Abbildungen der Seite

rank among all known orders of architecture, is the execution of their mosaic relievos, very different from plain mosaic, and consequently requiring more ingenious combination and greater art and labor. They are inlaid on the surface of the wall, and their duration is owing to the method of fixing the prepared stones into the stone surface, which made their union with it perfect.” Figure 33, taken from Charnay's photograph, shows part of the mosaic decoration on a wall of one of the great edifices at Mitla. The general character of the architecture and masonry is much like that seen in the structures at Palenque, but the finish of the workmanship appears to have been more artistic and admirable. These ruins are remarkable among those of the country where they are found. All who have seen them speak much as Dupaix speaks of the perfection of the masonry, the admirable design and finish of the work, and the beauty of the decorations. Their beauty, says M. Charnay, can be matched only by the monuments of Greece and Rome in their best days. One fact presented by some of the edifices at Mitla has a certain degree of historical significance. There appears to be evidence that they were occupied at some period by people less advanced in civilization than their builders. M. Charnay, describing one of them, points out this fact. He says of the structure: “It is a bewildering maze of courts and buildings, with facings ornamented with mosaics in relief of the purest design; but under the projections are found traces of paintings wholly primitive in style, in which the right F

line is not even respected. These are rude figures of idols, and meandering lines that have no significance. Similar paintings appear, with the same imperfection, on every great edifice, in places which have allowed them shelter against the ravages of time. These rude designs, associated with palaces so correct in architecture, and so ornamented with panels of mosaic of such marvelous workmanship, put strange thoughts in the mind. To find the explanation of this phenomenon, must we not suppose these palaces were occupied by a race less advanced in civilization than their first builders?” Two miles or more away from the great edifices here mentioned, toward the west, is the “Castle of Mitla.” It was built on the summit of an isolated and precipitous hill of rock, which is accessible only on the east side. The whole leveled summit of this hill is inclosed by a solid wall of hewn stone twenty-one feet thick and eighteen feet high. This wall has salient and retiring angles, with curtains interposed. On the east side it is flanked by double walls. Within the inclosure are the remains of several small buildings. The field of these ruins was very large three hundred years ago. At that time it may have included this castle.

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


Old ruins, of which but little is known, exist in Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador, and the more southern portion of Central America. Mr. Squier, who tells us more of them than any other explorer, says, “I heard of remains and monuments in Honduras and San Salvador equal to those of Copan in extent and interest.” He mentions the ruins of Opico, near San Vincente, in San Salvador, which “cover nearly two square miles, and consist of vast terraces, ruins of edifices, circular and square towers, and subterranean galleries, all built of cut stones: a single carving has been found here on a block of stone.” Itemains of “immense works” exist in the district of Chontales, near the northern shore of Lake Nicaragua; and pottery found in Nicaragua “equals the best specimens of Mexico and Peru.” Don José Antonio Urritia, curé of Jutiapa, gave the following account of a great ruin on a mountain in San Salvador, near the town of Comapa: it is called Cinaca-Mecallo: “The walls, or remains of the city wall, describe an oval figure, within which roads or streets may be traced, and there are various subterranean passages and many ruined edifices. The materials of construction are chiefly thin stones, or a species of slate, united by a kind of cement which in appearance resembles melted lead.” It does not appear that he made a complete examination of the monuments, but he mentions three that gained his attention, and left upon his mind a very strong impression. “The first is a temple consecrated to the sun, chiefly excavated in the solid rock, and having its entrance toward the east. On the archway of the entrance are carved representations of the sun and moon. Hieroglyphics are found in the interior. Besides the sculptured bassi relievi, these stones bear hieroglyphics painted with a kind of red varnish which remains unimpaired. The second is a great stone slab covered with inscriptions or hieroglyphics. The third is the figure of a wild animal sculptured on a rock or stone, of “great size.”


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

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

At that time the country was occupied by the people still known as Mayas. They all spoke the same language, which was one of a closely related family of tongues spoken in Guatemala, Chiapas, Western Hondu

« ZurückWeiter »