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HOME > Classical Novels > The Boy Travellers in Mexico > CHAPTER XXXIII.
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As before stated, the most interesting of the mined buildings of Uxmal are the Dwarf's House, the House of the Nuns, and the Governor's House, and these three we have already described. The ruins of other cities are not far away, and when they had finished with Uxmal our friends proceeded to visit those that were the most convenient. The information obtained in their personal explorations, added to what they gathered from residents of the country and the books already mentioned, was embodied in the following joint work of Frank and Fred:
"There are not less than sixty ruined cities in Yucatan whose location
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 is known; who can tell how many more are hidden in the dense forests of the rarely visited country of the rebellious Indians, and awaiting the efforts of the explorers?
"To describe all these ruins would be a difficult task; and besides, it would be dreary reading for anybody who is not an eager student of archæology. We will touch only upon some of the most important.
"About thirty miles from Merida are the ruins of Mayapan, which is said to have been the ancient capital of the country. They are spread over an extensive plain, and though covering a considerable area, are less interesting than the ruins of Uxmal. The ground is covered with a dense growth of trees and plants, and every explorer who devotes any attention to Mayapan is obliged to incur quite an outlay for labor in cutting paths and clearing up the ground. We did not go there, but gathered our information from a gentleman who has been on the spot several times.
"He told us that the most conspicuous object at Mayapan is a pyramid, not unlike that on which the Dwarf's House at Uxmal was built. It
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 is 100 feet square at the base, and about sixty feet high; it is ascended by a stone staircase similar to that of the pyramid of the Dwarf's House and about twenty-five feet wide. There is no building on the top of the mound, only a stone platform, and explorers do not agree as to whether there was ever any edifice there or not. Excavations have been made at several places in the mound, and subterranean chambers discovered. Their use cannot be positively determined; of course there are the usual stories
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 about the concealment of treasures within the mounds, but nothing has ever been found there.
"It is the general belief that most of the buildings of Mayapan were of wood or sun-dried brick, instead of stone, as most of them have disappeared. There is one curious-looking edifice still in position—a circular structure twenty-five feet in diameter, and standing on a pyramidal foundation thirty-five feet high. If you want a detailed description of it look in Baldwin's 'Ancient America,' where there is a picture which shows how it looks to-day.
"Dr. Le Plongeon made an extensive and careful study of Mayapan, which is supposed to have been founded by the Mayas in the fifth century. There was a constant warfare for centuries between the rulers of Mayapan and Uxmal, and the fortunes of war alternated from one to the other. According to the chronicles, King Cocom of Mayapan, with all his sons but one, was murdered by his nobles in 1446, nearly a hundred years before the Spaniards conquered the country, and fifty years before America was discovered by Columbus. When the Spaniards came they found Mayapan in ruins, and the early Spanish writers obtained the traditions concerning it from the people in the surrounding country.
"The Mayas say that the first man of the human race was made out of earth and grass, the former supplying his flesh and bones, and the latter his skin."
At this point Frank asked if the "greenness" of many members of the race was attributable to their grassy origin, as given by the Mayas. Fred dismissed the question as trifling and irrelevant, and then the history proceeded.
"Dr. Le Plongeon was convinced that the Mayas had a knowledge of astronomy, as he found two stone columns on the platform of the mound with a line marked in the pavement between them. These columns, or stelæ, are perfectly 'Oriented' according to the points of the compass, and by means of them the hour of the day could be told, and also the time of the sun's declination. The apparatus was similar to that of the ancient Egyptians and Chaldeans; the Mayas divided their astronomical year into twelve months of thirty days each, and added five days when the sun reached its greatest declination and was said to be 'at rest.'
"The doctor found in the ruins of Mayapan a stone slab bearing inscriptions which referred to the god of fire; these inscriptions seem to have been identical with those of the ancient Egyptians for their sun god, and of the Assyrians for their corresponding deity. Certainly it is a very curious circumstance that these people, so far apart in time and distance,
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 seem to have hit upon the same form of worship and of astronomical calculations.
"We will leave Mayapan now and turn to another ruined city called Aké. These ruins are about the same distance from Merida as those of Mayapan, the former lying to the east and the latter to the south. They are on a hacienda belonging to Don Alvaro Peon, who is always ready to facilitate the visit of any one who desires to explore the ruins.
"The ruins include those of several large buildings, which are presumed to have been palaces, a small pyramid and a large one, together with some other structures, all grouped around an open space or plaza. In the centre of this plaza is a stone pillar called a picoté; and what do you suppose was its use?
"It was a stone of punishment, or whipping-post; it was in use throughout this country both before and after the Conquest, and, in fact, it is not unknown to-day. The culprit was stripped and tied to this post and then publicly whipped, very much as in some of the United States within the memory of men now living. M. Charnay says there is a picoté in
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 use to-day at the Indian village of Tumbala, near Palenque, and presumably it can be found in other Indian villages. The funny part of the business is that the Indians believe a sound thrashing at the picoté makes a man's conscience clean, and to secure such a state of mental affairs they often come forward and ask to be whipped when nobody knows of anything to entitle them to punishment.
"We don't care for any picoté just now, and so we'll drop it. There is at Aké a small pyramid about forty feet high, and built of large stones that were put together without cement. There was once a house on top, but it has crumbled away, and the sides of the pyramid are a good deal dilapidated. Then there is a large pyramid with a broad top, and on this top are three rows of stone pillars about ten feet apart one way and fifteen feet the other. The esplanade on which these pillars stand measures fifty by two hundred feet; the pillars are built up of flat stones about three feet square by fifteen inches thick, and there are ten stones in each perfect pillar. We have said there are thirty-six pillars, but only twenty-nine are standing, and from several of these some of the stones have been displaced.
"Now, what was the use of these pillars? This is a conundrum that has excited all visitors, and nobody has been able to make an explanation that has not been overthrown by some one else. Some have argued that the pillars and the stones of which they are composed were intended to mark certain epochs of time; one writer says the pillars were built up by placing single stones there at intervals, so arranged that each pillar would take 200 years for its construction. According to this theory, the erection of the thirty-six pillars would cover a period of 7200 years, and thus make the foundation of the edifice older than that of the oldest of the pyramids of Egypt.
"Opposed to this theory is that of the explorers who believe the pillars, or columns, were the supports of the roof of a temple. The roof, they say, was of perishable material and disappeared ages ago, but the stones remain. The columns are from fourteen to sixteen feet high, and the work of putting the stones in place was by no means small. The builders understood architectural principles, and that they lived and died long, long ago there can be no doubt. When it was that they lived no one has yet been able to say positively.
"In some of its features this great pyramid of Aké is one of the wonders of Yucatan. The platform on which the columns are ranged is reached by a stone staircase that seems to have been built for giants. It measures 137 feet from one side to the other, the steps are more than
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 four feet from front to rear, and each step is sixteen inches high. When you bear in mind that the steps of a staircase of modern construction are usually about nine inches high, you will understand what a 'getting upstairs' it is to ascend this great pyramid.
"A fierce battle was fought here between the Spaniards and Mayas at the time of the Conquest, and the remains of a Spanish fort or redoubt can be distinctly traced.
"From Aké we will turn to Kabah, which lies a few miles to the south of Uxmal. Kabah was a large and very old city. How large it was nobody can say exactly, as a dense forest covers the site, and a great deal of cutting is required to visit any part of it. Every fresh visitor to Kabah discovers something new whenever and wherever he penetrates the forest. Some of the recent explorers have found many ruined buildings that escaped the observation of Stephens, who thought he had examined the entire extent of the city.
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"There is a stone-faced mound at Kabah nearly 200 feet square at the base, and with a row of ruined apartments all around it. A few hundred yards from the mound is a terrace about twenty feet high and measuring 150 by 200 feet on the top. There is a ruined building on this esplanade which was evidently of great beauty and large proportions when it was built. It was beautifully ornamented, according to the account of Mr. Stephens, who says, 'The cornice running over the door-ways, tried by the severest rules of art recognized among us, would embellish the architecture of any known era.' He calls attention to the fact that while at Uxmal the walls were smooth below the cornice, those at Kabah were covered with decorations from top to bottom.
"In addition to the mound an............
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