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Captain Dupaix saw, not far from Antequera, two truncated pyramids which were penetrated by two carefully constructed galleries. A gallery lined with hewn stone, bearing sculptured decorations, went through one of them. A similar gallery went partly through the other, and two branches were extended at right angles still farther, but terminating within. He mentions also the ruins of elaborately decorated edifices which had stood on elevated terraces. At one place he excavated a terraced mound, and discovered burnt brick; and he describes two ancient bridges of the Tlascalans, both built of hewn stone laid in cement, one of them being 200 feet long and 36 wide. Obelisks or pillars 42 feet high stood at the corners of these bridges. Important remains of the ancient people exist in many other places; and “thousands of other monuments unrecorded by the antiquaries invest every sierra and valley of Mexico with profound interest.” At Papantla, in the State of Vera Cruz, there is a very ancient pyramidal structure somewhat peculiar in style and character. It is known that important ruins exist in the forests of Papantla and Mesantla which have never been described. The remarkable pyramid at Papantla was examined and described by Humboldt. The only material employed in constructing it was hewn stone. The stone was prepared in immense blocks, which were laid in mortar. The pyramid was an exact square at the base, each side being 82 feet in length, and the height about 60 feet. The stones were admirably cut and polished, and the structure was remarkably symmetrical. Six stages could be discerned by Humboldt, and his account of it says, “A seventh appears to be concealed by the vegetation which covers the sides of the pyramid.” A great flight of steps leads to the level summit, by the sides of which are smaller flights. “The facing of the stones is decorated with hieroglyphics, in which serpents and crocodiles carved in relievo are visible. Each story contains a great number of square niches symmetrically distributed. In the first story there . are 24 on each side, in the second 20, and in the third 16. There are 366 of these niches on the whole pyramid, and 12 in the stairs toward the east.” The civilization of the Aztecs who built the old city of Mexico will be made a separate topic; but it may be said here that when they came into the Valley of Mexico they were much less advanced in civilization than their predecessors. There is no reason whatever to doubt that they had always resided in the country as an obscure branch of the aboriginal people. Some have assumed, without much warrant, that they came to Mexico from the North. Mr. Squier shows, with much probability, that they came from the southern part of the country, where communities are still found speaking the Aztec language. When they rose to supremacy they adopted, so far as their condition allowed, the superior knowledge of their predecessors, and continued, in a certain way, and with a lower standard, the civilization of the Toltecs. It has been said, not without reason, that the civilization found in Mexico by the Spanish conquerors consisted, to a large extent, of “fragments from the wreck that befell the American civilization of antiquity.”
THE GREAT RUINS AT THE SOUTH.
To find the chief seats and most abundant remains of the most remarkable civilization of this old American race, we must go still farther south into Central America and some of the more southern states of Mexico. Here ruins of many ancient cities have been discovered, cities which must have been deserted and left to decay in ages previous to the beginning of the Aztec supremacy. Most of these ruins were found buried in dense forests, where, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, they had been long hidden from observation.
The ruins known as Palenque, for instance, seem to have been entirely unknown to both natives and Spaniards until about the year 1750. Cortez and some of his companions went through the open region near the forest in which these ruins are situated without hearing of them or suspecting their existence. The great ruins known as Copan were in like manner unknown in the time of Cortez. The Spaniards assaulted and captured a native town not far from the forest that covered them, but heard nothing of the ruins. The captured town, called Copan, afterward gave its name to the remains of this nameless ancient city, which were first discovered in 1576, and described by the Spanish licentiate Palacios. This was little more than forty years after the native town was captured; but, although Palacios tried, “in all possible ways,” to get from the older and more intelligent natives some account of the origin and history of the ruined city, they could tell him nothing about it. To them the ruins were entirely mythical and myste. rious. With the facts so accessible, and the antiquity of the ruins so manifest, it is very singular that Mr. Stephens fell into the mistake of confounding this ruined city, situated in an old forest that was almost impenetrable, with the town captured by the Spaniards. The ruins here were discovered accidentally; and to approach them it was necessary, as at Palenque, to cut paths through the dense tropical undergrowth of the forest. To understand the situation of most of the old ruins in Central America, one must know something of the wild condition of the country. Mr. Squier says: “By far the greater proportion of the country is in its primeval state, and covered with dense, tangled, and almost impenetrable tropical forests, rendering fruitless all attempts at systematic investigation. There are vast tracts untrodden by human feet, or traversed only by Indians who have a superstitious reverence for the mosscovered and crumbling monuments hidden in the depths of the wilderness. * * * For these and other reasons, it will be long before the treasures of the past, in Central America, can become fully known.” A great forest of this character covers the southernhalf of Yucatan, and extends far into Guatemala, which is half covered by it. It extends also into Chiapa and Tabasco, and reaches into Honduras. The ruins known as Copan and Palenque are in this forest, not far from its southern edge. . Its vast depths have never been much explored. There are ruins in it which none but wandering natives have ever seen, and some, perhaps, which
no human foot has approached for ages. It is believed that ruins exist in nearly every part of this vast wilderIlêSS. According to the old Central American books and traditions, some of the principal seats of the earliest civilization, that of the “Colhuas,” was in this forest-covered region. In their time the whole was cultivated and filled with inhabitants. Here was a populous and important part of the Colhuan kingdom of “Xibalba,” which, after a long existence, was broken up by the Toltecs, and which had a relation, in time, to the Aztec dominion of Montezuma, much like that of the old monarchy of Egypt to the kingdom of the Ptolemies. In the time of the Spaniards there was in the forest at Lake Peten a solitary native town, founded nearly a century previous to their time by a Maya prince of Itza, who, with a portion of his people, fled from Yucatan to that lonely region to escape from the disorder and bloodshed of a civil war. This was the civil war which destroyed Mayapan, and broke up the Maya kingdom of Yucatan. In 1695, Don Martin Ursua, a Spanish official, built a road from Yucatan to Lake Peten, captured the town, and destroyed it. He reported that the builders of this road found evidence that “wrecks of ancient cities lie buried in this wilderness.” All along the route they discovered vestiges of ruins, and special mention is made of “remains of edifices on raised terraces, deserted and overgrown, and apparently very ancient.”