Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/550

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

color, and the raised portions in relief were burnished. Perhaps all those on the walls of Mitla were, at one time; but these alone have preserved their color, by having been buried.

We effected our descent to the tomb through a hole covered by a loose plank in the floor, and escaped from the damp and dismal place in the same way. Then the courteous proprietor supplied us with horses, and we ascended the high hills in quest of the paredones above the valley,—a most tedious climb, over ridges and through barrancas. We found the largest paredon in a dense thicket on a hill commanding the whole valley, near the gap through which passes the trail to the Mixe village of Ayutla. A sepulchre is formed here, of massive blocks, in the form of a cross, about ten feet deep, six wide, and thirty long. All the inner faces of these immense blocks are sculptured, like those at Sagá, while other dressed rocks are scattered about.

About two miles from Mitla is a high hill, the top of which has been levelled and fortified. A wall of stone from ten to twenty feet in height completely surrounds it, in all more than a mile in length. The hill is about six hundred feet high, precipitous and inaccessible except towards Mitla, where the wall is not only double, or overlaps, but the entrances are not opposite each other and penetrate the walls obliquely. After a very hard climb we reached the summit, where we found the remains of adobe dwellings, great heaps of stones, as though gathered for defence, and thousands of fragments of pottery. There were also great rocks poised near the battlements, as if ready to be toppled over upon an enemy attacking from below. The fortification follows the contours of the cliffs, at all points presenting a perpendicular face to assailants. The hill completely dominates the little valley hidden from the world in this romantic spot, and overlooks the larger valley outside and all the dry plains and hills about Mitla. It was evidently built by a different people from those architects of the palaces below, and it must have served well as a place of defence. Terrible battles have been fought here, one of the greatest of which, if we may believe tradition, was regarding the possession of Montezuma's daughter. It seems that the king of the Zapotecs and the king