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THE DISCOVERIES OF THE RUINED CITIES IN MEXICAN AMERICA—THEIR GENERAL CHARACTER AND GEOGRAPHICAL LOCALITIES – THE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE RUINS ANALYZED, &c.
THE DISCOVERERS AND EXPLORERS OF THE RUINS–DATE AND LOCALITY-PAINTINGs—MAPS AND CHARTs, &c. IN the preceding chapter, it is stated that the Fine Arts will be used as strong evidences towards the development of this epoch, and that they will be received as records. They represent what will be wanted in illustrating the Aborigines of the North—viz., the lear scripta—for Sculpture and Paintings must be regarded only as a more concise and impressive manner of writing. Since, therefore, Sculpture is one of the powers conjoined with Architecture to enable us to raise our historical edifice, it is necessary to prove the existence of our strength in the country illustrated—to prove that Ancient Cities have been discovered—that temples and palaces have been recovered from the depths of the forest, and that, too, in that part of VOL. I. E
America now under consideration, having reference to the Aborigines not of the North. These investigations are required for the reader who may not have read “The Incidents of Travel in Central America,” and even those that have, will expect an analysis or review of the discovered Ruins ; it is also demanded by the character of this work, for it is essential to establish their existence before they can be produced as witnesses to support an historic argument; and like a legal document, parole evidence will not be received if the document itself can be produced.
Paintings also are a portion of the evidence to sustain our novel history. The paintings of Mexican America, though rude, contain proofs of progressive ages, whereby facts may be gathered, supported by traditions, to authorize the formation of a chronological arrangement of events. These pictorial efforts of art are on cloth of unusual thickness, in order to secure stability—for the Mexicans had no other written records—but, to which may now be added from the late discoveries—Sculpture. The paintings, it has been stated, were rude, and not unlike those of ancient Egypt; and like those of the Nile, a symbol stood for whole sentences, or parts of history, and does not the same method exist with European art P A cross represents the Crucifixion' It is in this manner that the paintings of ancient Mexico must be translated. The colouring was far beyond the Egyptian in regard to brilliancy and variety—an important point in proving a Tyrian analogy.
The Spaniards, at their conquest of Mexico, burnt in the public market-place, pyramids of paintings, the designs of which are even lost to history; yet many others were subsequently preserved, and now adorn the royal libraries of Bologna, Madrid, and the Vatican. The National Library of England contains a vellum folio copy of the splendid work by Lord Kings. borough upon these paintings, forming, in the seven volumes, a collection of all the pictorial relics of ancient Mexico.
The skill of the Mexican painters was extended to another branch of writing, in which nautical science claimed a share—viz., Maps and Charts. This important fact will be enlarged upon in the analogies. These few remarks are only inserted in order to sustain a consecutive arrangement of evidence, for the reader must already have known of the existence of these paintings, though not of their novel application.
The several discoveries of the ruined cities will now be reviewed and established. In the ancient capital of the Mexican Empire, it has been stated, that the Spaniards acted the character of incendiaries. In 1520, every available specimen of Mexican art was consumed by Cortez and the priests. Paintings, the only manuscripts of the Mexican nation, were destroyed, and became a bonfire for the soldiery—every palace and temple of the capital was levelled to the earth, and the foundation of the first cathedral of the invaders was laid with thousands of statues—the idols of the Aborigines. Every vestige of the Mexican records was supposed to have been consumed, broken, or buried. After a lapse of 270 years, two statues were dug up in the grand plaza of the modern city of Mexico; but from the interest felt for these religious relics by the poor descendants of the Aborigines, the Spaniards secretly buried them, it was said, in the garden-court of a Convent. At the same time (1790) was exhumed a circular piece of sculpture, having reference to the astronomical calendar of the ancient inhabitants. This is still preserved in Mexico, and is quoted, and a drawing given by the illustrious Humboldt in his work upon that country: it will be referred to in the analogies. A brief review of the discovery of the Ruins and their locality will now be required. From a record by Huarros of Guatimala, and that on the authority of Fuentes, the ruins of Copan were known in 1700. Palenque was visited by Del Rio; and by Dupaix about 1805. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the scientific Humboldt visited Mexico; he obtained drawings of the ruins of Mitla, in the Province of Oaxaca, and others of a similar character, but especially the terraced-pyramid of Cholula, which he visited. The investigations were published by the same scholastic traveller. At a later period, Uxmal (Yucatan) was explored under a commission of the Spanish Government by Waldeck; his work (folio) is most beautifully illustrated. In compliment to the nobleman who published the great work on the Ancient Mexican Paintings, he called one of the ruins, The Pyramid of Kingsborough—an anachronism, perhaps, allowable when the motive is considered. Copan was visited by Galindo in 1836; but he lacked the perseverance necessary for a perfect exploration. This latter desideratum was fully evinced by Stephens and Catherwood who, in 1839-40, visited and explored all of the above (excepting those seen by Baron Humboldt), and several citiesbefore unknown in general history. As a geographical position, the localities of these dead cities are between the capital of Mexico and the Isthmus of Darien, but chiefly in Guatimala; on the borders of Yucatan, and on that Peninsula; they therefore occupy the narrow part of the Continent between the two great oceans. A reference to the map of Central America, will aid the following remarks: The river Montagua empties itself into the Bay o Honduras, at or near, Omoa; approaching the source of this river, it branches off to the South, which branch is called Copan River; above the rapids of this branchriver, is situated on the banks the now celebrated ruined City of Copan, over two miles in extant, parellel with the stream. Palenque is nearer Mexico. The ruins of Uxmal are in Yucatan. From the Architectural characteristics of the edifices, we find no difficulty in arranging the order of their being built, which, with all due respect for the opinion of others, we submit to be as follows: viz. –first, the city of Copan, then Cholula, followed by Quirigua, Tecpan-Guatimala, Quiché, Gueguetinango, Ocosingo, Mitla, Palenque, and lastly, Uxmal: and about the same period of building, the cities of Chi-Chen, Zayi, Kabah, Espita, and Ticol,