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STEPHENS' INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN YUCATAN..

Few travelers have found more vorable notices in the newspaper at inducements in past popularity, to the capital, gave them every encontinue their wanderings over the couragement at the outset of their world, than Mr. Stephens. His ear. enterprise. When they reached the lier works on some parts of the interior, the country houses, and the eastern continent, although hasty laborers on the farms, were put at and inaccurate, were so full of good their disposal. The curates assist. nature and of entertainment, that ed them with information and ad. the reader closed them with a feel. vice, and became their most hosing of personal friendship for the pitable entertainers. And though author. In his Central America, few felt much curiosity concerning he attempted somewhat higher Indian ruins, and the majority, per. things. His preparation, indeed, haps, wondered that men could for investigating the ruins of that come so far on such a business; country, was apparently but small; still every kind attention was paid his accuracy in description, we sus. to them, except that of assisting pect, was not equal to that of ordina- them in their explorations. That ry travelers. Still his enthusiastic would be too much labor to be ex. ardor in exploring the architectural pected of the indolent Spaniards of remains of Copan and Palenque, Yucatan. amid the greatest discomforts; his But with all this, the embarrass. narrative of a dangerous journey ments they met with, were little through a country in a state of an. less than those of their tour in Cen. archy and revolution, together with tral America. The rainy season his perpetual good nature, and dis- was of unusual length, and instead position to make the least of all an. of ending soon after they reached noyances and hardships ;—these val. their field, hung on until their frames uable qualities of a traveler again felt its worst effects, in fever and ensured him success with his read- ague. When they came to a ruin ers; while the really valuable re- it was overgrown with large trees, sults of his journey raised his work to say nothing of bushes, which above the level of those which are must be felled, for the sake of the written for mere amusement. drawings. No surveyor of the route The work before us, is to be re

for a railroad at the west, or layer garded as a continuation of Mr. Ste. out of cities in the woods, ever had phens' travels in Central America, more to do, than our travelers; and which were broken off soon after he certainly none ever had more inefreached Yucatan, by the illness officient helpers, than an ignorant the accomplished artist who was his Maya Indian. Among their troucompanion. On their return to Yu- bles, not the smallest arose from the catan, the Spanish gentlemen, with smallest cause. From the bushes whom they had become acquainted which they brushed by, multitudes during their first visit, did all in their of garrapatas or wood-ticks dropped power to promote their objects. upon them, and penetrating the skin, Letters of recommendation, and fa- produced such torment, that, be

tween the fever and ague and these

little animals, one wonders how they * Incidents of Travel in Yucatan ; by John L. STEPHENS. Illustrated by 120

came away alive, and admires their engravings. New York, Harper & Broth-resolution in not coming away re

infecta.

ers, 1843.

The reader is pleased to find that would no doubt be very grievous to such toils were rewarded by the dis- him, would write a dull book ; but covery of a great number of re- the case is quite otherwise. He has mains. In his former tour, Mr. Ste- succeeded better, in some respects, phens went over ground that had than in either of his foregoing atbeen visited before. Palenque had tempts. His zeal and cheerfulness been explored; Copan had at least carry you along with him, without been known; but in Yucatan a mul- effort on your part ; he seems more titude of places lay buried in the accurate and scrupulous in details, woods, wholly unknown to foreign than he has been; and he finds a ers, and a large part of them unvis- thousand things in the present manited by the Spanish inhabitants of ners and condition of the Yucatanthe country. It was the high ex- ese to speak of, when the old ruins citement of continual discovery, and are in danger of becoming an old the feeling of success, that enabled story: According to the wish with our travelers to fight with such good which he closes the work, he may courage, against sickness and a host be assured " that there is nothing in of discomforts; had they failed of these pages to disturb” the pleasant their end, they might have returned feeling that has existed between him with ruined health, or fallen victims and the reader. We can not, thereto the climate. But the high spirits fore, be very severe towards his in which Mr. Stephens writes, prove faults, yet there is one which we that he at least is none the worse for ought to mention, because it affects the ague and the ticks; we doubt the value, we mean the permanent not that he will be soon longing value of his work. He has, we again to break away from the dull think, confined his attention too ex. life of New York, and penetrate clusively to architectural remains ; into some new, unexplored field of and the question has too exclusive a discovery. May success attend him, place in his researches, whether the wherever he goes, and may Mr. ancestors of the Indians now existCatherwood be with him, to measure ing, or some other race, constructed distances, and draw plans, and keep the ruins which he has brought to him down to the actual dimensions light. The connection of the native of things.

American races, with those of the The features of the country de rest of the world, and their relationscribed in these volumes, are rather ship to each other, if ever to be monotonous; and the ruins them- made out, must be ascertained by selves are sufficiently like one anoth- careful study of the usages, civil and er, to diminish our interest in the religious, and the language of each latter part of the work. He who tribe. It would be, perhaps, unhas read the description of Uxmal, reasonable to expect Mr. Stephens, need go no farther, if he wishes only so soon after his journey, and while to form a general notion of the as yet he is apparently not very ruined structures. Nor is there deep in the subject of American much of interest in the present de- antiquities, to talk with authority graded native race, who, having upon these topics. But it would lost their old traditions and distinct- have greatly added to the value of ive character, have sunk to the con- his work, if he had given an abstract dition of mere serfs, however they of all that is known in regard to the may be dignified with the name of Maya nation. At present we know free citizens of Yucatan. With of 'no book from which any thing, such materials before him, it might besides scattered particulars, can be be feared that Mr. Stephens would gleaned, in the important matter of fall below his past works, and, what their religion; and the meager notices in the Mithridates, concerning and give some details in regard to their language, together with what them, abridged from the work be. Mr. Norman has extracted in his fore us. volume from a Spanish Grammar, The building first examined, and are nearly all the materials within called the house of the governor, our reach, by which we can judge rests on three terraces, whose uniof that principal element in a na- ted height is forty-two feet; the tion's existence. Surely if he would lowest presents a front of five hungratify his own curiosity, and assist dred and seventy-five feet, and is in solving a problem, about which only fifteen feet broad. The next he expresses the strongest interest, has a length of five hundred and Mr. Stephens ought to have attend- forty-five feet, and a breadth of two ed more to these points. And if hundred and fifty; and the third, there were no solution of the prob- on which the building stands, is lem, still the materials collected for three hundred and sixty by thirty such a purpose, would be of great feet. These platforms are support. value. A writer who should do so, ed by stone walls, and according to would reconstruct, as far as now Mr. Stephens the whole structure can be done, the fallen edifice of a rises artificially from the plain. nation's life; he would give it shape That is the case with the great pyra. and breath before our eyes; and mid of Cholula in Mexico, which whether he could assign it its place is over a quarter of a mile long, on the map of national affinities or and one hundred and seventy feet not, what he had done would never high, but can not compare in ele. lose its interest as a part of the his- gance of material with the structory of man.

tures of Yucatan, being composed Mr. Stephens' steps were direct. of unbaked bricks alternating with ed in the first place towards Ux- layers of clay.* It is uncertain mal, which he had visited in his pre. whether the platforms in Yucatan vious tour, but which he was soon are in general made by hand, or forced to leave on account of the whether advantage is taken of a illness of his traveling companion. rising ground. On one occasion This place, the most remarkable Mr. Stephens, having penetrated into and easiest of exploration among all what the natives considered a very the ruins, with one exception, had remarkable cave, found it to be a been before visited and described by series of passages and chambers in Waldeck; but it would appear that one of these mounds formed by art. his researches and drawings did not The Indians of Cholula assured render future examination unneces. Humboldt that the inside of that pyr. sary. Having taken up their abode amid was hollow, and at one time in one of the chambers of the ruins, concealed a number of their war. the travelers use the troop of In- riors, who lay in wait for the Spandians residing on the hacienda, to iards. But the silence of historians, clear away the brushwood which, and the nature of the materials, ineven since their previous visit, had duce that distinguished traveler to grown with surprising rankness, and consider this assertion of the Insit down to their work, as to the dians as improbable ; although he siege of some fortress; Mr. Ste- allows that the pyramid contains phens occasionally making visits to cavities of some size. From the neighboring places, and leaving Mr. second terrace to the third there is Catherwood with his instruments, in no ascent except on the south side possession of the ground. We will and by an inclined plane ; which let the buildings at Uxmal serve as specimens of the Maya architecture, * Humboldt's Researches, I, 90.

makes it necessary for one who has examining these, and indeed all the ascended the second in front, that ancient structures of Yucatan, is the is on the east, to travel half the extreme richness of the ornaments length of the building and back upon their façades. Usually a numagain, before arriving at the great ber of courses of plain squared stair-case of the third terrace, by stones rise to the height of the doors, which the building is finally reach- and above the doors is found a heavy

This mode of gaining the and elaborately adorned cornice. summit, somewhat resembles that To judge of the style of the decowhich was adopted in the largest rations upon these cornices, it is temple of the city of Mexico. The necessary to inspect Mr. Catherstairs there began at the side of the wood's drawings; and even on building, and were parallel with one them the details are imperfectly another. After ascending one story, exhibited. Justice can be done to it was necessary to go around the these minute carvings only by larg. whole temple before coming to the er engravings, such as will be pubnext stair-case, and in this way the lished hereafter by our travelers, if top was reached by a journey of the public will encourage the undermore than a mile.*

taking. It is enough here to say, that The edifice surmounting these many of the ornaments in themselves platforms, consists of a double row considered are very elegant; that of narrow chambers, of which every certain projecting stones, of a singu. rear one is connected by a door with lar form, and unknown use, comone in front of it. The palace, for so pared by Waldeck to the trunks it deserves to be called, is three hun. of elephants, are found every where dred and twenty-two feet long, and throughout the ruins; that bas-re. thirty-nine feet wide. The roof is liefs of serpents, some of them cov. flat. The chambers, and indeed ered with feathers, are of frequent all those which were seen in Yuca. occurrence, and remind one of the tan, are constructed on a principle close connection of those odious which shows a want of knowledge animals with the worship of the of the arch. The stones of the side Mexicans ; and that here and there walls are laid horizontally, and pro- hieroglyphics meet the eye. The ject inwardly as they ascend. Be carefulness of detail in the workfore the angle is completed by their manship of most of the structures contact, a roof of stones is laid flat in Yucatan, is proof, perhaps, upon them, although in some few that they had the same fondness instances, the sides meet. In Yuca which the Mexicans exhibited for tan, the inside of these triangular ornaments upon the person ; and arches, if they may be so called, is the few representations of the hualways made smooth by cutting off man body which were seen argued the edges of the projecting stones, the same thing, being almost buried and usually a slight curve is given in feathers. But we can not infer to the sides. This mode of build. from it a great degree of civilizaing, readily accounts, as one of the tion, since savage tribes sometimes travelers remarks in an appendix, reach a considerable degree of ele. “ for the extreme narrowness of the gance in the figures with which they rooms in all the buildings, the widest tattoo their skins. The style of a not exceeding twenty feet, and the remarkable building at Mitla, in the width more frequently being only state of Oaxaca, where the Zapotecs from six to ten feet."

lived, is of the same description.* That which strikes the eye on The use to which this building was applied can not now be known. the main building just spoken of. If it was a religious structure, as is Up the eastern front ascends a very not improbable, the numerous apart. steep and narrow stair-case, of which ments were intended perhaps for Cogolludo the historian of Yucatan one of those fraternities of priests makes mention. He is speaking of or monks, which are known to have the sacrifices performed at the prinswarmed in Mexico, as in the coun- cipal teocalli,* or temple of Uxmal, tries where Buddhism prevails. On which circumstances point out to be the higher terrace Mr. Stephens dis- this building. “ The high priest," covered by digging into the ground says he, as translated by Mr. Stean image in stone, which represents phens, “ had in his hand a large, two lynxes, and may have been an broad and sharp knife, made of flint. accompaniment of some idol. It Another priest carried a wooden was probably buried by the Span- collar, wrought like a snake. The iards, in order to remove from the persons to be sacrificed were consight of the Indians objects fitted to ducted, one by one, up the steps, remind them of their old supersti. stark naked, and as soon as laid on tion. Not far off from it was found the stone, had the collar put upon on the surface a stone which from their necks, and the four priests its shape appeared to be a symbol, took hold of the hands and feet. of frequent occurrence on the east. Then the high priest, with wonderern continent, but which, as Hum- ful dexterity ripped up the breast, boldt asserts, had not when he tore out the heart, reeking, with his wrote (1813)* been traced in Mex. hands, and showed it to the sun, ico. If this stone really has the offering him the heart and steam meaning which is given to it,—and which came from it. Then he turnsimilar ones were found repeatedly ed to the idol and threw it in his afterwards,-it will afford a more face, which done he kicked the striking proof than most which have body down the steps, and it never been adduced of the common origin stopped because they were very upof the religious rites upon both con- right. One who had been a priest

Clavigero, I, 262.

* Humboldt, u. s. II, 153.

, tinents.

and had been converted, said that Concerning another building at when they tore out the heart of the Uxmal, now quite in ruins, certain wretched person sacrificed, it did historical notices are preserved. It beat so strongly that he took it up is called the house of the dwarf, or from the ground three or four times of the diviner, and consists of a till it cooled by degrees, and then substructure two hundred and thirty- he threw the body still moving down five feet long and one hundred and the steps." fifty-five wide, which rises in near- This account of human sacrifices ly a pyramidal form to the height in Yucatan is the more remarkable, of eighty-eight feet, and has upon because that horrid custom had not its top a long narrow building in long been established in Mexico. three compartments, much ruined, The Toltecs, it is said, who precebut presenting on its front the most ded the Aztecs in that country, and elegant ornaments to be seen in to whom most of the institutions Uxmal. Mr. Stephens thinks that which the Spaniards found among a stair-case, supported on a trian- the Aztecs are ascribed, used ungular arch, such as he afterwards bloody offerings of fruits and flowfound still remaining in another ers, of gums and seeds. The Azruined city, led up the pyramid on one side to certain chambers below * A Mexican word used in speaking of

these temples built on pyramids, and de

rived from teotl, god, (leo being the root, * llumboldt, u. s. I, 228.

and il a termination,) and calli, house.

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