Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/323

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A DAY IN THE MUSEUMS.

statue was worshipped, rivers of blood have flowed before it, and innocent men and maidens have perished in its presence, for the hearts of human victims were kept smoking on its altar night and day.

The sacrificial stone is inseparably connected with the name of Huitzilopochtli, since it was upon it that the victims gave up their lives. Of this we have data, which enable us to state when it was hewn out from the quarry of Coyoacan and sculptured, with its endless procession of conquering kings. I need not call the reader's attention to what Prescott has written regarding this very stone, to what all the historians of Mexico have said in confirmation of the statement that upon this stone, in a single year, sixty thousand human victims were offered up in sacrifice! It is nine feet in diameter, three feet in height, and carved on top and sides, with a deep bowl in the centre, and a channel leading to the edge. This is suggestive, this gutter for the blood of the victim to flow in, and self-explanatory.

Another great monolith, illustrating the advancement of the Aztecs in the art of sculpture, is the calendar stone,—not in the Museum, but cemented into the western wall of the cathedral. We know, from reading Prescott, Clavigero, Humboldt, and others, that the ancient Aztecs, and before them the Toltecs, were in a measure civilized. It is claimed that they could calculate the recurrence of their cycles, the solstices, etc., and that this "Calendar Stone" was indeed a perpetual calendar. Such has been the result of the interpretations of the hieroglyphs on its face by the learned Gama, Gallatin, and others; but more recent writers advance the opinion that it was solely intended to commemorate the feast-days, and to preserve in the memory of man the years of the cycles that had passed at the time it was engraved.[1] This latter interpretation would seem to be the correct one, but we will not enter into the discussion. It is on record that this stone was also hewn from a block of basalt

  1. See "Calendario Azteco, Ensayo Archæologico, por A. Chavero," Mexico, 1876; and "The Mexican Calendar Stone," by Philipp J. J. Valentini, Proc. Amer. Ant. Society, October, 1878.