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HIEROGLYPHICS ON WOOD. 433
carved or stamped, almost obliterated, but which we made out to be hieroglyphics, and, so far as we could understand them, similar to those at Copan and Palenque. Several Indians were around us, with an idle curiosity watching all our movements; and, not wishing to call their attention to it, we left it with an Indian at the moment sitting upon it. Before we were out of the doorway we heard the ring of his machete from a blow which, on rising, he had struck at random, and which chipped off a long shaving within a few inches of the characters. It almost gave us a shivering fit, and we did not dare tell him to spare it, lest from ignorance, jealousy, or suspicion, it should be the means of ensuring its destruction. I immediately determined to secure this mystical beam. Compelled to leave in haste, on my arrival at Merida Don Simon kindly promised to send it to me, together with a sculptured stone which formed one of the principal ornaments in all the buildings. The latter is now in my possession, but the former has never arrived. In the multitude of regrets connected with our abrupt departure from these ruins, I cannot help deploring the misfortune of not being assured of the safety of this beam. By what feeble light the pages of American history are written! There are at Uxmal no "idols," as at Copan; not a single stuccoed figure or carved tablet, as at Palenque. Except this beam of hieroglyphics, though searching earnestly, we did not discover any one absolute point of resemblance; and the wanton machete of an Indian may destroy the only link that can connect them together.
The ornament above referred to is introduced in one of the compartments of the " plan." It is the face of a death's head, with wings expanded, and rows of teeth projecting, in effect somewhat like the figure of a death's
Vol. II.—3 I
head on tombstones with us. It is two feet wide across the wings, and has a stone staple behind, about two feet long, by which it was fastened in the wall. It had been removed by Don Simon entire, with the intention of setting it up as an ornament on the front of his hacienda.
It was our purpose to present full drawings of the exterior of this building, and, in fact, of all the others. The plate opposite represents one division, with its sculptured ornaments, or what I have called mosaic* As at Copan, Mr. Catherwood was obliged to make several attempts before he could comprehend the subject so as to copy the characters. The drawing was begun late in the afternoon, was unfinished when we left to return to the hacienda, and, unfortunately, Mr. C. was never able to resume it. It is presented in the state given by the last touches of the pencil on the spot, wanting many of the minute characters with which the subject was charged, and without any attempt to fill them in. The reader will see how utterly insufficient any verbal description must be, and he will be able to form from it some idea of the imposing exterior of the building. The exterior of every building in Uxmal was ornamented in the same elaborate manner. The part represented in the engraving embraces about twenty feet of the Casa del Gobernador. The whole exterior of this building presents a surface of seven hundred feet; the Casa de las Monjas is two thousand feet, and the extent of sculptured surface exhibited by the other buildings I am not able to give. Complete drawings of the whole would form one of the most magnificent series ever offered to the public, and such it is yet our hope one day to be able to present. The reader will be able to form some idea of the time, skill, and labour required * Since the above wat in type it has bean determined not to give the engraving.