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CENTRAL AMERICA


with a site of the name of Naco mentioned by Las Casas and by Bernal Diaz (Histoire véridique de la conquête de la Nouvelle Espagne, translated by D. Fourdanet, 2nd ed., Paris, 1877, ch. 178, p. 690).

Chiapas (Mexico).—The principal site is Palenque, the ruins of which were amongst the earliest of all to attract attention. The style of architecture, with the gigantic vaults and singular comb-shaped gables, distinguishes Palenque from Copan and Quirigua, which it surpasses also in the unequalled magnificence of its sculptures. Five out of the remarkably uniform series of buildings may be specially mentioned. They are the Great Palace, a complex structure of galleries and courts commanded by a three-storeyed tower, the Temples of the Cross, which are galleries constructed on terraces and containing the well-known reliefs, the Temple of Inscriptions, the Sun Temple and the Temple of the Relief. The sculptured figures of Palenque are familiar from many reproductions. The most characteristic groups represent a deity standing between worshippers who hold a staff surmounted by the water-god Ah-bolon-tzacab, the “god of the nine medicines.” The inscriptions on the famous Cross and in the Sun Temple contain calendar-datings which are remarkable as showing a particular combination of numbers and hieroglyphs, which does not occur elsewhere.

A whole series of sites is included within the geographical limits of Chiapas, which from the archaeologist’s standpoint must be considered as belonging properly to Guatemala. The country has been quite insufficiently explored.

Oaxaca (Mexico).—The bulk of the population of the province of Oaxaca is composed of a distinct racial group, best represented by the Zapotecs, who have been for an unknown length of time the intermediaries between the Nahua civilization of Mexico on the west and the Mayan on the east. The influence of the two separate currents may be detected in the bastard calendar system no less than in the still undeciphered inscriptions. The principal ruins are those of Mitla, the burial city of the priests and kings of the ancient Zapotecs, which bear a quite distinct character, though presenting certain analogies with the Mexican. One of the chief structures is a step-pyramid, rising in three steps to a height of 130 ft., another is a pyramid of brick. Besides these there are courts, surrounded by palaces which represented necropolises, the dwellings of the priests, of the chief priest, and of the king (with an audience-hall). The wall paintings of the “palaces” are especially admirable, and it is to be noted that the deities represented in them are those of the Mexican pantheon.

Monte Alban is interesting for the definitely Zapotec character of its sculptures. Quiengola near Tehuantepec is a site with extensive ruins including a fine tennis court.

British Honduras.—The antiquities of British Honduras have been but little investigated. In the scanty literature relating to them a few accounts of ruined places are to be found. In style these buildings closely resemble those of the neighbouring Yucatan. The ruins in the colony New Boston, mentioned by Froebel (Central America, p. 167), are of this kind. F. de P. Castells (see American Antiquarian, Chicago, 1904, vol. xxvi. pp. 32-37) describes the ruins, in the north of the colony, of “Ixim chech,” supposed to be the Indian form of the English name “Indian Church.” They are on the road to the Lake of Yaxha (green water), where further ruins are to be found. Thomas Gann gives detailed accounts of numerous mounds also in the northern part of British Honduras (see 19th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1900, part i. pp. 661-692, with plates). The most interesting ruins are those which have been discovered in Santa Rita, at the mouth of the New River, near the town of Corosal. Here wonderful wall paintings in stucco came to light, which unfortunately Gann could only save in part. The remainder were destroyed by Indians. It should be remarked that a number of the mounds in Santa Rita were erected over ruins of buildings which must therefore be of older date than the mounds.

Salvador.—Pedro de Alvarado in his expedition of 1524 calls this whole district Cuscatan (Mex. Cozcatlan), that is, “Land of precious stones, of treasures, of abundance.” A further description of the land is given by Palacio (l.c.) in 1576. Although there are numerous relics of Mayan civilization buried in the earth; few ruins are to be seen on the surface. Karl Sapper has described three large ruins: Cuzcatlan near the capital, Tehuacan near S. Vicente, and Zacualpa on the Lake of Güija in the extreme north-west of the country. The ruins show a distinct affinity in style to those of the Mayan buildings in Guatemala, but they are less fine and artistically perfect. Probably the central and western districts of San Salvador were originally peopled by the same race of Mayas, and these tracts of country were later settled by the Mexican-speaking Pipiles.

A characteristic feature of the extensive ruins of Zacualpa is that the pyramids and ramparts have perpendicular steps which are higher than they are broad, and this peculiarity may be attributed to the influence of the Maya tribes, who are related to the Mams of Guatemala.

Decipherment of the Mayan Hieroglyphs.—The key to the decipherment, so far as this has progressed at present, was furnished by the Historia de las Cosas de Yucatan, a work written by Diego de Landa, the first bishop of the country. This professed to give, with much other more or less doubtful information, the full account of a calendar system analogous to that of the Mexicans, which was said to have been used by the Mayas (see Mexico). The signs for each of the 20 days and for the 18 weeks of 20 days are figured by Landa. The first step was to compare these with the hieroglyphic characters contained in the few Mayan picture manuscripts (Codex Troano, Cortesianus, Peresianus, Dresden Codex) which have survived the destructive fanaticism of the Spanish missionaries. Förstemann’s acute analysis detected that the bars and dots which occur along the margin and in the body of the pictorial scenes represented numerals, dots standing for each integer up to five, while for five a bar was used. Next, it was found that the order in which these numeral-signs are placed is regular, and that there are never more than five in a group. It was established that the first sign in such a group is that for the numeral 1 (Kin), the next that for 20 (Uinal), the third for 18×20 (Tun), the fourth for 18×20×20 (Katun), and the fifth for 18×20×20×20, that is to say, a cycle.

Had the available material for study been confined to the manuscripts, little more progress would have been made beyond establishing subsidiary details in the actual calendar. But when a similar analysis was applied to the numerous monuments discovered and figured by Maudslay and others, some important results of a general bearing were obtained. It was found that many of the hieroglyphs of various forms upon the stones were also of numeral value, and, what was of great importance, that they all referred back to a single starting-point. This starting-point or zero is no doubt the mythological date at which, according to Mayan cosmology, the world was created. It is placed at nine or ten cycles before the time when Copan and Quirigua were erected and the picture manuscripts made. And it is by reference to it in the inscriptions that such students as Seler, Goodman and others have been enabled, as already stated, to obtain a record of the relative chronology of the most famous monuments, to confine the period of their erection within the space of a few centuries, and approximately to fix even their absolute antiquity. Though much yet remains to be done, these are substantial results which have already been won from the study of the hieroglyphs.

Bibliography.—The Antiquités mexicaines of Dupaix (Paris, 1834), the Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dans la province d’Yucatan of F. de Waldeck (Paris, 1838), and the Monuments anciens du Mexique of Brasseur de Bourbourg and Waldeck (Paris, 1866) are quite out of date and superseded. Stephen’s Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan (New York, 1841 and 1867), and B. M. Norman’s Rambles in Yucatan (New York, 1843), are still of value, the first-mentioned especially for the drawings by Catherwood. Among the earlier writers may also be mentioned Charnay, Les Anciennes Villes du Nouveau Monde (Paris, 1885) and Cités et ruines américaines (Paris, 1863), the latter written in collaboration with Viollet-le-Duc. Those, however, who are not primarily bibliophiles will be content to study the following:—Maudslay (in Godman and Salvin’s Biologia Centrali-Americana, sect. Archaeology,