Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/544

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the place of tombs; called by the Aztecs Miquitlan, Mictlan, or Mitla, "place of sadness," dwelling of the dead; often used in the sense of hell. The gloomy aspect of the locality accords well with the dread significance of the name. A stream, with parched and shadeless banks, flows through the valley; no birds sing, or flowers bloom, over the remains of the Zapotec heroes.

Humboldt, though he describes them, never saw these ruins. The first exploration was in 1802, by Don Luis Martin and Colonel De la Laguna from Mexico, who visited and sketched the ruins, and from whom Humboldt got his information. In 1806, Dupaix and Castenada, and in 1830, the German traveller, Muhlenpfordt, made plans and drawings which were published, the originals of which may yet be seen in the institute of Oaxaca. Muhlenpfordt's plan, given by Bancroft, is said to be the only general one ever published. The French archaeologist, Charnay, took photographs of Mitla a score of years ago.

There are five groups of ruins, three of which are in excellent preservation. A portion of the village is built among them, and lies near the bed of the shallow and treeless river. After crossing this river-bed you enter the little adobe hamlet, where the only vegetation is cactus and nopal, and find yourself unexpectedly amongst the ruins. As they do not lay claim to regard so much on account of their height as for their extent and elaborate ornamentation, the wall of the first rises before you while you are yet unaware of its vicinity. Though it contains some immense blocks of porphyry, and traces of hieroglyphic painting, its ruin is more complete than the second group, to which we anxiously hastened. The first collection is about one hundred and twenty feet by one hundred, and the walls, fifteen to eighteen feet high, enclose a large court, on three sides of which are rooms. The outer walls of all the ruins are composed of oblong panels of mosaic, forming grecques or arabesques. There seems to be no sculpture on the walls, but only this peculiar mosaic, formed of pieces of stone, each one about seven inches in length, one in depth, and two in breadth, accurately cut, and fitted into the face of the wall, forming patterns