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Vol. XXV, No. 6

WASHINGTON

JUNE, 1914

THE
NATIONAL
GEOGRAPHIC
MAGAZINE

THE HOME OF A FORGOTTEN RACE

Mysterious Chichen Itza, in Yucatan, Mexico

BY EDWARD H, THOMPSON

FORMERLY U.S. CONSULT MÉRIDA, YUCATIS

T

on

III

On

every side.

HE ruined group of Chichen Itza, 586), cach faced with inlaid paneled

the Peninsula of Yucatan, stonework and well finished.

Vlexico, covers a space of fully 3 On each of the four inclined faces of square miles. Over all this wide territory this pyramid a stairway was built are scattered carved and squared stones feet long and 28.7 feet wide, with 104 in countless thousands, and fallen col steps rising from the base-level up to the umns by the hundreds, while the forn crowning platform. less remains and outlined walls of huge Each of the four angles of the pyramid structures fallen into ruin are seen is formed by the inculating body of a

great stone Serpent.

Descending from Seven massive structures of carved the crowning platform, cach undulation stone and adamantine mortar still tower of the body marks a gradient, a terrace erect and almost habitable. Their fa plane, while on each side of the northern cades, though gray and haggard with age stairway a serpent head, with wide-open and seamed by time, sustain the claim jau's, carved from a single mass of limethat Chichen Itza, in the Americas, is one stone, rests on the plane beneath. A of the world's greatest monuments of strong man cannot hope to lift the smallantiquity.

est stone that goes into the making of The heart of most of the cities of an this serpent body tiquity was a castle or temple; in this great American monument the heart was

TIIT CISTLE TEMPLE a castle and a temple—both in one.

All this is simply of the base, the Is this is a popular descriptive article preparation for and the leading up to the rather than a technical one, I shall try to building proper, the Castle Temple (see restrain my always present desire and in

page 586).

This temple is not large, ject only enough figures to give adequate measured by the standards of the presconceptions of size and distance.

ent day, or even by that of those ancient I terrace as broad and level as a plain builders. Like the heart of the human is raised 10 feet or more above the sur body, it was not large but important. rounding surface, built up with rubble Built on the level platform that crowned and finished with a lime cement-hard, the pyramid, it is itself only 13 feet by 29 white, and durable. On this man-made feet, with a narrow level space around it plain was built, among other structures on the platform's outer edge barely wide a pyramid of nine terraces (see page enough for two to walk abreast in safety.

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TIL GREIT PYRLID TEMPLE OF CHICIEN ITZA, IN SUCITIN, MEXICO "On the roof are ornaments of carved stone cut in curious angles and placed like battle

These probably served as shelters to the fighting men and protection to the priestly witchers of the stars and planets is they traced the celestial orbits and read the omens this revealed!" (see text, pages 585 and 587).

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THE IIONE OF FORGOTTES RACE

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On the north, facing a few degrees did the conformation of the structure east of north, is the Ceremonial Stair make this lack of symmetry a necessary way, with its two great serpent heads fault. leading up the pyramid to the entrance Is it true that the ancient builders of of the sanctuary.

the East were wont to leave one stone Thick stone pillars, fashioned always missing or one carving misplaced in an in the conventionalized serpent form, otherwise perfect work because only the sustain the carved and paneled façade Supreme One should produce perfection? above the entrance to the outer corridor On the roof are ornaments of carved and inner chamber, the sanctuary of the stone cut in curious angles and placed temple. In the semi-gloom of this sanc like battlements. These probably served tuary are two square pillars of stone, as shelters to the fighting men and proeach supporting massive twin beams of tection to the priestly watchers of the thick sapote wood richly carved. These stars and planets as they traced the celesin their turn help to support the strange tial orbits and read the omens thus retriple-vaulted roof of the chamber (see vealed. page 588). Sapote wood, like the East

THE HOUR OF SUNRISE Indian teak, is as strong and almost as durable as stone.

The writer stood upon the roof of this Wooden beams, stone pillars, and en temple one morning last December just trance posts are all carved in low relief as the first rays of the sun reddened the (see page 589). Symbols and human distant horizon. The morning stillness figures, some in mask and bearded, and was profound. The noises of the night all clothed in ornate regalia, withi strange

had ceased and those of the day were noi weapons and the flowing plumes of the yet begun. All the sky above and the quetzal, cover their paneled surfaces. carth below seemed to be breathlessly

The symbol of the feathered serpent, waiting for something-just waiting. the body of the rattlesnake, covered with Then the great round sun came up flamthe plumage of the quetzal bird-was to ing splendidly, and instantly the whole this old civilization what the Cross was world sang and hummed. The birds in to the Christian and the Crescent to the the trees and the insects on the ground Saracen.

sang in a grand Te Deum. Under this symbol the culture hero Nature herself taught primal man to Kuk-ul-can (Feathered Serpent) of Y11 be a sun-worshipper, and man in his catan, Quetzacoatl of the Aztecs and heart of hearts still follows the ancient earlier people, was first reverenced, then teachings. deified and worshipped.

A gentle breeze sprang up, and then he Most of the carvings on stone surface seemed to be upon a sea-bound rocky were painted, but the wooden lintels. promontory, high above all things. The carved or plain, were apparently dull calm sea surface stretched away to where finished in their own natural color the sky-line met it, and there they fused rich red brown.

into an opalescent something, seemingly On the south, east, and west a single born of the union of a rainbow with the high-vaulted but narrow chamber was white sea-foam. formed [-shaped, with sapote lintels and

rose higher and the sea of carved doorways facing each of the stair mist dissolved into nothingness. In its

place was an ocean of verdure, with a Large serpent masks, each flanked by foam of bright blue flowers, the bloom sunken paneled squares, are the only or of the jungle morning glory. Is he denaments of these three façades, and, ex scended the steps worn by the sandal cept that on the western façade, are tread of a thousand years, he thought: placed directly over the entrances. The “Can this world show a more beautiful mask of this western façade is several

sight" feet to the south of the entrance.

From the northern edge of the level This was not a random vork, neither terrace at the base of the temple pyra

The Suu

ways.

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IV TILE SI: 111-CLOON OF THIS SINCTURY TRI: TITO SOLARE PILLARS OF STONE, ENCH

SUPPORTING VLISSIT TIRX DELS OF THICK SAPOTE WOOD, RICHLY CARVED Sapote wood, like the last Indian tiaki is almost as strong and durable as stone. Note the

warrior with his Caborate head-dress cured on the column (see page 587)

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Photo by Edward II. Thompson

TOODEN PELMS UND ENTRICE POSTS ARE ALL CARTED IN LOW RELIEF

“Wooden beams, stone pillars, and entrance posts are all carved in low relief. Symbols and human figures, some in mask and bearded, and all clothed in ornate regalia, with strange weapons and the flowing plumes of the quetzal, cover their paneled surfaces” (see page 587).

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