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makes the year only 2′ 39′′ too short, and causes the loss of but a day in about four centuries. Besides the year of three hundred and sixty-five days, the Mexicans had another of twenty times thirteen days, which is somewhat used in their history. A cycle of fifty-two years, not including the intercalary days, contained one thousand four hundred and sixty, or four times three hundred and sixty-five such periods. The Mexicans applied this calendar, with considerable skill, to their history. In the first place, they counted by the number of cycles of fifty-two years, that had elapsed since leaving their old habitation in Aztlan. Then to determine the year of the cycle, they made use of the numbers up to thirteen, and one of four signs or names of years which followed each other in constant repetition. If, for instance, we use A, B, C, D, for the signs of the year, the order would be 1. A, 2. B, 3. C, 4. D, 5. A, and so on to 13. A. Then would follow 1. B, 2. C, and so on. It is obvious that in this cycle the same letter and number would never come together twice. In much the same way, by means of cycles of thirteen, twenty, and nine days, (the last number being chosen on account of its measuring
three hundred and sixty,) the days of the year were distinguished from one another, in a very effectual way. This method of computing time is, indeed, long and complica. ted in words, but probably shorter in hieroglyphics. Nor is great brev. ity to be expected of a nation, whose words would take the time while "one might walk to Mile-end green" in pronouncing.
The Mexicans connected with these cycles or bundles, as they called them, of fifty-two years, the termination of their mythological ages. These ages, as in some parts of Asia, where a similar view prevailed, closed with the destruction of living things, and began with their regeneration. They are called the ages of the earth, or of giants, of fire, of air, and of water, and have thus a remarkable correspondence with the four elements of antiquity. At the end of each age, some human being escaped the catastrophe, either by being transformed into animals, or in their own shape. A single pair survived the deluge of the fourth age, in the form of men, by means of a canoe of pine. The Mexicans at the end of every cycle, became Millerites, and looked forward with the utmost dread, for the fifth destruction.
Then was there heard through all Patamba's streets, The warning voice, woe! woe! the sun hath reached The limits of his course; he hath fulfilled
The appointed cycle! Fast and weep and pray; Four suns have perished; fast and weep and pray, Lest the fifth perish also.
We must refer the reader to Madoc, for a powerful description of the horror, the silence, the extinction of fires, and the awful rites, which closed the cycles, in expectation of an approaching catastrophe. Southey, however, follows the early Spanish writers, in making a succession of the ages, which Humboldt denies to be the right one.
The Mayas had the same length
of the year with the Mexicans; the same elementary numbers, thirteen and twenty; the same period or indiction of thirteen years, and cycle of fifty-two. When and how they intercalated, Mr. Perez does not inform us; but this part of the system can hardly have been separated from the other. Their months and their twenty days, have appellations unlike in form and perhaps in mean.
ing, to those of Mexico. It is remarkable that a number of the names are without meaning, in the present language, or have become obsolete, and that several of the days of the month had the same names among natives of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Soconusco, where a similar calendar was in vogue. They had again the same complicated method which the Mexicans adopted, to distinguish the days of the year, and the year of the cycle. Whether their mythological system included the ages of the Mexicans, the learned Spaniard does not say; but Waldeck affirms that their traditions made mention of three, the last of which was ended by a deluge.*
In adjusting their own his tory, they used a larger cycle of three hundred and twelve years, or thirteen periods of twenty-four years each, which is minutely described by Mr. Perez, who adds that some have erroneously supposed each period to consist of only twenty years each. They began their year on the 16th of July. "It is worthy of notice," says this gentleman, "that having sought to make it begin from the precise day on which the sun returns to the zenith of this peninsula, on his way to the southern regions, and being destitute of instruments for their astronomical observations, and guided only by the naked eye, they erred only fortyeight hours in advance."
Don Pio Perez has also communicated to Mr. Stephens, a document of considerable interest relating to the history of the Mayas. It is probably the only one of its kind: it is writ ten in the aboriginal language by a Christian convert long after the conquest, and as well for that reason, as on account of our ignorance of the author and his sources, to be received
with caution. It relates very briefly the arrival of the founders of the nation in Yucatan from certain towns or districts which we can not identify, and which perhaps like those where the Toltecs and Aztecs of Mexico first lived, may be mythological. Then succeeds the history of the nation in the peninsula, or island, as the manuscript calls it, arranged according to periods, not of twenty four years, as explained by Perez, but of twenty. The chronology is somewhat confused; and the attempt at settling it quite unsuccessful; but as much as this may be made out, that at least one thousand and eighty seven years had elapsed from the time when the ancestors of the nation began to emigrate from their unknown dwelling places, to the arrival of the Spaniards in the country. That would carry their traditions back to the year four hundred of our era. It would be of no use to enter into the details of this chronicle. Suffice it to say, that a century after they entered the country, they settled in Bacalar, on the bay of Honduras; that then they found the town of Chichen-itza, where very important ruins now are to be seen; that the holy men' of this place then abandoned it and went to live at Champoton, on the gulf of Mexi co; that after this, they returned and lived for several epochs under the uninhabited mountains; and that then they spread themselves over that part of Yucatan where the ruins have been discovered; several of the more important places there being named in the manuscript, and
* Near this place, and on the river of the same name, some leagues in the inte rior, there are, according to Mr. Norman, many ruins of a kind of sculpture displaying the finest taste, but partially buried beneath water and earth. The same traveler obtained from a mound, seven leagues to the north of Campeachy, a collection of idols, unlike those which have been found in Mexico, together with some earthen vessels.
the first establishment of one of the caciques at Uxmal being mentioned with its precise date. That date would fall nearly in the middle of the eleventh century. After the settlement of this place, several divisions of the nation are spoken of; wars arose between them, and one of their cities was destroyed by strangers' of the highlanders.'
The manuscript seems to us to preserve a very straight-forward and modest tradition. We see from it, that the Mayas entered the country few in number, and wandered at first from side to side of the peninsula. It is not unnatural to suppose that the highlanders mention ed above, were earlier inhabitants. The nation by degrees divided itself into somewhat independent parts, and these harassed one another.
In his summary of this manuscript, Mr. Perez calls the first Maya settlers in Yucatan, Toltecs. It would be interesting no doubt, to trace them back to that early nation from whom tradition derives all the arts and the science of Mexico, and parts of Central America, and who, as the pioneers of civilization, are called by Humboldt the Pelasgi of the American continent. But we see nothing in the manuscript which thus authorizes us to connect the two races, unless it be in the names of the unknown places where they first lived, and about which M. Perez may possess some knowledge which he has not imparted to others. And indeed, if the dates of the record are to be relied upon at all, they go back farther than the annals of the Toltecs, whose migration from a northern region by the common consent of historians, is assigned to the sixth century before Christ. After them,
*The authorities for the date originally were Mexicans, who, at and soon after the conquest, well understood the native history preserved in hieroglyphics. Some of the facts of Mexican history are the subjects of hieroglyphics still extant.
from the same quarter, came other nations speaking according to the Mithridates the same language, the last and most powerful of whom were the Aztecs, whose journey towards the south Clavigero assigns to the year 1160. Before they arri. ved in Mexico, the Toltecs had been broken up and dispersed by pesti lence. A part of them traveled into Central America, but as an actual nation long since disappeared. Now if these things are so, and if the dates of the Maya history can be relied upon, the latter appeared first on the stage of his tory, and may for aught we know, have been the first to make improvements in the arts. And if the nations who successively appeared in Mexico spoke one language, as the best authorities maintain, the Mayas cannot have belonged to that race, since their grammar and words are widely different.
No competent philologist has as yet thoroughly studied the Maya language. Its peculiarities of course strike the eye, on first glancing at the imperfect accounts of its grainmatical system which are within our reach; its resemblances to other languages of the continent can only be fully known to one who has explored it with care. It agrees with the Mexican in having none of the sounds represented by d, f, g, r, s, and the Spanish j; and has five or six sounds chiefly guttural, peculiar to itself. Its closest affinities are with certain dialects of Central America, as that of the Quiché Indians, who resembled the Mayas in being a cultivated tribe at the conquest. Its general aspect is one of greater simplicity; of a seem ingly nearer approach to the languages of easternmost Asia, than the American languages in general exhibit. It makes no distinction of gender and number by means of its forms; and thus departs from that law according to which so many of the American dialects distinguish
by the termination between animate and inanimate objects. It uses, like the Mexican, numerous endings to form derivative nouns and adjectives; but the two dialects differ much in the terminations which they adopt. It excels the Mexican in having a comparative form for its adjective. Its numerals are wholly distinct from those of the Mexican; and this diversity of numeral roots in the languages of the continent, is the thing most difficult to be reconciled with the original unity of the tribes. Did they count by gestures, and on their fingers and toes until they separated, or how happens it that they have departed in so important a class of words from the primeval type? In the Mexican the numerals, from six to nine inclusive, are obvious compounds of a root standing for five united to one, two, three and four. This appears not to be the case in the Maya. Both languages, like a great many other American ones, make twenty, or a score, the chief element in counting. Thus one hundred is five score, one hundred and twenty, six score. The Mexican pursues this system of twenties farther, having a distinct name for the square of twenty, or a score of scores, and for its cube; and these in a certain sense take the place which the square and cube of ten occupy in other systems. In personal pronouns the Maya language is rich. It has a distinct form of them, which it employs whenever we should use the verb to be with a pronominal subject, and thus to a certain degree supplies the want of that important verb which is unknown to many of the native languages.* Its verbs are divided into four conjugations, one appropriated to neuters and passives, and three to active
*This is noticed by the distinguished philologist, Wm. von Humboldt, in the introduction to his work on the Kawi language, Vol. I, p. 284.
verbs; the tenses are denoted partly by endings, and partly by auxiliary words, and the form is unchanged through the persons. It has a large number of naked monosyllabic roots, which give it a widely different aspect from the dialects of Mexico. Composition is effected in many cases at least, by simple juxtaposi tion, (with the aid no doubt of a principal accent on one of the syllables,) and it is said that elisions are of frequent occurrence, as happens in the compound words of our North American Indians. As examples of composition and deriva tion, we offer from kab, hands, the words, naakab, thumb, jalkab, fingers, chumuckab, middle-finger, kalcab, wrist, pocol-cab, washing hands, tancab,* palm of the hand, and probably kabatah, to count. For these examples, we are indebted to the vocabulary in the work of Mr. Norman, who has meritoriously endeavored to give his readers a gen eral view of the Maya Indians, as they once were, and has not confined himself to architectural remains. Mr. Stephens received from the Spanish gentleman whom we have often named, a copious vocabulary of several thousand Maya words and a series of grammatical forms, but has not published it in his work. We hope that before long he will let it be known, either through the transactions of some learned society, or as an appendix to a new edition of his travels.
Our readers will probably think, after the view that has been presented of the Maya nation, that the question which so greatly interested Mr. Stephens, whether this nation constructed the edifices of Yucatan now in ruins, may be very safely and confidently answered in the affirmative. If their traditions reach
* Two of these words ought probably to be spelt with k instead of c. K stands for a peculiar guttural in the grammars of this language.
back to the founding of the ruined cities, if their accurate calendar displays as much of science as their sculptures do of art; if their religious rites were celebrated in these ruins at, and even after the Span ish conquest, how can we suppose that they stepped into the place of an earlier and more civilized race, which race can no where be found either in tradition, or among exist ing nations? And if some should think that the present Indians are too weak, indolent and degraded, to be the descendants of such a race as reared the monuments of Yucatan, a few considerations, we think, will satisfy them that there is no improbability in supposing that a period of national prosperity may be succeeded by even greater degeneracy than we here behold. If some violent cause, such as conquest, takes away the motives that were the spring of national power, and more especially, takes away the persons who applied those motives, and who alone could apply them, what is there to prevent the old national life from being extinguished; nay, what can maintain it after it has undergone such a catastrophe? It seems probable that all the nations of this continent, which rose above the level of barbarism, had a powerful priesthood, allied by interest and perhaps by blood with the governing families, in whose hands the knowledge possessed in the nation was lodged, and whose control over the common people, founded upon religious notions, was absolute. The great ness of the empire of Mexico was built on a close union between the priests and the nobles or chief warriors. The high priest is said to have been generally of royal blood. The empire founded by the Incas of Peru has been called a monastic despotism. Now if invaders, such as the Spaniards, become the mas ters in such a country, the princes, and more particularly the priests,
are destroyed by death or flee to some other quarter. They in whose hands were the traditions, the exe. cution of the laws, the religious rites, the sway over others by means of fear and communication with the gods, the knowledge of the cal endar and the hieroglyphics-these have vanished away; and the mass of the nation is in nearly the same circumstances as if they never had had the institutions which raised them a little above their neighbors, Now we are led to believe, by com. paring their religious rites with those of the Mexicans, and by other considerations, that the priests and nobles of the Mayas exercised supreme control in the nation. If so, there is nothing strange in their hav ing large masses of men at their disposal; in their constructing large buildings as palaces or temples, and in their leaving a void, when they passed away, which was equivalent to the destruction of the national life and civilization. How could a nation recover from such a shock, and go on just as before. If the brahmins and warrior caste among the Hindoos, or the priestly caste and princes of the Egyptians, had been cut off soon after the monuments of literature and architectural art, at which the world now won. ders, were completed, no doubt the same thing would have taken place in those countries also; and the Greek traveler who first penetrated into such a region, and compared the ancient monuments with the bar barism and ignorance of the inhabitants of his own time, would very probably have assigned the monuments to a prior race of men, and have broached some theory in explanation, which the next generation of his countrymen would have received for historical truth.
Another inquiry which naturally arises is, whence did these Indians derive their arts? This inquiry seems sometimes to imply in the minds of those who make it the