Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/75

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
67
UXMAL, THE RUINED CITY.

or Casa del Gobernador, raised upon its immense terraces, one of which also supported the "House of the Turtles" (Casa de Las Tortugas), with the "Nameless Mound" beyond them all; east of south lay the ruins of Casa de la Vieja (the "Old Woman's House"), all tumbled about her head; from south to west circled mounds and clusters of ruins, such as the "House of the Pigeons " (Casa de las Palomas), and the remains of an extensive series of buildings; beyond this city could be seen other ruins, perhaps other cities, reaching out in a long line that could be traced miles away.

"The dense wild wood that hid the royal seat,
The lofty palms that choked the winding street,
Man's hand hath felled, and now, in day's fair light,
Uxmal's broad ruins burst upon the sight."

A great plain surrounded us, smooth and level as the sea, with a range of hills circling from northwest to southeast. This mound, or pyramid, lying due east from the city, was probably used as a place of sacrifice. The rooms of the building that forms the apex of the structure are small, and with the peculiar arch without the keystone, the entire building being about seventy feet long and only twelve feet deep. It is rich in sculpture; the hieroglyphics on the western part are in a good state of preservation, and a certain archaeologist claims to have the key to their meaning. The entire pyramid[1] is one hundred and five feet high, "not exactly pyramidal," but with rounded sides. A staircase, seventy feet wide, one hundred and two feet high, and containing ninety steps, climbs the eastern face of the structure from the base to the platform. The steps are narrow and steep, and we can well believe that when, as the old historians relate, the high priest kicked the body of the victim of sacrifice from the house of the altar, it fell the whole distance of a hundred feet to the ground,—that "it never stopped till it came to the bottom." We had much difficulty in getting up,

  1. Norman, who visited Yucatan between the two visits of Stephens,—1840 and 1842,—varies slightly in his measurements from the latter author, whose descriptions I follow in the main; but his examination was a hasty one, and where there is a difference, it will be safer to accept the data furnished by Stephens.