The Mayas, the Sources of Their History / Dr. Le Plongeon in Yucatan, His Account of Discoveries
by Stephen Salisbury, Jr.
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"The name, Chac Mool, or Balam, and the names of his two brothers, Huuncay and Aac, the latter the builder of the 'House of the Governor' at Uxmal, are not given by us at random. They are written on the monuments where represented, written in characters just as intelligible to my wife and myself, as this paper is to you in latin letters. Every person represented on these monuments is known to us by name, since either over the head or at the feet, the name is written. We have tracings of the mural paintings as seen on the walls of the inner chamber of the monument raised by the queen of Itza to the memory of her husband, Chac-Mool. Stephens mistook it for a shrine where the winners at the games of ball were wont to make offerings to the presiding idol. In your paper you have copied part of his description of that monument. But the statue of Chac-Mool was not exhumed in it as you assert, but four hundred yards from it, in the midst of the forest. No traveller or writer has ever indicated the place where it lay buried, and it is by deciphering the meaning of some hieroglyphics and mural paintings, that we came to a knowledge of the place. The building with tigers and shields was simply a monument dedicated to his memory."

[Illustration: Statue at Chichen-Itza, Yucatan, in process of exhumation by Dr. Augustus Le Plongeon, showing the engineering process by which it was accomplished.


7. Represents the statue of Chac-Mool uncovered at the depth of 8 meters. At the sides are seen the frame-work "of trunks of trees of 2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter, secured with vines." The inclined plane on which it was drawn to the surface is visible, as are some of the ten Indian laborers, in working costume.

8. The statue has now been drawn to the upper part of the inclined plane. The ropes of habin bark are attached to the figure. Near the sculptured slabs at the right, already shown in 3, 5 and 6, Mrs. Le Plongeon appears seated.

9. Shows the capstan that served to raise the statue, the size of which is apparent by comparison with the figure of the Indian near it.

10. Apparently the same locality as 4. The method of moving the statue over the fragments of sculpture and other impediments is shown.

11. The size and appearance of the statue, "half as large again as the natural size," is here distinctly pictured, together with Dr. Le Plongeon standing in the rear of his discovery. The head-dress, trappings and sandals are clearly defined.

12. The statue is seen on the rude wagon on which it had been transported to Piste, a distance of 3 or 4 miles. In the rear is seen the stone church of Piste, surmounted by a cross, described in Charnay's Cites et Ruines Americaines, page 336, and by Dr. Le Plongeon, in the Mexican Memorial. Nearly all the small towns have similar Churches, built from the ruins of Indian buildings. It is probable that some of the choicest works of art, too large to be easily destroyed, were put out of sight in the construction of these edifices by the fanatical conquerors of the 16th century.

NOTE. The numbers of the pictures do not agree with those in the Mexican Memorial.]

It appears that Dr. Le Plongeon, on his arrival in Yucatan, in 1873, first visited Uxmal, where he made explorations and took photographs. He then prepared himself to undertake the more difficult and dangerous visit to Chichen-Itza. While there, the discovery of the statue, Chac-Mool, was made, and it was excavated in the manner described by the discoverer in the last pages of the Mexican Memorial. Dr. Le Plongeon had formed a design of sending the statue and certain bas-reliefs, together with plans and photographs, to the Centennial Exhibition, and had prepared these articles for removal, when a sudden revolution occasioned the disarming of his Indian laborers, who for some time had served for a protection, and all further operations were suspended, as longer residence in that exposed region without arms was sheer madness. It was at that time that Dr. Le Plongeon wrote the following Memorial to the Mexican President, Senor Don Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, which is given nearly entire, as it makes a statement of his claims and wishes, and contains very important information concerning the discovery of the statue, and gives an idea of his method of exploration.

The account here given of experiences resulting in a discovery so surprising, must interest even those sceptical in regard to the progress in art of the American aborigines; and it must also be remembered that, almost without exception, late as well as early travellers in this region have become enthusiastic and imaginative when brought into contact with these monuments of a measureless past,[63-*]—none of them more so, perhaps, than Brasseur de Bourbourg, whose works nevertheless contain a mine of most valuable information aside from hypotheses.

Accompanying the Memorial, a set of photographs, some of them similar to those copied in heliotype, was sent to Mexico for the information of the President, but the numbers in the last pages of that paper, referring to the special set of photographs, do not correspond to the pictures presented here, as there were no means of verifying the subjects, except from the descriptions.

NOTE.—It will be observed that Dr. Le Plongeon's spelling of the word Chac-Mool, differs from that adopted by the writer in deference to prevailing usage in Yucatan. The discoverer always spells the word Chaacmol, although in the long letter to the writer, on the subject of Maya antiquities, introduced at the close of this paper, the more usual spelling has been adopted by the printer, contrary to the text of Dr. Le Plongeon.


To the President of the Mexican Republic,



I, AUGUSTUS LE PLONGEON, Doctor in Medicine, member of the Academy of Sciences of the State of California, of the Microscopical Society of San Francisco, of the Philological Society of New York, corresponding member of the Geographical and Statistical Society of Mexico; and of various other scientific societies of Europe, of the United States of America, and of South America; citizen of the United States of America; resident at present in Merida, Capital of the State of Yucatan, to you, with due respect, say: Since the year 1861 I am dedicated to the iconology of American antiquities, with the object of publishing a work that may make known to the world the precious archaeological treasures that the regions of the so-called new world enclose, nearly unknown to the wise men of Europe, and even to those of America itself, and thus follow the perigrinations of the human race upon the planet that we inhabit.

With so important an object, I visited the different countries of the American Continent, where I could gather the necessary information to carry through my work, already commenced, and in part published, "The Vestiges of the human race in the American Continent since the most remote times."

The New York Tribune published part of my discourse before the Geographical Society of New York, on the "Vestiges of Antiquity," in its Lecture Sheet No. 8 of 1873.

After traversing the Peruvian Andes, the Glaciers of Bolivia, and the Deserts of the North and North-East part of the Mexican Republic, in search of the dwellings of their primitive inhabitants, I resolved to visit Yucatan, in order to examine at leisure the imposing ruins that cover its soil, and whose imperfect descriptions I had read in Stephens, Waldeck, Charnay, Brasseur de Bourbourg, and others.

The atmospheric action, the inclemencies of the weather, and more than all, the exuberant vegetation, aided by the impious and destructive hand of ignorant iconoclasts, have destroyed and destroy incessantly these opera magna of an enlightened and civilized generation that passed from the theatre of the world some twelve thousand years ago, if the stones, in their eloquent muteness, do not deceive. And unless the few treasures that yet remain, in a state of more or less perfect preservation, be gathered and saved, they will before long disappear completely, and with them the last traces of the high civilization, the artistic and scientific culture attained by the architects and other artists that worked and raised them, under the protection of enlightened potentates, lovers of all that was grand, and of everything that could glorify their country.

The results of my investigations, although made in territories forbidden to the whites, and even to pacific Indians obedient to Mexican authority; surrounded by constant dangers, amid forests, where, besides the wild beasts, the fierce Indians of Chan-Santa-Cruz lay in ambush for me; suffering the pangs of hunger, in company with my young wife Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, have surpassed my most flattering hopes. To-day I can assert, without boasting, that the discoveries of my wife and myself place us in advance of the travellers and archaeologists who have occupied themselves with American antiquities.

Returning however to civilization with the hope of making known to the scientific world the fruit of our labors, I am sorry to find myself detained by prohibitive laws that I was ignorant of, and which prevent me from presenting the unmistakable proofs of the high civilization and the grandeur, of ancient America; of this old Continent of Professor Agassiz and other modern geologists and archaeologists.

These laws, sanctioned by an exclusive and retrogressive government, have not been revoked up to the present time by the enlightened, progressive and wise government that rules the destinies of the Mexican Republic, and they are a barrier that henceforth will impede the investigation of scientific men, among the ruins of Yucatan and Mexico. It is in effect a strange fact, that while autocratic governments, like those of Turkey, Greece, and Persia, do not interpose difficulties—that of Turkey to Dr. Henry Schliemann, after discovering the site of the celebrated Troy and the treasures of King Priam, to his carrying his findings and presenting them to the civilized world; that of Greece to General Cesnola's disposing in New York of his collection of Phoenician antiquities (the only one in the world), found in the tombs of the Island of Cyprus. Nor did even that of Persia think of preventing Mr. George Smith, after he had disinterred from among the ruins of Nineveh, the year before last, the libraries of the kings of Assyria, from carrying the precious volumes to the British Museum, where they are to be found to-day. I alone, a free citizen of a Republic, the friend of Mexico, after spending my fortune and time, see myself obliged to abandon, in the midst of the forests, the best and most perfect works of art of the sculptor, up to the present time known in America, because the government of this Nation reclaims as its own, objects found in the midst of forests, at great depths below the surface of the earth, and of whose existence it was not only ignorant, but was even unsuspicious.

The photographs of these objects, and of the places where they were found, are all that, with plans, and tracings of most interesting mural paintings, I can now present: and that after so many expenses, cares, and dangers, unless you, Mr. President, considering the historical importance of my discoveries and works, as an illustrious man, a lover of progress, and the glory of his country, in the name of the nation authorize me to carry my findings and photographs, plans and tracings, to that great concourse of all nations to which America has just invited every people of the earth, and which will be opened shortly in Philadelphia; and with them the material proofs of my assertion that America is the cradle of the actual civilization of the world.

Leaving New York on the 29th of July, 1873, we, Mrs. Le Plongeon and myself, arrived, on the 6th of August, at Progreso. We remained in Merida from that date, studying the customs of the country, acquiring friends, and preparing to fulfil the mission that had brought us to Yucatan, (viz: the study of its ruins), until the 6th of November, 1874. At that epoch the epidemic of small-pox, that has made such ravages in Merida, and is yet active in the interior villages of the Peninsula, began to develop itself. Senor D. Liborio Irigoyen, then Governor, knowing that I was about to visit the towns of the east, to seek among their inhabitants the traditions of the past, if they yet existed, or at least among their customs some of those of the primitive dwellers of those lands, begged me to scatter among them the vaccine, to ward off, as much as possible, the terrible scourge that threatened them. I accepted the commission, and to the best of my power I have complied with it, without any remuneration whatever. After examining the principal cities of the east of the State—Tunkas, Cenotillo, Espita and Tizimin—gathering notes upon their commerce, the occupations of their inhabitants, the productions of the places, etc., etc., remaining in them more or less time, we finally arrived at Valladolid on the 20th of May, 1875. This city, that was at one time among the most important of the State, is seen to-day almost reduced to ruins by the invasions of the Indians of Chan-Santa-Cruz. It is situated on the frontier of the enemy's country, some twelve leagues from the celebrated ruins of Chichen-Itza—the objective point of my journey to these regions. During my perigrinations through the east, I had, more than once, opportunity to observe the profound terror that the inhabitants, as well meztizos and Indians as the whites, have, not without reason, of their fierce neighbors.

In view of the dangers that awaited us, I thought proper to write to my good friend, General Don Guillermo Palomino, sub-inspector of the military posts of Yucatan; so that, without prejudice to the service, he should give orders to the commander of the post of Piste, distant one league from the ruins of Chichen, to succor us in case we should need his aid.

General Palomino, understanding the importance of my undertaking, interested himself in the result. He wrote to Don Filipe Diaz, chief of the military line of the east, so that he should give orders to his subaltern, the commander of the advance-post of Piste, that in case of necessity he should furnish my wife and myself the protection we might need while in Chichen.

After many delays, owing now to one thing, now to another, but more particularly to the alarming reports that the Indians, or at least their emissaries and spies, prowled about the neighborhood, we at last started on the march in the direction of Piste on the 21st of September, 1875.

Colonel Diaz was about to visit the posts under his command. This gentleman, as much to respect the orders of his superior as to give me a proof of his appreciation of my person, resolved to accompany us to Chichen with part of his forces. He did so, leaving Valladolid protected by a company of his battalion, and another of the 18th regiment of the line which at the time was stationed in that city. Arrived at the village of [C]itas, we learned that the old footpath, the only one that had ever existed between this point and Piste, four leagues distant, was entirely closed up, impassable, consequently, for horsemen.

Colonel Don Jose Coronado, who, from esteem, had also wished to accompany us, offered to go forward with a part of the company, and some Indians, to re-open the road, and make it ready. His offer accepted, he departed, and a few days later we were able to continue our march to Piste, not meeting in the transit other annoyance than the roughness of the road, the roots and tree trunks that had obstructed it having been removed.

So, on the 27th of September, after a tedious march of six hours in the thicket, we reached the advance-post of Piste.

Piste, ten years ago, was a pretty village, built amid forests, around a senote of thermal waters, surrounded by most fertile lands, which the industrious dwellers cultivated. Suddenly, on a certain Sunday (election day), when they were entertained at the polls, the ominous war-cry of the Indians of Chan-Santa-Cruz fell upon their ears. Few were the villagers that, taking refuge in the bush, escaped the terrible machete of their enemies. Of this village only the name remains. Its houses roofless, their walls crumbled, are scarcely seen beneath the thick green carpet of convolvulus, and cowage (mecuna). These overspread them with their leaves and beautiful petals, as if to hide the blood that once stained them, and cause to be forgotten the scenes of butchery they witnessed. The church alone, sad and melancholy, without doors, its sanctuaries silent, its floor paved with the burial slabs of the victims, surrounded by parapets, yet stands in the midst of the ruined abodes of those who used to gather under its roof; it is to-day converted into a fortress. The few soldiers of the post are the only human beings that inhabit these deserts for many leagues around; its old walls, its belfry, widowed of its bells, are all that indicates to the traveller that Piste once was there.

After resting, we continued our march to Chichen, whose grand pyramid of 22 meters 50 centimeters high, with its nine andenes, could be seen from afar amidst the sea of vegetation that surrounded it, as a solitary lighthouse in the midst of the ocean. Night had already fallen when we reached the Casa principal of the hacienda of Chichen, that Colonel Coronado had had cleaned to receive us.

At dawn on the following day, 28th, Colonel Diaz caused parapets to be raised and the house to be fortified. He placed his advance sentinels and made all necessary arrangements to avoid a surprise from the Indians, and to resist them in case of attack. For my part I immediately commenced work. From the descriptions made by the travellers who had preceded me and that I had read, I believed fifteen days or three weeks would be sufficient for me to investigate all the ruins. But on the 12th of October, Colonel Diaz having received notice that the Indians were probably preparing an attack, sent to bring me from the ruins, to communicate to me the news that he had to march immediately. I had really scarcely commenced my studies, notwithstanding I had worked every day from sunrise to sunset, so many and so important were the monuments that, very superficially, my predecessors had visited.

I resolved to remain with my wife, and continue our investigations until they should be completed, in spite of the dangers that surrounded us. I made known my unalterable resolution to Colonel Diaz, asking him only to arm a few of the Indians that remained with me, for I did not wish even a single soldier of the post of Piste to accompany me. Leaving my instruments of geodesy and photography at the ruins, I made the church of Piste my head-quarters, where we went every night to sleep, returning always at daylight to Chichen, one league distant.

It would be too long to give here the details of my work and investigations. Enough to say, that from the 28th of September, 1875, when I began to study the monuments, up to the 5th of January, 1876, when, learning of the prohibitive laws I have already mentioned, and that on account of the better requirements of the service I was to disarm my men, I interrupted my works; that is to say, in one hundred days I have made scrupulously exact plans of the principal edifices, discovering that their architects made use, in those remote times, of the metrical measure with its divisions. I have made five hundred stereoscopic views, from which I have selected eighty, equal to those that accompany this writing; I have discovered hieroglyphics which I have caused to reappear intact, and taken photographs of some that are said to be a prophecy of the establishment of the electric telegraph between Saci (Valladolid of to-day), and Ho (Merida); I have restored mural paintings of great merit for the drawing, and for the history they reveal; I have taken exact tracings of the same which form a collection of twenty plates, some nearly one meter long; I have discovered bas-reliefs which have nothing to envy in the bas-reliefs of Assyria and Babylon; and, guided by my interpretations of the ornaments, paintings, &c., &c., of the most interesting building in Chichen (historically speaking), I have found amidst the forest, eight meters under the soil, a statue of Chaacmol, of calcareous stone, one meter, fifty-five centimeters long, one meter, fifteen centimeters in height, and eighty centimeters wide, weighing fifty kilos, or more; and this I extracted without other machine than that invented by me, and manufactured from trunks of trees with the machete of my Indians. I have opened two leagues of carriage road to carry my findings to civilization; and finally I have built a rustic cart in which to bring the statue to the high road that leads from [C]itas to Merida. This statue, Mr. President, the only one of its kind in the world, shows positively that the ancient inhabitants of America have made, in the arts of drawing and sculpture, advances, equal at least to those made by the Assyrian, Chaldean and Egyptian artists.

I will pause a moment to give you an idea of my works that concern said statue, and soon bring to an end this writing. Guided, as I have just said, by my interpretations of the mural paintings, bas-reliefs, and other signs that I found in the monument raised to the memory of the Chief Chaacmol, by his wife, the Queen of Chichen, by which the stones speak to those who can understand them, I directed my steps, inspired perhaps also by the instinct of the archaeologist, to a dense part of the thicket. Only one Indian, Desiderio Kansal, from the neighborhood of Sisal-Valladolid, accompanied me. With his machete he opened a path among the weeds, vines and bushes, and I reached the place I sought. It was a shapeless heap of rough stones. Around it were sculptured pieces and bas-reliefs delicately executed. After cutting down the bush, and clearing the spot, it presented the aspect which the plates No. 1 and 2 represent. A long stone, half interred among the others, attracted my attention. Scraping away the earth from around it, with the machete and the hand, the effigy of a reclining tiger soon appeared; plate No. 3 represents it. But the head was wanting. This, of human form, I had the happiness to find, some meters distant, among a pile of other carved stones.

My interpretations had been correct; everything I saw proved it to me. I at once concentrated all my attention at this spot. Hunting among the debris, I came across the bas-reliefs seen in plates 4, 2, and 5, which confirmed my conclusions. This pile of stones had been in times past the pedestal that supported the effigy of the dying tiger with a human head, which the Toltecs had thrown down when they invaded Chichen, at the beginning of the Christian era.

With great exertion, aided by levers, my ten men again put these bas-reliefs in the place they anciently occupied, and which plate No. 1 shows.

Resolved to make an excavation at this spot, I commenced my work at the upper part of the heap. I was not long in comprehending the difficulty of the task. The pedestal, as in all the later monuments which were raised in Chichen, was of loose stones, without mortar, without cement of any kind. For one stone that was removed, a hundred fell. The work was hence extremely dangerous. I possessed no tools, nor machines of any description. I resorted to the machete of my Indians, the trees of the forest, and the vines that entwine their trunks. I formed a frame-work to prevent the falling of the stones.

This frame-work appears in plates 6, 7 and 8. It is composed of trunks of trees of two to two-and-a-half inches in diameter, secured with vines. In this way I was able to make an excavation two meters, fifty centimeters square, to a depth of seven meters. I then found a rough sort of urn of calcareous stone; it contained a little dust, and upon it the cover of a coarse earthen pot, painted with yellow ochre. (This cover has since been broken). It was placed near the head of the statue, and the upper part, with the three feathers that adorn it, appeared among loose stones, placed around it with great care. Colonel D. Daniel Traconis, who had that day come to visit, and bring me a few very welcome provisions, was present when it was discovered. I continued the work with precaution, and had the satisfaction, after excavating one-and-a-half meters more, to see the entire statue appear.

Contemplating this admirable specimen of ancient art, seeing the beauty of the carving of its expressive face, I was filled with admiration! Henceforth the American artists could enter into competition with those of Assyria and Egypt! But, on considering its enormous weight, its colossal form (it is half as large again as the natural size), I felt myself overwhelmed with dismay. How to raise it from the profound bed where it had been deposited, five thousand years ago, by its friends and the artificers, who with excessive care raised the pedestal around it! I had no machines, not even ropes. Only ten Indians accompanied me. The enterprise was difficult; but when man wishes, he conquers difficulties, and smooths all obstacles.

After some sleepless nights (the idea of being unable to present my discoveries to the world did not let me rest), I resolved to open the pedestal on the east side, form an inclined plane, construct a capstan, make ropes with the bark of the habin (a tree that grows in these woods), and extract, by these means, my gem from the place where it lay.

Plate 6 represents the opening made, and the inclined plane, the lower part of which only reaches to the shoulder of the statue, which is seen in the bottom of the excavation. Its depth is known by comparing the height of the Indian standing near the statue, and the one who is placed at a third part of the inclined plane.

Plate No. 7 represents the statue of Chaacmol at the moment of its arrival at the upper part of the plane on the surface of the earth; the cables of the habin bark which served to extract it; the construction of the capstan; and the profundity of the excavation.

Plate No. 8 represents the capstan that served me to raise the statue, the size of which you may know, Sr. President, comparing it with your servant and the Indians who aided at the work. The trunk of a tree, with two hollowed stones, were the fundamental pieces of the machine. These rings of stone were secured to the trunk with vines. Two forked poles, whose extremities rest at each side of the excavation, and the forked sticks tied up to the superior ring embracing it, served as arc-boutant in the direction where the greatest force was to be applied. A tree-trunk, with its fork, served as a fulcrum around which was wound the cable of bark. A pole placed in the fork served as lever. It is with the aid of this rustic capstan that my ten men were able to raise the heavy mass to the surface in half an hour.

But my works were not to end there. True, the statue was on the surface of the earth, but it was surrounded by debris, by ponderous stones, and trunks of trees. Its weight was enormous compared with the strength of my few men. These on the other hand worked by halves. They always had the ear attentive to catch the least sound that was perceived in the bush. The people of Crecencio Poot might fall upon us at any moment, and exterminate us. True, we had sentinels, but the forest is thick and immense, and those of Chan-Santa-Cruz make their way through it with great facility.

Open roads there were none, not even to carry the statue of Chaacmol to civilization if I had the means of transport.

Well, then, I had resolved that, cost what it might, the world should know my statue—my statue, that was to establish my fame forever among the scientific circles of the civilized world. I had to carry it, but, alas! I calculated without the prohibitive laws.... Sr. President, to-day, with grief I write it, it is buried in the forests, where my wife and myself have concealed it. Perhaps the world will only know it by my photographs, for I have yet to open three long leagues of road to conduct it to [C]itas, and the moment is already approaching when the doors of the American Exhibition will open.

With all that, I have faith in the justice, intelligence, and patriotism of the men who rule the destinies of the Mexican Republic.

Will the man who, to place his country at the height of other civilized nations, has known how to improvise, in less than three months, an astronomical commission, and send it to Japan to observe the transit of Venus, will he permit, I ask, the greatest discovery ever made in American archaeology, to remain lost and unknown to the scientific men, to the artists, to the travellers, to the choicest of the nations that are soon to gather at Philadelphia? No! I do not believe it! I do not wish to, I cannot believe it!

These difficulties, I had conquered! Plate No. 9 proves how, having found the means of raising the statue from the depth of its pedestal, I knew also how to make it pass over the debris that impeded its progress. My few men armed with levers were able to carry it where there was a rustic cart made by me with a machete.

With rollers and levers I was able to carry it over the sculptured stones, its companions, that seemed to oppose its departure. But with rollers and levers alone I could not take it to Piste, four kilometers distant, much less to [C]itas, distant from Piste sixteen kilometers; it needed a cart and that cart a road.

Sr. President, the cart has been made, the road has been opened without any expense to the State. In fifteen days the statue arrived at Piste, as proved by plate 11. Senor D. Daniel Traconis, his wife and their young son, who had come to visit us, witnessed the triumphal entrance of the Itza Chieftain Chaacmol, at Piste, the first resting place on the road that leads from Chichen to Philadelphia. I have opened more than three kilometers of good cart road of five to six meters in width, from Piste toward [C]itas; but for reasons that it is out of place to refer to here, and which I have not been able up to the present time to alter, for they do not depend on me, I have seen myself compelled to hurriedly abandon my works on the 6th of the present month of January.

I have come with all speed to Merida, from which place I direct to you the present writing; but until now, having to contend against inertia, I have obtained nothing.

In view of the preceding relation, and finding myself in disposition to make, before the scientific world, all the explanations, amplifications and reports, that may be desired, upon the grand discoveries that I have made in my investigations in the ruins of Chichen;—among others, the existence of long-bearded men among the inhabitants of the Peninsula 12,000 years ago, plate 12;—I conclude, asking you, Sr. President, to be pleased to concede to me:—

1st. To carry the statues of Chaacmol, and some bas-reliefs that have relation to the story of that Chieftain, and are represented in the plates 4 and 5, together with my mural tracings, plans and photographs, to the approaching Exposition of Philadelphia.

2nd. To name me one of the members of the Mexican Commission to that Exposition, for I am the only person who can give the information and explanations that may make known the celebrated monuments of Chichen-Itza, and the importance that they have in the prehistoric history of the human race in America.

3rd. To authorize my work and investigations in the ruins of Yucatan, where I hope to make other discoveries equally and even, perhaps, more important, than those made by me up to the present date, ordering that the aid of armed force be afforded me for my protection and that of my wife, whenever our investigations are made in places where life is endangered by hostile Indians.

4th. That among the objects which the Mexican nation have to send to the Exposition of Philadelphia, a place be reserved to me, sufficient for the statues, bas-reliefs, drawings, photographs and plans that have caused this petition.

5th. That in consequence of the short time that remains before the opening of said Exposition, and the amount that yet remains for me to do, particularly the opening of a cart road of 13 kilometers in a thick forest in a country where all resources are wanting, you may have the goodness to consider this petition at your earliest convenience, which grace I doubt not to obtain from the illustrious Chief Magistrate of the Nation to whom I have the honor of subscribing myself.


MERIDA, January 27, 1876.

NOTE. The references to plates in this paper do not agree with the numbers on the helioscopic illustrations.

Before leaving Chichen-Itza, at about the date of the above Memorial, the statue, as has been already stated, was concealed in the forest near the town of Piste, carefully protected from the weather by Dr. and Mrs. Le Plongeon, and an answer from the Mexican Government was eagerly awaited. After long delay, a simple refusal to allow the statue to be exported was the only reply. Dr. Le Plongeon then prepared his photographs and a small collection of relics for shipment to the United States, to be offered at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. These interesting offerings were accompanied by a letter to the President of the Centennial Commission, recounting the great disappointment of not being able to send the statue, but entreating a careful consideration of the pictures. The letter was dated Merida, August 30, 1876. By unfortunate delays and misunderstandings, the articles above mentioned never reached their destination, and in March of the present year were purchased by the writer.

The relics are interesting specimens of pottery and of the ornaments or weapons that were found with the statue, whose excavation has been described by the discoverer himself. The Jade Points and Flints are very carefully wrought, and suggest rather the idea of selection as symbols than of ordinary warlike implements. A portion or all of the articles mentioned, together with ashes, were found in a stone urn, and are shown on the opposite page.[74-*]

[Illustration: Relics found in the excavation with the Statue exhumed by Dr. Augustus Le Plongeon at Chichen-Itza, Yucatan, together with specimens of axes and spear heads from Cozumel.


A picture of the relics found by Dr. Le Plongeon with the statue which he exhumed at Chichen-Itza. They were intended for exhibition at Philadelphia, together with the photographs which have been mentioned, but failed in reaching their destination. It is not supposed that the above were the only or the most valuable of the curiosities found in connection with the statue.

The three pieces of pottery bear the original labels, "From the Mausoleum of the chieftain Chaac-mol (tiger,) Chichen-Itza. At least 5000 years old. Augustus Le Plongeon, M. D." They were found near the head of the statue. The dish on the left stands on three short legs, perforated so that an object might be suspended from it, and the larger dish has similar legs, without perforation. The bowl at the right is decorated with tracings and other embellishments.

Below are axes and flint spears from the Island of Cozumel. Next follow fossil shells, collected by Mrs. Alice Le Plongeon from an excavation at Chichen-Itza, which may be useful in a scientific point of view.

The Jade Points are beautiful specimens, and may have been used for ceremonial purposes. The arrow-heads are of flint, very carefully finished, and have minute grooves at the base. These also apparently were not intended for practical uses. A portion, or all of the above articles, except the Cozumel flints, were enclosed in the stone urn spoken of by Dr. Le Plongeon in his Mexican Memorial.]

Merida, the capital of the State of Yucatan, has an institution called El Museo Yucateco, founded in 1871, under the direction of Sr. Dn. Crecencio Carillo Ancona, and it is now managed by Sr. Dn. Juan Peon Contreras. In its collections are pieces of antique sculpture in stone, plaster casts and pottery taken from ancient graves, manuscripts in the Maya language and in the Spanish, rare imprints and works relating to the peninsula. These, together with objects of natural history and samples of the various woods of the country, and a cabinet of curiosities, form a museum that promises to create and encourage a love of antiquarian research among the people, a labor which has been the province of the Museo Nacional in the city of Mexico. But it does not appear that explorations have as yet been attempted. The connection which this institution has with the statue discovered by Dr. Le Plongeon arises from the fact that in February, 1877, a commission was despatched to the neighborhood of the town of Piste by the Governor of Yucatan, under the orders of Sr. Dn. Juan Peon Contreras, Director of the Museo Yucateco, and after an absence of a month, returned, bringing the statue concealed there by Dr. Le Plongeon, in triumph to Merida. The commission was accompanied by a military force for protection, and the progress of the returning expedition was the occasion of a grand reception in the town of Izamal, where poems and addresses were made, which are preserved in a pamphlet of 27 pages. An account of its arrival at Merida, on March 1, is given in the Periodico Oficial of the day following. The entrance of the statue was greeted by a procession composed of officials, societies, and children of the public schools. The streets were filled with spectators, and addresses were made and poems were recited. The following is a quotation from this article:—

"The Statue of Chac-Mool measures a little more than 9 feet in length. Its beautiful head is turned to one side in a menacing attitude, and it has a face of ferocious appearance. It is cut from a stone almost as hard as granite. Seated upon a pedestal, with its arms crossed upon the abdomen, it appears as if about to raise itself in order to execute a cruel and bloody threat. This precious object of antiquity is worthy of the study of thoughtful men. History and archaeology in their grave and profound investigations will certainly discover some day the secret which surrounds all the precious monuments which occupy the expanse of our rich soil, an evident proof of the ancient civilization of the Mayas, now attracting the attention of the Old World. The entrance of the Statue of Chac-Mool into the Capital will form an epoch in the annals of Yucatan history, and its remembrance will be accompanied by that of the worthy Governor under whose administration our Museum has been enriched with so invaluable a gift."

The reception, judging from the article in the journal above quoted, must have been imposing. It was the intention of the authorities to place the statue in the Yucatan Museum, but this purpose was defeated by its removal to Mexico, by a government steamer, in the month of April, to enrich the National Museum of that city.

All the above proceedings took place without the consent, and contrary to the wishes, of Dr. Le Plongeon, who at that time was absent from Merida, in the Island of Cozumel, and was therefore unable to offer opposition.

In order to furnish further testimony to the high estimation in which the statue of Chac-Mool is held in Yucatan, the following notice, offered to the writer for publication, by Sr. Dn. Juan Peon Contreras, director of the museum referred to above, and which afterward appeared in El Pensamiento, of Merida, of date Aug. 12, is inserted entire:—



Provisional Governor of the State of Yucatan.

A short historical notice of the stone image "Chac-Mool," discovered in the celebrated ruins of Chichen-Itza, by the learned Archaeologist, Mr. Le Plongeon, to be preserved in the National Museum of Mexico, for which place it is destined.

MERIDA, 1877.

There exist, in the deserts of Yucatan, at about 36 leagues—108 miles—from Merida, some very notable monumental ruins, known by the name of Chichen-Itza, whose origin is lost in the night of time. Their situation, in the hostile section of revolutionary Indians (Sublivados), caused them to be very little visited until, to the general astonishment, an American traveller, the wise archaeologist and Doctor, Mr. Augustus Le Plongeon, in company with his young and most intelligent wife, fixed his residence among them for some months towards the end of 1874. They both gave themselves up with eagerness to making excellent photographic views of what was there worthy of notice, to be sent to the ministry of protection, the depository which the law provides in order to obtain the rights of ownership. They did not limit themselves to this work. The illustrious Doctor and his wife, worthy of admiration on many accounts, supported with patient heroism the sufferings and risks of that very forlorn neighborhood, and passed their days in producing exact plans, and transferring to paper the wall paintings that are still preserved upon some of the edifices, such as Akabsib—(dark writings).

There came a day on which one, endowed like the visitor, had by abstruse archaeological reasoning, and by his meditation, determined the place, and, striking the spot with his foot, he said, "Here it is, here it will be found." The language of this man—better said, of this genius—will appear exaggerated. It can be decided when he has succeeded in bringing to light the interesting work which he is writing about his scientific investigations in the ruins of Yucatan. Let us finish this short preamble, and occupy ourselves with the excavation of the statue.

Chac-Mool is a Maya word which means tiger. So the discoverer desired to name it, who reserved to himself the reasons for which he gave it this name. He discovered a stone base, oblong, somewhat imperfect, that measured 9 Spanish inches in thickness, by 5 feet 3-1/2 inches in length, and 2 feet 10 inches in width. Above it reposed in a single piece of stone the colossal image whose weight amounted to about 3,500 lbs. Its imposing and majestic attitude, and the insignia which adorned it, leads to the supposition that it was some notable leader of the time, a king, or perhaps a noble of those regions. Such deductions were hazarded as suppositions. The discoverer supposed it buried by its kindred and subjects more than 12,000 years ago. The reasons shall I attempt to give? It was reached at 8 meters in depth, not far from the manorial castle of Chichen, to which the approach is by a staircase of 90 steps, which are visible from the four cardinal points. According to the above discoverer there existed a kind of mausoleum or monument—erected to the memory of the ruler, Chac-Mool, by the queen, his wife—until it was destroyed at the time of the invasion of Chichen-Itza by the Nahuas or Toltecs, at the end of the second century of the Christian era. Even now is preserved at a short distance from the place where was exhumed the statue of Chac-Mool, a statue of stone representing a tiger, also above a quadrilateral base, which once had a human head, and which it is presumed surmounted the monument before the time of its destruction.

Employing a protection of limbs and trunks of trees, and providing a capstan with ropes made from the bark of the grapevine, by force of perseverance the learned Le Plongeon was able to land upon the surface of the soil the most noteworthy archaeological treasure which has been discovered to this day in Yucatan.

Ignorant of the laws of the country, this American traveller thought that he might at once call himself the proprietor of the statue, and succeeded in bringing it, in 15 days, as far as the uninhabited town of Piste, two miles from the ruins, upon a wagon constructed for the purpose, hiding it in the neighborhood of the above town, while he informed himself about his supposed rights. The indefatigable traveller came to Merida, where, in the meantime the Government of the State asserted that the statue was the general property of the nation and not that of the discoverer.

Leaving for a better opportunity the questions relative to it, Dr. Le Plongeon occupied himself in visiting other ruins, busying himself between the Island of Cozumel and that of Mugeres, until peace should be established in the State, and the Sr. General Guerra should be nominated Provisional Governor.

At the suggestion of the subscriber the Governor allowed the transportation of this statue to the Museo Yucateco, and the Director of the Museo, in compliance with his duty, counting upon the assistance of an armed force necessary for an expedition of such a dangerous character, left this capital February 1, 1877, to the end of securing the preservation of an object so important to the ancient history of the country. Overcoming the thousand difficulties that presented themselves in opening a road of 6 leagues that was known to the birds alone, over a surface covered with mounds and inequalities, he constructed a new wagon on which the colossal statue was dragged along by more than 150 Indians, in turn, who, in their fanatical superstition, asserted that, during the late hours of the night there came from the mouth of the figure the words "Conex! Conex!" which signifies in their language, "Let us go! Let us go!"

Upon the 26th of the same month and year, the historical and monumental city of Izamal received with enthusiastic demonstrations the statue of the king Chac-Mool. Brilliant compositions referring to it were read, which, in a printed form, will accompany it for the archives of the Museo National. When it arrived at Merida it had a no less lively reception on the morning of the 1st of March, 1877.

A little later it was received into the Museo Yucateco upon the same rustic wagon on which it had traversed the 6 leagues of almost inaccessible country from Piste to [C]itas, from where begins the broad road. It was intended to surround it with a wooden fence upon which should be engraved this inscription in golden letters:—


The discovery of the wise archaeologist, Mr. Le Plongeon, in the ruins of Chichen-Itza.

General Protasio Guerra being Governor of the State of Yucatan. It was brought to the Museo Yucateco on the 1st of March, 1877, by Juan Peon Contreras, Director of the Museum."

Still later, at the decision of the Governor of the State, Sr. D. Augustin del Rio, its transfer to the National Museum of Mexico was permitted, where so notable an archaeological monument will show to better advantage, leaving in its place a copy in plaster, made by a skilful Yucatan artist.

The Director of the Museo Yucateco, JUAN PEON CONTRERAS.

MERIDA, 1877.

NOTE. The unexpected arrival and early return to Vera Cruz of the national war steamer Libertad, which conducted the recovered statue to the Department of State, gave no time in which a copy of it could be taken in this capital, the Government of the State reserving the right to ask of the President of the Republic, who resides in Mexico, to send such a copy to the Museo Yucateco, as a just compensation.


April 6, 1877.

After the defeat of Dr. Le Plongeon's cherished hopes of exhibiting his statue at Philadelphia, this traveller passed his time in investigations among the islands of the east coast of the Peninsula, particularly those of Mugeres and Cozumel. His observations there—as well as much additional information regarding the architecture of Chichen-Itza and Uxmal, and his deductions therefrom—are contained in a communication to the Minister of the United States at Mexico, and are here given in abstract, as throwing light upon the discoveries that have been made, and the inferences which have been drawn from them.

This appeal contains a statement of the wrongs suffered by Dr. Le Plongeon in being prevented from removing his statue and other discoveries from the country; and also a demand for redress and compensation, as an American citizen, for the seizure and appropriation, in the first instance by the government of Yucatan, and afterwards by the supreme government at Mexico, of the work of art which he had brought to light. This statement, with the correspondence which accompanies it, is intended also to be offered to the consideration of the President of the United States for such action as may be considered proper in the premises.

The extracts made are those only which relate to the investigations of Dr. Le Plongeon in the course of his travels; for although great sympathy is due him for his misfortunes and disappointments, a legal statement of his wrongs cannot be discussed in this paper.


Chichen-Itza is situated in the territories occupied by subjects of Don Crecencio Poot, Chief of Chan-Santa-Cruz. In 1847, this chief and others refused to acknowledge any longer their allegiance to the Mexican Government, and seceded, declaring war to the knife to the white inhabitants of Yucatan. Since that time they have conquered a portion of that State, and hold peaceful possession of the best towns. They have destroyed the principal cities of the east and south. These are now reduced to mere villages with few inhabitants. The churches in ruins, mostly converted into fortresses, the houses abandoned by their dwellers, invaded by rank vegetation, a refuge for bats, owls, and other prowling animals, are crumbling to the ground every day more and more, no one daring to make repairs, lest the Indians should burn and destroy them again. For leagues around the country is deserted. Only a few venturesome spirits have plucked up heart to establish farms where the soil is the richest. They cultivate them with armed servants, so great is their dread of their fierce enemies.

Three miles from Piste, one of the most advanced posts on the eastern frontier, and beyond the military lines, stand the ruins of Chichen Itza. There lay buried, since probably 5000 years, that superb statue, together with other most precious relics, at eight meters under ground, amidst thick forests, unknown to the whole world, not only to the modern, but also to the comparatively ancient, for it has escaped destruction from the hands of the natives. A people, starting from the vicinity of Palenque, invaded all the regions west and south of what, in our days, is called the Yucatan Peninsula, arriving at Bacalar. From that place, following the coast, they ravaged the eastern part of the country, and at or about the beginning of the Christian era laid siege to the cities of the holy and wise men (Itzaes), the seat of a very advanced civilization, where arts, sciences and religion flourished. After a weary and protracted defence, and many hard-fought battles, the beautiful capital fell at last into the power of the invaders. There, in the impulse of their ignorance, in the heat of their wrath, they destroyed many objects of art. They vented their rage most particularly on the effigies and portraits of the ancient kings and rulers of the vanquished, when and where they could find them, decapitating most and breaking a great many of the beautiful statues wrought by their subjects in their honor, as mementoes by which they remembered and venerated their memories. Chaacmol, whose hiding place they ignored, as they did that of his elder brother, Huuncay, whose statue is still where his friends deposited it, 12 meters under the surface of the ground, escaped the fury of the enraged iconoclasts. Not so, however, the effigies and emblems that adorned and surmounted the monuments raised to perpetuate the remembrance of their most beneficent government, and the love they professed for their people. Even these monuments themselves were afterwards disgraced, being used as places for histrionic performances.

The places of concealment of these and other most precious relics, amongst them probably the libraries of the H-Menes or learned and wise men, yet to be excavated, were revealed to my wife and myself on deciphering some hieroglyphics, mural paintings and bas-reliefs.

On the 5th of January, 1876, I conducted the statue of Chaacmol on the road to [C]itas, and at about a quarter of a mile from Piste, that is to say, far enough to put it out of the reach of mischief from the soldiers of the post, I placed it in a thicket about 50 yards from the road. There, with the help of Mrs. Le Plongeon, I wrapped it in oil-cloth, and carefully built over it a thatched roof, in order to protect it from the inclemencies of the atmosphere. Leaving it surrounded by a brush fence, we carefully closed the boughs on the passage that led from the road to the place of concealment, so that a casual traveller, ignorant of the existence of such an object, would not even suspect it. Many a day our only meal has consisted of a hard Indian cake and a bit of garlic and water.

The queen of Itza is represented under the effigy of an ara, eating a human heart, on several bas-reliefs that adorned the monuments she raised to the beloved of her own heart, Chaacmol. The scene of his death is impressively portrayed on the walls which the queen caused to be raised to the memory of her husband, in the two exquisite rooms, the ruins of which are yet to be seen upon the south end of the east wall of the gymnasium. Those rooms were a shrine indeed, but a shrine where the conjugal love of the queen alone worshipped the memory of her departed lover. She adorned the outer walls with his effigies, his totem-tiger, and his shield and coat of arms between tiger and tiger. Whilst on an admirably polished stucco that covers the stones in the interior of the rooms she had his deeds, his and her own life in fact, with the customs of the time, painted in beautiful life-like designs, superbly drawn and sweetly colored. The history of the twin brothers is there faithfully portrayed. There is also a life-like likeness, painted in brilliant colors, of Chaacmol. Unhappily such precious works of art have been much defaced, more than by time, by the impious hands of ignorant and vain fools, who have thought their names of greater interest to the world than the most remarkable drawings on which they have inscribed them.

Chaacmol is there represented full of wrath, the hand clinched in an altercation with his younger brother, Aac. This latter, after cowardly murdering the friend of his infancy with thrusts of his lance—one under his right shoulder blade, another in his left lung, near the region of the heart, and the third in the lumbar region—fled to Uxmal in order to escape the vengeance of the queen, who cherished their young chieftain who had led them so many times to victory. At their head he had conquered all the surrounding nations. Their kings and rulers had come from afar to lay their sceptres and their hearts at the feet of their pretty and charming queen. Even white and long bearded men had made her presents and offered her their tributes and homage. He had raised the fame of their beautiful capital far above that of any other cities in Mayapan and Xibalba. He had opened the country to the commerce of the whole world, and merchants of Asia and Africa would bring their wares and receive in exchange the produce of their factories and of their lands. In a word, he had made Chichen a great metropolis in whose temples pilgrims from all parts came to worship and even offer their own persons as a sacrifice to the Almighty. There also came the wise men of the world to consult the H-Menes, whose convent, together with their astronomical observatory, may be seen at a short distance from the government palace and museum. This curious story, yet unknown to the world, was revealed to my wife and myself, as the work of restoring the paintings advanced step by step, and also from the careful study of the bas-reliefs which adorn the room at the base of the monument. You can see photographs of these bas-reliefs in the album I forwarded to the Ministry of Public Instruction. We have also in our possession the whole collection of tracings of the paintings in the funeral chamber.

Motul is a pretty town of 4000 inhabitants, situated about 10 leagues from Merida. Having never suffered from the Indians it presents quite a thriving appearance. Its productions consist principally in the making henequen bags and the raising of cattle. At the time of the Spanish conquest it was the site of an important settlement, if we may judge from the number of mounds and other edifices scattered in its vicinity. All are in a very ruinous condition, having been demolished to obtain materials for the buildings of the modern village and the construction of fences. It was among these ruins that, for the first time in Yucatan, I gazed upon the incontestable proofs that the worship of the phallus had once been in vogue among some of the inhabitants of the Peninsula. I discovered emblems of that worship, so common with the natives of Hindostan and Egypt and other parts of the world, on the Eastern side of a very ruinous pyramid, raised on a plot of ground, in the outskirts of this village. Since then, I have often met with these emblems of the religious rites of the Nahuas and Caras, and whilst as at Uxmal, they stare at the traveller from every ornament of the buildings and are to be found in every court-yard and public place, it is a remarkable fact that they are to be met with nowhere in the edifices of Chichen-Itza.

There can be no possible doubt that different races or rather nations practicing distinct religious rites inhabited the country at different epochs and destroyed each other by war. So at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards the monuments of Chichen-Itza were in ruins and were looked upon with awe, wonder and respect, by the inhabitants of the country, when the city of Uxmal was thickly peopled. There cannot be any reasonable doubt that the Nahuas, the invaders and destroyers of the Itza metropolis, introduced the phallic worship into Yucatan. The monuments of Uxmal do not date from so remote an antiquity as those of Chichen, notwithstanding that Uxmal was a large city when Chichen was at the height of its glory. Some of its most ancient edifices have been enclosed with new walls and ornamentation to suit the taste and fancy of the conquerors. These inner edifices belong to a very ancient period, and among the debris I have found the head of a bear exquisitely sculptured out of a block of marble. It is in an unfinished state. When did bears inhabit the peninsula? Strange to say, the Maya does not furnish the name for the bear. Yet one-third of this tongue is pure Greek. Who brought the dialect of Homer to America? Or who took to Greece that of the Mayas? Greek is the offspring of Sanscrit. Is Maya? or are they coeval? A clue for ethnologists to follow the migrations of the human family on this old continent. Did the bearded men whose portraits are carved on the massive pillars of the fortress at Chichen-Itza, belong to the Mayan nations? The Maya language is not devoid of words from the Assyrian.

We made up our minds to visit Ake, the place where the Spaniards escaping from Chichen took refuge in the first days of the conquest. The land where these ruins stand forms a part of the hacienda of Ake. It belongs to Don Bernardo Peon, one of the wealthiest men of the country, but on account of the insalubrity of the climate it is to-day well nigh abandoned. Only a few Indian servants, living in a constant dread of the paludean fevers that decimate their families, remained to take care of the scanty herds of cattle and horses which form now the whole wealth of the farm. In the first days of March we arrived at the gate of the farm-house. The Majordomo had received orders to put himself and his men at our disposal. The ruined farm-house lies at the foot of a cyclopean structure. From the veranda, rising majestically in bold relief against the sky, is to be seen the most interesting and best preserved monument of Ake, composed of three platforms superposed. They terminate in an immense esplanade crowned by three rows of 12 columns each. These columns, formed of huge square stones roughly hewn, and piled one above the other to a height of 4 meters, are the Katuns that served to record certain epochs in the history of the nation, and indicate in this case an antiquity of at least 5760 years. The monuments of Ake are peculiar, and the only specimens of their kind to be found among these ruined cities. They are evidently the handiwork of a herculean and uncouth race—the enormous height of each step in the staircase proves it—of that race of giants whose great bones and large skulls are now and then disinterred, and whose towering forms, surmounted by heads disproportionately small, we have seen pictured on the walls of Chichen-Itza. They recalled forcibly to our minds the antique Guanches, the ancient inhabitants of the Canary Islands, whose gigantic mummies are yet found in the sepulchral caverns of Teneriffe, and whose peculiar sandals with red straps so closely resemble those seen on the feet of Chaacmol. The edifices of Ake are composed of large blocks of stone, generally square, often oblong in shape, superposed, and held together merely by their enormous weight, without the aid of mortar or cement of any sort. We did not tarry in this strange city more than eight days. The malaria of the place very seriously affected the health of my wife, and obliged us to hasten back to Tixkokob. We brought with us the photograph views, and plans of the principal buildings, regretting not to perfect our work by a complete survey of the whole of them, scattered as they are over a large extent of ground.

Our investigations in Uxmal revealed to our minds some interesting facts in the lives of the three brothers of the tradition. In Chichen we discovered the place of concealment of the two brothers Huuncay and Chaacmol. That of the third brother, Aac, was not to be found. Yet I was certain it must exist somewhere. Many persons who are not acquainted with the customs and religious beliefs of those ancient people have questioned me on the strange idea of burying such beautiful objects of art at so great a depth, yet the reason is very simple. The nations that inhabited the whole of Central America—the Mayas, the Nahuas, the Caras or Carians—had, with the Siamese even of to-day, and the Egyptians of old, many notions in common concerning the immortality of the soul, and its existence after its earthly mission was accomplished. They believed that the sentient and intelligent principle, pixan, which inhabits the body, survived the death of that body, and was bound to return to earth, and live other and many mundane existences; but that between each separate existence that pixan went to a place of delight, Caan, where it enjoyed all sorts of bliss for a proportionate time, and as a reward for the good actions it had done while on earth. Passing to a place of punishment, Metnal, it suffered all kinds of evils during also a certain time in atonement for its sins. Then it was to return and live again among men. But as the material body was perishable, they made effigies in perfect resemblance to it. These were sometimes of wood, sometimes of clay, and sometimes of stone, according to the wealth or social position of the individual; and after burning the body, the ashes were enclosed in the statue or in urns that they placed near by. Around and beside these were arranged the weapons and the ornaments used by the deceased, if a warrior; the tools of his trade; if a mechanic; and books, if a priest or learned man, in order that they should find them at hand when the pixan should come back and animate the statue or image.

To return to our investigations at Uxmal. On examining the ornaments on the cornice of the Eastern front of the monument known as "The House of the Governor," I was struck with their similarity to those which adorn the most ancient edifice of Chichen and whose construction, I judge, dates back 12,000 years. But what most particularly called my attention were the hieroglyphics that surrounded a sitting figure placed over the main entrance in the centre of the building. There were plainly to me the names of Huuncay and Chaacmol, and on both sides of the figure, now headless, the name of the individual it was intended to represent, Aac, the younger brother and murderer. And on the North-west corner of the second terrace was his private residence, a very elegant structure of a most simple and graceful architecture, ornamented with his totem. I afterwards found a pillar written with his name in hieroglyphics and a bust of marble very much defaced. Around the neck is a collar or necklace sustaining a medallion with his name. In the figure that adorns the facade of the palace he is represented sitting, and under his feet are to be seen the bodies of three personages, two men and one woman, flayed. Unhappily these also have been mutilated by the hand of time or of iconoclasts. They are headless, but I entertain no doubt as to whom they were intended to represent, Huuncay, Chaacmol and the queen, his wife. It is worthy of notice that while the phallic emblems are to be seen in great profusion in every other building at Uxmal, there is not a single trace of them in or on the "House of the Governor," or its appurtenances.

Yucatan being in a state of political effervescence, we determined to visit the islands of Mugeres and Cozumel, on the East coast of Yucatan, taking our chance of falling into the hands of the Indians and being murdered.

Accordingly, on the 20th of October, 1876, we embarked on board the "Viri," a small coasting sloop, and with the mists of the evening, the houses of Progreso faded from our view and were lost in the haze of the horizon. Contrary winds retarded our journey and obliged us to cast anchor near shore every night. It was not until after ten tiresome days that we, at last, saw the dim outline of Mugeres island rise slowly over the waves. As we drew near, the tall and slender forms of the cocoa trees, gracefully waving their caps of green foliage with the breeze, while their roots seemed to spring from the blue waters of the ocean, indicated the spot where the village houses lay on the shore under their umbrage. Seen at a distance, the spot presents quite a romantic aspect. The island is a mere rock, elevated only a few feet above the level of the sea, six miles long and about one-half a mile wide in its widest parts. In some places it is scarcely 200 steps across. The population consists of 500 souls, more or less. Its principal industry is fishing. For Indian corn and beans—the staple articles of food throughout Yucatan—they depend altogether on the main land; vegetables of any kind are an unknown luxury, notwithstanding there are some patches of good vegetable land in the central part. The island possesses a beautiful and safe harbor; at one time it was the haven where the pirates that infested the West Indian seas were wont to seek rest from their hazardous calling. Their names are to be seen to-day rudely carved on the sapote beams that form the lintels of the doorways of the antique shrine whose ruins crown the southernmost point of the island.

It is to this shrine of the Maya Venus that as far down as the Spanish conquest, pilgrims repaired yearly to offer their prayers and votive presents to propitiate that divinity. Cogolludo tells us that it was on her altar that the priest who accompanied the adventurers who first landed at the island, after destroying the effigies of the Goddess and of her companions and replacing them by a picture of the Virgin Mary, celebrated mass for the first time on those coasts in presence of a throng of astonished natives. They gave to the island the name of Mugeres (women). I was told that formerly many of the votive offerings had been disinterred from the sand in front of the building. The soil at that place is profusely strewn with fragments of images wrought in clay, representing portions of the human body. I was myself so fortunate as to fall in with the head of a priestess, a beautiful piece of workmanship, moulded according to the most exact proportions of Grecian art. It had formed part of a brazier that had served to burn perfumes on the altar near which I found it. I happened to use part of that vase to hold some live coals, and notwithstanding the many years that had elapsed since it had last served, a most sweet odor arose and filled the small building.

I had read in Cogolludo that in olden times, on the main land, opposite to the island of Mugeres, was the city of Ekab. I was desirous of visiting its ruins, but no one could indicate their exact position. They did not even know of the name. They spoke of Meco, of Nisucte, of Kankun, of extensive ruins of buildings in that place, where they provide themselves with hewn stones. After much delay I was able to obtain a boat and men. We set sail for Meco, the nearest place situated on another island close to the shores of the main land. There I found a ruined edifice surrounded by a wall forming an inclosure, adorned with rows of small columns. In the centre of the inclosure an altar. The edifice, composed of two rooms, is built on a graduated pyramid composed of seven andenes. This building is without a doubt an ancient temple. We next visited Nisucte. There we found the same sort of monuments but built on a large scale. These places have merely been shrines visited by the pilgrims on their way to and from the altar of Venus. The main point of importance gained in visiting these ruins was that this whole coast had been inhabited by a race of dwarfs and that these edifices were their work. We had seen their portraits carved on the pillars of the fortress at Chichen-Itza. We had seen also their pictures among the several paintings. We had heard of the Indian tradition, very current among the natives, that many of the monuments of Yucatan had been constructed by the Alux-ob. But not until we visited these places and entered their houses, did we become satisfied of the fact of their existence that till then we had considered a myth. Kankun, where the ruins of numerous houses cover a great extent of ground, must have been the real site of Ekab. The dwarfish inhabitants of these cities must have been a very tolerant sort of people in religious matters, since in the same temple, nay on the very same altar, we have found side by side the phallic emblems with the image of Kukulcan.

Our explorations in that part of the country were at an end. We were beginning to grow tired of our fish diet, and looked with anxiety for an opportunity to continue our voyage to the island of Cozumel. This island, called by the ancient Mayas Cozmil (place for swallows), was the rendezvous of Indian pilgrims who flocked thither every year to pay homage at the numerous temples, the ruins of which are to be found in the thick forests that now cover it. The expected opportunity offering we reached the village of San Miguel February 3, 1877. Cozumel is a beautiful island of about 45 miles in length and 12 in breadth. The fertility of its soil is evinced by the luxuriant growth of the thick and impenetrable forests of valuable timber that have sprung up since its abandonment by its former inhabitants and which serve either for purposes of building or ornamentation. Cocoa-nuts, plantains, bananas, pineapples, ananas and other tropical fruits grow abundantly. Vanilla, yams, sweet potatoes and vegetables of all kinds can be produced in plenty, while honey and wax, the work of wild harmless bees, and copal are gathered on the trees. The tobacco, which is to-day the article that engrosses the mind and monopolizes the attention of the planters, is of a superior quality, emulating the Cuban production. On the other hand the thickets are alive with pheasants, quail, pigeons, wild pigs and other descriptions of game. The waters swarm with the most excellent fish and innumerable turtles sport in the lagoons, while curlews, snipe, ducks and other aquatic fowls flock on their shores; and not the least of the gifts with which the munificent hand of nature has so bountifully endowed this delicious oasis of the ocean is its delightful and soft, yet invigorating, climate, that makes well nigh useless the art of the physician.

At some epoch it is evident that the whole island was under cultivation, which is proved by the stone fences that divide it into small parcels or farms like a checker-board. The island, like the whole of the Yucatan peninsula, has evidently been upraised from the bottom of the sea by the action of volcanic fires, and the thin coating of arable loam of surprising fertility which covers a substratum of calcareous stones, is the result of the accumulation of detriti, mixed with the residuum of animal and vegetable life of thousands of years. The greater part of this island is as yet archaeologically unexplored. I have no doubt that thorough explorations in the depths of its forests and of the caves would bring to light very interesting relics, which would repay the trouble and expense. Rough and rude as is the construction of the monuments of the island, the architecture possesses the same character as that of the more elaborate edifices on the main land. The same design of entablature, with some little difference in the cornice, the same triangular arch, the same shaped rooms—long and narrow, but all on a miniature scale. They seem more like dolls' houses than dwellings for man. One of the best preserved of these singular buildings was visited, and two other constructions, consisting of independent and separate arches, the only ones we ever met with in our rambles in Yucatan. The edifice formed at one time, with the two triumphal arches, part of a series of constructions now completely ruined. It was a temple composed, as are all structures of the kind, of two apartments, a front or ante-chamber, and the sanctuary or holy of holies. In this case the ante-chamber measures 59 inches in width by 2 yards and 33 inches in length, its height being 2 yards and 30 inches from the floor to the apex of the triangular arch that serves as ceiling. The sanctuary is entered through a doorway 1 yard high and 18 inches wide, and is narrower than the front apartments, measuring only 34 inches across. The whole edifice is externally 3 yards high, 4 yards 29 inches long and 4 yards wide. If we judge of the stature of the builders by the size of the building, we may really imagine this to have been the kingdom of Liliput, visited by Gulliver. The triumphal arches present the same proportions as the temple I have just described, which is by no means the earliest archaic structure. Old people are not wanting who pretend to have seen these Alux-ob, whom they describe as reaching the extraordinary stature of 2 feet. They tell us of their habits and mischievousness, tales which forcibly recall to our minds the legends of "the little people" so credited among all classes of society in Ireland. There can be no reasonable doubt but that a very diminutive race of men, but little advanced in the arts of civilization, dwelt on these islands and along the eastern coast of Yucatan, and that many of the edifices, the ruins of which are to be seen in that part of the country, are the works of their hands, as the tradition has it.

The attempt has been made in the previous pages to bring the discoveries of Dr. Le Plongeon and his own account of his labors and inferences into such a form that they may be easily considered by those competent to determine their importance and bearing. The value of the statue called Chac-Mool, as an archaeological treasure, cannot be questioned. It is the only remaining human figure of a high type of art, finished "in the round" known to have been discovered in America since the occupation of Maya territory in the 16th century.

The idols of Copan have expressive human countenances,[89-*] though they are distorted in order to inspire awe and fear in the beholder, but no attempt was there made to depict the graceful proportions of the nude figure. They stand perpendicularly, carved from solid blocks of stone, and are from 10 to 15 feet in height. The figures upon them are bas-reliefs, occupying generally only 2/3 of the length of the front, while the back of the block is a straight surface and is covered with emblems and hieroglyphics. The sculptures of Palenque[89-[]] have many of them much artistic beauty, but they are all of them attached figures, as it is believed are also the beautiful statues of Nineveh.[89-[]] Even the slightest touching makes a figure "in relief." This statue from Chichen-Itza has all the appearance of being intended as the likeness of a man, and much skill is shown in the delineation of the proportions. It is entirely detached, and reposes upon a base carved from the same block of stone as the figure, which gives it a higher rank in sculpture than any other in America, of which we have ocular proof at this day. It is a noteworthy circumstance in the controversy regarding the seizure of the statue by the Yucatan Government, and afterwards by that of Mexico, that no doubt in regard to its authenticity, so far as is known to the writer, has been expressed on the part of those who would naturally be the best judges of objects found in their own country. Among the Le Plongeon photographs of sculptures from Uxmal is a head in demi-relief, which resembles in the lineaments of the face those of this statue so much as to offer a striking likeness, and this agrees with the theory of the intimate connection of Chichen-Itza and Uxmal, adopted in the communication to Hon. J. W. Foster.

Diego de Landa, second Bishop of Yucatan, in his account of that country written in 1566, speaks of two similar statues observed by him at the same locality, Chichen-Itza, which place he speaks of as famous for its ruins.[90-*] His description is: "I found there sculptured lions, vases, and other objects, fashioned with so much skill that no one would be tempted to declare that that people made them without instruments of metal. There I found also two men sculptured, each made of a single stone, and girded according to the usage of the Indians. They held their heads in a peculiar manner, and had ear-rings in their ears, as the Indians wear them, and a point formed a projection behind the neck, which entered a deep hole in the neck, and thus adorned the statue was complete." He also speaks of the practice of burying articles used by the dead with their ashes,[90-[]] and he says: "As regards Seigneurs and people of superior condition, they burn their remains, and deposit their ashes in large urns. They then build temples over them, as one sees was anciently done, by what is found at Izamal."[90-[]]

The statue discovered seems to resemble those spoken of by Landa in all the peculiarities mentioned. He also refers to the custom among the women of filing the teeth like a saw, which was considered by them to be ornamental.[90-Sec.]

A remark to Dr. Le Plongeon about the statues above described drew from him the following statement: "We have seen the remnants of the statues you referred to as mentioned by Landa; some one has broken them to pieces." He also speaks of the resemblance of the statue he discovered to those of ancient Egypt, from the careful finish of the head and the lesser degree of attention bestowed on the other parts of the body.

Dr. Le Plongeon has stated in the first of the three communications contained in this paper, that from his interpretation of mural paintings and hieroglyphics in the building upon the South-East wall of the Gymnasium at Chichen-Itza, he was induced to make the excavation which resulted in his discovery. Elsewhere we learn that in the same building, and also on the tablets about the ears of the statue, he was able to read the name Chac-Mool, &c., &c. (Chaac or Chac in Maya means chieftain, Mol or Mool means paw of an animal.) He says that the names he gives, "were written on the monuments where represented, written in characters just as intelligible to my wife and myself, as this paper is to you in latin letters. Every personage represented on these monuments is known by name, since either over the head or at the feet the name is written." He also states that he knows where the ancient books of the H-Menes lie buried, as well as other statues. The discovery of one of these hidden books would be a service of priceless value.

A perusal of the communications contained in this paper lead to the impression that their writer accepts many of the theories advanced by Brasseur de Bourbourg, that he is a believer in the interpretations of Landa, and that he thinks he has been able to establish a system which enables him to read Maya inscriptions.

Dr. Le Plongeon has been accompanied and assisted in all his labors by his accomplished wife, and he has frequently stated that a great part of the credit for the results achieved is due to her intelligent judgment and skilful execution. His last date is from Belize, British Honduras, September 1. In that letter he announces the preparation of a paper for the Royal Geographical Society of London, in which he says he shall give his researches in extenso.

After four years of toil and exposure to danger, and after a large expenditure of money paid for services in opening roads, clearing ruins, and making excavations, Dr. Le Plongeon finds himself deprived of all the material results of his labors and sacrifices which could secure him an adequate return. We hope that he may soon receive just and satisfactory treatment from the government, and a fitting recognition and remuneration from the scientific world.

In judging of the subject here presented, the reader will bear in mind that facts substantiated should not be rejected, even if the theories founded on them advance beyond the light of present information.

* * * * *

In August, Dr. Le Plongeon sent the following letter with the request that it should be published in a form which would allow of its presentation to the Congres International des Americanistes, which would be held at Luxembourg in the month of September. It was printed in the Boston Daily Advertiser, in the issues of Sept. 3d and 4th, and is now repeated in the same type in this connection. The spelling of the name Chac-Mool in the letter was changed by the writer from that employed in the text by Dr. Le Plongeon, which is invariably Chaacmol; a liberty taken in consequence of the unanimous preference in favor of the spelling Chac-Mool shown in all the written or printed articles from Yucatan relating to this discovery, which have come to our observation. Copies of the letter were sent to Luxembourg, and also to the Bureau of the Societe des Americanistes at Paris.



Stephen Salisbury, jr., esq., Worcester, Mass.:

Dear Sir,— ... The London Times of Wednesday, January 3, 1877, contains views on the projected congress of the so-called Americanists, that is expected to be held at Luxembourg in September next. Was the writing intended for a damper? If so, it did not miss its aim. It must have frozen to the very core the enthusiasm of the many dreamers and speculators on the prehistoric nations that inhabited this western continent. As for me, I felt its chill even under the burning rays of the tropical sun of Yucatan, notwithstanding I am, or ought to be, well inured to them during the four years that my wife and myself are rambling among the ruined cities of the Mayas.

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