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gave place to European superstitions. The ruins of palaces and temples, and the degradation of their native builders and occupants followed here as in Mexico; and now the gigantic and mysterious ruins which we seek to review, alone attest their former skill and magnificence.
It is to the perseverance, and adventurous zeal of Mr. Stephens and his companion, that we owe nearly all the knowledge we yet possess of these most singular remains. One of the most remarkable groups of ruins explored by the travellers was that of Uxmal, from Mr. Stephens's account of which we shall make a few extracts. The first of these singular ancient relics which they examined is called the Casa del Gobernador. “This building,” says Mr. Stephens," was constructed entirely of stone. Up to the cornice, which runs round it the whole length and on all four of its sides, the façade presents a smooth surface; above is one solid mass of rich, complicated, and elaborately sculptured ornaments, forming a sort of arabesque.
“The grandest ornament, which imparts a richness to the whole façade, is over the centre doorway. Around the head of the principal figure are rows of characters, which, in our first hurried visit, we did not notice as essentially different from the other incomprehensible subjects sculptured on the façade; but we now discovered that these characters were hieroglyphics. We had ladders made, by means of which Mr. Catherwood climbed up and made accurate drawings of them. They differ somewhat from the hieroglyphics before presented, and are more rich, elaborate, and complicated, but the general character is the same. From their conspicuous position, they no doubt contain some important meaning; probably they were intended as a record of the construction of the building, the time when, and the people by whom, it was built.
“ The full drawing of this rich and curious ornament
could not be presented with any effect on an ordinary scale. All the other doorways have over them striking. imposing, and even elegant decorations, varying sometimes in the details, but corresponding in general character and effect with the one of which careful drawings were made.
“ The part immediately over the doorway shows the remaining portion of a figure seated on a kind of throne. This throne was formerly supported by a rich ornament, still forming part of similar designs over other doorways in this building. The head-dress is lofty, and from it proceeded enormous plumes of feathers, dividing at the top, and falling symmetrically on each side, until they touch the ornament on which the feet of the statue rest. Each figure was perhaps the portrait of some cacique, warrior, prophet, or priest, distinguished in the history of this unknown people.”
Of these and of many others of the most remarkable ruins of Yucatan, Mr. Catherwood made not only general views, but elaborate drawings of their most singular and characteristic details. Still more, Stephens confesses that it is impossible, by means of any ordinary engravings, to convey an adequate idea of their gigantic size or numerous details. He thus, for example, refers to his own attempts to illustrate some of the Uxmal ruins, glancing in passing at the peculiar ideas entertained of them by the degraded descendants of their builders :-“At this day the Indians believe these old buildings are haunted, and that all the monefatos or ornaments are animated, and walk at night. In the day time, it is believed they can do no harm, and for ages the Indians have been in the habit of breaking and disfiguring them with the machete, believing that by so doing they quiet their wandering spirits.
“ The combination of the last two engravings is probably intended to represent a hideous human face; the eyes and teeth appear in the first, and the projecting stone
is perhaps intended for the nose or snout. It occupies a space in breadth equal to about five feet of the wall. To present the whole façade on the same scale would require an engraving sixty-four times as long as this. The reader will perceive how utterly unprofitable it would be to attempt a verbal description of such a façade, and the lines in the engraving show that, as I remarked in my former account, there is no tablet or single stone representing separately and by itself an entire subject, but every ornament or combination is made up of separate stones, each of which had carved on it part of the subject, and was then set in its place in the wall. Each stone by itself is an unmeaning fractional portion, but, placed by the side of others, makes part of a whole, which without it would be incomplete. Perhaps it may with propriety be called a species of sculptured mosaic; and I have no doubt that all these ornaments have a symbolical meaning; that each stone is part of a history, allegory, or fable.
“ The rear elevation of the Casa del Gobernador is a solid wall, without any doorways or openings of any kind. Like the front, above the cornice it was ornamented throughout its whole length with sculptured stone. The subjects, however, were less complicated, and the sculpture less gorgeous and elaborate; and on this side, too, a part of the façade has fallen."
We have described in a former chapter, dedicated to the pyramids of Egypt, the fate of the beautiful Sarcophagus, rescued by Colonel Howard Vyse, and safely transported to Alexandria, on its way to final destination in the Egyptian Hall of the British Museum at London. A fate equally irretrievable, and perhaps still more sad and disheartening, destroyed the fruits of some of the American travellers' researches among the ruins of Uxmal. On Mr. Stephens's first hasty visit, he had been struck by the richness and peculiar character of some
carved beams of wood remaining in the ruins, and he determined on his return to rescue some of these and carry them home, as examples of the ancient arts of Yucatan. In the south-end apartment of one of the ancient buildings, most carefully investigated by him, he remarks, “We found the sculptured beam of hieroglyphics which had so much interested us on our former visit.
In some of the inner appartments the lintels were still in their places over the doorways, and some were lying on the floor sound and solid, which better condition was no doubt owing to their being more sheltered than those over the outer doorway. This was the only sculptured beam in Uxmal, and at that time it was the only piece of carved wood we had seen. We considered it interesting, as indicating a degree of proficiency in an art of which, in all our previous explorations, we had not discovered any evidence, except, perhaps, at Ocosingo, where we had found a beam, not carved, but which had evidently been reduced to shape by sharp instruments of metal. This time I determined not to let the precious beam escape me. It was ten feet long, one foot nine inches broad, and ten inches thick, of Sapote wood, enormously heavy and unwieldy. To keep the sculptured side from being chafed and broken, I had it covered with costal or hemp bagging, and stuffed with dry grass to the thickness of six inches. It left Uxmal on the shoulders of ten Indians, after many vicissitudes reached this city uninjured, and was deposited in Mr. Catherwood's Panorama. I had referred to it as being in the National Museum at Washington, whither I intended to send it as soon as a collection of large sculptured stones, which I was obliged to leave behind, should arrive; but on the burning of that building, in the general conflagration of Jerusalem and Thebes, this part of Uxmal was consumed, and with it other beams afterward discovered, much more curious and interesting; as also the whole collection of vases. figures, idols, and other relics gathered upon this journey. The collecting, packing, and transporting of these things had given me more trouble and annoyance than any other circumstance in our journey, and their loss cannot be replaced; for, being first on the ground, and having all at my choice, I of
ourse selected only those objec which were most curious and valuable; and if I were to go over the whole ground again, I could not find others equal to them. I had the melancholy satisfaction of seeing their ashes exactly as the fire had left them. We seemed doomed to be in the midst of ruins; but in all our explorations there was none so touching as this."
The reader cannot fail to sympathize with the keen feelings of disappointment and regret with which the enthusiastic traveller must have beheld the fruit of so much toil and anxiety, and the long buried relics of a forgotten race, thus rescued from oblivion only to be destroyed.
The peculiar characteristics of nearly all the remains of ancient sculpture and architecture in Yucatan are a barbarous magnificence, and indefinite grandeur, as if the ideas of the designer had been superior to his powers of execution. Yet mingled with these are many traces of skilful and artistic design. At Kabah, for example, another very extensive group of ruins, Mr. Stephens was struck with some remarkably rich architectural details which he thus describes : “In the centre of the platform is a range of stone steps forty feet wide and twenty in number, leading to an upper terrace, on which stands the building. This building is one hundred and fifty-one feet front, and the moment we saw it we were struck with the extraordinary richness and ornament of its façade. In all the buildings of Uxmal, without a single exception, up to the cornice which runs over the door.. way, the façades are of plain stone; but this was ornamented from the very foundation, two layers under the