Our allotted period of sojourn in the country, which we now felt to be lamentably brief, passed swiftly away amid the excitement of our position; and, urged by the feeling that necessity would compel us to leave Mexico at the commencement of May, we prepared, early in April, to make an excursion of a few days in the environs of the capital.
Accordingly, on the 8th of that month, for the especial solace and service of the invalid of the party, a huge unwieldy Mexican stage carriage, swinging to and fro upon its scaffolding, drove majestically up to the door of the Gran Sociedad, at the heels often mules, furnished with faded trappings and harness, and with tail pieces of brass-studded leather, shaped exactly like a beaver's trowel. M'Euen and myself on horseback, backed by our two equeries Garcias and Mariano, (the latter a new acquisition,) acted as escort. All were, of course, armed to the teeth, and felt very valiant. Two mozos presided over the mules.
The coach was, by-the-by, not so much amiss; for it was of a strength of construction, which might have made it available as a temporary citadel, on a pinch—and once put in motion, it went lumbering over the pavement, and out of the gate of San Lazaro, to the new calzada, leading towards the mountains beyond the southern limits of the Lake Tezcuco.
The morning was splendidly bright, and the air of matchless purity.
The causeway runs straight towards the volcanic mass, called the Peñon Viejo, situated on the ancient shore of the lake to the south, and which is to be distinguished from the other peñon of similar origin, containing the hot baths, and lying between the city and the lake.
For many miles we continued by its aid to traverse a range of wide-spread flats, from which the waters of the lake have long retired, leaving a surface but indifferently calculated for cultivation, from the spongy character of the soil, and the carbonate of soda forming upon its surface. The higher portions are subjected to a rude system of drainage and agriculture; and numerous herds of cattle were scattered over it.
We found Peñon Viejo to be a huge discoloured mass of ffused matter, abounding in caverns; and displaying throughout the play of the fierce element, to whose action it owes its elevation from the abyss.
As we proceeded, one pile of volcanic hills after the other started into isolated prominence on our left, disentangling themselves from their neighbours, and from the more distant ranges, with which they had hitherto appeared to be connected. Cones, which from the roofs of the city had appeared to rise from one common ridge, we now discovered to be separated by broad strips of level marsh. I believe I forgot to mention among our excursions, one which we had made some time before, from the Hacienda San Antonio to the great group of volcanic hills beyond Mejicalzingo, which consists, as far as I could determine, of three truncated cones, rising progressively in bulk and height, one over the other, from the surface of the plain. On this occasion we had contrived to scramble up the steep sides of the lowest, consisting of abrupt slopes covered with rotten scoria, and gained the brink of the crater, which in its present state forms a smooth, grass-covered bowl, of about a mile in circumference.
After passing the Peñon Viejo, we approached the foot of the volcanic cone of the Ajotla; but then quitting the great calzada at Santa Martha, followed a track over the half-dried marshes at the southernmost extremity of Lake Tezcuco to the village of Santa Madalenda, on terra firma.
As we rode in front of the old church and dark group of Italian cypress of the village, and, turning northward, advanced over a hilly tract of country, spotted by herds of cattle and haciendas, towards Chapingo, the views increased in beauty and interest at every step. Popocatepetl, and its neighbour, now rose to the southward over the summits of the innumerable cones in the middle ground. Both were covered with snow to a far greater extent than on our arrival three weeks before; and even the Ajusco appeared sprinkled to a considerable extent. The whole breadth of the lake was now interposed between us and the city, and a most singular optical illusion was displayed from the effect of the mirage: the white edifices and coloured domes of the capital appearing afloat, like a fleet of snowy sails, upon the blue surface of the water, which seemingly extended far on the other side, up to the very base of the rock of Chapultepec, and of the mountains behind. The Peñon de los Baños appeared once more as an island; and this, which was now a deceptive and unreal picture, was the fact three hundred years ago.
The phenomena exhibited by the lakes of Mexico are extremely interesting.
Though indisputably the hand of man has done much towards the altered state of things as far as regards the diminution of water in the lakes, yet it is probable that natural causes, tending to the same results, have been in operation for ages; perhaps, ever since the day when the cessation of violent volcanic convulsions left the basin and table land of Mexico, with all its chaotic parts, fluid or solid, to the sway of the ordinary and more gentle operations of nature.
It is improbable that there was ever a regular influx of water, from whatever source it may have proceeded, at all commensurate with the great evaporation which, under the influence of the climate, and the physical construction of the country, must always have taken place.
Of the five lakes of Mexico—Tezcuco, Xochimilco, Chalco, Cristobal, and Zumpango—that of Tezcuco is the largest, the most central, the most impregnated with saline particles, and lies at the lowest level. Not one of them possesses a natural outlet from the valley of Mexico; and in case of the overflow of any of the four lakes, Tezcuco is the only reservoir into which they can disembogue themselves. The streams falling into Tezcuco, Xochimilco, and Cristobal, are so inconsiderable as to be of little or no account; but both Chalco at the southern, and Zumpango at the northern extremity of the chain, receive streams of a considerable volume, calculated, under a combination of causes, to throw so large a body of water into their respective reservoirs, as to produce a most extraordinary overflow, and a consequent rise of the waters in Lake Tezcuco. Such, tradition states to have been the case on various occasions prior to the conquest; and even since the seventeenth century, the waters of Tezcuco have risen to such a height, that the city has been greatly endangered by it, most of the streets on one occasion remaining many feet under water for between four and five years consecutively. The pavement of the Plaza Major itself, the highest ground in the city of Mexico, is several feet lower than the surface of Lake Chalco.
Nevertheless, such is the combined effect of the extraordinary evaporation from the dry and naked surface of the table land, raised above the clouds, and fully exposed to the sun's rays; the diminished power of replenishment; the decreasing infiltration, from the destruction of woods and forests both on the plains and the surrounding mountains, laying the unprotected soil bare to the action of the ardent sun and rarified air; and lastly, the effect of the artificial means employed by the Spaniards two centuries ago, to carry off the super-abundant waters of the lake to the northward, that all the lakes have retired on every side into narrower limits, and the surface of Tezcuco in particular has become circumscribed far within its original bounds.
The present shore is already 14,763 feet from the centre of the city, which it once surrounded; and on every side, as I have described, wide flats and marshy meadows mark its ancient bed.
The great Hacienda of Chapingo, which we reached shortly after noon, lies some miles distant from the shore of the lake, directly opposite Mexico. By the circuitous route we had taken, that city lay about nine leagues distant, but as the bird flies, it could not have been more than eleven or twelve miles. The intendant of the hacienda, to whom we had brought a letter of introduction, was from home; but we were courteously received and entertained by one of the upper domestics of this spacious establishment; breakfasting with uncommon zest after our preparatory ride of seven hours.
The estate attached to the hacienda is one of the most princely and productive in the valley of Mexico. In old times it had belonged, with much valuable land on the same side of the lake, to the Jesuits. Later it came into possession of the Marquis Vibanco, and now appertains to the exiled General Moran. The dwelling house, though spacious, is hardly worthy of the size and construction of the adjoining offices; among which the two troges, or barns, are distinguished for their vast size and massive architecture. The largest, which we rudely measured, forms one immense apartment of seventy yards in length, by twenty-two in breadth. They are calculated to hold the whole of the ample produce of maize and wheat yielded by the estate. The land is rendered extremely productive, by the excellent system of irrigation to which it is subjected. The water is conveyed hither from the mountains to the east, by means of stone conduits. Ward computes the annual income derived from this property at 60,000 dollars.
Leaving the carriage and the mules to find their way to the town of Tezcuco, at the distance of a short league, we got on horseback in the course of the afternoon, to visit some of the objects of interest in the neighbourhood. The frequent occurrence of deep fissures in the surface of the plain, compelled us to make a circuitous route, to gain the ancient but decayed town of Huejutla, now reduced to a mere Indian hamlet, while the large church erected by the Spaniards soon after the conquest, and its singular Aztec ruins, mark it to have been a place of considerable consequence both before and after that period.
The church stands upon a raised platform, from which you descend to a second walled enclosure by a broad flight of steps. This enclosure is covered with sward, and overshadowed by seventeen noble olive trees, which tradition states to have been the first planted by the conquerors in New Spain. Their venerable appearance attests their great age.
The Indian remains are various in their character; but for the most part heaps of rubbish. The wall of the palace is, however, one of the greatest curiosities in the country. It is still of considerable extent; and, where uninjured, seems to have been between twenty and thirty feet in height, and of six to eight feet in thickness. It is not built in a uniform manner, but varies in the form and distribution of the masonry at different points of elevation. About the mid height there is a layer of compact stonework, composed of long cylindrical masses, disposed with the circular ends outward. In following this wall for some distance to the eastward, it is found to abut suddenly upon a deep fissure or barranca, running east and west, and forming a natural defence on that side. The road crosses it by the celebrated arched bridge, concerning which antiquaries are divided in opinion; the sanguine and hot headed insisting that, however improbable, it is of genuine Indian construction, and formed a part of the original erections in its vicinity; at the same time that the cool and plodding deny the probability, and even assert the impossibility. It certainly would be a singular anomaly, to find in this single instance, the principle of the arch so well developed, while in every part of the continent to the northward, and on the plateau of Mexico, you evidently see that the ancient architects were ignorant of the science and principle; but for all that, my impression after I had studied it in every part was, that there was as much to be said on one side as upon the other. It is of the rudest construction, far too much so to be Spanish in its origin; and precisely of that acute form which, as it appears to me, would be the most natural for a timid architect, upon whose mind the truth of the principle had just dawned, to adopt in his first trials. The height above the bed of the barranca is about forty feet. A hunt after portable antiquities among the Indian huts was rewarded by the acquisition of an ugly monster of an idol in a sitting posture, delftly carved in a hard volcanic substance. He was perfect, with the exception of a corner of his mouth, into which the Indian who unearthed him had driven the nose of his ploughshare, demolishing a few of his teeth; and as he was pronounced worth carriage, he was henceforth, under the high-sounding name of Huitzilipoctli, accommodated with a seat in the coach, by the side of his purchaser.
We now turned our attention towards the conical mountain of Tezcozingo, an inferior spur of the great chain to the east; and skirting the town of Tezcuco, bore off in that direction. The country exhibited many plantations of maguey, and the villages were interspersed with hedges of tall organ cactus. Long before we got to the church of La Navidad, which at a distance seemed close under the steep and pointed hill upon which the object of our search, the Baño de Montezuma, was situated, it became apparent that night would overtake us in the midst of our excursion. But nothing daunted, we galloped forward over the great plain; and under the direction of an Indian guide, whose assistance was secured at the last village, and crossing a deep barranca, we began to ascend the mountain through the scattered plantations of nopal and maguey. Fragments of pottery, end broken pieces of obsidian knives and arrows; pieces of stucco, shattered terraces, and old walls, were thickly dispersed over its whole surface. We soon found farther advance on horseback impracticable; and attaching our patient steeds to the nopal bushes, we followed our Indian guide on foot; scrambling upward, over rock and through tangled brushwood. On gaining the narrow ridge which connects the conical hill with one at the rear, we found the remains of a wall and causeway; and a little higher, reached a recess, where, at the foot of a small precipice, overhung with Indian fig and grass, the rock had been wrought by hand into a flat surface of large dimensions. In this perpendicular wall of rock, a carved Toltec Calendar existed formerly; but the Indians finding the place visited occasionally by foreigners from the capital, took it into their heads that there must be a silver vein there; and straightway set to work to find it, obliterating the sculpture, and driving a level beyond it into the hard rock for several yards.
From this recess, a few minutes' climb brought us to the summit of the hill. The sun was on the point of setting over the mountains on the other side of the valley, and the view spread beneath our feet was most glorious. The whole of the lake of Tezcuco, with the country and mountains on both sides, lay stretched before us.
But, however disposed, we dared not stop long to gaze and admire, but descending a little obliquely, soon came to the so-called bath, two singular basins, of perhaps two feet and a half diameter, cut into a bastionlike, solid rock, projecting from the general outline of the hill, and surrounded by smooth carved seats and grooves, as we supposed; for I own the whole appearance of the locality was perfectly inexplicable to me. I have a suspicion, that many of these horizontal planes and grooves were contrivances to aid their astronomical observations, like that I have mentioned having been discovered by De Gama at Chapultepec.
As to Montezuma's Bath—it might be his foot bath if you will, but it would be an impossibility for any monarch of larger dimensions than Oberon to take a duck in it.
This mountain bears the marks of human industry to its very apex, many of the blocks of porphyry of which it is composed being quarried into smooth horizontal planes. It is impossible to say at present what portion of the surface is artificial or not, such is the state of confusion observable in every part.
By what means nations unacquainted with the use of iron constructed works of such a smooth polish, in rocks of such hardness, it is extremely difficult to say. Many think tools of mixed tin and copper were employed; others, that patient friction was one of the main means resorted to. Whatever may have been the real appropriation of these inexplicable ruins, or the epoch of their construction, there can be no doubt but the whole of this hill, which I should suppose rises five or six hundred feet above the level of the plain, was covered with artificial works of one kind or another. They are, doubtless, rather of Toltec than of Aztec origin, and perhaps with still yet more probability attributable to a people of an age yet more remote.
Our descent was rapid. It was night by the time we crept forth from the deep barranca which separates the base of the hill of Tezcozingo from the plains, and gained La Navidad. The wind blew cold, but we galloped swiftly onward, and in less than one hour's time reached the meson at Tezcuco, where our servants and carriage had long before preceded us. The arrival of four armed horsemen at that time of the evening seemed to excite some sensation in the little town, and the rumour soon reached the commandant, who thought proper to pay us an official but very shy visit: and after being satisfied that we were good men and true, apologized, by saying that times were bad, and it had been suspected we were some of Canalizza's insurgents. Next came, also officially announced, the secretary of the alcalde, with a similar polite request, that we would say who we were; also backed by an humble apology, with this variation, that it had been rumoured that we were a party of Ladrones or banditti! By means of the information gained by these several functionaries, however, the good people of Tezcuco were now enabled to sleep in peace and quiet, leaving the strangers within their walls to their repose also.
There are but few remains exposed to the observation of a superficial and hasty observer, to vindicate the ancient claim of Tezcuco to be considered as the second city of the Mexican empire. Yet so it incontestibly was, according to the Spanish historians, and I have no doubt but a careful survey might bring to light much of a most interesting character to the antiquary.
The ruins of tumuli, and other constructions of unbaked bricks, intermingled with platforms and terraces of considerable extent, are still to be traced; and it is asserted that many of the Spanish edifices are constructed out of the ruins of the teocallis, or of the palaces, which existed here at the time the Spaniards built the present town.
I feel more regret than I can describe, at the hasty manner in which we were obliged, by a sort of necessity, to slur over our survey of this interesting site, which is one of those to which I should more particularly direct the attention of any friend of mine who may turn his steps towards New Spain.
Here Cortez made his preparations for his last successful attempt upon the capital of the empire; and the spot where he launched his brigantines is still indicated by a bridge called the Puente des Brigantinas, almost close to the town. At that time, the lake must have been in near proximity; but, as at Mexico itself, a long level of nearly two leagues in breadth is to be traversed before you gain its shallow waters.
There was one remarkable object upon this broad extent of plain, to which our attention had been particularly directed by the virtuosi of the capital; and that was the Contador, a grove of cypress vulgarly called "Montezuma's Garden."
Accordingly, the following morning we mounted our horses early, and left the carriage to be packed during our absence. We had no sooner escaped from the gardens and enclosures in the immediate vicinity of the town, than we saw the Contador before us, breaking the uniformity of the great level in advance, by its mass of dark foliage.
Not a tree or a hillock is to be found in the vicinity of this remarkable grove; which formerly must have been completely surrounded by the lake.
The trees composing it may be between three and four hundred in number, disposed to a square of considerable size, partly open to the east. A smaller parallelogram, higher than the surrounding soil, is to be observed at the northeast corner, with a deep ditch round it. I found, upon examination, that this was a porphyritic rock.
The interior of the great square, even at this day, is very slightly elevated above the present level of the lake to the west, and so spongy that we nearly buried our horses in attempting to cross it. The ground is firm, however, at the base of the trees, which are planted very close; many of them are of great size—fifteen or sixteen yards in circumference. They are all of the noble species of cypress mentioned in a former letter, as the cupressus disticha. A raised causeway running from the northeast angle, evidently connected this island garden with the main land.
There exists no reason why this should not have been one of the numerous gardens of Montezuma; but, in all probability, the hands which planted those aged trees belonged to men of an age greatly anterior to that monarch: quien sabe?—who knows? I have seen few remnants of antiquity in the valley of Mexico which interested me more than this solitary grove.
Before we quit the shore of Lake Tezcuco, I may mention a circumstance which has struck me greatly, as I have every reason to credit the source of my information.
I have made you attentive to the gradual change which has been operated on the surface of the valley of Mexico, from the retirement of its waters within narrower bounds. At what time, or under what circumstances, those waters first overflowed the country, it was to be expected that even tradition would be silent, when it is recollected that the people through whose medium the few traditions we possess were transmitted to our knowledge, had only occupied the valley for a few brief generations. But that there was a time, however remote, at which the waters, if they existed at all, occupied a much lower level than even at the present day, at the same time that the continent was in the occupation of people considerably advanced in the rude arts of semi-civilization, would seem to be an incontrovertible fact.
Some time before our visit, a number of workmen were employed on the neighbouring estate of Chapingo, to excavate a canal over that part of the plain, from which the waters have gradually retired during the last three centuries. At four feet below the surface, they reached an ancient causeway, of the existence of which there was of course not the most remote suspicion. The cedar piles, by which the sides were supported, were still sound at heart. Three feet below the edge of this ancient work, in what may have been the very ditch, they struck upon the entire skeleton of a mastodon, imbedded in the blue clay. Many of the most valuable bones were lost by the careless manner in which they were extricated; others were ground to powder on their conveyance to the capital, but sufficient remained to prove that the animal had been of great size. My informant measured the diameter of the tusk, and found it to be eighteen inches.
The number of the remains of this huge animal found on the table land of Mexico, and in the valley itself, is astonishing. Indeed, wherever extensive excavations have been made of late years, they have been amost always met with.
In digging the foundations of the present great church at Guadaloupe, many were brought to the surface. Mr. W. of the Hacienda of San Nicholas, four leagues to the south, in forming an excavation for an engine house, found others. A friend of mine in the capital received, while we were there, portions of a skeleton from Guadalaxara; and I was informed, that in a neighbouring state, there exists a barranca, which, from the quantity of these colossal remains which are there found, the Indians have named the Barranca de los Gigantes.
Though I should be very glad to take shelter under the convenient Quien sabe?—the use of which I have suggested to you—I could not avoid, at the time I was in Mexico, putting many isolated facts together, and feeling inclined to believe that this country had not only been inhabited in extremely remote times, when the valley bore a different aspect from that which it now exhibits, or which tradition gives k, but that the extinct race of enormous animals, whose remains would seem, in the instance I have cited, to be coeval with the undated works of man, may have been subjected to his will, and made instrumental by the application of their gigantic force, to the transport of those vast masses of sculptured and chiselled rock, which we marvel to see lying in positions so far removed from their natural site.
The existence of these ancient paved causeways also, not only from their solid construction over the flat and low plains of the valley, but as they may be traced running for miles over the dry table land and the mountains, appears to me to lend plausibility to the supposition; as one might inquire—to what end the labour of such works, in a country where beasts of burden were unknown?
But I leave this subject to wiser heads and bolder theorists. Had the mammoth of Chapingo been discovered with a ring in his nose, or a bit in his mouth; a yoke on his head, or a crupper under his tail, the question would have been set at rest. As it is, there is plenty of room for conjecture and dispute.
On leaving Tezcuco, in the course of the morning, we took the road conducting to the northeast.
An advance of five leagues over dusty roads, and through picturesque villages, whose cottages were almost hidden from view by the close hedge of the organ cactus, brought us to a slope of a hill commanding a view of the valley of. San Juan Teotihuacan.
The two huge pyramidal masses rising in the centre of the plain, anciently called Micoatl, or the Path of the Dead, immediately arrest the attention. They lie two miles east of the town, which, imbosomed in shady groves, and irrigated throughout by plenteous streams of clear water, seemed to us a very paradise, after our shelterless ride in the hot sun.
My companions betaking themselves to a state of torpidity, as usual in the afternoon, I began my survey in solitude. Close to the town, there are a number of heaps of rubbish, evidently ancient; and I found them, upon examination, to be chiefly composed of antique pottery, fragments of obsidian knives, and arrow heads; and the same description applies to a great portion of the surface of the plain between the town and the pyramids, which lie in close proximity to the road leading to Otumba.
As usual in this portion of the table land, the breathless heat of the morning had been succeeded in the afternoon by partial whirlwinds; and many moving pillars of dust, some of more than a hundred feet in height, were travelling over the country in every direction. One passed close to me, and I was surprised by the rapidity of the spiral movement, and the violence of the rushing sound accompanying it.
On nearing the vicinity of the pyramids, a mule path, which leaves the smaller of the two more to the northward, leads you in ten minutes' walk to the base of the House of the Sun.
The distance between the two may be, perhaps, something short of half a mile.
Time—and who shall determine how many revolutions of the sun?—the alternate heat and rain of tropical summer and winter, the breath of the whirlwind, and the feet and hands of innumerable generations, have conspired to diminish the size of the huge mass of earth and stone, and to destroy the symmetry of its form. The angles have long ago lost their sharpness; and the different platforms or terraces much of their breadth; still, three of the four stories of which the great pyramid consisted are perfectly distinguishable, even at the distance of many miles. In the smaller, they are more difficult to recognise.
I have some suspicion that the real base lies below the level of the present soil, concealed by the wrecks cast down upon it, and by the gradual elevation of the plateau on which it stands. Almost the entire coating of lime, which, doubtless, cased the slopes as well as the terraces, has crumbled and disappeared, and in ascending, you climb over a rough and uneven surface, composed of porous scoria and amygdaloid, mixed with clay—jagged with spiny tufts and nopal trees, and strewed with fragments of pottery and obsidian.
The terraces, in many parts, still retain their exterior covering of salmon-coloured stucco.
Unlike the sharply pointed pyramids of Egypt, these erections, in common with most of the teocallis of Mexico, were constructed in distinct stories, and terminated by a platform, upon which, probably, a small structure was erected.
On the summit of the House of the Moon, the ruins of such a building are to be seen; but all vestige, if such there were, has long ago disappeared from the platform of the larger pyramid.
In awaiting the arrival of my companions I had abundant time to take a minute survey of the remarkable scene around me.
The House of the Moon appeared, as I have already stated, about half a mile to the north, with two tumuli disposed at the two southern angles, and two intermediate ones on the southern base. A raised platform, or apron, forming a parallelogram of considerable size, extended in advance; with three small pyramids symmetrically ranged on one side, and seven or eight on the other. From the step at the termination of this apron, a broad, well-marked road, or vista, proceeded directly to the south, passing before the House of the Sun, which, like the lesser erection, squares exactly with the cardinal points, but stands rather more to the eastward.
Innumerable groups or "systems" of small pyramidical tumuli are disposed, at a greater or less distance, on either side of this great road, which may be distinguished bearing away for miles across the broad plain, towards the mountains in the direction of the remarkable hill of Tezcozingo. Is not this properly the Micoatl, or Path of the Dead?
Look where you will on the great level at your feet, you see innumerable shapeless heaps and swells which mark the accumulation of artificial rubbish. Who shall say but this wide field affords a grave to millions?
To the eastward, at the distance of some miles, rises the inconsiderable ridge which divides the valley of San Juan Teotihuacan from the plains of Otumba; and westward, the eye rests upon the pretty groves and churches of the town, and the neighbouring villages, backed by the expanding vista, where the valley opens upon the blue waters of Lake Tezcuco, and the main valley of Mexico, with the double range of noble mountains in the background. A glorious view, truly, both for extent, colouring, and interest!
In a locality like this, the features of which I have been attempting to describe; surrounded by monuments whose history has eluded the most patient researches hitherto, the mind is naturally disposed to speculation. It matters little that the origin of the objects around you is hidden in the impenetrable mist of past ages; that their design and appropriation has alternately occupied and baffled the wits of far wiser than yourself; that the most laborious collation of evidence has only brought to light isolated and uncertain items of intelligence with respect to them—speculate you must.
You need not be reminded that our range of knowledge as Europeans, with regard to the history of this vast continent, and this portion of it in particular, only extends over a space of a little more than three centuries. From this period, tracing time towards its beginning, the vague chronicles of the aborigines at the date of the conquest, only carry you backward to an epoch, a hundred and fifty years, or thereabout, anterior to that event; or to the foundation of the Mexican empire.
The weak and uncertain glimmer of their traditional history, respecting the period of the Aztec emigration, and that of the various nations whom they succeeded, if followed till it vanishes in utter darkness, hardly points back to times more remote than the middle of the seventh century, an age of comparatively modern history in the Old World. At that epoch, it is stated that the Toltecs, a powerful nation, emigrating from their original country somewhere to the northeast, made an irruption upon Anahuac, or the great table land and valley of Mexico. Their pilgrimage southward seems to have been slow, and to have lasted an entire century; and several sites are indicated as places of temporary sojourn before they finally settled, but their principal seat of government, which was monarchical, was at Tula, a few leagues to the north of the valley of Mexico.
They were, by the testimony of all succeeding tribes, the most civilized of all the nations which held possession of Anahuac; living in cities, submitting to a regular form of government, and possessing a knowledge of hieroglyphic writing, the casting of metals, and the cultivation of maize and cotton; evincing great skill in the mechanic arts, and chiefly remarkable for the ingenious astronomical arrangement of time in use among them. They held their sway over the central portion of the country for four centuries, when they would appear to have been cut off by a famine and pestilence, and most of their cities deserted. Part of the remnant emigrated to the southward, towards the isthmus; a few remained in the sacred city of Cholula.
A hundred years' desolation followed, when, about 1170, a second people, emigrating also from the north, sat down upon the deserted territory. They were also subject to a monarchical government; but were far less civilized than their predecessors: and in advance in the arts of life, as well as their simple worship of the sun, they seem to be assimilated to the Natchez of Louisiana.
Other tribes, the principal of which was the Acolhuans, followed. Under all their distinct appellations, yet speaking at most dialects of the same language, it seems probable that all these tribes were offsets from that teeming hive of human beings of which the unknown seat lay somewhere to the northward, in the unexplored country to the north and east of California, between the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, and the great Pacific Ocean.
The Alcolhuan monarchy lasted for several centuries, till the rise of the Mexicans or Aztecs, the last of seven tribes of the Nahuatlacs, the people who had emigrated to Anahuac before the Acolhuans, put an end to it.
It appears that these seven tribes had departed from their northern home in company; but that after three considerable halts, disagreement produced a separation of the Aztec tribe from their brethren. The six proceeded to the south, and formed their settlements; while many years elapsed before the seventh, oracle led, came to a final pause in the valley of Mexico, where they founded their principal city on the site of the present capital, amid the waters of the lake Tezcuco. Like most of the nations whose entry into the country I have thus briefly noticed, the Mexicans adopted as much of the agriculture, arts, and demi-civilization of the Toltecs as was extant, and conformed to their astronomical division of time, mythology, and probably to many of their religious observances and customs.
During their period of a hundred years' wandering in Anahuac, before making their final settlement, the Mexicans are stated to have succumbed to the power of the Acolhuans. They finally adopted the monarchical form of government, and gaining the ascendency, maintained it till the arrival of the Spaniards. At that time remnants of the most of the tribes here mentioned were to be found, here or there in the country, mingled with small primitive tribes of quite a distinct race, some of which are supposed, with apparent reason, to have inhabited New Spain before the arrival of the Toltecs.
And now, who built the pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacan? who laid the foundations of the colossal teocalli of Cholula? Some say the Toltecs—others the Olmecas or the Xicalancas, people of an equally remote origin; and all agree in attributing them to the earliest times of which traditional record exists.
There is no saying by what people, or at what epoch they were raised, nor to what forms of idol worship they were in succession consecrated; but from the tangled thread of tradition, sufficient may be unravelled to show the original design of these monuments, and what were the facts of which they were to be the remembrance to future ages: and tradition, while perhaps it does the wise and skilful Toltecs but justice, when it ascribes to them the elaborate sculpture strewed over the face of New Spain and Central America, might do them no wrong in attributing these vast erections, and many of the great works extant on the table land, to a far higher antiquity. At what epoch of the world's history the vast western continent became peopled by the human race, is a question which has given rise to many discussions and different hypotheses.
The idea of its early occupation would appear to be perfectly consistent both with analagous reasoning, and with the testimony to be gathered from the traditions and customs, civil and religious, of the aborigines themselves, throughout the continent. Is it not to be supposed, that, however brought about, the same Almighty hand which scattered the congregated descendants of Noah abroad upon the face of all the earth, would fulfil its design with regard to this portion of the habitable surface of the globe also, and that speedily? And if the countries of the north, and the south, and the west, then received these allotted portions of the human family—and the vast face of Asia became straightway peopled by the scattered multitude—why should it be doubted, that the varied countries of the extreme east also lay open to the millions emigrating from the common cradle of the second race of man on the plains of Shinar? It has been strongly contested, that the deeper we pry into the history and habits, languages and institutions of the American people, the less reason we discover to believe that they are descended from any particular people of the Old World: at the same time that a search into their early traditions and religious superstitions appears to prove, with undoubted certainty, that a connection once existed between them and the mass of mankind, and that, whenever and however isolated, there can be no doubt, from the great analogies existing between them, of their having a common origin and early history.
The various hypotheses started again and again, attempting to trace the origin of the American aborigines to any particular people of the old continent, whether Jew or gentile, have all hitherto failed in carrying conviction to the minds of the world in general; and it must be admitted that many of the arguments made use of to bolster up these theories, have only proved the ignorance of their advocates to the true sources of the institutions of pagan idolatry throughout the globe. Wherever you direct your attention, to the barbarous tribes of the north and south, or the demi-civilized people of the central portions of the continent on both sides of the isthmus, you find, under all modifications of tradition, proofs of their being of a common stock with other nations of the globe, and of a long and complete separation—intermingled with great and striking analogies in their dogmas, customs, and mythological systems; which it is now admitted that all the great nations of antiquity—Egypt, Chaldea, China, and Hindoostan—all drew from one common source, and probably learned in one common school, between the epoch of the deluge and the time of the dispersion. Beyond these it has been asserted by many, that no affinity whatsoever with any particular people can be traced, except such as might be supposed to be the natural fruit of the human mind, its passions, and its necessities in its fallen state, devoid of the light of revelation, however isolated, and wherever placed.
The most benighted of the American tribes have retained the impression of the existence of a Supreme Being, who was the "Master of Life," and the absolute governor of the world. This is indisputable, at the same time that among most of them, the principal adoration or worship was reserved for a host of minor deities and idols.
All concurred in asserting the existence of an evil spirit or principle, whose works and suggestions were calculated to injure them, although the depravity and blindness of their nature led them to seek to propitiate him.
All seem to have forebodings of the immortality of the soul, admitting or implying that after the death of the body, their thinking part would still exist. They have generally professed belief in future rewards and punishments; each people picturing their heaven and hell, according to the notions of felicity and misery imbibed from their early education and habits.
But this is not all. Among whatever division of these aborigines tradition is found to exist, you discover wrapped up in allegory, or distorted by perverted fancy, distinct testimony of the origin of all from common parents; the idea that mankind had forfeited their original state of happiness; coupled with faint glimpses of the coming of One, who should work a regeneration, and should restore the golden age; and a distinct record of the destruction of the world by water, and of the preservation of one family, from whom, of course, each, in his own fashion, derived its own progeniture. In all, in a greater or less degree, you detect that craving after something beyond human reason, which may serve as a guide; a craving which, at the same time that it is the most fertile source of credulous and superstitious belief, is sufficient to prove the absolute necessity of a Divine revelation, and the impracticability of man's dwelling in content upon earth without one. Further, by the traditional histories of the people inhabiting Central America, you are carried forward, in a most extraordinary manner, to the events attending the building of the tower of Babel, and the subsequent scattering of the human race.
But here, it has generally been considered, that all consistent analogies cease; and it would certainly appear that as, after the deluge, the human race lived together for five hundred years as one great family, subject to the same practices and superstitions, cultivating the same arts and sciences, and having one common tradition and history, so, after the dispersion, they spread in different bands over the face of the globe, carrying with them the knowledge, science, and so forth, which, till then, had been common to all, and which was certainly the base upon which the founders of nations in the Old World afterward built their several systems, civil and religious.
It is perfectly comprehensible for the rest, that the principal features in the traditions of the Americans, whether barbarous or demi-civilized, should be continual emigration and removal from place to place; and also that the dim record of the great events I have alluded to should be intertwined with others, referring to events of a far more recent date; that the personages and characters of the earliest time should be strangely mingled with the history of such as may have existed ages after; and, that the seat which a people actually occupied, should be in their records, the very theatre upon which the great events pictured by their traditions should have taken place.
The origin of the huge pyramidal monuments of Asia, in the traditional record remaining among the nations of antiquity, of the building of the tower of Babel, which was itself but a symbolic representation of the mountain on which the ark rested after the deluge, has been fully established by the pens of many able writers, and the resemblance between the latter, as described by the ancients, and the teocallis or temples of the ancient people of Anahuac, is too glaring to be overlooked or denied, by the most skeptically disposed.
There can be no reasonable doubt as to the strict analogy; and if there were, the traditions attached to the great pyramid of Cholula, among the rest, would remove it.
It is too interesting not to merit transcription.
"Before the great inundation," runs the tradition, "which took place four thousand eight hundred years after the creation of the world, the country of Anahuac was inhabited by giants; all of whom either perished in the inundation, or were transformed into fishes, save seven, who fled into caverns. When the waters subsided, one of the giants, called Xelhua, surnamed the Architect, went to Cholula, where, as a memorial of the mountain Tlaloc, which had served for an asylum to himself and his six brethren, he built an artificial hill in form of a pyramid. He ordered bricks to be made in the province of Tlanamalco, at the foot of the Sierra of Cocotl: and to convey them to Cholula, he placed a file of men who passed them from hand to hand. The gods beheld with wrath this edifice, the top of which was to reach the clouds. Irritated at the daring attempt of Xelhua, they hurled fire on the pyramid. Numbers of the workmen perished; the work was discontinued, and the monument was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, the god of the air."
I have said, that up to the present time none of the arguments employed to prove the descent of the American aborigines, or of any part and distinct portion of them, from particular people of the ancient world, have seemingly gained universal belief Nevertheless, it must be admitted, that the light thrown by late researches, and the collection of evidence from various quarters in favour of the plausibility of the theory that the nations of Central America at least are of Hebrew origin, is of a character calculated to make the unprejudiced pause, in hazarding too positive an opinion. As to myself, all I can say is, that when I knew less of the subject, I felt inclined to throw more ridicule upon the idea than I dare do now; at the same time that I would not deem the question decided, despite the opinion of many laborious and enthusiastic writers, from the time of Las Casas, Sahagun, Boturini, and their cotemporaries and successors, down to those of Ethan Smith, Mrs. Simon, and Lord Kingsbury, till it be clearly demonstrated that those most remarkable analogies which are ably set forth in these works, are not traceable to the times which immediately succeeded the deluge, and preceded the dispersion.
Well may the opinion of the world hang in suspense with regard to every doubtful question in which any part of the chosen people of God is implicated. The separate existence of the Jews as a distinct people, even to this day, is a miracle which none can question; and wherever the descendants of the lost Ten Tribes are banished—to the east, or to the west—we may firmly believe, that, being partakers of the same striking promises with the Jews, the same God who has promised to recall to his fold the "dispersed of Judah," will not forget "the outcasts of Israel."
I feel tempted still to remark, that if the exact time in which the American continent became peopled is a matter of uncertainty, the manner is not the less so, and as long as we confine our speculations to the narrow limits which the generality of theorists have adopted in their hypotheses, the result must be unsatisfactory.
That a vast continent, extending from the icy pole to the 56th degree of south latitude, should have been peopled either by the chance introduction of individuals by rafts or canoes, from the shores of Asia, or some of the islands at present found in the intermediate ocean—or even by the passage of a strait almost within the limits of the frigid zone, would appear preposterous, and improbable in the highest degree; and these ideas become ludicrous when applied to the introduction of animals of every description; many of which are incapacitated, from their structure, for existing in such high latitude.
The Mosaic account of the deluge, and of the manner in which it pleased God to preserve the race of men and of animals, puerile and incredible as the latter may appear to the freethinkers and neologists of the present day, is, however, not the less worthy of credit by the philosopher, as well as the simple-minded Christian; and other testimony to its truth than that of the Bible, if such be necessary, may be culled from the belief and traditions, of both the pagan nations of the eastern hemisphere, and the central nations of America.
In whatever locality it suited the designs of Providence to bring together the various animals for their introduction into the ark, it must not be overlooked, that that part of the globe on which the ark rested after the deluge, was one which of all others was the most calculated to facilitate the replenishing of the surface of the earth with animals, to whatever climate they were attached, or whatever were their habits.
To the north of the mountains between the Black and Caspian seas, a cool and elevated plateau led to the limits of the Frozen Sea, when immediately to the south the hot and arid plains of Arabia and Armenia afforded an easy passage to the equatorial latitudes; and as far as the Old World was concerned, it may be said, that no animal, in leaving the ark, had to pass through a zone incongenial to its nature. Neither is it to be assumed that this evidently wise scheme of Providence was violated with regard to America.
The probability is, that there once existed easy modes of communication, which have since disappeared in some mighty physical convulsion: and the opinion that this is the case, gains additional strength, both from the configuration of this portion of the globe, and the vague but certain traditions, which are entertained by many nations, of such a second great catastrophe having taken place posterior to the deluge.
The concurrent testimony of many scientific observers as to the appearance of the eastern coasts of Asia, and the groups of islands scattered over the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the proofs of large bodies of land having disappeared, need not be dwelt upon; nor the almost universal tradition current among those islands, of such a great physical convulsion, or disruption of the continents perfectly distinct from those of the great deluge. He who is disposed to glean, may glean from the history of the nations of the Old World, testimony to the same purport. The Egyptians, the Chinese, the Hindoos, have all similar records, concerning this second great revolution, which seemingly produced these great changes on the surface of the globe, and in the disposition of its parts.
It may be further mentioned, that the signification of the name of the patriarch Peleg (that is division; "for in his days the earth was divided") corroborates this idea in a singular manner. The word rendered "division," signifying, according to good authorities, a physical, and not a political division or separation; for proofs of which you may be referred to the ingenious work of Dr. M'Culloh—where it is shown that both the Chinese and the Hindoo records chronicle a certain terrible geological convulsion as occurring in the years 2357 and 2456 before Christ, both of which dates fall within the life of Peleg. Moreover, the signification of the name of the patriarch Salah, who was his cotemporary, again favours the same hypothesis, and it must be conceded that many favourite and received theories rest on far worse grounds.
According to this, the series of convulsions which broke up the surface of the globe will have occurred eight or nine hundred years after the dispersion of mankind, and consequently after that every part of the surface may have become occupied by both men and animals.
This is not the place for repeating what others have established with regard to the analogies of the Mexican mythology with that of the Old World. The subject is a tempting one, but I have already stepped over my proper bounds, and in referring you to Humboldt, Faber, Bryant, and other well-known writers, I crave your pardon for my digression, and resume my narrative.
On repairing to the House of the Moon, I found my two companions busily employed in verifying the truth of the information we had received in Mexico, of an entrance having been discovered. The opening in question lies in the southern face of the pyramid, at two thirds of the elevation, and possibly about the level of the third terrace from the bottom. It is difficult to determine exactly, for the whole form of this the lesser pyramid is much more indistinct than that of its rival. A number of Indian women and children beset the entrance, which was little larger than that into a fox earth, and after undergoing a partial stripping, I proceeded to share in the glory or danger of the enterprise, whichever it might be. As it happened, there was neither to be gained. I laid myself flat upon my face, and ducking into the aperture, squeezed myself blindly forward with my candle, through a passage inclining downward for about ten yards, when I found myself in a more open gallery, at the termination of which, not many paces distant, I found De Pourtales and M'Euen at the brink of two wells, which, considering the height at which we entered, might perhaps be in the centre of the pyramid. The latter valorously allowed himself to be lowered by a rope into the aperture on the left hand, to the depth of perhaps fifteen feet, without making any further discovery. The other pit was still shallower, and no signs of any other passage could be discovered. Both the walls of the passage and the sides of the wells, as far as we could see, were constructed of unburnt bricks; and a plentiful mouthful of dust was our only recompense. Other and more important cavities there may be, if they could be hit upon. No entrance has been discovered in the House of the Sun.
Of the Indians, to whom our adventure was a subject of both curiosity and awe, we purchased a hundred or more of those singular terra cotta heads, which, intermingled with fragments of obsidian knives and arrows, are discovered in such inexhaustible quantity in many parts of Mexico, but principally in the vicinity of these pyramids, and on the neighbouring plain of Otumba. I am not aware of any light having been thrown as yet, either upon the uses to which these models of the human countenance were put by the people with whose customs and ceremonies their fabric and use in such quantities were seemingly connected. By far the greater majority of those which came under my observation bore an extraordinary resemblance to one another, both in the strongly marked features of the face, the facial angle, and the height and formation of the forehead.
I should explain, that the hinder part of the head is never given in its full proportions, so that the phrenologist is quite at fault. The physiognomy has nothing in common with the present tribes of Indian descended from the Aztec race. Several of the heads were crowned with a broad and ornamented tiara or head dress; but in general there was no ornament about them; and with the exception of a few, which had evidently served as ornaments upon some earthen vessels, all seemed to have been found in the state in which they were modelled. The composition is a fine clay, well tempered and slightly baked.
Fragments of pottery of divers colours, and a small baked mass of clay with two perforations side by side, which, whatever were its original uses, would not make a bad candlestick for those who had no better, are also picked up in great numbers; as well as an inconceivable quantity of fragments of obsidian or rather jade arrows and quadrangular knive blades, from one to two inches long. I was greatly struck in observing the uniformity of the angles presented by the majority of the latter, and several circumstances combine to make me believe that the people who fabricated them had some method of working them into shape, by taking advantage of the conchoidal fracture.
In the vicinity of Real del Monte there are ancient obsidian mines which must have been worked in very ancient times. The mineral is disposed in thin beds alternately, with fine sand, and was reached by means of numberless small shafts or pits. It is said to lie there in inexhaustible quantities, and from thence, doubtless, the Toltecs drew much of the material for their weapons, and for the beautiful masks with which they covered the faces of their illustrious dead. But there is no lack of it elsewhere in New Spain, both above and under ground.
By some unaccountable forgetfulness we left the teocallis without visiting the so-called "Fainting Stone," which lies in the hollow between two of the smaller pyramids at the foot of the House of the Moon. It is a large square mass with a sculptured face, and the popular belief with regard to it is, that any one sitting down on it faints dead away. We heard one anecdote, singularly confirmatory of this incredible tradition, from some of our European acquaintances in Mexico, and therefore regretted the more having been so neglectful, as to have omitted to set the matter at rest by our own experience.
The following morning we addressed ourselves early to the duty of escorting our ponderous vehicle to the north towards Lake Zumpango, over a line of country on which we were led to believe that the banditti were as plentiful as the nopal bushes. But here again our perverse good fortune brought us through without adventure, or any chance of trying our mettle; and to tell the truth, had it not been for the coach and its ten mules, a more banditti-looking party than our own could hardly have been met with.
The range of secondary hills over which our track lay on our early morning ride to Tecama, an old halting place on the Real del Monte road, gave us frequent glimpses of the lakes in the plain below, and particularly of that of San Cristobal, between which and the marshes of Lake Tezcuco, the old Spaniards have left one of the noblest monuments of their skill and magnificence, in the construction of the celebrated dike and causeway, by which they prevented the surplus waters of the higher from entering the lower. Its length is fifteen hundred veras, its breadth ten, and height from three to four; the whole structure being a mass of solid masonry.
A short pause at Tecama was followed by our descent into the great level, which, once doubtless covered with waters, extends from the present shores of the lake, round the base of a group of volcanic hills, towards the foot of the great chain, which hems in the valley of Mexico to the north and northeast.
Zumpango is about five leagues distant from Tecama, or eight from San Juan Teotihuacan.
It may give you some idea of the utter ignorance which reigns in the capital among the better classes, both natives and Europeans, as to the topography of the country, when I assure you that we had set out on this excursion, as upon a journey of discovery; without being able to gather the slightest information of a positive character with regard to the practicability of what we proposed achieving, though we sought it for a week in advance on every hand. The possibility of rounding the southern end of Lake Tezcuco to the town of that name, was again and again positively denied. Distances were tripled; and as to the scheme of proceeding directly with our train from San Juan Teotihuacan to Huehuetoca, that was laughed at as quite chimerical. We found not only no great difficulty, as you read, but discovered that all the information we had received with regard to distances had been greatly overrated.
The town of Zumpango, where we made our main halt, presents nothing worthy of note so far as we could discover. The northern shore of the lake of that name, which we skirted in the course of the afternoon, is, however, very pretty.
Passing one or two picturesque villages, we gained the plains beyond. Our road led us close to the walls of the great Hacienda of Jalpa; and, in fine, at an early hour of the evening, to the village of Huehuetoca, whose massive church had long served us as our landmark in approaching from the eastward.
There is little either in the miserable town itself, or in the surrounding country, as far as its general features are considered, to allure the traveller to a halt; or to tempt me to put a tail to this long letter; but, in the Desague Real, this otherwise uninteresting corner of the valley of Mexico contains one of the most gigantic monuments of human design to be found in any country; and to visit it was the motive of our excursion thus far to the northward.
You may have gathered from what I have already communicated, that nature has provided no natural outlet for the waters of the five lakes of the valley; and that in times of extraordinary and sudden flood, the surplus of waters of all the more elevated lakes to the north and south must be discharged into Lake Tezcuco, which forms the lowest level of the valley of Mexico.
I have also remarked that both the ancient capital and the present city, have been exposed from this cause to great inundations, in spite of the gradual decrease of the waters of Lake Tezcuco, from causes which I have hinted at in the first page of this letter.
The attention of the Spanish viceroys being thus imperatively drawn to the subject, about the commencement of the seventeenth century, a scheme was formed by a Spanish engineer, Enrico Martinez, by the execution of which, the surplus waters from the two upper lakes to the northward—San Cristobal and Zumpango—were to be drawn off in another direction; their basins being the most liable to overflow, from the character and size of their tributaries.
The comparative depression and narrowness of the mountain rampart, hemming in the valley to the northward, in the vicinity of Lake Zumpango, favoured the project of constructing a tunnel by which this should be affected, forming a duct through which all the waters rising above a certain level should be conveyed into the bed of the river Tula, the main branch of the Panuco, whose source lay on the other side of the ridge, and which you will recognise as entering the gulf at Tampico.
This great work was commenced in 1607, and in the course of its prosecution by the hand of the native Indians, hundreds are said to have perished by the caving in of the earth and other casualties. But what was that? the work was to be done, and if Indians were wanted, a party of horsemen armed with the lasso was sent out to the distant villages, and the poor natives were secured and brought to the scene of toil like so many wild horses.
The memory of what their ancestors endured at Huehuetoca, both at this epoch and in after times, is not forgotten by the present race.
A tunnel or subterranean gallery was at length finished, 20,000 feet in length: but, in 1629, the stoppage of the passage by the fall of the roof, or other casualty, combined with a season of unusual flood, caused such a rise in the waters of Lake Tezcuco, that the whole of the ancient bed, and the streets of the capital itself, with the exception of the very highest levels, were covered with water to the height of three feet, and remained submerged till 1634.
Many projects were set afloat in the interval, and even the propriety of abandoning the present site, and rebuilding the metropolis on the rising ground beyond Tacuba agitated; but at length it was determined to convert the tunnel Through the hill of Nochistongo into an open cut. This was effected, after years of labour, and infinite delay, expense, and loss of Indian life; and the completion of the work dates from the year 1789. The cost of this prodigious canal, and of the various dikes raised in furtherance of the same design, among which that of San Cristobal is to be included, amounted to far above the sum of six millions of dollars.
The morning after our arrival, a visit to the Desague Real was our only business, and we accordingly rode along its whole line, to the summit of the hill through whose bowels it has been carried.
At the summit it presents an enormous excavation, cut to the depth of one hundred and ninety-six feet perpendicular, through alternate beds of clay, and loose gravel and sand, with a breadth of upward of three hundred feet at the top. Northward the eye loses it in the distance, as it runs towards the fall of the Tula: and southward, it appears like a deep groove, stretching straight across the plain, towards the northeastern angle of Lake Zumpango; beyond which you descry the Cerro de Cristobal; and, far in the distance, the snowy summits of Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl. From one extremity to the other the length of the desague exceeds 67,000 feet, or upward of twelve miles.
At the time we visited it, a most insignificant stream was passing to the northward; and it appeared to us probable that the quantity of rubbish brought down into the cavity by the crumbling beds of gravel above, and the washing of the clayey strata, might become a serious impediment in course of time, if not attended to. There is no doubt that this costly enterprise has so far answered the purpose for which it was undertaken; yet should an extraordinary but yet possible chain of circumstances conspire to raise the southern lakes to an unusual level, the danger to the capital would not be lessened.
After thus spending the morning in the survey of this great work, we prepared to return by the direct road to Mexico, eleven leagues distant. Guautitlan is a considerable town, with a fine church, and curious old colonnaded buildings, lying in a valley at the northern side of that spur of hills which connects the Cerro do Cristobal with the main eastern branch of the Sierra Madre. The river of that name is properly a tributary of Lake Zumpango, though I believe its waters now pass at once into the desague. It is the most powerful stream in the valley of Mexico.
The passage of the ridge to the town of Tanepantla presented nothing very worthy of note; but, when in continuing our route through the cultivated fields in its vicinity, the view upon the opening plain, lake, and wide panorama of mountains, with the domes of the city illuminated by the declining sun, again unfolded itself to us, we were at a loss for language to express our sense of its indescribable beauty.
Our amusing excursion had been but of four days' duration.
- At the height of 7,468 feet above the sea.
- A.D. 1553, 1580, 1605—1607 were years of inundation; and on June 20, 1627, the capital was laid under water from such a combination of causes, and remained so till the year 1634.
- The remains of five distinct species of mastodon have been determined; and of these, four have been found on the continent of America, spread over a surface, extending from the districts south of the St. Lawrence, to Lake Titicaca.
- The dimensions ordinarily given of the pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacan are the following. Tonatiuh Ytzagual—the House of the Sun: base line, 682 feet; perpendicular height, 180 feet. Mitzli Ytzagual—the House of the Moon: height, 144 feet; base,—
- According to Pocock, one Egyptian pyramid, that of Sakhara, was precisely of this plan and construction.
- See page 130, &c.
A.D. Emigration of the Toltecs into Anahuac 607 Termination of the Toltec monarchy 1051 Emigration of the Chechimecas 1170 Emigration of the six tribes of the Nahuatlacs 1178 Then followed the Alcalhuans, with whom the Chechimecas coalesce. The Mexicans, the seventh tribe of the Nahuatlacs, build Tenochtitlan in 1325 See Humboldt's Researches.
- How far those may be in the right who would prove that the kingdoms of Mexico and Peru were founded by the troops sent by the Khan of Tartary, towards the close of the thirteenth century, to subdue Japan; that Mango Capac, the first inca of Peru, was the son of Kublai, the grandson of the Mogul conqueror, Genghis Khan; and that the ancestor of Montezuma was a Mogul grandee in his train, I am in nowise able to determine: but it is certainly a most singular circumstance, that suddenly, about that epoch, these two great powers sprung up simultaneously in different parts of the continent, and grew and increased, and were in the end annihilated by the Spaniards, without having had any connection, or being known of one another, as far as can be ascertained.
- "The people of Mechoachan preserved a tradition, that Coxcox, whom they call Tezpi, embarked in a spacious vessel with his wife, children, various animals and vegetables, whose use was important to man. After the waters began to decrease, Tezpi sent out from his ark a vulture, to ascertain the state of the waters, but this bird, which feeds on carrion, did not return to him, in consequence of the number of dead bodies which were to be found everywhere strewed on the earth. Tezpi sent out other birds, of which the humming bird alone returned, holding in its beak a branch covered with leaves. Tezpi seeing that the earth had begun to produce vegetation, left his vessel near the mountain of Colhuacan."—Humboldt, Res. ii. 65.
- See Humboldt's Res., i., 97.
- See Genesis x. 25.
- Researches Philosophical and Antiquarian, concerning the Aboriginal History of America, by J. H. M'Culloh, M.D. Baltimore, 1829.