صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

scribed in our times, than were the regions of Mexico and Peru at that period. To form a proper estimate of the simplicity, the true and local colouring which characterizes the descriptions of the first Spanish writers, we must have visited the spot. While we peruse their writings, we regret that they are not accompanied with drawings, to have given us a precise idea of the numerous monuments which became the prey of fanaticism, or which have been suffered to fall into ruin from negligence not less culpable." Such unavailing regrets, however, meet us wherever we investigate the remains of former ages.

The researches of Humboldt gave, as might have been expected, a new impetus to the study of American antiquities. Many careful and ingenious investigations by different European students led to the recovery of the forgotten works of Spanish historians, and to the discovery and examination of genuine Aztec paintings and manuscripts preserved in the library of the Vatican since the original conquest of Montezuma's empire, but which had been utterly lost sight of for centuries. More recent travellers have visited and described the country and thereby kept alive the interest excited in its ancient annals, until the influence of European movements convulsed it with political revolutions. The singular collection of Mexican antiquities brought home and exhibited by Bullock gave fresh impetus to the desire for further acquaintance with the old American race. Among travellers who have explored their remains, Mark Beaufoy, a British officer, published, in 1828, a work entitled Mexican illustrations. He thus describes a visit to a group of pyramids much less noted than those of Cholula :-" The most curious, and from various circumstances which connect them with the first colonization of America, by far the most interesting monuments in the Mexican territory, are the pyramids of Otumba or Teotehuacan. They are situated north thirty-five degrees east from the capital, at

about the distance of twenty-four miles in a straight line, and on a branch of the great valley; which, by winding round some mountains, and crossing a few insignificant ridges in other places, joins the extensive plains of Apan, Tlascala, Puebla, and Perote.

"So little had I been led to expect from report, that these ancient edifices would be found more worthy of attention than the three ruinous pyramids of Cholula; that I had neglected to provide myself with the means of measuring them, or to make such arrangements as might have enabled me more thoroughly to investigate the extraordinary scene I was about to visit. I remained on the spot more than two hours, ascended both the pyramids, rode about among the smaller heaps of volcanic stones, and sketched the exact appearance of the whole group, as contemplated from the summit of the pyramid called the Moon.

"I have never ceased to regret I was not prepared to make a more accurate and detailed inspection of what I then saw; but I must urge in palliation, the fatigue of loaded mules, the impatience of servants under a broiling sun-who no doubt wished I might break my neck—and the necessity of riding nearly thirty additional miles during the heat of the day. It is astonishing how much more trivial all those little circumstances appear to me now in England, than they did on the 23d of last March, under a burning sun at Teotehuacan.

"The two pyramids of Otumba have their sides and shape perfectly distinct, facing the four cardinal points of the compass; with an inclination to the summit of about forty-five degrees, and those summits appearing at a short distance to end in a peak. They are placed at half a mile from each other, north and south, in such a position, that the east base of the lesser is in a direct line with the west base of the greater.

"Each has two stages about three feet wide, at regular

distances up the sides, and running quite round the building; they had been covered with a cement painted light blue streaked with red, which is yet distinguishable in many places, and pieces of which I brought away: it seemed to me that these stages had been connected by a sloping path at the north-west angle; but if such were really the case, the remains are not sufficiently perceptible to justify a decided conclusion in the affirmative.

"On the summit of each pyramid is a small platform, once apparently covered with cement, and probably surmounted by a temple; but a few modern ruins show clearly, that the Spanish conquerors had erected chapels on the sites of the Mexican edifices.

"In no part could I discover any thing resembling an entrance; but several large holes which had been dug into the sides, either from curiosity or avarice, gave me the opportunity of ascertaining that neither layers of brick, or adobas (unburnt) were used in the construction: common volcanic stones, with which the surrounding plain is strewed, appear to have been first agglomerated into the pyramidal mass, by means of a cement composed of water, earth, and mortar; and the faces of the four inclined planes afterwards smoothed and perfected as to their shape and proportions. The latter operation has been effected with so much care, and the fissures so well closed, that the small nopal and other bushes now growing on them, have scarcely proved injurious to the workmanship."

The group of primitive remains which surround these remarkable structures are no less singular. "Between the two pyramids, arranged in regular order, and forming a kind of street, are a vast number of small mounds or tumuli of volcanic stones; varying in height from five to twenty and thirty feet: these did not seem to have had their sides smoothed, but wore the appearance of heaps raised to commemorate the dead.

"To the right hand of the pyramid of the Moon, stands the head of an immense idol, carved in a hard species of porphyry; and in another place a stone altar extremely well fashioned, which I measured as well as I could with my pocket-handkerchief, and then compared with my own height: this rude mode gave eleven feet long (for it had been thrown down,) four wide, and four thick.

"The ground further to the right, outside of the tumuli, was so thickly scattered with small earthenware heads, and grotesque faces of men, that my two servants, assisted by an Indian, picked up a considerable quantity while I was rambling about the lesser edifice: the difficulty of conveyance made me select only a few; some of which I afterwards gave away, but the Indian assured me I could purchase, at the different huts in the neighbourhood, far better and larger specimens of ancient workmanship."

Many of these singular terra cotta relics are to be found both in public and private British Museums. They are exceedingly varied in design, and have been thought by some writers to bear in many cases a close resemblance to Egyptian relics. Such similarity, however, generally fails to satisfy when subjected to careful scrutiny by students familiar with Egyptian antiquities, and the whole results of the most recent investigations into American antiquities tend to invalidate the conclusions of earlier writers as to an affinity traceable between Egyptian and Mexican antiquities.



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.
City! whose date, and builders are unknown,
Gracing the wild, mysterious and alone.


COLUMBUS, it is well known, never landed on the con nent of America. The spot which he took possession of with such rapturous demonstrations of joy and triumph, was, it is believed, one of the Gucayrs, or Bahama Islands. Pursuing his course, he afterwards discovered Conception, Exuma, and Isla Larga; and when at length he landed at Cuba, he doubted not but he had found the real Cipango, which he had looked forward to as the reward for all his toils; nor did he ever abandon the belief that it formed a part of the Asiatic continent, and of the mainland of India, which he expected to reach when he sailed westward across the unexplored Atlantic Ocean. Later voyagers, however, speedily extended their discoveries. The mainland, and the magnificent capital of Montezuma, were discovered, and Mexico, after a time, yielded to the superior skill and courage of the strangers. But another part of the North American continent was also taken possession of by the Spanish colonists. Yucatan is an extensive peninsula lying between the Bay of Honduras and the Gulf of Mexico. Seen, as it usually is, only delineated

« السابقةمتابعة »