« PreviousContinue »
makes the year only 2' 39" too three hundred and sixty,) the days short, and causes the loss of but a of the year were distinguished from day in about four centuries. Be. one another, in a very effectual sides the year of three hundred and way. This method of computing sixty-five days, the Mexicans had time is, indeed, long and complicaanother of twenty times thirteen ted in words, but probably shorter days, which is somewhat used in in hieroglyphics. Nor is great brero their history. A cycle of fifty-two ity to be expected of a nation, years, not including the intercalary whose words would take the time days, contained one thousand four while “one might walk to Mile-end hundred and sixty, or four times three green” in pronouncing. hundred and sixty-five such periods. The Mexicans connected with
'The Mexicans applied this calen- these cycles or bundles, as they dar, with considerable skill, to their called them, of fifty-two years, the history. In the first place, they termination of their mythological counted by the number of cycles of ages. These ages, as in some parts fifty-two years, that had elapsed of Asia, where a similar view presince leaving their old habitation vailed, closed with the destruction in Aztlan. Then to determine the of living things, and began with year of the cycle, they made use of their regeneration. They are call. the numbers up to thirteen, and one ed the ages of the earth, or of giants, of four signs or names of years of fire, of air, and of water, and which followed each other in con. have thus a remarkable correspondstant repetition. If, for instance,
If, for instance, ence with the four elements of an. we use A, B, C, D, for the signs of tiquity. At the end of each age, the year, the order would be 1. A, some human being escaped the ca2. B, 3.C, 4. D, 5. A, and so on to tastrophe, either by being trans13. A. Then would follow 1. B, 2.C, formed into animals, or in their own and so on. It is obvious that in this shape. A single pair survived the cycle the same letter and number deluge of the fourth age, in the form would never come together twice. of men, by means of a canoe of In much the same way, by means pine. The Mexicans at the end of of cycles of thirteen, twenty, and every cycle, became Millerites, and nine days, (the last number being looked forward with the utmost chosen on account of its measuring dread, for the fifth destruction.
Then was there heard through all Patamba's streets,
We must refer the reader to Ma- of the year with the Mexicans; the doc, for a powerful description of same elementary numbers, thirteen the horror, the silence, the extinc. and twenty; the same period or intion of fires, and the awful rites, diction of thirteen years, and cycle which closed the cycles, in expecta- of fifty-two. When and how they tion of an approaching catastrophe. intercalated, Mr. Perez does not inSouthey, however, follows the ear. form us ; but this part of the system ly Spanish writers, in making a suc- can hardly have been separated cession of the ages, which Hum- from the other. Their months and boldt denies to be the right one. their twenty days, have appellations
The Mayas had the same length unlike in form and perhaps in mean
ing, to those of Mexico. It is re- with caution. It relates very briefly markable that a number of the the arrival of the founders of the nanames are without meaning, in the tion in Yucatan from certain towns present language, or have become or districts which we can not iden. obsolete, and that several of the tify, and which perhaps like those days of the month had the same where the Toltecs and Aztecs of names among natives of Chiapas, Mexico first lived, may be mythoOaxaca, and Soconusco, where a logical. Then succeeds the history similar calendar was in vogue. of the nation in the peninsula, or They had again the same complica- island, as the manuscript calls it, ted method which the Mexicans arranged according to periods, not adopted, to distinguish the days of of twenty four years, as explained the year, and the year of the cycle. by Perez, but of twenty. The Whether their mythological system chronology is somewhat confused ; included the ages of the Mexicans, and the attempt at settling it quite the learned Spaniard does not say; unsuccessful; but as much as this but Waldeck affirms that their tra- may be made out, that at least one ditions made mention of three, the thousand and eighty seven years last of which was ended by a del. had elapsed from the time when
In adjusting their own his. the ancestors of the nation began to tory, they used a larger cycle of emigrate from their unknown dwellthree hundred and twelve years, or ing places, to the arrival of the thirteen periods of twenty-four years Spaniards in the country. That each, which is minutely described would carry their traditions back to by Mr. Perez, who adds that some the year four hundred of our era. have erroneously supposed each pe. It would be of no use to enter into riod to consist of only twenty years the details of this chronicle. Suf. each. They began their year on
fice it say, that a century after the 16th of July.t “It is worthy of they entered the country, they setnotice,” says this gentleman, " that tled in Bacalar, on the bay of Hon. having sought to make it begin from duras ; that then they found the the precise day on which the sun town of Chichen-itza, where very returns to the zenith of this penin. important ruins now are to be seen ; sula, on his way to the southern re. that the holy men' of this place gions, and being destitute of instru. then abandoned it and went to live ments for their astronomical obser. at Champoton, on the gulf of Mexi. vations, and guided only by the co;* that after this, they returned naked eye, they erred only forty- and lived for several epochs under eight hours in advance.”
the uninhabited mountains; and that Don Pio Perez has also commu. then they spread themselves over nicated to Mr. Stephens, a document that part of Yucatan where the ruins of considerable interest relating to have been discovered ; several of the history of the Mayas. It is proba. the more important places there bly the only one of its kind: it is writ. being named in the manuscript, and ten in the aboriginal language by a Christian convert long after the con. * Near this place, and on the river of quest, and as well for that reason, as the same name, some leagues in the inte. on account of our ignorance of the rior, there are, according to Mr. Norman, author and his sources, to be received many ruins of a kind of sculpture disthe first establishment of one of the from the same quarter, came other caciques at Uxmal being mentioned nations speaking according to the with its precise date. That date Mithridates the same language, the would fall nearly in the middle of last and most powerful of whom the eleventh century. After the set- were the Aztecs, whose journey tlement of this place, several divi. towards the south Clavigero assigns sions of the nation are spoken of; to the year 1160. Before they arri. wars arose between them, and one ved in Mexico, the Toltecs had been of their cities was destroyed by broken up and dispersed by pestistrangers of the highlanders.' lence. A part of them traveled
playing the finest taste, but partially bu
ried beneath water and earth. The same See Bradford, 328.
traveler obtained from a mound, seven + Waldeck says, on the 12th of Janua- leagues to the north of Campeachy, a ry, which is one hundred and eighty days collection of idols, unlike those which distant from the other date. The Mexi. have been found in Mexico, together with can year began on the 9th of January. some earthen vessels.
The manuscript seems to us to into Central America, but as an acpreserve a very straight-forward tual nation long since disappear.
a and modest tradition. We see from ed. Now if these things are so, it, that the Mayas entered the coun- and if the dates of the Maya histry few in number, and wandered tory can be relied upon, the latter at first from side to side of the pen- appeared first on the stage of his. insula. It is not unnatural to sup- tory, and may for aught we know, pose that the highlanders mention. have been the first to make imed above, were earlier inhabitants. provements in the arts. And if the The nation by degrees divided itself nations who successively appeared into somewhat independent parts, in Mexico spoke one language, as and these harassed one another. the best authorities maintain, the
In his summary of this manu- Mayas cannot have belonged to that script, Mr. Perez calls the first Maya race, since their grammar and words settlers in Yucatan, Toltecs. It are widely different. would be interesting no doubt, to No competent philologist has as trace them back to that early na- yet thoroughly studied the Maya tion from whoin tradition derives language. Its peculiarities of course all the arts and the science of Mex. strike the eye, on first glancing at ico, and parts of Central America, the imperfect accounts of its gram. and who, as the pioneers of civili- matical system which are within our zation, are called by Humboldt the reach ; its resemblances to other Pelasgi of the American continent. languages of the continent can only But we see nothing in the manu. be fully known to one who has ex. script which thus authorizes us to plored it with care. It agrees with connect the two races, unless it be the Mexican in having none of the in the names of the unknown places sounds represented by d, f, g, r, s, where they first lived, and about and the Spanish j; and has five which M. Perez may possess some
or six sounds chiefly guttural, peknowledge which he has not im. culiar to itself. Its closest affinities parted to others. And indeed, if are with certain dialects of Central the dates of the record are to be America, as that of the Quiché Inrelied upon at all, they go back dians, who resembled the Mayas farther than the annals of the Tol. in being a cultivated tribe at the tecs, whose migration from a north- conquest. Its general aspect is one, ern region by the common consent of greater simplicity ; of a seem. of historians, is assigned to the sixth ingly nearer approach to the lan. century before Christ.* After them, guages of easternmost Asia, than
the American languages in general The authorities for the date origin. exhibit. It makes no distinction of ally were Mexicans, who, at and soon gender and number by means of its after the conquest, well understood the forms; and thus departs from that native history preserved in hieroglyphics. Some of the facts of Mexican history are law according to which so many of the subjects of hieroglyphics still extant. the American dialects distinguish
by the termination between animate verbs; the tenses are denoted partly and inanimate objects. It uses, like by endings, and partly by auxiliary the Mexican, numerous endings to words, and the form is unchanged form derivative nouns and adjec. through the persons. It has a large tives ; but the two dialects differ number of naked monosyllabic rools, much in the terminations which they which give it a widely different asadopt. It excels the Mexican in pect from the dialects of Mexico. having a comparative form for its Composition is effected in many adjective. Its numerals are wholly cases at least, by simple juxtaposi. distinct from those of the Mexican ; tion, (with the aid no doubt of a and this diversity of numeral roots principal accent on one of the sylin the languages of the continent, is sables,) and it is said that elisions the thing most difficult to be recon- are of frequent occurrence, as hapciled with the original unity of the pens in the compound words of our tribes. Did they count by gestures, North American Indians. As exand on their fingers and toes until amples of composition and derivathey separated, or how happens it tion, we offer from kab, hands, the that they have departed in so im- words, naakab, thumb, jalkab, finportant a class of words from the gers, chumuckab, middle-finger, kal. primeval type? In the Mexican the cab, wrist, pocol-cab, washing hands, i numerals, from six to nine inclu- tancab,* palm of the hand, and sive, are obvious compounds of a probably kabatah, to count. For root standing for five united to one, these examples, we are indebted to two, three and four. This appears the vocabulary in the work of Mr. not to be the case in the Maya. Norman, who has meritoriously enBoth languages, like a great many deavored to give his readers a gen. other American ones, make twenty, eral view of the Maya Indians, as or a score, the chief element in they once were, and has not concounting. Thus one hundred is five fined himself to architectural rescore, one hundred and twenty, six mains. Mr. Stephens received from score. The Mexican pursues this the Spanish gentleman whom we system of twenties farther, having have often named, a copious voa distinct name for the square of cabulary of several thousand Maya twenty, or a score of scores, and words and a series of grammatical for its cube ; and these in a certain forms, but has not published it in sense take the place which the his work. We hope that before square and cube of ten occupy in long he will let it be known, either other systems.
In personal pro- through the transactions of some nouns the Maya language is rich. learned society, or as an appendix It has a distinct form of them, which to a new edition of his travels. it employs whenever we should use Our readers will probably think, the verb to be with a pronominal after the view that has been presubject, and thus to a certain de. sented of the Maya nation, that the gree supplies the want of that im- question which so greatly interested portant verb which is unknown to Mr. Stephens, whether this nation many of the native languages.* Its constructed the edifices of Yucatan verbs are divided into four conjuga- now in ruins, may be very safely tions, one appropriated to neuters and confidently answered in the and passives, and three to active affirmative. If their traditions reach
* This is noticed by the distinguished * Two of these words ought probably philologist, Wm. von llumboldt, in the to be spelt with k instead of c. K stands introduction to his work on the Kawi for a peculiar guttural in the grammars of language, Vol. I, p. 284.
back to the founding of the ruined are destroyed by death or flee to cities, if their accurate calendar dis. some other quarter. They in whose plays as much of science as their hands were the traditions, the exe. sculptures do of art; if their reli. cution of the laws, the religious gious rites were celebrated in these rites, the sway over others by means ruins at, and even after the Span- of fear and communication with ish conquest, how can we suppose the gods, the knowledge of the calthat they stepped into the place of endar and the hieroglyphics—these an earlier and more civilized race, have vanished away; and the mass which race can no where be found of the nation is in nearly the same either in tradition, or among exist. circumstances as if they never had ing nations? And if some should had the institutions which raised think that the present Indians are them a little above their neighbors. too weak, indolent and degraded, to Now we are led to believe, by combe the descendants of such a race paring their religious rites with those as reared the monuments of Yu. of the Mexicans, and by other concatan, a few considerations, we siderations, that the priests and nothink, will satisfy them that there bles of the Mayas exercised suis no improbability in supposing preme control in the nation. If so, that a period of national prosperity there is nothing strange in their hav. may be succeeded by even greater ing large masses of men at their degeneracy than we here behold. disposal ; in their constructing large If some violent cause, such as con buildings as palaces or temples, and quest, takes away the motives that in their leaving a void, when they were the spring of national power, passed away, which was equivalent and more especially, takes away to the destruction of the national the persons who applied those mo. life and civilization. How could a tives, and who alone could apply nation recover from such a shock, them, what is there to prevent the and go on just as before. If the old national life from being extin. brahmins and warrior caste among guished ; nay, what can maintain the Hindoos, or the priestly caste it after it has undergone such a ca. and princes of the Egyptians, had tastrophe? It seems probable that been cut off soon after the monuall the nations of this continent, ments of literature and architectural which rose above the level of bar- art, at which the world now won. barism, had a powerful priesthood, ders, were completed, no doubt the allied by interest and perhaps by same thing would have taken place blood with the governing families, in those countries also; and the in whose hands the knowledge pos- Greek traveler who first penetrated sessed in the nation was lodged, into such a region, and compared and whose control over the common the ancient monuments with the bar. people, founded upon religious no- barism and ignorance of the inhabtions, was absolute. The great- itants of his own time, would very ness of the empire of Mexico was probably have assigned the monu. built on a close union between the ments to a prior race of men, and have priests and the nobles or chief war. broached some theory in explanariors. The high priest is said to tion, which the next generation of have been generally of royal blood. his countrymen would have received The empire founded by the Incas for historical truth. of Peru has been called a monastic Another inquiry which naturally despotism. Now if invaders, such arises is, whence did these Indians as the Spaniards, become the mas. derive their arts ? This inquiry ters in such a country, the princes, seems sometimes to imply in the and more particularly the priests, minds of those who make it the