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skill of the decorators: “It would be difficult, in arranging four sides facing a court-yard, to have more variety, and, at the same time, more harmony of ornament.” In some of the ruins, and especially at Copan, there are clusters of four-sided stone pillars or obelisks varying from twelve to over twenty feet high. These are elaborately sculptured, and show human figures, ornamental designs, and many inscriptions. One or two statues have been discovered, and a statuette twelve inches high is described; “it is made of baked clay, very hard, and the surface is smooth as if coated with enamel.” At Palenque are remains of a well-built aqueduct; and near the ruins, especially in Yucatan, are frequently found the remains of many finely constructed aguadas or artificial lakes. The bottoms of these lakes were made of flat stones laid in cement, several layers deep. In Yucatan traces of a very ancient paved road have been found. This road ran north and south, and probably led to cities in the region now covered by the great wilderness. It was raised above the graded level of the ground, and made very smooth. These antiquities show that this section of the continent was anciently occupied by a people admirably skilled in the arts of masonry, building, and architectural decoration. Some of their works can not be excelled by the best of our constructors and decorators. They were highly skilled, also, in the appliances of civilized life, and they had the art of writing, a fact placed beyond dispute by their many inscriptions. A more particular account of some of these ruins will
be given in the next chapter. Among the more impor. tant works relating to them are those of Stephens and Catherwood, some of the volumes of Mr. Squier, Frederick Waldeck's work, and a recent French volume by Desiré Charnay, which is accompanied by a folio volume of photographs. Palacios, who described Copan in 1576, may properly be called the first explorer. A brief account of Palenque was prepared by Captain Del Rio in 1787, and published in 1822. Captain Dupaix's folios, in French, with the drawings of Castefiada, contain the first really important memoir on these ruins. It was prepared in 1807, detained in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution, and finally published at Paris in 1834–5. The volumes of Brasseur de Bourbourg are valuable. They relate chiefly to matters not always understood, and seldom discussed with care, by those who merely visit and describe the monuments, such as the writing, books, and traditions of the ancient Mexican and Central American people. His style is diffuse, sometimes confused, and rather tedious; and some of his theories are very fanciful. But he has discovered the key to the Maya alphabet and translated one of the old Central American books. No careful student of American archaeology can afford to neglect what he has written on this subject.
To understand the situation and historical significance of the more important antiquities in Southern Mexico and Central America, we must keep in view their situation relative to the great unexplored forest to which attention has been called. Examine carefully any good map of Mexico and Central America, and consider well that the ruins already explored or visited are wholly in the northern half of Yucatan, or far away from this region, at the south, beyond the great wilderness, or in the southern edge of it. Uxmal, Mayapan, Chichen-Itza, and many others, are in Yucatan. Palenque, Copan, and others are in the southern part of the wilderness, in Chiapa, Honduras, and Guatemala. Mr. Squier visited ruins much farther south, in San Salvador, and in the western parts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
The vast forest which is spread over the northern half of Guatemala and the southern half of Yucatan, and extended into other states, covers an area considerably larger in extent than Ohio or Pennsylvania. Does its position relative to the known ruins afford no suggestion concerning the ancient history of this forest-covered region ? It is manifest that, in the remote ages when the older of the cities now in ruins were built, this region was a populous and important part of the country. And this is shown also by the antiquities found wherever it has been penetrated by explorers who knew how to make discoveries, as well as by the old books and traditions. Therefore it is not unreasonable to assume that Copan and Palenque are specimens of great ruins that lie buried in it. The ruins of which something is known have merely been visited and described in part by explorers, Some of whom brought away drawings of the principal objects. In giving a brief account of the more important ruins, I will begin with the old city of which most has been heard.
No one can tell the true name of the ancient city now called Palenque. It is known to us by this name because the ruins are situated a few miles distant from the town of Palenque, now a village, but formerly a place of some importance. The ruins are in the northern part of the Mexican State of Chiapa, hidden out of sight in the forest, where they seem to have been forgotten long before the time of Cortez. More than two hundred years passed after the arrival of the Spaniards before their existence became known to Europeans. They were discovered about the year 1750. Since that year decay has made some progress in them. Captain Del Rio, who visited and described them in 1787, examined “fourteen edifices” admirably built of hewn stone, and estimated the extent of the ruins to be “seven or eight leagues one way [along the River Chacamas], and half a league the
other.” He mentions “a subterranean aqueduct of great solidity and durability, which passes under the largest building.” Other explorers have since visited Palenque, and reported on the ruins by pen and pencil; but it is not certain that all the ruined edifices belonging to them have been seen, nor that the explorations have made it possible to determine the ancient extent of the city with any approach to accuracy. The very great difficulties which obstruct all attempts at complete exploration have not allowed any explorer to say he has examined or discovered all the mouldering monuments hidden in the dense and tangled forest, even within the space allowed by Del Rio’s “half league” from the river, not to speak of what may lie buried and unknown in the dense mass of trees and undergrowth beyond this limit. The largest known building at Palenque is called the “Palace.” It stands near the river, on a terraced pyramidal foundation 40 feet high and 310 feet long, by 260 broad at the base. The edifice itself is 228 feet long, 180 wide, and 25 feet high. It faces the east, and has 14 doorways on each side, with 11 at the ends. It was built entirely of hewn stone, laid with admirable precision in mortar which seems to have been of the best quality. A corridor 9 feet wide, and roofed by a pointed arch, went round the building on the outside; and this was separated from another within of equal width. The “Palace” has four interior courts, the largest being 70 by 80 feet in extent. These are surrounded by corridors, and the architectural work facing them is richly