
mounds, which are visible everywhere, give the landscape a peculiar and
somewhat severe aspect.

The railway, strange to say, has deprived this region of its few
inhabitants, and steam has done away with the _arriero_ and the long
lines of heavy carts, panting mules, and muleteers in picturesque
costumes, and the tinkling bells of _madinas_ (mules heading the
trains) are no more.

Then, also, these dusty roads were enlivened by the presence of
small cottages, whence the cheerful hand-clapping of _tortilleros_
reminded the hungry traveller that here his honest hunger might be
appeased, during which the muleteer would ogle or distribute somewhat
questionable compliments among the belles of the district; all is gone,
even to the _meson_, in whose vast courtyard weary mules were put up
for the night. The cottage has left no trace behind, the walls of the
_meson_ are a mass of ruins, and the courtyard deserted.

And now we travel in a north-west direction; we pass Huamantla,
round Malinche, and leave Puebla some twenty leagues on our left,
and crossing Apizaco we reach the Llanos of Apam, famed for its
_pulque_, or Mexican wine, which is made of the juice of aloes (_Agave
Americana_), to be found everywhere; but Apam pulque is as superior
to other pulque as Chambertin is superior to ordinary claret. Aloe
plantations are everywhere to be seen, and at each station a huge train
calls daily for the casks full of the liquor so dear to Mexicans.
This intoxicating beverage is not tempting in appearance, for it
is yellowish, thick and stringy, with a most repulsive smell, yet
when a taste for it has been acquired even Europeans drink it with
pleasure after a day’s trip. Here I am reminded how much the railway
has destroyed the picturesqueness of the road. If in former times the
traveller went over the ground at a slower pace, he had leisure to
linger over the plain, admire the mountain round which the railway
now twines, to stop at Amozoc, a time-honoured haunt of brigands;
and though he missed Tlascala, the faithful ally of Cortez, and the
hereditary enemy of Mexico, he had the opportunity of visiting Puebla
de los Angeles, which lies at the very foot of great Malintzi or
Malinche, faced by the snowy peaks of Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl.

The city of Puebla de los Angeles was founded by the Spaniards soon
after the conquest, on the site of an insignificant village a few miles
east of Cholula. After Mexico, which it rivals by the beauty of its
edifices, it is the most important city of New Spain. Like ancient
Cholula, she is remarkable for the number and the magnificence of her
sacred buildings, the multitude of her priests, and the pomp of her
religious ceremonies, and her cathedral, in an architectural point of
view, ranks as high as that of Mexico, whilst her treasures are perhaps
even more considerable than those of her rival—her grand chandelier of
massive silver having alone cost £14,000. The innumerable steeples of a
hundred churches, and the gleaming cupolas, give a remarkable character
to the panorama of this city, which has sustained many a siege, while
her last defence under Ortega was simply heroic.

In the time of the diligence the road led to ancient _Cholula_, and the
traveller had the opportunity of visiting her pyramid, on which stands
the temple dedicated to Quetzacoatl, “God of the air,” who was pleased
to dwell among men, and, during his visit in Cholula, which extended
over twenty years, he taught the Toltecs the arts of peace, a better
form of government, and a more spiritualised religion, in which the
only sacrifices were the fruits and flowers of the season. It was in
honour of this benevolent deity that this stupendous mound was erected.
The date of its erection is unknown, for it was found there when the
Aztecs entered the plateau; but it has been variously ascribed to the
Olmecs, the Toltecs, and even to a race of giants, who wished to save
themselves from another deluge. Clavigero observes very naturally, that
the builders were rather stupid in taking so much trouble to raise an
artificial mound, when they had within reach the highest mountains in
the world where to take refuge in any such emergency.[2] It had the
truncated, pyramidal form of the Mexican _teocalli_ (temple), its four
sides facing the cardinal points, and divided into the same number of
terraces. The original outlines, however, have been effaced by the
action of time, while the growth of shrubs and wild flowers, which
cover its surface, gives it the appearance of one of those symmetrical
elevations thrown up by Plutonic agency rather than the work of man.
The height of this pyramid is 60 metres;[3] its base, which is square,
covers about forty-four acres, and the platform on its truncated summit
embraces more than one. Cholula was of great antiquity, and was founded
by the primitive race which occupied the land before the Aztecs. At the
time of the conquest it was one of the most populous and flourishing
cities of New Spain. “Nothing could be more grand than the view which
met the eye from the truncated summit of the pyramid. Towards the
north stretched the bold barrier of porphyry rock which nature has
reared round the valley of Mexico, with the huge Popocatepetl and
Iztaccihuatl standing like two sentinels to guard the entrance of this
enchanted region. Far away to the south was seen the conical head of
Orizaba soaring high into the clouds, and nearer, the barren, though
beautifully shaped Sierra de Malinche, throwing its broad shadows over
the plains of Tlascala. Three of these volcanoes, higher than the
highest peak in Europe, and shrouded in snows which never melt under
the fierce sun of the tropics, at the foot of the spectator the
sacred city of Cholula, with its bright towers and pinnacles sparkling
in the sun, reposing amidst gardens and verdant groves. Such was the
magnificent prospect which met the eye of the conquerors, and may
still, with slight change, meet that of the modern traveller, as he
stands on the broad plateau of the pyramid and his eye wanders over the
fairest portion of the beautiful plateau of Puebla.”[4]

[Illustration: PANORAMA OF PUEBLA.]

[Illustration: PANORAMA OF PUEBLA.]

Cholula was the holy city of Anahuac, the Mecca, Jerusalem, and Rome
of the Indians; in it the kindred races had temples of their own, and
ministers for the service of the deity to whom they were consecrated.
The sanctity of the place brought pilgrims from the furthest corners
of Anahuac, who came to offer up their devotions at the shrine of
Quetzacoatl and other divinities. Here Quetzacoatl had dwelt, and
on his departure for the countries of the East, he had bidden his
followers to keep fast his teaching, promising that he and his
descendants would return, to reign again over them. This remarkable
legend, which was popular with all the Indian tribes, was one of the
most powerful auxiliaries of the Spanish conquerors, in whom the simple
Indians thought they recognised the lofty stature, noble mien, clear
complexion, and blue eyes, of the deity they had so long expected.

But talking of Cholula has made us forget that the train is going to
start: the guards, hurrying in every direction to look for us, summon
us into our carriages, the signal is given, and we speed away.

And now we notice on the platform of every station, detachments of
soldiers, with large felt hats, trimmed with silver ribbons and
tassels, whilst their horses, ready saddled, are stationed close by.
In spite of their baggy trousers and slouching hats, these men have a
military bearing, which shows them to be a picked body of troops, and
in fact they are the “rural guard,” lately formed, but already of the
greatest service; thanks to their vigilant intelligence, the country
is almost safe. This guard is recruited among the class described as
“having no occupation and no permanent abode,” and the Government gave
proof of its sagacity when it availed itself of this turbulent element,
which after having been the scourge of the country, now keeps it quiet.
It is a case of setting a thief to catch a thief; for the “rural,”
acquainted for twenty miles round with all the “old customers,” whose
accomplice he used to be, knows better than any one how to track an
escaped convict, or discover a secret haunt; and thanks to telegraphs
and railroads, _pronunciamentos_ have gone out of fashion, nipped in
the bud before they are given time to assume any large proportions.

From Apam, where we got out to look at the view, we proceed to Palma;
then Otumba, where Cortez, a few days after his evacuation of Mexico,
obtained a great victory over the Aztecs, in which their chief was
slain; and leaving Teotihuacan with its pyramids on the left, we reach
Mexico and St. Cosme Station.

[Illustration: CHURCH OF SAN DOMINGO. (_See p. 30._)]



     Her New Appearance—Moral Transformation—Public Walks and
     Squares—Suburbs—Railway—Monuments—Cathedral—S. Domingo—S.
     Francisco—La Merced—Hats _à la_ S. Basilio—Suppression of
     Religious Orders.

Mexico has undergone a still greater change than Vera Cruz. The large
square, which used to be ill-paved and empty, has become a fine garden,
planted with eucalyptus trees, which have grown wonderfully during the
last twelve years, some measuring seven feet in girth and over 100 feet
in height. Beneath the shade of these beautiful trees stretch beautiful
gardens and green turf, whilst the centre is occupied by the Zocalo,
a pavilion, in which every evening very fair concerts are given,
attended by the Mexican society.

Spacious houses in modern style have been constructed at different
points of the city; new districts have arisen on the site once occupied
by convents; pretty squares are distributed about, and the Paseo Nuevo,
which was to extend as far as Chapultepec, is one which the proudest
cities in the world might envy. But will it ever be completed? At
present, it only reaches the imposing monument erected in honour of
Christopher Columbus, which every Frenchman should admire as coming
from Paris and the work of a Frenchman. The immediate area round Mexico
has been completely transformed by lines of railroad and tramways; in
places once occupied by fetid water or marshy ground, pretty villas
and flower gardens are now to be seen, whilst on the other side of
the Paseo, to the right and left of S. Cosme, the smaller suburbs
are extending so fast that they will soon join the main city. Should
Americans come—and a goodly number are here already—all this land, now
almost valueless, would in a few years double and treble in price.

But what is still more remarkable is the moral transformation: a new
life seems to animate Mexico: education, trade, industry, and public
works, have received great development; security has increased, a
public conscience has been awakened, ideas have become more liberal,
change of power is now effected without disturbance, whilst formerly
it was preceded, accompanied and followed by the ever-recurring
_pronunciamentos_; a feeling of good-fellowship begins to penetrate
all classes, and Government House is in a true sense the House of
the people, being filled from early morning by friends, employés,
or petitioners. Every one is free to come and go, without let or
hindrance, all are received by the Governor without having to ask an
audience, and every one is welcomed with the greatest affability,
as I can from personal experience amply testify. To give an idea how
far the spirit of patriotism was roused by the war of intervention, I
will quote the words of a deputy, who, on my preliminary bill being
submitted to Congress, which had been agreed to between the Government
and myself respecting my excavations and their export, rushed into
the tribune to speak against its adoption. “Gentlemen,” he cried, “I
feel savage, beside myself, almost idiotic, when the interests of
our country are at stake.” The speaker was right in his description
of himself, for the removal of a few fragments from the soil of the
Republic was not deserving of such an outburst.

But it is the privilege of the young ever to exaggerate, and Mexico
is as yet in her youth. The public press is just started, and there
are but two independent papers, the admirably conducted Republican
_Moniteur_ and the _Nineteenth Century_, which give any profits. All
the others are paid by the Government, are short-lived, and disappear
one after another, to reappear under new names and take up with a
different party. And yet there is no lack of talent, the drawback
is in the difficulty of communications. The heavy postal charges (a
letter from one village to another costs one shilling), the ignorance
and indifference of the masses about political events, are the main
causes which prevent any newspaper from succeeding. The only interest
evinced in politics is at the time of the elections, and even in these,
Mexicans take very little interest, knowing beforehand that it will not
much matter to them, and that their burden will hardly be made lighter.
It may be safely predicted that the Indians will not be roused from
their apathy until they are better educated, and until they discover
that they have a direct interest in mixing in politics—for which they
are eminently qualified—and if their vast majority be considered, they
would undoubtedly contribute a large contingent, whilst their industry,
their intelligent quickness to seize everything, coupled with a
natural talent of adaptation, would soon raise them to the foremost
ranks in the army, politics, the bar and science, as may even now be
seen in the few who have had the privilege of education; nor would this
be difficult, for they now stand on a perfect footing of equality with
the Mexicans, for unlike most conquerors, jealous to preserve their
nationality, the modern Mexicans repudiate their Spanish descent and
are proud to call themselves Indians. But what is to be the outcome of
it all? Will the Indian, forgetting his humble and thrifty aspirations,
thirst, like the Mexican, after Government employment, which, whilst
it keeps him idle, unfits him for commercial and industrious pursuits?
He has lived hitherto under laws harsh and severe for him alone;
is there no fear that once free, he will plunge into the vices of
freed men, rather than put on the virtues of civilised people? If we
are to borrow our experience from the past, this would be the case,
since when, shortly after the conquest, he lived under milder laws,
the effect was to sink him into such an appalling condition of moral
depravity as to move the good Franciscan monk Sahagun to say of him:
“We ought not perhaps to be surprised at finding among them the usual
shortcomings which belong to their country, since the Spaniards who
live here, and especially the American born, are in no way better than
the Indians. Even the natives of Spain, after a few years in this
country, are quite altered, and I have always ascribed this change to a
difference of climate and latitude. It is humiliating to our feelings
as Christians,” exclaims Sahagun, “to reflect that the Indians of olden
time, wise in their generation, knew how to remedy evils peculiar to
the soil, by means of practices which were their safeguard, whereas we
succumb to our evil propensities; the result of which is that we see
a new generation, Indian as well as Spanish, rising around us, which
it is difficult to manage or to save. Parents have not that authority
they ought to have over their offspring to guard them against their
natural proclivities. The ancient dwellers of this soil were far better
inspired when they abandoned the education of their children to public
authority, which replaced paternal rights. Unfortunately this method
was tainted by idolatrous and superstitious practices; but were these
to be eliminated and the ancient method introduced afresh among the
Indo-Spanish people, a great public good would undoubtedly follow,
which would relieve the Government of many difficulties now pressing
upon it. As it is we hardly know how to deal with those reared in our
schools, who, finding themselves no longer checked by the fear and
discipline of former, nor the severity of pagan times, do not care
to learn and are indifferent to admonition; very different in this
respect from their Aztec forefathers. At first, following their ancient
practice, which placed the youth of both sexes in buildings within the
enclosure of their temples, in which they were drilled in monastic
discipline, and taught to reverence their gods and obey the laws of
their country, we tried to bring them up in our establishments, and
to this end we collected them in buildings adjoining our houses, in
which they were accustomed to rise in the middle of the night to sing
the matins of Our Lady, and recite the ‘Hours’ at early dawn; they
were also required to beat themselves with stripes and to spend some
time of the day in mental exercises, but as they were not compelled as
in pagan times to do any manual labour, as their natural aspirations
seemed to demand, and as moreover they were better fed and more mildly
treated than their student ancestors, they soon learnt and fell into
evil ways. We also directed our attention to the women to see whether
it were possible to place them in convents, as in heathen times, and
with this end in view we made them Christian nuns, and imposed on them
perpetual vows; convents and retreats were erected, in which they were
taught their religious duties and the art of reading and writing. Such
as had shown themselves proficient in these pursuits and were possessed
besides of becoming dignity and decorum, were chosen to preside over
these establishments as guides and teachers of Christianity and purity
of life[5]. At first we fondly hoped, as in the men’s case, that they
would become worthy and spotless nuns, but we were mistaken, experience
having shown that, for the present at least, they were incapable of so
much perfection, and convents and conventicles had to be abolished, and
we have to confess that the time has not yet come for repeating the

The passage just quoted is suggestive of many things.

A deplorable change for the worse is already observable in the
character of the Indians of Tabasco and Chiapas since the Suffrage
Bill, which by making them partly independent of the whites, has also
made them idle, insolent, treacherous, and depraved. A sad look-out
for times to come. But even granting that all happens for the best, is
there much probability that the Indian will have time to develop his
natural resources before the Anglo-Saxon invasion shall have confined
him for ever to the lower ranks in the social scale?

However that may be, Mexico, although bent on progress, seems only
to receive her notions second-hand. Eager for action, every new idea
or advance which has received a trial with other nations, is sure to
be promptly adopted, without any inquiry whether it is applicable,
suitable, or useful, among a people wholly unprepared to receive
them; and this total impossibility of legislating for half savages
and illiterate people made a deputy say one day to me: “We have a
constitution fit for angels, whereas we ought to have one fit for

What happens? The Mexicans at present enjoy perfect liberty, which
they use to stop the action of the Government, and as each department
is entirely independent, the lowest clerk is able to stop the whole
machinery. Most Mexicans have, or wish to have, Government employment,
leaving to foreigners the development of their national wealth;
banking, trade, and the working of their rich mines are, with few
exceptions, in the hands of Spaniards, French, English, and Americans.
The latter are swarming in; and, save Vera Cruz, all the railways are

Very few Mexicans have been found willing to risk their capital
in these important enterprises, being satisfied with receiving a
premium, or joining the companies as employés. What will happen? It
would be a strange and novel phenomenon to see a superior (?) race
disappearing before an inferior one. Be that as it may, it is certain
that on the day when the Anglo-Americans shall be able to dispense
with the services of the Mexican, they will not scruple to thrust him
aside, careful however to keep the Indians of the Highlands, now a
docile, frugal, hard-working people, whom they will use for mining and
agricultural purposes, as well as for the construction of railways. But
this is not yet. The absorption will come, however—gradually, silent,
peaceful—a slow, easy death, but a sure death nevertheless.

Yet it would be a matter for regret that this attractive people, open
to every new idea of progress, eager to distinguish themselves, as
shown a hundred times in the defence of their liberties, should be
swallowed up by the Saxon element. The “Timeo Danaos dona ferentes”
is surely applicable here, and Mexico should beware of her powerful
neighbour—_Caveant Consules_.

Mexico has a great wealth of monuments, palatial houses, and churches,
the finest of which is the Cathedral, occupying the northern side
of the Place d’Armes, with the Palace to the east, the Houses of
Parliament to the south, and the Portal de las Damas on the western
side. It was erected on the site of the sumptuous temple dedicated to
_Huitzilopochtli_, the war god and the patron deity of the Aztecs,
whose altars reeked with the blood of human hecatombs in every city of
the empire. The first stone for this church was laid in the reign of
Philip II., and the canonicate of Archbishop Pedro Moya de Contreras.
The foundations, which extended as far as the north side of the
old temple, embracing the whole space now taken up by the courts,
were carried on under the energetic supervision of Alonzo Perez de
Castañeda. The work required for these foundations, owing to the
unsteady, marshy nature of the soil, was so enormous that in 1615 the
walls only rose to some twenty feet above the ground. Philip III., on
being informed of the difficulties which retarded the work begun by his
father, sent a plan drawn by his own architect, which was to simplify
the original one, and accelerate the completion of the church.

The principal sacristy was finished in 1623; the vaults in the middle
nave were completed between 1623 and 1665. In 1667, the interior of the
Cathedral being quite finished, the inauguration took place. The choir,
however, was only completed in 1730, when the rich and marvellous
balustrade, which divides the choir from the sanctuary, executed by
Macao, was put up. This balustrade, composed of bronze and silver,
which has all the appearance of burnished gold, is most striking in its
general effect.

The expenses of this church (completed in 1791) amounted to 2,446,000
piastres, or £489,200. Seen from the square, the edifice has the
imposing appearance of churches of the latter portion of the sixteenth
century. The façade, though simple, is very imposing, and contrasts
favourably with the other sacred edifices in the city; three doors
intervene between Doric columns and open into the middle and lateral
naves. Over the main door two stories superimposed and ornamented with
Doric and Corinthian pilasters, support a most elegant steeple, crowned
by three statues, representing the theological virtues. On each side,
towers, severe in design, and topped by cupolas, rise to the height
of 78 metres.[6] The interior is one mass of gold. The choir, which
is immense, occupies the principal nave, and, by means of a costly
composite gallery, is made to join the main altar, designed after St.
Peter’s in Rome. The two lateral naves, destined for the congregation,
have no choir or seats of any kind, and Mexican ladies, who are very
regular in their attendance at church, are satisfied with kneeling
or sitting on the damp stones of the pavement, whether from zeal or
because it would not be “good form” not to do so, remains doubtful,
whereas it is quite certain that their delicate constitution demands a
less dangerous practice. The few men who are ever seen in the interior
of a church generally stand; most, however, remain outside talking to
one another, and waiting for the ladies, who on coming out reward them
for their patience by a bewitching look or a graceful inclination of
the head.

Among the works of art possessed by the Cathedral, may be mentioned a
small picture by Murillo, known as the “Virgin of Belen,” not a good
specimen of the great master. The priests attached to the church look
upon it, however, as their most precious jewel; to this may be added
the “Assumption of the Virgin,” of massive gold, weighing 1,116 ounces;
a silver lamp hanging before the sanctuary, which cost £16,000; the
tabernacle of massive silver valued at £32,000, besides diamonds,
rubies, emeralds, amethysts, pearls, and sapphires in shoals, and a
vast quantity of gold and silver vases, representing fabulous sums of

On the wall of the left tower to the west, may be seen the famous Aztec
calendar, found on the 17th December, 1700, whilst the new esplanade
of Impedradillo was being constructed. By order of the Viceroy it was
carefully encased and preserved in the steeple wall, and has proved to
be one of the most precious monuments of Indian antiquity. Antonio de
Gama, in a masterly treatise, explained the objects to which it was
devoted, and poured a flood of light on the astronomical science of the
Aborigines and their mythology. His work has been criticised, however,
by Valentine of New York, and both are impugned by Chavero of Mexico,
whilst others pass a severe judgment on all three. So true is it, that
archæological, like other questions, are ever open to hot dispute.

The Sagrario is a huge chapel close to the Cathedral, used for
marriages, christenings, and burial services. The host is exposed at
all times on the altar for the veneration of the faithful. The Sagrario
deserves a passing note, for though vicious in taste, it has such
a wealth of ornamentation and sculpture, as to make one forget the
defects of its style considered as a whole. It is from the Sagrario
that the last sacrament used to be carried to comfort the rich and
powerful, in a gilt carriage, or beneath a gorgeous daïs, amidst a
cortège of priests, who preceded and followed it, its presence being
announced by the ringing of a silver bell. At its approach the traffic
and movement of the town was suspended; every one, no matter the state
of the weather, humbly knelt down in dust or mud; all were expected
to join the procession and accompany the host to the house of the
dying; the viceroy himself was not exempted from this formality, and
chroniclers tell us that many were the times when he was thus compelled
to head the marching column.

[Illustration: EL SAGRARIO.]

But that was in the good old time, which I am old enough to have
seen, when priests and monks, their heads covered with huge hats,
_à la_ Don Basilio, filled the streets with their portly, dignified
figures, their faces ever open to a smile. That time has gone by; monks
and priests, shorn of their dress and privileges, have disappeared
and become private citizens. The Church on that occasion was not
proceeded against by slow degrees; the Government, feeling at home
in a country peculiarly religious and Catholic, decreed on the same
day the suppression of all religious communities, the confiscation
of their goods, and the disestablishment of the Church, and though a
large majority mildly protested, nobody cared; not so the monks and
priests, who whirled anathemas and fulminated the _excommunicatio
maxima_ against whomsoever should lend a hand to the demolition of
the convents—nay, even against those who would be found bold enough
to pass through the streets thus opened on ecclesiastical property.
The Leperos, however, engaged in these demolitions, had recourse to
an ingenious device to nullify the spiritual thunderbolts of their
ancient patrons. They bedizened themselves with amulets, scapularies,
and chaplets as a protection against the wiles of the devil, and thus
attired they proceeded gaily to the destruction of cell and chapel,
whilst weeping dueñas, indignant at being witnesses of such sacrilege,
poured out their unavailing supplications.

The excitement lasted but a week, and the Leperos thought so little of
it that they did not refrain from bearing away to their housewives the
wainscoting of the religious houses, and the newly made streets were
used like any others.

But it will be asked, what of the monks? Most have become citizens and
taken wives, and are now heads of families; some have gone into exile;
whilst others are business men. I have even met a few, who, having
turned Protestants, were employed as guides by the Boston and New York
Biblical Missions. As for the clergy, contrary to the received opinion
that on being deprived of their emoluments and tithes they would be
richer than before, they have become as poor as their vows require, as
humble as they profess, reading their services as heretofore to crowded
congregations, and every one is or seems to be satisfied.

But to return to our edifices. The Church and Convent of S. Domingo
(Dominick) stands in Custom House Square, blocked up at all times
by carriages, carts, mules, and a motley crowd. At this point, when
_pronunciamentos_ were the rule, rebels used to take their stand,
and sheltered behind the high steeples of the church, shot at their
fellow-citizens lodged on the azoteas (flat roofs) of the neighbouring
houses. They did their work so often and so well that the desolation
of these cloisters is complete. The pictures which once were their
chief ornament are mostly in holes, and the walls blackened with shot
and powder. S. Domingo has the hardly enviable privilege of having
been the seat of the Inquisition. Here, in 1646, the terrible tribunal
celebrated its first _auto-da-fè_, when forty-eight persons were burnt
at the stake. These human sacrifices, which were only abolished at the
beginning of this century, were not better than the revolting practices
of the Aztecs, save that Catholic priests were content to burn their
victims without eating them, but to make up for this they branded them
with eternal infamy.

The Convent of S. Francisco, which at one time extended over fifteen
acres of ground, is situated between the street bearing the same name
and S. Juan de Latran y Zuletta Street. It is intersected by beautiful
cloisters, courts, and gardens, and was formerly the most important
as well as the richest convent in Mexico: having two churches, the
interiors of which were adorned with gigantic altars of finely-carved
gilt wood; three exquisite chapels, and elegant cloisters covered with
pictures, thus forming one of the most remarkable monuments in Mexico.
But alas! all that wealth is gone, the ruthless hand of democracy
has pulled down cell and chapel; streets run in places once occupied
by its altars; its flower-beds are turned into a nursery-garden,
and its silent cells are tenanted by poor families, whose women and
children fill the air with their shrill and discordant voices. All that
remains is the façade, with its magnificent gate—a curious mixture of
Renaissance pilasters, covered with figures in high relief, surmounted
with composite capitals, divided by niches adorned with statues,
besides a marvellous wealth of ornamentation, not in the best taste,
but highly finished. Their chief interest, however, lies in their
being the work of the Indians, rather than the production of a Spanish
chisel. Indians, according to Mendieta, were no contemptible artists;
“with tools made of tin and copper, they could cut not only metals, but
the hardest substances. They carved their vessels of gold and silver,
with their metallic chisels, in a very delicate manner. They imitated
the figures of animals, and could mix the metals in such a manner, that
the feathers of a bird, or the scales of a fish, should be alternately
of gold and silver.”

They worked the various stones and alabasters with _guijarros_ (a
tool made of silex and flint), in the construction of their public
buildings, entrances and angles of which were frequently ornamented
with images, sometimes of their fantastic and hideous deities.
Sculptured images were so numerous, that the foundations of the
Cathedral in the Plaza Mayor are said to be entirely composed of
them.[7] They also painted from nature, birds, fish, and landscape, and
after their conversion to Christianity, says Mendieta, they
reproduced admirably our images and reredos from Flanders and Italy.


The religion of the Aztecs imposed upon their followers certain forms,
in their delineation of the human figure, or the personification of the
Deity, which they were not permitted to discard; this explains why we
find so many rude images side by side with the most exquisite work of

But to return. No one would stop to look at the Convent de la _Merced_
were it not for its cloisters, the finest in Mexico; they are composed
of white, slender columns, in Moorish style, with indented arches,
forming galleries which surround a paved court, the centre of which is
occupied by an insignificant fountain.

The Convent stands in the middle of a densely populated suburb, forming
a striking contrast to the tumult and hubbub outside. The feeling of
profound desolation which is felt at gazing on these walls is beyond
description, for the silence is only broken in the rare intervals when
an _aguador_ comes to fill his _cantaros_ and _chochocoles_ (earthen
pots and jars) at the fountain. The white picturesque tunic of the
monks which relieved the solitude of these endless galleries has for
ever disappeared, and now its vast passages only give access to empty

The walls of the galleries are covered with innumerable pictures, the
figures in which are of life-size, representing martyrs of the order
of S. Domingo and its most celebrated saints. They are not pleasant
to look at, presenting to the eye nothing but distortions, funeral
piles and dislocations; all the tortures, in fact, which the perverted
ingenuity of man has devised to harass his fellow-creatures. Among
them, some are lifting to heaven their gory heads, whose blood is
streaming down to their feet, whilst others are stretching out their
freshly-stunted arms and calcined limbs. At no time can the priests of
Huitzilopochtli have sanctioned more harrowing suffering, or consented,
in their religious frenzy, to more revolting practices.

The Convent de la Merced used to possess a good library, and many
precious manuscripts of Indian antiquity; but the superstitious
ignorance of the monks allowed it to fall into decay, and documents
of highest interest to the historian and archæologist were used as
waste-paper or consigned to the flames.

The choir of this church had one hundred seats of carved oak, and was
considered one of the finest in the world. The Government is converting
the church into a library, which, when completed, is expected to be one
of the finest monuments of the city.

Among buildings of public usefulness, the School of Mines, El Salto del
Agua, Chapultepec Military College, the Art Academy, and the Museum may
be mentioned.

[Illustration: MEXICAN MONKS.]




    El Salto del Agua—Netzahualcoyotl—Noche triste—Historical
    Museum—Tizoc’s Stone, or Gladiator’s Stone—Yoke and
    Sacrificial Stone—Holy War—Religious Cannibalism—American

El Salto del Agua is the only monumental fountain in Mexico; it stands
in the centre of a low suburb removed from the chief thoroughfares, and
terminates the aqueduct which brings from Chapultepec (“grasshopper’s
hill”) an abundant supply of water to Mexico. El Salto del Agua is an
oblong building, with a very mediocre façade; a wide spread-eagle in
the centre supports the escutcheon bearing the arms of the city. On
each side twisted columns with Corinthian capitals bear two symbolical
figures, representing Europe and America, besides eight half-broken

According to historians of the conquest, El Salto del Agua, and
the Aqueduct which it terminates, replaced the ancient aqueduct of
Montezuma, constructed by Netzahualcoyotl, King of Tezcuco, between the
years 1427 and 1440. At that time it was brought through an earthen
pipe to the city, along a dyke constructed for the purpose, and that
there might be no failure in so essential an article, a double course
of pipes in stone and mortar was laid. In this way a column of water
the size of a man’s body was conducted into the heart of the capital,
where it fed fountains and reservoirs of the principal mansions.[8]

Since the name of Netzahualcoyotl has been mentioned, it may not be out
of place to give a brief account of a prince whose accomplishments,
character, and adventurous life, would make him a fit hero for romance
rather than the subject of sober history. He was descended from the
Toltecs, of whom we shall speak later. He ruled over the Acolhuans or
Tezcucans, as they were generally called, a nation of the same family
as the Aztecs, whom it preceded on the plateau, and whom it rivalled
in power and surpassed in intellectual activity. He was himself at
once king, poet, philosopher, and lawgiver, and was a munificent
patron of letters, and _Tezcuco_ was, in his time, the meeting-place
of all that was intelligent in Anahuac, as was Athens in the days of
Pericles, Florence and Rome under the Medicis. Netzahualcoyotl held a
conspicuous place among the bards of Anahuac, for the tender pathos
of his verse, the elegance and rich colouring of his style, and the
tinge of melancholy which pervades most of his writings. His large and
enlightened mind could not accept the superstitions of his countrymen,
still less the sanguinary rites of the Aztecs; his humane temper shrank
from their cruel rites, and he endeavoured to recall his people to the
more pure and simple worship of their forefathers. But he shared the
fate of men far in advance of their time, and had to yield before their
ignorance and fanaticism, contenting himself with publicly avowing his
faith and nobler conception of the deity. He built a temple in the
usual pyramidal form, to the “_Unknown God, the Cause of Causes_.”

Though Netzahualcoyotl was of a benevolent disposition, he was strict
in the administration of the laws, even against his own children;
indeed, he put to death his two sons for having appropriated other
people’s booty. Many anecdotes are told of the benevolent interest he
took in his subjects, amongst whom he delighted to wander in disguise,
and, like Haroun-al-Raschid, entered freely in conversation with them,
thus ascertaining their individual wants. His last days were spent in
the pursuit of astronomical studies and the contemplation of the future
life. He died full of days after a reign of nearly fifty years, during
which he had freed his country from a foreign tyrant, breathed new
life into the nation, renewed its ancient institutions, and seen it
advancing towards a higher standard of civilisation; and he saw his end
approach with the same serenity that he had shown alike in misfortune
and in prosperity. Such is the very imperfect account of a prince who
was the glory of his nation; whose muse, by turns, invited men to enjoy
the passing hour, or bade them beware of the vanity of all earthly
pleasures, teaching them to look beyond the grave for things that will

But before we go on to Chapultepec, we must call at Tacuba, and visit
the famous _Ahuahuete_, a kind of cypress, under whose shelter Cortez,
on the night of July 1, 1520, came to rest his weary limbs and mourn
over the cause which had so greatly imperilled his safety and that of
his troops, as to make imperative the evacuation of Mexico, in which
many of his most trusty veterans were sacrificed. The night was called
on this account _Noche triste_, “Melancholy night.”


But to explain. We will give a short sketch of the causes which
brought about this sad event, quoting largely from Father Duran,
Ramirez, and Sahagun:

“It was in the month of May, the Mexican _toxcatl_, when it was common
for the Aztecs to celebrate their great annual festival in honour of
their war-god _Huitzilopochtli_, which was commemorated by sacrifice,
religious songs and dances, in which all the nobility engaged,
displaying their magnificent gala costumes, with their brilliant
mantles of feather-work, sprinkled with precious stones, and their
necks, arms, and legs ornamented with collars and bracelets of gold.
Alvarado, whom Cortez had left as lieutenant of his forces, during his
expedition against his formidable enemy, Narvaez, was now petitioned
by the Indian caciques to be allowed to perform their rites. Alvarado
acquiesced on condition that on this occasion there should be no
human sacrifice, and that they should come without weapons; he and
his soldiers, meanwhile, attended as spectators, some of them taking
station at the gates, as if by chance. They were all fully armed,
but as this was usual, it excited no suspicion; but as soon as the
festival, which was held in the court of the great temple, had fairly
begun, and the Mexicans were engrossed by the exciting movement of
the dance, and their religious chants, Alvarado and his followers,
at a concerted signal, rushed with drawn swords on their defenceless
victims. Unprotected by armour or weapon of any kind, they were hewn
down without resistance by their pitiless and bloodthirsty assailants.
Some fled to the gates, but were thrust back by the pikes of the
soldiers; some were able to scale the walls; others, penetrating the
sanctuary of the temple, fell on the pavement and simulated death. The
pavement ran with streams of blood, ‘like water in a heavy shower,’
and the ground was strewn with the mutilated limbs of the dead.
The Spaniards, not content with slaughtering their victims, rifled
them of their precious ornaments. On this sad day were sacrificed
more than six hundred men, the flower of the Mexican nobility; not
a family of note but had to mourn the loss of a near relation. The
tidings of this horrible butchery filled the nation with stupefaction
and dismay; they could hardly believe their senses. Every feeling of
long-smothered hostility and rancour now burst forth in a cry for
vengeance. The respect for the person of their sovereign made them
desist from further attempts to storm the fortress. But they threw up
works around the Palace to prevent the Spaniards from getting out.
They suspended the market, to preclude the possibility of their enemy
obtaining supplies. This accomplished, they quietly sat down, waiting
for the time when famine would deliver the hated foreigner into their
hands. The situation of the Spaniards seemed desperate, when they were
relieved from their gloomy apprehensions by the return of Cortez, who
with his comrades had succeeded in utterly crushing Narvaez. It was
not too soon: a few days more and the garrison must have surrendered
from lack of provisions, and still more from want of water. Alvarado
was subjected to a cross-examination by Cortez, who contented himself
with administering some words of reproof, and ordering him to his
post; for the city again rose to arms. In this terrible strait, Cortez
sent to the Aztec Emperor to request him to mediate with his subjects.
Meanwhile the Spaniards endeavoured to effect a retreat out of a city
thoroughly roused against them. This they accomplished under cover of
a dark, drizzling night, after a fearful carnage and much bloodshed,
lasting over several days; when the Spanish troops, accompanied by
their Tlascalan allies, abandoned a city which had been so lately the
scene of their triumphs, and each soldier, loaded with as much gold
and jewels as he could carry, made for the gates. All was hushed in
silence; no danger seeming to arrest their march, they were beginning
to hope that a few hours would see them beyond the missiles of the
enemy. But, as they drew near the bridges of Tlascopan Street, they
were assailed by thousands of Mexicans, and amidst a fearful tumult
and destructive confusion, followed by shouts of impotent rage from
the combatants and moans from the severely wounded, in which the best
among the Spaniards lay buried in the murky waters of the canals, or
fallen under the axes of the Mexicans, the Spanish leaders, followed
by the disordered remnant of their troops, were allowed to defile to
an adjacent village called _Popotla_, where Cortez, on beholding their
thinned ranks and deplorable condition, gave vent to the anguish of his

Cortez’ fame has been much overrated; he was fortunate rather than
great, for he was powerfully assisted at the very outset by the
friendly attitude of the Indians, who welcomed in him the Deliverer
long foretold in their legends, who was to rescue them from the
thraldom and heavy burdens imposed upon them by the Aztec monarchs,
to enable them to carry on their warlike enterprises and policy of
annexation. He was helped, moreover, by two intelligent interpreters,
Aguilar and Marina, in his intercourse with the natives; Marina
proving subsequently a devoted friend, and a faithful and skilful
negotiator with the Indians. It is equally certain that, from purely
selfish motives of personal convenience and policy, as also to gratify
the cruel rapacity of his followers, he not only allowed, but even
ordered acts of bloodshed and treachery which must for ever stain
his character. His courage cannot be doubted; yet his conduct in the
expedition to Honduras, his pusillanimity on his return, argue a poor
politician; whilst the revolting massacres at Cholula and Mexico sink
into shade when compared with the murder of Guatemozin. Las Casas, who
knew him well, calls him “that fellow;” which term of reproach is more
opprobrious than a worse epithet.

But these things have detained us too long already; let us now proceed
to Chapultepec, one of the most delightful spots in the Mexican valley.
Two roads, the Paseo Nuevo and the tramway, lead to it; we will take
the latter as shorter and cheaper, which, starting from the Place
d’Armes, goes through Belen gate, and sets us down at the very entrance
of the Castle. Chapultepec, “grasshopper hill,” is a volcanic hill some
1,625 feet long, and 100 feet high, covered with luxurious vegetation,
crowned with groves of cypresses, _ahuahuetes_, some of which are
seventy-five feet in diameter, and seem to defy the decay of ages.[9]

The view from the windows of the Palace, which stands on the top of
the hill, embracing the valley of Mexico, is one of the finest in the
world. In the highly rarefied atmosphere of these upper regions, even
distant objects have a brilliancy of colouring and a distinctness of
outline which enables one to take in the details of this marvellous
panorama, studded with towns and hamlets, the white walls of which,
together with the tops of porphyry rocks, glimmer in the rays of the
sun. Stretching far away at their feet are seen noble forests of oak,
sycamore, and cedar, whilst beyond, cultivated fields, beautiful
gardens, lakes, and lagoons, girdle the valley around. Looking towards
Mexico, the spectator has behind him the low chain de las Cruces; on
his right, to the south, Pedregal and the Ajuscean hills; before him,
to the east, the grand snowy tops of Popocatepetl, “the hill of smoke,”
and Iztaccihuatl, “White Woman,” from its bright robe of snow; on his
left to the north, Cerro Gordo, and nearer, the Sierra Guadalupe, where
stands the most celebrated sanctuary of Mexico, dedicated to the Virgin.

This chapel rises on the site once occupied by the famous temple of
Toci—the mother of a god—whose altars were thronged all times by
multitudes of devotees. To induce the Indians to welcome the Virgin
Mary as their tutelar divinity, the priests took care to represent her
with a dark complexion and the courtly robes worn by noble Mexican
maidens in their time of prosperity. The story of the Aztec Virgin is
so characteristic of the sanguinary instincts of the people who raised
her to the rank of a deity, that we will tell it.

The Mexicans, after a series of wanderings and adventures, during
which they endured all the hardships of a migratory life, succeeded at
length in establishing themselves on the muddy islets of the principal
lake, in the year 1325. Here they raised a temple to their war-god,
Huitzilopochtli, on whose altars human sacrifices were offered.
Prisoners were generally reserved for this purpose, but in times of
public calamity the god required the best of the land. It is told how
on one occasion, the oracle of Huitzilopochtli demanded that a Royal
Princess should be sacrificed to him; and how the Aztec monarch sent
to one of his vassals, the King of Colhuacan, to petition for one of
his daughters to become the mother of the tutelar god—and as such share
with him divine honours. The King of Colhuacan, flattered by the honour
reserved for his daughter, unable besides to refuse, confided the young
Princess to the care of the Aztec envoys, who escorted her with great
pomp to the city where she was sacrificed, her skin being taken off
after death to clothe the young priest who was to represent the deity
in this solemnity. The cruelty was carried so far as to invite the
father to be present at the bitter mockery of his child’s deification;
he came, penetrated the sanctuary, but at first the gloom of the temple
did not let him see anything, until he was given a copal-gum torch, the
flame of which bursting up suddenly revealed the horrible picture of
the young priest standing close to the idol and receiving the homage of
the multitude. The skin fitted so tightly that the monarch recognised
his daughter’s mask, and almost mad with grief he fled the temple to
mourn for his murdered child.[10]

[Illustration: CHAPULTEPEC.]

The Mexican valley was occupied successively by various tribes, which
advancing from the north and north-west, entered the country towards
the end of the seventh century. The first and most remarkable of these,
both from the mildness of their character and the degree of their
civilisation, were the Toltecs, who occupied Chapultepec as early as
the eighth century, and established their capital at _Tula_, north of
the Mexican valley, whose name _Toltec_ was synonymous with architect.
After a time, a rude tribe, the _Chichemecs_, entered the territory and
were soon followed by other races, amongst which were the _Aztecs_ or
_Mexicans_, and the _Acolhuans_ or _Tezcucans_. Some of these obtained
leave from Xolotl, King of the Chichemecs, to settle on Chapultepec,
which in the course of time became a royal residence, and a royal
burial-place, whilst its rocks were made to transmit to posterity the
features of the Mexican monarchs, Azayacoatl and the two Montezumas,
together with the sons of the last Aztec emperor; two statues of this
monarch and his father were to be seen as late as the last century,
when they were destroyed by order of the Government.


Father Duran tells how Montezuma I. had himself and his first minister
sculptured. Feeling that his end was drawing near, he summoned the
doughty warrior Tlacael, who for three reigns had shown his valour on
the field of battle and his wisdom in council: “Brother Tlacael,” said
the monarch, “it would be well that our names and persons should be
graven on the rock of Chapultepec, and thus pass to posterity.” “Your
wish, most noble king, shall instantly be obeyed.” And calling together
the most renowned sculptors, Tlacael imparted to them the royal
command. In a few days two bas-reliefs were executed, so striking in
resemblance, and so exquisite in workmanship, as to surprise Montezuma

The Castle, which was built by the Viceroy Galvaez at the close of the
seventeenth century, was transformed into a Military School by the
Government in 1841; Maximilian during his short reign altered it, and
made it his favourite residence. The Palace is once more occupied by
the Military College, whose pupils have shown themselves worthy of it,
by their heroic defence at the time of the American war. An observatory
has been lately built, at the expense of the Government.

But it is time to return to Mexico, where we shall find the Indian
pretty much what he was three or four hundred years ago. This arises
from his having been subjected, from the earliest times, to Aztec rule
and the severe discipline of its priests and afterwards to the still
more cruel and unjust yoke of the Spaniards, who, by depriving him of
civil rights and all his goods, degraded him to the low rank he now
occupies. Before the conquest the people was divided in three distinct
and almost equally honourable classes, land proprietors, warriors, and
merchants; but the conquerors, reserving for themselves all these good
things, restricted the Indians to the occupations of _macehual_ (tiller
of the ground), or _tamene_ (porter), that is, a beast of burden, used
by marching armies or merchants in their distant expeditions; and,
although all careers are now opened to him, he is slow to avail himself
of his newly-acquired privileges.

As an _aguador_, he still conveys water to every household, in jars,
which he carries one behind, the other in front, supported by leather
thongs covering his head; as a vendor he brings coals in nets made of
aloe strings; his earthenware, poultry, eggs, vegetables, in _huacales_
or cases made of twigs, kept together by strings; and, indeed, his
tools, kitchen utensils and the like, are the same as he formerly used.
The only alteration he has made in his costume has been to adopt nether
garments, but in the Uplands he dispenses with this and is satisfied
with his _maxtli_, “broad band.” He has not varied his diet, nor the
manner of preparing it; the staple of his food is still Indian corn,
which he grinds with a _metate_, granite roller, or bakes into flat
cakes, _tortillas_, in _comals_, or baking ovens. His vegetables he
seasons highly, and on days of festival he adds to this simple fare
a turkey when he is well-to-do, a piece of pork when poor; his drink
is the _pulque_, the invention of which dates nearly four hundred
years back; his _jacal_, or hut, composed of sticks lined with clay,
roofed with aloe leaves, measuring at the basement some seven or ten
feet square, is exactly the jacal of ancient chroniclers, without any
pavement, hardly any furniture, save some few images of saints, which
have replaced the terra-cotta household divinities.

In former times, when he lived on the lagoons, with no right to the
land, which was held by his enemies, he satisfied his hunger with
frogs and serpents, to be found in the marshes, salamanders, flies
and flies’ eggs, _ahuatli_, which latter were made into cakes, a dish
which was adopted by the Spaniards; and, when further pressed by want
and dearth, he invented _chinampas_, those floating gardens which so
much surprised the conquerors. Chinampas were rafts of reeds, rushes,
and other fibrous materials, which, tightly knit together, formed a
sufficient basis for the heaps of black mud which the natives drew
up from the bottom of the lake. Gradually islands were formed, some
reaching two or three hundred feet in length, and three or four feet in
depth, with a very rich soil, on which the thrifty Indian raised maize
and vegetables for himself and flowers for the market, his prince, and
his gods. Some of these chinampas were firm enough to allow the growth
of small trees, and to have a hut for the owner, who, with a long pole
resting on the sides or the bottom of the shallow basin, could change
his position at pleasure, whether to move from an unpleasant neighbour
or take his family on board, and moved on like some enchanted island
over the water. In later times these floating gardens increased to such
an extent that they completely girdled the city around with flowers and
verdure, when every morning early numbers of boats, richly freighted,
would be seen to glide through the canals and file out towards Plaza
Mayor.[11] Mexico, since the diminution of the lake, has become a high
and dry city of the main land, with its centre nearly a league distant
from the water; chinampas are no more; small flower-beds, divided by
narrow causeways, where the Indian still mans his canoe, are all that
remain of the floating gardens of olden time. Should the traveller wish
to study the natives, he should go on market days toward the road which
leads out of S. Cosme, by which great numbers both of men and women
enter the city, their legs and backs bent under burdens heavier
sometimes than an animal could carry. Indian women wear a dark woollen
petticoat, striped with yellow, red, and green, and a piece of the
same stuff, with an opening for the head, covers the bust and completes
the costume. Notwithstanding their rags, some are not wanting in good
looks, whilst most are well made, and were they cleanly and better
dressed, many would be found strikingly pretty.



I only speak of young girls, for the old, covered with dirt rather
than rags, are generally to be seen reeling under the influence of
pulque. It is not too much to say that the Indian has retained all
his primitive vices, and has added thereto those given him by his
conquerors. Though he still preserves some of his popular legends, it
is quite a chance if he understands anything about them; for in olden
times, these were kept and transmitted by the upper classes, which have
long ceased to exist, and the modern Indian knows absolutely nothing of
his past history.

And here, to illustrate my meaning, I may be permitted to give an
example of this marvellous ignorance, even regarding recent events. I
happened to be in a village situated on Lake Chalco, when a number of
Indians of both sexes, dressed up in old, ludicrous European costumes,
got into boats and landed a short distance further, entering the
village amidst a population which came out to meet them, with cries,
hootings and blows, finally forcing them to re-embark. It was evident
to me that this represented an invasion, which had been successfully
repulsed, referring perhaps to the war of intervention, but though
I asked, no one was able to enlighten me, contenting themselves
with repeating “Francia, Francia.” At last an old man said that the
masquerade commemorated an incident in the Spanish war of 1808, during
the first empire. And on my expressing my astonishment at the ignorance
of the actors about a subject they represented every year: “Are your
common people much wiser when they sing their Latin Mass?” objected my
American friend. I felt that I was answered, and I was silent.

The Indian is fond of money, his delight is to hoard, yet he is no
better for it, as regards his daily life; he has all the instinct
of a miser without its benefit; for your miser enjoys his money, he
visits it by stealth, spends his time in counting, in contemplating it,
whereas the Indian buries his hoardings out of sight; the satisfaction
of knowing that he is rich is all-sufficient for him, and he does not
care for the things which his gold would procure. The Valley of Oaxaca,
which for generations supplied the world with cochineal, is supposed
to have millions of money buried underground. During my residence
there, I knew a man who, it was rumoured, was fond of hoarding; on one
occasion he received some £200 for ingots and cochineal, and two days
after asked me for the loan of four shillings. “Well, but what have you
done with the money you got two days since?” I asked. “Esta colocado,
Señor.” “It’s invested” (stowed underground). This secretive instinct,
however, is not confined to the Indian, it is to be found among all
conquered and persecuted races: serfs under Louis XIV. hid away both
their bread and their money; the inhabitants of Indo-China and others
only pay their taxes under pressure of the stick. It may be that the
thrifty habit of our own middle classes, their wish to hoard for the
mere sake of it, their aversion to part with it for any purpose of
public good, which forms such a striking contrast to our Transatlantic
fellow-citizens, is attributable to this instinct, which still survives
when the need for it has long ceased to exist. We are, alas, but
the freedmen of yesterday, whereas Americans have now long enjoyed
the blessings of free institutions, and have besides the enormous
advantage of trying them in an entirely new country. Untrammelled alike
by traditions or the bonds which still fetter us, they are able to
work out their benevolent or brilliant schemes, confident that their
intelligence and their industry will lead them to new paths of progress
and prosperity.

With the Indian this same instinct borders on fanaticism: the man who
finds a treasure covers it up again carefully, not dreaming of making
use of it; should he have a confidant, the latter will starve, nay,
go through torture, rather than betray his friend. And here I cannot
resist the temptation of telling an anecdote related to me by a Mexican
friend bearing on the subject: A well-to-do Indian, who lived not far
from Mexico, had a daughter whom a Frenchman was willing to marry, in
the hope of inheriting the old man’s fortune, which was supposed to
amount to some £20,000. Like most Indians, he died intestate, when
a search was made for his money, but none could be found. His only
available property was his cottage and garden. The deceased was known
to have had a wretchedly poor friend, the confidant of all his secrets.
He was immediately applied to, and subjected to numerous questions
by the heirs regarding the money, and to induce him to speak, they
offered the quarter, nay, the half of the hidden treasure, but he
still refused; at last they thought of making him drunk, hoping that
what they had been unable to obtain would be effected by pulque. He
was made comfortable, when he became very confiding, so confiding that
the expectant heir fully believed that a moment more would see him
the happy recipient of the long-treasured-up secret, but the poor man
suddenly stopped, horrified at what he was going to say, seeming to see
his friend’s ghost before him, reproaching him for his disloyalty.

We shall not be taking leave of the Indian if we pay a visit to the
Museum, where Aztec pottery, Aztec jewellery, Aztec kings, and Aztec
gods will remind us of him everywhere. The Mexican Museum cannot
be called rich, in so far that there is nothing remarkable in what
the visitor is allowed to see. After reading the glowing accounts
regarding Mexican manufacture and their marvellous objects of art,
it was natural that I should be anxious to see the jewels, stuffs,
manuscripts, and above all the paintings made with birds’ feathers,
representing domestic scenes, and the portraits of Aztec monarchs, but
I saw nothing in the two large rooms devoted to Mexican antiquities.
I was told that the Museum was not in working order, that nothing was
classified, that more space was being prepared in which the precious
objects now shut up in numerous cases would be laid out for the benefit
of the public. It may be so. For the present, we have to content
ourselves with a collection of obsidian, marble, and porphyry heads; a
number of large yokes, beautifully carved, besides several pieces of
jade, rock-crystal, and bars of gold. As for the long rows of so-called
“ancient vases,” there is not one that is not imitation. This I know to
my cost, for with a credulity which subsequent events hardly justified,
I no sooner was told that these vases were of great antiquity, than I
immediately ordered three hundred to be cast from them, which I caused
to be placed in the Trocadéro during the Paris Exhibition; but on an
expert in such matters seeing them, he at once detected and exposed the
fraud, and in my disappointment it was not much comfort to reflect,
that with half the money expended on these comparatively worthless
objects, I might have bought, close to Mexico, a whole collection
of vases of undoubted antiquity. It is a curious circumstance, that
Mexicans, even the best informed among them, as well as foreigners,
should so often be victimised by vulgar forgers of antiquities, who
trade on the passions of the collector and the gullibility of the
public; and that such things cannot be done in Europe without immediate
detection, can only arise from the superior knowledge of our savants,
and the greater facility afforded them of observing, classifying, and
comparing the productions of all the civilised nations of the world,
in the numerous collections with which our museums, both public and
private, abound. In my own case, after my excavations, I never could
have been so grossly imposed upon by pottery modern in shape, over
which ancient bas-reliefs had been incongruously reproduced, forming
a monstrous medley of things old and new, without any originality
whatever. Their history is this: the manufacture was carried out on a
large scale at Tlatiloco, a Mexican suburb, between 1820 and 1828, and
the author must have realised an enormous fortune, if we are to judge
from the quantity which he sent broadcast into the world—most museums,
nearly all private collections are infested with them, whilst a great
number are even now bought by the unwary. The thing was done in this
way. Vases of every shape were chosen, without much thought or care,
relying on the ignorance and the stupidity of the public; every form
was used, whether a common water-jug, a flat or round vase, a rude or
shapely jar, and by means of ancient moulds found in vast quantities in
the whole area of the valley, heads, images, tiny figures, whistles,
geometrical designs, palm-leaves, etc., were inlaid on the object,
which had a simple, double, or treble twisted handle according to its
size; it was a tripod with a gaping mouth, or topped with arabesque,
when the occasion served. Variety was its distinctive merit; and when
completed this fine work of art was buried some twelve months or more
to impress upon it the hand of time, and thus prepared was launched on
its course.


I trust that these few observations will serve as a warning to people,
and save them from experience as costly as my own. Having now relieved
my conscience, we will go back to the Museum and look at what I
consider the finest portion, namely the court, planted with beautiful
palm-trees, shrubs, and flowers, amongst which may be seen the most
interesting specimens of the whole collection. First and foremost
is a statue of a man lying on his back, holding a cup with both hands
and pressing it against his body. It was found at Chichen-Itza, in
Yucatan, by Leplongeon, an American explorer, who was obliged to
part with it in favour of the Mexican Government, in virtue of the
law which declares all antiquities to be national property. Next to
this in interest come two other statues, like it in all respects: one
discovered at Tlascala, the other marked “unknown.” This similarity of
objects of art found among the populations of the plateaux and those of
the Yucatan peninsula seems to point to identity of worship among those
tribes. Sanchez, the director of the Museum, believes this statue to be
Tetzcatzoncatl, god of wine; but Perez and Dr. Hamy are of opinion that
it represents Tlaloc, god of rain, in which view I coincide. However
that may be, we will speak of it at greater length when we come to
Chichen-Itza, where it was unearthed. On the second plan, to the left,
stands the Tlascalan Tlaloc, and behind it Quetzalcoatl, “the feathered
serpent,” tutelar deity of the Toltecs, and worshipped by all American
tribes; he came to have many names, and was represented under various
forms, according to his multifarious attributes. He was the Zoroaster
of Anahuac; “under him the earth produced fruits and flowers of its own
accord. An ear of Indian corn was as much as a man could carry. The air
was filled with perfumes and the sweet melody of birds,” etc.



At the extremity of the court, to the left, we find a block of
serpentine with a magnificent head beautifully sculptured, marked in
the catalogue as “the rising moon,” but which Bustamente thinks to be
Temascaltoci, the goddess who presided over ablutions, and Chavero, one
of the many forms under which Quetzalcoatl was represented. In the same
line with these stands a huge block, having a hideous figure of Death,
Teoyaomiqui (a goddess), besides a vast number of divinities, ranging
over the whole Indian Olympus, collected under the gallery at the
furthest extremity of the court, most of which are frightful, and would
give a poor idea of Aztec talent, did we not know that they are all
specimens of hieratic art, and as such were not permitted to vary in
shape or design. And now we come to _Tizoc’s_ stone, or _Temalacatl_,
the sun’s stone, one of the most interesting in the collection, and
connected with a bloody episode which is reported by most historians.
It would have been broken up for paving the square, like many other
monuments of this kind found on the same spot and about the same time,
had not Canon Gamboa arrested the work of destruction, and caused the
stone to be placed in the north-west side of the churchyard, where
it was left undisturbed until 1824, when it was transferred to the
University for a short time, and finally placed in the middle of the
court of the New Museum. This monument is a block of trachyte, oblong
in shape, measuring over eight feet in diameter, thirty-one feet in
circumference, and some two feet six inches in depth. The surface is
ornamented with two figures, portrayed in fifteen different attitudes,
recalling the victories of the Emperor Tizoc. Two women are seen among
the vanquished, from which it would appear that the Salic Law was
not in force among the Indians. In every one of these groups Tizoc is
represented holding by the hair the vanquished, who, in a supplicating
posture, seems to ask for mercy. Over each figure may be seen a
hieroglyph, expressive of the conquered city represented by her chief.
The surface of the stone is occupied by an image of the sun, having in
the centre a hole some six inches deep, which is connected with a tube
terminating on the upper circumference. This hole is supposed to have
been made by the Spaniards in their attempt to split the stone, which
was so fortunately stopped by Canon Gamboa, but not before they had
mutilated every face of the different groups. This supposition seems
borne out by the fact that it was not likely the original makers would
have bored a hole right through the bassi-relievi, and thus deface
their own work.

The _Temalacatl_, or “gladiatorial stone,” as it was called by the
Spaniards, must not be confused with the _Techcatl_, or “stone of
sacrifice.” The former was always to be found in the courts of the
Temple, placed over a basement varying in bulk according to the size of
the stone, from which the captive, particularly if he happened to be a
man of distinction, was allowed to fight against a number of enemies in
succession; but, besides the inequality of numbers, he was furnished
only with a wooden sword ornamented with feathers along the blade,
whereas his adversaries had weapons of obsidian, “as sharp as steel.”
If he succeeded in defeating them all, as did occasionally happen, he
was allowed to escape, but if vanquished he was dragged to the stone,
the upper surface of which was somewhat convex to receive the victim;
on this the prisoner was stretched, five priests securing his head and
his limbs, while a sixth, clad in a scarlet mantle, dexterously opened
the breast of the victim with a sharp knife, and inserting his hand
in the wound, tore out the heart, and holding it up first towards the
sun—a god common to all—cast it at the face or the feet of the divinity
to whom the temple was dedicated, whilst the multitudes knelt in
humble adoration at the foot of the stone or pyramid ready to receive
the body, which was hurled down by the priests, and which the people
divided among themselves, to have it served up in an entertainment in
honour of the particular god they were celebrating.


The sacrifice ceremonial, whether from the summit of the Temple or from
the gladiatorial stone, was exactly the same, save that the latter,
standing but a few feet from the ground, allowed the whole city to
witness the ghastly details of the sight. These stones were perfectly
plain or beautifully sculptured, like the one under notice, according
to the teocalli it was destined for, or the degree and importance of
the donor. The temalacatl or stone of Montezuma I., which up to the
present time has not been found, is supposed to lie buried under the
“Plaza de las Armas” in Mexico. Besides these, there was a smaller
circular stone, the _Cuauhxicalli_, “eagle’s cup,” so called from
the hearts of the victims being thrown into the hole situated in the
centre, and which now, by a curious contrast, is used as a drinking
trough by pigeons and small birds.[12]

The last Montezuma would have also erected a Temalacatl, for which a
huge block of stone was transported from Aculco, beyond Lake Chalco,
but in crossing a bridge which traversed one of the canals, the
supports gave way, and the gigantic mass was precipitated into the
water, where it still lies.

A military point of honour, as understood among the western nations of
Europe, was so deeply rooted in the Indian warriors that they would
suffer death rather than be guilty of any act that could lower them
in the estimation of their fellow-citizens. With the Mexicans and
Tlaxcaltecs, a soldier, if unfortunate enough to be made a prisoner,
was reserved for sacrifice, especially if he happened to be of superior
rank; to be ransomed was deemed unworthy and a disgrace. A few years
before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Uexotzincas, the Tlaxcaltecs
and the Mexicans were at war with each other. In one of the frequent
skirmishes between the rival nations, it happened that a Tlaxcaltec
chief, by name Tlahuicole, was captured. His fame as a warrior had
spread far and wide; his prowess was so well known that few cared
to measure their strength with his, or feel the weight of his huge
tomahawk, which a man of common stature could hardly lift. But one
day, in the heat of pursuit, he got far ahead of all his companions,
when he was waylaid in a morass, immediately surrounded, placed in a
cage, and conveyed to Mexico amidst the rejoicings of the enemy. He
was brought to the Emperor Moteuhçoma, who, on hearing his name, not
only spared his life but offered him his liberty, and treated him with
marked distinction. But Tlahuicole refused everything, and besought
the Emperor to devote him to the gods according to custom. Seeing that
he could not be prevailed upon to accept any offer, however brilliant,
Moteuhçoma gave orders that he should be tied on the gladiatorial
stone and that some of his best soldiers should fight him, whilst he
himself, with a numerous retinue, witnessed the scene. Tlahuicole
killed successively eight men, and wounded upwards of twenty; but he
succumbed at last, and was carried off to be offered to the war-god

But to return: this temalacatl clearly belongs to Tizoc, for his
portrait is seen on the edge of the stone, whilst a speckled leg (he
is supposed to have had varices) is sculptured above his image. The
monument, however, like the great temple, may have been completed by
his successor Ahuitzotl between 1484-1486.

Human sacrifices were made even more revolting by cannibalism, which
from the Aztecs spread among all the surrounding nations, and were
adopted by the populations with which they were at war by way of
reprisals. The more humane chiefs, such as Netzahualcoyotl, king of
Texcuco, tried to oppose this barbarous custom; but they were obliged
to yield before the ignorance of the people and the fanaticism of
the priests, who seeing that the supply of prisoners of war began to
fail, clamoured for more, and urged on the monarchs the necessity of
sacrificing their own subjects, on the ground that they would be more
easily obtained; that they would be fresher, more acceptable, and
in the same condition as children and slaves. In the year 1454, the
country was visited by a horrible famine, and the priests declared
that the celestial wrath could only be appeased by regular and numerous
sacrifices; to obtain which a treaty was entered into by the three
allied kings of Mexico, Texcuco, and Tlacopan with the three republics
of Tlascala, Huezotzinco, and Cholula, by which they agreed that their
troops should engage to fight on the first days of each month, on the
territory between Cuantepec and Ocelotepec, and thus supply themselves
with human victims. The men engaged in these encounters received
the terrible name of “enemies of the house,” whilst these monthly
affrays are known in history as the “Holy War.” It was not on the
circular Temalacatl that victims were sacrificed, but on the dreadful
_Techcatl_, “stone of sacrifice,” which was 6 ft. 6 in. long by 3 ft. 3
in. wide, and about 3 ft. high, so as to enable the officiating priests
to have a thorough command over their victim. At the dedication of the
great temple of Huitzilopochtli in 1486, the prisoners who for some
years had been reserved for this solemn occasion, were drawn up and
ranged in files, forming a procession along the narrow causeways two
miles long, when the number sacrificed is almost beyond belief, and
is variously estimated at 80,000 and 200,000. The massacre lasted four
days, and was begun by the kings of Mexico, Texcuco, Tacuba, and the
Minister Tlacael, until they were relieved by the priests. However, the
number of victims immolated has no doubt been much exaggerated.[14]

It is difficult to reconcile these revolting usages with a people
that had made great advance in civilisation. American writers have
tried to palliate the abominable practices of their ancestors, on the
ground that they shared them in common with every other nation in
the early stage of their history. In their eyes the Aztecs, if not
commendable, were at least pardonable, and Orozco y Berra says that
“human sacrifices originate from an error of the mind rather than from
evil disposition; that it is the result of an exaggerated religious
feeling, and not a real desire to do evil. That this institution,
if philosophically considered, is not deserving of the intempestive
lamentations of a few sentimental moralists.”[15] “The horror I feel,”
he adds, “for the revolting abuse of human sacrifice, yields to what I
feel for utter impiety; I will go further, and say that I prefer human
sacrifice to atheism, as I prefer the ignorant negro who bows before
his fetish, to a free-thinker.” Obviously Orozco is animated with the
same spirit as his ancestors. An Aztec of the olden time would have
adduced better reasons, for he held that to be sacrificed on the altar
of his god was even more glorious than to die in battle, since it
ensured him a speedy passage into paradise; and as the enemy was never
slain if there were a chance of taking him alive, the number of those
who disappeared was a fixed quantity. The same argument is urged in
favour of cannibalism, but it is at least doubtful if it ever existed
as an institution among other civilised nations. Men, however cruel,
do not feed on one another, unless obliged by an absolute necessity;
and cannibalism, which no doubt existed with all primitive populations,
only continued among those who were deprived of sufficient space
where they could hunt and feed their flocks, and who were reduced to
a scanty supply of roots and herbs for their subsistence. This was
observed among the Caraïbs at the time of the Conquest; in the islands
of the Pacific, in Australia, where the soil is so poor, that although
cannibalism prevails, the increase of population has to be kept down,
and the recent introduction of pigs in the islands has diminished but
not eradicated this ancient practice, which has never flourished with
races provided with bears, reindeer, horses, and herds. This usage,
which at first was a necessity, became a sacred tradition with the
Aztecs, with whom religion was all-powerful; it directed the State,
presided over the minutest details of domestic life, and as the
influence of the priests was unbounded, peasants and princes had to bow
their necks to their tyranny. They cannot be called cannibals, however,
in the coarsest sense of the word, for they did not feed on human flesh
to gratify their appetite, but as a duty, and in obedience to their
religion; and during the long and terrible siege of Mexico not a single
case of cannibalism is recorded against them by ancient authorities.
Whence did they derive this religious practice? Not from the nations
of the ancient continent with whom they have so much in common, for
at that time cannibalism was no longer practised among the nomadic
tribes of Eastern Asia; nor from Japan or China, where the people had
always lived on the produce of the soil; it is probable that they
received it from the Caraïbs of the Antilles and the Polynesian races
of the Pacific, who made them forget the mild teachings and higher
civilisation of the Toltecs.



We give the drawings of two yokes: No. 1 is the yoke which up to the
present time has been universally accepted as that used for securing
the victim during the sacrifice, of which several specimens are to be
seen in Mexican museums and in our own Trocadéro, but which, owing
to the cylindrical shape of the arch, measuring some sixteen inches
in height by about seven in width, we maintain could never have been
used for the purpose assigned to it; whereas No. 2, which we claim to
have unearthed, answers in our opinion exactly to the requirements of
a yoke for such a purpose. It is almost the width of the Techcatl,
and is concave on its lower surface, which makes it a perfect fit
for a convex stone; it has, moreover, a round hollow in the centre,
sufficiently large to steady a man’s neck, so that the priest had only
to apply this yoke to prevent any movement, when, to use Father Duran’s
expression, he let fall his sharp silex knife and the victim opened
“like a pomegranate.”[16]

Notwithstanding the assertion of most historians respecting the work
of the Aborigines, it is difficult to account how with the tools they
were acquainted with they could cut not only the hardest substances,
but also build the numerous structures which are still seen in Mexico
and Central America, together with the sculptures, bas-reliefs,
statues, and inscriptions like those we reproduce. These monuments
were innumerable, of all dimensions, and according to Leon y Gama,[17]
there was no town or settlement which did not possess on the stones of
its walls, on the rocks of its mountains, the year of its foundation,
its origin, and the history of its progress engraved in symbols and
characters which could only be read by the Indians themselves. It
is all the more inexplicable that they should have only used stone
implements, that copper was abundant, and that they knew how to temper
and make it nearly as hard as steel. The method employed by stone
sculptors, however, has in all probability been lost.

Clavigero[18] says that stone was worked with tools of hard stone; that
copper hatchets were used by carpenters, and also to cultivate the soil
and to fell trees; and Mendieta writes that both carpenters and joiners
used copper tools, but that their work was not so beautiful as that of
the sculptors on stone who had silex implements.[19]

Some historians have proved to their own satisfaction that copper
was unknown to the Indians; but had they taken the trouble to read,
however slightly, any authority on the subject, they would have paused
before they advanced a theory which is entirely at variance with all
writers, both ancient and modern. It is an ascertained fact that very
rich copper-mines have been worked since the Conquest;[20] and in 1873,
whilst sinking a shaft in a copper-mine at Aguila, in the State of
Guerrero, the miner lost suddenly the vein; and on examining the cause
of the accident an excavation was found 4 ft. 4 in. long, 4 ft. 9 in.
deep, and over 3 ft. wide, in which was a rich copper vein from 2 to 4
in. in thickness. The engineer, Felipe Lorainzar, could see no sign of
iron or powder having been used, but the walls showed marks of fire;
and both the copper ore and the rock in which it was embedded, were
shattered and split in various places. In the rubbish were found 142
stones of different dimensions, shaped like hammers and wedges, the
edges of which were blunt or broken; these stones were of a different
substance from the surrounding rock, clearly indicating that the mine
had originally been worked by the natives.[21]

Copper was likewise found in Chili, Columbia, Chihuahua, and in New
Mexico. Before the Conquest, the Indians procured lead and tin from
the mines of Tasco, but copper was the metal used in mechanic arts.
Hatchets, arms, and scissors were made of copper found in the mountains
of Zocatollan. The letters of Cortez tell us that among the taxes
paid by the conquered people, figured copper hatchets and lingots of
the same metal, which were paid every eighty days. Bernal Diaz[22]
says that in his second expedition with Grijalva, the inhabitants of
Goatzacoalco brought them upwards of six hundred copper hatchets in
three days, having wood handles exquisitely painted, and so polished
that “we thought at first they were gold.” Copper was also found in
Venezuela, where, at the present day, jewels of copper, or mixed
with gold, crocodiles, lizards, and frogs are found. We procured
some and placed them in the Trocadéro, having the same dimensions as
those in Central America. Those we found on our first visit to Mitla,
are thin, shaped like a _tau_, and hardly 4 in. long. Dupaix found
similar hatchets at Mitla, and he thinks they were used as currency, a
supposition all the more probable, that an Indian from Zochoxocotlan,
near Oaxaca, found an earthen pot containing twenty-three dozen of
these taus, but differing slightly from each other both in size and
thickness. We read in Torquemada,[23] that copper tablets, varying
in thickness and shaped like a tau, were used as currency in various
regions, and that they contained a large proportion of gold.

Gumesindo Mendoza mentions copper scissors in the Mexican Museum which
were found to contain 97·87 lead, 100 copper, 213 platinum, 100 tin,
and infinitesimal quantities of gold and zinc. On removing the oxide
which covered them the bronze looked like red gold, its density being
equal to 8.815; it is harder than copper and breaks under strong
pressure, the broken part showing a fine granulation, like steel; but
its hardness is less than carburetted iron and insufficient for the use
it was intended for.

Humboldt says that Peruvian scissors contained 94 lead, 100 copper,
6 platinum, 100 tin, and that their specific weight was 8·815; other
scissors analysed by Ramirez yielded 90 lead, 100 copper, 10 platinum,
and 100 tin. It seems almost impossible that the Indians should not
have used these admirable bronze scissors to build palaces, sculpture
their idols and the images of their kings, which are still visible on
the porphyry rocks of Chapultepec; and if it is denied that they were
able to carve such hard substances, they must be credited with having
easily worked the calcareous stones of Chiapas and Yucatan.

The American tribes had reached the transition epoch between the
polished stone and the bronze period, which was marked by considerable
progress in architecture and some branches of science. With them this
period lasted longer than in the old world, owing to their never having
come in contact with nations of a higher civilisation and possessed of
better tools. Their only scientific data in the past were traditions
which, if we believe their apologists, were carefully preserved and
developed; but they have nearly all been lost, and great uncertainty
must for ever rest upon the degree of their scientific progress; for it
is equally impossible to accept either the wild theories of the good
Abbé Brasseur, who sees in the Troano and Chilmalpoca codices, a whole
system of geology dating ten thousand years back, as it is impossible
to accept the childish dreams of Leplongeon, who credits the Mayas
with every discovery down to the electric telegraph; nor yet those
who maintain that without astronomical instruments (since they were
unacquainted with glass) the Aztecs had discovered the composition of
the sun and the transit of Venus. It seems as futile to make the Nahuas
the inventors of everything as to rank them with mere savages. The
religion of a people is a sure index of the degree of its culture; we
know that the moral code and religion of the Toltecs showed wonderful
growth towards all the essentials of a high civilisation, for religion
in its early stage is but a gross fetishism, of which the head of the
family is the priest, who performs before his household god the simple
ceremonies he learnt from his forefathers. But as the tribe rises
in importance his duties become more complicated, and he is willing
to lay down his priestly office in favour of a poet or prophet, who,
whilst the warriors are engaged in warfare and other avocations,
shall pray for the welfare of the tribe and expound the wishes of the
deity, receiving for his services part of the booty or the produce of
the chase, and later, have his share of the land under cultivation.
He soon adopts a dress so as to be distinguished from the warriors
and the people; and as the number of priests increases, offerings are
multiplied; a more imposing ceremonial replaces the simple worship of
former days, temples and chapels are built, the image of the god is
placed in the sanctuary, and only approached by the high priest, who
becomes the sole interpreter between god and man. The former is now
given numerous personalities, according to his various attributes, and
the simple fetish of an early epoch develops in process of time into
a mighty host, frequently numbering upwards of three thousand deities
like the Aztec Olympus, for whose service a numerous priesthood and
great wealth are required, implying a high degree of civilisation.

That there should be great uncertainty upon questions resting chiefly
on vague traditions is natural enough, but that the same should be the
case with matters that admitted of easy proof seems unaccountable; as,
for instance, the name of Montezuma, in whose intimacy the Spaniards
lived several months; yet of the twenty-three chroniclers who wrote
about him, two call him Motecuhzoma, three Montezuma, and the remaining
eighteen spell his name in as many different ways.

And here we will take leave of the Aztecs, whose history has been so
admirably written by Prescott. My object in writing about them was to
give some idea, however slight, of this people, in order to prepare
the reader to follow me in my investigations respecting the far more
ancient civilisation of the Toltecs—a civilisation which from them
passed to the Aztecs, the Nahua tribes, and the people of Central
America; the remains of which are still to be seen, whilst its stones
will compose, together with chroniclers and historians, the foundation
of our work.

[Illustration: HUMAN SACRIFICES.]




    Journey to Tula—The Toltecs—Ancient
    Historians—Origins—Peregrinations—Foundation of Tula—Toltec
    Religion—Chief Divinities—Art—Industry—Measurement of Time—The
    Word _Calli_—Architecture.

The journey to Tula, capital of the Toltecs, our next destination, is
performed partly by railway and partly by diligence over a distance of
some sixteen leagues north of Mexico. The valley in this month (August)
is at its best; immense plantations of Indian corn give it the aspect
of a green sea, whilst a grand range of mountains and lofty summits
bound it at the horizon. We go through the Tejan district, stopping a
few minutes at Tacuba, where the old cypress of the “Melancholy night”
is again pointed out to us. Our next station is Atzacapotzalco, once
an independent state; then Tlanepantla. The country, as far as the
eye can reach, presents nothing but the same plantations, the same
hamlets, the same poor squalid huts, whilst here and there a few
Indians in tatters, and swarms of naked children, gaze at us stupidly
as we speed along. Now we come to a fortress-like church, formerly
used as a stronghold by the Pronunciados; we notice for the first time
some stunted poplars, some rare willow-trees, and by-and-by hedges
of prickly pear, and now that we are in the diligence, the country
somewhat changes; instead of long stretches of green maize, we have
immense plantations of aloe, which to my mind, whether viewed from
afar or near, are never a picturesque feature in the landscape. It is
a wonder how we advance at all, for the wheels of our carriage almost
disappear in the ruts of the worst road I ever travelled upon; I am
confident that nothing has been done to it since the day it was opened.
We cross a muddy river, when, with cracking of whip and galloping
horses, we enter a village shaded by great ash-trees, and draw up
before a respectable-looking inn, where we take up our quarters, for we
are in Tula, once the brilliant capital of the Toltecs, but now reduced
to a small straggling town numbering some 1,500 souls.

The Toltecs, as was stated before, were one of the Nahuan tribes,
which from the seventh to the fourteenth century spread over Mexico
and Central America. Their existence has been denied by various modern
historians, although all American writers agree that the numerous bands
which followed them in the country received their civilisation from
them. It must be admitted, however, that our knowledge rests chiefly
on traditionary legends full of anachronisms, transmitted to us by the
nations that came after them; but it will be our care to fill up the
enormous discrepancies to be met with at almost every page, by the
monuments it has been our good fortune to bring to light. Two writers,
Ixtlilxochitl and Mariano Veytia, have written about this people: the
first in his “Historia Chichemeca” and “Relaciones,” the second in
his “Historia Antigua de Mejico;” the latter being more explicit, it
is from him that we will chiefly borrow, without neglecting, however,
other chroniclers. Both made use of the same documents, drew from the
same sources, the traditionary legends of their country; and Veytia,
besides his own, had access to Botturini’s valuable collection of
Mexican manuscripts, so that he was well acquainted with American
antiquities. Ixtlilxochitl, on the other hand, as might be expected,
in writing the history of his ancestors, whose language he understood
and whose hieroglyphs he could decipher, is inspired by patriotic zeal;
and it will be found that these historians have just claims to our
admiration for the compass of their inquiries, and the sagacity with
which they conducted them.

[Illustration: EXTRACTING PULQUE.]

A third writer, Ramirez, by far the most illustrious of those who have
treated the same subject, speaking of the two historians who preceded
him, says: “I am not claiming infallibility for our historians, yet
it must surely be conceded that, if no credence is given to our own,
the same measure must be meted out to all the traditions of other
countries, for neither Diodorus, Josephus, Livy, Tacitus, nor other
historians, are able to bring the array of documents with which our
history abounds in support of their assertions. I have purposely
omitted Herodotus, the most curious and instructive among ancient
historians, because modern discoveries and modern criticism have
cleared him from the unjust attacks of Plutarch. A history is true and
highly instructive, although it may contain absurd propositions, if it
faithfully transmits the traditions, the belief, and the customs of a
people; as it may be absolutely false, although relating facts which
seem natural and probable, but are only the invention of the author.
Mexican history and biography, like those of other nations, are founded
on tradition and historical documents; than which none are better
authenticated or more trustworthy.”

We think Ramirez proves his case, and, in writing these chapters, we
will not be more critical than he is.[24]

Veytia,[25] like all historians of that time, places the primitive
home of the Toltecs in Asia, to make his account agree with Genesis,
where it is said that after the destruction of the Babylonian Tower,
“The Lord scattered the sons of men upon the face of all the earth.”
According to him, they crossed Tartary and entered America through
the Behring Straits, by means of large flat canoes, and square rafts
made of wood and reeds; the former are described, and called _acalli_,
“water houses,” in their manuscripts. Directing their course southward,
they built their first capital, _Tlapallan_, “coloured,” subsequently
_Huehue-Tlapallan_, to distinguish it from a later _Tlapallan_.
Huehue-Tlapallan was the cradle whence originated the various tribes
which peopled America. Each tribe was called after the father or chief
of the family, who was also its ruler; hence came the _Olmecs_, from
Olmecatl; the _Xicalancas_, from Xicalantl, etc.; it is uncertain
whether the _Chichemecs_ derived their appellation from Cichen, the
man, or Chichen, the town in Yucatan.[26]

The Toltecs, by the common consent of historians, were the most
cultured of all the Nahua tribes, and better acquainted with the mode
of perpetuating the traditions of their origin and antiquities. To them
is due the invention of hieroglyphs and characters, which, arranged
after a certain method, reproduced their history on skins of animals,
on aloe and palm-leaves, or by knots of different colours, which they
called _nepohualtzitzin_, “historical events,” and also by simple
allegorical songs. This manner of writing history by maps, songs, and
knots, was handed down from father to son, and thus has come to us.[27]

Tlacatzin was the next city they built; and here, after thirteen
years of warfare, they separated from the main body of the nation
and migrated some seventy miles to the south, where in 604 they
founded Tlapallanco, “small Tlapallan,” in remembrance of their first
capital. But the arrival of fresh immigrants caused them to remove
further south, and, under the command of their wise man, _Hueman_,[28]
“the Strong Hand,” who is endowed with _power_, _wisdom_, and
_intelligence_, the Toltecs set out in 607, and marked their progress
by building Jalisco, where they remained eight years; then Atenco,
where they were five years; and twenty years at Iztachuexuca. In after
times other Nahuan tribes followed them by different routes, as the
ruins in New Mexico and the Mexican Valley everywhere attest.

Las Casas Grandes, the settlements in the Sierra Madre, the ruins
of Zape, of Quemada, recalling the monuments at Mitla, others in
Queretaro, together with certain features in the building of temples
and altars, which remind one of the Mexican manuscripts from which the
Toltec, Aztec, and Yucatec temple was built, make it clear that the
civilising races came from the north-west; and Guillemin Tarayre,[29]
like ourselves, sees in the _calli_ the embryo of the _teocalli_, which
developed into the vast proportions of the pyramidal mounds found at
Teotihuacan, Cholula, in Huasteca, Misteca, Tabasco, and Yucatan.

The next city built by the Toltecs was Tollatzinco, where they
remained sixteen years; and finally settled at Tollan or Tula, which
became their capital. The date of its foundation is variously given;
Ixtlilxochitl sets it down at 556, Clavigero 667, and Veytia assigns
713 A.D. as the probable date. In our estimation, this divergence of
opinion confirms rather than invalidates the existence of this people.

When the Aztecs reached Anahuac, Atzacapotzalco, Colhuacan, and
Texcuco were small flourishing states. They had inherited from the
Toltecs many useful arts, their code of morals, philosophy and
religion, which in their turn they taught the Aztecs, so that the
institutions and customs of these different tribes were common to all;
and in default of documents which have been lost, we ascribe nearly all
the historians of the Conquest relate of the Aztecs, whom they found
the dominant race, as applicable to the Toltecs, the fountain of all
progress both on the plateaux and in Central America, where we shall
follow them. As for the Aztecs, who settled for the first time on the
Mexican lake at the beginning of the fourteenth century, they were at
that period nothing but a rude, barbarous tribe, and to the last day of
their political existence they remained a military caste.

Among the ruins to be found at Tula are those of an unfinished temple
called _Quetzali_, consisting of pillars in the shape of serpents, the
heads of which form the basement and the tails the capital.

Some writers, amongst whom is Botturini, think the Toltecs were
preceded by the Olmecs and Xicalancas on the territories of Tlaxcala,
Huexcotzinco, and Puebla, when, after years of inter-tribal conflict,
they settled in the Yucatan peninsula. But we have found in several
Indian writers, that at the coronation of _Chalchiuhtlanetzin_, “bright
stone,” King of the Toltecs, the Olmecs and Xicalancas came to swear
allegiance and submit to his authority; and there is nothing to make
one suppose that they were compelled to leave the country, for they
seem to have amalgamated so well with the new-comers that their very
name was merged in theirs, although they retain the memory of their
origin even to this day. “_There can be no doubt_,” says Veytia,
“_that some of these people_ (Toltecs) _established themselves in
Yucatan_”[30]—a remarkable passage, which we find confirmed at every
step. According to the same authority, they built Tula in six years,
when, to avoid the personal jealousy of the Caciques, they petitioned
for the second son of King Huehue-Tlapallan, whom they proclaimed their
ruler under the name of _Chalchiuhtlanetzin_.

[Illustration: TOLTEC POTTERY.]

All the Toltecs did was excellent, graceful, and delicate; exquisite
remains of their buildings covered with ornamentation, together with
pottery, toys, jewels, and many other objects are found throughout New
Spain, for, says Sahagun,[31] “they had spread everywhere.” Both Veytia
and Ixtlilxochitl[32] ascribe a common origin to the Nahua, Toltec,
Acolhuan, and Mexican tribes. “The Toltecs were good architects and
skilled in mechanic arts; they built great cities like Tula, the ruins
of which are still visible; whilst at Totonac they erected palaces of
cut stone, ornamented with designs and human figures, recalling their
chequered history.” “At Cuernavaca” (probably Xochicalco), he adds,
“were palaces entirely built of cut stone, without mortar, beams,
girders, or wood of any kind.” Torquemada speaks of the Toltecs in
the same terms, observing that “they were supposed to have come from
the west, and to have brought with them maize, cotton, seeds, and the
vegetables to be found in this country; that they were cunning artists
in working gold, precious stones, and other curiosities.”[33] On the
other hand, Clavigero thinks “they were the first nation mentioned
in American traditions, and justly celebrated among the Nahuas, for
their culture and mechanic skill; and that the name _Toltec_ came to
be synonymous for architect and artificer.”[34] Quotations might be
multiplied _ad infinitum_, but the foregoing will suffice to prove the
existence of this people and their peculiar genius.


Their law of succession was somewhat curious: each king was to rule
one of their centuries of fifty-two years; if he lived beyond it he
was required to give up the crown to his son, and, in case of death,
a joint regency took the reins of government for the remaining years.
Their sacred book, _teomoxtli_, contained both their annals and their
moral code. It is conjectured, with what evidence is uncertain, that
they worshipped an “unknown god,” perhaps the origin of the “unknown
god” to whom the King of Texcuco raised an altar. Their principal
deities, however, were _Tonacatecuhtli_, the “Sun” and the “Moon,”
to whom temples were first erected; to these they added _Tlaloc_,
god of rain, and _Quetzalcoatl_, god of air and wisdom.[35] Tlaloc,
according to Torquemada, was the oldest deity known, for when the
Acolhuans, who followed the Chichemecs, arrived in the country, he
was found on the highest summit of the Texcucan mountain.[36] His
paradise, called _Tlalocan_, was a place of delight, an Eden full of
flowers and verdure; whilst the surrounding hills were called “Tlaloc
mounts.”[37] He was emphatically the god of many places, of many
names, and numerous personifications; as Popocatepetl he presided over
the formation of clouds and rain, he was the “world-fertiliser,” the
“source of favourable weather,” sometimes represented dark in colour,
his face running with water to signify a rich yielding soil; he carried
a thunderbolt in his right hand, a sign of thunder and lightning;
whilst his left held a tuft of variegated feathers, emblem of the
different hues of our globe; his tunic was blue hemmed with gold, like
the heavens after rain. His wife, _Chalchiuhtlicue_, goddess of waters,
was represented wearing a blue petticoat, the colour of the mountain
Iztaccihuatl when seen at a distance, which was sacred to her.

Most historians mention Quetzalcoatl, at first a generic name, whom
posterity endowed with every virtue and deified.[38] His great temple
was at Tula, but he was also worshipped in Yucatan under the name of
_Cukulcan_,[39] having the same meaning with Quetzalcoatl. He had
travelled thither with a branch of the Toltecs, which, advancing
from west to east, had taken Tabasco on their way, and occupied the
peninsula earlier than a second branch, which entered the country by
a southern route, under the command of their chief _Tutulxiu_, and
became the rival and enemy of the first, whose reigning family were
the _Cocomes_, “auditors.” The worship of Quetzalcoatl extended on
the plateaux and in the peninsula, where the chiefs claimed to be
descended from him. The symbol by which he is best known is “feathered
serpent;” but he was severally called _Huemac_,[40] the “Strong Hand,”
the “white-bearded man,” his mantle studded with crosses, or dressed
in a tiger’s skin; “god of air,” when he was the companion of Tlaloc,
whose path he swept, causing a strong wind to prevail before the rainy
season; and also a youthful, beardless man, etc. The various attributes
of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc developed according to the people, the
country, and epoch. Such transformations have been observed among all
nations: in India the great Agni was at first but the spark produced by
rubbing two pieces of wood together, which became cloud, dawn, the sun,
the flash, Indra, etc. With the Greeks, Apollo was the god of light,
poetry, music, medicine, etc. The Christian religion presents the same
phenomenon; for we have the Ancient of Days, the Dove, the Lamb, the
Vine. Thus Tlaloc, god of rain, is sometimes seen on ancient vases, his
eyes circled with paper, his face running with water; or as an embryo
cross, a perfect cross; and again in the form of a man lying on his
back, supporting a vase to collect rain. The latter representation is
found in Mexico, Tlaxcala, and Yucatan. Several writers[41] mention
that crosses were found throughout Mexico, Yucatan, and Tabasco, being
another and later personification of Tlaloc. They have all been lost;
but we reproduce those found by us, presenting various distinct forms.
The _cultus_ of the cross is of great antiquity and almost universal,
for we find it in Greece, in India, on pottery of the Bronze Period
(the suastica); whilst among the Slaves it was, as in America, the god
of storm and rain.

[Illustration: TOLTEC CROSSES.

     No. 1, Serpent’s Cross. No. 2, Cross seen on Quetzalcoatl’s Tunic
     and on the Palaces at Mitla. No. 3, Mayapan Cross. No. 4, Cross of
     Teotihuacan. Nos. 5 and 7, Crosses in the Temples of Palenque. No.
     6, Cross met with in the Temples of Lorillard City.]

The same may almost be said of the serpent.[42] It was reverenced in
Egypt, in America, and is found at the beginning of Genesis; whilst
in the north-west of India, the _Nagas_ were serpent worshippers,
whose great ancestor _Naga_ was supposed to have been present at the
Creation as Genius of the Ocean. He was the god of wisdom, the titular
deity of mankind; and we find him at Bœroe-Bœdor, in Java, beautifully
sculptured on a bas-relief, where Buddha is seen crossing the seas
on a lotus-wreath, whilst close to him two immense serpents (Nagas)
are raising their heads towards him in token of reverence. He is also
worshipped in Cambodia, and his image is reproduced on the magnificent
monuments of Angcor-Tom.


The festival which was celebrated in honour of Quetzalcoatl during the
_teoxihuitl_, “sacred year,” was preceded by a severe fasting of eighty
days, during which the priests devoted to his service were subjected
to horrible penances. He reigned successively at Izamal, in Yucatan,
Chichen-Itza, and Mayapan, under the name of _Cukulcan_. To this god
were ascribed the rites of confession and penance.

[Illustration: COTTON SPINNING.]

The religion of the Toltecs was mild, like their disposition; no human
blood ever stained their altars, their offerings consisting of fruits,
flowers, and birds; nevertheless, their laws, which were the same for
all classes, were stringent and severe. Polygamy was forbidden, and
kings themselves were not allowed concubines, whilst their priests were
deserving of the respect which was shown them from prince and peasant
alike. They had sculptors, mosaists, painters, and smelters of gold and
silver; and by means of moulds knew how to give metals every variety
of shape; their jewellers and lapidaries could imitate all manner of
animals, plants, flowers, birds, etc. Cotton was spun by the women, and
given a brilliant colouring both from animal and mineral substances;
it was manufactured of every degree of fineness, so that some looked
like muslin, some like cloth, and some like velvet. They had also the
art of interweaving with these the delicate hair of animals and birds’
feathers, which made a cloth of great beauty. Ixtlilxochitl[43] is
afraid to pursue the panegyric of this people, lest it should appear
exaggerated. Their calendar was adopted by all the tribes of Anahuac
and Central America; it divided the year into eighteen months of twenty
days each, adding five intercalary days to make up the full number of
three hundred and sixty-five days; these belonged to no month, and were
regarded as unlucky. Both months and days were expressed by peculiar
signs; and as the year has nearly six hours in excess of three hundred
and sixty-five days, they provided for this by intercalating six days
at the end of four years, which formed leap year. _Tlapilli_, “knots,”
were cycles of thirteen years; four of these cycles was a century,
which they called _xiuhmolpilli_, “binding up of knots,” represented by
a quantity of reeds bound together. Besides the “bundle” of fifty-two
years, the Toltecs had a larger cycle of one hundred and four years,
called “a great age,” but not much used. The whole system rested
on the repetition of the signs denoting the years, enabling one by
means of dots to determine accurately to what cycle or what century
each year belonged. And as these signs stood differently in each
cycle, confusion was impossible; for the century being indicated by a
number showing its place in the cycle, the dots would make it easy to
determine to what age any given year belonged, according to its place
at knot first, second, third, or fourth. Thus for instance, the year
_tecpatl_ “flint,” _calli_ “house,” _tochtli_ “rabbit,” and _acatl_
“reed,” beginning the great cycle, would have one, five, nine, thirteen
dots in the first series; four, eight, twelve, in the second; three,
seven, fourteen, in the third; and two, six, ten, in the fourth series,
which would come first in the new cycle, and the latter having its
appropriate sign would enable one to see at once that “Flint” 12 was
the twelfth year in the second series of the first cycle or century;
that “Flint” 2 was the second year in the fourth series of the first
cycle, etc. Example:


    FIRST SERIES.                    SECOND SERIES.

    1. Flint     6. House      10. House        1. House
        .           ...            .....             .
                    ...            .....

    2. House    7. Rabbit       11. Rabbit      2. Rabbit
        ..       . . . .        . . . . . .         ..
                  . . .          . . . . .

    3. Rabbit   8. Reed         12. Reed        3. Reed
        ...        ....          ......             ...
                   ....          ......

    4. Reed     9. Flint        13. Flint       4. Flint, etc.
        ..      . . . . .      . . . . . . .       ....
        ..       . . . .        . . . . . .

    5. Flint.

It will be seen later that the hieroglyph _calli_ is the outline of the
Toltec palace and temple, the foundation of his architecture, which
never varies, and which we shall find in all monuments, whether we
travel north or south, on the plateaux or in the lowlands; so that
had everything else been destroyed, we might nevertheless pronounce
with safety that all the monuments in North America were of Toltec
origin. The genius of a nation, like that of an individual, has
generally one dominant note, traceable through the various expressions
of her art. India has _topes_ and _pagodas_, Egypt _sphinxes_ and
hypostyle chambers, Greece three orders of columns. North America has
only a plain wall ending with two projecting cornices having an upright
or slanting frieze, more or less ornamented but of no appreciable

A description of the ceremonies which took place at the end of
every great cycle, will find here a natural place, and enable us to
understand subsequent events.

[Illustration: CALLI, IN PROFILE.]

The Aztecs celebrated their great festival of the new fire at the end
of each century of fifty-two years, called by Sahagun _toxiuilpilli_,
and by others _xiuhmolpilli_. As the end of the century drew near they
were filled with apprehension, for if the fire failed to be rekindled,
a universal dissolution was expected to follow. In their despair
at such a contingency they threw away their idols, destroyed their
furniture and domestic utensils, and suffered all fires to go out. A
lofty mountain near Iztapalapan, some two leagues from Mexico, was
the place chosen for kindling the new fire, which was effected by the
friction of two sticks placed on the breast of the victim. The fire was
soon communicated to a funeral pile, on which the body of the victim
was placed and consumed. This ceremony always took place at midnight,
and as the light mounted up towards heaven shouts of joy burst forth
from the multitudes who covered the hills, the house-tops, and terraces
of the temples, their eyes directed towards the mountain of sacrifice.
Couriers, with torches lighted at the blazing fire, rapidly bore them
to the inhabitants of the surrounding districts, whilst every part of
the city was lighted with bonfires. The following days were given up to
festivity, the houses were cleansed and whitewashed, the broken vessels
were replaced by new ones, and the people dressed in their gayest
apparel. If we except human sacrifice, this must have been a Toltec

[Illustration: CAPITAL, FOUND AT TULA.]




    Shell—Tennis-ring—Tlachtli—Ancient Bas-reliefs—Toltecs
    Portrayed—Historical Jottings—The Temple of the Frog—Indian
    Vault—The Plaza—El Cerro del Tesoro.

Tula extended over a plain intersected by a muddy river winding round
the foot of Mount Coatepetl, which commanded the city. The modern town
occupies but a small proportion of the area of the ancient capital, and
the few antiquities that adorn the plaza were found in clearing the
river of some of its mud or whilst ploughing the adjacent fields.

[Illustration: TOLTEC CARYATID, TULA.]

[Illustration: PARTS OF A COLUMN, TULA.]

[Illustration: TENNIS-RING, TULA.]

First in order are three fragments of caryatides: one, a gigantic
statue which we reproduce, is about 7 ft. high; the head and upper
part of the body below the hips are wanting, the legs are 1 ft. 3 in.
in diameter, and the feet 4 ft. long. The two embroidered bits below
the waist were no doubt the ends of the royal _maxtli_, the exact copy
of which we shall see later on bas-reliefs in Chiapas, Palenque, and
Lorillard City. The greaves, of leather bands, are passed between the
toes and fastened on the instep and above it by large knots, recalling
the Roman _cacles_. This statue is of black basalt, like all the other
fragments; and although exceedingly rude and archaic in character, is
not wanting in beauty in some of its details. Next comes a column in
two pieces, lying on the ground, having a round tenon which fitted
closely into the mortise and ensured solidity; it is the only specimen
we have found where such care had been bestowed. The carving on the
outward portion of the column consists of feathers or palms, whilst
the reverse is covered with scales of serpents arranged in parallel
sections. This fragment answers Sahagun’s description about the
columns of a temple dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, already mentioned,
where rattle-snakes formed the ornamentation. It is also interesting
from the fact that we shall see a similar column at Chichen-Itza in a
temple of the same god. Here also among other fragments I noticed a
Greek column with a Doric capital, but on which I dare not pronounce
definitely, although there is nothing else in the place denoting
Spanish influence. All we can say is that it shows the marvellous
building instinct of the Toltecs, and that we found some remains of a
like description in the Yucatan peninsula. By far the most interesting
object seen here, on account of the study and the archæological issues
it entails, is a large carved stone ring about 6 ft. 5 in. in diameter,
having a hole in the centre some 10 in. in circumference, evidently
a tennis-ring. Tennis, _tlacheo_, _tlachtli_, was first known in
Anahuac and transmitted to the Chichemecs, Acolhuans, and Aztecs by
the Toltecs, who carried it with them to Tabasco, Yucatan, Uxmal, and
Chichen; and in the latter place we found a perfect tennis-court with
one ring still in place.

We must turn to Torquemada[45] for full particulars respecting this
national game, which was played in buildings of so typical a character
as to be easily recognised. It consists of two thick parallel walls 32
ft. high, at a distance of 98 ft. from each other, having a ring fixed
in the walls 22 ft. high, as seen in our cut; whilst at each extremity
of the court stood a small temple in which preliminary ceremonies
were performed before opening the game. It was played with a large
india-rubber ball; the rules required the player to receive it behind,
not to let it touch the ground, and to wear a tight-fitting leather
suit to make the ball rebound. But the greatest feat was to send the
ball through the ring, when a scramble, a rush, and much confusion
followed, the winner having the right to plunder the spectators of
their valuables. Sending the ball through the ring required so much
dexterity, that he who succeeded was credited with a bad conscience
or supposed to be doomed to an early death. Tennis seems to have
been in such high repute with the Indians that it was not confined
to individuals, but also played between one city and another, and
accompanied, says Veytia, by much betting, when they staked everything
they possessed, even their liberty. But this writer errs in ascribing
the game to the Aztecs in honour of their god Huitzilopochtli, as we
shall show.


Among other objects which we found at Tula is a large curiously-carved
shell of mother-of-pearl; the carving recalls Tizoc’s stone, and
notably the bas-reliefs at Palenque and Ocosinco in Chiapas; also two
bas-reliefs, one in a rock outside the town, the other, by far the
most valuable, in the wall of a private house, but very old and much
injured, representing a full-face figure and another in profile; their
nose, beard, and dress are similar to those described by Veytia[46]
in the following passage: “The Toltecs were above middle height, and
owing to this they could be distinguished in later times from the other
aborigines. Their complexion was clear, their hair thicker than the
nations who followed them, although less so than the Spaniards. This is
still observable among the few who remain claiming Toltec descent.”

These remains are priceless in every respect because of their analogy
and intimate connection with all those we shall subsequently discover,
forming the first links in the chain of evidence respecting our theory
of the unity of American civilisation, which it is our object to prove
in the course of this work.

On beholding these caryatides, the question naturally arises as to what
monument they were intended for; and in turning to Veytia,[47] we read
that under the Emperor Mitl (979-1035) the Toltecs reached the zenith
of their power; that their empire extended over one thousand miles,
bordering on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; and that the population
was so dense as to cause the soil to be cultivated on the highest
mountains, whilst an influential priesthood performed the sacred rites
within innumerable sanctuaries. The great cities of the high plateaux
were Teotihuacan and Cholula, as later Palenque, Izamal, and Cozumel
were those of the warm region. This emperor, jealous of the flourishing
state and religious superiority of Teotihuacan, “the habitation of the
gods,” wished to set up a new and rival deity for the veneration of his
people; to this end he chose the songstress of the marsh, the “Frog,”
whom he presented as the goddess of waters. And that the new deity
should be ushered in with due pomp and solemnity, he had a magnificent
temple built in her honour, and her gold statue placed within the
temple, covered with emeralds, the size of a palm, and cunningly worked
so as to imitate nature. Up to that time, temples had been large
mounds erected on the summits of mountains, like that of Tlaloc, or
on artificial pyramids like that of Teotihuacan, where the idols were
exposed to the elements; that of the Frog was the first which was
built with stones and given a _rectangular shape_, having a _kind of
solid vault_ (boveda), also of stone, _which by a skilful arrangement
covered the whole edifice_.[48] Here, then, we have a very plain
description of the Indian vault, the Yucatec vault, a vault we have
observed in the north and the whole extent of our Toltec journey; seen
by Guillemin Tarayre in the tombs at Las Casas Grandes, mentioned by
Ixtlilxochitl as the distinguishing feature in the monuments of Toluca
and Cuernavaca, and by Humboldt at Cholula in the following passage:
“On visiting the interior of the pyramid, I recognised a mortuary
chamber, having the bricks of the ceiling so arranged as to diminish
the pression of the roof. As the aborigines were unacquainted with the
vault, they provided for it by placing horizontally and in gradual
succession very large bricks, the upper slightly overlapping the
lower, and in this way replaced the Gothic vault.”[49] This remarkable
writer further says, that “Yucatan and Guatemala are countries where
the people had come from Atylan and reached a certain degree of
civilisation.”[50] Far greater would have been his appreciation, had
his investigations been directed to the Toltecs and Central America,
where the overlapping vault was introduced by them in all public
edifices, temples, and palaces. With the testimony of these writers, we
may consider the vault question definitely settled.

[Illustration: TOLTEC BAS-RELIEFS.]

The town, or rather the plaza, with its diminutive garden, planted
with a few consumptive shrubs and flowers, with its porticoes giving
access to the Town Hall, the Law Courts, the Church and shops, only
gets animated on Sundays and market-days, when the population of the
surrounding districts pours in for the purpose of buying or selling.
Except meat, all articles are sold on the ground, spread on plantain
leaves or clean cloths; where vendors dispose themselves in long rows
about the plaza, offering their goods, crockery, and fruit. Customers
stand about in groups, surveying the animated scene, enjoying a little
gossip, or trying to drive a hard bargain; whilst Indian matrons ply
from one vendor to another in almost silent dignity, accompanied
by their daughters, who look at this and handle that, sometimes
with the intention of buying, often to exchange a few words with
the merchant or an acquaintance. Some look quite pretty, with their
glorious eyes, their long hair reaching below the waist in two long
plaits, with glass or stone beads around their necks; their scanty
costume leaving uncovered their shapely arms, necks, and ankles. On
looking at them, I seem to myself to be carried back a thousand years
amidst that grand old race whose ruins I am here to study. Further on,
under a monumental ash-tree, primitive kitchens have been set up, round
which a dense throng of customers, settled on the ground, are enjoying
their _tortillas_, or when they are well-to-do, their portion of black
beans, _frijoles_, pork or turkey, in _jicaras_, the whole highly
seasoned with Chili pepper; the best dinner not costing more than

[Illustration: YOUNG GIRLS OF TULA.]

Every human type seems to have congregated here, from the Egyptian
sharp outline of features to the flat-nosed, flat-faced Kalmuk. Most
women are bare to the waist; but as this seems a matter of course, no
one notices it.

The area of ancient Tula has now been under cultivation for three
hundred years—hardly a desirable condition for the explorer. We know
that the city stood here; but its only vestiges are to be found on the
hill overlooking the town to the north. It was called _Palpan_ in the
time of the Toltecs; but now it is known as _Cerro del Tesoro_, because
a poor shepherd-boy, some twenty years since, whilst scratching the
moist ground, discovered a vase with five hundred gold ounces in it;
but not knowing the value of his newly-found treasure, he parted with
it for a few coppers. We are going to try our luck on the same hill;
and better advised than the poor shepherd, we shall not give up our
discoveries in favour of any one.

[Illustration: RUINS OF A TOLTEC HOUSE.]



    Aspect of the Hill—Mogotes—The Toltecs
    and their Building Propensities—A Toltec
    House—Antiquities—Fragments—_Malacates_—Toltec Palace—Toltec
    Organisation—Dress—Customs—Education—Marriage—Orders of
    Knighthood—Philosophy—Religion—Future Life—Pulque—End of the
    Toltec Empire—Emigration.

The plateau on the Palpan hill, of which we give a ground plan, was
occupied by a royal park, and maybe those of a few notables. Its
direction is south-west, north-west, about a mile in length and
half-a-mile in breadth, growing to a point towards the south-west,
and fenced on two sides by a natural wall of perpendicular rocks
overhanging the river. The plateau is covered with mounds, pyramids,
and esplanades, showing that here were the royal villas, temples,
and public edifices, but no trace of building, wall, or ruin, is
visible, for the whole area is shrouded with immense cactuses, nopals,
gorambullos, gum-trees, and mesquites, amongst which towers the
_biznaga_, a cactus which grows here to nearly 10 ft. high by 6 ft.
wide. I was shown a plant of this kind near Pachuca, in which an Indian
couple have established themselves.

The summits of pyramids, called _mogotes_ by the natives, were always
occupied by temples and palaces; the largest here, No. 4 and No. 5
in our cut, must have served as basements for the temples of the
Sun and Moon. Unfortunately they have been opened and ransacked by
treasure-seekers, and half-demolished by brick-layers, who found here
materials ready to hand for their constructions.


A, Cisterns. B, Various Apartments. C, Kitchen. D, Seats. E, Entrance.]

I began my excavations by sounding the small mound No. 1 to the
north-east, where the side of a wall was visible; and I found
everywhere the ground connecting houses, palaces, and gardens, thickly
coated with cement: but in the inner rooms the flooring was of red
cement. The rubbish was cleared away, and in a few days a complete
house was unearthed, consisting of several apartments of various
size, nearly all on different levels; having frescoed walls, columns,
pilasters, benches, and cisterns, recalling a Roman _impluvium_,
whilst flights of steps and narrow passages connected the various
apartments. We had brought to light a Toltec house!


     No. 1, Excavations of Toltec House. No. 2, Tomb Excavated. No.
     3, Palace Excavations. Nos. 4 and 5, Pyramids of Sun and Moon.
     No. 6, Esplanades and Mounds, Sites of Ancient Dwellings. No. 7,
     Tlachtli, Tennis-Court. No. 8, Tula River.]

I picked out of the rubbish many curious things: huge baked bricks,
from one foot to nine inches by two and two and a half in thickness;
filters, straight and curved water-pipes, vases and fragments of vases,
enamelled terra-cotta cups, bringing to mind those at Tenenepanco;
seals, one of which (an eagle’s head) I had engraved for my personal
use; bits which were curiously like old Japanese china; moulds, one
having a head with a huge plait and hair smoothed on both sides of her
face, like an old maid; besides innumerable arrow-heads and knives of
obsidian strewing the ground. In fact, a whole civilisation.

This house, the first it was our fortune to discover, was built on a
somewhat modified natural elevation; the various apartments follow the
direction of the ground and are ranged on different levels, numbering
from zero elevation for the lowest to 8 ft. for the highest. The walls
are perpendicular, the roofs flat; and a thick coating of cement,
the same everywhere, was used, whether for roofs, ceilings, floors,
pavements, or roads.


     No. 1, Principal Court. No. 2, Façade. No. 3, Entrance. No. 4,
     Reception Apartment. No. 5, Ruined Wall. No. 6, Enclosures for
     Animals. No. 7, Right Wing of the Palace. No. 8, Left Wing.]

On examining the monuments at Tula, we are filled with admiration for
the marvellous building capacity of the people who erected them; for,
unlike most primitive nations, they used every material at once. They
coated their inner walls with mud and mortar, faced their outer walls
with baked bricks and cut stone, had wooden roofs, and brick and stone
staircases. They were acquainted with pilasters (we found them in
their houses), with caryatides, with square and round columns; indeed,
they seem to have been familiar with every architectural device. That
they were painters and decorators we have ample indications in the
house we unearthed, where the walls are covered with rosettes, palms,
red, white, and gray geometrical figures on a black ground.

My next soundings were towards the centre of the hill, at a mound
marked No. 2, which I took at first for a tomb; but finding nothing,
I directed my men south-east, at the extremity of the hill, No. 3.
Here we attacked a pyramid of considerable size, thickly covered with
vegetation, having a hole and a thick plaster coating, which, to my
extreme delight, revealed an old palace, extending over an area of
nearly 62 ft. on one side, with an inner courtyard, a garden, and
numerous apartments on different levels, ranged from the ground-floor
to 8 ft. high, exactly like the first house; the whole covering a
surface of 2,500 square yards. We will give a description of it,
together with the probable use of the various apartments. No. 1 (see
plan) is the inner courtyard, which we take as our level; No. 3 to the
right, paved with large pebbles, is the main entrance. Facing this to
the left, No. 7 is a small room about 4 ft. high, which was entered
by a flight of seven low steps; it is a Belvedere, from which a view
of the whole valley could be obtained. Next comes No. 4, perhaps a
reception-room, 32 ft. long, having two openings towards the court. On
the other side, to the north, is a smaller, narrower Belvedere, from
which an ante-room, on a slightly lower level, furnished with benches,
was reached. The main body of the palace consists of ten apartments of
different size, with stuccoed walls and floors. The façade, No. 2, 8
ft. high, opens on the courtyard; whilst two winding stone staircases
to the right, and an equal number to the left, led to the apartments on
the first storey. Brick steps, covered with a deep layer of cement,
connected the various chambers. The cells on both sides of the main
apartments may have been the servants’ quarters. No. 6, are a kind of
yards, without any trace of roof, and if we are to judge from Aztec
dwellings, they were probably enclosures for domestic and wild animals.
The Americans, says Clavigero,[51] had no flocks; nevertheless their
table was well supplied by innumerable animals to be found about
their dwellings, and unknown to Europe; whilst the poor people had an
edible dog, _techichi_, the breed of which was lost by the abuse the
Spaniards made of it in the early times of the Conquest. Royal palaces
had extensive spaces reserved for turkeys, ducks, and every species of
volatile, a menagerie for wild animals, chambers for reptiles and birds
of prey, and tanks for fish; so that the purpose we ascribe to these
enclosures becomes highly probable. Here and there closed-up passages,
walls rebuilt with materials other than those employed in the older
construction, seem to indicate that the palace was occupied at two
different periods; this would agree with Veytia[52] when he says, “that
on the Chichemecs invading the country under the command of _Xolotl_,
they found Tula (_cir._ 1117) deserted, and grass growing in the
streets; but that the King was so pleased with the site that he ordered
the monuments to be repaired and the town inhabited. He followed the
same policy at Teotihuacan and other places, ordering his people to
preserve old names, and only authorising them to give new appellations
to those they should build themselves.”[53]


The building we unearthed is entire, its outer wall intact; presenting
a valuable specimen of the houses dating long before the Conquest.
Here we found the same kind of objects as in our first excavations:
plates, dishes, three-footed cups having striated bottoms and used
for grinding Chili pepper; fragments of pottery, enamels, terra-cotta
whorls of different size covered with sunk designs having a hole in the
centre. These whorls are called “_malacates_” by the natives, and used
by Indian women to this day. A round piece of wood or spindle-stick is
introduced in the hole of the whorl, projecting about five inches from
the lower plane, and about nine inches from the upper. The spinner,
who is sitting, rests the point of her spindle on a varnished plate,
and impels it round with her thumb and forefinger, twisting the cotton
or wool attached thereto.[54] In Mexico, rich ladies used a golden

The edifice No. 7 is undoubtedly a tennis-court, for it answers
exactly the description given by historians of such structures;
moreover, I found one of the rings still in place. Veytia is wrong,
therefore, in crediting the Mexicans with the invention of the game;
were it so we should not have found a tennis-court at Chichen-Itza.
Mendieta[56] relates how Tezacatlipoca came down from his celestial
abode on a spider’s ladder, and how in his long peregrinations on earth
he visited Tula, brought thither by his jealousy of Quetzalcoatl, whom
he challenged to play tennis; but the latter turning into a tiger
discomfited him utterly. The spectators were so terrified that they
fled, and in the tumult which ensued many were drowned _in the river
flowing close by_.

This tradition shows plainly that tennis existed in the remote
period of Quetzalcoatl’s rule at Tula; that the game was of Toltec
origin, that the court was on the hill, since the spectators in their
precipitancy to run away were drowned, that Quetzalcoatl was a good
tennis-player, and that the expression, “he was turned into a tiger,”
is merely honorific, applied to him on the spot for having sent his
ball through the ring. This passage also explains the tiger frieze over
the tennis-court at Chichen-Itza.

The Toltecs had public granaries which were opened to the people in
time of famine. A passage in Cuauhtitlan seems to indicate that the
resistance they opposed to a grasping and bloodthirsty priesthood, was
one of the chief causes of their downfall.[57] “Under the mild rule of
Quetzalcoatl, demons tried in vain to persuade him to allow _men born
at Tula to be sacrificed_. As for himself, his offerings were birds,
serpents, and butterflies he had captured in the valley.”

The Toltecs were peaceful, their organisation was feudal and
aristocratic, indicative of conquest, yet their government was
paternal. Besides the great feudatory lords, they had military orders
and titles, which were bestowed on distinguished soldiers for services
in the field or the council, and finally the celebrated order of the
_Tecuhtlis_, which was divided in sub-orders of the “tiger,” the
“lion,” the “eagle,” and other animals, each having its peculiar
privileges. The initiatory ceremonies resembled somewhat those
attending our knights of the Middle Ages, and may interest the reader.

At the nomination of a candidate, all the tecuhtlis assembled in the
house of the new knight, whence they set out in a body for the temple,
where the high priest, at the request of the neophyte, perforated
his nose and ears with a pointed tiger’s bone, or an eagle’s claw,
inserting in the holes thus made twigs, which were changed every day
for larger ones, until the healing of the wound; pronouncing the
while invocations to the gods that they would give the novice the
courage of the lion, the swiftness of the deer, etc.; followed by a
speech in which he was reminded that he who aspires to the dignity of
a tecuhtli, must be ready to perform the duties of his new office.
He was henceforth to be distinguished by greater meekness, patience,
forbearance, and moderation in all things, together with submission
to the laws. After this speech, he was deprived of his rich garments,
and dressed in a coarse tunic; the only articles of furniture allowed
him were a common mat and a low stool. He was besmeared with a black
preparation, and only broke his fast once in twenty-four hours with
a tortilla and a small quantity of water. Meanwhile the priests and
tecuhtlis came in turns to feast before the novice, and make his fast
more intolerable, heaping insults and injurious epithets upon the
man who stood meekly before them; jostling and pointing their fingers
jeeringly at him. At night he was only allowed to sleep a few minutes
at a time; and if overcome by sleep, his guardians pricked him with the
thorn of the maguey.

“At the expiration of sixty days the new knight, accompanied by friends
and relatives, repaired to some temple of his own district, where he
was received by the whole order of tecuhtlis, ranged in two rows on
each side of the temple, from the main altar down to the entrance.
He advanced alone, bowing right and left to each tecuhtli, until he
reached the idol, where the mean garments he had worn so long were
taken off by the oldest tecuhtli, his hair bound up in a knot on the
top of his head with a red string; whilst a wreath, having a medallion
with his motto graven on it, circled his brow. He was next clad in rich
and fine apparel, ornamented and delicately embroidered; in his hands
he received arrows and a bow; balls of gold were inserted in his ears
and nostrils, and a precious stone, the distinctive badge of his order,
hung from his lower lip. The ceremony ended with another discourse to
the effect that the neophyte should aim at being liberal, just, free
from arrogance, and willing to devote his life to the service of his
country and his gods.”[58]

The Toltecs paid great attention to the instruction of youth. Texcuco
possessed schools of art, in which the broad principles laid down by
their forefathers were doubtless remembered, differing from those of
the Aztecs, whose exaggerated religiosity caused them to leave the
education of children entirely in the hands of the priests. That the
latter were less influential with the Toltecs seems indicated in the
following passage: “Among the various sumptuous edifices at Utatlan
was the college, having a staff of seventy teachers, and five or six
thousand pupils, who were educated at the public expense.”[59] The
truth of this account is borne out by the fact that the city was only
destroyed in 1524 by Alvarado, so that the early missionaries had ample
opportunity given them to collect materials for a trustworthy history.


    No. 1, Knight of the Kite. No. 2, Knight of the Tiger. No. 3,
    Teponaztli. No. 4, Huehuetl. No. 5, Knight of the Eagle.]

Marriage among the Toltecs was celebrated with ceremonies it may
interest the reader to know something about. On this occasion friends
and relations were invited, the walls of the best apartment were
adorned with pretty devices, made with flowers and evergreens, whilst
every table and bracket was covered with them. The bridegroom occupied
a seat to the right, the bride sat on the floor to the left of the
hearth, which stood in the middle of the room, where a bright fire
was burning. Then the “marriage-maker,” as he was called, stood up
and addressed the young people, reminding them of their mutual duties
in the life they were about to enter, and, at the termination of his
speech, they were given new cloaks, and received the good wishes and
congratulations of their friends, who as they came up threw each in
turn some perfume on the hearth. Now the bride and bridegroom were
crowned with chaplets of flowers, and the day was wound up with dance,
music, and refreshments. There was also a religious ceremony similar
to this in all respects, in which a priest officiated; when instead
of cloaks they put on costly dresses with a skeleton head embroidered
on them, and thus attired, the new married couple were accompanied to
their home and left to themselves.[60]

In order to have a complete idea of this extraordinary people, a few
words upon their philosophy and ethics may find an appropriate place
here. A Toltec maiden, about to enter into life, was admonished with
great tenderness by her father to preserve simplicity in her manners
and conversation, to have great neatness in attire and attention
to personal cleanliness. He inculcated modesty, faithfulness, and
obedience to her husband, reminding her that this world is a place of
sorrow and disappointment, but that God had given as a compensation
domestic joys and material enjoyments; softening his advice by such
endearing words as: “daughter mine, my beloved daughter, my precious,”
etc. Nor was the advice of a mother less touching—breathing throughout
a parent’s love: “My beloved daughter, my little dove, you have heard
the words which your father has told you. They are precious words,
such as are rarely spoken, and which have proceeded from his heart.
Speak calmly and deliberately; do not raise your voice very high, nor
speak very low, but in a moderate tone. Neither mince, when you speak,
nor when you salute, nor speak through your nose; but let your words
be proper, and your voice gentle. In walking, see that you behave
becomingly, neither going with haste, nor too slowly; yet, when it is
necessary to go with haste, do so. When you are obliged to jump over a
pool of water, do it with decency. Walk through the streets quietly;
do not look hither and thither, nor turn your head to look at this and
that; walk neither looking at the skies nor at the ground. See likewise
that you neither paint your face nor your lips, in order to look
well, since this is a mark of vile and immodest women. But that your
husband may take pleasure in you, adorn yourself, wash yourself, and
wear nothing but clean clothes, but let this be done with moderation,
since if you are over nice—too delicate—they will call you _tapetzeton,
tinemaxoch_. This was the course and the manner of your ancestors. In
this world it is necessary to live with prudence and circumspection.
See that you guard yourself carefully and free from stain, for should
you give your favour to another who is not your husband, you would be
ruined past all recall; since for such a crime they will kill you,
throw you into the street for an example to all the people, where your
head will be crushed and dragged upon the ground,” etc.[61]

We will end these quotations by the advice to a son: “My beloved son,
lay to heart the words I am going to utter, for they are from our
forefathers, who admonished us to keep them locked up like precious
gold-leaf, and taught us that boys and girls are beloved of the Lord.
For this reason the men of old, who were devoted to His service, held
children in great reverence. They roused them out of their sleep,
undressed them, bathed them in cold water, made them sweep the temples
and offer copal to the gods. They washed their mouths, saying that
God heard their prayers and accepted their exercises, their tears,
and their sorrow, because they were of a pure heart, perfect, and
without blemish, like _chalchihuitl_ (precious stones). They added
that this world was preserved for their sake, and that they were
our intercessors before Him. Satraps, wise men, and those killed by
lightning were supposed to be particularly agreeable to the Sun, who
called them to himself that they might live for ever in his presence in
a perpetual round of delight,” etc.[62]


And what can be more beautiful than the prayer addressed to Tlaloc:
“O Lord, liberal giver of all things, Lord of freshness and verdure,
Lord of sweet-smelling paradise, Lord of incense and copal. Alas!
your vassals, the gods of water, have disappeared, and lie concealed
in their deep caverns, having stowed away all things indispensable
to life, although they continue to receive the _ulli yauhtli_ and
copal offering. They have also carried away their sister, the goddess
of substance. O Lord, have pity on us that live. Our food goes to
destruction, is lost and dried up for lack of water; it is as if turned
to dust and mixed with spiders’ webs. Wilt thou have no pity on the
_macehuetes_ and the common people, who are wasted with hunger, and
go about unrecognisable and disfigured? They are blue under the eyes
as with death; their mouths are dry as sedge; all the bones of their
bodies show as in a skeleton. The children are disfigured and yellow as
earth; not only those that begin to walk, but even those in the cradle.
This torment of hunger comes to every one; the very animals and birds
suffer from dire want. It is pitiful to see the birds, some dragging
themselves along with drooping wings, others falling down unable to
walk, and others with their mouth still open through hunger and
thirst. O Lord, Thou wert wont to give us abundantly of those things
which are the life and joy of all the world, and precious as emeralds
and sapphires; all these things have departed from us. O Lord God of
nourishment, most kind and compassionate, what hast Thou determined
to do with us? Hast Thou utterly forsaken us? Shall not Thy wrath and
indignation be appeased? Wilt Thou destroy these Thy servants, and
leave this city and kingdom desolate and uninhabited? Is it so decreed
in heaven and hades? O Lord, grant, at least, that these innocent
children, who cannot so much as walk, and those still in the cradle,
may have something to eat, so that they may live and die not in this
terrible famine. What have they done that they should be so tried,
and should die of hunger? They have committed no iniquity, neither do
they know what thing it is to sin; they neither offended the gods of
heaven nor the gods of hell. We, if we have offended in many things, if
our sins have reached heaven and hades and the uttermost parts of the
world, it is but just that we should be destroyed. O Lord, invigorate
the corn and other substances, much wished for and much needed, now
sown and planted; for the ridges of the earth suffer sore need and
anguish from lack of water. Grant, O Lord, that the people receive this
favour and mercy at Thine hand; let them see and enjoy the verdure and
coolness which are as precious stones. See good that the fruit and the
substance of the Tlalocs be given, which are the clouds that these gods
carry with them and that give us rain. May it please Thee, O Lord,
that the animals and herbs be made glad, and that the fowls and birds
of precious feather, such as the _quechotl_ and the _çaquan_, fly and
sing and feast upon the herbs and flowers. And let not this come about
with thunder and lightning, symbols of Thy wrath; for if our lords the
Tlalocs come in this way, the people, being lean and very weak with
hunger, would be terrified.”[63]

The degree of culture of a nation can be gauged from its religion, and
notably its ideas of a future life. The beauty and eloquence-loving
Greek discoursed upon philosophy walking under noble porticoes; the
thoughts of the barbarous worshipper of Woden were of bloody fights,
and of wassail in which he drank hydromel out of his enemies’ skulls;
the Arab goes to sleep cradled on the lap of houris; the Red Indian
dreams of endless hunting-fields, whilst the starving Bushman hopes
for a heaven of plenty. The Toltec is the only one whose aspirations
beyond the grave are free from grossness and cruelty; his heaven is a
resting-place for the weary, a perpetual spring, amidst flowers, fields
of yellow maize, verdure and flowers.

From these graver matters we will pass to the legend, told by Veytia,
which makes Papantzin the inventor of pulque; and although, in our
opinion, he places this event too late, it is none the less instructive
as showing another side of Toltec history. In the year 1049, or,
according to Clavigero, 1024-1030, Tecpancaltzin was one day taking
his _siesta_ in the palace, when Papantzin, one of his great nobles,
presented himself together with his daughter, the beautiful _Xochitl_
(“flower”), bearing, with other gifts to the king, a kind of liqueur,
made from the maguey juice by a process of which Papantzin was the
inventor. The new drink pleased the royal palate, and the lovely
form and face of the young maiden were still more pleasing to the
royal taste. The king expressed his desire to have more of the new
beverage at the hands of the fair Xochitl, adding that she might
bring it unattended save by her nurse. Proud of the honour shown him,
Papantzin a few days later sent Xochitl, accompanied by a dueña,
with some pulque. Xochitl was introduced alone to the presence of
Tecpancaltzin. Bravely the maiden resisted the monarch’s protestations
of ardent love, but alone and unprotected she was unable to resist
the threats and violence used against her. She was then sent to the
strongly-guarded palace of Palpan near the capital;” and there, cut
off from all communication with parents or friends, she lived as the
king’s mistress. Her father meanwhile was told that his daughter had
been entrusted by the king to the care of some matrons, who would
perfect her education and fit her for a high position among the court
ladies. Meanwhile the king visited Xochitl, and in 1051 a child was
born, who received the name of _Meconetzin_ (“child of the maguey”),
and later that of _Topiltzin_ (the “Justicer”[64]), by which he is
known in history. But at last Papantzin, suspecting that all was not
right with his daughter, visited the palace of Palpan in the disguise
of a labourer; he found her and listened to the tale of her shame. His
wrath knew no bounds, but he was quieted with the king’s promise that
the child should be proclaimed heir to the throne, and that, should
the queen die, Xochitl would succeed her as his legitimate consort.
It should be mentioned that polygamy and concubinage were strictly
forbidden among the Toltecs of that period; that the laws were binding
on king and peasant alike; and this explains why Tecpancaltzin was
obliged to keep his love for Xochitl secret, until he was free to
proclaim her publicly his queen; a step which was fraught with endless
evils for his country, since after his death the Toltec princes, who
were thus deprived of their hope of succession, broke out into open
hostilities. The most powerful of these and nearest to the throne
was Huehuetzin;[65] with him were banded the caciques of the northern
provinces beyond Jalisco and those bordering on the Atlantic Ocean,
when after years of warfare, followed by calamitous inundations,
tempests, droughts, famine, and pestilence (1097), the Toltecs, greatly
reduced in numbers, dispersed; some directing their march south (the
Toluca and Cuernavaca branch), others going north (the Tula and
Teotihuacan branch) founded establishments at Tehuantepec, Guatemala,
Goatzacoalco, Tabasco, and Campeche; whilst a few remained at Cholula
and Chapultepec.[66] Ixtlilxochitl[67] places this event in 1008.
Sixteen hundred are said to have settled at Colhuacan, intermarried
with Chichemec caciques, and founded the family from which the kings
of Texcuco were descended. Clavigero writes that the miserable remains
of the nation found a remedy in flight (1031-1050), some settling in
Yucatan and Guatemala, whilst others, with the two sons of Topiltzin,
remained in the Tula valley, and that their grandsons were subsequently
closely connected with the royal families of Mexico, Texcuco, and
Colhuacan.[68] Finally Torquemada[69] writes “that they were counselled
by the devil to abandon their country to escape utter annihilation,
and that the account of their migrations is to be found in Acolhuan
histories, written in peculiar characters as is the custom of these


The Toltec soldiers wore a quilted cotton tunic that fitted closely to
the body and protected also the shoulders and thighs; their offensive
weapons consisted of spears, light javelins, and clubs studded with
steel, silver, or gold nails. They used a copper currency, which a
short while ago was still found among the Tutupecans.[70]

These quotations, which might be multiplied, clearly prove that the
Toltecs migrated south, following the coasts of both oceans; that they
ceased to exist as a nation after the disruption of their empire; but
that their scattered remnants carried on the work of civilisation in
Central America, on the high plateaux, and in Anahuac; evidenced in the
strong resemblance that the civilisations of these various regions bear
to one another.

We will close this chapter with a few words about the Chichemecs,
who occupied the valley after the Toltecs. Their emperor Xolotl made
Tenayuca, to the west of Lake Texcuco, his capital, and despatched
four chiefs, with a strong escort, to explore the country in every
direction. They were absent four years, and in their report (1124) they
stated that they had met with some Toltecs in the region formerly held
by them; but that the greater proportion had founded important colonies
in the far-off provinces of Tehuantepec, Guatemala, Tecocotlan, and
Tabasco. Nopaltzin, the son of this emperor, sent likewise emissaries
from Teotihuacan, whose report was to the effect that they had found a
few Toltecs scattered in five different places, who told them of their
hardships, adding that most of their fellow-citizens had gone farther
west and south.

From these quotations it is clearly seen that the date of the oldest
edifices in Tabasco cannot be anterior to the beginning of the twelfth
century;[71] that Toltec influence was felt simultaneously on the high
plateaux and in Central America, shown by the flourishing small Toltec
state of Colhuacan, where King Architometl (1231) had revived those
arts and sciences his ancestors had initiated, and which, since their
extermination, had fallen into utter decay. This king succeeded so
well in his enlightened policy that his country became an intelligent
centre, which proved so beneficial to the barbarous Chichemecs.

Nopaltzin, following the example of Xolotl, compelled those of
his subjects who still lived in caverns to build houses, live in
communities, cultivate the land, and feed on prepared viands. He
invited jewellers and lapidaries from Colhuacan to teach his people,
instituting prizes for those who became proficient in mechanical arts,
and also for those who made astrology, historical paintings, and the
deciphering of ancient manuscripts their particular study.[72] And,
lastly, in the closing words of Veytia’s account, he says: “Among the
documents I possess for the completion of my work are several bearing
on the Mexicans. I found no difficulty in reading the paintings and
maps; but although they are systematically classified as regards events
posterior to their arrival in the valley, it is very different with
their antiquities, their origin, and their wanderings; _their documents
relating to this period being more rare and obscure than those of the

Having proved, and we think we have proved, the diffusion of Toltec
arts and industries among the primitive populations of America, we will
proceed to Teotihuacan.

[Illustration: MURAL PAINTING OF TOLTEC HOUSE. (_See p. 105, Toltec




    Quotations—Pre-Toltec Civilisation—Egyptian and Teotihuacan
    Pyramids Compared—General Aspect of the Pyramids—Cement
    Coatings—_Tlateles_ and Pyramids—Idols and Masks—Description
    by Torquemada—S. Martin’s Village—Pulque and Mezcal—S. Juan of

On account of its vicinity to Mexico, Teotihuacan has been so often
described, that there is little or nothing to be said which has not
been well said before. She was a flourishing city at the time of
the Toltecs, and the rival of Tula; and like her was destroyed and
subsequently rebuilt by the Chichemec emperor Xolotl, preserving under
the new _régime_ her former supremacy. In the opinion of Veytia,
Torquemada, and other historians, Teotihuacan was a Toltec city;
and my excavations in bringing to light palaces having nearly the
same arrangement as those at Tula, will confirm their opinion. The
orientation of this city is indicated by Clavigero in the following

“The famous edifices at Teotihuacan, three miles north of this village
and twenty-five from Mexico, are still in existence.”

The two principal pyramids were dedicated to the Sun and Moon, and
were taken as models for building later temples in this region. That
of the Sun is the most considerable, measuring 680 feet at the base
by 180 feet high. Like all great pyramids, they were divided into
four storeys, three of which are still visible, but the intermediate
gradations are almost effaced. A temple stood on the summit of the
larger mound, having a colossal statue of the Sun, made of one single
block of stone.

Its breast had a hollow, in which was placed a planet of fine gold.
This statue was destroyed by Zumarraga, first Bishop of Mexico, and the
gold seized by the insatiable Spaniards. The interior of the pyramid is
composed of clay and volcanic pebbles, incrusted on the surface with
the light porous stone, _tetzontli_; over this was a thick coating of
white stucco, such as was used for dwellings. Where the pyramid is much
defaced, its incline is from thirty-one to thirty-six degrees, and
where the coatings of cement still adhere, forty-seven degrees. The
ascent was arduous, especially with a burning sun beating down upon us;
but when we reached the top, we were amply repaid by the glorious view
which unfolded before our enraptured gaze. To the north the Pyramid of
the Moon, and the great “Path of Death” (_Micoatl_), with its tombs
and tumuli, covering a space of nine square miles; to the south and
south-west the hills of Tlascala, the villages of S. Martin and S.
Juan, the snowy top of Iztaccihuatl towering above the _Matlacinga_
range; and in the west the Valley of Mexico with its lakes, whilst far,
far away the faint outline of the Cordilleras was perceptible in this
clear atmosphere.

If by an effort of the imagination we were to try and reconstruct this
dead city, restore her dwellings, her temples and pyramids, coated
with pink and white outer coatings, surrounded by verdant gardens,
intersected by beautiful roads paved with red cement, the whole bathed
in a flood of sunshine, we should realise the vivid description given
by Torquemada: “All the temples and palaces were perfectly built,
whitewashed and polished outside; so that it gave one a real pleasure
to view them from a little distance. All the streets and squares were
beautifully paved, and they looked so daintily clean as to make you
almost doubt their being the work of human hands, destined for human
feet; nor am I drawing an imaginary picture, for besides what I have
been told, I myself have seen ruins of temples, with noble trees and
beautiful gardens full of fragrant flowers, which were grown for the
service of the temples.” This quotation goes far to prove that the
ruins are not so ancient as some writers have maintained; but that
temples and palaces were extant at the time of the Conquest, and that
pyramids were repaired by the successive occupants of the soil, even
during the wars which a displacement of races naturally entailed.

The outline of the pyramids is everywhere visible, and serves as a
beacon to guide the traveller to the ruins of Teotihuacan, about
thirty-seven miles north of Mexico. Besides these, there are some
smaller mounds to the south, indicating that the ancient city extended
as far as Matlacinga hill, which bounds the valley on this side, whilst
it stretched six miles to the north.

We set out under the escort of an Indian, and soon reach an immense
mound known as the _Citadel_, measuring over 1,950 feet at the sides.
It is a quadrangular enclosure, consisting of four embankments some
19 feet high and 260 feet thick, on which are ranged fifteen pyramids;
whilst, towards the centre, a narrower embankment is occupied by a
higher pyramid, which connects the north and south walls. The shape
of the citadel bears a strong resemblance to a vast tennis-court,
and if not the latter, it was in all probability used for public
ceremonies, but never as a citadel. A little further we crossed a dry
watercourse, which becomes a torrent in the rainy season. The bed
is full of obsidian pebbles, some transparent, some opaque green, but
most of a grayish tint. On the opposite bank of the torrent we observed
in some places three layers of cement, laid down in the same way, and
consisting of the same materials, as I can certify, notwithstanding all
that has been said to the contrary.

This cement is identical with that of Tula, except that there it was
probably done for the sake of solidity, since it is only to be met
with on the declivity of the hill; whereas here, where the city was
demolished several times, it was due to the fact that the new occupant
did not care to clear the ground of all the rubbish, but contented
himself with smoothing down the old coating and laying a new one on the
top of it. This supposition becomes almost a certainty when we add that
numerous fragments of pottery have been found between the layers. This
is, besides, amply exemplified in Rome and other cities, where ancient
monuments are divided from later ones by thick layers of detritus; nor
is it necessary for a long interval to have occurred between the two.
On the other hand, if we suppose the soil between the coatings to have
accumulated there by the work of time, an antiquity must be ascribed
to these first constructions which would simply be ridiculous; and we
think that if Mendoza had visited the ground, his conclusions would
have been much modified. Traces of edifices and walls occupy the
base of the torrent, showing that the bed was narrower formerly than
it is now, and that it was presumably embanked and spanned by several
bridges. As we advance towards the Pyramid of the Sun, fragments of
all kinds meet our eyes in every direction; the fields are strewn with
pottery, masks, small figures, Lares, ex-votos, small idols, broken
cups, stone axes, etc. I select for myself some masks which portray the
various Indian types with marvellous truth, and at times not without
some artistic skill. Among them are types which do not seem to belong
to America: a negro (see plate), whose thick lips, flat nose, and
woollen hair proclaim his African origin; below this a Chinese head,
Caucasian and Japanese specimens; heads with retreating foreheads, like
those displayed at Palenque, and not a few with Greek profiles. The
lower jaw is straight or projecting, the faces smooth or bearded; in
short, it is a wonderful medley, indicative of the numerous races who
succeeded each other, and amalgamated on this continent, which, until
lately, was supposed to be so new, and is in truth so old.

Some writers, on viewing the configuration of these massive mounds,
have erroneously concluded that they were built for the same purpose
as the Egyptian pyramids; but we cannot sufficiently impress on the
reader that in America the pyramid was synonymous with temple, or used
as basement for temples and palaces. People may have been buried in
the former, as they were buried in the latter; but that is no evidence
of any analogy subsisting between them. In Egypt the pyramid was a
sepulchre and nothing more, which received additions each successive
year, and assumed smaller or greater dimensions, according to the
longevity of the sovereign who erected it. The gigantic pyramids of
Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus, correspond to reigns of sixty years
each; the smaller correspond to short reigns in which kings were not
given time for constructing great monuments. Now, the American mounds
belong to one epoch, were built on one plan without any intermission.
Architecture, whether civil or religious, entirely differs in the two
countries. In Egypt palaces were built of wood; in America they were
built of stone. Among Egyptians temples were colossal; among Americans,
on the contrary, they were small, primitive, hardly more than altars.
The temple was all-important with the former, the palace with the
latter. In fact, the two polities were diametrically opposed, save on
such points of contact as are common to all races in the early stage of
their civilisation.


Some writers, arguing from the existence of a civilisation anterior
to the Incas, concluded, with some show of reason, that there existed
a pre-Toltec civilisation also; but a moment’s reflection will show
that no parallel exists between the two; for the former, in a climate
eminently favourable to the preservation of monuments, has hardly left
any trace, whilst the latter, in a climate peculiarly destructive, has
left whole cities and monuments in almost perfect preservation. In
Peru, the people who followed the earlier races used extant remains for
the foundations of their monuments, as, for instance, at Cuzco; whereas
in Mexico and Central America monuments were repaired and restored
on the same plan as that on which they had been erected. It follows
that in Peru edifices are totally different in character from the
foundations and cyclopean walls which support them, unless the ruins of
Las Casas Grandes be considered pre-Toltec; but even so they would be
the remains of edifices constructed by the first Nahua tribes in their
progress towards the south.

Our digression has sharpened our appetites, and we hasten to the
“fonda” by a short cut across imposing structures and the remains
of houses built by the Spaniards who first settled here after the
Conquest. Although they tried to build on the same principles as the
Indians, they succeeded indifferently, for their constructions are but
a ruinous mass, in the courtyards and open walls of which the poor
Indians have established their cabins. These cabins measure barely six
feet square; yet within them whole families lie huddled up together
on the beaten ground, nearly suffocated in summer, almost frozen in
winter, nursing their misery. A few beans, a tortilla, is all the food
they have, and often not even that. Their children are numerous, but
more than half die in the first years for want of proper care. The men
earn one shilling a day—one shilling to feed, clothe, and house eight
or nine people. What wonder if they are in tatters which leave them
half uncovered, exposed to the mercy of the elements? Outside these
huts—for the inside does not own so much as a wooden peg—stands the
_metate_, before which women are kneeling nearly the whole day grinding
Indian corn for tortillas.

[Illustration: ROAD TO S. MARTIN.]

“Why don’t you put a roof over these standing walls? You would get, at
very small cost, a comfortable dwelling for your families.”

“But, señor, we have no wood.”

“What, with all those trees about?”

“Ah, señor, we should have to pay for them, and where is the money to
come from?”

“Why, then, club together, three or four families of you. These huge
houses are quite spacious enough for the purpose.”

They only shook their heads incredulously; so simple a notion was quite
beyond them. As their fathers lived before them, so they do, and will
continue to do so for a long time to come. We gave a few coppers to the
poor wretches to drink our health in pulque, which is excellent here,
the _maguey_ reaching sometimes twenty feet in diameter, and the leaves
nine feet ten inches in length. I am told that some plants yield as
much as 600 litres of liquid. The way the juice is extracted from the
aloe is this: Every five years, just as the maguey is about to bloom,
shooting up a long stalk crowned with its umbelliferous flowers, the
cone forming the centre of the plant is taken out, leaving a hole,
which soon fills with the sap of the leaves around it. Then a man with
a bottle and a large skin plies daily from plant to plant, taking
up the liquid with the bottle and pouring it into the skin, which,
when full, he empties into an open receptacle, made of a bull’s hide
stretched out on four poles. When the juice is sufficiently fermented,
bitter herbs are added, and the pulque is then ready for sale.

_Mezcal_ is a kind of brandy made from a smaller kind of aloe, not
unlike a huge cabbage in shape. To prepare it, roots and leaves are
left to soak until they are duly fermented; a calf’s head or the best
part of a chicken is added to the compound previous to distillation.
In the first case it is called _mezcal cabecita_; in the second,
considered the finest in flavour, _mezcal pechuga_. The best Indian
cognacs are manufactured at Jalisco.


S. Martin, where we are going to put up for the night, is situated
on the driest spot in the valley, so that the only green things to be
seen about it are its enormous hedges of aloe, shooting up from fifteen
to twenty feet high, and so thick as to make them quite impassable.
Our next stage is S. John of Teotihuacan, which was formerly a station
for the numerous relays of mules plying to and from Mexico, when more
than two thousand passed daily. Then every village had “mesones”[74]
and an immense “corrale,” in which mules, horses, and donkeys were put
up, whence the clapping of hands of the tortilleros was heard all day
long, and copious libations to the Indian Bacchus were the reverse of
edifying. But now all that is over. The railroad has turned S. Juan
into a living tomb. The plaza is deserted, tiendas are silent, and
windows only open when the tramping of some wretched donkey or a stray
traveller disturb its solitude. Water, that first of commodities, is
plentiful here, and great poplars, beautiful cedars, lend their cool
shade, and make our walk to the church, which stands at the end of a
noble avenue, quite enjoyable. This church is one of the finest to be
seen in Mexico. The steeple, with its three orders of columns rising
on three successive tiers, is striking for its elegance and fine

We alight here without much hope of being comfortable, for the only
accommodation is a meson, with a courtyard giving access to bare
rooms paved with bricks, devoid of any furniture, and where privacy
is impossible, for anybody may come and lie alongside of you. Your
ablutions have to be made at the well in presence of half the village
congregated in the yard. When you are hungry you go to the “fonda” in
the plaza, where the good man who keeps it does his best to cook you a
nice dinner, which we eat to spare his feelings rather than because we
like his menu. But if the _cuisine_ left something to be desired, it
was amply made up to us by the Municipality, and it was owing to their
kindly help that we were able, within a few hours, to muster men in
sufficient numbers to begin our operations.




TEOTIHUACAN (continued).

    Ruins of a Teotihuacan Palace—Cemetery—Bull-Fighting—Pits
    and Quarries—Excavations—A Toltec Palace—Ants—Ancient
    Tombs—Sepulchral Stone.

After a brief survey I discovered traces of cement, which made it
evident that part of the village is built on the site of the ancient
city; so I made up my mind to try my luck here before venturing
into the very heart of the ruins, which I wished to take time to
study. I began by opening four trenches in a small square used for
bull-fighting, not far from Plaza Mayor. The first two yielded nothing
particular, the next gave more satisfactory results; for here we
came upon some dozen children’s tombs, and five or six adults’, if
we are to judge from vases and other objects we found, for nothing
could be made of the bones, which crumbled into dust. The few vases
we unearthed are made of black clay, with hollow lines, not unlike
those at Tula. They have flat bottoms from six to seven inches wide,
with open brims, and from two to three inches high. Close to them were
found traces of skeletons, which we know to have been those of poor
people, for the bodies of the rich were burnt and their ashes placed in
tombs. The vases were often found in couples; they are unfortunately
so old, the ground is so hard as to form one mass with the vase, and
so notwithstanding all our precautions, all our care in digging the
ground and taking it up with daggers, they were broken to pieces, and
I was only able to save a few. As to the bodies, they were so far
gone, that it was impossible to ascertain their position; they were
generally found from one foot three inches to one foot nine inches, and
three feet three inches deep. The children were buried in a kind of
circular vases, with upright brims; two of the skeletons were almost
perfect, but the skulls, as thin as a sheet of paper, fell to pieces at
my touch. On the same day I unearthed a goodly number of terra-cotta
figures, a fine moulded mask, an axe, a few pots, one of which is
ribbed and beautifully moulded, a number of small round pebbles,
evidently marbles buried with the children; besides a large quantity
of obsidian knives, by far the finest and lightest I have seen; round
pieces of slate, presumably used as currency, _bezotes_, rings worn on
the lower lip, arrow-heads, whilst numerous sheets of mica were found
in every tomb.[75] Among human remains we also noticed those of the
_techichi_, edible dog, parts of birds, and victuals, to sustain the
dead on his long journey beyond the grave.

Leaving my men under my substitute, I went with Marcelino a little way
beyond the village towards Pachucha, to visit the cuevas or pits of
old quarries, which were subsequently used as catacombs; they are two
miles and a half west of the Pyramid of the Moon. The first we visit
has a circular aperture of considerable size, with three narrow low
galleries branching off in different directions at an angle of forty
to forty-five degrees. The first explorers of these caves found human
remains side by side with those of ruminants. The next cavern, of far
greater dimensions, is three hundred and fifty feet further off. We
enter one of the galleries, and walk for ten minutes before we can see
the end; my guide assures me that this gallery extends as far as the
Pyramid of the Sun, three miles beyond; that the whole country around
is undermined by these cuevas, the soil of which is conglomerate.


    No. 1, Pyramid of the Moon. No. 2, Pyramid of the Sun. No. 3,
    Citadel. No. 4, Toltec Palace discovered at Teotihuacan. No.
    5, Path of Death.]

We now come to large halls, supported by incredibly small pillars;
the population round about use them as ball-rooms twice a year, and
nothing can give an idea of the almost magic effect they then present.
In this cueva the conglomerate is split up into gigantic isolated
blocks of the most fantastic, weird shapes, in juxtaposition with a
perpendicular calcareous formation. The next cavern we visit has a well
and a rotunda in the centre; ghastly stories are told of the brigands
who formerly used this cueva as a burial-place for their victims after
having plundered them; wild suppositions which derive a colouring from
the numerous human remains to be found everywhere, which are, however,
undoubtedly the bones of the earlier Indians, as the thickness of the
skulls sufficiently indicates.

From the cuevas we return to the ruins, where I look forward to
bringing to light a house, that I may prove Teotihuacan to have been
as much a Toltec city as Tula. Whilst casting about where to begin I
noticed parts of walls, broken cement and terraces, north of the river,
when forthwith we cleared away the rubbish until we reached the floor,
following the walls, corners, and openings of the various apartments,
as we had done at Tula; and when three days later the engineer, Mr.
P. Castro, joined us, ten rooms, forming part of the house, had been
unearthed. He was so surprised at our success that, stopping short, he
exclaimed: “Why, it is our Tula palace over again!”

And so it was—inner court, apartments on different levels, everything
as we had found before, save that here the rooms were much larger and
most supported by pillars; one of these chambers measures 49 feet on
one side, that is 732 feet in circumference. The walls, nearly six feet
seven inches thick, are built of stone and mortar, incrusted with deep
cement, sloping up about three feet and terminating perpendicularly.
The centre of the room is occupied by six pillars, on which rose
stone, brick, or wood columns bearing the roof.


This is undoubtedly a palace, and these are the reception rooms;
the sleeping apartments were behind; unfortunately they lie under
cultivated ground covered with Indian corn, so we are not permitted to
disturb them. In the large room we observed small stone rings fixed to
the wall, and on each side of the entrance, also fixed to the wall,
two small painted slabs. What had been their use? To support lights
at night? But how was that possible? For even now the only lights the
natives use are _ocotes_, pieces of resinous wood, whilst the slabs
bear no traces of smoke. I had, it is true, met in the course of my
excavations with terra-cotta objects which might have been taken
for candlesticks, but to which I had attached no importance, when I
suddenly recollected a passage in Sahagun bearing on the subject: “The
chandler who knows how to do his work first bleaches, cleans and melts
the wax, and when in a liquid state he pours it on a wick and rolls
it between two slabs; he sometimes puts a layer of black wax within a
white layer,” etc.[76] My first supposition had been right.

Here also the floors and walls are coated with mortar, stucco, or
cement, save that in the dwellings of the rich, necessarily few, they
are ornamented with figures, as principal subject, with a border like
an Aubusson carpet. The colours are not all effaced, red, black, blue,
yellow, and white, are still discernible; a few examples of these
frescoes are to be seen in the Trocadéro. I am convinced that numerous
treasures might be brought to light were regular excavations to be
made, but the Mexican Government, which would have most interest in
such a work, does not seem to care to undertake it.

Leaving my men under the direction of Colonel Castro, I return to
the “Path of Death,” composed of a great number of small mounds,
_Tlateles_, the tombs of great men. They are arranged symmetrically
in avenues terminating at the sides of the great pyramids, on a plain
of some 620 feet to 975 feet in length; fronting them are cemented
steps, which must have been used as seats by the spectators during
funeral ceremonies or public festivities. On the left, amidst a mass
of ruins, are broken pillars, said to have belonged to a temple; the
huge capitals have some traces of sculpture. Next comes a quadrangular
block, of which a cast is to be found in the main gallery of the

In the course of my excavations I had found now and again numerous
pieces of worked obsidian, precious stones, beads, etc., within the
circuit of ants’ nests, which these busy insects had extracted from
the ground in digging their galleries; and now on the summit of the
lesser pyramid I again came upon my friends, and among the things I
picked out of their nests was a perfect earring of obsidian, very small
and as thin as a sheet of paper. It is not so curious as it seems at
first, for we are disturbing a ground formed by fifty generations.

Glass does not seem to have been known to the Indians, for although
Tezcatlipoca was often figured with a pair of spectacles, they may only
have been figurative ones like those of the manuscripts, terra-cotta,
or bassi-rilievi, for there is nothing to show that they had any idea
of optics.

I now went back to my men, when to my great delight I found they had
unearthed two large slabs showing the entrance of two sepulchres; they
were the first I had yet found, and considering them very important,
I immediately telegraphed to Messrs. Chavero and Berra, both of whom
are particularly interested in American archæology. I expected to see
them come by the very next train, to view not only the tombstones, but
also the palace, which attracted a great number of visitors; but to my
surprise one sent word that he had a headache, whilst the other pleaded
a less poetic ailment. _Ab uno disce omnes_; most American writers
speak of ancient monuments from hearsay—from foreign travelers who have
visited them—they never having taken the trouble to travel any distance
to see them.

One of the slabs closed a vault, and the other a cave with
perpendicular walls; we went down the former by a flight of steps in
fairly good condition, yet it was a long and rather dangerous affair,
for we were first obliged to demolish a wall facing us, in which we
found a skull, before we could get to the room which contained the
tombs. The vases within them are exactly like those we found in the
plaza, except that one is filled with a fatty substance—like burnt
flesh—mixed with some kind of stuff, the woof of which is still
discernible, besides beads of serpentine, bones of dogs and squirrels,
knives of obsidian twisted by the action of fire. We know from Sahagun
that the dead were buried with their clothes and their dogs to guide
and defend them in their long journey: “When the dead were ushered into
the presence of the king of the nether world, _Mictlantecutli_, they
offered him papers, bundles of sticks, pine-wood and perfumed reeds,
together with loosely twisted threads of white and red cotton, a manta,
a maxtli, tunics, and shirts. When a woman died her whole wardrobe
was carefully put aside, and a portion burnt eighty days after; this
operation was repeated on that day twelve months for four years, when
everything that had belonged to the deceased was finally consumed. The
dead then came out of the first circle to go successively through nine
others encompassed by a large river. On its banks were a number of dogs
which helped their owners to cross the river; whenever a ghost neared
the bank, his dog immediately jumped into the river and swam by his
side or carried him to the opposite bank.”[77] It was on this account
that Indians had always several small dogs about them.

The speech which was addressed to the dead when laid out previous to
being buried is so remarkable as to make one suspect that the author
unconsciously added something of his own: “Son, your earthly hardships
and sufferings are over. We are but mortal, and it has pleased the
Lord to call you to himself. We had the privilege of being intimately
acquainted with you; but now you share the abode of the gods, whither
we shall all follow, for such is the destiny of man. The place is large
enough to receive every one; but although all are bound for the gloomy
bourn, none ever return.” Then followed the speech addressed to the
nearest kinsman of the dead: “O son, cheer up; eat, drink, and let
not your mind be cast down. Against the divine fiat who can contend?
This is not of man’s doing; it is the Lord’s. Take comfort to bear up
against the evils of daily life; for who is able to add a day, an hour,
to his existence? Cheer up, therefore, as becomes a man.”[78]


But to return to our tombstones. They are both alike, being about
five feet high, three feet five inches broad, and six inches and a
half thick. The upper side is smooth, the lower has some carving in
the shape of a cross, four big tears or drops of water, and a pointed
tongue in the centre, which, starting from the bottom of the slab, runs
up in a line parallel to the drops.

Knowing how general was the worship of Tlaloc among the Indians, I
conjectured this had been a monument to the god of rain, to render him
propitious to the dead; a view shared and enlarged upon by Dr. Hamy
in a paper read before the Académie des Sciences in November, 1882;
and that I should be in accord with the eminent specialist on American
antiquities is a circumstance to make me proud. I may add that the
carving of this slab is similar to that of the cross on the famous
basso-rilievo at Palenque; so that the probability of the two monuments
having been erected to the god of rain is much strengthened thereby.

As our slabs are far more archaic than those at Palenque, we think
we are justified in calling them earlier in time—the parent samples
of the later ones. Nor is our assumption unsupported, for we shall
subsequently find that the cult of Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl was carried
by the Toltecs in their distant peregrinations. These slabs, therefore,
and the pillars we found in the village, acquire a paramount importance
in establishing the affiliation of Toltec settlements in Tabasco,
Yucatan, and other places, furnishing us with further data in regard
to certain monuments at Palenque, the steles of Tikal, and the massive
monolith idols of Copan.

I next attacked the terraced court fronting the palace towards the
Path of Death, and the amount of constructions and substructures we
came upon is almost beyond belief: inclined stuccoed walls crossing
each other in all directions, flights of steps leading to terraces
within the pyramid, ornaments, pottery, and detritus; so much so that
the pyramid might not improperly be called a necropolis, in which the
living had their dwellings.

In a word, our campaign at Teotihuacan was as successful as our
campaign at Tula. We were attended by the same good fortune, and the
reader whom such things may interest will find a bas-relief of both
Toltec palaces, and of one of the tombstones, in the Trocadéro. The
other I offered, as in duty bound, to the Mexican Government, which
allowed it to remain in the village for eighteen months, when Mr.
Cumplido, the editor of the _Nineteenth Century_, had it brought to
Mexico, and sold it to the Museum for £10.

From what has been said it will be seen that the monuments at
Teotihuacan were partly standing at the time of the Conquest.

Our next investigations will take us to the Sierra.





    Travelling Companions—S. Lazarus Station—S.
    Anita—Ayotla—Tlalmanalco—Tenango del Aire—Amecameca—A Badly
    Lighted Town—Rateros—Monte-Sacro—Volcaneros.

On my first visit to the country, three-and-twenty years before, I
had gone to the Sierra for the purpose of making a collection of
photographs of Popocatepetl and the hills surrounding it. As my
men were getting my camera ready I amused myself in scratching the
ground with my stick, when, to my great surprise, I discovered a
bit of pottery and presently a whole vase; I next tried the ground
with my dagger and unearthed more vases, side by side with human
remains. At that time, however, I was so absorbed by my photography,
so ill prepared for gauging the importance of monuments and objects
of antiquity regarding the country I was visiting, that I did not
follow up my discovery; but now, deeply conscious of their interest,
I returned to Popocatepetl, in the hope of finding the place as I had
left it, and to be able to bring to light its hidden treasures.

Before going any further I wish to make the reader acquainted with my
travelling companions. First in rank and importance stands Don Perez
Castro, a Colonel of the Artillery, appointed by the Mexican Government
to watch and share my labours and discoveries. Colonel Castro has
taken part in all the battles and combats of his country during the
Franco-Austrian empire of Maximilian; he is used to every climate,
always ready to make the best of everything, blessed, moreover, with
a perfect temper, a thorough good fellow, a caballero of the old
school, with whom it is impossible not to get on. Next comes my private
secretary, young Albert Lemaire, a promising topographer, a good
draughtsman, who accepts cheerfully the hardships, privations, nay,
the occasional perils of the expedition. Our servant, Julian Diaz,
completes the list. He is a good specimen of a Calino, sweet-tempered,
obliging, devoted, and indefatigable, and as simple and guileless
as a child; he is never seen without his faithful dog d’Artagnan, a
fine-looking animal, far too lazy to be any good against thieves or in
the pursuit of game.

S. Lazarus is the station of a new line connecting Mexico with Morelos
and Amecameca; here travellers must beware of the “cargadores,” who
swoop down on the luggage like birds of prey, and if they are not more
than quick in protecting their traps they will, in all probability,
never see them again. Poor Julian learnt it to his cost, for in spite
of all our vigilance, our fighting, our rushing madly after our
porters not to lose sight of our things, when we reached the platform
Julian’s trunk was gone. I was indignant, but he took his mischance
quite philosophically, as though it did not concern him, lighting
his cigar and taking his seat without a word of reproach against his
unscrupulous countrymen.

The guard gives the signal, the whistle is heard, and we steam out
of this squalid station, following the road by which Cortez entered
Mexico. In the time of the Aztecs it was planted with beautiful trees,
a glowing vegetation and pleasant groves clad the borders of the lake,
over which glided a thousand light skiffs and floating chinampas; but
now the waters which penetrated the city everywhere have receded so
far as to be hardly visible, and the bright towns and hamlets, once
washed by them, have been removed miles inland, leaving a barren strip
of land with incrustations of salt on the surface. It is refreshing
to abandon this unhealthy, horrible swamp to skirt S. Anita’s Canal,
with its grassy banks, great trees, pretty villas, and blooming gardens
overlooking the water. We perceive a few Indians among the reeds of
the muddy waters casting their small nets to get a white fish to be
found here. We pass Peñon with its sulphureous springs, stop at Santa
Marta, once the culminating point of the road, and we shall soon leave
behind the basin of the lake once so animated, so full of life, but now
mournful and desolate beyond redemption.

The inhabitants, with amazing stupidity, even since my first visit,
have laid low the forests of sombre pines and ilexes which shrouded the
slopes of the volcanic hills occupying the valley, and imparting to it
so unique a character; and now torrential rains carry away the soil no
longer held by roots, leaving the rocks bare, so that nothing grows
excepting the prickly pear or the funereal opuntiums.

It is not very difficult to see where this state of things will end.
We can approximately calculate the time when the requirements of the
railway will attack the rare forests as yet crowning the higher hills,
and their summits be denuded also!

[Illustration: SANTA ANITA CANAL.]

After Ayotla the landscape somewhat improves. We begin to see a few
gardens, a few olive-trees, immense plantations of aloe, affording
at once drink and raiment, yellow maize ready to be gathered before
the impending rains. We are approaching the mountains and have passed
Compañia and Lake Chalco on our right, and go through Rio Frio, once a
favourite station for brigands. On my first journey I fell a prey to
them with a diligence full of people, when like a flock of sheep we
all stood to be plundered by two wretched-looking fellows one could
have brought down at one blow. At that time, however, it was deemed
wise to offer no resistance, for fear of unseen companions lurking
close by. Now Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, bearing to heaven their
snowy peaks, become more and more distinct; here is Tematla, and a few
minutes more bring us to Tenango del Aire, “windy,” where violent winds
generally prevail. The line here leaves the old road which used to pass
Tlalmanal, and for my part I regret it, as I miss seeing the remains
of a convent built in the first years of the Conquest, which was never

The ruins are composed of fragments of walls with a portico formed by
five arches, supported by slender columns as finely sculptured as a
Chinese ivory casket. Indian artists executed this beautiful carving
after designs furnished by the Catholic Spaniards. I am told by the
guard that when this line was open, hundreds of vases, statuettes,
pottery of every shape and size were unearthed, none of which found
their way to the Museum, the officials having shared the spoil among
themselves. It is grievous to think that so many precious objects are
lost to science, when it would be so easy for the Mexican Government to
introduce a clause by which the contractors bound themselves to give up
to the authorities any antiquities they happened to bring to light.

It was seven o’clock when we entered the station of Amecameca, having
been four hours in performing a journey of some sixty-four miles. It
was now pitch dark, so that our luggage was piled into the cart without
our examining it, and it was not until we were in the house which was
to take us in, there being no hotel in the place, that I perceived both
locks of my portmanteau had been broken and £20 out of £60 taken. I
naturally complained to the authorities, but as I could not say where
the theft had taken place (though it must have been accomplished either
at the station in Mexico or in the train) I obtained no redress, and I
comforted myself with the thought that it would have been much worse
had they taken the whole.

[Illustration: AMECAMECA.]

Amecameca is situated at an altitude of 626 feet above Mexico, at
the foot of Monte-Sacro, planted with beautiful trees; the air is
cool even in summer and the climate good. This circumstance has made
it a favourite resort for the rich Mexicans eager to escape from the
excessive heat of the plain. But even in this favoured climate storms,
rain, and winds prevail during several months of the year; hence
perpendicular roofs have replaced azoteas, giving it the aspect of an
Alpine village. No more enchanting scenery can well be imagined: to the
south-east, great Popocatepetl rises to the enormous height of 17,852
feet above the level of the sea; fronting it to the east Iztaccihuatl,
15,208 feet, spreading its mantle of snow over its broad surface; and
if yielding in bulk and height to its gigantic neighbour it is far more
picturesque, surrounded by a belt of hills, with a thousand fantastic
forms, broken peaks, massive rocks, and deep ravines, presenting
a variety and richness of colouring unsurpassed anywhere. In the
morning the plain is covered with a slight white mist, like a bridal
veil, through which show the tapering stalks of Indian corn and the
gloomy masses of trees. In this light the lower hills are of a tender
peacock-green, deepening to the darkest blue in the barrancas, whilst
the crests are tinged with a faint blush; but when storms, at this
season very frequent, burst upon the gigantic and broken surface of
these mountains, when clouds sweep across their slopes clashing against
each other, and the lightning illumines the whole sky, when the thunder
is re-echoed from all these peaks, from all these pinnacles, to die
in the distant ravines, one understands how a primitive race peopled
Popocatepetl with giants and evil spirits, whose agonies in their
prison-house found expression in these convulsions of nature. But if at
this season we have a succession of thunderstorms and torrential rains,
if the sky is overcast at night and white exhalations rise from the
plain, the mornings are bright and wonderfully calm.

The Municipality took measures some time since to have Amecameca,
which numbers 1,500 inhabitants, lighted with petroleum, their finances
precluding gas; but, alas! they had counted without the _rateros_, who
on the very first night spread over the city, put out simultaneously
all the lamps and carried them off. But I hear some one ask, what
is a _ratero_? A ratero is ubiquitous and essentially an American
institution. His strength as a thief lies in being a member of a
very “long firm.” He is always to be found in crowds, whether in the
market-place, church, or theatre; he penetrates ill-closed houses,
whence he takes anything valuable; he strips railway carriages of their
fixtures, and railways of their wooden rails—the largest beams are
not safe from his grasp; horses and cattle are frequently driven from
one district to be sold in another by the ratero. Rateros hardly ever
miss a party crossing the Cordilleras, and they take care to be in
sufficient numbers to ensure victory. It was a ratero who carried off
Julian’s box, and a ratero had eased me of £20.


The immediate attraction of Amecameca is Monte-Sacro, a volcanic hill,
fire-rent, rising from the centre of the town to a height of 325 feet.
There is a grotto which was turned into a hermitage at the time of
the Conquest. The place soon acquired great celebrity for holiness on
account of miracles which were performed thereat; chapels, churches,
and a good road with the twelve stations of the Cross, were erected by
the piety and for the accommodation of devotees who came hither from
all parts, and who, not satisfied with visiting the Monte-Sacro during
their lifetime, often desired to be buried in the cemetery fronting the
church, so that it is over-crowded.

The tombs are covered with cement and perfectly flat, with rude
drawings made by the friends of the dead, who scratch with their hands
and bare feet certain figures whilst the plaster is soft; but although
I inquired of several people, I could obtain no satisfactory answer
regarding the origin of this peculiar custom. The branches of the
surrounding trees, as indeed those on the road up to the Cross, are
hung with ex-votos of the oddest description: small crosses, bits of
thread, coloured stuff, dead flowers, tangled hair, reminding one of
offerings around Japanese temples. The view from the top of the hill
is very fine and extensive, and the ascent has been made both easy and
pleasant by a winding road planted with cypress trees to the north, and
to the south side with ilexes of enormous size.

We were detained here by the weather, which was simply abominable, and
also by the difficulty of procuring saddle-horses, mules to carry our
baggage, and men inured by long experience to live and work in this
rarefied atmosphere.

It was not without a feeling of deep satisfaction that we saw our
last mule and our last man loaded ready to start. Our two best men
are brothers, both of whom have been employed in the sulphur-mines
of Popocatepetl, one as foreman for the last eight-and-twenty years,
and the other even longer. The five remaining Indians are also
“volcaneros,” accustomed to live at an altitude of 13,000 to 17,550
feet above the level of the sea.

At last every man is at his post, and we begin slowly the ascent of the

[Illustration: VOLCANEROS (MINERS).]




    The Rancho of Tlamacas—A Funeral Station—Great
    —Bodily Remains—Toys—A Beautiful Cup—A Well-preserved
    Skull—Mispayantla Grotto—Amecameca—A Tumulus
    Explored—Expedition to Iztaccihuatl—Nahualac—A Second Cemetery.

With a good horse and a comfortable saddle, the ascent of Popocatepetl
is a delightful ride. The road rises so rapidly that the view, which
was confined to the charming valley of Amecameca, becomes finer and
more extensive at every turn of the road, embracing at last the entire

The air is crisp, the sun, though hot, is bearable, and when, after
three hours’ march, we reach the high mountain ridge, we pause to
admire in silence the finest panorama in the world: the two great
volcanoes to our right and left, the plain of Puebla on our rear,
whilst before us stretches the marvellous plain of Mexico, every detail
of which is distinctly visible in this clear atmosphere.

We are so lost in contemplation that the guide has at last to remind
us that, unless we resume our march, we shall be late for luncheon,
which awaits us at Tlamacas; but when we did reach it we found that the
only accommodation to be had was a shed, open to rain, wind, and cold.
There was fortunately a table and a chimney, and with our camp-beds we
managed pretty well.

As soon as we had seen to our luggage we sallied forth in search of the
cemetery under the escort of the chief guide, and began the ascent of
Monte del Fraile, 782 feet high, over a distance of three miles. This
may appear a small matter—but a short walk; yet a climb performed at an
altitude of 13,000 feet on moving sand, every step of which is painful,
is no joke: the head aches, the pulse throbs, every breath drawn is
a gasp, the throat is dry, every attempt to stoop makes one dizzy,
rest becomes necessary every few minutes; and on reaching the crest of
Tenenepanco rock we were thoroughly exhausted.


My impatience to find the cemetery was so great, that I could not stop
long to contemplate the fine view to be seen here; we immediately
began our search. But though I seemed to recognise the plateau, it
looked somewhat different—strewn with flat stones I had not observed
before—consequently I climbed higher, followed by an old Indian who
had been with me in my first expedition, and who opened the ground in
several places. It was found very hard, compact, gravelly, without
any appearance of ever having been disturbed; so after many fruitless
attempts, I returned to the first place, when the old Indian, who had
not breathed a word hitherto, said:

“Señor, this is the place where you found some vases the last time you
were here.”

“But how do these flags come here?”

“Oh, from subsequent excavations.”

“Then I am sold, robbed, done out of my find,” I cried in my
disappointment, as though the cemetery were my property.

“But,” objected the old volcanero softly, “only a few loads of detritus
were taken away; there must be more to come out.”

Acting on advice which seemed so reasonable, I soon discovered numerous
_tepalcates_, fragments of vases, cups, and various potteries; we had
lost so much time, however, in looking about, that we were soon obliged
to abandon the mountain, trusting in what the morrow would bring forth.

A few words about our encampment may not be out of place here. The men
occupied an open shed, with a huge chimney in the centre, where twice
a day they prepared their own food, consisting of a small quantity
of meat and the indispensable tortilla, the whole washed down with a
good drop of mezcal. They slept on trusses of dry grass and mats. We
were not better housed than the men, whilst our cooking was a great
deal worse; if our shed was not quite so open, it was sufficiently
so to admit the bitter night cold; the wind came in at all the
windows unprotected by any shutters, through the thousand cracks of
the ill-jointed enclosure, searing our faces and causing incessant
sneezing. Although whole trees were burnt in the huge chimney, it
made no appreciable difference in the atmosphere of the room, and as
there was no tunnel we were nearly suffocated by the smoke, which,
hovering about us, only escaped through the roof. At this altitude,
with six or seven degrees below zero (Centigrade) at night, our bed
of guttapercha felt like icicles, and every time I came in direct
contact with it, I instantly awoke.

The food was plentiful, for the Tlacualero, our “errand-man,” went
twice a day to Amecameca to fetch what was required for the whole
party; and although the distance was fifteen leagues over a mountain
path, I never knew him late. But if provisions were abundant, Julian’s
cooking was so extraordinarily bad, that the only one who seemed to
enjoy and thrive on it was the dog d’Artagnan; to him it was a matter
of indifference if cutlets and beefsteaks were burnt to a cinder, if
beans were transformed into sticks—nothing came amiss. As for us, not
wishing to starve, we were obliged at last to do the cooking ourselves
and confine our Calino to “washing up.” Not that he was a bad fellow,
far from it; he deserved in every respect the excellent character I had
received with him for honesty, but a man may have given satisfaction as
a sacristan, as no doubt he had, and yet be a sorry cook.

The chill nights were certainly trying, but they were made up to us by
the glorious mornings; we rose with the first light of day; the sun,
still invisible to us, was already greeting the summit of the great
volcano, from which rose a light vapour. We watched the snow changing
from a delicate pink to dazzling white; the crest of El Fraile, as yet
wrapped in nocturnal mists, showed gray against a transparent blue sky,
whilst its base, shrouded by a deep fringe of funeral pines, gradually
emerged from their gloom at the sun’s magic touch. To the east the
plain of Puebla, and far away on the horizon the imposing cone of
Orizaba, whilst in the middle distance the severe outline of Malinche
seemed to divide the sky. The city de los Angeles, with her square
massive buildings, her steeples, cupolas, the towers of the cathedral,
the stately pyramid of Cholula rose at our feet bathed in a flood of
morning light.


The old Indian proved a true prophet; my predecessors had not removed
everything; trenches branching off in every direction so as to embrace
the whole plateau were at once made and brought to light wholly
undisturbed tombs. The first was that of a woman whose head I was
able to preserve intact: the bones of all the rest were unfortunately
reduced to a gelatinous paste. The dead were buried at a depth varying
from some two feet to four feet eight inches; the bodies doubled up,
both chin and arms resting on their knees; hands and feet were gone.
Within the tomb, over the head, was a _sebile_, or hollow terra-cotta
plate, two small black earthen horns, besides several vases. The whole
was damp and moist, the vases filled with earth and water, and the
utmost care was required in taking up such fragile objects. They soon,
however, hardened by exposure, when they could be easily and safely
cleaned and packed. As far as could be judged from the bones and
pottery, one of the tombs contained the bodies of a man and a woman.
Another, probably that of a chief, had no human remains left, but I
found a great variety of precious objects, made of _chalchihuitl_,
a hard green stone, which takes a fine polish, a kind of jade or
serpentine, much valued by the Indians; besides these were numerous
arrows of obsidian, beads for necklaces, some of hard stone, some of
terra-cotta, and a few small figures. A singular circumstance marked
this tomb; not a single bead, not a single ornament but was broken,
presumably at the time of the burial, as a token of grief. It is at
least the only plausible solution which can be given for so many hard
and resisting objects having been systematically destroyed.

Moreover, by far the largest proportion of these granite or porphyry
beads, whether owing to their great antiquity or their having lain in
a very destructive soil, crumbled away at our touch. Broadly speaking,
the tombs which had not been disturbed were two to one; the dead had
been buried without any regard to their position.

We are not yet inured to our life at an altitude of 13,000 feet, and
our daily ascensions are painful in the extreme; our faces literally
peel in this sharp wind and hot sun, whilst our hands are frightfully
chapped, and almost paralysed. It would be difficult to bear up long
against our hardships were it not for the stupendous result of our
excavations: kitchen utensils, every variety of vases representing
the Toltec god Tlaloc, fruit cups, jewel cups, with feet shaped like
a duck’s bill or a boar’s head; chocolate cups with porpoise-like
handles; beads, jewels, a whole civilisation emerges from these tombs,
and carries us back to the life of this long-forgotten people. Here
we have caricatures of ancient warriors; further on a water-carrier
bearing his jars like the modern “aguadores;” next are toys and tiny
terra-cotta chariots, some are broken, some still preserve their four
wheels; they were, presumably, a fond mother’s memento who, ages gone
by, buried them with her beloved child. These chariots are shaped like
a flattened _cayote_ (a kind of long-bodied fox) with its straight ears
and pointed face, and the wheels fit into four terra-cotta stumps; on
my renewing the wood axle-tree, which had been destroyed long since,
the chariots began to move.


Many more objects were brought to light from these tombs—richly
ornamented “fusaïoles,” marbles, necklaces, baby-tables, which, like
the toy chariots, represented some quadruped—resembling Greek toys.
This coincidence between people so different and so far removed from
each other is not surprising, for elementary ideas generally find
a common expression. It should also be observed that these toys,
however rude, do not necessarily mark a very ancient epoch. Early
manifestations live on through ages and are found side by side with the
highest civilisations, and are still to be met among the people long
after the well-to-do possess objects of art.

The 9th of July was one of our best days. Out of ten tombs five were
found intact and yielded sixty remarkable pieces, one of which is
unique and of peculiar interest. It is a three-footed terra-cotta cup
some six inches by three by one and a half at the bottom inside;
wonderful to relate, it emerged without a blot from its gloomy abode.
Both the inside and outside are covered with pretty devices painted
white, yellow, blue, green, and red, fused into a harmonious whole. The
colours are in relief and like enamels. Next, one almost as beautiful
but smaller, and covered with dirt, was found. These two lovely cups
were put out to dry in the sun, when, to my horror, I saw that one was
fast scaling off, whilst the brilliant colours of the other were fading
visibly. To remove them into the shade was the work of an instant, but,
alas! it did not arrest the work of destruction, which continued at an
alarming pace. A photograph of the finest cup, as well as the colours
of the paintings, was immediately obtained, but it only gives a faint
idea of the beauty of this charming work of art.

From these tombs were likewise unearthed a number of diminutive brass
bells, which were used both as ornaments and currency; besides large
fat vases with a hand painted red over a black ground. This was a
Toltec memento, either symbolic of Hueman or of Quetzalcoatl, so often
seen on the walls of Yucatec palaces, and likewise on the monuments of
some North American tribes. But our most curious “find” was a perfectly
well-preserved human brain, the skull of which was gone. This cerebral
mass had been protected from the pressure of its surroundings by a
stout cup into which it was wedged. No doubt was possible: the two
lobes, the circumvolution of the brain to the minute red lines of the
blood-vessels, all was there.


The fact that a human brain could have been found in good preservation
when the skull had disappeared, was received with Homeric laughter;
all I can say is that it is so, that the finding of it was witnessed
by my associates; that in every tomb where the skull should have
been, was invariably observed a whitish substance, which at first was
mistaken for lime, but which subsequently whenever it was met with,
the men instantly cried out: “_Aqui està uno_—here is one” (body),
and near it vases and fragments clearly indicating the presence of a
tomb. These brains, however, not having been protected like the first,
were all flattened into a white cake of some five inches by two in
thickness. The only explanation I can offer is that at an elevation
of 13,000 feet, close to the volcanic cone of Popocatepetl, in a soil
saturated with sulphureous vapours (a film of sulphide always extended
over my nitrate of silver washes), the same chemical combinations which
destroyed the bones, may have acted as a preservative on cerebral
matter. But it will be asked, why not have borne away that wonderful
brain? I ought to have done so, no doubt, but without alcohol the
thing was impossible; besides, had I done so, should I have a better
chance of convincing people at a distance?

The toy chariots found no better favour with the public. Our
illustrations, however, will settle once for all this vexed question.
As must appear to the most inexperienced eye, the character of these
toys is exceedingly archaic, nor am I aware that any museum or private
collection has anything to show at all approaching them. This was
conceded, but it was denied that they were chariots at all—the wheels
were only “malacates,” _i.e._ “fusaïoles”! Numerous spindles were
indeed found by us in the cemetery. Profuse collections may be seen
and compared in every museum, when the most ignorant must see that
these wheels are quite different to “fusaïoles” or whorls. It will be
said that this toy was but the copy of a chariot brought in by the
Spaniards; but a glance at the drawing will show how absurd is the
assumption, and carry conviction to the most incredulous.

Granted that is so, what inference do you draw from it? That the
Mexicans had chariots? Hardly, since all authorities are silent on
the subject, and when we know that the only means of transportation
was afforded by carriers. But if such chariots were not available in
distant expeditions across rivers, over mountain paths, through immense
forests, it was not so within the radius of a city having good roads;
and what is there against the possibility of a hand-cart corresponding
with ours having been in use?

I am far from affirming that it was so, although certain expressions
and quotations might be adduced which would show the supposition to
be not so far-fetched as it looks on the face of it. We read in the
Ramirez manuscript, for instance, that Montezuma II. set out for his
Huaxateca expedition with a numerous army and _carruages_.[79] Why
should the Indian writer have used an ambiguous word meaning both
_chariot_ and _transport_, when the former must already have been
extant when he wrote—that is, after the Conquest? Farther, Padre Duran
relates how this same Montezuma, wishing to erect a temalacatl, had a
huge block quarried at Aculco, near Amecameca; and Plate XXV. shows
this block raised by means of a rude chariot having clog-wheels, drawn
by a multitude of Indians.[80] The text, it is true, does not specify
a chariot; but if they were unknown, how do they come in his drawing?
It is unaccountable, too, that no mention is made of the stone having
been brought on rollers or wheels, seeing that it could not have come
so great a distance by any other means. It is altogether a mystery.

[Illustration: CARTS, CHILDREN’S TOYS.]

Lastly, Juarros, in describing the battle at Pinar, fought against
Alvarado, mentions war-engines, or what would now be called ammunition
carts, moving on _rodadillos_, which were drawn by armed men wherever
they were required. These carts were loaded with arrows, spears,
shields, stones, slings, etc., and men, chosen for the service,
distributed them as they were wanted.[81] Does “rodadillo” mean here
a clog-wheel or a roller? If these carts carried arms to combatants in
different parts of the field of battle, does it not follow that they
moved on wheels, since rollers would have made the diminutive “forts”
immovable, contrary to the end proposed?

Should, however, both quotations and arguments seem valueless, it
might be added that the toy chariots were perhaps of primeval Toltec
invention, the use of which had been lost after their expulsion from
the plateaux.

But to return to the cemetery. Whether it be considered Toltec or
otherwise, whether ancient or comparatively modern, we hold to its
antiquity, to its being essentially Nahua, dedicated to Tlaloc, the
god of rain and plenty, the fertiliser of the earth, the Lord of
Paradise, the protector of green harvests. We are in his dominions,
for he was believed to reside where the clouds gather, on the highest

The first plate shows the vases unearthed at Tenenepanco, five of which
portray this god, with his prominent eyes, the drops of water streaming
down his face, making up his teeth, his beard or moustachios; he holds
in his right hand a writhing serpent, thereby representing the flash
and the thunderbolt—his voice as heard in storms. In the Nahualac Plate
four vases also figure the same god.

The nations who succeeded the Toltecs on the plateaux adopted this
eminently Toltec deity, who was one of the most popular gods down to
the Conquest. The later tribes, however, discarding the mild practices
of the Toltecs, stained his cult with human sacrifices. We will add a
few quotations showing how great was the analogy between the places
consecrated to Tlaloc and the Tenenepanco cemetery.


Torquemada calls him the god of paradise and great delights; that his
statue on the highest mountain of Texcuco represented a man seated on
a square slab, having at the back a huge stone jar, into which _ulli_,
maize, beans, and other vegetables were placed by the devotees, and
that this offering was renewed every year. Ixtlilxochitl mentions,
_inter alia_, that five or six young children were yearly sacrificed
to this deity, their hearts torn out, and their bodies buried; and we
read in Father Duran that Montezuma and the allied princes repaired
on the hill on which a child seven or eight years old was sacrificed.
This festival was celebrated in the month of April, when the maize was
above the ground. The next quotation from Torquemada is by far the most
interesting, for it mentions Popocatepetl and the surrounding hills
where we are carrying on our explorations:

“Indians entertained a great respect for this mountain, whose climate
was mild, and the abundance of whose waters made the land around
unusually fertile, and here children and slaves were slain in honour of
Tlaloc. To the south is another mighty hill, Teocuinani, ‘the Divine
Singer,’ so called by the natives because whenever the clouds shroud
its summit the volcano bursts forth in flashes of lightning and claps
of thunder, spreading terror among the whole population, who hasten
to the hill to offer men, incense, paper-crowns, feathers, _plates_,
_urns_, _goblets_, _cups_, _toys_, _and vases_” (exactly what we have
found). “Close by was a well-constructed house, _Ayauchcalli_, ‘house
of rest,’ in which stood an idol of green stone, _chalchihuitl_, about
the size of a child eight years old. On the arrival of the Spaniards
this idol was carried away and buried _in the mountains_ by the
Indians, together with numerous objects of gold, silver, and precious

We have often seen clouds collected around the top of Teocuinani (El
Fraile), and many a time have we heard the dread voice of the Divine
Singer; if our Tenenepanco cemetery is not the one spoken of by Father
Duran, it is assuredly its nearest neighbour, and we are convinced that
this site was once sacred to Tlaloc, consequently ancient, and that
besides the victims sacrificed, both men and women were buried here as
in consecrated ground, with their utensils, arms, and ornaments.

The foregoing quotations prove, moreover, that the surrounding
mountains contain several funeral stations, which might be profitably
explored; Mount Tlaloc alone would enrich the most greedy. As for us,
we are satisfied with having discovered two and opened the way to
others; and when we add that our excavations yielded three hundred and
seventy pieces, our self-satisfaction will not appear out of place.
The greatest care was taken in packing our treasure in four large
_huacales_, “cases,” and the freight reached safely Amecameca and
Mexico, where the Government confiscated it.

In our two years’ explorations the Mexican Museum had deducted a third
from the best of our finds; now they illegally detained the whole,
refusing to give up any part of it. Let future explorers do their work
quietly, offering nothing to the Republic, which might adopt, as in our
case, a singular mode of testifying its gratitude.

The next day after our return to the village, we set out for the
Mispayantla grottoes, accompanied by a guide and three Indians
provided with tools. These grottoes are situated in the barranca known
as Mispayantla, at once the most picturesque and the most important in
the Mexican Valley, extending from El Fraile to the east and west as
far as the Amecan Valley. From rocks rising perpendicularly to some six
hundred and nine hundred feet, the eye travels down into its depths,
where the course of the river is lost in a glowing wilderness of
vegetation. The road was so bad and unsafe that we got off our horses
and walked up to the grottoes, where a great disappointment awaited
us, for they are nothing but pent-houses, produced by the projecting
rock; holes and notches, moreover, plainly testified that we had been
preceded long since by other seekers. Broken skulls and bones, of no
interest whatever, lay scattered about. We picked up, however, saucepan
handles of every size, red earthen vases striped with black, a much
injured idol of Tlaloc, a bit of an Indian flute. This had been, no
doubt, a funeral station completely rifled. We came away with feelings
the reverse of pleasant.

We were not more successful in attempting a teocalli in the heart of
Amecameca, than we had been at Mispayantla; remembering, however, that
cemeteries abounded in the mountains, I flattered myself I should find
one towards Iztaccihuatl. “Tepalcates,” potteries, I had been told,
were to be met in various places, but small had been the result on my
visiting the sites indicated. From inquiries and the promise of a good
reward, I got an Indian to act as guide to Iztaccihuatl, which he knows
well, having often been there for the same purpose as ourselves; a few
preliminaries are soon settled, and taking some half-dozen men with me,
we set out on our mountain expedition. The ascent is performed with
great difficulty, for we are just in for the rainy season, and the path
is simply abominable. Our horses slip, rear, fall, and we frequently
risk breaking our necks; the mule, laden with our instruments and
luggage, refuses to move until he is relieved of half his burden.

Leaving Amecameca, we follow a very steep path overlooking frightful
precipices, and reach the summit after a forced march of six hours.
From this point may be seen the valley, some 3,900 feet long by 1,625
to 1,950 feet broad, bounded by the mountain range which to the west of
Mexico makes it impassable. To the east are the peaks of Iztaccihuatl,
covered with virgin snow, 650 feet below us; on the crest the barometer
marks 12,512 feet, and 12,318 in the valley, that is as near as
possible the altitude of Tlamacas.

This narrow valley is so completely closed in by perpendicular rocks,
that it would be next to impossible to spy it out without a guide; it
is fringed half-way up by gloomy pines, but above us the rock is quite
bare. Stray cattle graze peaceably at the bottom of the valley, which
owes its name to the nearest peak, “Nahualac.” The latter must have
been a far more important funeral station than Tenenepanco. Everything
favours this assumption, whilst stone foundations make it probable that
a temple or a sanctuary dedicated to Tlaloc once stood here, similar
to that mentioned by Father Duran, of which no trace has been found by
us. We descry, however, to the north-east of the valley, an artificial
pond 195 feet in circumference; in the centre rose a monument, the
foundations of which are still extant; and round the pond are similar
but smaller monuments, pedestals, altars, or chapels, bearing the
statue of Tlaloc.

In a few minutes my men unearthed no fewer than forty vases, several
plates, goblets, in the same style as those found at Tenenepanco, save
that the clay is coarser and the ornamentation more archaic. This
beginning was so promising, that notwithstanding the bitter cold at
night, only half-sheltered as we were, my dreams were golden; and
the next morning, after a hot cup of coffee mixed with a good dose
of mezcal, we were eager to set to work again, when our “finds” were
if anything more abundant, and similar to those of the previous day:
idols, cups, three-footed goblets, pottery with Tlaloc’s image; very
few jewels, however, and no precious stones, whilst the total absence
of human remains seems to indicate great antiquity for these remains.

It may be well to mention that a small cup, bearing the image of Tlaloc
and placed in the centre of the Tenenepanco Plate, belongs properly to
Nahualac. It forms a pendant to another cup also in my possession. Both
are quite unique in their way, for nothing in the Aztec antiquities
recalls either the material, the shape, the ornamentation, or the
workmanship. If this cemetery were Aztec, therefore, it must date back
to the early establishment of that tribe in the valley; but in all
probability it is either Chichemec or Toltec, for had it been Aztec,
human remains would have been found, whereas it is well known that the
Toltecs offered only birds, feathers, and flowers to their favourite
god, and this leads us to suppose that Nahualac was one among the
primeval Toltec stations.

Our four days’ explorations produced nearly eight hundred pieces of
all kinds. Our sanguine hopes had been more than realised, and with
jubilant feelings we bade the mountain adieu; but alas! our treasure,
like its predecessor, went to fill up the shelves of the Mexican Museum.

If the ascent had been painful, the descent was even more so. Leaving
the Indians to follow with our luggage, Colonel Castro and I went in
advance; but we soon lost our way, and rolled rather than walked down
the steep, precipitous slopes of the mountain, whilst our horses, which
we were leading, came upon us like avalanches, and often threatened our
destruction. We reached the plain at last, and a few minutes brought
us to Ameca.

Our excavations on the high plateaux are over; we leave for the warm
region, to follow the Toltecs in their great migration at the beginning
of the eleventh century.

[Illustration: POND OF NAHUALAC.]

[Illustration: QUAY OF S. JUAN BAUTISTA.]



    Return to Vera Cruz—Toltec Cities—Quotations
    regarding Ancient Cities—Rio Tabasco at Frontera—S.
    Juan Bautista—Rio Gonzalès—Canoas—Lagoons—Bellote
    Islands—_Kjœkkenmœdings_—Temples at Bellote—Chronological and
    Ornamental Slabs—Las Dos Bocas—Cortez—Rio Seco—Paraïso.

We are once more at Vera Cruz, _en route_ for Tabasco, where we are
received, as on our first arrival, with the terrible Norte, blowing
so hard that no steamer can get away; and to do something I visit the
Public Library, which, besides some interesting works, contains also
specimens of Totonac antiquities, and a good Indian map on calico.

The wind changes, and we are at last able to go on board the steamer
which is to convey us to the mouth of Rio Tabasco, sometime known as
Grijalva, after the Spanish explorer; and here we leave our large ship
for the river boat. The banks of this river are exceedingly flat and
uninteresting; some king-fishers, some white and blue herons, now and
then a crocodile, are the only things which break the monotony of this
dreary scene.

We stop at a small unhealthy village called Frontera, where we have to
change again for S. Juan. The heat is suffocating; our berths so close
that we try the tops of our cabins, but no sooner are our mosquito
curtains fixed, and ourselves, as we fondly imagine, settled for the
night, than a shower of fiery sparks from the engine, which is fed
with charcoal, sets our clothes on fire and obliges us to make a hasty
retreat, the more so that the ship carries a large cargo of petroleum.
Below, a lively night awaits us, and when from sheer weariness we fall
asleep at last, we are rudely awakened by the cries of all the denizens
of the forest.

A few habitations, a few fields under cultivation, some rare
palm-trees, or a flock of sheep, warn us that we are getting near S.
Juan. But all we can see at present from our steamer is a long line of
low houses, nor is our first impression dispelled when we walk into
this outlying, forlorn-looking town. Outward appearance, however, is
proverbially deceitful; it is particularly so here, for S. Juan is in
reality the great mart of the State, and carries on an extensive trade
in cedar, mahogany, and other fine wood. The population is simple,
obliging, civil, every house open to us; the Governor, a right good
fellow, provides us with letters for the interior, and with men as
guides and servants.

We have, unfortunately, just come in for the rainy season; the roads
are turned into torrents, and so completely broken that we have to give
up going to Comala by land and shall have to go by water. This will
necessitate a very long detour; on the other hand it will give us the
opportunity of visiting the interesting remains to be found at Bellote.
Thus our misfortune will not be very great after all.

This point settled, we are soon ready to start for Tierra Colorada,
a rancho some nine miles from S. Juan, on the banks of Rio Gonzalès,
where we are to find flat-bottomed _canoas_ and _bogas_, “oarsmen.”
These _canoas_ are hollowed out of the trunk of a tree, have no keels,
and are rowed down stream, when the maximum speed is twelve leagues a
day, and three up stream. Close to the landing-place is a wooden booth,
where before going on board we get about the nastiest cup of coffee I
ever tasted, served with pretty grace by a handsome Meztiza. We notice
the cups, made of some fruit-shell shaped on the tree whilst growing,
and I am so pleased with their shape and design that I buy two for my
private collection.

[Illustration: CANOA (BOAT) OF S. JUAN.]

Our _canoas_, which are of average size, do not allow two to sit
abreast; the awning, _toldo_, which is to shelter us both against sun
and rain, is so low that we have to crawl in on all-fours and sit
Turkish fashion. This in a few hours becomes very painful, and our
position is greatly aggravated by mosquitoes. There is not a breath of
wind, so that our progress is but slow, whilst the heat under cover is
intolerable; but whenever I venture out I am forced back either by the
scorching sun or pouring rain, and we must needs comfort ourselves as
best we can with some excellent Tabasco cigars. We lose nothing, for
this region is but an assemblage of savannas and stunted woods, which
lie for months under water.

We soon arrive at _Ceiba_, a rancho, where we land to breakfast under a
wide-spreading tree by the river, depositing under its cool shade our
provisions and our cramped, aching limbs. Here we are detained longer
than we anticipated by our men, who, after refreshing themselves at
the rancho, coolly walked some three miles further on to see their
sweethearts. They hurry in at last looking rather sheepish, and we find
on consulting our map that our next station is twelve miles distant,
and that we shall not reach it till late in the evening. The heat
abates as the dusk gathers in, when we are glad to leave our hateful
_toldo_ to breathe the freshening breeze.

We are now advancing amidst the islands which occupy the mouth of the
river, clad with gigantic mangroves; all around is silent, and the
moon, placid but not cold in these latitudes, sheds her magic light
over the landscape, shaping out fantastic groves, fairy castles, and
long lines of porticoes in the openings of the forest. We are so
delighted with all we see that we are quite surprised, after a run of
sixteen hours, to find ourselves at the rancho of Las Islas, where we
spend what remains of the night, and early the next morning start for

Up to this time we have been going steadily north, but now our route
bears to the west. We enter the lagoons to be found on this coast,
intersected by narrow canals, and overshadowed by deep, gloomy
paths. The murky water of these canals, the silence of the forest,
recall the Styx, or some forgotten circle of Purgatory in which
the dead wander in endless solitudes. Beautiful large butterflies,
speckled with black and blue, come fluttering by, whilst a multitude
of red hairy crabs glare at us out of some mangrove. Two hours’ steady
rowing brings us to Bellote Islands, when, stowing our boats on the
sand, we hail the first man we see, and under his escort make for the
_cuyos_, pyramids, walking by the shore of the island, the water of
which is so transparent as to enable us to spy at the bottom of the
lagoon a quantity of oyster-shells; presently we come upon a gigantic
bank of them measuring several miles, by more than twelve feet high,
_kjœkkenmœdings_; the whole ground around is composed of these broken
shells, over which a magnificent vegetation luxuriates.

[Illustration: RANCHO AT BELLOTE.]

The pyramids, which are the object of our visit, are three in number,
from 195 to 325 feet at the base, by 37 to 43 in height. The temples
which once stood on the summit are but a mass of ruins. Thanks to
excavations made by the owner of the rancho, one side of one of the
pyramids has been cleared of the vegetation and now a good view can
be obtained, enabling us to perceive that it is identical in all
respects with those at Tula and Teotihuacan, save that this is much
smaller, the baby pattern, so to speak, of those we have hitherto
visited. On the terrace crowning the pyramid a fragment of wall on an
incline is still standing, covered with hard cement. This facing was
composed of four layers of lime and mortar, each coating representing
figures and characters in bas-reliefs, modelled in the lime coating.
On removing one of these the next was discovered, almost invariably at
the cost of nearly the whole bas-relief. We were fortunate in taking
away intact the fragment shown in our plate, a head with retreating
forehead resting on the instep of a foot which lies on a cushion.
The notable feature of this profile is its similarity with those on
the bassi-rilievi at Palenque, proving in my opinion the unity of
civilisation of the two countries, save that priority of date must be
awarded to Bellote. Besides these reliefs we found a vast quantity of
broken arms, hands, ex-votos, pottery, etc.

It should be mentioned that these pyramids, unlike those at
Teotihuacan, were built with shells and mud, and that baked bricks were
only employed in the partition walls and those of the temples. That
such materials should have been used was natural in a region where even
gravel is unknown.

In speaking of the Toltec chronology, it was observed that on the new
fire being rekindled, all house furniture was renewed, every dwelling
and every temple repainted. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility
to imagine that this custom received here its highest development,
that the walls of the temples were covered with hieroglyphic coatings
commemorating the age which had just elapsed, and that each succeeding
century received a layer similarly inscribed? Were this presumption
substantiated, a starting-point would be obtained, enabling us to state
that at the Conquest in 1520, this monument was four Indian centuries,
or 208 years old, plus the fraction of the century just begun. I am
well aware that this hypothesis is not borne out by scientific facts,
and that I cannot even claim the honour of being the first in starting
it, for I was forestalled by Stephens, who says: “In the remotest
corridor of the palace, the wall was coated with lime, and broken in
various places; I counted as many as six coatings, every one of which
bore traces of paintings. In a corner were characters which looked as
though they had been written with black ink. In our efforts to reach
this, the whole thing came down and obliged us to desist.”[83]


Granting our theory, the six layers at Palenque would be equivalent
to 312 years, plus the fraction of the current century, which might
bring it to 330 years at the Conquest, and about 690 years old up to
the present time, an antiquity which may be reasonably accorded to
Palenque, as the sequel will show.

As may have been noticed, these monuments are identical with those
observed by the early Spaniards, and so often described by their
historians; and if it is borne in mind that when the Toltecs were
driven from the high plateaux they migrated south, and were found as
early as 1124 established at Goatzacoalco, Tabasco, and Yucatan, by the
envoys of Xolotl, the conclusion that the monuments under notice belong
to this tribe must force itself upon every unbiassed mind.

We leave Bellote _en route_ for Paraïso, following the course of Tomo,
Largo, and calling at Ceiba, a small hamlet standing amidst a glorious
landscape. Here once rose Cintla, a dependency of Tabasco, and this
is the river which Grijalva discovered, which Cortez navigated, and
on the banks of which he fought his great battle, against 40,000 or
50,000 Indians. Many are the proofs which can be brought to confirm our
opinion: this river has but one mouth, and therefore can at no time
have borne the name of _Las Dos Bocas_; we read that Cortez was obliged
to use launches on account of its shallow waters, whereas vessels of
great tonnage, drawing twelve feet of water, ply daily on it; the
tide, moreover, advances farther in at Frontera than is reported by
Diaz.[84] Herrera says that Cortez, whilst in this region, took up his
position on an islet opposite the village: now there is but one very
large island, and that nearly a mile below Frontera; that his soldiers
crossed the river to reconnoitre, but the stream is so wide and so deep
at that point, as to preclude the possibility of any fording-place;
that the general traversed immense cocoa-plantations, yet none are to
be seen about Frontera, whereas on Rio Seco, over which we float at
this present moment, it is the principal cultivation. Herrera’s account
consequently is applicable in every respect to Rio Seco, with its two
mouths, its impassable bar, and its fording-places; here was fought the
great battle, not far rose the Indian capital, the name of which has
not come down to us, but which is known as Comalcalco at the present
day; and we are of opinion that Ceiba, or Zeiba, is the village where
Cortez, in the name of the king, took possession of the country.[85]

Cogolludo, in speaking of the first skirmishes of the Spaniards against
the cacique of Tabasco, says: “They numbered over 12,000 entrenched
behind some breastworks, but we made a sudden rush, forced them out
of their defences, obliging them to fall back; this they did like
good soldiers without turning their backs, raining showers of arrows
on us, until they reached the outward buildings of some temples, from
which they took all they could carry. The enemy being now in full
retreat, Cortez stopped all further pursuit, and here, in the name of
His Majesty, he took possession of the country, drawing his sword and
making three large cuts at a huge tree, which is called _Ceiba_ by the
natives, and which grew on the terrace of the temple, exclaiming that
should any one question his right, he was ready to make it good with
his sword and shield.”[86]

It may be objected that this quotation proves nothing at all, that
ceibas grow everywhere, and that the taking of possession could be
easily effected on any spot of the Mexican soil. Just so; yet a
remarkable coincidence is this, that no ceibas grow about the village
of that name, that the one cut by Cortez, owing to the rapid growth of
such trees, must long since have disappeared, and that on my inquiring
for “Ceiba” at the village supposed to be it, no one seemed to know.

It is a well-ascertained fact that an appellation given in honour of
a great event to a certain spot lives on when the object which gave
rise to it has perished. Is it so unreasonable to suppose that the
Spaniards who settled later at Ceiba, a spot consecrated by the taking
of possession, on identifying Cortez’ tree, should name the village
they erected after it? If I make a running comment on history, if I
discover points of analogy at every step, I do so whilst visiting
carefully the very places under notice, bearing in mind historical
accounts. These details are of vital importance in affirming the
existence of Comalcalco at the time of the Conquest, as also that Rio
Seco was then a large river whose course was turned by the Spaniards to
ruin the Indian city, which rose on its banks.

Of the beauty of the country between Ceiba and Paraïso no words of
expression, no painter’s brush could give an adequate idea: noble
avenues of cocoa and palm-trees open out at almost every stroke of
the oar; lovely plants of tender green, with light yellow clustering
flowers, float down the rapid stream, forming fairy-like rafts which
remind us of the Mexican chinampas. My admiration for this lovely scene
around me, finds no echo among my travelling companions, who are either
sleeping or differently engrossed. The longer I observe the high banks,
the bed both wide and deep of this stream, now reduced to a torrent,
the more firmly am I convinced that it was at some time a great river,
whose course whether nature or man have altered within a comparatively
recent period, and tradition here becomes historical truth.

We reach Paraïso at last; the name had prepared us for something better
than the wretched hamlet where we land. It was destroyed, it seems,
in a local affray, as the ruins, the fallen trunks of large trees
sufficiently attest. Outward appearance is no sure index to gauge
Paraïso or its “descalzado” inhabitants, who are in reality well-to-do.
The good man who kindly offered to escort us about, is, for this
country, quite wealthy; nor is he a solitary instance of friendliness,
it seems to pervade the whole community. The place has no hotel or inn
of any kind, but a house is easily got to serve our purpose, as much
food as we want is forced upon us by these good-natured people; and if
it is not quite English hospitality, it is very near it. The Paraïsians
are perfectly satisfied with their condition in life; their wishes are
few, and such as the fertility of the soil will easily meet; want is
unknown, life easy, the climate admits of but the scantiest clothing,
and if they have more than their share of rain, they are troubled with
fewer mosquitoes than most of their neighbours. In fact, these charming
people are fully convinced that all is for the best in this best of
worlds, and that if Paraïso is not heaven itself, it is not far from it.





    Description of Comalcalco—Fonda—Manners—Climate—Masks and
    Figures—Ruins—El Blasillo—Old Palaces Visited—Bricks and
    Bridges—Cemented Roads—Great Pyramid and its Monuments—Palace
    Described—Vases and Jicaras—Tecomates—Towers—Bas-reliefs—Small
    Pyramids and Temples—Reflexions—Disappearance of Indian
    Populations—Return to S. Juan—Don Candido—El Carmen—A Rich

The road from Paraïso to Comalcalco is no road at all, a veritable
“Slough of Despond,” in which our horses sink to the hocks, sometimes
to the girths, but as the natives see nothing to find fault in it,
there is little hope of improvement. The road follows the course of Rio
Seco, ancient Tabasco to our right, and three hours’ march brings us to
Comalcalco, a little modern town situated on an island of the river,
some ninety miles north-west of S. Juan Bautista, and twenty-four, as
a bird flies, from the seaboard. The place, including the outskirts,
numbers some two thousand inhabitants; the streets are straight, the
houses low and built with bricks. The banks of the lagoons are clad
with thick long grass, in which naked urchins and ducks innumerable
seem to luxuriate all day long, alternating with plunges into the
water, puffing at cigars nearly as big as themselves. Comalcalco is the
very Elysium of life for both ducks and urchins.

Our “fonda” is not exactly luxurious, but the civility of the people,
and the excellent cooking of our hostess, a handsome woman of
five-and-twenty, combine to make life bearable. True, our beds are
not water-proof, for the water gets in every time it rains, whilst
the quacking of the ducks awakes us twenty times of a night; but as
this seems to be the normal state of things, as nobody appears to
mind, it behoves us not to be over fastidious in a country in which
things are taken mighty easy. Salt, owing to the excessively damp
climate, is liquid, and served in bottles. The terrible Norte is nearly
as much felt here as in Vera Cruz; it brings invariably persistent
rain, waterspouts, _trebunadas_, and frightful squalls. My camera has
created a _furore_ in this out-of-the-way place, and we are besieged
all day with people wanting their portraits taken, to the delight of
our “tendero”; meanwhile valuable time is spent in explanations and
refusals before we can rid ourselves of these simple, troublesome
people. No sooner, however, did our mission become known, than
everybody was eager to come as guides, and workmen were obtained with
the greatest facility.

The local doctor speaks enthusiastically of the ruins lying some six
miles north-east of this place, and about a mile and a half from the
river. Masks, pottery, idols of the description found at Teotihuacan,
have been brought to light; but what was deemed far more important
by the natives, an inexhaustible mine of baked bricks of every size,
with which the houses of the village have been built, and the main
walk paved. When these excavations first began, statues, stones of
sacrifice (indicative of later times), columns, huge flags, and cement
were unearthed. Unfortunately the whole was destroyed by these ignorant

The ruins consist in groups of pyramids of different dimensions, so
extensive as to cover twenty-four miles, and on this account are called
the “Cordillera” by the natives. A country gentleman tells me that he
has counted over three hundred of these artificial mounds on his own
property, and that they were built with mud and baked bricks.

Besides these ruins others are to be met at Blasillo, situated on the
Toltec march of migration, answering the description given by Bernal
Diaz regarding Tonala. I hear from a montanero, who first discovered
them, that an important Indian city formerly existed there, whose
monuments, like those of Comalcalco, consist of caryatides, columns,
and statues; but in this abominable weather it is utterly impossible to
visit them. This city having the same origin, the same environment with
Comalcalco, must have the same origin; and Toltec migration, Toltec
civilising influence being admitted as well as proved, these two cities
would be among the first built by them after their great migration, for
the simple reason that they stand nearest their point of departure,
as the most distant would mark their later settlements; and this our
investigations will amply demonstrate.

We set out for the ruins, following for a time the right bank of the
Rio Seco; then a path across fields, bordered with large yellow and red
flowers. We notice to our right and left thick layers of cement, the
remains of the old Indian road which connected the city with the river.
We cross rivulets formerly spanned by bridges, of which bricks and a
corbel vault are still visible.

On reaching the pyramid, we leave our horses and ascend with some
difficulty the terrace surmounting it; we wander about in semi-darkness
because of the rank vegetation which mantles over it. Our men clear
it of the most obstructive trees, to facilitate its measurement: the
shape of this pyramid is irregular, being 975 feet at the base, by
some ninety-nine feet in height. Our plan gives the various monuments
standing on its vast summit, measuring no less than 292 feet.


    No. 1, Tower partly standing. No. 2, Ruined Tower. No. 3,
    Palace. No. 4, Portion still standing. Nos. 5 and 6, Pyramids
    indicative of Ruins.]


The principal monument (No. 3) was a great palace, the façade of which
looked east and covered 231 feet, now reduced to a ruinous mass;
fortunately a fragment of some twenty-two feet (No. 4) enables us to
reconstruct the edifice. Our first drawing is a view of the outside,
showing the dilapidated condition of the wall and its brick and mortar
composition; the next a view of the interior, with fragments of thinner
walls which divided the various apartments of the palace, probably
seven or eight in number, of different dimensions, and having the same
characteristics as the monuments at Uxmal and Palenque. It is the
governor’s palace with its double bay of rooms, the slightly concave
vault of Palenque; and if in our section of the palace a greater
obliquity is observable, in the frieze supporting the roof, than in
edifices of the same kind already known, or to be studied subsequently,
this sloping finds here its proper place, and proves the intelligence
of the builder without destroying the similarity of the different
monuments. In fact, we shall see the roof assuming a steeper or less
steep incline, according to the climate; slightly oblique at Palenque
where rain is frequent, it rises in the Yucatan peninsula, where a dry
climate prevails, until it forms a flat roof, resting on perpendicular
walls; whereas at Comalcalco and on the borders of the Gulf, where rain
is incessant, architects increase the slope of the roof to facilitate
the out-flow of the water, the better to preserve their buildings.


If baked bricks mixed with thick layers of lime and mortar were
substituted for stones, it is because none are to be found in that
alluvial plain. As to the blocks necessary for the construction of
columns, statues, altars, etc., they were brought by river from the
mountains. But these modifications never destroy the typical outline
of the Toltec calli, to be found in the chapter on Tula, and all the
monuments which we shall meet with in our explorations will have the
same type and the same architecture.

But to return. The walls of the palace were without any ornamentation,
save a layer of smooth painted cement; they rose perpendicularly nine
feet to a very projecting cornice, then sloping in a line parallel
to the corbel vault, they terminated in a second cornice less salient
than the first, both serving as frame to a frieze richly decorated, so
far at least as could be ascertained from the fragments strewing the
ground. Above this, towards the centre of the roof, rose a decorated
wall, a peculiarly Toltec device, which existed already in the temples
of the high plateaux, and which we shall observe in most structures,
whether temples or palaces, terra-cotta models of which are to be found
in the Trocadéro.

The building, including the walls, measures some 26 feet, the walls
are 3 feet 9 inches in thickness, the size of the apartments is about
8 feet, and the depth of the vault inside some 23 feet (see Plate).
The palace was brightly painted, as may yet be seen in the north
corner, which is of a deep red. The miscellaneous compound to be
met at Tula and Teotihuacan is not observable here, where obsidian
came from a great distance and was accordingly rare; pottery was
consequently replaced by fruit-shells, which had the advantage of
being more durable, cheaper, and lighter. These shells are worked
into a variety of shapes differing in size and value: there are the
_jicaras_, small cups, pure and simple; _tecomates_, large cups;
_atotoniles_, _cubiletes_, _cocos_, etc.; then the _jicara-flor_, or
half-shell cut crosswise; the most prized of all, the _jicara-boton_,
half upper shell; the _jicara-barba_, or shell cut lengthwise. All
these shells are given elegant shapes whilst growing on the tree, and
when dry are ornamented with pretty devices either sunk or in relief. A
calabash having a very large shell is also fashioned into a vase called
_atecomate_ by the Indians, and painted with fast colours of which the
natives alone seem to have the secret.

[Illustration: RUINS OF PALACE.]

But if few fragments were found in comparison with those unearthed on
the high plateaux, I had the good fortune to pick up two bricks covered
with curious sunk designs, most rare, for they were the only two
specimens I could find of the kind. A concentric drawing covers the
first, whilst the second bears the full likeness of a warrior, with
feathers about his head—it is a rude drawing which was done on the soft
clay before it was baked. Both bricks are in the Trocadéro.

Some 35 feet to the south-east of the palace, on a cemented platform
over 26 feet broad by 38 feet long, is a tower (No. 1 in our plan)
which is supported and bound by the roots of large trees surrounding
it. It is oblong in shape, most picturesque, and, save the base,
similar to that at Palenque. This tower has three storeys, of which two
are still standing, and it may be assumed from what remains that the
second storey was divided into four compartments or small rooms, the
dimensions of which are the following: two inner rooms, of 5 feet 7
inches on one side, correspond to other two, and form a kind of outward
passage, having three openings, which are separated by two pillars of 2
feet on one side. The first storey underneath reproduced probably the
same distribution. We penetrated in the only accessible room, measuring
some 8 feet by 5 feet 8 inches.

The ornamentation of this tower must have been gigantic; the fragment
which was found among a heap of rubbish, and which we reproduce, is no
less than 6 feet. The figures or characters seen on the wall, and which
recall Arabic inscriptions, are over 3 feet high, and in strong relief.
This was obtained by applications of freshly-made plaster—a process
belonging to the first epoch, and which we shall meet at Palenque,
Tikal, and particularly Aké and Izamal in the Yucatan peninsula.

Tower No. 2, some 32 feet to the south-east of the palace, is a ruinous
mass, but must have been far more important than the first. Nothing
remains save fragments of walls, so shapeless as to make it difficult
to draw an approximate plan of the building. To the north, however,
a flight of steps in fair preservation allows us to reconstruct the
first storey. The four sides were probably similar, having doors
opening on the stairs by which the terrace was reached, giving access
to four rooms, now underground, of about 8 feet by 6 feet 8 inches. Our
drawing gives the stairs and the entrance to one of the rooms. In this
tower the ornamentation must have been as peculiar as that of No. 1,
as shown by an enormous unbroken fragment of wall lying on the ground,
representing the full-size figure of a man, whose fine proportions are
very remarkable. The upper portion of the body, the fore-arm, and part
of the leg are wanting; of the clothing nothing remains save the girdle
and a bit on the thigh. The statue had presumably no other covering but
the maxtli, as is the case at Palenque in the decoration of the inner
wing of the palace.


This tower (No. 2), with its flight of steps and its platform on which
rose the body of the edifice, answers the description of similar
monuments at Cozumel and along the seaboard given by Oviedo and
Grijalva’s chaplain; and both towers and palaces, as also the temples
we shall visit later, must have gleamed on the astonished gaze of the
Spaniards, as did those of the maritime cities in Yucatan. We know
that the first were inhabited at the time of the Conquest; have we
not the right to affirm as much for Comalcalco? And if Comalcalco was
inhabited, what shall be said of Palenque, where we shall find a far
greater number of buildings in better preservation?


It seems to us a settled question. Why should monuments constructed in
the same way, in the same country, amidst the same vegetation, be in
ruins when others are partly standing? Does this prove that they are
of more recent date? The same causes acted on all. Everything points to
their similarity, to their belonging to the same epoch, to their being
the work of the same hand; and if the palaces and temples at Comalcalco
were extant and inhabited at the Conquest (and everything seems to
prove it), the temples and palaces at Palenque must have been in the
same condition.

But the palace and the two towers were not the only monuments on the
terrace of the pyramid. No. 5 and No. 6 indicate the site of other
buildings now completely ruined, whilst the sides were occupied by
small chapels, traces of which are still discernible. The pyramid was
in itself a small village, or rather an immense lordly mansion, having
a palace, temples, houses, and huts for priests and servants. Facing
this pyramid, to the north, hidden by the luxuriant vegetation of a
virgin forest (reproduced in our drawing), are three other pyramids,
of which two rise to the height of some 22 to 26 feet, and the third
from 39 to 45 feet. All were crowned by temples, the walls of which
are still standing. The layers of demolished cement leave uncovered
the body of the wall, in which I notice bricks ranging from 6 in. by
9 by 1 in thickness, and from about 1 ft. 4 in. by 11 by 1 in. thick,
and 1 ft. 11 in. by 1 ft. 8 in. by 1 ft. 2 in. thick. The largest were
used for the corners. Hundreds of other pyramids, every one occupied by
palaces, stretch as far as the seaboard, buried in the depths of the
forest, presenting innumerable monuments to be brought to light, for
which years, numerous workmen, an iron constitution, are required for
the future explorers. I have shown the way—let others follow.

The stupendous ruins, of which we have had but a glimpse, imply an
immense amount of labour, and, as a corollary, a dense population. It
is quite clear that the present Tabasco, with a population of 100,000
inhabitants, could not produce monuments so imposing as those at
Comalcalco, and this is one of the chief objections brought against
the recent date we ascribe to these buildings. But then the question
arises, who built them ages before the Conquest, and what became of
the numerous population which such monuments presuppose? The genius of
the Toltecs which we have studied, the quotations of various authors
relating to their southward migration, point to them as the sole and
true creators of these buildings which we have even now visited, as
also those we shall subsequently explore. They found—facts attest
it—a numerous population, which they civilised, and which under their
peaceful organisation rapidly increased. They had, at the very outset
of their establishment, the cheapest, easiest labour ever known in
these hardy, sober, submissive people, who, as we noticed before, could
live on two tortillas a day, drink nothing but water, carry enormous
loads, or work all day without showing fatigue.

If, then, due regard be had to their numbers, their endurance, and
their frugal habits, if it be remembered that New Mexico was built in
no time by Cortez, the whole city of Tula reconstructed in six years,
most likely by statute-labour when great multitudes were pressed into
service, directed by foremen who gave the final polishing touch to the
work, the number and the bulk of the monuments they have left will not
surprise. That such work could be achieved in a very short time is
shown at Teotihuacan, where the pyramids are but an assemblage of mud
and rude stones kept together by walls faced with coatings of polished

Furthermore, it is an accepted fact that a high state of civilisation
can only be developed in temperate regions; in torrid zones the heat,
an almost spontaneous growth, the few wants of man, keep him idle and
unfit him for work, and this consideration would, in the absence of any
other proof, still point to the Toltecs as the authors of the degree
of civilisation observable in these regions. As an instance of the
truth of our argument look at India, where a foreign race introduced
and implanted a ready-made civilisation in the invaded country, using
the conquered race for the construction of its buildings. This theory
receives still greater weight when we remember how easily a people
which has received its civilisation through another, falls back into
its original state of barbarism as soon as left to itself; India,
Cambodia, Java, are striking examples.

But it will be asked, What has become of the dense population you
speak about? Where are the millions of men who peopled these regions
at the time of the Conquest? The causes which contributed to their
disappearance are not far to seek. First and foremost, the Spanish
invasion and the consequent destruction of the Mexican empire, which so
deeply disturbed the organisation of all these peoples as to be felt in
the most distant provinces; it was a commotion followed by a profound
discouragement and apathy, which told directly and radically on the
fecundity of the race. Add to this the intense horror felt for the
conquerors—a horror so complete as to cause the natives to abandon the
places occupied by the hated foreigners—a stupor so great as to have
persisted to the present day. Even now Indian villages are abandoned at
the appearance of a Spaniard, and again occupied when he leaves, as was
the case at Tayasal when taken by the Spanish general Martin Ursua. So
much for moral causes.

As to physical causes, historians will tell us they were due to
the unheard-of cruelty of the Spaniards—a cruelty all the more
inconceivable that Mendieta ascribes to the natives a mild, simple,
submissive, patient disposition, in fact all the Christian virtues
so conspicuously absent from their hard taskmasters, who were guilty
towards the poor Indians of daily savage acts which dishonour
humanity, tearing them from their families and sending them to work the
mines in the distant mountains, etc.[87]

Then there were epidemics which swept away vast numbers of Indians:
1st, smallpox in 1521, called by the natives _huey-zahuatl_, “great
leprosy”—half the population succumbed under it; 2nd, measles
(_sarampion_), in 1531, _tepiton-zahuatl_, small leprosy; 3rd,
syphilis; 4th, bloody-flux in 1545, when in Tlascala and Tula 250,000
Indians perished; lastly, the various epidemics of 1564, 1576, 1588,
1595, which carried off over 3,000,000 natives. The same epidemics were
felt _with greater severity_ in Tabasco and Yucatan.[88] Herrera gives
likewise measles, smallpox, bloody-flux, fever, dysentery, as the main
causes of the disappearance of the aborigines;[89] as does Motolinia,
who mentions besides the great famine consequent on the taking of
Mexico; “encomiendas,” and especially the heavy fiscal burdens imposed
on the poor Indians by the Spaniards, burdens which had to be paid
under penalty of being tortured to death.[90] Other authorities might
be adduced to show that the disappearance of the Indians, if unnatural,
is to be explained, it being clear that the great cities, so thickly
populated on the arrival of the Spaniards, were almost entirely
abandoned, whilst the temples and palaces, left to the mercy of the
elements and the ruthless efforts of man, were quickly destroyed. If we
could wonder, it is that under such circumstances they resisted so long.

As structures, American monuments cannot be compared with those
at Cambodia, which belong to nearly the same period, the twelfth
century, and which, notwithstanding their greater and more resisting
proportions, are found in the same dilapidated condition But we
must think of returning to S. Juan; we take leave of our Comalcalcan
friends, leaving our “bogas,” boatmen, to follow with our traps
by water, and meet us at S. Juan, whilst we start on horseback by
a shorter route, skirting Rio Seco on our right, with its islands
clad with a glowing vegetation. On the opposite side fields of
yellow maize, sugar, coffee, and cocoa, indicate the presence of
ranchos and haciendas. We get glimpses of the red, yellow, and green
madrina-berries peeping out of glistening foliage, and towards four
o’clock we knock at a large hacienda, the property of Don Candido
Verao, an amateur antiquarian, glad of an opportunity of showing his
little collection. From him we learn that tumuli or basements of Indian
chapels abound in the neighbourhood, and that many small figures are
found, showing the country to have once been densely populated. Here
we spend a charming evening, and on the morrow we start for El Carmen,
on the left bank of the river Tabasco, belonging to a rich mahogany
contractor, by name Don Policarpio Valenzuela. Thanks to his civility,
we were able to procure canoes and be at S. Juan Bautista the next day.


[Illustration: S. DOMINGO DEL PALENQUE.]



    From S. Juan to Jonuta—S. Carlos—Indians and Alligators—Las
    Playas and Catasaja—Stone Cross—Rancho at Pulente—Palenque—The
    Two Slabs in the Temple of the Cross—First Engravings—Acala
    and Palenque from Cortez—Letter to the King—Palenque and
    Ocosingo mentioned by Juarros—Explorations—The Palace—Façade
    and Pyramids—Ornamentation on the Eastern Façade—An Old
    Relief Brought to Light—Palenque Artists and their Mode
    of Working—Medallions and Inner Passage—Reliefs in the
    Main Court—Apartments and Decorations—Inner Wing and
    Restoration—Western Façade—Palace Tower.

The land route from S. Juan to Palenque is some thirty or thirty-five
leagues; but we were obliged to go by water, which takes about a week,
on account of our heavy luggage, consisting of seventy packages!
Seventy packages may seem disproportionately large; but it should be
recollected that we had to take impressions, photographs, plans, and
last, not least, provide for two months’ living amidst ruins. A small
steamer was secured, which was to convey us as far as Jonuta, where we
should leave it for canoes.

Jonuta was once a populous centre, as the pyramids which occupy part
of the village site amply testify. Here antiquities of all kinds
have been unearthed, and an enthusiastic archæologist, Mr. Nattes,
possesses a fine collection, which he was kind enough to show me. In
it I found many objects very like, sometimes identical with, those on
the plateaux. Mr. Nattes is of opinion that the Toltecs occupied the
country throughout, and that all the monuments we see were left by
them. I need not say that I am delighted to find my theory shared by so
distinguished a person.

On the 20th December we at last take possession of our canoes. We row
up the Usumacinta, and the next evening are at Potrerillo—a miserable
rancho, where the only accommodation is a low, filthy hut, our evening
meal a monkey—rather a pleasant change after our salt provisions.

After Potrerillo we scud for some hours along El Chico; then by canal,
“rumpido,” as far as Catasaja, leaving on our right S. Carlos lagoons,
inhabited by Indians who live partly on crocodiles and alligators—a
diet which seems to agree with them, for they are accounted the
hardiest men in the State.

I had visited these parts in my first expedition, when I noticed live
tailless crocodiles in most huts I went into, lying on their backs,
their claws and jaws nailed to the ground.

“The tail is cut off,” said mine host, “lest in moving it they should
break the legs of the person near.”

“But how do you capture these horrible creatures?”

“In two ways: with a stout hook, or with the hand.”

“Here,” I said, “is a piastra for the man who will procure me such a

Mine host looked round, called to a young Indian who was outside, and
informed him of my wish.

“All right, Señor, nothing easier; come in a boat to the stream on the
other side of the village.”

In a few minutes we were at the place of rendezvous, where we found the
Indian ready awaiting us, a dagger in his hand, cautioning us to follow
without making a noise, as he walked along the high grass which grew on
the banks. Suddenly two alligators plunged into the water, and Cyrilo
was after them almost at the same time.

After a few minutes, which seemed hours, we spied the tail of the
monster violently beating the surface of the water, then the whole
body emerged with Cyrilo adhering to the alligator’s belly, then both
disappeared again, leaving behind a long bloody streak.

“Well done, Cyrilo, well done!” cried Don Juan.

Yet all that could be seen was the commotion of the water where the
struggle was going on; a few minutes more and Cyrilo came up, this
time alone, breathing hard, covered with mud, and swimming towards us.
I stretched out my hand to help him in, but he leaped into the boat
without assistance and sat down quite still for one minute.

“_Este can me cortò el dedo_—this dog broke my finger,” he said,
holding up his hand, of which the first joint of the forefinger was
hanging down. “_Però me lo pagò_—but I paid him out, and I reckon we’ll
soon see his ugly mug. But if not I’ll be after him again.”

Don Juan winked at me. The man was preparing to plunge once more into
the murky water when Don Juan exclaimed:

“There he is belly upmost, his breast seamed by four thrusts.”

We secured and towed him to the village. He measured 14 feet 4 inches.
I gave the man two piastras instead of one, and twenty francs for his
dagger, in commemoration of his feat.

But to return. We plough along the swollen canal, we lose our way,
and in a short time find ourselves among shrubs and towering trees;
with some difficulty we get back to the lagoon and reach Las Playas de
Catasaja late in the evening, when we take possession of an empty house
in which to dispose of our party and our numerous packages.

Our next destination is S. Domingo, eight miles distant, but no
carriers to convey our luggage are to be found for love or money;
our plight might have been awkward had not the mayor offered to send
to Palenque to procure as many men as can be had. Meanwhile, we
find enough to engage our attention in the place. Don Rodriguez, a
Government Inspector of Mines, has lately had the central stone cross
which stood in the temple bearing the same name at Palenque, brought
here. This tablet, now so well known, has had a chequered existence.

Some thirty years ago, it was taken from its place, and left lying in
a forest adjoining the town by the thief, who was unable to carry it
further. It was unbroken in 1858, when I found it covered with moss,
and took a rather good photograph. A squeeze of the entire monument,
composed of three pieces, is to be seen in the Trocadéro. Curiously
enough, these pieces are scattered in different countries: one is
still _in situ_, the second at Las Playas, whilst the third is in
the Smithsonian Institute at Washington. We give a drawing of this
interesting cross, crowned by a symbolic bird, to which a man standing
presents an offering. Since the cross was a symbol of Tlaloc, the
temple in which it stood must have been dedicated to him, and perhaps
Quetzalcoatl also, and it is clear that it was of the same origin as
the sepulchral cross at Teotihuacan; but contrary to some writers,
who make the latter proceed from the former, we make the first proceed
from the second, for in everything we must go from the simple to the
complex, and the primitive style, the simplicity, the archaic aspect of
the cross at Teotihuacan, make it an ascendant and not a descendant of
the imaged cross at Palenque, covered with ornamentation denoting an
advanced period.


Meanwhile, the men from Palenque have arrived, and our freight is
transported in three days to S. Domingo, whither we follow by the
last train. After Las Playas, the landscape opens out into a noble
perspective of fields and shady groves; now the eye wanders over the
rich flora of the savanna, now it plunges into the unfathomable depths
of the forest, through which the road is a succession of triumphal
arches, sometimes so closed in as to seem impassable from a short
distance. We start hares and peccaries innumerable; we hear the shrill
cries of aras, mingled with the howling of _zaraguatos_, gravely
regarding us from their leafy bowers, whilst on the outskirts of the
wood, a timid deer gives an astonished look as we approach, ere he
betakes himself to green and deeper retreats. To crown the enjoyment of
this charming ride, we found a plentiful luncheon awaiting us at the
Pulente rancho; bananas and oranges, which we plucked ourselves from
the trees, composed our dessert.

The evening found us at S. Domingo, where we took up our quarters with
one of two European families settled here. Again the delay caused by
the carriers gave us time to take an impression of two slabs, which
were formerly inlaid in the pillars supporting the altar in the Temple
of the Cross No. 1. In 1840 Stephens found them in the house of two
elderly spinsters, who refused to part with them; but after their death
the Municipality declared them public property, and had them put up in
the church façade, where they are now to be seen; one of them, however,
is broken into three pieces. Their dimensions are 6 feet by about 3
feet. The left slab represents a young man magnificently arrayed; he
wears a richly-embroidered cape, a collar and medallion round his neck,
a beautiful girdle to his waist; the ends of the maxtli are hanging
down front and back, cothurni cover his feet and legs up to the knee.
On the upper end of his head-dress is the head of a stork, having a
fish in his bill, whilst others are ranged below it.


    Left Pillar. Right Pillar.


The cross on the altar justifies our seeing in this gorgeously-attired
young man another personification of the god of rain, of spring, of
verdure and water, symbolised by the fishes and the stork’s head,
attributes which are found also on the basement of the Tlaloc of
Tacubaya. The other slab represents an old man, clothed in a tiger’s
skin, blowing out air, with a serpent round his waist, whose tail
curls up behind and coils in front, the well-ascertained attributes of
Quetzalcoatl, god of wisdom. Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl are often seen
side by side; and we shall meet them in the Temple of the Cross, when
we shall be in a position to advance with some show of truth that the
same was dedicated to both deities.[91]

After much disagreeable and unavoidable delay, we found ourselves
at Palenque, some six and a half miles east of S. Domingo; we start
immediately for the ruins, which are made accessible by a path through
the woods opened by Don Rodriguez. El Rio Michol, to the north, seems
the limit of the ancient city on that side; to the right and left,
starting from the Rio, mounds, hillocks, and vestiges of ruins are
noticeable. To the south, the Rio Chacamas washes the base of lofty
peaks, which, on this side, encompass the last traces of habitations;
the path winds up broad rising ground, seemingly artificial. At a turn
of the road, the men carrying our baggage admonish us to look at the
palace, which we should never have spied out owing to the luxuriant
vegetation which completely hides it. But before we describe the ruins,
we will say a few words respecting Cortez’ march through Acala and
Honduras. Some writers, thinking the former a city, have attempted to
identify it with Palenque, an error which we hope to be able to dispel.

In this ill-advised expedition, his personal retinue consisted of two
pages, several musicians, dancers, jugglers, and buffoons, showing more
of the effeminacy of an Oriental than the valour of a hardy commander.
The Spanish force, amongst whom was Guatemozin, the cacique of Tacuba,
and a number of Indians as carriers and attendants, was swelled by
3,000 Mexicans.[92] Two ships with supplies were to sail along the
coast under the command of Simon de Cuenca. From Goatzacoalco, Cortez
followed the coast, halted at Tonala, at Ayagualulco, and seven
leagues further crossed a river over a bridge 3,250 feet long; next
came Mazapa, whose course runs from Chiapas to Los Dos Brazos. After
this point the names mentioned by Diaz are not known; but the march
must have been continued along the coast, since inland caciques, some
even from distant Teapa, sent Cortez fifty transports with supplies;
now the only way for canoes was by El Blanquillo and modern Tabasco.
The force must have passed near Frontera or east of it, skirting El
Chilapa, an affluent of El Tabasco, and halting at Tepetitan at the
head of Chilapa, called next at Iztapan and Acala Mayor, where Cortez
was informed by the natives that they would have three large streams
and three smaller ones to cross; probably the Usumacinta and its
tributaries. That this was the line of march is certain, for had Cortez
passed Palenque, he would have had no rivers to cross, and could have
marched south without obstacles; whereas the _compass_ and the map
furnished the only clue to extricate them from the gloomy labyrinth in
which they were involved, and Cortez and his officers, with their chart
on the ground, anxiously studied the probable direction of their route,
which they decided was to be in _an eastern direction_.

With the aid of the map furnished by the Indians, and such guides as
they could pick up, they continued their march through other villages,
and must have passed Ziguatepec, sixteen leagues further, when Cortez
inquired of the caciques where the _deep and large river_ he saw
discharged itself, and whether they had observed vessels sailing on
the sea. He was told that the river discharged itself at Xicalango,
situated on one of the tributaries of the Usumacinta, some twenty
or twenty-five leagues from Palenque as a bird flies—a considerable
distance in these wooded regions.

From Ziguatepec Cortez sent two of his followers to look for the ships,
which had orders to wait at Xicalango; but when they reached the place
they found the crews had been massacred and the ships destroyed by the

The Spaniards next halted at Acalan, a _district composed of some
twenty villages_; very unlike the approaches to Palenque, which is
situated on the first rising ground of the Cordillera. Cogolludo,[93]
who follows Herrera, says that the capital of the great province of
Acalan was Izancanac, whose king, Apoxpalon, had a palace sufficiently
large to accommodate all the Spaniards without displacing the inmates,
and that the multitudes of Indian auxiliaries were quartered in the
town. This does not tally with what is known of Palenque, where, save
the palace, all the houses and temples were too small ever to have made
it possible to accommodate large numbers, unless they were distributed
all over the town.

All the various indications we can glean with regard to Izancanac,
lead us to assume that it was situated somewhere on the banks of S.
Pedro, a confluent of the Usumacinta, an assumption which becomes
almost a certainty, since that was the direct road to Honduras, and
still more so when we find that they held on their toilsome way in the
direction of Peten, reaching Chaltuna and Tayasal after three or four
days’ march, to do which, had they come from Palenque, they must have
employed at least twenty days.

But what has become of Izancanac? Where are the great buildings which
could accommodate hundreds of people? The very site is unknown,
whilst Palenque is still to be seen.[94] Although it is so difficult
to determine the route held by Cortez, it affords, nevertheless, the
best account we have relating to the organisation of the regions he
traversed. He observed throughout independent caciques, a country
divided into more or less important provinces, making it probable that
the civilising and powerful influence which had knit these peoples
into a mighty empire, had long ceased to be felt among these restless
populations which, left to their warlike instincts, lived in constant
warfare, as, for instance, in Yucatan after the fall of the dominant
Cocomes and Tutulxius.

But to return. That Palenque was standing at that time, or at any rate
had not been long abandoned, is placed beyond a doubt by Jose Antonio
Calderon,[95] in his letter dated 15th December, 1774, in which he
mentions having discovered eighteen palaces, twenty great buildings,
and a hundred and sixty-eight houses, in one week, clearly proving that
the forest which has grown since over the structures had not assumed
such vast proportions, and that some idea could still be formed of
the city; and if such was the case at that date, are we not justified
in our assumption that this city was standing and inhabited at the
Conquest in 1520?

Before Calderon, Garcia in 1729 had already mentioned the ruins of
Palenque, but unfortunately his work has not been found; and Juarros,
in his account of Chiapas,[96] says: “There is no doubt that this
region has been inhabited by a cultured and mighty nation, shown in
the imposing piles of buildings at Culhuacan and Tollan, traces of
which are noticeable near Ocosingo and Palenque.” _Tollan_ (Palenque),
Culhuacan (Ocosingo), bespeak that these names were still remembered
by the Indians as late as the seventeenth century, that they owed
their origin to the Toltecs, since the same appellations occur on the
plateaux, and were carried by the emigrants to their later settlements
in remembrance of their older ones—a constant practice among the
Indians; and their wanderings from north to south were marked by cities
and colonies having appellations which are found both on the plateaux
and in Chiapas. The same thing happens now in every new colony, for
which instances might be given _ad infinitum_.

Fray Tello tells us that the Spaniards found in Jalisco localities
and cities whose names existed already in the Mexican Valley, such
as Ameca, Culhuacan, Tequicistlan, Juchitan, etc.;[97] and Diaz, in
his account of Rangre’s expedition, writes: “They set out to subdue
the provinces of Cematan and Tulapan in the south.” Unfortunately the
narrative stops at Cematan, and we have to be satisfied with the bare
mention of Tulapan, which is, however, sufficient for our purpose.

Taking the palace as a starting-point, it may be said that the city
is built in the form of an amphitheatre, on the lowest slopes of the
lofty Cordillera beyond; its high position afforded a magnificent
view over the forest-covered plain below stretching as far as the
sea. Some travellers have fancied they saw the sea from the summits
of the temples, but it is more likely to have been Catasaja lagoon,
some ten leagues to the north, for it is doubtful if at this height
(650 feet), the ocean is visible even on the clearest day. We find
ourselves on the pyramid, we are in the palace, and my impressions, as
a mature man, are very different to what they were seven-and-twenty
years ago, when my appreciation of the structure was very indifferent,
while now my admiration for this massive palace, these ruined temples,
these pyramids, is profound, nay, almost overpowering. In all these
structures, the builder levelled out the ground in narrow terraces, on
which artificial elevations of pyramidal form were reared, which on
the hillside were faced with hewn stones, and divided into storeys, as
we have seen at Teotihuacan. I notice many changes since I was here
before; portions of walls, the whole front of the Temple of the Cross
(No. 1) have given way, and in the Lion’s Temple the fine bas-relief
over the altar has disappeared. It is sad to calculate how much more
havoc another fifty years will make; there will be nothing, probably,
but a mass of mouldering ruins, such as are met with in the woods, on
the low hills, and the plain around.


Whilst our men are clearing the palace, we penetrate the thick forest
through which some of our Indians open out a passage. We recognise the
buildings that have been described, but throughout our progress we see
nothing but heaps of unformed ruins. We take up our quarters in the
palace itself; our kitchen and dining-room are in the outward gallery
of the eastern entrance, whilst our sleeping apartments are in the
eastern gallery of the inner wing. From our dining-room we look out
on the forest, and our bedrooms open on the courtyard of the palace.
Although Indians as a rule are apathetic, they are brisk and energetic
enough with the _machete_, with which they open out a path so rapidly
that one can walk after them a normal pace without stopping, and they
fell enormous trees as easily as Europeans would shrubs.

We will begin with the palace, giving the plan of the north portion
of the corridors and the tower; we can vouch for the accuracy of our
plan, although it differs entirely from those which have been hitherto

The palace consisted of two distinct parts (this has not been
understood by any of my predecessors, not even Waldeck); a double
gallery ran along the east, north, and west sides, surrounding an
inner structure, likewise with a double gallery and two courtyards
of different dimensions; it was a kind of covered walk or cloister
quite separate from the remaining edifice, which to the south must
have constituted the dwelling proper. The entire pile of building was
reared on the same platform, forming an irregular quadrilateral, and
if we except the galleries, nothing seems to have been constructed
systematically or on a given plan: the various parts are of different
dimensions or different heights, and the courts enclosed within the
galleries form trapezes instead of rectangles, one measuring 6 feet
7 inches more to the north than to the south, so that the structures
are not parallel. To the south, which it is agreed to consider as
forming the dwelling apartments, this confusion is more apparent and
complete, for here they seem to have dispensed with any plan at all;
buildings large and small reared on different levels are found, in
juxtaposition, or at some distance from each other; the roof is sloping
or perpendicular, the decorations copious or scanty according to the
whim of the artist; some of the apartments, as compared to others, are
underground and entered by gloomy steps which receive a dim light from
the south side of the pyramid, here only a few feet from the ground.

In these subterraneous apartments are three large stone tables with
sculptured edges; they are called altars, beds, sacrificial and dining
tables, by different writers, the latter appellation seems the most
probable. The independent position of the cloister is very clear in our
cut; the left pillar is seen supporting the extremity of the frieze and
the end of the roof, which terminated here as it did on the west side.


All travellers before us have surrounded the entire palace with this
gallery, as they have surrounded the great pyramid on which the palace
stands with a continuous stairway, but quite erroneously, as is clearly
shown in our photograph, which cannot be wrong, and which presents a
perpendicular wall throughout its length. The pyramid was divided on
the east, north, and west sides, which were higher, into three or four
platforms of which we found traces in the north portion.


We have mentioned in a former chapter that similar sections or
platforms are found in all the pyramids of a certain height discovered
by us at Palenque, which, according to tradition, had their prototypes
in the Uplands; and this is particularly noticeable on the north side
of the pyramid, where the palace façade is completely destroyed. Here,
and not on the east side, as some have supposed, was the entrance,
sufficiently proved by the wealth of ornamentation displayed on this
portion of the pyramid, and not observable anywhere else. The base was
incrusted with fine slabs some 4 feet 8 inches high, with intervening
pillars in relief some 6 feet apart, topped by a cornice of some 6
inches. Above this stood the wall of the second platform, indicated
by traces of a stairway which occupied the centre and led to the
gallery. This pyramid was the basement on which the palace was reared;
it is irregular on all its sides, contrary to the drawings of some
explorers, who have given it a symmetrical shape and equal elevation.
It is not easy to see how the mistake could arise, for its irregularity
is very apparent. The highest elevation is found on the north side,
measuring over 22 feet; the east and west sides slope down, ending
at the south-east angle with a perpendicular corner of 6 feet 6
inches; whilst at the south-west corner they are level with the ground.
It is the arrangement of all pyramids which were raised on platforms
imperfectly levelled out; they are always found higher on the north
side facing the plain, than on the south side towards the sierra. This
was observable in the pyramids supporting the four buildings to the
north of the palace, in the Temple of Inscriptions, the Temple of the
Cross No. 1, that of the Cross No. 2, and in the mound known as Cerro
Alto, over 487 feet high on the north side, and nearly on a level with
the crest of the low hills to the south, and many more.


At the south-east angle of the great pyramid, is a covered canal which
drained a mountain stream from the south, but has been long since
blocked up, whilst the torrent has found a natural bed some 75 feet
from the pyramid, and falls back into the canal 162 feet beyond. Our
cut of the outer façade of the east gallery will enable the reader to
see the mistake pointed out by us; it shows clearly the extremity of
the gallery, and its outline at the angle of the frieze to the south.
This outline, while restoring the projecting cornice now wanting,
faithfully reproduces the outline of the Toltec calli, given in our
chapter on Tula. The west front, as seen in the plan and subsequent
photographs, has exactly the same arrangement, so that doubt is
impossible. The same writers have given a flight of steps to the
eastern façade, while in our drawing a perpendicular wall replaces it,
and agreeably to what has been stated, we place the stairs on the north
side, where traces were found by us. That this is its proper place is
made probable by four beautiful buildings situated on this side some
487 feet beyond, on the same platform, and apparently part of the
same pile of building. This side of the gallery was supported by six
pillars 6 feet 7 inches wide, by 12 feet high; the corner pillar is
decorated with forty katunes in fairly good preservation; the others
with bas-reliefs of two or three figures and inscriptions in stucco
or hard plaster, partly destroyed. Stephens reproduced the one on
the fifth pillar to the right, which stands alone, the building it
supported having fallen. It was then in good preservation, though now
much defaced; from Stephens’ drawing, however, it would be difficult to
form an idea of the high degree of perfection of these reliefs.


By a lucky chance, we were able to bring to light one of the figures,
as perfect and as fresh as on the day it left the artist’s hands, and
from it we are able to find out the way the artist did his work. In
our cut this relic is on the centre pillar, which was entirely covered
with a thick calcareous coating, caused by water trickling from the
cornice; under this coating the faint outline of three figures was just
perceptible. My first attempt to uncover the standing figure was not
successful, for the hammer brought both the layer of lime and part of
the head of the figure with it. I was more cautious in attacking the
sitting figure to the left, and fortunate enough to bring it to light
without breaking so much as a bead round his neck, a charming specimen
of an art which was not even suspected. It represents a man seated
Turkish fashion, his head turned in a contemplative attitude towards
the standing figure to the centre of the pillar, the forefinger of
the left hand pointing to him, while the right rests on his knee; his
head-dress is a kind of mitre with a tuft of feathers in strong relief,
a head-dress we shall meet again at Lorillard; a beautiful collar is
round his neck, his cape like that worn by ladies at the present day,
bracelets are round his arms, his dress below the girdle is like the
cape. I immediately had a drawing taken of this _chef-d’œuvre_; but,
having inadvertently broken some beads and the spangles round his arm,
I was surprised to find it perfectly modelled underneath. I undressed
the figure, which was throughout beautifully finished. From this it was
clear that the artist modelled first his figures, and that drapery and
ornaments were added afterwards, which we found was also the case for
the ornamentation on the monuments, as well as for the Toltec idols,
the Tlalocs of our cemetery, and some figures at Teotihuacan.


The inside of the gallery where we had our drawing-room and kitchen was
decorated with medallions, personating, in all probability, priests and
priestesses; our cut is of the only one in pretty good preservation. To
judge from the head-dress and delicate features, it portrays a woman of
the same type as our sitting figure; it is a Palenque, a conventional,
a deformed type, of which we shall speak again. The medallion is topped
by four hieroglyphics, “Katunes,” giving the name of the person,
surrounded by curious but elegant ornaments, recalling the rococo
style of Louis XV.; while to the right is seen the outline of a head
deficient of its head-dress. This medallion, although somewhat defaced,
shows as careful modelling as the sitting figure, and seems to us very


The east gallery measures 114 feet in length; the north gallery, which
is broken down, 185 feet; the west gallery 102 feet only; and the
intervening space between the two northern galleries, about 175 feet;
consequently there is a difference of 11 feet in the length of the
north and south galleries, proving once more the confusion mentioned
above. The main court is reached by an arch widening at the top,
shaped like a trefoil, giving access to a broad staircase of seven
steps 16 inches high. On each side are sculptured, in low relief, a
group of human figures, occupying the basement of the gallery formed
by huge stone slabs inclined at the same angle as the stairs, five
to the right, four to the left, representing priests in uncomfortable
attitudes. Mitres cover their heads; collars, bracelets, and maxtlis
are their only covering; the maxtli of the first figure is covered
with hieroglyphs. The court measures upwards of 61 feet to the north
and east, only 55 feet to the south, and 71 feet to the west; in fact,
as irregular as can be well imagined. To the south of this court is
a small structure with three openings, giving some idea of what the
dwellings were like, and the curious medley of these edifices.


In effect, we find one sunk about the gallery to the right, with a
lower building to the left, and a frieze or perpendicular entablature
topped by a flat roof, whilst both roof and entablature slope on the
small edifice. In this portion of the palace Stephens found some wooden
fragments, of very rare occurrence at Palenque, on account of its damp
climate; while at Comalcalco, which is older and damper still, none
have been found.

The dilapidated condition of the small edifice robs it of some of its
interest; yet the interior and the frieze furnish valuable details of
ornamentation. First comes a decorative fragment round the niches or
openings in the shape of a Tau, found both in the galleries and the
apartments of the palace; next a portion of a frieze decoration in
the same building, but so defaced that nothing is distinguishable,
save the head of a fantastic dragon, whose neck is framed with
coils, palms, or feathers, emblems of Quetzalcoatl; and lastly the
ornamentation over the entrance of a round, flat-topped edifice, by
far the most interesting because of the head seen in the centre with
nose and forehead straight, contrasting with the retreating foreheads
of the reliefs on both pillars and temples; proving that the latter
are conventional types, exaggerated likenesses of a particular family,
whether warrior or priest, rather than the faithful portraiture of a
race. We shall also find this type at Uxmal.

Torquemada says with regard to these deformations in Mexico: “They
defaced their faces so as to acquire an appearance of ferocity,
enlarging their ears, nostrils, and lips by introducing silver, gold,
or stone jewels. It had the twofold use of acting as a scare against
their enemies and as a personal improvement; and that they might
look fierce in war, chiefs were obliged in some districts to make
their heads long and their foreheads broad; as Hippocrates relates of
microcephales, so did these people practise.”[98] And again: “Some
have pointed heads, square flat foreheads, whilst others are like the
Mexicans and Peruvians, who had and still have heads something like a
_martillo_, hammer, or better still, like a ship (_navio_),” meaning
oblong, probably.[99]

Landa tells nearly the same thing as to these practices in Yucatan,
corroborating Torquemada. These defaced heads have given rise to wild
theories; some saw in these reliefs sun-kings who, in mythical times,
had travelled thither from Europe; it had been more natural to take
them as representations of microcephales worshipped by these people as




But to return. The east front in the inner wing of the palace is nearly
intact—the richest in ornamentation, and the portion of the palace
where the peculiarities of this architecture are best studied. The
structure intervening between the two courts consists of two roofed
galleries, supported on each side by six pillars, enclosing five large
arches. The entrance is through the central arch, which is somewhat
larger than the others, and is preceded by a flight of steps having
hieroglyphics in relief; on each side of it were two large decorative
figures, one of which is still standing. The base, which is remarkable,
has three small platforms, sustained by sculptured pillars divided
by large retreating slabs, with small squares of hieroglyphics. The
pillars were covered on the outer and lateral sides with reliefs in
cement, vestiges of which are still discernible. The lintels over the
doorways of the gallery have disappeared; they were of red zapoté wood,
and their impress is unmistakable. These ornamental woods cannot all
have long been demolished; for in Palenque, Mr. Kohler showed me a
yard-measure and a stick he had had made out of a lintel found among
the ruins.

These facts, taken altogether, seem to indicate that the buildings at
Palenque are not so old as is supposed. The roof in the upper portion
of the palace slopes gently, and the entablature is so marvellously
rich, that I found fresh details every time I visited it. The frieze
was decorated with seven enormous heads; the last one to the right has
still visible the mouth, nose, and eyebrows. These heads were obtained
by means of slabs enclosed in the wall as stays to the cement, which
was modelled by the sculptor whilst in this soft state. The central
figure over the door of the gallery is the largest; each seems to
have had on either side statues life-size in high relief, and traces
of them occur throughout. Sometimes it is the distinct outline of the
fallen relief, sometimes it is a leg, sometimes part of a torso. Near
the central figure to the left, we traced the entire lower portion of
one of the figures, which brings to our mind the fragment we found at
Comalcalco (_vide_ chap. Comalcalco). If this frieze were crowned by a
light cornice, with stucco ornaments lozenge-shaped, if the roof were
likewise enriched with sculpture and reliefs, some idea would be had of
this magnificent and noble edifice. Besides a photograph, we give the
restoration of the palace, as near the truth as could be obtained with
the aid of a plan and details drawn upon the spot.



The gallery inside was decorated with fantastic, terrible, monstrous
figures of Indian deities. Our cut shows the best preserved, if we
except the relief, which recalls the masks on the frieze. It may also
be observed that the north end is a plain wall, which was separated
from the fallen gallery by a narrow passage, while to the south the
double gallery ended with two apertures leading to the yard where
stands the palace tower. The gallery opposite to this is connected
with the west gallery by a narrow doorway, the interior of which is
quite plain; if medallions were here, no trace is left of them on the
polished stucco walls. This gallery opens on a small courtyard, blocked
up by the west wing of the palace to the west, by the main gallery to
the north, and by the tower to the south. This courtyard is likewise
irregular and much narrower than the other, measuring 19 feet 6 inches
to the north, and 22 feet to the south. The basement of the gallery in
this court is as rich as in the main gallery; sculptured pillars are
distributed at a distance of 6 feet, divided by beautiful flags with
katunes, which fit admirably.

[Illustration: TOWER IN THE PALACE.]

The tower is not the least curiosity in this wonderful palace; trees
grow over and about it, whose roots surround the walls like iron
circles; unfortunately every explorer, whether to draw or photograph
it, has had the roots of the trees removed, and this will greatly
accelerate its complete downfall. It is a square tower, which rose by
three storeys over a ground floor, ornamented to the north with pointed
niches; the top storey has disappeared, and the great trees to the
right bend over, ominously threatening it with utter destruction. It
is not unlike the Comalcalco tower; but the decorations were in all
probability less rich, for beyond some stucco coatings still facing
some portions, I saw nothing in the remains which could compare with
the great decorative subjects of that city.


The west wing of the palace is the best preserved, but unlike the
other two, it has no longer a double gallery. The interior has three
long, narrow apartments which open on the courtyard, and communicate
with the exterior by two doorways at each end. The outer gallery is
also the best preserved; the façade is entire, except the centre of
the north-west angle, while all the pillars still bear traces of the
beautiful reliefs with which they were once ornamented.

The south end of this gallery shows clearly that the monument ended
here, and that the cloisters, as we have named them, constituted a
separate pile, which was divided from the group of dwellings. Opposite
to this, some 325 feet distant to the west, rose another pyramid
crowned with a temple, of which nothing but mouldering ruins remain.





    Palenque a Holy City—Bas-reliefs—Rain and Fever—A Grateful
    Cook—Temple of Inscriptions—Temple of the Sun—Temple of the
    Cross No. 1—Temple of the Cross No. 2—Altars—Mouldings and
    Photographs—Fire—Explorations—Fallen Houses—The Age of Trees
    in Connection with the Ruins—Recapitulation.

Some writers have called Palenque a capital, and the great edifice
known as the palace a royal mansion, but they have erred, for if
there was a royal palace it was not the one we have described. Like
Teotihuacan, Izamal, and Cozumel, Palenque was a holy place, an
important religious centre, a city which was resorted to as a place of
pilgrimage, teeming with shrines and temples, a vast and much-sought
burial-place. In this and in no other way can be explained the silence
surrounding this great city, which was probably peopled by a floating
population dispersed at the first alarm of the Conquest.

This important city is apparently without civic architecture; no public
buildings are found, there seems to have been nothing but temples and
tombs. Consequently the great edifice was not a royal palace, but
rather a priestly habitation, a magnificent convent occupied by the
higher clergy of this holy centre, as the reliefs everywhere attest.

Had Palenque been the capital of an empire, the palace a kingly
mansion, the history of her people, fragments of domestic life,
pageants, recitals of battles and conquests, would be found among
the reliefs which everywhere cover her edifices, as in Mexico, at
Chichen-Itza and other cities in Yucatan; whereas the reliefs in
Palenque show nothing of the kind. On them we behold peaceful, stately
subjects, usually a personage standing with a sceptre, sometimes a
calm, majestic figure whose mouth emits a flame, emblem of speech and
oratory. They are surrounded by prostrated acolytes, whose bearing is
neither that of slaves nor of captives; for the expression of their
countenance, if submissive, is open and serene, and their peaceful
attitude indicates worshippers and believers; no arms are found among
these multitudes, nor spear, nor shield, nor bow, nor arrow, nothing
but preachers and devotees.

The interest attaching to these studies is certainly profound and
sincere, yet it does not entirely banish the consciousness of our very
arduous life among these ruins. The rain is incessant; the damp seems
to penetrate the very marrow of our bones; a vegetable mould settles
on our hats which we are obliged to brush off daily; we live in mud,
we are covered with mud, we breathe in mud, whether amongst the ruins
or wandering away from them; the ground is so slippery that we are as
often on our backs as on our feet.

No rest for the explorer, is the fiat that has gone forth. At night
the walls, which are covered with greenish moss, trickle down on our
weary heads and awake us out of our sleep; in the day-time we are a
prey to swarms of insects, rodadores, mosquitoes, and garrapatas.
It is impossible to bear up long against such odds, and first young
Lemaire, next Alfonso the cook, are laid up with malaria. Julian and I
are the only two of the party whom this scourge has spared. Yet this
wretched life is not without some gleams of sunshine. Since our men
opened a large space in front of the palace, and cleared the courtyard
of the dense vegetation which blocked it up completely, allowing a
free passage for the air to circulate, the birds have not been slow to
avail themselves of this new retreat, and our mornings and evenings are
cheered by their sweet notes. We have our night concerts also, when
innumerable creatures, whose names we know not, mingle their voices
with the chirping of the cricket, the song of the cicala, the croaking
of frogs, followed by the howling of huge monkeys, which sounds like
the roaring of lions and tigers; all this is new to us, and not without
a certain amount of excitement, yet it sinks into utter insignificance
as compared with the great joy of our discoveries, the ever fresh
interest of our photographs, the looking forward with immense
satisfaction to the time when we shall produce the splendid squeezes of
these grand, mysterious inscriptions, not yet found in any museum. Well
weighed together, these things are calculated to make us forget the
hardships and troubles of the moment.

Quinine has done wonders; our men are themselves again, and Alfonso,
to make us forget the meagre fare he inflicted upon us during his
illness, served up a magnificent luncheon to celebrate his recovery.
The reader may like to read the menu of a _déjeuner_ in the wilds of

Soupe: Purée de haricots noirs au bouillon d’escargots. Olives de
Valence, saucisson d’Arles. Poulet de grain, sauté a l’ail et au
piment rouge. Morue frite. Chives, pointes de petits palmiers en
branches d’asperge. Fritures: haricots noirs rissolés. Crêpes. Fromage
américain. Vins: Bordeaux et Aragon. Café, habanero et cigares de

I am not sure about the order of succession, but I can vouch for the
items being correct, from which it may be seen that even at Palenque,
with fine weather and a grateful cook, one need not starve, but he
would be greatly mistaken who thought that this was our every day’s
fare. Let us return to graver concerns.

The Temple of Inscriptions is the largest known at Palenque, standing
on a pyramid of some 48 feet high, to the south-west angle of the
palace; its façade, 74 feet by nearly 25 deep, is composed of a vast
gallery occupying the whole front, and of three compartments of
different sizes, a large central chamber and two small ones at the
sides. The front gallery is pierced with five apertures, supported
by six pillars of 6 feet 9 inches by 3 feet 7 inches thick. The two
corner pillars were covered with katunes, and the other four with
bas-reliefs. No sanctuary is found in the building known as the Temple
of Inscriptions, but both the gallery and the central room have
flagstones covered with inscriptions. Two panels enclosed in the wall
of the gallery measure 13 feet wide by 7 feet 8 inches high, one in the
central chamber is over 7 feet by 6 feet. Amidst the katunes of this
panel Waldeck has seen fit to place three or four elephants. What end
did he propose to himself in giving this fictitious representation?
Presumably to give a prehistoric origin to these ruins, since it is
an ascertained fact that elephants in a fossil state only have been
found on the American continent. It is needless to add that neither
Catherwood, who drew these inscriptions most minutely, nor myself
who brought impressions of them away, nor living man, ever saw these
elephants and their fine trunks.

But such is the mischief engendered by preconceived opinions. With some
writers it would seem that to give a recent date to these monuments
would deprive them of all interest. It would have been fortunate had
explorers been imbued with fewer prejudices and gifted with a little
more common sense, for then we should have known the truth with regard
to these ruins long since. Of all the buildings the temple was the best
preserved, as seen in every detail. The floor, which in the palace is
but a layer of plaster, is laid down here with beautiful slabs 9 feet 9
inches on one side by 5 feet by 7 inches thick.

The roof is unfortunately in a very ruinous state, and the dense
vegetation which covers it prevents seeing anything of the large
figures which presumably occupied its surface; even a photograph is
difficult to get, for want of sufficient space, and the one we give is
not a success.


Three other temples are found on a plateau, some 200 yards south-east
of the palace at the foot of Cerro Alto. First in order is a small
temple of the Sun, in a perfect state of preservation; the front
measures 38 feet by 27 feet deep. The pilasters, the roof, and
superstructure, were all covered with sculptures and complicated
decorations. Any one who is acquainted with sacred Japanese
architecture would be struck with the resemblance of this temple to
a Japanese sanctuary; and this is very clearly seen in our cut. How
is this to be explained? A theory might be started with respect to
the probable Asiatic origin of the Toltec tribes; of the influence of
a Japanese civilisation, through the steady traffic they formerly
carried on, on the coast north-west of America, as also by fortuitous
immigrations resulting from shipwrecks. In the present day, the
average of Japanese vessels shipwrecked on the Californian coast is
only two a year. However it may be, we will for the present leave to
others the task of elucidating the question of origin.

[Illustration: JAPANESE TEMPLE.]

The interior of the temple is a large room, receiving its light through
three apertures in the façade; the end is occupied by a sanctuary,
and each side by a small dark room. The sanctuary is a kind of oblong
tabernacle, crowned with a richly decorated frieze and stuccoed
mouldings. Two pilasters supported the roof, and formerly were covered
with inscriptions or sculptured slabs representing various subjects;
these flags have been broken or taken away, and not one remains _in

Those which were in the Temple of the Cross No. 1, have already been
described and a drawing given. The end of the sanctuary is occupied by
three slabs in juxtaposition, with sculptures of a religious character;
in the central portion or tablet is a hideous face, with protruding
tongue, identical with that found on the Aztec calendar in Mexico,
known as the Tablet of the Sun. This symbolical figure is found also at
Tikal carved in wood.

In our cut of the Temple of the Cross No. 2, three distinct subjects
are seen: in the central slab is a cross, branching out with palms
supporting two figures; the body of the cross, which rests on a hideous
head, is sculptured in the centre, and at the upper end are two human
figures, crowned by a symbolic bird having a long tail and eagle claws.
The left slab represents a man richly habited, with collar, medallion,
girdle, and greaves; the right slab a woman, to judge from her size,
long plait of hair, and peculiar clothing. This female is borne on
palms having the very well-preserved outline of human heads. Both
the male and female seem to stand before the symbolic bird offering
presents, the nature of which it is not easy to specify. To the rear
of each device is an inscription of sixty-eight characters, doubtless
explanatory of the ceremony the whole sculpture represents, but which
no one has yet been able to read.

We are of opinion that the Temple of the Cross No. 1 was a sanctuary
consecrated to Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl, and that the altar in the
same Temple No. 2 was dedicated to Tlaloc; our only ground for this
belief, however, is the cross, which we know was a later symbolic
personification of the god of rain; but we will leave this question
until we come to Lorillard, where monuments of the same kind, and
the authority of ancient writers, will furnish data to strengthen
our theory. It may not be irrelevant to add that neither temples nor
palaces were provided with doors, and that stuff or matting curtains
were used for all apertures, indicated by the large and small rings
fixed on the pilasters on each side of the entrances, and the whole
length of the inner cornice. We know that neither the Toltecs nor
Aztecs had doors to their houses, which seems to show great respect
for property, or as Clavigero puts it, “the severity of the laws was
a powerful preservative.” What he says of Mexico is equally applicable
to Palenque: “Houses had no doors, for they deemed that dwellings were
sufficiently guarded by the stringency of the laws; and the people, not
to be overlooked by their neighbours, had curtains to all the openings,
while resounding pottery, or some other rattling object, was suspended
over the entrance to warn the inmates whenever a stranger raised the
curtain to pass into the house. No one was allowed admittance who
had not the owner’s full permission to do so, unless the degree of
relationship or necessity justified the liberty.”[100]


Notwithstanding the deplorable circumstances in which I had to work,
I was able to take more than 325 square feet of impressions; and here
I take much pleasure in recording the debt of gratitude I owe Mr. de
Laval for his admirable invention, which by means of paper instead
of plaster makes the taking of impressions in distant countries
comparatively easy, when the difficulty of transport and the expense
of plaster would, in our case, have placed the reproduction of reliefs
and inscriptions entirely beyond our power. As it was, my impressions,
which, had I used plaster, would have weighed at least 30,000 lb.,
only weighed 500 lb.; but even so, the taking of impressions is not so
easily effected as may be imagined, especially in a damp region where
the utmost care was required to reproduce faithfully the delicate,
faint, and defaced reliefs on these old slabs. It would be impossible
to give an idea of the immense and minute brush-work which was required
to cover 325 feet square of paper six sheets deep.

Furthermore, the reliefs were only reached by a shaky scaffolding of
wet twigs; next came the drying process round huge fires to secure
the moulds against the rain getting into them, and the stowing
them speedily away before they got spoiled. Well, but we had every
reason to be satisfied with our work; the precious squeezes had been
satisfactorily stored up in the galleries of the palace, when, on the
night of January 26th, a night I shall never forget, a hideous smell of
burning startled us out of our sleep to witness the flames which were
consuming my mouldings, the result, too, of three weeks’ hard labour,
now fast vanishing into smoke. To snatch the burning rolls and throw
them into the yard, where the Indians were ready to deluge them with
water, was the work of a moment, but, alas! to no purpose; the mischief
was irretrievable, and we had to begin all over again. Whether done by
accident or of malice prepense, it was idle to inquire; we set to work
again with renewed ardour, and after ten days of incessant labour we
brought out copies finer than the first, and these are now to be found
in the Trocadéro.



Our labours in the palace did not prevent our making explorations on
the hill or mountain. We had spied to the north of the palace, some
812 feet distant, a group of four houses, or small palaces, the ruins
of which appeared sufficiently interesting to be reproduced, which I
did, after having had the southern portion cleared of its luxuriant
vegetation, when I found that the whole length of the northern side
was occupied by a dead wall, without apertures or fronts of any kind,
facing the palace and overlooking a deep precipice. These structures,
like those we discovered subsequently, were all built on the same
plan, but in various sizes and dimensions. The inner vault of the
left building, however, is ornamented with round lines forming pretty
devices, unlike the others, which are quite plain. The pyramids on
which these structures were reared had three stories supported by
perpendicular walls. To this group of buildings belonged a small
sanctuary or chapel; notwithstanding its dilapidated condition it
deserves mention because of some decorative remains, which give a good
idea of what must have been its profuse ornamentation.

After our visit to the Lion’s Temple, now in a deplorable state of
dilapidation, we crossed the high-banked river and reached a high level
at the base of Cerro Alto, where we came upon a cluster of buildings
composed of diminutive compartments which were used as tombs; two more
were found by us in some other buildings to the north of the palace.
These small monuments were constructed with uncemented stones, and were
in good preservation. The tombs measured 6 feet 7 inches by 1 foot 8
inches to 1 foot 9 inches wide; they occupied the centre of the rooms
and were built with flagstones; the bodies were found with two large
flat-bottomed vases, ornamented with a little sunk flower, identical
with those found at Teotihuacan.

Among the innumerable ruins we discovered were five temples; one, to
judge from the height of the pyramid, which was divided into four
stories, and its noble remains must have been important. As we descend
the river to the north-west, pyramids, ruined buildings, groups of
low houses, temples, and palaces, are found occupying the slopes of
the Cordilleras, from the crest of the lesser chain to their base.
The buildings are found on the high level and temples on eminences,
followed by a vast space apparently unoccupied, perhaps the site of
ancient gardens. To form an accurate idea of the plan of the city
would necessitate the felling of forest over several square miles,
an undertaking not to be thought of in our case. Bridges and roads
connected the various edifices; some of these roads or streets measure
several hundred yards, and I found one bridge of 32 feet square with
one single opening, 3 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 9 inches deep. All were
built with uncemented stones. Now most bridges have crumbled away,
the torrents they spanned are blocked up, and the waters are drained
through beds they have hewn for themselves, running over the structures
and depositing on their façades stalactites which give them a strange

The explorer who sees the complete desolation of this ancient city must
bear in mind, that in a tropical region excessively hot and damp a
long time is not necessary to destroy even structures of solid stone,
in order to avoid attributing great antiquity to these ruins. Now the
ornamentation, both in the palaces of Palenque, on the upper part of
friezes, or the dress of figures, consists of small rolls or round
lines of plaster, studded with diminutive spheres or dots, which, as we
explained before, were added at the very last, and is clearly seen in
our restoration. That ornamentation at once so fragile could not last
many hundred years in such surroundings, is proved by the fact that on
the least touch round lines and dots come down, and that the ground
is strewn with them. If we examine the stairways, which on both sides
of the courtyard of the palace connected the two edifices, we shall
find the steps unworn, the stairs new; yet communication must have
been incessant, and if for long ages thousands of people descended and
ascended these stairs, would not the wear and tear be traceable?

The stairs of our public buildings are worn away in no time; if we
find them entire at Palenque, it is a proof that they were not long
trodden. Nor is this all. The roofs, the walls and courts of the
palaces are so well hidden under the thick vegetation which covers
them, that a stranger might pass a few yards distant and never suspect
their presence. The size of the trees growing between and over these
structures has been adduced as a conclusive proof of the age of these
monuments. Waldeck calculated their age at 2,000 years and more; Mr.
Lorainzar computed that these monuments must be 1,700 years old,
because he found a mahogany table made of one single piece from a
tree in these ruins. His reasoning was based on the erroneous notion
that a concentric circle represents one year, whereas I ascertained
that in a tropical country nature never rests; for chancing to cut
a twig some eighteen months old, I counted no less than eighteen
concentric circles. To assure myself that this was not an isolated
fact, I cut branches and trees of every size and description, when the
same phenomenon occurred in exactly the same proportions. More than
this: in my first expedition to Palenque in 1859, I had the eastern
side of the palace cleared of its dense vegetation to secure a good
photograph. Consequently the trees that have grown since cannot be more
than twenty-two years old; now one of the cuttings measuring some two
feet in diameter, had upwards of 230 concentric circles; that is at the
rate of one in a month, or even less; it follows that the seventeen
centuries of Mr. Lorainzar must be reduced to 150 or at most 200 years.

Stephens mentions a ceiba twenty-two years old of 6 feet 10 inches in
diameter, and I noticed in Mexico some eucalyptus not eighteen years
old, measuring 6 feet 9 inches in diameter; could these trees have only
eighteen or twenty concentric circles?

To recapitulate, Palenque seems to us more modern, as she is far
better preserved than Comalcalco; if the latter was inhabited at the
time of the Conquest (and we think we have proved it), the former
must have been likewise. Comalcalco was a Toltec city just as was
Palenque, and this is clearly demonstrated in the pyramidal form
given to the basement of edifices, in the invariable shape of the
monuments, bearing so striking a resemblance to the Toltec calli, in
the fragments, in the masks of terra-cotta, the pottery, and the small
figures, facsimiles of those we found on the plateaux; in the cultus
of the cross, emblem of the Toltec Tlaloc, and lastly in the important
quotations from Juarros and Diaz, affirming that Palenque was called

We shall leave for the present this Toltec branch which founded
Ocosingo, Colhuacan, and other cities of the Uplands, to visit the
other branch which settled in the Yucatan peninsula.





    Early Account of Yucatan—First Explorers: F. Hernandez
    de Cordova, Juan de Grijalva—Cortez—Railroad—Henequen
    Estate—Merida—Historical Jottings—Destruction of
    all the Documents by the Historian Landa—Municipal
    Palace—Cathedral—The Conqueror’s House—Private Houses—Market
    Place—Maya Race—Types—Manners and Customs of the
    Mayas—Deformation and Tattooing—Meztizas—Dwellings—Suburbs.

We will next proceed to the study of the Toltec branch which penetrated
the Yucatan peninsula by Patonchan, and from which the reigning family
of the Cocomes were descended.

The main harbour on the north-east coast was formerly Sisal, but the
requirements of an increasing trade have moved it on to Progreso, where
we cast anchor in a gale of wind which obliged us to remain five or
six miles outside, to keep clear of the shoals which make this coast
dangerous. We land with considerable difficulty at last, and are not
sorry to get rid of the unpleasant sensation known as sea-sickness. The
peninsula has no rivers and no water, and is of calcareous formation;
flat and barren to the north, where the soil is but few inches deep;
more hilly and productive towards the centre, because of its older
formation; it rises to the south to the Sierra Madre, which runs
through Central America.

The direction of Yucatan is from north to south, between the eighth and
twelfth degree longitude east of Mexico, and between the eighteenth and
twenty-second degree of latitude. The first to mention it is Columbus,
who, on July 30th, 1502, finding himself at Pine Island, saw a large
barque manned by twenty-four rowers, having a cacique and family on
board, dressed in the costume known since as Yucatec; the boat was
freighted with cacao, tortillas, and a beverage made of Indian corn,
wooden swords with blades of obsidian, copper axes, and cotton tissues
as soft as silk, dyed in brilliant hues.


    JOURNEY TO YUCATAN and to the country of THE LACANDONS by D.
    Charnay 1882 ]

A reasonable doubt may be entertained as to this canoe, said to have
measured 8 feet wide, having come from Yucatan, a country by its nature
exceedingly dry, arid, stony, and without rivers, circumstances hardly
favourable to making sailors of its inhabitants; moreover, copper axes
and obsidian blades were scarce among the Mayas, and the Spaniards,
under Grijalva, never met them until they reached Tabasco.[101] It
seems, therefore, probable, that the canoe came from Tabasco, a region
civilised like Yucatan, intersected by large rivers, clad with an
exuberant vegetation, noble cedar and mahogany trees, from which to
build capacious boats. As for the dress, it is nearly the same as that
worn by the Mayas; but what is even more significant is that cocoa
is one of the chief productions of Tabasco, and is only known as an
importation in Yucatan,[102] except indeed towards Patonchan, where, at
the time of the Conquest, the vegetation was as vigorous, and cacao as
extensively cultivated as in Tabasco. The Maya language was common to
both districts. Had Columbus followed the canoe, he would have added to
his own the glory Cortez achieved later; at all events he had been the
first to discover the central regions of America.

The first to visit Yucatan was Vincente Yanez Pinzon, who with Diaz
Solis, in 1505, coasted the eastern side, without, however, identifying
it. In 1511, Valdivia was wrecked on the Alacranes reefs on his way
to Cuba; he and his crew effected a landing, when the only survivors
of the ill-usage of the natives were Gonzalo Guerrero and Geronimo de
Aguilar, of whom I shall speak later. In 1517, Cordova sailed along the
northern coast, where he observed great cities and high pyramids; he
landed at Campeche, and saw stately temples, having serpentine walls
in relief, similar to that of the great temple in Mexico, dedicated to
Cukulcan (Quetzalcoatl). He landed at Patonchan or Champeton, when the
natives massacred fifty-seven of his companions. It would seem strange
that Cortez, in all his encounters with the natives of the Uplands,
should have had so few casualties, were it not known that they strove
to take their enemies alive that they might offer them on the altar
of their deities. To this prevailing custom Cortez twice owed his
life during the siege of Mexico, but as he was being led away to be
sacrificed to their war-god he was both times rescued by his companions.

In Yucatan and Tabasco, where Aztec influence was of recent date, the
introduction of human sacrifice comparatively new, the natives killed
rather than captured their enemies; and this explains the great losses
sustained by the Spaniards in the peninsula, and is another proof of
Toltec teachings in these districts.

In 1518, Grijalva landed at Cozumel, when he perceived on the opposite
coast a city supposed to be Tuloom-Pamal or Paamul; he followed the
route of his predecessor and halted in the Islands of Sacrificios and
Uluo, opposite the site of future Vera Cruz; and lastly Cortez, who, in
1519, found here Aguilar and further on in Tabasco Marina.

The name of Yucatan is variously derived from _Chacnuitan; Tectecan,
tectetan_, “we don’t understand,” from a misunderstanding by the
Spaniards when the natives were questioned about the name of their
country; or from _Yuca-Tan_, “land of yuca,” not to be confounded
with the yuca of our gardens, for the former yielded a substance out
of which the Spaniards made _cazabe_, bread; and _Ciu-Than_, “say
yourself,” or, according to Landa, _Ulumil y etel Ceh_, “land of
turkeys and deer.” Another authority, Ramesal, believes the name to
be derived from Tectetan-Ylatli and Teloquitan;[103] Cogolludo adopts
these various appellations, remarking that as the country was named
after its chief city, it differed at each successive epoch, being
in ancient times Mayapan, but in the time of the writer Campeche.
Ternaux-Compans declares that from the fall of Mayapan to the coming
of the Spaniards, the country had no general name, but was severally
called after each province, as district of Choaca, Bakhalal, Campeche,
etc.; but there is little doubt that the name of Yucatan, at the
coming of Europeans and afterwards, was Maya. However that may be, we
will turn to the monuments, which afford a far surer guide whereon to
construct a history of this country so rich in works of “los antiguos.”


Progreso is a miserable hamlet surrounded by low-lying swamps; here the
luggage is examined, but in our case only _pro formâ_, and we are glad
to resume our seats and to steam out of this unhealthy zone, although
the country we traverse, on which nothing grows save brambles and
brushwood, is no less flat or monotonous. We come presently to immense
estates of _henequen_, a kind of agave, having long narrow leaves,
yielding a solid shining thread, which is hardly known out of American
markets; patches of verdure, bananas, palm-trees, and maritime pines,
betray now and again a private residence, while smoking mills show the
factories where the henequen is being prepared ready for exportation.

Were it not for the mysterious spirit of “los antiguos,” which seems to
fill the whole country, the landscape to a less enthusiastic explorer
must appear dreary and melancholy in the extreme. We pass eminences on
our right on which once stood noble temples; these remains carry me
back to the time when I first visited these parts, and when these ruins
fixed my resolve to make archæology the business of my life. Next came
a few straggling hamlets; groups of dark women in short petticoats,
and naked urchins, gaze on us with wondering eyes as they stand at the
entrance of their huts while we speed along. We reach Merida after a
run of three hours over a distance of ten leagues, where we learn that
no hotel or house is to be found, and it is only after searching the
whole place that we can at last secure a room of some fifteen feet
square, in which my two companions and myself have to settle down.
There is but one atrociously bad restaurant where to get any kind of
food; our thoughts, however, are taken up with exploring the ruins
rather than with a good _maître d’hôtel_; we find, besides, a small
Anglo-American colony, and in their midst our abominable fare is soon

Francisco de Montejo, who founded Merida, had occupied Chichen in
1527, but had been compelled to abandon it and seek reinforcements in
Mexico. On his return he was enabled, through a traitorous cacique,
to establish himself here, and built Merida in 1542. The conquest of
Yucatan was longer and beset with greater difficulties than that of
Mexico; here the Spaniards were continually threatened by a warlike
population, ever on the alert to raise the standard of rebellion.
The history of this people can only be read on the monuments they
have left, which have given rise to so many divergent hypotheses. Yet
documents were not wanting, and had the religious zeal of the men of
that time been less ill-judged, they would have found in the various
and multiform manuscripts, in the charts or maps, in the idols, in
the pottery and living traditions, ample and reliable materials from
which to write an exhaustive history of the Maya civilisation. But the
Spaniards were more careful to demolish than to preserve. Zumarraga,
Bishop of Mexico, destroyed all the Aztec annals he could lay his
hand upon, and Landa, Bishop of Merida, made an auto-da-fé of all
the monuments he could collect, having done which, he set himself to
writing his history, “De las Cosas de Yucatan.”[104]

All there now remains for us are mere gleanings, the interpretation
of certain passages in this very Landa, in Cogolludo and Herrera,
and above all by a careful comparison between these monuments and
bas-reliefs with those we already know; for with their help only can
we hope to reconstruct a past which becomes more familiar the more it
is studied. These monuments have been endowed with fabulous antiquity;
whereas, on the strength of my explorations, I assert that they are
comparatively recent.

Merida stands on the site of ancient _Ti-hoo_ or _T-hoo_, one of the
chief cities of the peninsula; but nothing positive is known, and
tradition is almost silent respecting it. If we are to believe the
Spaniards, it had long been abandoned on their arrival; but this is
not borne out by facts, for although they beheld a dense vegetation
amidst the pyramids, the edifices on their summits were entire;[105]
moreover, Montejo was able to quarter his troops here, as well as
the Indian contingent from Mani. Furthermore, Eligio Ancona, the
modern Yucatec historian, describes a celebrated sanctuary known as
_H-Chun-Caan_, “The centre and foundation of heaven,” which was the
object of great veneration; it follows therefore that its imposing
ceremonies were presided over by revered and powerful priests, that
the temples and palaces in Merida were standing after the arrival of
the Spaniards,[106] although not in the vast proportions assigned to
them by the Abbé Brasseur, whose lively imagination is apt to lead him

[Illustration: MONTEJO’S HOUSE, MERIDA.]

Merida was built with the materials of the Indian city, and like
all the Spanish places of the New World, is but a huge chess-board,
with streets running at right angles, consisting of square blocks of
buildings. The centre is occupied by a large plaza, having a waterless
fountain and gardens, the flowers of which are perishing for want
of water; as for the young trees planted about, they doubtless will
afford shade to future generations; for the present the glare of
this open space is intolerable. When I visited it some twenty years
ago, if not so symmetrical it was certainly more picturesque. In the
plaza are found the municipal palace and the cathedral, of monumental
proportions for a place of 30,000 souls; it numbered, probably, only
the third of this when it was built in 1598. Its erection cost the
pious Meridans £60,000, equivalent at the present day to fifteen times
that sum, but it is doubtful if even with its greater population so
large a sum could now be raised. The front, 179 feet wide, is occupied
by a central pavilion in which the principal entrance intervenes,
ornamented by an indifferent Corinthian portico, over which, at a
height of some 97 feet, a great vaulted arch supports an elegant
gallery; on each side of the pavilion are two steeples with a number
of galleries narrowing in upward succession, forming with their
balustrades a pleasing contrast to the plain façade. The interior
of the church, 289 feet long, is imposing; it consists of three naves
with round arches, supported by twelve immense columns, and twenty of
like dimensions imbedded in the walls. Small chapels run along the
sides, and the structure altogether bears the impress of solidity which
is so conspicuous a feature of the conquerors’ work. To the south of
the square stands Montejo’s house, bearing the date of 1541; it is the
oldest in Merida, and an interesting specimen of that epoch. It may
be worthy of mention that the sculptures in this house are as defaced
as those of the Indian monuments, which seems to indicate similarity
of date. The pillars on each side of the entrance bear aloft two
Spanish soldiers, whilst on the first floor, by the window, knights
armed cap-à-pie are standing on two recumbent Indians, personating
the subjugation of the race. The façade with its columns, statues,
arabesques, and shields, is a fair specimen of American Renaissance;
but if the composition was Spanish, the work, probably, was due to
Indian hands, for at the time of its erection the Spaniards were a
handful of soldiers or adventurers, whose pride would not have suffered
them to do any manual labour.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL.]

Artisans were plentiful among the Mayas, who have interspersed their
country with so many remarkable monuments, and whose building aptitude
is notable even at the present day. Beside these edifices the town,
with very few exceptions, is an assemblage of low houses having but
the ground floor, while all the windows are stoutly grated to secure
the inmates against housebreakers. But the impression produced by this
unpromising exterior soon gives place to agreeable surprise on being
introduced into spacious apartments opening on the “patio,” encompassed
by Moorish cloisters. The patios are planted with flowers, shrubs,
and palm-trees, which, towering above the terraced roofs, break the
monotonous lines of the town panorama. Our cut shows Don Alvaro Peon’s
house with its charming gallery on the first floor.

[Illustration: DON ALVARO PEON’S HOUSE.]

All movement and life centre towards the market-place, where Spaniards,
Indians, and Meztizos are seen in their picturesque costumes; sellers
are crying out their goods, consisting of pottery and baskets, the
facsimiles of those we bought at Tula; somewhat further we come across
some natives bending under heavy loads of “ramon,” the green twigs
of a particular tree, affording the only forage in a country without
grass. Here young caballeros are stopped by cumbrous carts taking up
the whole street with their enormous bales of henequen; further on,
women in snowy white costumes sit in long rows, offering with a pretty
grace their small stock-in-trade spread before them. Among this motley
crowd I spied a diminutive “aguador” looking so bonnie that I wished
to take his photograph, making his less favoured companions envious

[Illustration: FRUIT SELLERS.]

The Mayas, both in type and language, are unlike both the surrounding
tribes and those of the plateaux; they are said to be an ancient race,
but this assumption is based on no positive proof. Cogolludo believes
the first inhabitants to have come from Cuba; and Agassiz, who studied
these tribes in their respective homes, leans to the same opinion.
Traditions and ancient writers, confirmed in modern times by Humboldt,
all are unanimous in asserting that this country was invaded towards
the end of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth century by
the Toltecs.[108] Granted their building genius, seeing that both the
architecture and the decorations of the edifices correspond to the
descriptions left by historians respecting Toltec palaces and temples
of the Uplands, we are in a position to affirm that there was no other
civilisation in Central America except the Toltec civilisation, and
that if another existed, our having met with no trace of it gives us
the right to deny it altogether.

When two civilisations come in contact, the outcome is a mixture of
both which is easy of recognition. Take as an instance India after
the Mohammedan Conquest, where Indo-Arabic monuments are notable to
the most inexperienced eye. If, therefore, Yucatan had possessed an
indigenous civilisation, we should certainly have found monuments or
ruins indicating as much; or if destroyed by time, we should have
found others of a composite character, showing the fusion of the two
races, whereas nothing of the kind occurs, and the older monuments,
or those which appear so, are in no respect different from the more
recent or Toltec ones. Consequently the Mayas, who were peculiarly
well fitted for receiving a superior culture, had their share in the
artistic manifestations to be met with through the length and breadth
of the peninsula, and being the stronger nationality they opposed a
stouter and longer resistance to the hated invaders. Even now, after
three centuries of degrading oppression, a Maya, or Maya-Toltec,
preserves distinctive characteristics by which he can be singled out
from among a number of different nationalities, nor would it be easy to
find among the rural classes of Europe men of a better build, or with
more intelligent and open countenances. Their heads are round, their
eyes black, their noses arched, their ears and mouth small, they are
deep-chested, straight-jawed, with round chin and sound square teeth,
their hair is black, straight, and coarse, their complexion reddish

[Illustration: MAYA TYPES.]

The form of government was monarchical and almost absolute; below were
the nobles, the priests, the people, and the slaves. Such a partition,
amounting to almost castes, presupposes an anterior conquest. The
lands were divided between the crown, the nobility, the temples, and
the people. The division was by no means equal, by far the greater
proportion being appropriated by the king, the aristocracy, and the
temples. The lands of the people were the common property of the
community and not of individuals. Every member of the community had
a portion suitable to his position and requirements, which he was
entitled to hold as long as he cultivated it. As the soil was very
poor, no plough was used in ancient times, nor later by the Spaniards.
Four-fifths of the land was suffered to lie fallow, and every five
years the brushwood was cut down and burnt to manure the ground ready
to receive the Indian corn. The work was chiefly done by men; the women
planting the seed, husking the corn, and doing such light labours as
were suitable to their weaker frames. The peasants were bound to till
the land for their lord, to supply him with game, fish, flowers, salt,
and other comforts, and to accompany him in battle.

The campaigns were short, sharp, and severe; for as commissariat was
unknown, they were generally decided in one engagement, when no pity
was shown the vanquished, no quarter given, and what could not be
plundered was destroyed. This explains the number of ruined cities
which were rebuilt and the new monuments erected after each war.
Diaz remarks that the military dress of the warriors consisted of a
breast-piece made of quilted cotton, which was completely arrow-proof,
and was adopted by the conquerors in place of their heavy steel armour.
Their head-dress was a casque ornamented with rich feathers, prominent
amongst which were the quetzal. The rank and file wore no clothing
except the _maxtli_ in battle, but by painting their faces and bodies
in grotesque patterns of brilliant colours, and covering their heads
with raw cotton, they presented a fierce and gaudy appearance. Painting
the face and body with red, black, and white was universal; on the
return from an expedition the warrior’s paint was substituted for
tattooing. “Stripes, serpents, animals, and birds,” says Cogolludo,
“were the favourite devices for this kind of decoration, according to
their military order; the warrior being entitled to a fresh hieroglyph
after each notable feat of arms, an old veteran came to have his whole
body covered with them.”

Owing to the warm climate the Maya dress was simple and scanty in
the extreme. Men wore almost universally the _maxtli_ (a long strip
of cotton cloth, wound round the loins); children up to two years of
age wore no clothes at all; the baby girls, like those in Java, had a
string round their waist, from which depended a shell, the removal of
which was looked upon as sinful. The dress of the nobles, both men and
women, consisted of loose tunics and flowing mantles dyed in brilliant
and variegated colours. The hair was worn short, cut in a fringe on
the forehead; no beard was allowed, and the few hairs that made their
appearance on the face were immediately extracted. Squinting was
fashionable, and mothers ensured it for their daughters by suffering a
tuft of hair to hang over their eyes. Their ears, nose, and lips were
adorned with jewels. Cranial disfigurement seems to have been confined
to the priests and nobles.[109] According to Landa,[110] four or five
days after birth the child was laid with the face down on a bed of
osiers, and the head compressed between two pieces of wood, one on the
forehead and the other on the back, the boards being kept in place for
several days until the desired cranial flattening was effected. This
Spartan process was often attended with disastrous results. Tamenes
practised this flattening on the forehead only, which was thus better
adapted to the carrying of burdens. Disfigured Tamenes skulls were
found by us at Teotihuacan, and on the pottery of Vera Cruz.

Eligio Ancona draws a mournful picture of the Mayas before the
Conquest: “They were much oppressed by the king, the nobles, and in a
special manner by the restless and ambitious caciques constantly at
war with each other; the education of the youth of both sexes rested
entirely with the priests, the clans of the people were ignorant and
degraded; men were sold in the market or sacrificed on the altars;
women excluded from society and the family circle,” etc. The nation
prospered in spite of it all; the country was densely populated, while
the monuments everywhere attest that the arts flourished.

What have the Spaniards done for them? Have they relieved their misery,
dispelled their ignorance, minimised their vices? The peninsula
counted millions before the Conquest; there are not a hundred thousand
at the present day, and they are more sunk and wretched than at any
time of their existence. For a nation is always found to have the
religion and the Government best suited to its character or degree of
civilisation; let extraneous institutions, whether civil or religious,
however superior, be imposed upon them, they seem only to stultify and
dishearten a people they were not intended for.

[Illustration: MESTIZOS’ HOUSE.]

Meztizas are one of the chief attractions of Merida; they are
looked upon as an inferior caste, but this they seem to accept with
indifference, revenging themselves on society by their attractive
ways, which it is not given to man to resist; for even those who are
not beautiful, and they are few, have a winning grace, a peculiar
charm all their own. To a certain extent this is due to their becoming
costume, which consists in a loose tunic with short sleeves and square
body, leaving arms and neck bare; this tunic, _uipil_, is tastefully
embroidered at the neck, arms, and bottom with red, blue, or green
devices; the under-skirt, _fustan_, is trimmed with rich lace, while
their clustering black hair is set off by a silver arrow; they wear
rings on their fingers, and chains of gold depend from their lovely
necks, often constituting their whole dowry. Meztizos have a quarter at
the outskirts of the town allotted to them, where they inhabit oblong
thatched cottages decorated outside with a diamond pattern showing
where the lines join. It is probable that these huts are identical
with those of the Mayas of ancient days, while there is no doubt as to
the decorations being like the mouldings of the old palaces. A hamac,
one or two trunks to put their clothes in, a _butaca_ or low leather
arm-chair, compose the sole furniture of these poor dwellings. From
a little distance, the Meztizo quarter looks like a cool, pleasant
grove, for each hut stands on ground covering a quarter of an acre
planted with ramon. Meridan ladies are never seen out of doors except
at church, or during their evening drive. Church hours are unusually
early here, beginning at three a.m., when all the bells of the town are
set ringing, to awake, I suppose, a slumbering population.

Meridans are sociable and more conversant with the questions of the day
than might be expected: two scholars, Eligio and Canon Ancona, have
written both of the times preceding and those following the Conquest;
while the rising generation of men is studious, intelligent, and
manly; literary meetings, periodicals, reviews, concerts, theatres,
and dances, keep the population pleasantly occupied. The civility I
experienced with regard to my mission was very welcome and flattering
to my self-respect, the good canon presenting me with an obsidian
sceptre, a marvel of workmanship, now to be seen in the Trocadéro. This
people, unlike the Mexicans of the Uplands, are good men of business,
and what trade or industry the country possesses is entirely in their
own hands. They have the characteristics of a race in its manhood,
enduring, self-possessed, patient, and industrious. The only falling
off noticeable (due to the climate) is a diminution in their stature,
and a disproportionately large female element. Never were their
qualities better tested than during their social war, when they stood
single-handed and succeeded, after years of hard fighting and sore
distress, in recovering their municipal rights.[111]

Their soil may be poor, they may not have mineral wealth like their
neighbours, but their thrift and industrious habits bring their own
reward. It would be interesting to tell the long struggle of this
gallant people to regain their independence; suffice it to say that the
risings of the natives began in 1761, to break forth into a formidable
insurrection in 1846, which has continued with hardly any interruption
to the present day.

[Illustration: A STREET IN MERIDA.]

The Indian, whether his spirit is broken by long oppression, or from
some other cause, seems to shrink and melt away at the approach of
the white man, and to retire more and more from the beaten paths of

The environs of Merida are interspersed with numerous haciendas;
amongst these Ascorra is certainly one of the most picturesque. Three
_norias_, or deep wells, give ample water for the requirements of the
household, the irrigation of the garden, and the plantation.

The house, with its verandah festooned with creepers, its flower-beds,
shrubs, and palms, is a charming picture of beauty and comfort;
multitudes of ducks, mandarins, swans, and flamingoes people the
ponds, while rills of water cool the air and add to the enjoyment of
this lovely spot. Here I noticed for the first time a liana bearing
a curious large flower of 1-1/2 feet long by 9 inches wide, with a
filament of more than 1 foot 9 inches, making over 3 feet altogether.
The colour is bluish green outside, while the inside is like a spring
muslin, with red devices on a dazzling white ground, deepening down
the calyx into a rich red velvet bordered with prone hairs. The bud
resembles a web-footed animal swimming, hence its name _flor de pato_,
“duck’s flower.” It may not improperly be compared to an immense
aristochia. This liana was, I believe, imported from the Antilles; but
nothing is perfect in this world, not even this marvellous flower,
which astonished both Agassiz and myself, for no sooner is it fully
blown than it stinks so abominably that its immediate removal becomes
an imperative necessity.

To lay out this lovely garden, it was necessary to blast the rocks
forming the crust of this country; and as the work is still going on,
it enabled Mr. Agassiz to study its formation, which, like Florida,
belongs to the recent Tertiary epoch. We tarried but one day at
Ascorra, for we wished to visit the Tepich Hacienda, where the largest
henequen factory in these parts is to be seen, worked by machinery,
a great innovation for this country. The exports of this important
industry are reckoned at £600 a year. The want of hands, however,
precludes the possibility for the present of any scheme being mooted to
give it greater extension. The country is not sufficiently favoured to
tempt immigrants; unless it were Malay coolies, who would not suffer
from the climate, and who, moreover, when crossed with Meztizas or
Indian women, would produce a magnificent race.

We resume our seats for Acanceh, formerly a populous centre, as
testified by three great pyramids still extant in the plaza, which
supported ancient temples on their summits. In one of them which
furnished the material for the builders of the station, fine sculptured
blocks, like those employed at Uxmal for building purposes, were found;
together with several funeral objects, fine obsidians, a magnificent
sceptre, in my possession, and vases identical with those we unearthed
at Teotihuacan. These affinities and resemblances between Yucatec
vestiges and those of the Uplands, are of constant occurrence.

[Illustration: HACIENDA OF ASCORRA.]

[Illustration: VOLAN COCHÉ.]



    Departure—A Family Exploration—“Volan coché”—Tixpénal and
    Tixkokob—Cenoté—Ruins of Aké—Historical Rectification—Small
    Pyramid—Tlachtli—A Large Gallery—Explorations—A Strange
    Theory—Picoté—Architecture of Yucatan at Different Epochs.

On our return from Merida, an expedition to Aké was organised
consisting of the American Consul, Mr. Aymé, his wife, her pet dog
Shuty, and ourselves. Mr. Aymé is an energetic archæologist, well
acquainted with the ruins, so that his offer to accompany us was most
welcome. The ruins of Aké are on a hacienda which belongs to Don
Alvaro Peon, from whom a permit was easily obtained; he furnishing us
besides with a large hamper to supply our wants, which his Chinese cook
was to take to the hacienda.

Journeys in the interior of the peninsula may be performed either
by diligence or “volan coché,” a national vehicle, made entirely of
wood, save the iron tires of the wheels. An oblong box balanced on two
leather springs is placed on a heavy underframe, the bottom of the
carriage lined with a stout flax net, on which is spread a mattress,
to deaden to some extent the jolting of these abominable roads. The
coachman sits in front, while the back is occupied by the baggage; when
the _coché_ has but one occupant, he generally lies full-length on the
mattress; but if not he sits Turkish fashion, which in time becomes
very irksome to one not to the manner born; as to the natives, it seems
to be immaterial how many are packed away in a “volan.” Although well
hung, the swaying of these _cochés_ is truly amazing, especially when
the driver is drunk and sets his mules full gallop; but most wonderful
of all is that nothing ever happens, and in my numerous expeditions I
was only once upset.

Aké lies ten leagues east of Merida, which can be reached by the Izamal
road, through immense estates of agave, leaving on the right two mounds
covered with ruins and passing Tixpénal, a wretched-looking village, as
indeed is the whole country around; but the half-burnt, tumbled-down
hovels are the work of the revolted natives, who in 1846 occupied the
village and set fire to it.

Some three leagues further lies Tixkokob, where we halt to have a cup
of chocolate. The inhabitants are great hammock-makers, and through
the open doors, multicoloured nets may be descried in every stage of
progress. They are the only beds used by the natives, and cost from
half-a-crown to four shillings, but those made at Valladolid are more
expensive. Here we leave the main road for a cross path, when we may
be said to become fully acquainted with a _coché’s_ peculiarities. We
are rocked to and fro in the most alarming manner; we hold on to the
net like grim death, for fear of being pitched out on the stony road or
landed among prickly pears at every turn. It is with a sigh of relief
that we reach Ekmul, long after the curfew has been sounded, and the
place lies wrapped in the silence and deep shadows of night. We found
the hacienda strongly bolted, for the inmates had given us up; but the
loud barking of the dogs brought Don Peon’s mayor-domo, and we were soon
made at home and as comfortable as the somewhat dilapidated nature of
the dwelling would allow.

We were up at early dawn, when we found under the thatched verandah a
number of Don Peon’s servants, with hatchets and _machetes_, awaiting
our orders for clearing the main pyramid, and while so engaged, we
proposed to visit a _cenoté_ lying on the other side of a thick wood
containing various ruins. This hacienda is stocked with horned cattle,
and we were warned to provide against garrapatas, the most terrible
wood-lice in existence. We had taken, or fancied we had taken, all the
precautions which the ingenuity of man, alarmed at the approach of
danger, could devise. But against the voracity of a famished garrapata
what can avail? This insidious insect is invisible in its early youth;
thinner than the thinnest paper, it steals, it creeps in quite easily
between two stitches!

But what is a “cenoté”?

Although Yucatan is uncut by rivers or streams, an immense sheet of
water and ill-defined currents occupy its under surface; these waters
are near the surface along the coast, but low down in the interior
of the peninsula, where the calcareous layer is of great thickness.
Localities where these waters can be reached, whether through the
natural subsidence of the soil or artificial pits, receive the name of
_cenoté_. When the water flows at a slight depth, and the calcareous
layer has only been partly eaten away, there follows an irregular
sinking which forms a cave open from side to side; but when the
crust is thicker, and the stream has a regular course, the soil is
generally corroded in a circular space; and the vault thus formed
lacking support, falls in, when an immense open well is made, as for
instance at Chichen-Itza. Often the crust is so deep, that the soft
parts only crumble down or are carried away, leaving frequently a small
aperture towards the top, fashioning a real grotto with stalactites
and stalagmites, as at Salacun and Valladolid. It sometimes happens
that the calcareous crust is exceedingly thick, when a gigantic
subterraneous passage is formed, as at Bolonchen; in a word, all the
varieties which are produced by the silent work of an undisturbed
stream in a friable soil, may be witnessed. It is worthy of note that
most civilised centres in Yucatan rose around these natural reservoirs;
for the early settlers were probably unacquainted with the means of
sinking artificial wells or cisterns, as they did later at Uxmal.

The Aké cenoté is thirty feet below the surface, and belongs to the
early series of these natural phenomena. It forms a gigantic vault
slightly curved, to which the accidents of the rock give a picturesque
and grand aspect. The bottom is occupied by an extensive piece of clear
fresh water, peopled by a multitude of small fish some three inches
long, while thousands of swallows flit about, filling the whole place
with their joyous twitter.

We left the cenoté to come back through the woods, spying out if
peradventure we could perceive any ruins from under their deep,
green shroud, brushing unwittingly past the trailing branches of the
trees, suffocating literally in our well-closed garments; no unusual
sensation, no unseemly irritation had as yet alarmed us. Shuty was
the first to show that all was not well with her. We had already
noticed some signs of uneasiness as we emerged from the cenoté; she
would suddenly stop, to nibble her paws, or perform some extraordinary
gymnastic feat; gyrating, running, and barking joyously at the empty

We came presently to some very intricate parts of the wood, when the
somewhat fictitious gaiety of Shuty turned into groans of acute agony,
rolling madly on the grass, biting herself, and howling lamentably
until her mistress took her into her arms, to find her alive with
garrapatas, as indeed we all were; there was nothing for it but to
return to the hacienda as quickly as possible, and institute a minute
and conscientious investigation. A complete change of clothes became
necessary, ere we could sit down to the very excellent breakfast
prepared for us by Don Peon’s cook; as for Mrs. Aymé and Shuty, they
did not venture on the perils of another exploration in the fated woods.

Here I again noticed the same curious phenomenon I had observed at
Palenque with regard to concentric circles in the trees; on the great
pyramid which Don Peon had caused to be cleared only six months before,
and which was now thickly covered with young shoots our men were fast
demolishing, I counted no less than seven or eight circles on the twigs.

The ruins of Aké are hardly known; Stephens, their only visitor besides
myself, calls the gallery “colossal, the ruins of the palace ruder,
older, and more cyclopean in aspect than any he had previously seen.”
Quoting Cogolludo, apparently from memory, he adds that the Spaniards
halted at a place called Aké, where a great battle was fought; had he
read Cogolludo properly, he would have seen that the place meant could
not be Aké, which lay out of the line of march of the conquerors. We
have had occasion to observe before that Montejo landed on the eastern
coast of Yucatan at a place now opposite to Valladolid, where he
took possession of the country; various other points are also given,
but it is certain that he made his way to Coni in Chiapas, halted at
Coba, and continued his march to Ce-Aké, where he had to fight the
Indians for two days; hence he directed his course to Chichen-Itza,
which he wished to colonise, because “its great buildings made it
easy of defence.”[112] This was in 1527; but Ce-Aké was thirty-five
leagues east of the ruins of another Aké, once a populous centre,
as shown by fifteen or twenty pyramids of all dimensions, crowned
with ruinous palaces, scattered over a space of about half a square
mile. The largest are grouped so as to form a rectangle, encircling
a vast courtyard, the centre of which is occupied by a large stone
of punishment called _picoté_, of universal use before and after the
Conquest, and still found at Uxmal and various other places. An old
Indian of Tenosiqué assured me that such a stone was standing some
thirty years ago in the plaza. The culprit was stripped and tied to
the _picoté_ previous to receiving the bastinado. This custom still
prevails at Tumbala, an Indian village lying between Palenque and S.
Christobal. According to the Indian moral code, punishment makes a
man clean, and I have seen natives who, to have a clear conscience,
requested a punishment no one dreamt of inflicting.

[Illustration: PLAN OF THE RUINS OF AKÉ.

    No. 1, Small Pyramid. No. 2, Tlachtli, Tennis-court. No. 3,
    Large Gallery. No. 4, Ruined Palaces. No. 5, Akabna. No. 6,
    Xnuc. No. 7, Succuna. No. 8, Picoté. No. 9, Various Ruins.]

The plan we give is, unfortunately, very incorrect, but such as it
is it will enable the reader to follow out our description of the
ruins. To the north-west is a three-storeyed pyramid like those at
Palenque, built with large blocks laid together without mortar, about
40 feet high, crowned by a small structure whose roof has crumbled away
but whose walls are still standing. We recognise the same style of
structure we observed at Tula and Teotihuacan, a style we shall meet
again both in Yucatan and in the district of the Lacandones. It may
be stated that pyramids with esplanades, both here and at Palenque,
although built with large stones, are smaller than those of the
monuments in other places, and if the blocks were laid in mortar it has
crumbled away like the cement which formed the outer surface.

[Illustration: SMALL PYRAMID OF AKÉ.]

The dimensions of this structure are so diminutive that it cannot have
been anything but a temple, forming part of the next monument which it
commands. The latter from its rectangular arrangement recalls to mind
the so-called fortresses at Tula and Teotihuacan, which were in reality
_tlachtli_, “tennis-courts.”

The third monument has given rise to many conjectures; it is a large
pyramid with an immense staircase, presenting a new and extraordinary
feature, entirely different from all we have seen in Yucatan. Was this
a specimen of a different civilisation, or simply a particular building
which belonged to an earlier epoch?—were the questions which presented
themselves to my somewhat bewildered imagination. This strange
monument is surmounted by thirty-six pillars (only twenty-nine are
still standing) each 4 feet square, and from 14 to 16 feet high. These
pillars are arranged in three parallel rows 10 feet apart from north
to south, and 15 from east to west; whilst the esplanade supporting
them is 212 feet long by 46 feet wide, rounded off at the extremities
like the Hunpitoc pyramid at Izamal looking north-south. Each pillar
is composed of ten square stones 3 ft. 10 in. on one side, varying in
thickness from 1 ft. 3 in. to 1 ft. 6 in. A gigantic staircase with
steps some 4 ft. 7 in. to 6 ft. 7 in. long and about 1 ft. to 1 ft. 6
in. thick, leads to the summit.

It was urged that all these monuments had been constructed with
uncemented stones, as neither cement nor mortar were found at Aké.
This, however, is an error, for I observed that the builders used
stones cut on the side facing the outer surface of the pillars, leaving
the inner sides uncut; and as they did not perfectly fit one into
another, but left cavities sometimes 3 inches deep, they were filled
up with fragments of stone rubble which I found, and the whole was no
doubt smoothed and polished over with mortar or cement.[113]


But what was this singular structure intended for? If for a covered
gallery, the wood or thatch roof has long since disappeared and left
no trace. Could it have been a commemorative monument? We know not,
save that it is the only monument of the kind in Yucatan, and that
its dimensions are far from colossal. Not that theories are wanting;
some writers have gone so far as to imagine this monument to have been
erected to commemorate periods or reigns, and each block to represent
either a _ahau-katun_, “twenty-four years,” or a century, _katun_,
“fifty-two years.” Now, as there are thirty-six pillars having each
ten stones, this monument would be, by the first computation, 8,640
years old, and by the second, 18,720. It is clear that were this the
case the first stone would have disappeared long before the last one
had been placed, and that the earlier would have looked older than
the later ones, whereas the same air of decay is observable in all.
It is more simple and consistent to suppose this monument to have
been a thatched gallery which was used for games, meetings, or public
ceremonies. Its central position as regards other monuments would
seem to bear me out. Is a ruin to be interesting only in ratio of its
obscurity and antiquity?


After the pyramid, we visited the ruin known as _Akabna_, “House of
Darkness,” in which the rooms still standing are perfectly dark; for
the only light they receive is from a door communicating with other
apartments. Here we again find the _boveda_, the corbel roof, the
pointed arch observed in previous buildings. The Aké vault is built
with large rough blocks, which has caused these monuments to be called
cyclopean, an appellation hardly deserved, for cyclopean structures
were built with far larger blocks, irregular in shape, yet fitting so
well that it would be impossible to introduce the slightest object
between the joints, whilst the stones employed in the constructions
at Aké are uniform, consisting of thick uncut slabs, with large gaps
intervening. This I observed to Mr. Aymé: “You hold that Aké structures
were built without mortar or cement, and that no sculpture or
decoration of any kind have been found, but I lay down as a principle,
that it is altogether impossible, without wishing to deny the very
novel features of the phenomenon we are confronted with; and nothing
except the most irrefragable proofs will bring me from my position of
total denial, for I am convinced that the builders would not have left
structures so important unfinished. If these stones fitted originally,
the gaps which are noticeable would be the work of time, and this
were to give them an impossible and incredible antiquity, since the
slabs are rounded off or sharp at the edges as if quarried yesterday;
further, both in the interior or facing the walls, they are exactly in
the same condition, from which I conclude that all were originally laid
in cement, and coated over in the usual manner.”

Soon after this conversation we visited the ruin called _Knuc_, “Owl’s
Palace,” and on reaching the top of the great pyramid, the first
thing I noticed was a very pretty bas-relief of cement, consisting of
diamonds and flattened spheres, of the kind met at Palenque. This
relief formed the right side of a frame, topped by figures, traces of
which were still discernible; below the projecting cornice was a thick
coating of plaster, filling the joints, well smoothed and polished on
the surface, and also a coating of paint on the wall.

“Well,” I said to my companion, Mr. Aymé, “what do you say now?”

“That you were perfectly right.”

And, indeed, this discovery proved that the monuments could no longer
be considered the work of a different race, a different civilisation,
or a hoary antiquity. In effect, their cement decorations are similar
to those of the older edifices in Tabasco and many in Yucatan. I shall
therefore distinguish the Aké period under three heads: the _cement
epoch_, the _cement_ and _cut stone_, and the _cut stone only_, when
the builders used only the latter in their decorations, examples of
which are to be found in the later edifices at Uxmal and Kabah.

The Aké builders lived in a country where the calcareous layer was
taken up in sheets varying from 10 inches to 1 foot 7 inches thick.
They used them exactly as they came from the quarry, thus saving great
expenditure in labour. When the shell of a structure was run up, it
was thickly plastered over, painted, and ornamented with mouldings
in relief. This explains at once why the stones on the pillars of
the gallery and the blocks of the grand stairway are irregular.
The discovery of the bas-relief and cornice filled me with joyful
expectation, but although I was indefatigable in visiting the Succuna
and other nameless pyramids, I brought to light nothing more of the
kind; everything had crumbled away. Here are also found the typical
superimposed layers of cement, which we mentioned in various places
inhabited by the Toltecs.

To sum up, Aké seems to belong to the early times of the Toltec
invasion in Yucatan; an epoch which may not improperly be termed
Maya-Toltec, as the civilisation in Tabasco and Chiapas may be termed
Tzendal-Toltec, and that of Guatemala, Guatemalto-Toltec.


[Illustration: SQUARE OF TUNKAS.]



    Expedition to Izamal and
    Chichen-Itza—Brigands—Cacalchen—Market Place—Great
    Pyramid—Small Pyramid and Colossal Decorative
    Figures—Cemented Roads—The Convent of the Virgin at Izamal—A
    Precarious Telegraph—Tunkas—Garrison—Quintana-Roo—An Old
    Acquaintance—Citas—A Fortified Church—Troops—Opening a
    Path—Native Entertainment—Arrival at Pisté.

Our expedition to Izamal and Chichen was a somewhat serious
undertaking: we required a large number of hands for our work in
mid-forest; we should have to camp out for three weeks at least,
removed from all human habitation; finally a military escort, fifty
strong, was deemed necessary to secure us against a sudden attack from
the revolted natives, respecting whom alarming rumours of pillaging
were afloat. Our heavy baggage had been sent on, and armed with
twelve-shot Winchesters, and provided with letters from the Governor
for the officers in command of the district garrisons which were
to supply the escort, we started on January 4th, travelling over a
monotonous, dusty, abominable road. Our drivers, however, were such
good whips, that we went over the distance in no time.

There is hardly a soul to be met on the road, save at rare intervals
some carts loaded with henequen; some natives returning from the next
village, the women veiling their faces or turning their backs upon us
at our approach; now a company of reserve on their way to the front or
homeward-bound, for the borders are strictly guarded against a _coup de
main_ from the revolted natives.

We stop at Cacalchen; for our early start, the crisp morning air, and
the jolting of the road, have sharpened our appetites. We breakfast
under a shaded verandah opening into a central court planted with
cocoa-trees. We are waited upon by a very pretty Meztiza, whose fair
complexion, rosy mouth, large black eyes, and exquisite figure, are
shown to the utmost advantage in her transparent _uipil_, doing her
work with simple, quiet grace, while her presence and her bewitching
smile seem to light up the whole place. What dish would not have tasted
sweet, offered by her shapely hands?

Izamal, where we arrive at three o’clock, is an important place
numbering some five or six thousand souls. It looks beautifully white,
for it has just undergone its annual cleaning, when every building is
whitewashed in honour of the patron saint.

It has been urged by some writers that the civilisation of Yucatan and
Tabasco belonged to a remote past; but these writers often speak from
mere hearsay, accepting everything without the slightest criticism;
their accounts, however valuable, are filled with uncertainties, are
often obscure and contradictory, so that they may be made to square
with the idiosyncrasy of all or any particular man. Consequently the
difficulties in arriving at the truth are almost insuperable, unless
it is one who has visited the regions he writes upon, studied the
monuments, collated ethnographical documents, compared the various
manners and customs, fitting himself to catch a word or a sentence
which from time to time shoots across the darkness of their undigested
narratives, and correcting with their help errors with which they
abound. But the general neglect by ancient writers of monuments which
everywhere met their gaze makes me unjust, while our gratitude is due
to such industrious writers as Bernal Diaz, Sahagun, Torquemada, and
many more.

Izamal, like many other places in the peninsula, was built on the
site of an Indian city; here, as elsewhere, the chief care of the
Spaniards was to destroy alike palaces, temples, and written documents,
bidding the natives forget their ancient traditions. Landa, who wrote
forty-five years after the Conquest (1566), speaks of the edifices at
Izamal as twelve in number, adding that the founders were unknown;
whilst Lizana, sixty years later (1626), with fewer opportunities for
collecting legends, gives their history in full, together with the
Indian names and their signification; but unfortunately in his time the
monuments had dwindled down to five.

Landa, as we have remarked, says these monuments are of unknown origin,
yet in another place he affirms they are the work of the existing race,
since he writes: “_Among the remains of monuments which were destroyed
are found fragments of human figures and other decorations, such as
the natives make even now with very hard cement._” He further mentions
having found in a tomb “_stone ornaments artistically wrought, similar
to the currency in present use among the natives_.”

At Merida he demolished an Indian temple, which crowned the upper
part of the great mound, giving a ground plan and describing it as
“built with square blocks, beautifully carved, and of such height as
to produce a feeling of awe in the beholder” (its real height is 80
feet); thus proving the monument to have been entire when he wrote.
Nevertheless it is from an assertion such as this that judgment has
been passed on the monuments, and from documents like the Perez
manuscript that a chronology has been deduced. The monuments are
imposing, no doubt, to judge from the few that remain; but we should
err if, following Landa and others, we pronounced them “colossal,
gigantic, magnificent, to which nothing in the world can be compared.”

The whole extent of the Yucatec monuments would not represent in
cubic metres the works achieved in Paris during the last twenty-five
years; consequently they should be viewed as the unpretending outcome
of a semi-civilised people, and this estimate need not lessen their
interest, while the mysterious silence which surrounds them forms a
void in the history of the human race.

The great mound to the north is called _Kinich-Kakmó_, “The Sun’s face
with fiery rays,” from an idol which stood in the temple crowning
its summit. The monument consists of two parts: the basement, nearly
650 feet, surmounted by an immense platform, and the small pyramid
to the north. “Great veneration was felt for the idol or deity of
Kinich-Kakmó, and in times of public calamity, the entire population
flocked to this shrine with peace-offerings, when at mid-day a fire
descended and consumed the sacrifice, in the presence of the assembled
multitude. Then the officiating priest notified the will of the
deity whether for good or for evil, and prophesied more or less the
secret longings of their hearts: but as they could not always guess
aright, it not unfrequently happened that their expectations were not


Facing this to the south was another great mound, known as
_Ppapp-Hol-Chac_, “the House of Heads and Lightning,” the priest’s
house, presumably similar to those still standing in various towns
of Yucatan. The upper portion of this pyramid was levelled down, and
on its lower platform was erected the Franciscan church and convent.

The third pyramid to the east supported a temple dedicated to
_Izamat-Ul_, _Izamna_, or _Zamna_, the great founder of the ancient
Maya empire. “To him were brought,” says Lizana, “the sick, the halt,
and the dead, and he healed and restored them all to life by the touch
of his hand;” hence the appellation _Kab-Ul_, the Miraculous Hand,
applied to him.[115] He is often represented by a hand only, which
recalled him to the memory of his worshippers. His other names are the
Strong, the Mighty Hand, the Long-handed Chief, who wrote the code of
the Toltecs, and as such has been identified with Quetzalcoatl, with
whom he shared the government; he conducting the civil power, whilst
Quetzalcoatl, the virgin-born deity, looked after the spiritual.[116]

“The temple in which these miracles were performed, was much
frequented; for this reason four good roads had been constructed,
leading to Guatemala, Chiapas, and Tabasco. Traces of them can even now
be seen in various places.”[117] We also have found marks of a cemented
road, from Izamal to the sea facing the island of Cozumel.


Lastly the fourth pyramid to the west, which is shown in our cut of
the market-place, had on its summit the palace of _Hunpictok_, “the
commander-in-chief of eight thousand flints.” On its side near the
basement, consisting of stones laid without mortar, and rounded off
at the corners like those of the Aké pyramid, stood the gigantic face
reproduced by Stephens, but which has since disappeared. This head is
so interesting that I cannot deprive the reader of the description
given by the American traveller: “It is 7 feet 8 inches high. The
features were first rudely formed by small rough stones, fixed in the
side of the mound by means of mortar, and afterwards perfected with
stucco so hard that it has successfully resisted the action of air and
water for centuries.”[118] The stone forming the chin alone measures 1
foot 6 inches; the figure has enormous moustachios, and a resemblance
may be traced to the gigantic faces in stone at Copan, where the
plaster has crumbled away and left the stone bare. The resemblance to
the Aké pyramids is remarkable and leads us to conclude that the latter
were decorated in the same manner. Here also on the east side is found
the figure shown in our cut, from which may be traced the builder’s
mode of working.

This colossal head is 13 feet high; the eyes, nose, and under-lip were
first formed by rough stones coated over with mortar; the ornaments to
the right and left were obtained by the same means; the latter are the
best preserved, while double spirals, symbols of wind or speech, may
be seen, similar to those in Mexico, at Palenque and Chichen-Itza. On
the western side of this pyramid, which has been cleared towards the
basement, we discovered one of the finest bas-reliefs it has been our
fortune to see in Yucatan. Its principal subject is a crouching tiger
with a human head and retreating forehead, less exaggerated than those
at Palenque, beautifully moulded, and reminding us of the orders of
knighthood in which the tiger had the pre-eminence; nor could a better
device be imagined for the house of the commander-in-chief at Izamal.
To conclude, these documents, which would be a dead letter to one who
had not followed the various migrations from north to south, enable
us to reconstruct here also a Toltec centre. It may be noted that if
numerous monuments are still found in Yucatan, their existence is due
to the small number of Spaniards settled in these regions at the time
of the Conquest, and more especially to their being at a distance from
the centres occupied by the conquerors.


Through the whole length and breadth of Anahuac both monuments and
cities have entirely disappeared; for the Spaniards were not satisfied
with destroying all that reminded them of a former polity, they were
also careful to infuse into their young disciples a profound horror
for their former religion, while they trained children to report any
word or deed they observed in their parents or priests which savoured
of their ancient customs. Thanks to these measures, everything that
could recall the past to the rising generation was soon blotted out
from the Indian mind. But however dilapidated the monuments we observe
at Izamal, they prove that there was here a great population at the
time of the Conquest; and this being admitted, it follows that their
destruction is comparatively recent, due mainly to civil wars, dating a
few years before the arrival of the Spaniards.

As for the Perez manuscript, which was written by a native from memory
long after the Conquest, purporting to be the faithful rendering of
legends handed down from mouth to mouth, in a particular family, it
adds nothing to our knowledge, throws no light on the question which
perplexes us. The narrative begins from 144 A.D., and goes on to
1560 A.D.; but is it possible to admit seriously the authority of an
account so obtained, extending over so many centuries? At the time of
its publication all the natives had preserved was a dubious legend;
and traditions fared hardly better with the caciques and nobles fallen
from their high estate, than they did with the common people, for “the
former were often reduced,” says Cogolludo, “to the extreme of poverty;
and forty years after the Conquest (1582) the royal descendants of
Tutulxiu, and the princely house of Mayapan, were obliged to work for
their living like the humblest amongst their ancient subjects.”[119]


This picture, sad as it is, became even worse a few years later, when
the conquerors had reduced the whole population to a state of hard
bondage. The only difference of any importance between the Perez
manuscript and the narratives of Clavigero, Veytia, and Ixtlilxochitl,
is in the chronology, which is far too absurd for any serious
consideration, for while the latter gives the seventh century as
the date of the arrival of the Toltecs at Tula, and their subsequent
migration in Central America at the end of the eleventh and the
beginning of the twelfth century; with the former they leave Tula in
144 A.D., and arrive in Yucatan in 217 A.D., nearly five hundred years
before the generally accepted date of their arrival at Tula. Moreover
he calls Yucatan an island, although the new-comers had penetrated the
country through Tabasco and the south without crossing the sea, clearly
indicating that it was a peninsula.

The church of Izamal is very fine, but its chief attraction in the eyes
of the natives is a statue of the Virgin. Its story runs thus:

A celebrated artist of Guatemala received an order from the towns of
Izamal and Merida respectively, for two statues of the Virgin; in
their transit, which took place in the rainy season, neither the case
containing the images, nor the men conveying them, got a drop of rain.
Valladolid, jealous that so small a place as Izamal should possess this
fine statue, came in great force and carried it off, but the image
proved stronger than all those men put together, for it became so heavy
that it had to be abandoned at the outskirts of the little town. The
miracle was followed by a great many more, so that the Izamal Virgin
was soon the most celebrated in the peninsula, attracting as many
pilgrims as did formerly _Kab-Ul_, of the Miraculous Hand.

We set off at five in the morning for Valladolid, to avoid the
overpowering heat of the day; indeed, all traffic between May and
September in these tropical regions is done by night, for the greater
comfort of both man and beast. We watch the sun rise in the east, but
far from enlivening the scene, it seems only to bring out in stronger
relief the desolateness of the landscape. A few carts with natives on
their way home shivering with the night cold, a wretched tumbledown
hamlet called Stilipech, is all we notice on our route; and indeed we
have much to do with keeping our seats in these _volan cochés_, which
rattle along at so furious a pace on these atrocious roads, as to make
us wonder what power keeps them from being smashed to pieces.

I had had suspicion during my stay at Merida as to Yucatan having any
postal or telegraphic administration, for a number of my telegrams were
left unanswered, and my inquiries were met with the evasive reply that
the line was not in good order. That such was the case I could now
plainly see for myself. A wire which skirted the wood had indeed been
laid, but having no poles or insulators it trusted to fate to get fixed
now and again to a branch or a tree, which, bending with the breeze,
allowed it to trail among the rocks or get entangled in the brambles.
Wonderful to relate, a message sometimes reached its destination; a
great step forward as compared to Tabasco, where no sooner is the wire
laid than it is purloined by the inhabitants, who, it seems, find
it useful. But our _volan_ suddenly stops, and the driver draws our
attention to an important cenoté known as Xcolac, shaded by beautiful
trees and full of fish. On its banks a number of Indians are filling
their gourds to the brim, and with simple grace offer us a drink of
its cool, fresh pure water. It argues strange apathy in the natives
that in a country where water is so scarce, a hamlet or hacienda should
not have been erected around it. We re-enter our _cochés_ and reach
Tumbras, formerly a flourishing place, about eleven o’clock; it was
burnt down during the civil wars and has not been rebuilt. We alight
before a decent-looking house, having a tienda stocked with salt,
tobacco, wine, liqueurs, preserves, sardines, and American hams. For
whom are all these good things? I was going to ask, when I recollected
that a garrison is stationed here.

Our host, a fat, red-faced man, receives us with a profusion of
smiles, putting “everything in his house at our feet.” Warned by sad
experience, feeling, moreover, as hungry as schoolboys after a game
of cricket, we stammered out for the usual “portion” in the shortest
possible delay, but what was our agreeable surprise to find a _menu_
consisting of strong clear soup, a sardine omelette, beefsteak, French
beans, wine, English beer, and excellent coffee!

[Illustration: CENOTÉ OF XCOLAC.]

Meanwhile the commander, who had received instructions with regard to
our mission, came in just as we were sitting down; he was immediately
invited to join our party, which he did with alacrity, for the life of
an officer quartered in this out-of-the-way place, without a soul to
speak to from year’s end to year’s end, whose sole business consists
in the morning and evening parades, or giving the order of the day,
must be indescribably monotonous and trying in the extreme.

The presence of our _volan_ has set the village in motion; soon a
number of people are seen crossing the deserted plaza in our direction:
some are old and decrepit, and all look as though they could hardly
stand on their rickety legs, for the able-bodied men are in the fields
preparing the _milpa_, cleaning the ground for the sowing of Indian
corn. They invade the tienda, peering into our room; the boldest
advances with rolling gait, to have a nearer view of our group,
delivering himself of a little speech in the Maya tongue, presumably
indiscreet, to judge by the amused smiles of the company. The
commandant desires him to leave the room, but he refuses, and has to be
ejected by the united efforts of two orderlies.

Refreshed with our excellent luncheon, our pleasant chat, and last, not
least, a respite from the too lively _coché_, we set out, and do not
stop again until we reach Quintana-Roo, sometimes used as a basis by
the revolted natives in their expeditions, whence they sallied forth
for their _razzias_, carrying off the women, and massacring the men,
except in the rare instances when a large ransom might be looked for;
this, however, did not always save the poor wretch, who, his money
being paid, was ruthlessly butchered by these savages.

Quintana is about as small a place as can be conceived, consisting of
one small fort garrisoned by twelve men, and one house; in the landlord
of the latter I recognise my old guide, who in 1859 accompanied me
to Chichen. My old acquaintance is now a prosperous man, with a nice
house, a tienda and poultry-yard well stocked, while a comely wife,
lovely children, and pretty Meztizas, attend to the business of
the household and enliven it. My friend insists on our having some
chocolate, and wishes to be again our guide to Chichen. I am delighted,
and with expressions of mutual regard we take leave of this charming
family, _en route_ for Citas, where we arrive so late in the evening
that everybody had given us up, so that nothing had been prepared, and
the people did not seem inclined to bestir themselves for us. No house
or room was to be had. It was fortunately holiday time; the school-room
was placed at our disposal, in which we at once deposited our camp-beds
and other paraphernalia. The next thing was how to get something to
eat, and we should have gone supperless to bed, if the magistrate
and the mayor had not kindly interfered in our behalf, and partly by
coaxing, partly by the weight of their authority, induced the people to
bring out the contents of their larder.

Here we leave the _volan_ for saddle-horses, mules, and _tamenes_,
for our next stage is through thick woods right across country. Our
preparations take a good deal of time; horses are scarce and have to
come some distance, while _tamenes_ must be brought down from their
extravagant prices before we can think of engaging them. The same
difficulties have beset us everywhere; the natives deeming fair game
any one so insane or ridiculous as to come from distant lands to view
some crumbling stones; of course he has more money than he knows what
to do with, and it is only common justice to ease him of some of his
surplus. We despatch our men a day in advance to open the way through
the woods, while we tarry to witness a _jardana_, native dance, to
which an invitation in due form, that we “would honour the same with
our presence,” has been received.

“What, you dance here?” I exclaimed on first hearing of it; “but you
told me that your life and property were continually threatened; that
you never knew when you lay down at night whether you would not be
massacred by your revolted countrymen, ere another day dawned.”

“That’s quite true,” answered my servant, “but we dance for all that,
and as often as we have the opportunity. Why should we neglect to cull
the few flowerets growing on the short, dreary path of our life?”

I confess that I was not prepared for so much philosophy in such a
place, and from such a man, savouring of a _ci-devant_ at the time of
the Convention rather than of a half-savage.

The streets of Citas might not improperly be called ridges of rock
divided by minute precipices, down which, however, a stranger may break
his neck. To avoid so great a calamity, we set out holding on to two
native guides by means of ropes tied round our waist, for the night is
pitch dark, and the distance to the _jardana_ some 500 yards.

The house in which the entertainment is given wears a poor appearance.
Three huge fires are burning, round which stand women busy with
roasting and otherwise preparing the feast with chickens, turkeys,
pork, etc.; whilst outside, other women are kneeling before _metates_,
or, _comals_ in hand, prepare tortillas to be served hot during the
whole “fiesta.” A little in front is a thatched barn, lighted by
smoking lamps, which forms the ball-room, with benches and chairs
against the walls for the ladies, while in the centre the men dancers
in white hose, flowing shirt, and loose coloured neckties, are
meditating on whom their choice may fall with any chance of success.
The whole village, Indians and Meztizos, are here to-night, but hardly
any _Ladinos_ or whites.

Every traveller who has witnessed these native dances, has described
them as entrancing; for my part I confess that I find them devoid of
attraction: the performers, without grace or animation, move gravely
on one spot, without looking at or touching their partners, going
round them as they would a pole, to the sound of very primitive and
monotonous music.

“It is an Indian who gives the entertainment,” said my friend the
judge. “It will last several days, or rather several nights, and cost
at least sixty pounds, which to a native is a fortune—ruination in
fact—but he will not care, and after him another will be found to take
up the ball, and so on to the end of time.”

“But what happens afterwards?”

“Oh, nothing happens; they’ll go to their _milpas_ as before; if the
harvest is good they will lay by a little in view of another party
when their turn comes round; if it is a bad year, they’ll pinch; if a
famine, they’ll starve. Care never sits behind an Indian, and as for
the lessons of experience, they seem incapable of learning them.”

In these entertainments may be traced the customs of the ancient
Indians which are unconsciously kept up by their descendants. We
read in Landa: “They often spent in one banquet what they had been a
long time earning with difficulty. Banquets were of two kinds: those
given by the caciques and great nobles to their friends for the mere
pleasure of showing their hospitality, when they expected to be asked
in return. The table on all such occasions was well provided with
meats, game, vegetables, and fruit of every kind, and at the conclusion
of the entertainment, the guests were presented with rich dresses and
ornaments, when they withdrew after midnight.” “If one died before the
debt of his obligation had been paid, the duty fell to his family. Next
came the occasions when a marriage occurred in a family, or when the
illustrious deeds of an ancestor were celebrated by the whole clan. On
such occasions the necessity of returning the banquet was not enforced;
but if a person belonging to another family had been asked, he was
expected to invite them all again when he married.”[120]


There is positively nothing worthy of remark with regard to our road,
save here and there a palm or cedar-tree towering like a giant over
the thick underwood overrun with flowering lianas, peopled with great
sky-blue butterflies, whose wings are tipped with black; for the whole
country to the east and south of Citas is a vast scene of desolation.
Pisté, where we arrive, stands on the extreme border of the state; it
has been so often sacked and burnt by the revolted natives, that the
only building left is the church, occupied by a company of twenty-five
men. It looks a forsaken, God-forgotten place, a veritable exile for
the small garrison quartered here in turn for three months in the year;
not that there is any immediate danger, for the natives, who first
rose to conquer their liberties, fell to massacring from a spirit of
revenge, and now only take the field for the sake of plunder. We have
nothing to tempt their cupidity, consequently our escort of fifty men
is a measure of prudence rather than of necessity.




    Chichen-Itza—El Castillo—General Survey—A Maya
    City—Aguilar—Historical Jottings—Montejo’s
    Expedition—Historians—Their Contradictions—Chichen
    Deserted—The Conqueror’s Retreat—The Nunnery—Impressions and
    Photographs—Terrestrial Haloes—An Unexpected Visitor—Electric
    Telegraph—Akab-Sib—Prison—Caracol—Cenotés—Ruined Temples—The
    Temple of the Sacred Cenoté—Tennis-Court—Monuments
    Described—Portico—Paintings—Bas-reliefs—New Analogy—The
    Tlalocs of Chichen and of the Uplands—Market-place—End of Our
    Labours—Col. Triconis.

The ruins of Chichen are two miles east of Pisté, and were used as
pasture for the cattle of the inhabitants, who at stated periods had
the woods cut down, when the monuments were easily distinguished.
It was a favourite place, to the prejudice of the palaces and the
sculptures, which were made the butt by the visitors to shoot at; but
since the destruction of Pisté, nature again reigns supreme; every
sign of the buildings has disappeared, and the jungle has become so
impassable, that twenty men were required to open the old path.

This was not my first visit to Chichen, nevertheless my emotion was
profound on beholding again the gigantic outline of El Castillo, which
we had decided beforehand should be our headquarters, as from its
elevated position it offered many strategical advantages, which would
secure us against surprise. It was with considerable difficulty that we
climbed the steps, which are steep and completely invaded by a vigorous
vegetation; as for our great quantity of baggage, none but nimble,
sure-footed natives could have succeeded in hauling it up on to the
platform of the monument.

Our next thought was how to dispose of ourselves. The interior of El
Castillo consists of a rectangular corridor, running along two-thirds
of the edifice, pierced east, south, and west by three large apertures,
and a gallery giving access to a great hall closed in on every side.
We very stupidly gave up the latter to our men, with the idea that we
should be cooler and have more air in the open gallery, not taking into
consideration that at this altitude, whichever way the wind blew, it
would sweep in upon us in fearful blasts, causing perpetual sneezing,
coughing, and freezing the very life out of us.

The day was spent unpacking and classifying, and at suppertime we
discovered that our cook, who was to have come from Valladolid, had
failed us; food we had in tins, but no water, having left our cantaros
at Citas, so that we were obliged to go without soup, coffee, or our
evening tub.

It may seem unworthy to have been put out by such trivial details with
the grand spectacle we had before us: a glorious moon had risen,
sailing on her course with her brilliant retinue of scintillating
stars, illuminating the vast wooded expanse, like a boundless, heaving
ocean on a calm day; fragments of walls, mounds, eminences, shrouded in
a sombre vegetation, were distinctly visible, which I pointed out one
by one to my companions who, unlike myself, beheld them for the first
time. El Castillo occupies nearly the centre of the ruins; below it to
the east was the Market-place, and two small palaces which belonged
to it; to the north, a stately but ruinous building, the cenoté and
the temple attached; to the north-west, the famous Tennis-court;
to the west and south-west, the Chichan-Chob, the Caracol and the
other cenoté, the Nuns’ Palace, the Akab-Sib; and farther south, the
hacienda, which has long been abandoned.

We were conversing in subdued tones of the mysterious past of this
dead city, which mayhap our studies and explorations would bring to
life again; all was hushed, and the death-like silence was only broken
at regular intervals by the cry of our sentinels; and these very
cries carried us back to the far-gone days, when the city was perhaps
similarly guarded against a sudden inroad from her jealous neighbours.

The morning effects of light and shade were no less beautiful; the
broad level wrapped in a transparent mist, pierced here and there by
the pyramids and the wooded eminences, looked like a whitening sea
interspersed with green islets; while the horizon was gilded with the
brightness of the rising sun, who seemed to create, to raise suddenly
into life all the objects touched with his golden wand; presently, like
a mighty giant he tore asunder and burnt up the white vapour, and lit
up the whole sky.

Meanwhile, our unpacking and our plans for the immediate future are
almost completed; the cantaros have come, and as water is one of our
great requirements, as the cenoté is at some distance, and there are
ninety steps to our abode, ten men are told off for it; other ten are
set to cleaning the place, while an equal number will open up the paths
and clear the monuments we wish to explore.

Here it may be remarked that Yucatan had centres rather than cities;
for the groups of dwellings and palaces we find resemble in no way
our cities of the present day, although they are continually compared
to Spanish places, notably Sevilla, by the conquerors. They consist
everywhere of temples and palaces, either of the reigning prince or
caciques, of public edifices scattered about, apparently at random,
covering a vast area, with cemented roads and gardens intervening,
while the avenues were occupied by the dwellings of dependents and
slaves. This is borne out by Landa, who says: “Before the arrival of
the Spaniards the aborigines lived in common, were ruled by severe
laws, and the lands were cultivated and planted with useful trees. The
centre of their towns was occupied by the temples and squares, round
which were grouped the palaces of the lords and the priests, and so
on in successive order to the outskirts, which were allotted to the
lower classes. The wells, necessarily few, were found close to the
dwellings of the nobles, who lived in close community for fear of their
enemies, and not _until the time of the Spaniards_ did they take to the

These last words plainly indicate the sudden desertion of Indian cities
at the coming of the Spaniards.

The word used by Landa is _pueblo_, “hamlet,” meaning, perhaps, town;
at all events, it shows that even after the breaking up of the Maya
empire (from great provinces) into small independent principalities,
the people had preserved their ancient customs. Chichen-Itza, “the
mouth of the wells,” from the two cenotés around which the town was
built, is more recent than Izamal or Aké, but older than Uxmal,
although it belongs, like the latter, to the “cut stone period.”

Our information respecting it is of the vaguest, and Aguilar and
Montejo are equally silent on the subject, while E. Ancona is of
opinion that the greater portion of the writings and documents treating
of the conquest of Yucatan have been lost, or at any rate have escaped
our investigations. Nevertheless, we find in a letter of Montejo to the
King of Spain, April 13th, 1529, published by Brinton, of Philadelphia,
from the unpublished documents and archives of the Indies, this
remarkable passage: “This region is covered with great and beautiful
cities and a dense population” (“ciudades muy frescas,” recent, new).
Could he have expressed more clearly that the cities he had visited
were lately built? Can these places have disappeared and left no
trace? Who were the builders of the noble ruins that have filled with
admiration every one who has visited them?

Unfortunately, whether we consult the traditions collected too late, or
the Perez manuscript with its doubtful dates, we find no certain data
to go upon; in the latter we read that the Toltecs travelled in 360
from Bacalar (Ziyancan) to Chichen; left it in 452 to return in 888,
when they remained until 936; that a governor of Chichen was defeated
in 1258 by a prince of Mayapan, etc.; in fact, a mere roll of obscure
names without any meaning. If we would find an ascertained historical
fact, we must turn to Cogolludo and Landa, who wrote from 1420 to 1460,
where the Chichemec exodus is recorded, corresponding to the capture
and destruction of Mayapan.

The cause of this emigration (or elopement, since there was a lady in
the case) is thus told by Cogolludo: “A king of Chichen, called Canek
(a generic name of the sovereigns of the Iztaes), fell desperately
in love with a young princess, who, whether she did not return his
affection, or whether she was obliged to obey a parent’s mandate,
married a more powerful Yucatec cacique. The discarded lover, unable
to bear his loss, moved by love and despair, armed his dependents and
suddenly fell upon his successful rival; when the gaiety of the feast
was exchanged for the din of war, and amidst the confusion the Chichen
prince disappeared, carrying off the beautiful bride. But conscious
that his power was less than his rival’s, and fearing his vengeance, he
fled the country with most of his vassals.”[122]

Thus runs the legend; the historical fact is that the inhabitants of
Chichen did emigrate, and did establish in the Peten lagoons, one
hundred leagues to the south, a little principality with Tayasal for
its capital, seen by Cortez in his journey to Honduras, and brought
under the Spanish sway as late as 1696. That a whole population should
abandon their native city, is an example of the facility with which
these peoples moved from one place to another at a moment’s notice;
nevertheless, we cannot accept the reasons given by Cogolludo for
this migration, so little in accordance with the deep-seated love of
the Mayas for their country. It is more likely that one or a series
of calamities incident to a primitive race, such as war, pestilence,
famine, more or less periodical among the aborigines, was the true
cause of their migration.

One thing is clear, that Chichen was inhabited scarcely sixty years
before the Conquest, when her monuments were entire; and it is equally
clear that a city possessed of two considerable cenotés, so important
in a country without water, was not left uninhabited, and that the
vacuum left by the exodus was soon filled up, the city preserving
its normal existence down to the time of the Spaniards. I am well
aware that this kind of evidence will not suit people fond of the
marvellous, yet the paucity of documents allows us only a tentative
theory, but it will be our care to collect probabilities in such
vast numbers, knitting them into a cumulative whole by a patient
comparison of monuments, sculptures, bas-reliefs, customs, arms, and
public ceremonies, so as to make the evidence absolute. Had Aguilar,
who was wrecked and made prisoner on this coast, and lived for nearly
eight years as factotum of a powerful cacique, been more observant,
we might have a graphic and thorough description of the public and
private life among the Mayas; but like the rest of his countrymen, his
ideas were turned into quite a different channel, so much so that he
has not even recorded the name of the place where later Cortez found
him. Ancona tells us that the conquest of Yucatan was hastened by
Aguilar, who, when in Mexico with Cortez, persuaded Montejo that “the
region was fertile and covered with magnificent monuments”—words of
paramount importance, since Aguilar could not have mentioned them in
such terms, had they been in ruins or hid away in the woods. It may
also be inferred from the incessant mutual warfare of the caciques,
that the country had lost its unity and was split up into several
provinces, which Herrera says were “eighteen in number covered with
stately edifices.”[123] According to the same authority Montejo had
a return of the whole population taken, that he might apportion them
among his followers, when every one received no less than two or three
thousand.[124] This, however, is obviously a gross exaggeration, for
supposing the 400 soldiers of Montejo to have dwindled down to 300,
the mean population of the district would have amounted to 750,000,
which is quite impossible.[125] At all events, the Spaniards occupied
Chichen-Itza for two years, but nothing is known of their doings,
for Montejo was no writer, nor did he, like Cortez, have chroniclers
to record his deeds. At first the submission of the natives was
complete; but after a time they rallied from the stupor into which the
unparalleled success of the Spaniards had plunged them, and tiring
of ministering to the insatiable wants of the Spanish marauders, who
consumed in one day what would have kept in comfort a native family
for a month, they disappeared, and the Spaniards were soon reduced to
foraging in distant villages. This gave rise to daily skirmishes and a
more active hatred on the part of the Indians against the foreigners,
until at last exasperated, relying moreover on their numerical
strength, they came in great numbers and laid siege to Chichen, during
which the Spaniards lost 150 of their number, while the rest were all
covered with wounds. In this strait, Montejo, despairing of holding
the place much longer, determined to evacuate it; this it was not
easy to do, for the whole country round was occupied by the Indians;
but a pitch-dark night seemed to favour their flight: Montejo took
the precaution of having the horses’ hoofs muffled, not to arouse the
natives’ suspicions respecting their movements, while he left a dog
tied to a pole beneath a piece of meat with a bell attached, which the
animal rang every time he tried to reach the prey, thus keeping the
Indians in the full belief that the enemy was entrenched behind the
walls. Only on the morrow did the natives find out their mistake; they
gave instant but unavailing pursuit, for the Spaniards had several
hours’ start of them and were able to reach the territory of a friendly
cacique, not far from their own ships.

To return to our excavations, “El Palacio de las Monjas,” or Nuns’
Palace, is one of the most important monuments at Chichen-Itza, and
possesses a greater number of apartments than any other. Whether the
name is due to this circumstance, or from its traditionary appellation,
is uncertain; but we know from Mexican writers that it was the custom
among the Aztecs to dedicate girls of noble birth to the service of the
gods, on their attaining the age of twelve or thirteen. Some remained
there until they were about to be married; some few took perpetual
vows; others, on account of some vow they had made during sickness,
or that the gods might send them a good husband, entered the Nunnery
for one, two, three, or four years. They were called deaconesses or
sisters; they lived under the superintendence of staid matrons of
good character, and upon entering the convent, each girl had her hair
cut short. They all slept in one dormitory, and were not allowed to
undress before retiring to rest, that they might always be ready when
the signal was given to rise. They occupied their time with weaving and
embroidering the tapestry and ornamental work of the temple. They rose
in the night to renew the incense in the braziers, a matron leading
the procession; the maidens with eyes modestly cast down filed up to
the altar, and returned in the same manner; they fasted often, and
were required to sweep the temples and keep a constant supply of fresh
flowers on the altars. They did penance for the slightest infringement
of their religious rules by pricking their tongues and ears with the
spines of the maguey plant. Death was the punishment of the Mexican
maiden who violated her vow of chastity.[126]

It has been supposed, from the latter custom, that an order of Vestals,
similar to those in Rome, existed in America, but the analogy is
more apparent than real. According to Clavigero, priesthood was not
binding for life among the Mayas. Of the different male and female
religious orders, those dedicated to Quetzalcoatl deserve particular
mention; their members had to submit to the strictest observances, but
in compensation the people paid them almost divine honours, whilst
their power and influence were boundless. Their chief or superior bore
the name of Quetzalcoatl, and never walked abroad except to visit
some royal personage.[127] Thus the Nunnery may very well have been
both a convent and a priestly abode. It is not a considerable pile,
the façade measuring only some 29 feet by 19 feet 6 inches high,
while its grotesque, heavy ornamentation reminds us in its details
of a Chinese carving. The base up to the first cornice is occupied
by eight large superimposed idols, and four of these figures are
enclosed within two very salient cornices. The door is crowned with a
medallion representing a cacique or priest with the usual head-dress
of feathers, the inscription of the palace and stone spires, some of
which have entirely disappeared, while the outline of the rest is much
defaced. The whole length of the frieze of the north façade has a row
of similar gigantic heads, bearing the general characteristics of the
ornamentation observable throughout this structure. The Nunnery is
typical of the Toltec calli, of which we gave a drawing in our chapter
on Tula. The left wing is but 26 feet wide, by 13 feet deep, and
about 32 feet high; it consists of three cornices, with two friezes
intervening in which the same designs are repeated; the first two
high-reliefs represent stooping figures, one having his body locked
in a tortoise shell, while the centre and the sides of the frieze
are decorated with grotesque figures like those of the main façade,
which, with small variations, are the same throughout the peninsula.
As we have seen in a former chapter, these monstrous masks have been
called elephants by Waldeck and others, who wished to claim a fabulous
antiquity for these monuments, but the types they most resemble are the
Japanese or Chinese. Here, as at Palenque, the upper portion of the
wall is ornamented so as to enhance the effect of height.

The main body of the Nunnery rests on a perpendicular pyramid, the
platform of which is occupied by a solidly constructed building,
intersected with small apartments having two niches facing each other,
traversed by a corridor running from east to west of the pyramid.
Over this is a smaller structure or third story. The first platform
is reached by a steep, broad stairway 50 feet wide, which continues
with additional steps to the second platform, where the apartments of
the ruined building were but cells. The ornamentation of the first
story differs from that of other buildings at Chichen; it consists
of small sunk panels, having in the centre a large rose-like device,
framed with exquisitely moulded stones. The lintels, likewise of
stone, were covered with sculptures and inscriptions now fallen into
decay; we could only collect three, and even these are much defaced.
In this building are curious traces of masonry out of character with
the general structure, showing the place to have been occupied at two
different epochs.


This second construction, or rather restoration, was effected with
the materials of the ancient building, as is seen in the fragments of
sculptured stones which in the later construction are identical with
those of the first, save that they were put up haphazard, so that
the systematic ornamentation of the older structure is no longer
reproduced, but in places a thick plaster coating was laid over the
whole. The rebuilding may have been the work of the aborigines,
since we know that Chichen was abandoned and reoccupied towards the
middle of the fifteenth century; or, more likely still, the clumsy
restoration may have been the work of the Spaniards during their
sojourn in the city, when the Nunnery, from its elevated position,
constituted a valuable fortress. Traces of their passage are observable
in various other buildings, notably in the Castillo, where their
natural fanaticism, coupled with their ignorance, caused them to see
in the portraiture of the national and religious life of the Mayas,
representations of the devil. This could not be suffered to remain, and
as they were unable to demolish the temples and palaces in which they
lived, they whitewashed the ornamentation, in order that their eyes
might not be constantly offended by the subjects therein represented.


We try with small success to undo their savage work by means of
daggers, brushes, and repeated washes, taking up much time, but in most
cases the relief is lost to science, being much too defaced to allow us
to take squeezes. The idea that the chiefs who erected these monuments
were the authors of their defacement is too absurd for serious

The Castillo, or rather temple,[128] is reared on a pyramid, facing
north and south, and is the most interesting monument at Chichen; its
four sides are occupied with staircases, facing the cardinal points.
Our drawing shows the western façade. The base of the pyramid measures
175 feet; it consists of nine small esplanades, narrowing towards the
top, supported by perpendicular walls, and terminates in a structure
about 39 feet on one side by 21 feet high. The upper platform is 68
feet above the level of the plain, having a flight of ninety steps, 39
feet wide, leading up to it.

The name of El Castillo (the fortress), given to this building is
appropriate enough; since throughout Central America, temples, in
times of war, became real strongholds, on whose gigantic terraces the
last desperate conflict was waged against an invading and victorious
foe. The struggle might last some time, but was always attended with
heavy loss, for each terrace had to be carried against men resolved to
die. In the assault on the great temple in Mexico, the Spaniards were
several times repulsed before they could get possession of the four
esplanades of the pyramid; and when these were taken a fierce encounter
followed on the upper platform, which only ended with the utter
annihilation of the Aztecs, who were either slaughtered on the spot or
hurled down the sides of the pyramid.


The only decoration of the western and southern sides consists in
two beautiful cornices, while the interior of the long corridor
shows no trace of ornamentation, save over the doors, where gigantic
warriors are sculptured. The principal or northern façade must have
been very striking when Landa saw it in 1560. Our photograph shows
its dilapidated condition, but it can easily be reconstructed. It
consists of a portico supported by two massive columns connected by
wooden lintels, resembling that in the Nunnery; this portico gives
access to a gallery which occupies the whole width of the building. A
large room, which must have been the sanctuary, is entered by the only
opening out of the gallery, while two pillars with square capitals
supported a double corbel vault. Here the stairway was wider, and
on each side, forming a balustrade, is a gigantic plumed serpent,
whose head and protruding tongue run down the balustrade. All these
columns, pillars, and wooden lintels, are covered with sculptures and
bas-reliefs, the impressions of which kept us closely at work for
several days.


As in Mexico, Palenque, and Tula, there were no doors properly so
called at Chichen, and no traces of hinges are found; but a bamboo or
wickerwork screen was suspended across the entrance, and secured at
night with a bar. The inner rooms were divided off by hangings, which
probably also served to cover the windows. We notice everywhere the
small holes in the pillars into which the bars fitted.

Landa mentions the two serpents of the grand staircase, and that the
corridor was probably used for burning perfumes: “Over the door is
a kind of coat-of-arms sculptured in stone, which I could not read.
Extending round this edifice is a series of solid constructions; the
intervening distances are coated with cement in perfect condition,
_which looks quite new_, so hard was the mortar in which it was
laid.”[129] These stucco layers are facsimiles of those at Tula and
Teotihuacan, and characteristic of the Toltecs. In the three centuries
that have elapsed since the bishop visited these monuments, vegetation
has completely overrun them, but it was not so in his time.



It was in this temple that the striking analogy between the sculptures
and the bas-reliefs of the plateaux with those at Chichen was first
revealed to us; and since the dates of the Toltec emigrations are
known, we can fix approximately the age of these monuments. We know, on
the other hand, that the Aztec civilisation was but a reflex directly
derived from the Toltecs, so that in some of their manifestations the
two civilisations must resemble each other; from all which it may be
seen that these monuments are both Toltec and recent. The balustrade
on the grand staircase consists of a plumed serpent like those forming
the outer wall of the temple in Mexico; an emblem of Quetzalcoatl, a
deity common to the Toltecs, the Aztecs, and the Mayas. He is often
found on Yucatec buildings. In Mexico, a serpent biting his tail was a
favourite design with the Aztecs as a frieze to their houses, or over
their entrances, and this we shall also observe at Uxmal. Further, the
two columns of the temple façade furnish a still more striking example:
the bases represent two serpents’ heads, whilst the shafts were
ornamented with feathers, proving that the temple was dedicated to
Cukulcan (Quetzalcoatl). These shafts are almost an exact reproduction
of a Toltec column we unearthed at Tula, as seen in our cuts. The two
columns are found three hundred leagues from each other, separated by
an interval of several centuries; but if, as we firmly believe, the
Tula column is Toltec, the other must be so too, for it could not be
the result of mere accident. I have only compared the shafts, for the
simple reason that the Tula column has no capital.


The bas-relief on the capital of the other consists of a standing
figure with upraised arms supporting the entablature; he wears large
bracelets, huge feathers form his head-dress, his feet are covered
with shoes fastened on the instep by a leather knot, a collar of
precious stones is around his neck, a richly embroidered maxtli falls
to the ground, and he wears the long flowing beard characteristic of


The two bas-reliefs given opposite are from pillars in the sanctuary.
They represent figures in gala costumes, one of which is distinguished
by a long beard, and all have the aquiline nose ascribed to the
Toltecs. These pillars are occupied by three bas-reliefs, a large one
in the centre and two smaller at each side of it. The central relief
is a life-size figure of a priest, to judge from the total absence of
arms about all the figures on these pillars. The caryatides on the
smaller reliefs, notably the lower one, have double spirals over the
mouth, presumably a symbol of wind and speech. We noticed in a former
chapter this spiral about Quetzalcoatl on the outer relief of the altar
in the Temple of the Cross at Palenque. All these caryatides represent
long-bearded men, whose type is identical with those on the Tula
relief, as may be seen by the most superficial comparison of the two.
But is the spiral an emblem of speech? That it is so may be assumed
from the upper caryatid, which only supporting the entablature has no
spiral about the mouth, while the lower one not only bears aloft the
central figure and the edifice, but it seems to carry, to create and
breathe life into the whole, as the emblem of civilisation. At least
so it struck us when we looked at these bearded figures which support
the pillars, and saw the symbolical sign of quickening speech around
the mouth of each, and considered that the Toltecs were the builders of
these monuments, which they reared by their mighty word, in accordance
with their pacific and civilising character, as described by Herrera
and Landa. I am well aware that this assumption rests on no scientific
basis, nevertheless I hope to bring so many data in its favour as to
make it highly probable. The most remarkable feature about the relief
on the capital is its striking resemblance to the caryatides in high
relief found on the terrace and façade of Angcor-Thom’s palace, given
by Francis Garnier;[130] in both the same attitude and dress are
observable; the latter consists of the _patoi_ with the Cambodians, and
the maxtli with the Toltecs; while the sculpture is primitive in both,
the only difference being in the relief.

Our excursions in these impenetrable woods, our ascents and descents of
the pyramid, the arduous work attending the taking of squeezes, made
our life very harassing; it could have been more easily borne had we
been able to sleep, but the scorching days were succeeded by icy-cold
nights, which kept us awake, so that we rose in the morning more
unrefreshed and more tired than when we turned in for the night.

Some compensation we had in our walks round the pyramid, beguiling the
time we could not sleep with a cigar, contemplating the fine starry
nights and sometimes the lunar rainbows so rarely seen; or we watched
the broad shadow of the pyramid cast athwart the white haze shrouding
the plain, fringed by an immense brilliant corona, which seemed to
float in space. Never had I gazed on anything so curious and fantastic
as this terrestrial halo; and if the ancient worshippers of Cukulcan
ever witnessed the phenomenon, they must have deemed it little short of

We were still without a cook; for Julian was so atrociously bad that I
kept him at the squeezes, taking the cooking ourselves in turn, which
wasted much valuable time. One evening, after everybody had gone to
rest, I was sitting alone writing my impressions, my head full of the
ruins and the people who inhabited them. I suddenly looked up, to see
standing before me a lovely maiden more like an apparition than a
mortal being. Was this the shade of a Maya princess who had returned to
the scenes of her former life, conjured up by my imagination? Meanwhile
the beauteous figure stood looking and smiling at me. I was amazed,
speechless, hardly daring to break the spell, when a third figure stood
out from the dark entrance, in whom I recognised the commandant of

“You are surprised at our visit,” he said.

“Rather, especially at this hour, and in such a night.”

“Time is of no account when you wish to serve a friend; I heard that
you required a cook, I brought you mine, that’s all.”


“A cook!” I ejaculated to myself. What a fall! my Indian princess a
cook! I looked at her again, and I could not believe that so much youth
and beauty were put to such menial occupation. I wondered at the
commandant’s self-abnegation. I was somewhat embarrassed, nevertheless,
as to where I should put her. I called up Julian to prepare a bed for
her, but as he was not easily roused, I had time to reflect that with
a hundred men about me, El Castillo was no fitting place for a young
girl. I was profuse in my acknowledgments to the commandant, observing
that as nothing was ready, it would perhaps be better to put off her
coming for a day or two, apologising for the trouble they had taken
in coming through the woods and having to climb the pyramid in such a
pitch-dark night. He knew what I meant. I slipped a coin in the girl’s
hand, as she held a bottle towards me. “Drink,” said the officer; “it
is Josepha’s present to you.” I did so, while Josepha merely put her
lips to the bottle. We shook hands, and my two visitors disappeared in
the night. The draught was _Staventum_, a strong spirit, which made me
light-headed, and in a fit of somnambulism I wandered about, spouting
poetry at the top of my voice, on the very edge of the pyramid, whence
I was fortunately removed, without any further result than to awake the
next day with a splitting headache. Our long-expected cook arrived at
last, and she was so old, and such a fright, that it relieved me of all
fear on her account.

Akab-Sib, “writing in the dark,” is a modern appellation, due to a
bas-relief found on the lintel of an inner door at the extremity of the
building. The cut we give is a copy of our photograph. We can give no
explanation respecting this relief. The figure it represents is sitting
before a vase full of indistinct objects, with outstretched arm and
forefinger pointed, whether in question or command is uncertain—not
much for the imagination to go upon. We will restrict ourselves to
pointing out the analogy of the characters in the inscriptions with
those at Palenque. The structure consists of eighteen rooms, reared on
a plain pyramid, with a stairway to the east, without any ornamentation.

The Caracol is a round building, 22 feet in diameter, with a double
inner corridor and a central pillar; it is a kind of tower, used
probably for civil or religious ceremonies, for we have found this kind
of structure at Cozumel and in all the great centres.


The Chichan-Chob, “Red House” (p. 351), is a small building about
a hundred yards north of the Caracol; it stands on a rectangular
platform, reached by a flight of twelve or fifteen steps. It is the
best preserved monument at Chichen, and might be even now a pleasant
residence; for time seems to have respected and to have left untouched
its plain, smooth walls, and from its general appearance it cannot date
further back than towards the last years of the city in the fifteenth
century. Three doorways to the north lead into a corridor extending
over the whole length of the building, whence three more openings give
access to as many apartments in a perfect state of preservation. Over
these doorways, and running the whole length of the corridor, is a
narrow stone tablet, on which is graven a row of hieroglyphics very
much damaged, of which Stephens gave a faithful reproduction.

The situation of Chichen is due probably to the great cenotés which
supplied the city with abundant water, and which differ from the
complicated underground passages noted in other parts of the state,
being immense natural pits of great depth, with perpendicular sides.
Of these cenotés, that for general use occupied the centre of the
place; picturesque must have been the throng of white-robed women who
peopled its steps at all hours of the day to fetch water for household
purposes, carrying double-handled urns on their shoulders or on their
hips just as they do at the present day. The other, or sacred cenoté,
lies in a tangle of wood on the confines of the city, to which a path
had to be opened. We find midway a large broken statue of Tlaloc,
similar to the two we reproduce further on; the upper portion of the
body and the head are wanting. Near it are ruinous heaps, remains of
two temples, their base occupied by immense heads of Quetzalcoatl,
who seems to have been the tutelary deity of Chichen. On fragments of
walls still standing, I notice bas-reliefs in excellent preservation,
one representing a large fish with a human head,[131] and the other a
figure of a man after death.


Landa’s description of these temples would lead us to infer that
they were entire in his time, for he says: “Some distance north of
the Castillo were two small theatres built with square blocks; four
flights of steps led to the top, paved with fine slabs, and on
which low comedies were performed.”[132] Notwithstanding Landa and
Cogolludo’s testimony, we think they were temples on whose summits the
Christianised Indians performed their religious ceremonies, which from
fear of anathemas they represented to the good bishop as comedies.

The sacred cenoté lies 150 yards beyond; it is oblong in shape, and
the two diameters measure from 130 to 165 feet. The surface of the
water cannot be reached, for the wall, some 65 feet high, is entire and
perpendicular throughout. The desolation of this _aguado_, its walls
shrouded with brambles, shrubs, and lianas, the sombre forest beyond,
but above all the lugubrious associations attaching to it, fill the
imagination with indescribable melancholy.

Hither pilgrims repaired, and here offerings were made; for Chichen was
a holy city, and among her shrines the cenoté held a conspicuous place,
as the following passage from Landa will show: “From the courtyard of
the theatre, a good wide road led to a well some little distance beyond
(the road was therefore in perfectly good condition), into which in
times of drought the natives used to throw men, _as indeed they still
do_ (1560), as an offering to their deities, fully believing that
they would not die, even though they disappeared. Precious stones and
other valuable objects were also offered; and had the country been
rich in gold, this well would contain a vast quantity, because of the
great veneration of the natives for it. The aguado is round, of great
depth, measuring over 100 feet in width and cunningly hewn out of the
rock.[133] The green colour of the water is due to the foliage; on its
banks rises a small building filled with idols in honour of all the
principal edifices in the country, exactly like the Pantheon in Rome.
I cannot say whether this is an ancient practice or an innovation of
the aborigines, who find here their idols to which they can bring their
offerings. I also found sculptured lions, vases, and other objects,
which, from the manner they were fashioned, must have been wrought
with metal instruments; besides two statues of considerable size of
one single block, with peculiar heads, earrings, and the maxtli round
their loins.”[134] This passage is very remarkable, but the Abbé
Brasseur, who translated it, does not seem to have grasped its true
meaning. What, there was a plastered road in good preservation, a
temple filled with idols brought thither by the existing natives, more
than forty years after the Conquest, there were numerous offerings in
honour of the various poliote deities, statues representing the Mayas
in their national costume, and yet it is urged that these temples were
constructed before the Christian era! Landa’s account ought to convince
the most prejudiced; proving the town to have been, if not quite
recent, comparatively so, and inhabited when Montejo occupied it for
the first time, in 1527, since thirty-three years later (1560) devotees
were still visiting its shrines. This is also the conclusion arrived at
by Stephens, who had fewer data in support of it.

These pages had already been written when I received Chicxulub’s
Chronicles, written at the time of the Conquest, by the Cacique
Nakuk-Peck; translated and published by Brinton, Philadelphia, 1882,
containing most valuable information whereby my theory is strengthened
with all the weight of an official document.


Sec. 4. Nakuk-Peck, writing of Montejo’s expedition to Chichen-Itza,
1527, says: “He set out to reconnoitre the place called Chichen-Itza,
whence he invited _the chief of the town_ to come and see him; and
the people said unto him: ‘_There is a King_, my Lord, _there is a
King, even Cocom aun Peck, King Peck, King Chel of Chicantum_;’ and
Captain _Cupul_ said to him: ‘_Stranger warrior, take your rest in
these palaces_.’ So spoke Captain _Cupul_.” After this, can it be
further doubted that Chichen was inhabited at the Conquest? Of Izamal
he says:

Sec. 18. “When the Spaniards established themselves at Merida in 1542,
the chief orator, the _high-priest Kinich-Kakmó and the King of the
Tutulxius from Mani, made their submission_.” Obviously Kinich-Kakmó
was the generic name for the high-priests at Izamal who were in full
possession of their religious prerogatives at the coming of the
Spaniards; consequently the temples and palaces of both Izamal and
Chichen were then inhabited. These passages tell us, moreover, what we
did not yet know—that after the fall of Mayapan the head of the Cocomes
took possession of the principality of Chichen (the fall of Mayapan and
the migration of the Chichemecs were probably contemporaneous events),
that Kinich-Kakmó was the ally of Tutulxiu, King of Mani, since,
jointly with him, he offered his alliance to Montejo, and that the
latter and Cocom, both of Toltec descent, were enemies struggling for
supremacy over the province.[135]

We read in Torquemada and other writers that the first to arrive in
the country were the Cocomes, penetrating the peninsula from Tabasco
towards the end of the twelfth century, under the command of their
chief Quetzalcoatl, after they had already subdued and civilised most
of the northern portion of Yucatan. They were succeeded a century later
by the Tutulxius, who marked their passage through the Usumacinta
Valley by the erection of Lorillard and Tikal.

Herrera and Landa tell us that “several tribes came from Chiapas,
having entered Yucatan by the south, although this is not generally
known to the natives themselves, but he (Landa) conjectures it from
the great number of names and verbal constructions common to Chiapas
and Yucatan, as from considerable vestiges of deserted localities
(Palenque, Ocosingo, and Lorillard, etc.). These tribes dwelt in the
wilderness south of the peninsula, journeying hence to the hilly
region of Kabah, Uxmal, etc., where they settled down under their
chief Tutulxiu, spreading everywhere the worship of the Sun, the Moon,
Tlaloc, and Quetzalcoatl, their chief deities. They lived in great
peace with the former inhabitants, and with one another. They had
no arms, snaring animals with nets or taking them with lazos.”[136]
Yet these kindred tribes, the Cocomes and Tutulxius, so mild in
disposition, became fierce and quarrelsome soon after the settlement
of the latter in the district, both struggling for supremacy. In
this conflict, Mayapan was successively occupied by the victorious
party, while both succumbed to the caciques, who, taking advantage of
these inter-tribal contentions, consolidated their power, when the
peninsula was divided into eighteen independent provinces, continually
at war with each other, which finally worked the destruction of the
Maya-Toltec civilisation.

Aware of the treasures the cenoté might contain, I had provided myself
with two automatic Toselli sounding-machines, one of which is capable
of bringing up half a cubic metre deposit; but unfortunately I could
not get it to work, owing to the height of the walls, the depth of the
water, and the enormous detritus of several centuries.


The Tennis-court is at once the largest and the best preserved of any
structure of this description; it consists of two perpendicular
parallel walls from north to south, 34 by 325 feet, 32 feet high, and
113 feet apart. Both ends are occupied by two small temples always seen
in structures of this kind. The southern edifice has no ornamentation
of any interest; the northern, which is shown in our cut, contains a
single apartment, with a portico to the south supported by columns,
forming a balcony whence the grandees witnessed the game sheltered from
the fierce rays of the sun.

The ruinous condition of this building will not allow us to judge of
its external decoration; but the columns and the walls in the interior
are covered with rows of human figures in bas-relief, so damaged,
however, that the subjects represented cannot be recognised. The inner
walls facing each other, have in the centre of each, some 15 feet from
the ground, two stone rings with a hole through the centre, similar
to the one we dug up at Tula. The vast proportions of this tlachtli
indicate that the national Nahua game was as eagerly played in Yucatan
as on the table-land.

From the remaining sculptured fragments, whether bases, shafts of
columns, or reliefs, representing Quetzalcoatl, we are induced to
believe that this stately building was dedicated to this god; all the
more that the south end of the eastern wall is occupied by a monument
where his symbolical image is everywhere seen. It consists of two
apartments of different size, richly decorated; a portico gave access
to the main chamber (our cut shows its dimensions), where the bases of
the columns are covered with finely sculptured serpents’ heads with
protruding tongues, over 9 feet long, bearing the characteristics of
those on the great temple at Mexico which date 1484-1486.

The southern façade of this monument has a beautiful interlaced frieze,
with a procession of tigers, divided by richly fringed shields, bearing
a strong resemblance to those of the various tribes, published by
Lorenzana with Cortez’ letters, and similar to those generally seen
in the Mexican manuscripts. We think we recognise in this a monument
of Quetzalcoatl commemorating his victory over Tezcatlipoca in his
foot-ball match which took place at Tula, and that this is so seems
highly probable.


In the chamber which stood over the ruined portico there was, twenty
years ago, a series of paintings descriptive of domestic and public
life among the Mayas, now entirely destroyed by barbarous explorers,
or by the inhabitants of Pisté. Stephens, who saw them, says that
they were painted in bright colours of blue, red, yellow, and green.
Fortunately for us, three sides of the pillars at the entrance are
still covered with sculptures, as also the lintels, and all are in
better preservation than any at Chichen-Itza, as may be seen in our
drawing. Here also we find numerous analogies with Mexican monuments,
which, it should be recollected, were the result of Toltec teaching.


All the human figures seen on these monuments have the usual type of
the Toltecs of the high plateaux. Their gala dress, like that of the
reliefs at page 362, is identical with the dress of the figures on
Tizoc’s stone. It is always a head-dress of feathers, a heavy collar
of precious stones, a bundle of arrows in the left hand, while the
right carries a knife similar to that carried by the figures of the
Cuauhxicalli, so that we might almost fancy we are following in the
train of a Nahua pageant so vividly portrayed by Sahagun, when he
says: “In the feast of the God of Fire, which was held in the month
_Izcalli_” (the eighteenth month), “the nobles wore a high-fronted
paper coronet, with no back to it, a kind of false nose of blue paper,
a collar and medallions around their necks, while in their hands was
carried a wooden knife, the lower half of which was painted red and the
upper white.”[137] In our cut, the figure to the right wears the mitre
just described with the piece of paper about the nose, while the collar
and the wooden knife may be seen in both, just like those we see on
Tizoc’s stone. The analogy is as curious as it is striking.


[Illustration: TIZOC’S STONE, IN MEXICO.]

Further, to the right of our drawing (page 365), the figures, besides
the huge feather head-dress, carry in their hands spears barbed with
feathers, like the figures to the extreme left on Tizoc’s stone. These
warriors are distributed in groups of two, the conqueror to the left,
the vanquished to the right; the latter in the act of presenting the
sacred knife he holds in his hand, as a sign of submission. Some of the
warriors, instead of the knife, have a two-handed sword, “_macana_,”
furnished with blades of obsidian of Toltec manufacture; a few have
their noses pierced, and wear a golden ball, or the obsidian _bezoté_,
on their under-lip, as a badge of knighthood, which they had adopted
from the Nahuas of the Uplands. Further, each figure, whether in the
Mexican or Maya bas-relief, wears a kind of casque, fashioned in the
shape of a crocodile, a bird, a serpent, or a duck’s head, etc., with
his name on it. Slight differences of style may occur here and there;
for these monuments belong to remote epochs, while Tizoc’s stone only
dates back to 1485; but the fact that they are found at a distance of
more than 900 miles from each other does not make their resemblance
less marvellous.


We will end our comparisons with a description of the following
statues, which ought to convert the most obstinate to our theory. One
was discovered at Chichen-Itza five or six years ago, by Leplongeon, an
American explorer; the other in the neighbourhood of Tlascala, close
to Mexico, at a considerable distance from the former. The two statues
represent the Toltec god Tlaloc, according to Mr. Hamy, whose view I
take. This view receives additional probability from the existence
of a third statue, which was found I know not where, and which is
the property of Mr. Baron of Mexico, who bought it among several
other Aztec antiquities, and had it placed in his beautiful garden
at Tacubaya, whence it has, I suppose, been removed to Spain. “This
statue,” says Jesus Sanchez, “is smaller than the other two, measuring
but 3 feet by 1 foot 7 inches by 2 feet high. It also represents a man
lying on his back, his legs drawn up, his feet on the ground, and
holding with both hands a vase which rests against his body.”


There is no doubt that the same deity is figured in these three
statues, whatever the ornamentation, which varies according to the
epoch, the locality, or the imagination of the artist. But Sanchez
adds, “recollecting that a number of Mexican statues were sculptured
also beneath their base, I turned this, when I discovered several
devices in relief. The sculptor had carved on the surface of the stone
_a sheet of water, aquatic plants, two frogs, and a fish_; while the
bank was occupied by _beans and grains of maize_, which are among
the attributes of Tlaloc.[138] The statue in the Mexican Museum,
although found at Tlascala, must necessarily be Toltec from its archaic
character, and determines the origin of the second at Chichen-Itza.
When we add that the same customs, the same institutions, the same
manner of computing time, the same religion, and the same arms,
were common to both the tribes of the plateaux and the Mayas of the
peninsula, as recorded by all ancient writers so often quoted in the
course of this work, we think we may even more positively affirm that
the Yucatec civilisation is both Toltec and recent.

There remains another monument to explore, which has not been
understood by former travellers, whilst the drawing given by Stephens
is altogether erroneous, but the probable use of which we think we
can explain. At a distance of some 162 feet east of the Castillo, is
a curious assemblage of several hundred small columns in rows, five
or six abreast, 13 feet apart from each other, forming an immense
quadrilateral. These columns, 6 feet high, some of which are still
standing, consist of five round pieces, crowned by a beautifully cut
but plain square capital.

By far the greater proportion are lying on the ground, their blocks
disjointed but in order, while others are scattered about in great
confusion. Two edifices, now demolished, save some fine sculptured
fragments, occupied the angles north-east and south-west of the
quadrilateral. We are of opinion that this vast structure was the

It is not conceivable that so great a religious centre was not
possessed of an establishment similar to those found in all the great
cities of the Uplands, notably to any one familiar with the narratives
of the time of the Conquest, in which the Mexican and Tlascalan
market-places are described as having, like this monument, low
colonnades, galleries, and buildings occupied by the judges entrusted
with the various cases arising in and out of the Market-place.

The importance attached to the market on the table-land, leaves no
doubt that it had equal rank in the peninsula, where the manners and
requirements were identical. “In Mexico,” says Clavigero, “the judges
of the commercial tribunal, twelve in number, held their court in
the market building, where they regulated prices and measures, and
settled disputes. Commissioners acting under their authority patrolled
the _tianquiztli_ (market-place) to prevent disorder. Any attempt
at extortionate charges, or at passing inferior or injured goods,
or any infringement of another’s right, was reported and severely

The king received a certain percentage on all goods brought to the
market, in return for the protection thus extended to the merchants.
The _tianquiztlis_ of Texcuco, Cholula, and other cities, were on a
similar plan, and Cortez speaks of the market at Tlascala as being
attended by more than thirty thousand people.

Sahagun enumerates the various products which were sold, the judges who
watched over the interests of buyers and sellers, the perfect order
enforced, and the importance of the markets.[140]

What more natural than to suppose that the markets of the table-land
had their counterpart in the peninsula, and that a great city like
Chichen should have had an important _tianquiz_, which was frequented
daily or at stated times by vast multitudes of traffickers, or that
provision should have been made for sheltering them against the fierce
tropical sun? Moreover, it is the only structure here which could
have been used as a market; while its arrangement, the fact that it
occupies the centre of the city, favour our assumption. According to
Dr. Montano, the Indian word _tianquiz_, “market,” is _tianggi_ in the
Malay language.

Meanwhile, our squeezes and our explorations had been going on _pari
passu_; the former consisting of impressions taken from the best
preserved and most interesting monuments. The labour was now brought
to a satisfactory termination, and our thoughts were directed to the
packing and safe transport of so many precious objects. When this was
accomplished, I entrusted the freight to some picked men to convey it
to Pisté, whither we should follow.

All the time we had been at Chichen we had looked, but in vain, for
Colonel Triconis’ promised visit. We regretted it all the more as
through his kindness we had obtained our escort, which had proved so
helpful in our work. Our saddle and pack-horses had arrived from
Citas; we were at the foot of the pyramid, putting the last hand to the
loading, when the Colonel rode up. To shake hands, to tender our thanks
for his civility, was all we had time to do before we all set out for
Pisté, where we parted: Colonel Triconis to return to Valladolid, and
we to Citas.

In the order of our march the squeezes went first, forming immense
rolls covered with tarpaulin. We followed in silence, and our band
had all the appearance of a funeral procession conveying the sacred
ornaments of the priests of olden time.

We reached Citas without accident, and two days later were in Merida.




    Departure for Ticul—Uayalceh—Mucuiche—Sacalun—An Old
    Souvenir—Ticul—Excavations at S. Francisco—Failure—Yucatec
    Vases—Entertainment at the Hacienda of Yokat—A Sermon in
    Maya—Hacienda of Santa Anna—Important Remains—The Ruins
    of Kabah—Monuments Surveyed—First Palace—Ornamental
    Wall—Cisterns—Inner Apartments—Second Palace—Great
    Pyramid—Ancient Writers Quoted—Stephens’ Drawings.

The road to Kabah, our next stage, passing by Ticul, lies as usual
through a flat tract of land, varied here and there by plantations
of henequen and maize. We reach the hacienda of Uayalceh about nine
o’clock, where we make a stay of a few hours to breakfast, visit the
plantations and the house, consisting of an immense pile of building
surrounded by cloisters, reared on an elevated eminence, presumably
the site of an Indian palace; it being doubtful whether the Spanish
builder would have gone to the enormous cost of constructing so vast an
esplanade. A gallery, extending over the whole length of the building,
is reached by twenty steps, where a hammock, comfortable arm-chairs,
and a writing-desk raised on a platform are found, from which the
mayor-domo can watch unobserved the proceedings of the establishment.
This hacienda works its own henequen, employing some 1,200 hands; a
strict discipline is observed, and apart from the monotonous chant of
the youngsters, the low murmuring of the women, no sound is heard save
that of the machinery or the wheel at the _Noria_, in constant movement
for the requirements of the whole establishment. It is altogether a
lively and interesting scene.

The large enclosure fronting the house is planted with bananas, the
whole zapotee family, cocoa and orange-trees growing to the size of
ilexes, alternated with roses and the rich variety of the tropical
flora, filling the air with their sweet, penetrating fragrance, and
extending to a wood which surrounds the factory.

Our excellent breakfast is served in a portion of the cool open
cloister, washed down with a bottle of Spanish wine and a delicious
cup of coffee. We pay our moderate bill, proffer our thanks to the
mayor-domo for his civility, and resume our march, alighting at the
hacienda of Mucuiche to visit a cenoté, and reach Sacalun late in the
afternoon, where we stop awhile to rest our hot, panting mules.

It was formerly a place of some importance; but its chief attraction
lies in its cenoté, 65 feet deep. Steps with a balustrade lead to the
surface of the water, while the great stalactites which hang down from
the vault and almost meet the stalagmites rising from the ground, form
an imposing and weird scene. Yet it was here that I experienced the
most charming adventure that I met in the whole course of my travels;
and, although two-and-twenty years have elapsed, the dear, sweet
remembrance of that day is as fresh as ever.

I was on my way to Uxmal, when through some egregious stupidity of
the driver I was obliged to put up here for the night. There was of
course no inn, and I found a bed at a poor widow’s, who took in casual
travellers like myself. The accommodation was of the scantiest: a
hammock, a small table, a chair or two, was all the furniture of a room
which was at the same time the kitchen, the parlour, and the sleeping
chamber. The widow apologised for having nothing better to offer, but
it was easy to guess from her noble manners and appearance, that she
had known better days. I watched my dinner being prepared; the table
neatly laid, everything so scrupulously clean, that I could have found
it in my heart to be indulgent had the cooking been execrable, but
all was as good and nice as would have satisfied the most fastidious
palate. Two lovely maidens helped their mother and served at table; my
eyes sought the younger, whose transparent skin, pearly teeth, hair
of raven wing’s blackness, magnificent, languid eyes, fairy-like form
moving over the ground with an indescribable undulating movement, moved
me body and soul every time she gazed in my direction. Her look of
innocence and simplicity added to the charm which seemed to emanate
from her whole person, accepting with child-like pleasure my open
admiration, while a soft blush spread over her countenance as she met
my enraptured gaze. Their story was this:

The hacienda had been burnt down, her husband massacred, and she had
been obliged to fly with her little ones to escape a worse fate, to
find on their return the place a heap of ruins. She told of their lone,
joyless life, of a still darker future, and tears coursed down her
cheeks furrowed by care and privations rather than age.

I was young, impulsive, I wished I were rich. Why should I not....
In a moment, ancient monuments, the world, my possible career,
all was forgotten in face of these tearful countenances and their
undeserved misfortune. Why not accept the love, the happiness, which
were offered to me? And how delightful to relieve their misery, to
feel that a whole family would be made happy and comfortable by me
and through me! All this and a great deal more I expressed, and was
amply repaid by the angelic smile of the young girl, and the mother’s
grateful acknowledgments. Night, however, brought calm to my disturbed
imagination, and I resolved on a speedy flight, as the only means of
escape from a too fascinating but dangerous position. The next day I
announced my departure, and I never saw her again. And now, after so
many years, I was back in the same place again. I sought the house, to
find that my youthful love-dream was no longer here, but had gone to
live somewhere in a large city. I came away sad at heart, disappointed;
yet better so. In two-and-twenty years, Time, in all probability, had
not spared her, more than he had me.

Ticul, whither we are bound, is reached in the evening, where, thanks
to the kind offices of our friend Don Antonio Fajardo, a house has been
secured for our accommodation.

Ticul is built on the lower slopes of the Sierra, which runs in a line
from north-west to south-east of the peninsula. It is a small place,
with a few good houses and shops; everything has a look of newness, as
if built but yesterday, save the church and the monastery falling into
decay, in which lived the delightful padrecito Cirillo, whose pleasant
gossip has been so charmingly recorded in Stephens’ Journal. Almost
the only inhabitable apartment is now occupied by Cirillo’s brother, a
dear old fellow, whose cheery, smiling face it is a pleasure to see.
We make the “Tienda,” where we have our meals, our receiving-room;
our visitors are the schoolmaster, some Government _employés_, the
Mayor, and Dr. Cuevas, an eminent archæologist, who presented me with a
stick of zapoté, cut out of a lintel found at Kabah. Our evenings pass
pleasantly enough, in agreeable conversation regarding the ruins found
in this district.


In this way we learn that the hacienda of S. Francisco, some little
distance from Sacalun, is an ancient Indian centre with two unexplored
mounds, in one of which a skeleton and vases in good preservation were
found some years since. I was seized with the desire to explore these
eminences, but my repeated attempts proved bootless, and I was obliged
to give up the enterprise.

But kind friends here did not wish me to go away empty-handed, so they
sent me some vases which had been unearthed in these mounds, just as I
was sitting down in the evening to record my failure. Two are shown in
our cut, on each side of the central one from Teotihuacan.

The resemblance between the ceramic art of Yucatan and that of the
table-land, is seen at a glance. Their value as works of art is _nil_,
but the peculiar ornamentation, common to all, cannot be over-estimated
from the point of view of our theory. On examining this pottery, it is
found that the potter made the vases with reliefs, which he coloured,
varnished, and baked before he gave them to a carver who sculptured
devices and figures with a flint chisel, as seen on the larger Yucatec
vase, where palms, or, more likely, a symbolical figure was portrayed.
The other is a sitting figure, with a feather head-dress, and tassels
towards the top; whilst the Teotihuacan fragment represents a man in
a stooping posture, a stick or sceptre in his right hand, offering
an indeterminate object with his left to some figure engraved on the
portion of the vase which has disappeared.

Our route to the ruins of Kabah lay through the hacienda of Santa
Anna, to which they properly belong; but a path had to be opened first
through woods and forests, and as the work would take two days at
least, we accepted an invitation to witness an entertainment given by
Don Fajardo at his hacienda of Yokat.

Entertainments are as well attended in this part of the world by this
pleasure-loving people, as in a city. This will last three days,
and will include national dances, bull-fights, high banqueting and
junketing. The owner, with natural pride, shows me the vast proportions
of his noble mansion, which stands at the foot of a hill and is
surrounded by beautiful gardens full of flowers. This being Sunday
we all go to chapel, consisting in a long rambling gallery. Mass is
followed by a sermon in Maya, which to my ear is very soft and pleasing.

The congregation numbers a large proportion of pretty women, all in
their gala dress, kneeling and devout; but at the “Ite missa est,”
they disappear swifter than a flight of birds. I am introduced to the
belles of the impending ball; refreshments are handed round, when
every one of these houris comes up to dip her rosy lips in my glass;
such is the fashion here, which I need hardly say I think a very nice
fashion indeed. The guests are arriving very fast, filling already the
courtyard, and the immense open space fronting the house which has been
turned into a circus. Opposite to this is the ball-room, a leafy bower
of flowering shrubs and evergreens; here and there are booths supplying
thirsty customers with fiery _staventum_ and English beer; and ere long
these people, usually so grave and silent, make the whole place resound
with the hubbub of thousands of voices and peals of merry laughter and
joyful cries. The bulls have come; the circus is invaded by an immense
multitude, all eager to see the sport. For my part, I prefer looking
up at the galleries, crowded with beaming, bewitching Meztizas. Ye
immortals! What faces and what figures! Mother Eve must have been a
Meztiza, who “once beguiled, is ever beguiling.”

Curious enough, in this assemblage, numbering over 2,000 people, hardly
400 men are found. As a fact, this disproportion between the masculine
and feminine element is more or less noticeable in all warm countries,
where the births average five females to two males. This degeneracy
does not apply to the Indian portion of the population, for the civil
wars, in which great numbers of able-bodied men perished, have added,
no doubt, to the feminine excess of the population. It is only fair to
state that this is mere assumption on my part, based on no statistics,
so that the fact may be exaggerated. What the morals of the natives are
in face of a quasi-seraglio life, is a somewhat delicate question not
easily answered. Broadly speaking, it may be said that the Indians are
not a virtuous race; the frequency of these entertainments, extending
over several days or rather nights, is hardly conducive to strict
propriety of demeanour in an impassioned, amorous people. Be that as
it may, this assemblage offers many interesting types for observation:
the lower grades are a cross between the Malay and the Chinese; the
aquiline nose of former times has become flat, the eyes somewhat
sloping up, the lips thick, and the cheek-bones prominent, while wavy
hair indicates an admixture of negro blood; very small hands, with
thumbs so undeveloped as to be almost simian, are also observable.

Wearied of the tumult and the discordant sounds of native music, of
national dances, which, however graceful, pall by their sameness, I set
my face towards Ticul, to look after my men; when to my great relief
I find that the path to the ruins has been cleared, and I can start
whenever I choose. Don Antonio goes with us to the hacienda of Santa
Anna, which is to be our headquarters; whence _volan-cochés_ will
easily take us to Kabah, barely three miles distant. This hacienda was
abandoned like so many others during the social war, and is now being
restored with the material of an important pyramid lying at a short
distance, once crowned by edifices now totally demolished. I notice
square pillars in the detritus in good preservation topped by Doric
capitals, and curiously enough, the angles are cut like the stones of
our pavements, and bear evident traces of a metal instrument.

The road to the ruins has been so incompletely cleared, that we are
in danger of being upset every minute by rocks and trees lying right
over our path. In vain we desire the driver to moderate his speed, to
be more careful, we might as well order the wind to be still; and at
a sharp turn of the road the _volan_ comes with a tremendous crash
against the trunk of a large tree, and we are pitched out; the top of
the carriage is smashed, and with aching bones and a few scratches, we
find our way to the ruins on foot, now fortunately very near.


Ancient historians have made no mention whether of Kabah, Sachey,
Labphak, or Iturbide, cities lying thirty or forty leagues south of
Merida. Nevertheless, their rulers are incidentally mentioned under
the general appellation of “_people of the Sierra_.” A glance at the
map will show the position of these cities on the other side of the
mountain range which traverses the peninsula.

Kabah was an important city, to judge from its monuments, which extend
over a large space, consisting of high pyramids, immense terraces,
triumphal arches, and stately palaces.[141] Stephens, who visited the
place in 1842, has given beautiful drawings of its monuments; but the
village, left to itself since the rebellion, has become an impenetrable
forest, making a thorough exploration almost impossible. We were only
able to visit half-a-dozen structures, of which only two are still
standing. But these, coupled with those at Uxmal and Chichen, will
suffice to give a right and complete idea of Yucatec architecture and

The front of the first palace is richly decorated, consisting of large
figures like those at Chichen, and recalling to mind the gigantic
superimposed wooden idols met in the islands of the Pacific. The
ornamentation of this monument is so elaborate that the architecture
entirely disappears under it. Two salient cornices form a frame to
immense friezes which, in their details, would compare favourably
with our proudest monuments. The advanced state of ruin in which
the structure is found, makes it difficult to judge of its original
plan; but enough remains to show how unlike other monuments were the
decorations which extended over the whole façade, some 162 feet.


This palace, like all Yucatec monuments, rises on a two-storied
pyramid; fronting it is a vast esplanade, which had a cistern on each
side, while the centre was occupied by a “picoté.” Over the front,
narrowing towards the top, was a decorative wall, usually found in
Indian structures. Another peculiarity of these monuments is their
facing south and west, and north and east, instead of the four cardinal
points. The interior of this edifice has a double range of apartments,
the finest we have as yet seen, measuring 29 feet long by 9 feet wide,
and 19 feet high, supported by half arches of overlapping stones. One
of the inner chambers is entered from the front apartment by three
steps cut from a single block of stone, the lower step taking the form
of a scroll. The walls at the sides, although half demolished, still
show traces of rich decoration, which consisted of the usual device,
whilst the projecting great figures of the façade are also noticeable
on the steps, on each side of which are large round eyes. The mouth
was below. All the apartments, and probably all the monuments, had
their walls painted with figures and inscriptions, as shown in the few
fragments which still remain. “Among the Mayas,” says Viollet-le-Duc,
“painting went hand-in-hand with architecture, supplementing each
other.” A picture as understood among us held a very secondary place,
while outer decorations were all-important in the monuments at Kabah,
which were of brilliant colours, and must have greatly enhanced
the striking effect produced by these semi-barbarous, yet withal
magnificent edifices.

The second palace, 160 yards north-east of the first, is likewise
reared on a pyramid, fronted by an esplanade with two cisterns and
a picoté; it has besides a second plateau, consisting of a range of
ruined apartments. A flight of steps to the centre, supported by a
half-triangular arch, leads to the edifice. This palace is only 16 feet
high, and in strong contrast with the rich, elaborate ornamentation
of the first. Its outer walls are plain, except groups of three short
pilasters each surrounding the edifice above the cornice, forming a
sloping rather than perpendicular frieze, like those at Palenque,
and in most Yucatec monuments. The front, 162 feet, is almost entire
and pierced by seven openings; two have columns and primitive rude
capitals, corresponding to the same number of narrow low apartments.
As usual the ornamental wall is narrowing towards the top, and is
distinctly seen through the vegetation covering the roof.


The rear is a complete ruin. Traces of painting, of which tracings were
made, are still visible in the central chamber. It was here that I
thought I recognised the rude drawing of a horse and his rider, which
was hailed with Homeric laughter; but, although I was mistaken in my
supposition, I was very near the truth, since the fact I erroneously
heralded at Kabah was found in the north. The discovery is due to
S. Salisbury, who, in 1861, whilst exploring a group of mounds and
structures, near the hacienda of Xuyum, fifteen miles north of Merida,
unearthed the remains of _two horses’ heads_, made of very hard chalk,
with bristling hair like a zebra.[142] The work shows considerable
artistic skill, and the explorer thinks that it formed part of some
bas-reliefs which had belonged to the demolished monuments. Indeed, it
is highly probable that these heads were placed on the edifices built
by the natives between Montejo’s departure in 1530 and his return in
1541; proving that the aborigines had skilfully copied the Spanish
horses, and that there was at Xuyum one monument at least similar to
those we know. To comment on this would be sheer loss of time.

To the left of this building is a rectangular pyramid, with several
stories, 162 feet at the base by 113 feet. Four outer staircases led
up from story to story to edifices in an advanced state of ruin,
having apartments extending all round, and doorways, some supported
by columns, while others are mere openings, as shown in our drawing,
which reproduces the north-west side. In this monument and in the
second palace are found for the first time lintels of stone, nearly all
in very good preservation. Historians have told us nothing regarding
Kabah; nevertheless we have some guiding landmarks from which to
reconstruct its history and that of Uxmal, of which in all probability
it was a close ally, since the two cities lie at a distance of five
leagues from each other, and were connected by a plastered road, traces
of which are still visible. Consequently the same fate must have been
common to both. We know that a century before the Conquest the lord
of Mayapan ruled over the whole peninsula, having razed to the ground
the capitals of his vanquished rivals, amongst whom were the caciques
of Uxmal, Kabah, Labna, etc. This king of Mayapan introduced into the
country a force of Mexican soldiers for the maintenance of his
authority;[143] and to ensure the good behaviour of the caciques he
obliged them to reside at his court, where their state of vassalage
was made up to them by a life of great pomp, at the expense of the


Now as the Aztec independence only dates from the reign of Itzcoatl
(1426), their conquests and subsequent power cannot be earlier than
the reign of Montezuma I. (1440); it is obvious, therefore, that they
were not in a position to send reinforcements before 1440 to the ruler
of Mayapan. This autocracy lasted but a few years; a coalition of the
people of the Sierra was formed, war broke out, the king of Mayapan was
vanquished, the city captured and sacked, when the hostage caciques
returned to their native provinces. Landa places this event in 1420,
whilst Herrera gives 1460 as the probable date. We think the latter
justifies his chronology, since he writes “that seventy years elapsed
between the fall of Mayapan and the coming of the Spaniards, varied
by years of plenty, storms, pestilence, intestine wars, followed
by twenty years of peace and prosperity down to the arrival of the

He further states that each cacique took away from Mayapan all the
scientific books they could conveniently carry, and that on their
return home they erected temples and palaces, which is the reason why
so many buildings are seen in Yucatan; that following on the division
of the territory into independent provinces, the people multiplied
exceedingly, so that the whole region seemed but one single city.”[146]
Landa says “the monuments were built by the natives in possession
of the country at the time of the Conquest, since the bas-reliefs
represent them with their types, their arms, and their dress;” and
“that on going through the woods and forests, groups of houses and
palaces of _marvellous construction_ were found.”[147] This is
sufficiently clear, and whether these monuments were inhabited or not
at the coming of the Spaniards, is beside the question. On the other
hand, the prosperity mentioned by Herrera and Landa found expression
in the peculiar monument, which in its original plan represented the
florid style, always observable at the end or the brilliant beginning
of a new art, being the reproduction of an older style, varied by
elaborate ornamentation of questionable taste.


It is usual for a nation to commemorate a return to independence by
the erection of triumphal arches, statues, and monuments. That this
was the case at Kabah is shown in the two remarkable bas-reliefs in
our drawings, which were probably part of a monument raised in honour
of the victory obtained by the allied caciques. Like the Tizoc stone,
these bas-reliefs represent a conqueror, in the rich Yucatec costume,
receiving the sword of a captive Aztec; the latter is easily recognised
from his plainer head-dress and the maxtli girding his loins. His
head-dress is identical to those described by Lorenzana in his letters
to Cortez and Charles V., and not unlike those which the Mexican
conquerors sometimes exacted from their vanquished foes. The other
bas-relief has the same characteristics, but the head-dress is even
more significant, for it is fashioned out of the head of an animal like
those of the Mexican manuscripts. In this relief the conqueror spares
the life of the vanquished, bidding him depart in peace. It is obvious,
nay, we affirm, that this is a representation of a battle between
Yucatecs and Mexicans dating somewhere between 1460 and 1470;[148]
since we know that Mayapan was the only city which implored the aid of
the Aztecs, and that after its destruction the inhabitants obtained
permission to establish themselves in the province of Maxcanu, east
of Merida, where their descendants are found to this very day. These
repetitions were necessary to convince a class of archæologists who
claim for these monuments a hoary antiquity.

[Illustration: HACIENDA OF UXMAL.]



    From Kabah to Santa Helena—A Maya Village—Uxmal—Hacienda—The
    Governor’s Palace—Cisterns and Reservoirs—The Nunnery
    and the Dwarf’s House—Legend—General View—“Cerro de
    los Sacrificios”—Don Peon’s Charter—Stephens’ Plan and
    Measurements—Friederichsthal—Conclusion—Our Return.

From Kabah to Santa Helena we travel at last on a good road, wide
enough to secure us against collisions, smooth enough and shady enough
to make locomotion highly agreeable; a sensation which is increased
rather than diminished on reaching the beautiful native village of
Santa Helena, extending over a wide expanse divided in square blocks
like a modern town. Each dwelling is planted with _ciruelos_, with
orange-trees, a profusion of flowers, and encompassed by a fencing
wall. Near the huts are aerial gardens, made by means of poles fixed in
the ground supporting twined branches covered over with a few inches
of earth, where the cottagers grow flowers and vegetables; while the
yard is occupied by multitudes of cackling hens, quacking ducks, and
grunting pigs. The church stands in the centre of the village, on the
site of an ancient temple.

This hamlet was like a vision of the past, for from all we had seen
and knew, it was easy to conjure up what it had been in former times.
Nor will it seem unnatural that little or no modification should be
observable in an Indian village, if it be considered what powerful
factors are traditions, instincts, and surroundings, particularly with
a rural population. When the Spaniards imposed their religion on the
Mayas, they did so by the sword rather than persuasion; but the natives
retained their culture, their customs, and their national dress,
whereas the conquerors forgot their own language, were modified at the
contact of the subdued race, and adopted their ancient institutions,
the better to replace the caciques.

Yucatan, as we have seen, was under a feudal system of government
before the Conquest, when it was followed by “encomiendas,” giving
the Spaniards the right to enforce the services of the natives to
the number of one or two thousand to each cavalier according to his
importance. The marks of this system are observable in all great
buildings which formerly were a centre or a manor-house; whilst from
the number of pyramids may be surmised the power of the cacique once
the lord of the locality. At the present day, it is true, centres are
few in number, and in consequence of the cruel treatment of the natives
by the conquerors, they have fallen to a tenth of their primitive
numerical strength; yet cities, hamlets, and haciendas are even now
standing witnesses of how far superior was the condition of the Mayas
before the coming of the Europeans. Nothing is changed, save that the
ancient lords have fallen into servile condition, that haciendas and
Moorish-Spanish structures have superseded the princely palaces and
the mansions of the gentry, and that the straight American doorway
and triangular arch are replaced by the Arab-Hispano arch; but if the
ancient palaces are a ruinous mass, the huts of the peasantry cluster
now as of old around the manor-house. Religion alone has changed; the
church has succeeded to the temple without replacing it; the Christian
dogma seems cold and arid to a singularly mystic people, who in the
days of their national life peopled the forests with votive chapels and
mysterious voices.

To continue: we reach safely Sac-Akal, a wretched hacienda lost in a
trackless wilderness, when we disappear in the dense vegetation which
completely invades our path, and after much difficulty we arrive
at the hacienda of Uxmal late in the evening. We are received by
the mayor-domo, Don Perez, and, under the auspices of his charming
daughter, an excellent supper is soon got ready; when, with feet under
the table, and a pleasant talk with our host, the fatigues and harass
of the journey are soon forgotten. The hacienda is no longer the dismal
habitation of former days; on its site is reared an imposing pile of
building, containing lofty apartments, surrounded by open cloisters.
A sugar factory gives employment to a large number of hands, while a
tramway connects it with the sugar plantations, and facilitates the
transport to the mill. All is bustle, movement, and noise; but the
place is now as unhealthy as ever, and the mayor-domo himself is a
martyr to fever and ague.

The ruins are some two thousand yards beyond. We set out the next day
to visit them; but the aspect of these old palaces, which I had looked
forward to visiting with so much anticipation, was most disappointing.
Owing to the vegetation which is suffered to clothe everything with
its thick green mantle, the general outline of the city, nay, an
entire structure, is no longer discernible. From their state of good
preservation some monuments at Uxmal seem to belong to the revival we
noticed at Kabah, and to be more recent than those at Chichen.

The place has been so often visited and written about that we will
limit ourselves with describing the palaces reproduced in our cuts,
noticing, at the same time, any fresh indication in support of our

The Governor’s Palace, reared on three successive colossal terraces, is
the most extensive, the best known, and the most magnificent monument
of Central America; its ornamentation is in turns simple or very
elaborate. The frieze, which runs in a line of 325 feet, having a row
of colossal heads, divided in panels, filled alternately with grecques
in high relief, and diamond or lattice-work, is most striking in its
effect. The palace looks new, although it has been abandoned for over
three hundred years; and it would be entire had it not been for the
vandalism of its owners, who used the stones of the basement for the
erection of their hacienda.

The youthful appearance of this edifice is obvious to the observer, for
monuments, like men, carry more or less their age on their countenance,
which a thoughtful mind can easily read. Their wrinkles are seen in the
fissures of their walls, in their stones eaten away by the elements,
whilst the moss, the trees, and the lianas mantling over them, complete
their hoary exterior.


A tradition derives the name of Uxmal from a word meaning
“thrice built;” whether the town was demolished and reconstructed,
or whether its monuments were built three times, does not appear.
The latter version would indicate the Indian method of building.
In fact, this is seen in all our drawings of the palace, where the
fallen edifice shows that the inner wall is in a perfect state of
preservation, forming an independent work. These inner walls formed the
apartments of the edifice, and in all probability were perpendicular
to a height of some 6 to 9 feet, when the side walls began to approach
each other so as to form the false vault (triangular arch) of the
double range of apartments of the palace.

This was the shell or first construction. Then the interval between the
arches was filled by layers of stone, whilst the outside walls, resting
on the arches, were solid masonry. This was the second construction.
Then came the third, when the outer walls were covered with tenons and
sculptures. It should be added that this mode of building is applicable
to all stone structures, and may have been generally adopted.

Two cisterns and a picoté are found on the esplanade facing the palace.
The entrance or mouth to each cistern is a circular opening, 9 feet
deep by 16 feet in diameter. Similar excavations are of frequent
occurrence throughout the city of Uxmal and the vicinity, where they
were chiefly used by the lower orders. There were also great artificial
reservoirs, with cisterns at the bottom for collecting rain-water.

The decoration on the main entrance of this palace deserves particular
mention. The wooden lintels have been removed, the projecting cornice
has fallen; but above it the walls were covered with ornamentation
in high relief of infinite skill and magnificence, which, alas! has
been destroyed or carried away by early explorers. Higher still are
three eagles with half-spread wings, followed by a circular pedestal
supporting the mutilated bust of a human figure, without arms, and
whose head, now deficient, was surmounted by a lofty plumed head-dress.
In the plinth are three heads of Roman type, beautifully executed;
while on each side of the main figure are the inscriptions which we


At Uxmal, all the lintels over the doorways are of wood, of which a
large proportion is in a perfect state of preservation—a clear proof
of their recent period. Nor were these the only pieces of wood used
in these buildings: across the ceilings from side to side, and about
mid-height, stretched small wooden beams, the ends of which were
built in the stone-work, as seen by the holes in the walls and the
ends of the beams which have not completely disappeared. We have said
in a former chapter that doors were unknown to the aborigines; here
four rings or stone hooks are found inside the doorways near the top,
from which it is easy to conjecture that a wooden board was placed
inside against the opening, and kept in place by two transversal bars
entering the stone hooks. It is the only place where I have observed
this innovation, which seems to indicate a later epoch for Uxmal.


Phallus worship was recognised and practised both on the plateaux and
in Yucatan, and numerous traces have been found everywhere; whilst
here, a collection is to be seen in the Governor’s Palace.


The Nunnery is the largest building at Uxmal; if less magnificent than
the Governor’s Palace, its ornamentation is throughout exceedingly
rich, varied, and elaborate. We give Stephens’ plan and measurements.
This monument, supported on three superimposed terraces, forms a
vast quadrangle consisting of four wings of different dimensions,
surrounding a court 258 feet by 214 feet. The southern front is 279
feet long, while the centre is occupied by the main entrance, 10
feet 8 inches wide, with a triangular arch some 20 feet high. This
side is less richly decorated than the rest. Facing this entrance
stands the northern wing, the ornamentation of which is wonderfully
diversified, consisting of grecques, lattice-work, and bas-reliefs,
representing birds and human beings, whilst small porticoes,
intersected by pavilions with the usual superimposed great idols, are
found everywhere. The southern front is reared on a terrace which is
reached by a stairway 264 feet long by 95 feet wide, and about 25 feet
high; it is pierced by thirteen openings, corresponding to a range of
thirteen small apartments two deep. The western wing, almost entirely
destroyed, gives nevertheless a good idea of its fine ornamentation.
It consisted of a frieze divided into panels with the usual devices,
and huge Indian statues in high relief; two immense feathered serpents
wreathed the panels occupying the whole length of the façade, 173
feet from end to end, whilst the heads, and the tails with rattles,
met at the extremities, like those on the table-land. The eastern
wing is entire and almost intact; the front measures 158 feet, having
an elegant frieze composed of stone trellis-work, intersected by
serpentine trophies disposed in fan-like fashion, while towards the top
are symbolic figures admirably treated. This side is severe in design,
more simple, and in better taste than the rest. The Nunnery consisted
of eighty-eight apartments, of all dimensions, varying from 19 feet to
32 feet long.


The Dwarf’s House, also the Casa del Adivino, the Prophet’s House,
is a charming temple crowning a pyramid with a very steep slope 100
feet high. It consists of two parts: one reared on the upper summit,
the other a kind of chapel lower down, facing the town. It was richly
ornamented, and presumably dedicated to a great deity. Two stairways
facing east and west led to these buildings. Padre Cogolludo, who
visited this temple in 1656, is the first to complain of the steep
staircase, which caused his head to swim. He found in one of these
apartments offerings of _cocoa and copal which had been burnt very
recently_; consequently, fifteen years after the Conquest the
natives were still sacrificing to their gods, and practising their
superstitions in their own temples. That these edifices were entire
in Cogolludo’s time is beyond doubt, since the Governor’s Palace, the
eastern and southern sides of the Nunnery, are still standing. They
appeared new to Lizana, who (1616) says: “These buildings are alike
both in style and architecture; all are reared on supporting mounds
(_ku_, plural _kues_), which inclines one to think that they were built
at the same time, by the order of one guiding head, seeing that they
are similar. Some look so new and so clean, their wooden lintels so
perfect, that they do not seem to _have been built more than twenty
years_. These palaces must have _been used as temples and sanctuaries_,
for the dwellings of the natives were thatched, and always in the
depths of the forests.”[149]


This quotation is not indicative of very early monuments, while it
shows that the similarity of the monuments was noticed and recorded
by the first explorers; it will not, therefore, appear unnatural that
aided by documents, when we write the history of one monument should be
equivalent to writing the history of all; and that the architectural
manifestations which are identical throughout Central America should
be ascribed to one people, the Toltecs. The culture of a nation is
gauged by their monuments; if so, where are the structures marking the
existence of the Toltecs? Although of great solidity, and not four
hundred years old, had they entirely disappeared at the time of the
Conquest, and are the monuments we now behold the remains of ancient
buildings unknown to them? But such a conclusion is belied by history
and tradition. We will terminate these discussions with a few words
from Cogolludo, who says of these edifices: “_They are about the
same as those in New Spain, described by Torquemada in his ‘Indian

Stephens has a legend relating to the Dwarf’s House, which we
reproduce: “An old woman lived alone in her hut, rarely leaving her
chimney-corner. She was much distressed at having no children; in her
grief, one day she took an egg, wrapped it up carefully in a cotton
cloth, and put it in a corner of her hut. She looked at it every
day with great anxiety, but no change in the egg was observable;
one morning, however, she found the shell broken, and a lovely tiny
creature was stretching out its arms to her. The old woman was in
raptures; she took it to her heart, gave it a nurse, and was so
careful of it, that at the end of a year the baby walked and talked as
well as a grown-up man; but he stopped growing. The good old woman in
her joy and delight exclaimed that the baby should be a great chief.
One day, she told him to go to the king’s palace and engage him in a
trial of strength. The dwarf begged hard not to be sent on such an
enterprise; but the old woman insisted on his going, and he was obliged
to obey. When ushered into the presence of the sovereign, he threw
down his gauntlet; the latter smiled, and asked him to lift a stone of
three arobes (75 lb.). The child returned crying to his mother, who
sent him back, saying: ‘If the king can lift the stone, you can lift
it too.’ The king did take it up, but so did the dwarf. His strength
was tried in many other ways, but all the king did was as easily done
by the dwarf. Wroth at being outdone by so puny a creature, the prince
told the dwarf that unless he built a palace loftier than any in the
city, he should die. The affrighted dwarf returned to the old woman,
who bade him not to despair, and the next morning they both awoke in
the palace which is still standing. The king saw with amazement the
palace; he instantly sent for the dwarf and desired him to collect two
bundles of _cogoiol_ (a kind of hard wood), with one of which he would
strike the dwarf on the head, and consent to be struck in return by his
tiny adversary. The latter again returned to his mother moaning and
lamenting; but the old woman cheered him up, and placing a tortilla
on his head, sent him back to the king. The trial took place in the
presence of all the State grandees; the king broke the whole of his
bundle on the dwarf’s head without hurting him in the least, seeing
which he wished to save his head from the impending ordeal, but his
word had been passed before his assembled court, and he could not well
refuse. The dwarf struck, and at the second blow, the king’s skull was
broken to pieces. The spectators immediately proclaimed the victorious
dwarf their sovereign. After this the old woman disappeared; but in
the village of Mani, fifty miles distant, is a deep well leading to a
subterraneous passage which extends as far as Merida. In this passage
is an old woman sitting on the bank of a river shaded by a great tree,
having a serpent by her side. She sells water in small quantities,
accepting no money, for she must have human beings, innocent babies,
which are devoured by the serpent. This old woman is the dwarf’s

Uxmal is the only city where the monuments are so grouped as to make
it possible to take a panoramic view, which the reader can follow one
by one in our drawing. To the left, in the distance, is the “Casa de
la Vieja,” the Old Woman’s House; next comes the Governor’s Palace,
showing the west side and about three-fourths of the edifice; more
in front, to the right, the “Casa de las Tortugas,” Turtle House, so
called from a row of turtles occurring at regular intervals above the
upper cornice. To the rear, a great pyramid crowned by a vast platform,
without monuments, known as “Cerro de los Sacrificios,” Mound of
Sacrifice. It is on the plan of the Mexican temples, which consisted,
like this monument, of a pyramid with small wood chapels containing
idols and the terrible _techcatl_. The Toltecs, who did not practise
human sacrifice, had real temples on the summits of their pyramids,
like those in Yucatan, where they developed this kind of architecture.
Consequently, if human sacrifices are met among the Mayas, they must
be attributed to Mexican influence, and all writers agree that the
monuments devoted to this horrible practice date from the fifteenth
century (1440), and are of Aztec origin.


To the right of this mound is another pyramid, having several stories
like the Castillo at Chichen, and similar monuments at Palenque; it was
crowned by a beautiful temple, now in a very ruined condition. Still to
the right, but more in front, is the curious building known as “Casa
de las Palomas,” Pigeon House, owing to immense peaks terminating the
decorative wall, pierced by large openings arranged in horizontal rows,
which may well have served as a pigeon-house. It should be added that
at Uxmal the decorative wall is only found in the most dilapidated
monuments deficient of any stucco mouldings, showing an earlier epoch.

Fronting these buildings, on the second plan, are more ruins; the most
conspicuous being the Tlachtli or Tennis-court, and the south side of
the Nunnery with its main entrance, which gives access to the inner
court, where traces of pavement are still visible.

An official document given by Stephens will confirm our views
respecting these monuments. Stephens found it among the papers of the
Peon family, in a petition from Don Lorenzo Evia to the King of Spain
(1673), praying a grant of four leagues of land from the buildings of
Uxmal, “since,” he says, “no injury could result to any third person,
but on the contrary very great service to God our Lord, because with
that establishment it would prevent the Indians in those places from
worshipping the devil in the ancient buildings which are there, having
in them their idols, to which they burn copal and perform other
detestable sacrifices, _as they are doing every day notoriously and
publicly_.” And further: “In the place called the edifices of Uxmal
and its lands, the 3rd day of the month of January, 1688,” etc.,[151]
concluding: “In virtue of the power and authority given me by the
Governor, I took the hand of the said Lorenzo, and he walked with me
all over Uxmal and its buildings, opened and shut some doors, cut
within the space some trees, picked up stones and threw them down,
drew water from one of the aguados, and performed other acts of

This was 150 years after the Conquest; but by this time the reader must
be convinced that edifices, notably at Uxmal, were inhabited before and
after the coming of Europeans; that they were recent, and that, broadly
speaking, the monuments of Yucatan were the work of the existing race,
erected at various epochs by the Toltec conquerors.[152]

We will end these long discussions by a quotation from Baron
Friedrichsthal, regarding the probable age of these ruins, showing that
our theory was promulgated some forty-three years ago, not only by
Stephens, but also by the illustrious German scholar: “Historians are
unanimous in ascribing all the existing stone structures to the Toltecs
or the Aztecs. The latter, however, did not invade New Spain until the
middle of the thirteenth century, while no traces are found of their
having migrated south. Aztec architecture is quite distinct from the
Toltec, which a comparison of Mexican buildings with those found at
Palenque sufficiently show; the latter being generally ascribed to the
Toltecs by all ancient authorities. The evident analogy which exists
between the edifices at Palenque and the ruins in Yucatan, favours the
assumption of one origin, although different epochs must be assigned
to each, by reason of the progress visible in their treatment. To
fix these epochs with some show of probability seems to us, if not
impossible, at least very difficult. A thorough exploration, supported
by a minute and exhaustive comparison of the standing remains, coupled
with a careful observation of the causes and circumstances which have
produced or contributed to the state of dilapidation wherein these
ruins are found, could alone throw some light across the darkness
which has settled over these monuments for so many centuries.” (This is
exactly what we have done.)

“The solidity of these edifices is not equal to that of monuments of
other nations, which were built throughout the thickness of their walls
with stones of different size; whereas the inside of the American
wall is a rude mixture of friable mortar and small irregular stones.
This heterogeneous composition must have produced the rupture or
dislocation of the outward facing as soon as the whole was under the
influence of atmospheric moisture, and the rapid infiltrations which
were produced by its upper portions. Moreover, the calcareous stone
used in these buildings is considered as a very inferior material,
as seen by the progressive decomposition of those portions of the
buildings which are exposed to the direct influence of the north-east
wind, and the consequent action of the prevailing rain. Nor is this
all. In the wood used in almost all northern structures, examples are
met of resinous wood having lain buried or submerged, in a semi-state
of petrifaction, over a thousand years. Now in the Yucatec ruins the
cornices and lintels of the doorways, of zapoté wood, were exposed to
the open air. This wood, although very hard, not being resinous like
cedar, is attacked by devouring insects. For this reason it does not
seem probable that these woods are more than _six_ or _seven_ hundred
years old. If this supposition be called purely hypothetical, the
thoughtful reader has a perfect right to form his opinion from more
solid data, while I claim the same to express mine; not that I deem
myself infallible—for, says the German proverb, ‘Truth is only attained
after repeated tumbles on the rocks of error.’”[153]

American monuments, considered artistically, are but the rude
manifestations of a semi-barbarous race, which it were idle to endow
with intrinsic value, seeing that their original plans are wanting both
in accuracy and symmetry, while their materials are ill-cut, their
joints far apart even in bas-reliefs, where the intervening spaces are
filled up with cement. Consequently these buildings cannot compare with
Indian, Egyptian or Assyrian monuments; for here we have a nation who
in the whole course of their political life, extending over several
centuries, produced but one note, emitted but one sound; because they
had neither traditions nor a higher civilisation around them to draw
from. And, although here and there some happier mood is seen, whether
in sculpture or cement modelling, their occurrence is too rare ever to
have become general. The chief merit of these buildings lies in their
interest for the archæologist and the intelligent, who are necessarily
few; and this explains the silence of the conquerors respecting them.
How well I remember my servant’s strictures on hearing my exclamation
of delightful surprise as I stood the first time before the Governor’s
Palace: “Well, I can’t, for my part, see anything so wonderful in it;
there isn’t a French bricklayer who couldn’t do quite as well and
better.” François, on his return home, would no more have dreamt of
recounting of the wonderful buildings he had seen in the New World,
than did the Spaniards three hundred years before.

It is with something of the feeling which is experienced at parting
from a long-cherished friend that we take leave of the curious,
barbarous, yet withal charming ruins, thrice visited with delight
ever fresh, with interest all the more vivid that I have succeeded in
lifting the deep shroud which covered them, and if on that account they
are no longer surrounded with mysterious awe, they will not be less

We set out, directing our march through Muna, which has a fine well,
seemingly of Indian construction. A native feast is being held, and
here, as throughout the State, it means a grand opportunity for getting
drunk. We push on, sleep at a broken-down hovel called Abala, and the
next day we are once more comfortably settled among our household gods.




    From Progreso to Campeche—Incidents on Board—Carmen—Old
    Acquaintances—Indian Guns—Frontera—The Grijalva—Tabasco
    Pottery—Waiting—Carnival at Frontera—Julian’s
    Success—Departure—Jonuta—Monte-Cristo—Difficulties at the
    Custom House—Cabecera—Tenosiqué—Reminiscences—Monteros—The
    Lacandones—Our Mules Come—The Usumacinta—Sea Fish—Setting
    out for the Ruins—Route—Forest Camping—Second Day—Traces
    of Monuments—A Mule and a Horse Lost—Cortez—Arroyo
    Yalchilan—Provisions left Behind—Crossing the Cordillera—An
    Old Montero—Traces of Lacandones—Yalchilan Pass.

Here we take our passage for Campeche on the _Asturia_, a diminutive,
small steamer, having but four Liliputian berths; luckily enough we are
the only passengers; had it been otherwise, we must have kept on deck
day and night. The sea is like an immense sheet of glass, the heavens
radiant with stars; our boat draws very little water, so that we skirt
close to the shore, and are able to follow the graceful panorama which
unfolds before us; and in the morning early we cast anchor four miles
off Campeche because of the high surf, but the outline of which is
plainly visible.

[Illustration: CAMPECHE.]

Campeche was built on the site of an Indian city, and visited by
Antonio Cordova in his first ill-fated expedition (1517). “The
natives,” says Diaz, “were friendly, and took us to extensive
buildings which had in them idols and sanctuaries. These edifices were
built of lime and sand. On the walls were enormous serpents, and near
them paintings representing their idols, round a kind of altar stained
with drops of blood still quite fresh. On one side of the idols were
painted human figures massed in the shape of a cross. We were amazed
at the sight of things so strange, as we watched numbers of natives,
men and women, come in to get a sight of us with smiling, unconcerned
countenances.”[154] But the scene soon changes; osier braziers, for
burning copal, are brought, and the priests tell the Spaniards to leave
the shore immediately under penalty of death. The Spaniards sailed
away, and did not settle at Campeche until 1541.

These ancient mounds, these temples, with their ceremonial and gory
priests, carry us back to Mexico; but it would be vain to look for
traces of such buildings along the coast, or in the proximity of
Spanish settlements. In process of time Campeche became the most
nourishing city of the peninsula, and was plundered several times by
French and English privateers. To stop these frequent devastations,
a strong wall was built around to enable its inhabitants to rest
in peace. But the wall, built for safety, seems now to oppress the
town, which has outgrown it, and is spreading outside, where wealthy
merchants have “quintas,” in whose gardens the rich tropical flora
displays its magnificence, casting a multicoloured belt about the town.

Campeche, with its tortuous suburbs, its drawbridges, its unsymmetrical
high buildings, is the least Eastern-looking place in Mexico, and
boasts no monuments worthy of mention. Our steamer stopped some hours
here, giving me the opportunity to pay a long-promised visit to Don
F. Ferrer, a charming correspondent, under whose hospitable roof I
spent one of the pleasantest days I can remember, amidst music and
pleasant talk. We returned to our steamer _en route_ for Carmen in the
afternoon, and I looked forward to having the whole boat to myself,
when a large canoe full of people rowed up alongside just as we were
settling down comfortably. “Oh dear!” I thought, “three days’ voyage
with a surplus of eighteen people, not counting half-a-dozen curs and
parrots! If the _norte_ gets up, what is to become of us?” They were
strolling actors who had long secured all the available accommodation,
so that we were given the choice of the deck, and it was with
difficulty that I obtained for Lucian, who was prostrated with a severe
attack of fever, a wee corner below. Presently his moans attracted the
attention of the women. “What is the matter with the gentleman, is
it yellow fever?” they inquired. “I shouldn’t wonder,” was my reply;
whereupon the whole band made off and left us in undisturbed possession
of our berths, where we slept the sleep of the just, and arrived at
Carmen as fresh as larks. This place is the great depôt for woods known
as Campeche, and drives a brisk trade.

I found my old friend Don Benito, who owns an island called Chinal on
the Usumacinta, having mounds, tombs, or maybe basements of temples.
Some excavations were made in them, when terra-cotta guns, 4 feet
11 inches long, with bullets likewise of terra-cotta, were brought
to light. I was presented with some bullets, which are now in the
Trocadéro. The only plausible explanation I can give for the presence
of these guns in an Indian mound, is that after the great battle
of Centla in Tabasco, in which Cortez’ artillery wrought so much
destruction, the natives tried to copy this new war-engine, but being
unacquainted either with iron or the effect of powder, they reproduced
them in the material most familiar to them, fondly imagining that the
result would be the same, and buried them later with their chief.


The journey from Carmen to Frontera takes twelve hours, where we land
the very day twelve months after our first visit, and put up again
at the detestable fonda. We learn that smallpox and yellow-fever
have decimated and are decimating the town, but nothing daunted,
for these epidemics seem to spare foreigners, I fill up the time I
must wait here until a steamer calls, by collecting ancient pottery.
Indian idols are of frequent occurrence in Central America, but up to
the present time no one has cared to collect them, and the Mexican
Museum does not possess a single specimen. Among those I picked up are
various figures resembling more or less those of the table-land, while
their differences of style connect them with the idols at Palenque.
Our drawing shows the two best preserved, and although very rude in
make, they are not devoid of interest. The figure to the left is a
Quetzalcoatl, easily recognised from the serpent surrounding his head,
and is the facsimile of a stone idol at Capan; while the larger to the
right may have been meant for a priest or a “tecuhtli” knight.

We are in full carnival, the entire population parading the streets in
ludicrous travesties, making merry with music, jokes, and quips. The
Señoritas come to our fonda to get subscribers for the dance; we give
our names and follow the stream. The ball is kept up with much vigour,
and Julian is soon in great requisition by all the pretty Señoritas,
to the annoyance and mortification of Lucian, who ends, however, by
declaring that he can well forgive his success, for he is an obliging
fellow and such a hand at polishing his boots. These words are drowned
in the tumult and cries of the dancers pressing round a man who has
just been shot by his less favoured rival. The would-be murderer is
taken to the police station, while his victim is conveyed home by his
friends and the ball goes on more briskly than ever.

At last a steamer bound for the Usumacinta is in sight. We get on board
with alacrity, and are soon at Jonuta; but here the captain, on seeing
the low ebb of the river, declares that his ship cannot go any further.
After much parley he is persuaded to go on, but we are startled by
a tremendous bump in the middle of the night, and find that we are
stranded. We wait for the day, when, with a great deal of difficulty,
we succeed in getting her off, and push on to Monte-Cristo, where the
captain _nolens volens_ lands us, protesting that his ship cannot
go another yard. But our troubles do not end here. We are requested
to show our passes, and as Monte-Cristo is not mentioned, we are in
danger of having the whole of our property confiscated. Fortunately
I had a letter from the Home Minister, recommending me to all the
authorities of the Republic. I took it to the Mayor, who gave me full
leave to continue my journey unmolested.


And now we turn our thoughts how to get to Tenosiqué; we find that
it takes four or five days by water, and some twenty-four hours by
land. We procure a canoa, in which we deposit our baggage, under the
management of our faithful Julian, who will follow as quickly as
possible, while Lucian and I, with a guide, take the road through the
woods. We are soon left behind, and do not see our guide again until
six hours later, when we find him reposing by the side of a running

“Where is our lunch?” I roared out.

“What lunch?”

“Why, the parcel we put up before we started.”

“Oh! I didn’t know what it was, and I left it behind.”

Expostulations were more than vain, and we had to satisfy the cravings
of hunger with a draught of rum and water!

We press on as best we may, and some hours later we reach a rancho
where fresh eggs, poultry, and a beverage made of Indian corn, somewhat
restore our jaded frames. Here we cross the river on to the right
side, and arrive at Cabecera early in the evening, and put up at two
old dames’, who regale us with chicken broth and fried fish, which,
seasoned by hunger, we find delicious. The next day early we are at
Tenosiqué, three miles distant, where we take up our quarters in a
vacant hut, but, do what we will in the way of scraping and sweeping,
we cannot get rid of mosquitoes, garrapatas, and other insects, which
eat us alive. As to the food, an old man does his best, and I still
remember that to give us some salad he had recourse to turnip-leaves;
these naturally enough were hard to the bite, and hardly improved with
bitter orange juice by way of vinegar. But the dearth of any green food
made us gulp it down with a will to like it, and we almost succeeded.

This poor hamlet dates back to 1535, when a Spaniard, Don Gil by name,
settled here. It seems to have kept its native character to the present
day; for Don Saturnino tells me, that thirty years ago it had still a
cacique, “tropiles” (subs), and a picoté. Of late it has acquired some
importance, from its being the great _entrepôt_ of ebony wood, sought
for in the remotest parts of the State.

[Illustration: A BIT OF TENOSIQUÉ.]

We hear the most conflicting reports with regard to the ruins I wish
to explore, lying some fifty miles distant on the other side of the
Sierra, on the left bank of the Usumacinta. They were visited twelve
years ago by the mayor of this place, “_when they were still held in
high esteem by the Lacandones_. A guard was placed over the temples
and on stated days religious ceremonies were performed, but since the
fall of a favourite idol, whose head lies now among the rubbish, the
building has been abandoned.” Cheered by this piece of good news, I
direct all my energies to procure men, mules, and horses; the former
we obtain with the promise of double pay, as for the latter we have to
wait for their return from Peten. But when they arrive at last and I
see their wretched condition, and the ghastly wounds which cover them,
I feel great misgivings as to their performing the arduous journey
which is in store for them. Their owner assures me that with a week’s
rest the animals will be all right. I must needs accept his word for
it, hoping the best, for there is nothing else to be done.

To reach the ruins, a space of some five leagues of forest will have to
be cleared on the right side of the river, which will take us opposite
the ruins, but a canoe must likewise be made to ferry us across. For
this purpose I despatch some men in advance, while we fill up the weary
time of waiting by trying to catch some fish. Curiously enough, a
number of sea-fish is found here in the Usumacinta, 100 miles from its
mouth; and when swollen by rain it brings from distant Guatemala large
quantities of lobsters, together with pumice stones.

We set out on the 15th of March, 1882, and are soon in a tangle of wood
and beset with obstacles of every kind; while the mules get unloaded,
go astray, tarry in green pastures, and are altogether very troublesome.

We have left behind us the low marshy level, and are nearing the
Cordillera, bearing to the south-east on the Peten road. The forest
seems absolutely interminable with magnificent cedar and palm-trees,
over 100 feet high, the trunks of which almost disappear under
flowering lianas, while the broad-leaved Palmyra palms commingle
with Brazil wood, and form boundless domes of verdure. It would be
pleasant enough could one get used to being eaten up by mosquitoes
and garrapatas. The stations where we encamp, although not possessed
even of a hut, are carefully marked in the maps for the benefit of
muleteers; they are always on rising ground, in the vicinity of water
and ramon for the animals, their staple food on the march. Our day’s
journey has told already on them; the men disperse to cut down ramon.
Julian is putting up our camp-beds, while cook is busy with our
supper, which usually consists of a kind of Scotch broth, made of dried
meat, rice, and black beans, a round of biscuit, and a cup of coffee,
except on days when our larder has been replenished on the way by a
wild duck, a peccari, and sometimes a monkey!

In the evening the men, grouped round the fire, indulge in a social
weed, while recounting adventures more or less authentic, then we
all retire behind our mosquito curtains and rest our weary limbs on
soft green leaves. Our slumbers are often interrupted by the roar of
the wild beast, the plaintive cries of nocturnal birds, and howling
monkeys. We rise before daybreak, and what with breakfast, saddling
and loading our animals, the sun is high on the horizon before we can
continue our journey. No incident breaks the wearisome monotony of our
progress, but towards noon I notice to our right traces of buildings,
vast esplanades, the stone edges of which are still intact, whilst the
guide says that towards the valley of S. Pedro, to our left, are entire
monuments still standing—the town of Izancanac, perhaps. Indeed, the
whole country is covered with ruins, to study which a lifetime were not
too long.

The region is full of the memory of the conqueror. He must have
travelled this very road on his march to Honduras. It was in these
woods that, under pretext of a conspiracy, he caused Guatemozin to be
executed. The young Aztec prince displayed the intrepid spirit of his
better days; he reproached Cortez for his want of faith, protesting
the while his innocence. A tardy monument has just been raised to the
upholder of Indian independence in that Tenochtitlan which he defended
as long as there was stone upon stone, whilst not even a bust marks the
presence of his murderer.

The region we now traverse, covered with immense forests, was
cultivated and inhabited before the Conquest; great cities rose in
this trackless labyrinth, the vestiges of which have been noticed by
us, whilst frequent mention of them is found in various authors. On
this route Cortez saw “a great city,” with strong buildings of stone
on the summits of mounds, just as at the present day. This city, known
as “Bitza,” had been abandoned on the approach of the Spaniards, but
provisions of all kinds were left. When its inhabitants returned,
Cortez asked why they had fled.

“Because we were afraid.”

“What is the meaning of all these provisions? Why are all the crops
gathered in?”

“Because if the Lacandones, with whom we are at feud, had come and
conquered us, we would have done away with everything to starve them
out. But on the contrary had we prevailed, we would have given hot
pursuit and lived at their expense.”[155]

Next Cortez passed a town, the environs of which were peopled with deer
so tame, that the Spaniards could catch them by riding after them.[156]
The country must, therefore, have been open to allow of the Spanish
cavaliers giving chase.

Cogolludo calls the region between Yucatan, Chiapas, and Guatemala,
_Prospero_, and says: “The natives of Prospero have their ears and
nostrils bored; they wear in the latter a vanilla pod or a carved piece
of wood; their hair, of which they are vain, is worn long and adorned
with feathers; they also practise tattooing. They told father Simon
that the country round was more densely populated than Yucatan, that
they went by the name of _Locenes_, which means _apart_, and spoke the
Maya language; that the other tribes were the Mopanes, Lacandones,
Ahabes, Cihaches, Chinamitas, etc.; that the town of Locen numbered
eight hundred houses; that the inhabitants were known for their clear
complexion, their good looks; that they wore gold collars round their
necks; and, finally, that many ancient buildings with stone idols in
them, were found in the Sierra.”[157]

Meanwhile our journey becomes more and more harassing; we have been
obliged to leave one of the horses and a mule to the jaguars, and not
to overload the others, Lucian and I ride in turn the only remaining
horse. We cross the Arroyo Yalchilan[158] on the Guatemala border,
not far from Locen, and leaving the Peten road, we steer to the
south-east-south, on the path cleared by our men, and encamp on the
bank of the running stream in which we lave our dust-travelled limbs.

The next day we climb the range of hills which divide us from the upper
Usumacinta, and which are almost impassable for loaded animals. The
sharp stones destroy the leather of our boots, and cut the mules’ feet
to pieces, while we are in danger of being lost down the ravines and
precipices. The better to ease the mules’ backs, we leave here such
provisions as we shall not require, for game will not be wanting on
our way, and everything will be safe until we return. A scaffolding
supported on poles fixed to the ground is made, on which wine, biscuit,
salt meat, and beans are deposited.

Here we encamp for the night—the sixth since we left Tenosiqué—and
the next day we begin the ascent of Mirador and Aguila; the latter,
although not more than 1,300 to 1,400 feet in height, is exceedingly
steep and arduous. We meet an old montero, Don P. Mora, who left his
native village three months since, and is living in the Sierra with two
Indians, whose business is to mark mahogany trees ready for the market.

Don Pépé has built himself a hut on the Chotal river; he shoots
whatever comes within the range of his muzzle, for the support of
himself and his companions. The poor old fellow is reduced to a
deplorable state by marsh fever; he volunteers some valuable hints,
which I repay with a glass of wine and a few cigars.


Some hours more and we reach the broad level, and set up our tents on
the Chotal, a tributary of the Usumacinta. The forest round is teeming
with life; parrots and aras fill the air with their shrill cries,
yellow-crested hoccos[159] move silently among the higher branches,
while howling monkeys peer inquisitively at us, and herds of wild boars
rush madly past us. We are in the country of the Lacandones; here and
there traces of cultivation are still visible, and huts which have
been abandoned on the approach of timber merchants, plainly show that
they were inhabited not long ago. We raise our “camp,” _en route_ for
the Yalchilan Pass, and arrive in the evening on the right bank of the

[Illustration: DON PÉPÉ MORA.]




    Paso Yalchilan—Another Mule Lost—An Anxious Night—A
    Wild Boar—Encampment—Upper Usumacinta—No Canoes—A
    Difficulty—Deliverance—Surprise—A Mysterious Traveller—A
    Canoe—Fever—Down Stream—A Votive Pillar—Ruins—I
    Meet with a Stranger—General View of Lorillard—A
    Reminiscence—Stephens’ “Phantom City”—Extent of the Ruins
    Unknown—Temple—Idol—Fortress—Our Dwelling Palace—Great
    Pyramid—Second Temple—Stone Lintels and Two Kinds of
    Inscriptions—Our Return—Lacandones.

Paso Yalchilan is a geographical point, meaning any given place on
the right bank of the Usumacinta, dividing Mexico from Guatemala. We
reached it so late that we had barely time to unload our animals and
get them some fodder before the night set in. But now I discovered that
the mule carrying the material for our squeezes had lagged behind;
but it was too dark, the men declared, to go hunting for him in the
insecure forest, next morning would be time enough. In the night we
were rather startled by cries of “Al tigre! al tigre!” (the tiger).
It turned out to be only a jaguar, but it served to remind us to
keep a fire burning. The next day some of the men set to work at our
cabins, whilst others went in quest of the wretched mule, which they
found almost dead with fatigue and want of food. They also brought to
the general larder a nice young boar, which was received with joyful
shouts, immediately cut up, roasted, and eaten at our mid-day meal down
to the last morsel.

Our shots brought the canoeros I had sent in advance to construct
a canoe. My inquiries as to the work done were met with the
unsatisfactory answer that nothing was finished; they had been unlucky
in the choice of timber, etc. I immediately set out to see how it was,
and to my great annoyance I found that hardly any progress had been
made. In fact, the men had taken it mighty easy, had lived like lords
on the supplies I had given them, varying their fare with fish from the
river and game from the forest; causing me a delay which might ruin my
expedition, for our supplies would not last out if this was the way
they went to work. I was returning with head downcast, looking at the
broad river, here over 500 feet across, pondering on the distance which
divided me from the goal of my expedition, when I spied ahead of us a
boat manned by a Lacandon, who on perceiving us veered quickly round.
Fortunately one of our men spoke Maya; he hailed the man, promising him
a great reward if he would steer towards us. He came to our encampment,
and when I heard that he was a chief, I showed him the presents I
had brought, telling him they would be his and any of his people’s
he should bring to me. We learnt that he had two more canoes he was
willing to let us have for a consideration, and I congratulated myself
on being able to attain my end so easily.

We were now waiting with some impatience for the cayucoes, when a large
canoe manned by three white men loomed in the distance; a horrible
suspicion flashed across my mind, that they were men belonging to
another expedition, who had forestalled me. The canoe came near, and I
learnt that they had been on a foray expedition among the Lacandones,
but had been unable to obtain anything except a few tomatoes, and were
now returning to the ruins to join their master, Don Alvaredo, and that
their provisions were running very short.

“Have you another canoe?” I inquired.

“Yes, much larger than this.”

“Look here, my good fellows, take my card to your master with my
compliments, together with half a wild pig, salt meat, rice, biscuits,
and in return ask him to lend me his large canoe, which these men I
send with you will bring.”


The strangers rowed away, and I began to prepare for the next day’s
expedition, in which Lucian and six men would accompany me, leaving the
rest behind to take care of our heavy luggage under the superintendence
of Julian. But in the morning early I had a severe attack of malaria,
which threatened at one time to delay our journey. A few hours’ rest,
however, and a good dose of quinine, restored me sufficiently to allow
of my setting out for the long-sought, long wished-for ruins, which
we reached in three hours, landing near an enormous pile of stones—a
kind of votive pillar—rising on the left bank of the river, which has
withstood the buffeting of the waters for several centuries. This stone
mound was described to me at Tenosiqué, as having formed part of an old
bridge which spanned the river at this point. But what we know of the
natives’ method of building makes this supposition impossible, for the
river is too broad, and on the other hand, had a bridge formerly
stood here, remains would be found either on the opposite side or in
the bed of the river. There is very little doubt that for all the
purposes of daily life, the inhabitants of this city used “canoas” just
as they do now.


We had made but a short way among the ruins lying in every direction,
when we were met by Don Alvaredo, whose fair looks and elastic step
showed him to be an Englishman. We shook hands; he knew my name, he
told me his: Alfred Maudslay, Esq., from London; and as my looks
betrayed the inward annoyance I felt:

“It’s all right,” he said; “there is no reason why you should look
so distressed. My having had the start of you was a mere chance, as
it would have been mere chance had it been the other way. You need
have no fear on my account, for I am only an amateur, travelling for
pleasure. With you the case of course is different. But I do not intend
to publish anything. Come, I have had a place got ready; and as for the
ruins I make them over to you. You can name the town, claim to have
discovered it, in fact do what you please. I shall not interfere with
you in any way, and you may even dispense with mentioning my name if
you so please.”

I was deeply touched with his kind manner, and I am only too charmed
to share with him the glory of having explored this city. We lived and
worked together like two brothers, and we parted the best friends in
the world.

This town, which I shall call “Lorillard,” in honour of the munificent
man who partly defrays the cost of the expedition, rises on the left
bank of the Usumacinta in the 17th degree lat. (see Map), in a region
hitherto unclassified, between Guatemala, Chiapas, and Tabasco. (We are
able to determine approximately its position from the bearings we took
along our route.)

It was discovered twelve years ago by Suarez of Tenosiqué, and has been
visited at different times by monteros and by Balay de Palisada. It has
been called “Phantom city,” from a passage in Stephens’ Journal,[160]
in which he reproduces a conversation with the merry “Cura” of Santa
Cruz del Quiché, who told of “a great Indian city four days’ journey
from Santa Cruz, on the road to Mexico, as being densely populated, and
in the same condition as other places of Central America. He had heard
of it at Chayul many years before, where he had ascended the Sierra,
whence the vast panorama of Yucatan and Tabasco to the sea could easily
be distinguished, and that he had seen in the far distance a city
occupying an immense space, its white towers shining in the sun.”


I do not think that this mysterious city, if ever it was in existence,
is Lorillard, for its bearings do not agree with those of the American
traveller; but there are many others in the forests, and monteros may
come upon palaces which will answer the description of the “cura,” who
assured Stephens that “the palaces of Santa Cruz del Quiché, which in
1841 were found in an advanced state of dilapidation, were in a perfect
state of preservation thirty years before, and that they had reminded
him of the buildings of his own country; that at Coban, in the province
of Vera Paz, stood an ancient city (Utatlan) as large as Vera Cruz, now
deserted, but almost as perfect as when its inhabitants had abandoned
it. He had walked in the silent streets, among its colossal buildings,
and found its palaces as entire as those at Vera Cruz.”[161]

The number of buildings in good preservation at Lorillard was supposed
to be twelve, of which six were “casas cerradas,” and six without
doors. Balay in his ground plan places monuments on the right bank of
the river, these we were unable to discover; but we found more than
twelve monuments on the left bank, three or four of which are still
standing, having no trace of doors, just like those at Palenque where
they were also supposed to exist. Owing to the distance from all
inhabited centres and the luxurious vegetation which overruns these
ruins, a complete exploration of them is almost impossible. Their
extent is not known; but to judge from other Indian centres, the number
of the monuments may be estimated at fifteen or twenty, consisting as
usual of temples, palaces, and the huts of the lower orders. These
buildings, some 65 feet distant from the river, are like those at
Palenque, supported on terraces rising in amphitheatre and resting on
natural hills, which the builders made use of to save labour. They
are, as usual, faced with stones, have a central flight of steps, but
they are fewer, of smaller dimensions, and not so richly decorated as
similar edifices at Palenque; but the materials employed, the inner
decorations, the figures on the bas-reliefs with retreating foreheads,
are the same, although more rudely built. The outline, however,
resembles some of the Yucatec structures. It should be remarked that it
is difficult to give a correct description of these monuments, for all
trace of outer decoration has disappeared.


    No. 1, Entrances with Sculptured Lintels of Stone. Nos. 2
    and 4, Niches with Platforms and Idol. No. 3, Niches. No. 5,

The first monument we study—of which a drawing and a ground plan are
given—is a temple. It stands at a distance of 487 feet from the river,
on a mound about 120 feet high. I call it temple because it contains
a great stone idol and niches which must have supported other idols,
and that the walls are black from the smoke of offerings. The idol’s
head is lopped off, and lies amidst the rubbish; the face is completely
mutilated, which seems to show that in the frequent inter-tribal wars,
the town was taken and plundered, the temple demolished, and the
vanquished gods destroyed. This we see in the Mexican manuscripts,
where the defeat of a nation is always represented by a small edifice
with a prominent cornice, which is entered by the invader a lighted
torch in his hand.

But when was Lorillard destroyed? I think Villa Gutierre Soto
Mayor[162] gives us an approximate date when he says: “That the Iztaes
of Peten were at enmity with the Lacandones; that in 1694—two years
before the fall of the city by the Spaniards—the former were making
expeditions with fleets of canoes on the Usumacinta and Rio Tabasco,
and that they plundered and destroyed the towns situated on the river.”
But if we follow Boyle,[163] the destruction of Lorillard would be
much later, for we read: “The Lacandones are of the same race as the
_Manchus_ and very numerous; they _were quite civilised a hundred and
fifty years ago_” (1730).



This idol is very beautiful and unique of its kind, for nothing like
it has been found either in Tabasco or Yucatan. It represents a figure
sitting cross-legged, the hands resting on the knees. The attitude
is placid and dignified, like a Buddha statue; the face, now
mutilated, is crowned by an enormous head-dress, of peculiar style,
presenting a fantastic head with a diadem and medallions, topped by
huge feathers like those on the columns at Tula and Chichen-Itza. The
bust is admirably proportioned; while the dress consists of a rich
cape embroidered with pearls, a medallion on each shoulder and in
front, recalling Roman decorations. The same ornamentation is seen
on the lower part of the body, having a much larger medallion and a
fringed maxtli. The arms are covered with heavy bracelets. Round the
idol, and in every apartment of the building, are a number of bowls of
coarse clay of some 4 or 6 inches in diameter by 2 inches in height.
The borders are ornamented with masks representing faces with flat or
aquiline noses, utterly devoid of artistic feeling. Nevertheless _the
difference of type is noteworthy_, and may point to _two different
races_. These bowls were used as censers, for some are still filled
with copal. Our cut shows two specimens. Similar bowls are found in all
the buildings which were used as temples.


This temple is pierced by three openings, with stone lintels fairly
carved; its facade is about 68 feet by 19 feet 6 inches long, its
height to the decorative wall is 17 feet to 19 feet; the latter, of
lattice-work, is 14 feet high, and recalls similar structures at Kabah,
and more particularly the Pigeon House at Uxmal. The decoration must
have been very rich, for in the central upper wall is a large panel
which was occupied by a figure sitting on a bench which is still
standing. The masonry which formed the body of the statue is yet
visible, while a narrow long stone to the right formed the shin-bone
of the figure’s left leg; a method of working which we pointed out at
Palenque, Izamal, and Aké, and called the “cement epoch.” Below in the
great frieze forming the body of the edifice, three large panels were
also occupied by statues, which were still standing. In the central
panel to the right, the masonry which formed the bodies before the fall
of the plaster is still visible; while eight niches, in groups of two
each, contained idols of smaller dimensions.

On the first esplanade of the pyramid is another building, which to
judge from its inner arrangement was the priest’s house. This temple is
neither stately nor ancient, for hardly any rubbish has accumulated at
the foot of the building.

We give here the drawing of a diminutive ancient temple in terra-cotta,
to be seen in the Trocadéro, and which we found on the _Uplands of
Mexico_. It consists of a pyramid with three or four stories, and a
temple crowning its summit, with projecting cornices surmounted by a
decorative wall, pierced by holes exactly like the temple at Lorillard,
at Tikal, and the Pigeon House at Uxmal. The most prejudiced mind
cannot but acknowledge the resemblance and similarity of design in the
religious architecture of the plateaux, and that of Chiapas, Tabasco,
Yucatan, and Guatemala.

To the rear of the temple, on a much higher pyramid, stands the
loftiest and largest monument at Lorillard. On its vast esplanade were
six palaces, forming a rectangle. One of these palaces, having stone
lintels finely sculptured, is still partly standing, but so decayed
that we could do nothing with it. As for the other buildings, they are
a ruinous heap. The narrow openings had stone lintels, while those
of the large entrances were of wood; this was probably owing to the
difficulty of procuring blocks of stone of sufficient size for the main
doorways. Remains of wooden lintels and zapoté wood are still found
in the walls. This building, whether it was the cacique’s residence
or a fortress, is admirably situated, and from the upper terrace a
magnificent view extending over boundless woodlands is obtained.
It should be borne in mind that in an unhealthy, burning climate,
dwellings on the summits of pyramids were a necessity for health, pure
air, absence of mosquitoes and other disagreeable insects; that is the
reason why we invariably find buildings of any dimensions supported on
mounds and terraces.


The palace we inhabit is below the temple and on the first grade of the
hill or amphitheatre. What remains of its decorations is like that of
the temple, but ruder and more dilapidated. The doors are irregular,
of different size, with slanting or perpendicular jambs and niches
distributed without any order. The decorative wall which crowned the
building has fallen in; the frieze is but a confusion of holes, niches,
and projecting stones. The inner arrangement is rather peculiar, being
a maze of narrow passages, small apartments having platforms of masonry
covered over with plaster, which may have been used as beds. Another
long narrow platform, occupying the centre of the main passage, we
thought was the dining-room, and was used as such. To the rear, in a
subterraneous portion which is reached by a very steep passage, are two
narrow apartments filled up to the ceiling, which were probably tombs.
They reminded me of similar chambers at Palenque, in which I found
skeletons and vases.


     No. 1, Shafts of Sculptured Columns. No. 2, Niches. No. 3,
     Entrances. No. 4, Large Passages. Nos. 5 and 6, Niches with
     Platforms. No. 7, Inner Chamber. No. 8, Cement Table. No. 9,
     Sloping Passages leading to Subterraneous Apartments. No. 10, Low
     Walls. No. 11, Filled Tombs. No. 12, Altar. No. 13, Back Issues.]

The façade of this building is 65 feet by 52 feet long. Two fragments
of sculptured columns, about 2 feet in height, the use of which is
not known, but which may have been altars supporting household gods,
or pediments for censers, are found in the front yard. On clearing
the edifice of its vegetation, I found that the average of concentric
circles, showing the age of the trees, were ten or twelve a year, just
as at Palenque.

I may remark that virgin forests have no very old trees, being
destroyed by insects, moisture, lianas, etc.; and old monteros tell
me that mahogany and cedar-trees, which are most durable, do not live
above 200 years. In our passage through the forest, even on days when
there was not a breath of wind, trees were falling in every direction.
In a storm they fall about in hundreds, and the journey is then most
dangerous. Monuments cannot be gauged, therefore, from the size of the
trees growing in and over them. Another feature of virgin forests is
that they do not strike the mind as anything particular, and I know
none which can at all compare with Fontainebleau.

To the south-west of our residence is another great pyramid, having
circular buildings, which must have been a temple, for we found a great
number of vases for perfumes, both on the ground floor and in the upper
portion of the edifice. The body of the monument is of the usual type,
but the first story (a side of which is shown in our cut) affords a
new specimen of the Indian mode of building. We think this but an
extension of the decorative wall; it consists of a narrow apartment
and a receding passage extending from end to end, terminating at each
extremity with the peculiar opening seen in our drawing.

We have also noticed a greater variety in the triangular vaults
(arches) of these buildings, which are either straight, concave, or
convex; sometimes the latter vault has no key, and the two walls meet
with an acute angle, whereas in Tabasco and Yucatan, they are straight
or concave only. Lintels are more numerous and richly sculptured than
in Yucatan, but they are only found in edifices which we suppose were
temples or palaces. The best carved are small, and seem to replace
both the slabs covered with inscriptions, the rear of altars, and the
sculptured pillars of the buildings at Palenque.


The first we give occupies the central door of the temple, and is
3 feet 9 inches long, by 2 feet 10 inches wide. Two figures with
retreating foreheads form the main subject, having the usual high
head-dress of feathers, cape, collar, medallion, and maxtli like
the idol; while their boots are fastened on the instep with leather
strings, as similar figures at Palenque. They are of different size,
and represent probably a man and a woman performing a religious
ceremony; the taller holds in each hand a Latin cross, while the other
carries but one in the right hand. Rosettes form the branches of the
crosses, a symbolic bird crowns the upper portion, whilst twenty-three
katunes are scattered about the bas-relief. We think this a symbolic
representation of Tlaloc, whose chief attribute was a cross, which here
consists of palms or more probably maize-leaves intermingled with human
figures, recalling to the memory of his devotees the god who presided
over harvests.


The two high reliefs which follow are also lintels from a small
ruined edifice at the foot of the pyramid, of great interest and
marvellous richness of detail, than which nothing at Palenque is so
minute. The first represents two human figures surrounded by a snake
or volute, the centre of which is occupied by a cartouche containing
four hieroglyphics. The figure to the left holding a sceptre in his
right hand, with an aigret in his huge head-dress, similar to that
in the palace at Palenque, may be a king, or more probably a priest
of Quetzalcoatl. Both figures wear the usual dress, but the priest’s
medallion is a gem of art. The inscription, half of which is in a good
state of preservation, is a series of characters mixed with the human
figures, like the inscriptions in Chiapas and Tabasco. We think these
two figures portray a ceremony in honour of Quetzalcoatl; for in the
First Part of the Troano manuscript (Plate XXVI.) as well as in the
Second (Plate XVII.), which are obviously dedicated to this deity,
we find figures resembling that on our slab. It is by far the most
wonderful monument which, up to the present time, has been found in
America, and which we can boldly call a work of art. If we except the
flat foreheads, everything is perfect in this monument; and nothing in
the early manifestations of ancient civilisations is found more rich
or better treated than this; as seen in the hands, the head-dress, the
superb mantle of the kneeling figure, the dignified, majestic mien of
the standing priest.


We said that this relief, and the edifice to which it belongs, were
dedicated to Cukulcan, representing a religious ceremony, or rather
sacrifice; for the kneeling priest has a rope passed through his
tongue, whilst the other holds over him a huge palm, encouraging him
to go on with his penance, and this is corroborated by Sahagun, who
says:[164] “They pierced a hole with a sharp itzli knife through the
middle of the tongue, and passed a number of twigs, according to the
degree of devotion of the performer. These twigs were sometimes
fastened the one to the other and pulled through the tongue like a long
cord. They were also passed through a hole in the ear, and other parts
of the body; but wherever they were passed, four hundred and even more
were used by the penitent, which done, his sins were forgiven.”

Torquemada also mentions these penances: “The priests of Camaxtli and
Cholula, _i.e._ of Quetzalcoatl, under the superintendence of their
elder, or _achcautli_, provided themselves with sticks two feet long
and the size of the fist, and with them they repaired to the main
temple, where they fasted five days. Then carpenters and tool-workers
were brought, who were required to fast the same number of days, at
the end of which they were given food within the precincts of the
temple. The former worked the sticks to the required size, whilst the
tool-makers made knives of obsidian, with which they cut the priest’
tongues from side to side.

“More prayers followed, when all the priests prepared for the
sacrifice, the elders giving the example by passing through their
tongue four or five hundred twigs, followed by such among the young
who has sufficient courage to imitate them. But the pain was so sharp
that few went through the whole number; for although the first twigs
were thinned out, they became stouter each time, until they attained
the size of a thumb, sometimes twice as much. Not unfrequently the
_achcautli_ sang a hymn during this horrible operation, to encourage
his younger companions in the pursuance of their duty. The _achcautli_
was wont also to go about admonishing the people to prepare for the
great feast (sacrifices), and in _his hand was carried a large green
twig_.”[165] This green twig was replaced by a palm in warm regions,
as in our relief, the leaves of which rest on the double volute so
often seen about Quetzalcoatl’s mouth.

We read in Clavigero that: “The blood which flowed from these
self-inflicted wounds was carefully kept on the leaves of a plant
called _acxoyatl_, having a number of straight stalks and large leaves
growing symmetrically.”[166] Is there no connection between this plant
and the palm of our figure?

Landa too relates that these macerations were common to the Mexican
and Maya priests: “The Mayas offered their blood to the gods, cutting
their ears all round and allowing the bits to hang down; sometimes they
pierced their cheeks, their lower lip, or their tongue, and passed
twigs through them.”[167]

And at page 9 of Letellier’s “Codex,” in the National Library, we find
opposite the image of Cukulcan, a painting representing a priest,
passing _a number of twigs through his tongue_, whilst the blood is
flowing freely.

We have seen that one of the attributes of Cukulcan was the cross, a
symbol of rain, the fertilising element. “The cross,” says Brinton,
“is the symbol of the four winds; the bird and serpent, the rebus of
the air god (Quetzalcoatl) their ruler.”[168] This god was therefore
intimately connected with Tlaloc and his sister or mate Chalchiutlicue,
and that is why the three deities are often found side by side,
sometimes mixed or confused, owing probably to their festival falling
on the same day.[169] The cult of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc was spread
by the Toltecs in their long wanderings; consequently we find them at
Lorillard just as we did on the plateaux.

We discovered in another temple two inscriptions on stone lintels,
like all the other bas-reliefs at Lorillard, resembling those given by
Stephens at Chichen and Copan, rather than those which accompany the
figures. We place them side by side in the next chapter, to enable the
reader to judge for himself. This is not the first time we have pointed
out a difference between the characters of the various inscriptions
we have published; but a difference does not imply dissimilarity, and
can in no way invalidate their common origin. If we look at home we
shall find that the writing of the nations of Europe has been greatly
modified, and that the Gothic characters of the twelfth century bear
no resemblance to the Roman type of the sixteenth. These inscriptions
may belong to different epochs or different dialects, and we have
reason to believe that the Toltecs of Central America had a hieratic
writing which was used both by the priests and the military caste,
of which proof exists in the bas-reliefs and the stone inscriptions,
where the figures are represented sitting cross-legged, whereas in the
inscriptions which we suppose to be in the vulgar tongue, and also in
the paper manuscripts, the figures are squatting, their chin resting
on their knees Indian fashion. There is a third writing, or symbolical
character, which was used in the Aztec manuscripts, and also in Toltec
and Aztec sculptures, to denote a man or a place; as seen on the tribal
leaves published by Lorenzana, on Tizoc’s stone, and on the bas-reliefs
at Chichen-Itza.

We do not know Toltec writing, for the manuscripts which were read by
Ixtlilxochitl, those found by Boturini, and interpreted by Veytia (so
he affirms), have disappeared; but it is probable that their current
writing has been preserved on the stone tables of Central America,
where it was used as a hieratic or learned language, of which the
Dresden and Troano MSS. are specimens, but that they adopted the
language of the regions where they established themselves.

Egypt had three kinds of writing; and in the inscriptions of the far
East found at Ciampa, Mr. Aymonier has discovered a hieratic, an
ancient vulgar language, and a dialect in common use at the present day.

Our work at Lorillard is done; and it is high time that we should
change our quarters, for Lucian, my secretary, is in a deplorable
condition, brought about by the too searching garrapatas and other
insects. The poor fellow is one sore from the waist, and it is a
perfect wonder how he held out so long. He is unable to stand, and has
to be carried on board our boat bound for “Paso Yalchilan.”

I quit this newly-found city with deep regret, leaving a great deal
unexplored, and treasures, maybe, as priceless as our Quetzalcoatl
bas-relief. The care of making a complete ground plan of the place, and
bringing to light the monuments said to exist on the right bank of the
river, must, however, devolve on one more fortunate than myself.

The day after our arrival at Yalchilan, we received the visit of the
old chief, who was accompanied this time by his two wives and four
young men. I photographed them, and with the interpreter’s help I
succeeded in keeping them fairly quiet. They all wear the same dress, a
kind of loose white tunic reaching to the ankles, made of coarse calico
prepared by the women. That of the chief and his wives was dotted over
with red obtained from a berry; their hair is worn long and loose, and
the women adorn it with feathers; an enormous collar of berries, beads,
bone, and coins is around their necks, and hangs down to their waist.
They hold great store by their tunics and necklaces, which they would
not be persuaded to part with in favour of European goods; this does
not extend to their bows and arrow-heads.


The same dress being common to both sexes, makes it sometimes difficult
to distinguish men from women. The old chief looks sharply after his
young wives, and this inclines me to think that the young fellows who
accompany him are bachelors, and that ladies are scarce in the forest.
As a matter of fact, women are the main cause of their dissensions, and
we witness here a real struggle for selection.

They still use stone implements to fell trees and cultivate the land,
so that on seeing the steel hatchets, knives, and swords I gave them,
the chief exclaimed in the words of the Lystrians: “These are gods and
not men, who give us such wonderful things.”

The Lacandones wear no beard, and the hair that makes its appearance
is immediately extracted. They are well formed and of medium size,
but their flesh is flabby, their teeth decayed, and they look anæmic,
owing probably to their forest life. They live on the produce of the
chase, fishing, and agriculture. I am told that their fields are better
cultivated than those of the whites, their cabins neat, and that there
is no lack of tobacco, cotton, maize, and fruit. They have lost many
useful arts which were known to their ancestors, such as pottery,
which they replace by a variety of calabashes; nevertheless, they are
far from being as savage as is supposed. Their cruelty is the result
of their hospitality and confidence having been grossly abused by the
monteros. I could learn nothing respecting their religion, except that
before the discovery of the ruins by the whites, they used to perform
their religious ceremonies in them. They are extremely diffident, and
will hide in the woods at the approach of strangers.

[Illustration: LIBERTAD.]



    Departure from Peten—The River—The Sierra—Sacluc or
    Libertad—Cortez’ Route—Marzillo’s Story—Flores—Ancient
    Tayasal—Conquest of Peten—Various Expeditions—The
    Town Captured—The Inhabitants Disappear—Monuments
    Described—Tikal—Early Explorers—Temples—Bas-reliefs on
    Wood—Retrospection—Bifurcation of the Toltec Column at
    Tikal—Tikal—Toltecs in Guatemala—Copan—Demolition of
    Copan—Quetzalcoatl—Transformation of Stone Altar Bas-reliefs
    into Monolith Idols—End of an Art Epoch—Map of Toltec

Peten can be reached from Yalchilan either by going up the Usumacinta,
which a few hours beyond takes the name of Rio de la Pasion, or
through the woods on the abominable old Indian road described by every
traveller. We elect the latter, which, although longer, is easier for
our men, who will have mules to carry the heavy baggage.

About noon we come again upon Pépé Mora, who looks worse than ever; but
far from thinking of leaving his post, he has thoughts of founding a
colony here, and has begun by planting orange-trees and red chermoias.
He gives us a sac of smoked dry boar, we tender our thanks and bid
good-bye to the good old fellow, whom in all probability we shall never
meet again, and about four o’clock in the afternoon reach our first

The small river which has been our guiding mark is barely 3 feet deep,
but its banks are so high and steep that our mules will only venture in
after much coaxing, but once in the stream they feel so nice and cool
that they are persuaded with great difficulty to leave it. As for the
Mariposa entrusted with my wardrobe, notes, and plates, she laid down
and completely disappeared all but the head. I thought it was all over
with my documents, and was not able to refrain from a cry of horror; it
was a false alarm, which, however, obliged us to spend the best part
of the night round the fires to dry both clothes and photographs. In
the evening we reached the spot where we had left some of our supplies;
everything was exactly as it had been left, but we could hear nothing
of the wretched horse which had been abandoned.

Next day we took the Peten road, and arrived four days later at Sacluc,
now Libertad, the chief town of Peten, and the last inhabited place
in Guatemala. It is but a wretched village, like all we have seen in
these warm regions; it lacks everything, and we should literally have
starved, but for some clerks, who gave up to us an azotea (flat roof)
and part of their supplies.

Our road led east-south-east up to this point; but now its direction
is north as far as Flores, some thirty miles beyond, which stands on
an islet of the lake of Peten. This road is not far from the Sacpui
lagoon mentioned by Bernal Diaz in his account of Cortez’ expedition
to Honduras, when the Spaniards “_passed a village surrounded by a
great lake of fresh water_. Near it was a river emptying in the lake,
which was used by the Indians to go to the Sacpui lagoon (Chaltuna) and
Tayasal, capital of Peten-Itza.

“The place,” says the veteran soldier, “has white houses and temples
which glitter in the sun and can be seen six miles distant.”[170] It
is clear that Cortez was on the left bank of the only important river
discharging itself in the lake, for he dispatched five Spaniards and
two Indians in a canoe to require the cacique of Tayasal to furnish
him with boats to cross the river. It proves also that the march was
much further south than Palenque, and that Izancanac was not Palenque
and still less Lorillard, as advanced by Maler in the “Bulletin de la
Société Géographique, 2^e trimestre 1884,” page 275. His assertion is
all the more extraordinary that Diaz’ account shows plainly that Cortez
must have gone up the S. Pedro valley to come upon this place, the only
one which corresponds to Diaz’ map and itinerary.

It is too absurd to suppose that Cortez, who was provided with a
mariner’s compass, whose route lay by Tayasal, should have abandoned
the broad level and eastern direction to turn south and encounter the
stupendous difficulties of crossing the abrupt range which divides S.
Pedro from upper Usumacinta—a _détour_ of more than ninety miles. In
that case he would have approached the Sacpui lagoon on the southern
and not on the western side, and there would have been no river to
cross. We will give Diaz’ own words:

“The villages towards which we steered were on an islet, near a
fresh-water lake, which could only be reached by canoes. _We walked
round two miles and discovered_ a ford where the water was up to our
waist. Here we got some guides, and when Cortez, through Doña Marina,
asked them to take us to the towns inhabited by bearded men, they
answered that they were quite ready to do so. Five accompanied us;
and the road, broad at first, became very narrow, _owing to a great
river which discharges itself in an estuary not far distant. Here the
Indians entered their boats to go to the town we were bound for, called

The cacique himself came forward and conducted Cortez to his island,
who left his wounded horse Marzillo to the care of the Indians. They,
after the general’s departure, offered him divine honours and the
offerings of their idols, but the invalided animal got worse under such
fare and at last died. The affrighted Iztaes raised him a temple and
placed in it his sculptured image, worshipping him under the name of
_Izimin Chac_ (“thunder and lightning”), because, having witnessed some
of the cavaliers shooting deer, they imagined that the flash of their
guns proceeded from the animal.[172] The name _Izimin Chac_ recalls
the pyramid at Izamal called _Papp-hol-Chac_, “house of heads and

Flores, our next stage, is a lovely place built on the site of ancient
Tayasal, beautifully situated on a great lake surrounded by a lofty
range of hills. The Spaniards found the Iztaes, who had come from
Yucatan, established here. All marks of sculpture and architecture have
disappeared; nevertheless, we are able to reconstruct its history and
show that the monuments were not ancient.

When Cortez passed here, the town still numbered among its inhabitants
men who had come with the emigrant column from Yucatan, and this
tradition was current two centuries later. They had preserved the
ancient civilisation of the Toltecs, and used the same characters to
record their history, which were handed down on manuscripts called
“_Analtes_,” exemplified in the Yucatec and Mexican manuscripts.[173]
“Their idols,” says P. Fuensalida, “were like those of the peninsula.”

Such writers as Villa Gutierre Soto Mayor, Cogolludo, and Remesal[174]
mention various expeditions sent to subdue this gallant little people,
which was the last to surrender to Spanish arms.

The expedition from Yucatan was in 1618, two monks taking part in it to
convert the natives. They found at Tayasal the language, the manners,
the customs and architecture of Yucatan before the Conquest, with a
population of 25,000 to 30,000 souls, which would incline us to infer
that the great cities we have visited were larger and contained more
buildings than we thought possible.

“These temples,” says Cogolludo, “raised as usual on pyramids, were
of the same dimensions as the largest churches in Yucatan, and were
capable of holding over 1,000 persons. In one of them stood the Izimin
Chac, Cortez’ horse, which seeing, one of the monks, Padre Juan de
Orbita, filled with indignation, rushed at the idol and broke it with a
huge stone.” But this ill-advised zeal well-nigh caused the destruction
of the troop, which was only saved by the friendly interference of the

There followed a second, then a third expedition under Martin Ursua
(1696), who, on his march to Peten, found a place called Rohbeccan, “a
city with edifices filled with idols.”

Tayasal was attacked and taken on the 2nd of March, 1696,[176] when
the survivors of the struggle retired to the inaccessible vastnesses of
the northern islands, their spirit still unbroken.

The more we advance, the clearer it becomes that if numerous towns
were found deserted, it does not prove their antiquity, but rather the
deep, universal hatred of the natives for the conquerors. This city had
twelve temples in 1618, and twenty-one in 1696, so that nine were built
during the seventeenth century; among the latter was the finest of all,
described by Villa Gutierre Soto Mayor in the following words: “The
great temple was entirely built of stones, lofty and square in shape,
_with a fine balcony_ of cut stones, and two ogival vaults, each side
measuring 20 varas” (about 60 feet).[177] This, we think, disposes of
the _prehistoric_ temples scattered in the forests of the peninsula.

This temple, although more finely built, recalls the Castillo at
Chichen, the chief features of which are reproduced here on a larger
scale. Is not this sufficient proof that the monuments were modern,
and not the work of an extinct race? We find Tayasal a descendant, a
daughter of Chichen-Itza, just as Tikal is its ascendant or ancestress;
the latter will give us the key to the chief cause of the Toltec
migrations in Yucatan, and will explain the Toltec influence visible in
the cities of Coban, Copan, and Quirigua.

Tikal is forty miles north-east of Flores, towards the south of the
peninsula. Two explorers have visited it of late; one is the Swiss
Bernouilli, whose labours were interrupted by death, but whose
documents upon Tikal are as priceless as they are interesting. They
consist of twelve pieces of sculptured zapoté wood, which were
appropriated from the temples and are now in the Basle Museum, where
I was permitted to take squeezes of them; many are damaged by the
infiltration of water rather than time, nevertheless, a whole panel has
been made, which we reproduce the better to elucidate our explanations.

[Illustration: FLORES, LAKE OF PETEN.]

The other traveller is Alfred Maudslay, who made Guatemala the main
field of his interesting and successful labours. We borrow from his
photographs and notes to complete our description. “The buildings at
Tikal are of stone laid in mortar _smoothed over with plaster_ (the
cement epoch at Palenque, Lorillard, and Aké). The walls are generally
3 feet thick; the inner walls rise perpendicularly to a height of 7
feet, then approach each other to form the well-known American vault or
pointed arch. No trace of true vaults are found, for the acute angle of
the arch, and the enormous weight pressing on it, would not allow the
walls to be more than 5 or 6 feet distant from each other; so that the
interior of the palaces presents the appearance of long passages rather
than apartments.” (Exactly what we pointed out at Lorillard.) “The
doors are square at the top and the lintels consist of three or four
pieces of wood. Within the apartments are also pieces of the same wood,
but smaller, and placed across the ceiling 5 feet distant from each

Some of these small palaces are in a perfect state of preservation, but
by far the greater proportion, the lintels of which have disappeared,
are a ruinous heap. As usual, the edifices are reared on natural
or artificial plateaux, the sides faced with cut stones. The most
important buildings are the temples, which rise on high pyramids, the
sides divided in receding ranges or stones, shown in our plate.

The façade is occupied by a flight of steps leading to the entrance
of the temple, which is narrower than the terrace on which it stands,
whilst the side of the pyramid corresponding to it is on a steeper
slope than the façade and remaining sides. (This we pointed out also at
Palenque and Lorillard.) The pyramid is 184 ft. at the base by 168 ft.;
the staircase is 112 ft. high by 38 ft. wide, giving the pyramid a mean
altitude of 90 ft.; the façade is 41 ft. by 28 ft. long and about 40
ft. high, counting the _decorative wall_ hidden by vegetation.

All these temples are alike; the characteristic feature about them is
the great thickness of the walls, the niches on the sides of the main
apartment, and the gradual narrowing of the edifice from front to rear.
The interior of each consists of two or three narrow passages running
on a parallel line on the sides and abutting on the front corridor,
with large openings and wooden lintels beautifully sculptured. The
inner walls of the temples are higher than those of the palaces, whilst
the vault, also higher, forms a more acute angle. This is owing to the
great decorative wall crowning the edifice, the weight of which would
have been excessive, had not the builder provided for it by thickening
the walls, lengthening the vault, and narrowing the apartment.

“I met no idol, or any object of veneration in these temples,” says
Maudslay: a pardonable error, since he had not yet visited Palenque or
Lorillard, which would have enabled him to see in all those pieces of
sculptured wood representations of religious ceremonies, which replaced
the idols seemingly wanting.


“In the open space or court which stands between the temples, are
several stones of the nature of stelæ or small menhirs; some have their
front occupied by a human profile and hieroglyphics on the sides. On
others, both profiles and hieroglyphics were of very hard cement; the
stone had also been smoothed over with it. In this court are likewise
several circular altars, _facsimiles of those at Copan_. Some are
scattered among the ruins, but they are generally plain, owing probably
to the plaster that composed the figures having fallen, and left the
stone surface bare. Circular openings of about 1 foot 9 inches in
diameter occupy the centre of the square or court, giving access to
circular subterraneous chambers from 6 feet to 10 feet in diameter.
They were cisterns.”[178] Our plate shows one of the temples having
these stones in its court.

On comparing the edifices at Lorillard with this temple, it is seen
that the frieze which surmounts the plain wall at the base must have
had the same kind of cemented figures, whilst the ground plan at Tikal
shows the arrangement of its monuments to have been similar with those
at Lorillard. Thus we find at Tikal a _résumé_ of all that which we
noticed and studied in the various cities we have visited; but here we
have a new feature in the altars, which stand in the open air, whilst
the stelæ recall the votive pillars at Teotihuacan which develop in
monoliths at Copan and Quirigua.

This analogy is plainly seen in our drawing of one of these stelæ,
representing a beautifully sculptured figure, in high relief, with the
usual dress of priests, grandees, and idols. A series of katunes, like
those at Palenque, Lorillard, and Copan, are ranged on the edge of the
stone. Unfortunately this monument is in a very dilapidated condition;
but for the head, which is wanting, it would have been quite as
remarkable as our high relief at Lorillard (see end of chapter).


If we come to details, a first glance will show that the superb
bas-relief on wood in the next page, is a facsimile of the panels to
the rear of the altars at Palenque. The dimensions are almost the same,
6 feet high by 7 feet 6 inches wide: it also represents two figures
in high relief, having the peculiar attributes generally seen on
American sculptures. The hieroglyphics on the sides are admirably well
preserved, and do not betoken a very ancient epoch, for they are just
like those at Palenque, Lorillard, and Copan.


Unlike similar reliefs at Palenque, where the idol formed the central
subject, here it is replaced by a standing human figure, having an
elaborate head-dress with fantastic ornaments and huge feathers,
recalling Tabasco and Yucatan. In his hand is carried a sceptre
topped by a bird’s tail, and the rosette we noticed on the crosses
at Lorillard, whilst his left arm is almost hidden by a shield; he
wears the usual fringed cape, heavy collar, and large medallion; under
this is seen a rich mantle reaching almost to the ground; garters and
buckles are around his legs, and shoes cover his feet. The Buddhic
religious cloak is seen also on the kneeling priest at Lorillard, and
the maniple on the arm is a facsimile of one in the palace at Kabah.


To the right below the inscription are symbolic ornaments, and
towards the lower extremity two superb human profiles. Under the
left inscription is a figure with a monstrous head, sitting on a
stool ornamented with arms, with a back of peculiar shape. Many
of the ornaments on this panel are of unknown signification, but
a large portion is quite familiar and has been already reproduced
by us. The most important figure of all is that to the top of the
bas-relief, above the central figure. It is a mask with protruding
tongue representing the sun, like that of the Mexican calendar and the
central figure over the altar in the Temple of the Sun at Palenque. The
flames on the sides of the mask indicate this plainly. Clearly this
magnificent bas-relief belonged to a temple dedicated to that great
Toltec deity.

We know that the worship of the sun was general with all the American
tribes, and if at Tikal we call him the god of one particular race, it
is owing to the details which surround him; both pyramids, temples,
inscriptions, figures, and emblems particularise him, and give us the
right to connect him with the religion of the Uplands and call him

We have other panels consisting of scattered pieces collected in
various monuments. Some of the inscriptions are in perfect condition,
and furnish important analogies. One is a human profile, like the
sculptured figures on the great monoliths at Copan; another has fine
inscriptions and a characteristic tiger’s head, whilst below is a
figure of the usual type and dress sitting on a throne admirably
carved. These reliefs are in the Trocadéro.

To sum up, Tikal is a town which belongs to the Toltec civilisation,
the march of which we have followed from their first homes to Ocosingo,
Lorillard, and Tikal in Yucatan, where they met, both in the south and
north of Guatemala, the first branch, but Tikal being farthest from
the starting-point must necessarily be younger than the cities already
described; to us, however, it is one of the most important epochs in
this original civilisation, inasmuch as it is an intermediary station,
a place whence the race branched off, a fact which solves questions and
clears up events not hitherto understood.

From Tikal the civilising column advanced towards the north of the
peninsula. Material proofs of this exist in the cities ranged on its
line of march, for instance, Nohbeccan, seen by Ursua, and also
in the historical data, which the reader may see in our chapter on

The uniform expression of the faces in these bas-reliefs is generally
calm and pleasant, as at Palenque, where we pointed out that after the
almost total extermination of their race, the Toltecs ceased to be a
warlike nation and became missionaries of civilisation, bringing the
population around them into submission by their persuasive preaching,
like the priests of Buddha in India and Java, adopting the language of
their disciples, and building marvellous temples in honour of the gods
they preached. The bas-reliefs at Palenque, Lorillard, and Tikal tell
this story very plainly.

The arrival of the Toltecs in the south of Yucatan is thus placed
beyond a doubt; but the explanation given of the abandonment of Chichen
by its inhabitants is highly unsatisfactory. That exodus, produced
by secondary causes, was determined by the still living tradition
that establishments had been formed by their ancestors in the south
of the peninsula, and that Tikal, which at that time was perhaps
still standing, formed the chief centre. It is more than probable
that the caciques of Chichen had kept up some intercourse with one
of the cradles of their family, and when they set their face in that
direction, it was but an instinctive yearning to return to Peten. To
the same Toltec branch is clue also the colonisation and civilisation
of the north of Guatemala, Tikal being the central point, whence some
directed their march north, whilst others went south.

If we are to believe the priest of Quiché, “he saw at Coban a great
city which filled him with astonishment.” We have heard nothing of such
a place, nor has any other traveller; but if we follow the affiliation,
it is highly probable that Coban was a station of the Tikal-Toltec
branch, which from this point went east, where they founded Copan
and Quirigua in the province of Chiquimula. Copan was standing at the
Conquest, as well as Utatlan, Atitlan, Xelahu, Patinamit, and several
other Guatemalec cities, which were destroyed by Alvarado. Copan was
forced to yield after a desperate struggle to Hernandez de Chaves, one
of his lieutenants (1530), and Juarros tells us that Fuentes visited it
in 1700, when “the Great Circus still remained entire.”

We follow Stephens[179] in the description and illustration of these
monuments, and find that the most remarkable are monolith idols, which
are only the development of the stelæ and monoliths at Tikal, and
that the inscriptions, bas-reliefs, and idols are like those of the
places we have already described, except that they seem to us to belong
to a later period, contrary to Stephens, who assigned an original
civilisation to them. But Stephens began at the wrong end when he made
Copan the first scene of his investigations, and that accounts for his
want of insight in not having perceived that these monuments were the
outcome of an old civilisation. Later, his better informed judgment
enabled him to grapple with the difficulties, and arrive at the truth.
We claim but to be his disciple.

The first drawing is a finely sculptured head, which he calls a king;
but this bearded man, whose head is locked in a huge serpent’s jaw,
whose head-dress consists of wreathed serpents, or a Guatemalec turban,
is a personification of Quetzalcoatl, and though the type is somewhat
changed the attributes are unmistakable.

We have no reliable description of the monuments at Copan; but from
what Stephens says of them, they seem to differ from those we have
explored. Juarros’ description of Santa Cruz del Quiché, Utatlan, and
other Guatemalto-Toltec centres, recalls Mexican cities, which may well
be, since they were situated also on plateaux, and must necessarily
have had a different appearance from those of the warm regions.

The Toltec branch of the Pacific, although influenced by their
surroundings, had preserved the traditions of Anahuac, and reproduced
the buildings and the same mode of living suggested by the resemblance
of their present to that of their former homes. But these two
branches met for the first time at Copan, shown in the mixture of
the two different styles, where the palaces and temples seem to us
Guatemalto-Toltec, whilst the idols are Tzendal-Toltec, and the stone
bas-reliefs of our temples are replaced here and at Quirigua by
enormous monoliths of 12 to 20 feet high by 4 wide and 3 feet thick.

At Kabah, which we think coeval with Copan, we noticed the exaggerated
ornamentation which marks two different epochs; the same thing happened
here, and is a new instance of a general tendency, which may almost
be called a law; nor is it necessary to be an archæologist to affirm
of these monuments, that they are not the beginning but the end of
an art, for here we see monoliths loaded with all the ornaments and
architectural designs which at an earlier epoch had spread over idols,
bas-reliefs, and palaces.

The inscriptions not only retain the ancient characters, in which
faces and human figures were intermingled, but they sometimes entirely
consist of human figures grouped in the most violent postures. This is
not all: the same idol personifies several deities, shown in the first
we reproduce, where the great central figure, having a woman’s head,
emerges from a dragon’s jaw, recalling Quetzalcoatl; whilst the band
which surrounds his loins consists of human figures, ranged over a
wreath of maize, showing the attributes of the Tlaloc at Palenque, and
also of Chalchiuhtlicue and Centeotl, the Mexican Ceres.


The decorative designs of these monuments show at a glance their
correlation with the bas-reliefs and monuments introduced earlier in
this work. They generally consist of volutes, and the head of a small
monster offered by one of the figures to a symbolic bird, as in the
cross at Palenque, and a similar figure in the Temple of the Sun; some
of the details belong to Lorillard, whilst others are like the wood
bas-reliefs at Tikal.



But we will yet take another idol, the better to show these analogies.
The figure stands square instead of being carved in profile; the
forehead, like that in the Temple of the Sun at Tikal, is less
retreating, whilst the head-dress recalls both Tikal, Yucatan, and
Lorillard. The ornaments are of the usual type, and the petticoat of
the goddess has the diamond design which we saw at Palenque and in the
Uplands. The sides of the idol are covered with a series of characters
like those on the bas-reliefs at Lorillard, Tikal, and Palenque; the
affiliation cannot be controverted.

Again, let us take Stephens’ interesting altar, 6 feet long by 4 feet
high. The top is divided into thirty-six tablets of hieroglyphics;
whilst the sides are sculptured with human figures in profile, seated
cross-legged on a kind of cushion, having a turban or Guatemalec
head-dress, with the cranial deformation much diminished, as in the
idols. These new types, mixed with others familiar to us, are due to
the immigrant Toltec tribes who met after two centuries of wandering,
so that this monument shows both: the figures being Quiché-Toltec or
Guatemalto-Toltec, whilst the symbolical characters are pure Toltec;
the latter, be they near the figure, on his dress, or his seat, give
the names and titles of the beings they serve to decorate.

Palacio recognised the Toltec civilisation at Copan, since in a letter
to Philip II. (1576), “he found these monuments in ruins, but superior
to any edifice of the same nature built by the inhabitants of these
regions.” Their traditions make them attribute these edifices to
_emigrants from Yucatan_, which he thinks probable, “because of the
resemblance between these monuments and those he met in Yucatan and
Tabasco.”[180] Consequently we see at Copan the end of an old art mixed
with another equally old, the combination of which produces a new
manifestation in the American civilisation. It is idle to speculate how
it would have developed had it not been stopped in its inspiration and
destroyed by the arrival of the Spaniards.

We follow Veytia in tracing the migratory movements of the Toltecs from
the north-west as far as Tula: but from this point we mark their march
towards the south after the breaking up of their empire. Torquemada
mentions a sub-division, which fell back on Huaxteca, whilst the main
body coasted the seaboard of the Mexican Gulf, building Blasillo,
where palaces and temples are still standing, and Comalcalco (Centla).
Here they divided; some following the Carmen lagoon entered Yucatan by
Patonchan, of which the chief or reigning family were the Cocomes; Aké,
Izamal, Mayapan, etc., were built by this branch.



The others directed their march towards the south and founded Palenque
and Ocosingo, then falling back on the Usumacinta, settled at Lorillard
and the more distant Tikal. Here took place the branching off which we
mentioned above; one division, from which the Tutulxius were descended,
going north, founded Nohbeccan, Iturbide, Labna, Kabah, Uxmal, and
Chichen; whilst the other built Coban, Copan, and Quirigua, where they
met and amalgamated with the branch which had followed the Pacific
coast. The latter, after they had traversed the region inhabited by the
Zapotecs (Oaxaca), tarried at Tehuantepec, then resumed their march
towards Guatemala, where they laid the foundations of Utatlan, Xelahu,
Atitlan, Patinamit, etc., and joined the northern branch at Copan.


As will be seen, this is but a broad outline which leaves out a number
of localities we could name, and many others which we do not know, but
which we hope will be discovered some day. We have also traced in our
map the return march of the Iztas (or Iztaes) from Chichen to Tayasal.

     The line in our Map which to the north goes into Huaxteca, shows
     the course pursued by the Toltec branch mentioned by Ixtlilxochitl
     and Torquemada; and the monuments in that region, which all bear
     a resemblance with those of Tabasco and Yucatan, are the works of
     the Toltecs just as much as those of the above-mentioned states.
     We wish also to point out that the towns in this region, as yet
     unexplored, were inhabited and the monuments standing at the time
     of the Conquest, and that a few years sufficed to dilapidate and
     deface them.

     Nicholas de Witt, who visited Huaxteca in 1543, in a letter (1554)
     published by Ternaux Campan, says that the region contained great
     cities and was more thickly populated than any other, but that
     when he visited it, _twenty years_ after the Conquest, it was
     deserted and covered with ruins; because some years before, the
     Spaniards had basely massacred the inhabitants. They had invited
     all the chiefs to a conference in a large wooden house, and burnt
     them alive. After this cruel act, the _Huaxtecs abandoned their
     town and retired in the woods_.




    Return to Tenosiqué—S. Domingo del Palenque
    Revisited—Departure for S. Cristobal—First Halt—No
    Tamenes—Setting out alone for Nopa—Bad Roads—No
    Food—Monkeys—Three Days Waiting at S. Pedro—The
    _Cabildo_—Hostile Attitude of the Natives—The Porters
    Arrive—They make off in the Night—From S. Pedro to Tumbala—Two
    Nights in the Forest—Tumbala—The Cura—Jajalun—Chilon—Citala—A
    Dominican Friar—Cankuk—Tenejapa—S.
    Cristobal—Valley of Chiapas—Bullocks—Tuxtla—Santa
    Lucia—_Marimba_—Tehuantepec—Totolapa—Oaxaca—Santa Maria del
    Tule—Ruins of Mitla.

There is positively nothing new to say about the long, wearisome
journey from Copan to Tenosiqué; it is the usual road through forest,
with no incidents to mark it from former journeys, which besides we
performed in Stephens’ and Maudslay’s company from whom we borrow both
descriptions and monuments. We will therefore start from Tenosiqué,
where our personal explorations begin.

In order to avoid going by Frontera, which I had visited several times,
I returned to Palenque, crossed the Sierra of Chiapas, that I might see
S. Cristobal, Tehuantepec, and the various Indian villages which are
found along that road new to us.

As it was a long distance, offering many difficulties over almost
impassable mountain paths, which at times are almost perpendicular, I
dismissed my men and sent Lucian and one of my two servants to wait
for us at Mexico, whilst Julian and I, with our arms and photograph
apparatus, set out for S. Domingo del Palenque, where I engaged six men
to convey our baggage over the Sierra to S. Cristobal.

I had been duly instructed upon the route I was to follow by the
alcalde, so that leaving our men to come after us, which we were
assured would be done immediately, Julian and I mounted our horses, and
we were soon galloping in the direction of the rancho, which we reached
towards ten o’clock; here our guide wished to return to Palenque, but I
required him to await the arrival of the tamenes, who were not yet in
sight, and with whom I could not communicate without his help. But the
whole day passed in fruitless expectations, all the more disagreeable
that they had all the supplies, and we were reduced to a large ball
of _posole_,[181] not much for empty stomachs, so towards evening the
guide went along the river’s banks in search of snails, and we had to
content ourselves with them for our supper.

The following day I sauntered in the wood to do something, and found a
tortoise of 8 or 10 inches long, having its lower shell furnished at
both ends with two appendices, which enabled the fellow to shut himself
up and defy all enemies, a true snuff-box tortoise. I thought at first
of keeping it; but, alas for human resolve! by noon it was in the pot
fast turning into delicious soup.

Two men who were returning from Palenque, brought us news at last
of our porters; they had got drunk on the money which, according to
custom, they had received in advance from us, an affray had followed,
they had been handed over to the police and shut up in jail; they were,
however, to be released on that very day, and a few hours would bring
them to us.

[Illustration: SNUFF-BOX TORTOISE (_Cinostemon Leucostomum_)]

The guide, who was anxious to go home, exchanged a few words with the
men which I could not understand, then informed me that they were
willing to carry my luggage to S. Pedro, where we should find ample
accommodation, plenty of supplies, and that it would be a better place
to wait for our tamenes. I agreed, and we were soon winding up the
sierra, which, at first gradual, soon became precipitous, obliging us
to throw off our clothes and to retain only our nether garments, and
even these we cut above the knee to facilitate our movements. The men
carried everything, but far from feeling the weight put upon them, they
seemed to have wings to their feet, and left us far behind to toil up
as best we might.

At last we halted by the side of a stream, where our much reduced
_posole_ was entirely consumed amongst us all. Somewhat refreshed with
the rest and food, we resumed our ascent, but towards evening the
cravings of the stomach were again felt, and our sluggish legs refused
to carry us much further. The porters had indeed drawn our attention to
some _hoccos_ hovering among the branches, but I had missed one at a
few yards’ distance, and the scarcity of ammunition, the bulk of which
was with the missing tamenes, made me unwilling to venture on another
shot unless I was sure of it.

Poor Julian was fast losing heart; fortunately just then we heard cries
of monkeys quite near, and deviating to one side we came upon a whole
tribe of them perched in the queerest attitudes, which our approach did
not seem to scare in the least, giving me ample time to take aim at a
fine powerful fellow some fifty or sixty feet overhead, which I brought
down with one single shot.

We had now reached a broad expanse of several thousand feet above the
level of the ocean, and were only a few yards from the rancho Nopa,
built for the use of travellers; the night was drawing near, and we
were glad to get some kind of shelter. Meanwhile the female monkey
had followed us with her two young ones, uttering the most lamentable
cries; they had perched on a tree quite close, and the mother was now
watching with mournful eyes her late lord being cut up.

But, alas for human sympathy! far from being touched at this mark of
conjugal devotion, I only thought of the substantial meal we should
make after our long fast, and that the animal was large enough to last
over the next day for our breakfast, when with renewed strength we set
out again, and after hours of wearisome toiling, we came upon a large
river not marked on the map, which we crossed in a pirogue, and two
hours more brought us in view of S. Pedro, an Indian village consisting
of about a hundred huts, scattered over some of the hillocks with
which the plain is dotted. No admixture of white blood is seen here,
and nothing but Indian is spoken.

I directed my steps towards the centre of the village, hoping to find a
hut in which to rest our weary limbs; but the first I ventured into was
occupied by women, who shrieked with terror on perceiving me and rushed
out, whether at the arms I carried, or because I was white, must remain
a mystery to the end of time. Their cries brought the whole female
population into the street (the men were at the milpa), glaring at me
and scampering away the moment I tried to get near.

My repeated inquiries for “el Gobernador” (the alcalde is so styled
here), at last induced the boldest in the crowd to point to a large
building to our right; I went in and found some young girls, clad
from the waist in a cotton garment, engaged in breaking Indian corn
on _mectates_, whilst an elderly woman similarly attired was stirring
a kind of Scotch broth, boiling on the hearth, the smell of which was
so appetising that I immediately pantomimed to the old dame to give me
some, showing at the same time a shining real in my open palm to help
my eloquence. But the virago, brandishing her spoon in my direction,
advanced to prevent my further ingress, pouring out a volley of
questions and vituperations the while, which, of course, I could not
understand, but which plainly meant that she was not to be persuaded by
such means, and that the sooner I vacated the place the better for me.

I hesitated what I should do; but, reflecting that I was in the
stronghold, with no better chance of a welcome anywhere, I determined
to stand my ground, and going into the yard I seized the first fowl
within my reach, wrung its neck, and holding it up to the woman, signed
to her to cook it, presenting her with three reals.

The fowl had been eaten, and I was fast asleep under the verandah, when
I was aroused out of my slumbers by the owners of the hut, who had just
returned from the fields, and were now standing before me with hatred
in their looks and demeanour. They were soon joined by others, and all
signed to me to leave the place immediately; I thought it no disgrace
to yield before such numbers and to go to the _cabildo_, “common room,”
filled already with natives from various parts of the sierra on their
way to or from “las playas.” Here fortunately I found a meztizo who
spoke Spanish and was civil enough to arrange with an old couple to
provide me with some food twice a day, and who promised besides to
hurry on my tamenes as soon as he met them.

Shall I ever forget the first night I spent in this horrible cabildo,
where all the abominations which are inseparable from barbarians
seemed to have concentrated in it: the atmosphere was such as could
be expected in a room overflowing with unwashed, unkempt, uncared-for
humanity, alive with dirt! Sleep was of course out of the question;
whilst a tropical rain precluded our sleeping in the open air.

We had three days of this nameless, indescribable horror; on the fourth
the tamenes arrived looking rather foolish, displaying their bruises to
account in some way for their delay. I was too thankful to have some
clean clothes and a hammock in which to sleep, away from the filth of
the last days, to think of reprimanding them, and I was so worn-out
with the unrest of the preceding nights, that I slept on until broad

When I opened my eyes, I saw indeed my packages arranged as they were
the evening before, but no tamene was standing by them. A horrible
suspicion crossed my mind. I rushed out followed by Julian to look for
them, but ere long I had to convince myself that they had made off in
the night to save themselves another toilsome journey.

Armed with gun and revolver, I went round the village to find other
porters, but my offers were met everywhere with jeers and defiant
looks, until at last, disheartened and hardly knowing what to do, I
bethought me of the old Indian couple that had cooked my dinner and had
betrayed some signs of sympathy at our mishaps, and begged them to take
care of my luggage until I should send for it from S. Cristobal. Then
provided with only what I thought strictly necessary for three days’
march (rugs, waterproofs, shot, a _posole_ cake, and some ham), which I
made into two bundles, one for Julian and the other for myself, we took
the road to Tumbala, fervently hoping never to set foot in S. Pedro

I cannot say much for our first attempts at turning tamenes: the straps
supporting our burdens cut into our flesh, we advanced slowly and with
great difficulty, and although it was comparatively cool in the forest,
I felt hot to suffocation; we stopped every five minutes to take breath
and ease ourselves of our burdens, but after a while we got used to
our new mode of life, which was not so bad after all, for we found
plenty of water on the road, and towards noon we sat down by the side
of a running stream to eat our ham and _posole_, when Julian felt so
exhilarated by his present comfort, as to indulge in small jokes about
our late sad experiences.

Still holding our course up the sierra, at night we encamped at a
considerable height, not far from a spring, round which we cleared a
kind of green tent, lighted a good fire, which we took in turns to keep
alive, as a protection against moisture and wild beasts. As day broke I
heard a cock crow, showing that we were close to some habitation, but
according to my calculations we should reach Tumbala in a few hours,
and having enough for our immediate wants, we only thought of pressing
on to the end of our journey, where I knew we were expected, when
everything would be made right.

And now the forest was truly grand, glowing in all the splendour of
a tropical vegetation; some of the arborescent ferns rising to a
height of 40 feet, with far-spreading leaves, whilst the branches
of the stately trees were gaily festooned with the entire family of
orchids and other flowering parasites of the most brilliant hues. Long
processions of _arrieras_ (ants), laden with bits of foliage which they
tilted up like a sail, gave them the appearance of a green moving belt.

Towards evening we met an Indian on his way home from “las playas,”
of whom we bought some maize-bread, and at night we encamped like the
evening before in the forest. But a heavy storm arose; the driving
rain and hail penetrated our waterproofs, drenched our garments, and
threatened to put out the fire as well; the trees were cracking and
falling about us like hail. By-and-by the rain ceased, and we could
hear the hard breathing of a jaguar quite close to us; but the wood,
thoroughly saturated with the rain, smouldered on without burning up;
so that, in darkness which could be felt, I discharged at random the
contents of my revolver, but the brute kept his ground until the first
morning light, thus preventing our having any rest.

We rose with the lark, and, resuming our march, came in sight of
Tumbala towards ten o’clock, having employed three days over forty-two
miles! The cura was out, and our clothes soiled with mud, rain,
and adhering brambles, gave us such a sorry appearance, that the
housekeeper at first refused us admittance. After a while the cura
returned; he was a man of about thirty years of age, with a benevolent
countenance, full of kindness and sympathy over our hardships.

“Leave the tamenes to me to be dealt with as they deserve for their
breach of contract; although the rogues are likely to keep away until
they know you are out of the district.”

Meanwhile the dinner, to my deep satisfaction, was placed on the
table; I did ample justice to the viands, which were well cooked and
neatly served, the wine generous and the Comitan brandy excellent, but
my late harassing life had so weakened me that when I tried to get up I
could not steady myself, so I went to lie down, and slept on until noon
of the following day, when I felt completely restored and myself again.
The priest lent me some clothes till mine came, which, by his care, had
been sent for; and thus accoutred, I went about with him fully enjoying
my return to civilised life.

Tumbala has nothing to distinguish it from other Indian towns; it
stands on one of the highest levels of the _Sierra Madre_, girt with
a dark belt of pines and long lines of shadowy hills, stretching away
in the far distance. The population numbers about 12,000 inhabitants,
who live in the forest rather than in their mud cabins, so that the
pastor is sometimes three months without seeing the male portion of his

A taxation of six shillings per head a year is the only act of
submission to the State exacted from this semi-barbarous but almost
independent people. The Governor, generally a native, collects the
taxes, but in all other matters he is the humble servant of the padre,
in whom are vested all powers both civil and spiritual; on the whole he
makes very good use of his immense influence, in curbing and directing
these childish, untutored, ignorant people.

Crimes are punished by jail or the _bastinado_; if the treatment is
primitive, it suffices in all cases, which may well be, for the number
of strokes varies from twelve to one hundred and fifty.

Whilst I was here, I witnessed a curious incident: one day a woman came
to the cura demanding justice against her son, who had been wanting in
respect to her. The son, a big, tall fellow of five-and-twenty, was
with her; both were the worse for drink. The priest remonstrated with
the mother, but she was obdurate; the law allowed her twelve strokes,
and twelve strokes she would have. “Never mind, Señor Padre, I know I
don’t deserve them, but she is my mother, and since it pleases her, I
may well consent to it.” He got his twelve strokes “_pro formâ_,” after
which they fell into each other’s arms perfectly happy. On another
occasion two brothers preferred receiving twelve strokes rather than
make friends.

They own no money except what they earn as tamenes for the whites of
the districts round about S. Cristobal. They still retain the character
of the old tamenes, who followed armies and merchants in their distant
expeditions; they begin their apprenticeship at eight years of age,
when they accompany their elders, carrying, like Æsop, the supplies
of the company; their load is increased from year to year until it
sometimes reaches two hundred pounds. Their avocation is so ingrained
in their habits, that they fancy they cannot walk unless they carry
some weight, so that on their return journey they generally have a few
stones at their back.

But the larger proportion of their earnings finds its way to the padre;
for marriages, christenings, confessions, burials, masses, etc., have
all to be paid for, so that the priest of Tumbala is not badly off, but
he shares with his bishop, who must have a well-feathered nest. Besides
this, the simple natives give in kind of all they have; they are proud
when they are required to repair their pastor’s house, to run his
errands, or carry him over the sierra when he travels; they consult him
in all things, fully believing that the cura is able to help and see
them out of all their troubles.

My luggage arrived at last, and as there was nothing to keep me any
longer at Tumbala, I took leave of the hospitable priest, amply
provided with food and letters of introduction to all the curas along
the road, and set out for Jajalun, only a few hours distant, on foot,
for the simple reason that no horses or mules could be obtained.

Jajalun stands on the declivities of the Cordillera, sloping down
towards the Pacific; the hills are clad with dark forests of pines,
whilst fields show signs of careful cultivation, where black beans
intervene with golden harvests of maize. The population has a good
sprinkling of half-castes or meztizos, who speak Spanish and live
like the ancient aborigines, in houses built with mud coated over
with plaster; their manners are those of the villages of the Mexican
plateaux, rather than of the settlements we have just visited.
_Anteburros_, “tapirs,” people the forests and the streams.

We were received in the same kind manner by the cura as we had been at
Tumbala, and having thoroughly rested mind and body, we did not much
mind having again to perform our next journey on foot. The road was
good, and lay across level ground, we were well provided with all the
necessaries of life, so that there was little to complain of; indeed,
Julian was so set up with the good cheer and the kind attentions of the
women during the last few weeks that, in his desire to entertain me, he
sang nearly all the way what was meant to be a comic song.

At Chilon we found horses which carried us comfortably to Citala, where
a Dominican friar, for the time being cura of the place, received us in
his house and entertained us most hospitably. I found him a remarkably
agreeable, well-bred man, of far greater culture than is generally the
case with his brethren. Some years before he had published his views
upon religious reform, and this had brought him in bad odour with his
superiors. He was by nature of a sensitive, proud disposition, and he
felt keenly the slur cast upon him by his banishment in which the best
years of his life were frittered away, and his health undermined by the
unhealthy climate and the absence of all social intercourse. The days
I spent in the society of this genial, superior man, seemed to flit by
unheeded; whilst I was given opportunities of noting down new _traits_
in the character of the natives.

One day I happened to be in the church, whilst the friar was in his
confessional, and, to my surprise, I saw him confess two persons at
the same time, each speaking loud enough to be heard at some distance.
Naturally enough I expressed my surprise to the padre. “Oh! it is the
custom here; they do not think anything of it, and it not unfrequently
happens that I confess husband and wife at the same time. You are aware
that the seventh commandment is utterly disregarded by these people;
so that when they happen to confess together, they of course hear of
each other’s delinquencies, and the two culprits look daggers at each
other across the grating. They are imposed a penance, which is always
observed, are both absolved on their promise to go and sin no more,
and the couple return peacefully to their home. It was a confession
made in the presence of God, who has forgiven, therefore the husband
has nothing to complain of; but if he found out the backslidings
of his wife through any other means, it would go hard with her. Do
not hurry away,” said the padre, “to-morrow I join twenty couples
in holy matrimony; it is a saving of time and drunkenness, for one
entertainment will do for all.”

I was much interested in a pretty patriarchal custom here, which
consists in the female population coming up every evening to kiss their
pastor’s hand and ask for his blessing. I came in for my share, and had
then the opportunity to notice that they are not remarkable for good
looks; and, as the priest said, there is small merit in resisting the

We wished the friar farewell, and continued our course to Cankuk; where
the kindly “padre” procured some men to carry us some twenty-seven
miles of such bad road, that even the Indians do not trust their
animals on it. It is the usual mode of travelling in this part of
the sierra, but an uncomfortable feeling of the unfitness of things
is experienced, in subjecting a fellow creature to become a beast of
burden on your account. However, the feeling soon wears off, for they
do not seem to mind it themselves, and they handle you about as they
would a bale of cotton, and have a disagreeable way of flourishing
you over fathomless abysses, which I found so trying that I deemed it
prudent to perform the precipitous descent on foot.

This gave me the opportunity of stopping at my leisure to admire the
grand prospect which from time to time opened out before us; the valley
with its gay confusion of cultivated fields, and the houses of S.
Cristobal shining in the sun. The ancient capital of Chiapas rises on
a narrow plateau more than 7,000 feet above the level of the ocean,
with a population of some 12,000 inhabitants; its climate is colder
and damper than that of Mexico, and if we except the church of S.
Domingo, possesses no edifice of interest. The houses are all built
on the same pattern, and few are more than one story high, with no
outer ornamentation of any kind. It looks what it really is, a poor,
miserable place.

The market of S. Cristobal is the only one in Mexico where bags of
cocoa are still used as currency, as in the time of Montezuma. The
clergy of Chiapas, formerly so wealthy, has been deprived, like that
of Mexico, of its emoluments and glebe lands, and the religious orders
have also been suppressed.

We next follow the circuitous road to Chiapas, through a wild and
dreary country, intersected by torrents, barrancas, and precipices
of two or three thousand feet. We passed Ystapa, where the priest
wished to know if France was a sea-port like Vera Cruz; and pressing
on we reached the broad level of Chiapas, covered with sombre forests,
bounded to the rear by the hills of Tuxtla, whilst to the right and
left the eye travels over a boundless distance. Along the river which
traverses the plain, specks of white show where the town lies.

We only stopped at Chiapas the time necessary to change horses, and
pushed on to Tuxtla, twenty miles beyond, now the capital of the
province, where no mules could be hired, and we were obliged to buy
horses to take us on to Oaxaca. No danger was to be apprehended, for
the country was quiet; we were, moreover, fully armed and provided with
a good map.

Osocantla, our first stage, exhibits abundant traces of volcanic
action. We hold our course across great rolling plains, dotted with
forests and patches of cultivation, intersected by broad rivers, and
pass Santa Lucia, the finest hacienda in these parts, surrounded by
huts occupied by the labourers employed on the property; it possesses
a sugar-mill, and a granary for corn and maize, whilst the woods are
peopled with wild turkeys, pheasants, numerous red aras, green parrots,
and clouds of gaudy butterflies, rivalling the beauty of the vegetable
creation nowhere so brilliant as here, where the river, with its
interminable windings, casts across this privileged land a perpetual
green and variegated mantle.

Life here is primitive and patriarchal: In the evening after prayers,
the servants come round to take their orders for the next day, kiss the
master’s hand and wish him good night; then they all collect in the
yard to enjoy, what they are pleased to call, an hour’s rest, which
consists in games, singing and dancing, some accompanying the singers
on the _marimba_, a kind of piano which is played with small sticks
topped by india-rubber paddings, an instrument found also in South
Africa, where it bears the same name, whence in all probability it was
imported to America by negroes at the time of the Conquest.

We resume our march, and pass successively Llano Grande, Casa Blanca,
S. Pedro, and La Gineta; the latter is one of the highest peaks of the
sierra, clad with forests on the eastern side, but is only carpeted
with grass towards the Pacific. We toil up its long winding ascent, but
when we reach its summit, one of the grandest panoramas unfolds before
our enraptured gaze. Looking back to the north, which we have just
left, is the Cordillera, gradually sloping down from the high plateaux
of Chiapas, to its deep, sombre valleys; whilst beyond are vast plains,
and in the far distance the glimmering light of the Mexican Gulf;
before us, to the south, is the verdant Gineta; lower down, the rich
plain of Tehuantepec, bound on the horizon by the broad sheet of the
Pacific. The pass of the Gineta is very dangerous in winter, owing to
the violent winds which then prevail, carrying off both man and beast.

As we advance haciendas disappear, and we find the sides of the roads
dotted with villages as in Mexico. The population seems indolent and
inert, content to pinch or starve rather than exert themselves beyond
what they have been accustomed. Villages are usually built near running
streams, in which women are seen the whole day bathing; but, unlike
Diana, they do not mind being looked upon, contenting themselves with
turning their backs upon the intruder.

We steered our course safely through Zanatepec, Miltepec, but at
Yaltepec we lost our way, and wandered about some time in the woods
before we could find the main road, approaching Tehuantepec about
nightfall, celebrated for its fair women, the handsomest in the State.
They are cast in noble proportions, and have a dignified, erect
carriage. Their dress consists of a short petticoat reaching the
ankles, a jacket which leaves neck and arms bare; a _uipil_ embroidered
with gold and silver covers their head, whilst their small feet are
incased in dainty little shoes. Their dresses sometimes cost a hundred
pounds, a large sum in this part of the world.

[Illustration: TEHUANTEPEC WOMEN.]

In Tehuantepec are met the peculiar people known as _pintos_,
“painted,” no misnomer, for they are covered with sickly white patches
extending sometimes over the whole body. The effect of these patches
over their swarthy skin is most repulsive, and gives them the ghastly
appearance of lepers.

There is little or nothing to be said upon our next journey, except
that after S. Juan we enter once more the region of cactuses in all
their variety, and arrive at Oaxaca dust-travelled and weary. This
region enjoys a delicious climate, whilst its soil is most productive.
Ancient ruins are numerous, but they are little known and still less
studied, owing probably to the fact that they bear no resemblance to
those that are known, and that no historians have mentioned them.
Nevertheless, I should ascribe a Toltec origin to the very interesting
ruins of Monte Alban, some miles distant from the town of Oaxaca,
rising to a height of 4,930 feet, terminating by a partially artificial
plateau, extending over one half square league, covered with masses of
stones and mortar, forts, esplanades, narrow subterraneous passages,
and immense sculptured blocks. The arches or vaults of these passages
are formed by large inclined blocks of stone overlapping one another,
and sculptured with human faces in profile, resembling the bas-reliefs
and figures lately discovered at Santa Lucia Cosumaluapa in Guatemala.

The grandest ruins are to the south end of the plateau, consisting
mostly of truncated pyramids about 25 feet high, having steep sides.
Enormous masses of masonry show where palaces and teocalli once stood.
The plateau is covered with fragments of lime, very fine pottery, on
which a brilliant red glazing is observable. An Italian explorer, some
years ago, opened some of the mounds, and found necklaces of agate,
fragments of worked obsidian, and golden ornaments of fine workmanship.

These monuments are different from other ruins in the valley or at
Mitla, both in their architecture and materials, which consist of
stones laid in mortar, whereas at Mitla, clay was used with large
pebbles, faced with irregular stones, varying in size in different
parts of the walls. The walls of the temples were perpendicular, and
the ceilings flat; whilst at Monte Alban, we have the _boveda_, or
overlapping vault.

Our explorations take us next to Mitla, leaving to our left the
fine cemetery called the _Pantheon_; we pass Santa Lucia, where
cock-fighting still forms the chief amusement of its inhabitants,
and six miles further we come in sight of the charming settlement of
Santa Maria del Tule, peeping out from among groves of pomegranate,
chermoias, and goyavias.

In the open space fronting the chapel, stands the old tree called
_Sabino_, an object of great veneration on the part of the natives,
who come from all parts of Central America to see it. Its greatest
girth measures 14 paces or 33 feet, to the height of 20 feet, where
it divides, carrying its vigorous branches 100 feet beyond. Some
travellers have supposed that three stems had united to form its
colossal trunk, but I was unable to discover more than one shoot, and
its vigour is such, that several centuries more may safely be predicted
for it.

We resume our march, steering towards the east where the valley becomes
very narrow; we pass Tlacolula, following the spur of the hills, where
open quarries still show half-hewn blocks left by the ancient builders
of Mitla, and bearing to the right we reach S. Dionysio, the last place
in the valley; and now Tatapala is fast disappearing in our rear, and
bending to the left we approach an almost uncultivated valley with
bare hills, where stand the funereal palaces of Mitla. Its sandy soil
supports no vegetation, save a few pitahayas, yielding a delicious
fruit the size of a swan’s egg, having a strawberry flavour.

The ruins of Mitla, which at the time of the Conquest occupied a wide
space, are now reduced to six palaces and three ruined pyramids. In the
square of the village stands an oblong edifice, 98 feet long by 13 feet
wide, faced with unsculptured blocks of stone, with only one opening at
the side.

The next, in our general view of Mitla, is the first edifice to the
north on the slope of the hill, consisting of a confusion of courts,
buildings, and mosaic work in relief of beautiful and graceful
patterns. Below are found traces of very primitive paintings,
representing rude figures of idols and lines forming meanders, the
meaning of which is unknown. The same rude paintings are found
throughout the palace in sheltered places which have escaped the
ravages of time. That such immature drawings should be found in palaces
of beautiful architecture, decorated with panels of exquisite mosaic
work, are facts which, at first sight, make it difficult to ascribe
them to the same people.

I have called the first ruin the cura’s house, because the venerable
man, who has occupied it for the last fifty years, used the walls of
the ancient edifice to build himself a spacious and comfortable house.
The church adjoining it is also constructed with the material taken
from the ancient palace.

Below, to the left, is a truncated pyramid, built with adobes, ascended
by a stone staircase, having a Christian chapel on its summit. The
Spaniards cleared it so completely of the ancient temple that no
trace remains. The great palace, the walls of which are still entire,
consists of a vast edifice in the shape of a Tau; the main façade
faces south, and is the best preserved of all the monuments at Mitla,
measuring 130 feet, with an apartment corresponding to it of the same
dimensions, and six monolith columns which supported the roof now
fallen in. Three large doorways gave access to the apartment, having a
pavement covered with cement.

Both Torquemada and Clavigero, who wrote of these monuments from
hearsay, erroneously ascribe 30 feet and 80 feet respectively to these


The only entrance to the inner court on the right, which is also
cemented, is through a dark narrow passage, having the walls and the
main façade covered with mosaic work in panels, framed with stones. The
court is square, and opens into four narrow long apartments covered
from top to bottom with mosaic work in relief, arranged in varied
parallel bands, extending to the roof. The lintels over the doorways
were formed of huge blocks of stone from 16 feet to 18 feet. We give
a ground plan of the palace, and a cut of the great hall or apartment,
together with a cut of the same hall restored by Viollet-le-Duc, who
says of this monument:

“The three doorways, opening into the great apartment with columns,
were partly walled up after the erection of the building, but are
plainly visible. Over the doorways are four round holes, into which
were probably fixed hooks supporting a portière. The monuments of
Greece and Rome, in their best time, can alone compare with the
splendour of this great edifice. The ornamentation is arranged with
perfect symmetry, the joints are carefully cut, the _beds_ and _arris_
of the cornices faultless, showing that the builders were masters of
their art. The lintels in this monument consist, like those of Greece
and Rome, of large blocks of stone; the ornamentation is a series
of varied panels, set in elegant frames, composed of small stones
beautifully cut, arranged in meanders, trellis-work, and diversified
in their combinations.” The distinguished architect ascribes these
monuments, as also those of Yucatan and lower Mexico, to a branch of
the southern civilisation (Malays), separated from the parent stock,
and crossed many times with whites.



It will be apparent to the reader, that the ruins at Mitla bear
no resemblance with those of Mexico or Yucatan, either in their
ornamentation or mode of building; the interiors have no longer the
overlapping vault, but generally consist of perpendicular walls,
supporting flat ceilings, so that it seems almost impossible to class
these monuments with those of Central America. Nevertheless, there are
details which recall Toltec influence, as we shall show later.

The second palace is the most dilapidated of those which are still
standing. The door, the sculptured lintel, and two inner columns, are
the only remains which serve to show that the same arrangement was
observed here, as in the great hall already described. The fourth
palace is occupied on its southern façade, which we reproduce, by much
more oblong panels, having three human figures or caryatides. Four
other palaces, to the south, are almost level with the ground, the
walls only rising 3 or 4 feet above it; but the enormous blocks of
stone forming the basement, give them a massive appearance which is not
observable in the palaces that are still standing.


The natives make use of them as dwelling-places. Subterraneous
passages, which were opened some years ago, extend under these ruins;
but the hostile attitude of the Indians caused them to be closed up
again before they could be properly explored. The ruins are fast
falling into decay, hastened by the natives who resort hither from all
parts, and in their ignorance take away the small stones forming the
mosaic work, with the idea that they will turn into gold. The local
government could easily stop such Vandalism, but it does not seem to

We do not know the precise date of these monuments, except that they
had long been in a state of ruin at the time of the Conquest, and
Orozco y Berra[182] thinks that they were destroyed some time between
1490-1500, in the fierce contests between the Zapotecs and the invading
Aztecs, a fact which would make them but little older than those we
have described in the course of this work.

If there seems but little resemblance in the general outline between
these monuments and those of the Toltecs or Mexicans, it must be
evident to any one that some of the details, such as the masks and
the small terra-cotta figures, are exactly like those at Teotihuacan;
whilst the small crosses on the panels of the great palace, and those
on the façade of the fourth, are facsimiles of those on the priest of
Quetzalcoatl at Lorillard—assuredly a most important analogy.[183]

Torquemada ascribes a Toltec origin to these monuments, for he says:
“After Quetzalcoatl had established himself at Cholula, in order to
carry on there his work of civilisation, he built the celebrated
palaces of Mitla.”

According to Burgoa,[184] Quetzalcoatl was worshipped at Acihuitla; and
in the great sanctuary of that town was an idol called the “Heart of
the people. It consisted of a large emerald the size of a Chili pepper,
surmounted by a sculptured bird of exquisite workmanship, wreathed by
a serpent. It was a gem of great antiquity, and so transparent that
it shone like a flame; but the origin of the _cult_ which surrounded
it was forgotten.” Orozco y Berra thinks that the snake represented
Quetzalcoatl, and was a Toltec reminiscence.

The Zapotecs and Miztecs believed themselves autochthones; they were
ignorant of their origin, and had preserved no record of the time when
they established themselves in the country of which Teozapotlan was
the capital. The original name of Mitla seems to have been _Liobaa_
or _Yobaa_, “the place of tombs,” called by the Aztecs _Mictlan_, or
_Mitla_, place of sadness, hell, dwelling of the dead, a holy place
devoted to the burial of the kings of Teozapotlan.[185]


The edifices consisted of four upper apartments finely sculptured,
corresponding to an equal number in the lower or ground story. The
upper story was divided between the high priest, whose apartment was
the best furnished of all, the king, who retired here on the death
of a relation, his retinue, and the levites. In the lower story, the
sanctuary formed the central apartment, having a large slab which
served as an altar, on which were placed the images of the various
deities; the side apartments were devoted one for the king’s burial,
the other for the priests; the fourth, which is supposed to have
been the largest, extended far out under ground, and was supported
by columns like those of the main upper apartment or hall, having an
entrance which was closed by a large slab. In this vast enclosure were
thrown the bodies of the victims and the military chiefs who had died
in battle. Besides these, there were those who consecrated themselves
to the gods, when they were led to the mouth of this necropolis by a
priest, the slab was raised, and the self-devoted victim suffered to
pass out in the abode of the dead.


The high priest was called “_Huiyatoo_,” the great sentinel, he who
sees all; his power, which was absolute, was even greater than the
king’s. No person of low degree could see his face and live. He was the
sole mediator between man and the gods; from him flowed all good gifts,
both temporal and spiritual.[186]

It is probable that Burgoa never visited Mitla, for he only mentions
one palace, whereas eight were still standing in his time. It
seems strange that the Mexican Government should not undertake the
exploration of these ruins, which, as they were the burial place
of kings and priests, must contain costly robes, jewels, arms,
etc., perhaps even manuscripts that would be most valuable for a
comparative history of the Zapotecs and Aztecs. This is all the more
to be regretted, that there is a stir in the learned world respecting
American ruins and American antiquities.

“In a word,” says Orozco, “great divergence is found between the
Zapotec and Toltec civilisation; they seem to spring from a common
source, their calendar is the same, and their writing nearly so; both
had made great progress in architecture and ceramic art. But these
differences, seemingly slight, deepen with a maturer study: although
based on the same principles, Zapotec writing has different characters,
and objects assume other conventional forms; colours are more glaring,
and at a first glance it is impossible to confound a Miztec with a
Toltec, Acolhuan, or Mexican manuscript.”[187]

To conclude, although we have visited the ruins of Mitla more than
once, we have not made so careful a study of them, as of those in
Yucatan and Central America; nevertheless it has been shown that both
Torquemada and Orozco see a Toltec influence in these monuments.




    PAGE 269.—_Henequen._—Annual fires are run over the country to
    clear the ground for the labourers, who then dig holes in the
    rocky soil and set out the henequen plants. When of sufficient
    size, the leaves are cut and carried to the “scraping
    machine,” which consists of a large fly-wheel, with strong,
    blunt knives carried around on the rapidly revolving wheel.
    The leaves are pressed by means of a curved lever, in such a
    way that the pulpy portion is scraped off, leaving the fibre.
    The men feed the machine with astonishing rapidity, pressing
    the leaf between the knives and lever with a motion of the leg.

       *       *       *       *       *

    PAGE 284.—_Indians._—The great uprising of the Indians began
    in 1821, when Mexico separated from Spain. The large landed
    proprietors were everywhere opposed to separation from the
    mother country, whilst the bulk of the people, who owned no
    property, were in favour of it. Later the country was divided
    in two parties, in which one wished for an amalgamation with
    Mexico, whilst the other was against it. The aborigines cast
    in their lot with the latter, receiving arms and promises of
    independence. After the struggle was over and the Mexicans
    expelled, the Indians were dismissed to their homes, and the
    promises made to them were not kept.

    In 1846 the Indians saw their opportunity; they swept the
    eastern coast with fire and sword, and ravaged the country
    throughout. At last Mexico, having concluded peace with the
    United States, sent an army, and the rebels were very slowly
    driven back. But it was years ere peace was restored, and even
    now annual risings take place, whilst thousands of square
    miles are desolate, and hundreds of towns lie in ruins.

    By calling in the aid of Mexico, Yucatan lost her autonomy,
    and became one of the Confederate States of the Republic.

       *       *       *       *       *

    PAGE 296.—Stephens (“Incidents and Travels in Yucatan,”
    vol. ii. p. 441) says of the third monument, known as the
    Palacio—palace—the ascent is on the south side by an immense
    staircase, 137 feet wide, forming an approach of rude
    grandeur, each step 4 feet 5 inches long, and 1 foot 5 inches
    in height.

       *       *       *       *       *

    PAGE 427.—It is urged that Yalchilan should be written either
    Xalchilan or Jalchilan, _x_ and _j_ being convertible letters
    having a strong aspirate; but as doctors are not agreed, the
    name is suffered to stand as in the text.


[1] 3,901 feet.

[2] Clavigero, “Hist. Antigua,” lib. II. p. 53.

[3] 199 feet.

[4] Prescott, “Hist. of the Conquest,” vol. II. p. 8.

[5] Sahagun, “Hist. de Nueva España,” lib. X. cap. xxvii.

[6] 247 feet.

[7] Geronimo Mendieta, Historia Ecclesiastica Indiana, lib. IV. chap.

[8] Clavigero.

[9] According to Bustamente, Netzahualcoyotl was the owner of
Chapultepec, and planted the great _ahuahuetes_, from 1425 to 1440. But
it is more logical to suppose that it was a Toltec plantation dating
back to the ninth century.

[10] Clavigero, “Historia Antigua,” vol. I. p. 75. Ramirez, chap. iv.
p. 120.

[11] Clavigero, vol. I. lib. vii. p. 223. Acosta, “Historia de las
Indias,” p. 472. Cortez, “Letters,” p. 79. Torquemada, “Monarquia
Indiana,” vol. II. p. 483.

[12] Sahagun. Ramirez. Duran, “Historia de las Indias de Nueva España,”
vol. I. chap. xx. Leon y Gama, “Las dos Piedras.” Conquistador Anonimo,
“Coleccion de Documentos.” Icazbalceta, vol. I. p. 375.

[13] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” vol. I. lib. i. p. 82. Diego
Duran, chap. lxvi.

[14] Diego Duran, vol. I. chap. xxix. Ixtlilxochitl, “Historia
Chichemeca,” chap. xli., etc.

[15] Orozco y Berra, “Historia Antigua,” vol. II. chap. ix. p. 96. He
quotes Joseph de Maistre.

[16] Diego Duran, vol. I. chap. xxix.

[17] Antonio de Leon y Gama, “Descripcion Hist. & Cronologico de las
Dos Piedras,” pp. 2 and 5.

[18] Clavigero, “Historia Antigua,” vol. I. p. 242; _id._ notes, p. 6;
_id._ vol. I. chap. vii.

[19] Geronimo Mendieta, “Historia Ecclesiastica Indiana,” vol. IV.
chap. xii.

[20] Between the years 1832-1842, copper-mines were worked successively
by an Italian of the name of Chialiva, and others.—TRANSL.

[21] “Anales del Museo de Mejico,” vol. I.; art. by Don Jesus Sanchez.

[22] “Bernal Diaz del Castillo,” lib. I. cap. xvi.

[23] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” vol. II. p. 560. Ixtlilxochitl,
in his fourth Relacion, says that the Toltecs used oblong pieces of
copper shaped like hatchets, about the thickness of a real.

[24] Prescott, “History of the Conquest of Mexico. Critical Notes by
Jose Ramirez,” vol. II. Cumplido.

[25] Veytia, “Hist. Antigua,” vol. I. chap. i.

[26] Veytia. Ixtlilxochitl says the same thing.

[27] These knots were Chinese; in Peru they were called _quipos_.

[28] The same as _Kab-Ul_, “the Working Hand,” which we shall see at

[29] Guillemin Tarayre, “Archives de la Commission Scientifique du
Mexique,” pp. 378, 379.

[30] Veytia, “Hist. Antigua de Mejico,” vol. I. chap. xxv. p. 233.

[31] Sahagun, “Hist. General de las Cosas de la Nueva España,” lib. X.
cap. xxix.

[32] Ixtlilxochitl, “Hist. Chichemeca,” cap. II. third and fourth

[33] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” vol. I. chap. xiv.

[34] Clavigero, “Hist. Antigua de Mejico,” vol. I. lib. ii. pp. 51, 52.

[35] Veytia, “Hist. Antigua de Mejico,” tome I. cap. xxv. p. 233.

[36] Torquemada, tome II. lib. vi. cap. xxiii.

[37] Veytia, “Hist. Antigua,” tome I. cap. xxvii.

[38] Tezomoc. Duran. Mendieta. Gomara. Sahagun, append. of lib. III.
cap. ix. Clavigero, tome I. p. 151.

[39] Torquemada, tome II. lib. vi. cap. xxiii.

[40] Torquemada, cap. xlv. This author follows the writers whom he
quotes in their spelling of proper names, and the result is often great

[41] Burgoa. Botturini. Tarabal. Clavigero, “Hist. Ant.,” tome I. p.

[42] Fergusson’s “History of Indian Architecture,” introd. p. 41.

[43] Ixtlilxochitl, fourth “Relacion.”

[44] Sahagun, “Historia de las Cosas de la Nueva España,” lib. VII.
cap. x. to xiii.

[45] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” lib. II. cap. xii.

[46] Veytia, tome I. chap, xxxiv.

[47] Veytia, tome I. chap. xxxiv.

[48] Mariano Veytia, tome I. chap, xxviii.

[49] Humboldt, “Vue des Cordillères,” p. 29.

[50] _Id._ p. 27.

[51] Clavigero, tome I. lib. vii. p. 224.

[52] Veytia, tome II. chap. i.

[53] _Ibid._ chap. ii.

[54] Similar spindles, with whorls attached, have been found in Egypt
and the Swiss Lakes.

[55] Sahagun, “Hist. de las Cosas de España,” lib. IX. cap. v.

[56] Mendieta, “Hist. Eccles. Indiana,” lib. II. cap. v.

[57] Cuauhtitlan’s Annals, translated by Sanchez Solis, “Annals of the
Mexican Museum.”

[58] Veytia, tome I. chap. ix.

[59] Juarros, “Compendio de la Hist. de la Ciudad de Guatemala,” tome
I. p. 87.

[60] Veytia, tome II. chap. iii.

[61] Sahagun, lib. VI. cap. xix.

[62] Sahagun, lib. VI. cap. xxi.

[63] Sahagun, lib. VI. cap. viii.

[64] Veytia, tome I. chap. xxix.

[65] Veytia, tome I. chap. xxxiii.

[66] _Ibid._

[67] Ixtlilxochitl, “Relaciones,” Kingsborough, tome IX. pp. 332 and

[68] Clavigero, tome I. lib. ii. p. 54.

[69] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” tome I. lib. i. cap. xvi.

[70] Ixtlilxochitl, _ut supra_.

[71] Veytia, tome II. chaps. ii., iii.

[72] Mariano Veytia, tome II. chap. x.

[73] _Ibid._ chap. xii.

[74] Hostelries.

[75] Sheets of mica were used by Red Indians to cover human bones when
falling into dust.

[76] Sahagun, “Hist. de las Cosas de España.”

[77] Sahagun, Appendix to lib. III. cap. i.

[78] Sahagun, Appendix to lib. III. cap. i.

[79] Ramirez Manuscript, “Hist. Mexicana,” p. 75.

[80] Father Duran, “Hist. de las Indias,” tome II. Plate xxv.

[81] Juarros, “Hist. de Guatemala,” tome II. p. 249, 1809.

[82] Torquemada, tome II. lib. vi. cap. xxiii.

[83] Stephens, “Incidents of Travels,” vol. II. p. 316.

[84] Diaz del Castillo, tome I. chaps. xxiii. and xxxi.

[85] Herrera, “Hist. General,” Decade III. lib. VII. chap. iii.
Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” tome I. lib. iv. chap. xi.

[86] Cogolludo, tome I. lib. i. chap. ix.

[87] Mendieta, “Hist. Ecclesiastica Indiana,” lib. III. cap. xxi.

[88] _Ibid._

[89] Herrera, “Hist. Gen.,” Decade III. lib. VII. cap. iii.

[90] Motolinia, “Icazbalceta,” treatise I.. chap. i.

[91] Sahagun, “Hist. General de las Cosas de la Nueva España,” lib. I.
cap. v., and lib. II. cap. i.

[92] Bernal Diaz, “Conquest of New Spain,” tome II. chap. clxxiv.

[93] Cogolludo, “Hist. de Yucatan,” tome I. chaps, xiii., xiv., xv.

[94] Bernal Diaz, tome II. chaps, clxxv., clxxvi., clxxvii.

[95] “Origin of American Indians,” book II. chap. i. p. 46. Madrid,

[96] Juarros, “Compend. de la Hist. de la Ciudad de Guatemala,” tome I.
chap. iv.

[97] Ant. Tello, “Hist. de la Nueva Galicia.” “Coleccion Icazbalceta,”
tome 11. Mexico, 1866.

[98] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” lib. XIV. cap. xxiv.

[99] _Ibid._ cap. xxv.

[100] Clavigero, “Hist. Antig. de Mejico y de su Conquista,” tome I.
lib. vii. p. 245.

[101] There were fewer in Yucatan, where they were imported.

[102] It was only cultivated towards Bacalar lagoon, nearly 100 leagues
from the north coast.

[103] Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. 2.

[104] From data obtained from Pablo Moreno, and a letter of the Jesuit
Don Domingo, dated 1805, we can give the following list of objects
destroyed by Landa:

    5,000 idols of various form and dimensions;

       13 huge stones, which were used as altars;

       22 smaller, of various shapes;

       27 manuscripts on deer skins;

      197 of all shapes and sizes.

To this should be added the auto-da-fé at Mani, in which numerous
manuscripts were consumed. Cogolludo, tome I. appendix to book iv. p.
479. Campeche, 1842.

[105] See Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. 42, p. 333
and following.

[106] Lorenzo Bienvenida, in a letter to the King of Spain (1548), says
that the monuments were deserted and the pyramids covered with large
trees, and that the natives of the place lived in straw huts. The city,
therefore, had been destroyed a few years before, as Mayapan had been,
of which no trace was visible, whereas the monuments at T-hoo were
entire, but its history has been lost.

[107] The types we give are pure Indian and not Meztizas.

[108] “The tribes who from Aztlan established themselves in Yucatan and
Guatemala, had reached a certain degree of civilisation.”—HUMBOLT.

[109] Bernal Diaz, “Hist. de la Conquista de la Nueva España,” tome I.
chap. iv.

[110] Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. xx.

[111] See note at end.

[112] Cogolludo, tome I. lib. ii. caps. v. and vi.

[113] See note at end.

[114] Lizana, “Hist. de Nuestra Señora de Izamal,” published by the
Abbé Brasseur.

[115] Extract from P. Lizana’s “Hist. de Nuestra Señora de Izamal,”
published by the Abbé Brasseur.

[116] Diego Landa, chap. ix. p. 57.

[117] Lizana, “Hist. de Nuestra Señora de Izamal,” published by the
Abbé Brasseur.

[118] Stephens, “Incidents of Travels in Yucatan,” tome II. p. 434.

[119] Cogolludo, tome I. lib. iv. cap. iii.

[120] Landa, vol. XXII. p. 125.

[121] Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. xv. p. 91.

[122] Cogolludo, tome I. lib. iv. cap. xiv. Campeche Edition, 1842.

[123] Herrera, “Hist. Gen.,” Decade IV. lib. X. cap. ii.

[124] _Ibid._ lib. VII. cap. iv.

[125] Landa says nearly the same.

[126] Sahagun, Appendix to book II. p. 196; book VI. chaps. xxxix. to

[127] Clavigero, tome I. lib. vii. pp. 165, 166, 167.

[128] That it was a temple may be inferred from Landa, sec. vi. p. 34,
where he says that the main edifice at Chichen was called Cukulcan,
after a prince who had come from the west.

[129] Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. xlii. p. 343.

[130] Garnier, “Voyage d’Exploration dans l’Indo-Chine,” tome I. chap.
iv. p. 71.

[131] By a curious coincidence, a sculptured fish having a human head
is found on a Romance capital in the Church of St. Germain-des-Prés.

[132] Landa, sec. xlii. p. 344.

[133] The good bishop saw the hand of man in a natural phenomenon not
understood in his time.

[134] Landa, sec. lii. p. 346.

[135] Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. viii. p. 47.

[136] _Ut supra._

[137] Sahagun, “Hist. de las Cosas de la Nueva España,” lib. II. cap.

[138] Sanchez, “Annales du Musée de Mexico,” tome I. p. 277.

[139] Clavigero, tome I. lib. vii. p. 228.

[140] Sahagun, lib. VIII. cap. xxxvi.

[141] We looked in vain for the triumphal and solitary arch mentioned
by Stephens, a unique specimen of this kind of monument in America. It
is 20 feet high by 14 feet wide; and we shall see later that it could
only have been erected to commemorate a victory of the sovereign of
Kabah. The reader will notice that in this monument the corbel vault is
more convex, and recalls that of a ruinous palace at Palenque.

[142] Salisbury, “The Mayas,” p. 25. Worcester, 1877.

[143] Eligio Ancona writes: “The king of Mayapan, whom we will call
Cocom, distrusting both his great vassals and their allies, sought
the support of foreigners against them. He entered into negotiations
with the Aztec military authorities of Tabasco and Xicalango” (he
probably means Goatzacoalco, for it is certain that the Aztec dominion
did not extend beyond that limit), “and it is said that the Mayapan
ruler promised to quarter the troops they should send to his capital.
Cocom’s proposals were accepted, and a strong Nahua garrison entered
the city. The names of the Mexican leaders given in the Maya MS. are
_Ahzin-Teyut-Chan Tzumtecum_, _Taxcal_, _Ponte-Mit Itztecnat_ and
_Kakaltecat_.” All the traditions are agreed on the arrival of the
Mexicans in the peninsula, and the investigations of Don Juan Kanil
show that the witnesses he examined swore that his ancestors had come
from Mexico by order of Montezuma the Elder.—C. E. ANCONA, “Hist. de
Yucatan,” Merida, 1878.

[144] Cogolludo, lib. IV. cap. iii.

[145] Herrera, Decade IV. lib. X. cap. iii.

[146] Herrera, Decade IV. lib. X. cap. ii.

[147] Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. x. p. 59.

[148] Compare the striking resemblance between the Aztec warrior in our
Temalacatl drawing, chap. iii. p. 42, and the kneeling figure.

[149] Lizana, chap. ii. This author does not take into consideration
the abandonment of the cities by the natives at the Conquest.

[150] Cogolludo, tome I. lib. iv. cap. vi.

[151] Stephens, “Incidents of Travels in Yucatan,” tome I. p. 323.

[152] Stephens, “Incidents of Travels in Yucatan,” tome I. p. 324.

[153] Baron Friedrichsthal, app. to Cogolludo, book iv. Campeche, 1842.

[154] Bernal Diaz, tome I. chap. iii.

[155] Villa Gutierre Soto Mayor, “Hist. of the Conquest of Itza and the
Lacandones,” chap. v. p. 30.

[156] _Ibid._ chap. vi. p. 43.

[157] Cogolludo, tome I. lib. xii. cap. viii.

[158] See note at end.

[159] The Hocco, or Powise (_Crox alector_), is a bird nearly the size
of a turkey, and much prized for its delicate flesh.—TRANSL.

[160] Stephens, second vol. of “Central America and Yucatan.”

[161] Stephens, “Travels in Central America.”

[162] Villa Gutierre Soto Mayor, “History of the Conquest of Itza,” p.

[163] “Boyle’s Ride,” vol. I. pp. 14-17, quoted by Bancroft.

[164] Sahagun, “Historia General de las Cosas de la Nueva España.”

[165] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” lib. X. cap. xxvi.

[166] Clavigero, “Historia Antigua,” tome I. lib. vi. pp. 154, 171.

[167] Landa, “Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan,” sec. XXVIII. p. 162.

[168] Brinton, “American Hero Myths.” Philadelphia.

[169] Vide also Sahagun, “Historia General de las Cosas de la Nueva
España,” lib. II. cap. i.

[170] Bernal Diaz, “Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva

[171] Bernal Diaz, vol. II. chap. clxxiii. p. 374.

[172] Villa Gutierre Soto Mayor, “Historia de la Conquista del Itza,”
chap. ix.

[173] Gutierre Soto Mayor, vol. I. p. 500. “Their MSS. were written on
deer’s skins or the bark of trees prepared into a kind of felt covered
over with a white paste. They could be folded like a map and put in a

[174] Remesal, “Historia de la Provincia de Guatemala y Chiapas,” vol.
X. chaps. iii., xi., xii.

[175] Cogolludo, vol. II. chap. ix.

[176] Cogolludo, tome II. lib. x. cap. ii.

[177] Villa Gutierre Soto Mayor, “Conquista del Itza,” vol. I.

[178] Maudslay, “Explorations in Guatemala.”

[179] “Incidents of Travels in Central America,” vol. I. p. 153.

[180] Bancroft says that Palacio “had _heard_ of monuments in Yucatan
and Tabasco.”

[181] _Posole_ is like cooked hominy; it is mixed in water and forms a
cool and nutritious drink.

[182] Orozco y Berra, “Historia de la Conquista de Mejico,” vol. II. p.

[183] Torquemada, “Monarquia Indiana,” lib. III. cap. iii.

[184] Burgoa, “Description Géographique,” chaps. xxviii., xxxix., and

[185] Burgoa, “Description Géographique,” chap. lviii.

[186] Burgoa, “Description Géographique.”

[187] Orozco, “Hist. Antigua de la Conquista de Mejico,” tome II. part
II. chap. iv.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

The original contains at least four unpaired double quotation marks
which might be typographical errors. They are included in this

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