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13-05-2015, 14:34


We may be sure the setting out of such an expedition would be celebrated in a formal manner.38 The safe return was also an important and joyful event. The reception was almost equal to that afforded to a victorious war-party. After going to the temple to adore the idol, they were taken before the council to acquaint them with whatever they had learned of importance on their trip. In addition to this, their own gens would give them appropriate receptions. From the nature of things but little profit remained to the trader. They had no beasts of burden, and they must bring back their goods by means of carriers; and the number of such men were limited. Then their customs demanded that the most highly prized articles should be offered up for religious purposes; besides, the tribe and the gens each came in for a share. But the honors given were almost as great as those won in war.

The Mexicans had regular markets. This, as we have already stated, was on territory that belonged to the tribe; not to any one gens alone. Hence the tribal officers were the ones to maintain order. The chiefs of the four phratries were charged with this duty. The market was open every day, but every fifth was a larger market.39 They do not seem to have had weights, but counted or measured their articles. In these markets, or fairs, which would be attended by traders from other tribes, who, on such occasions, were the guests of the Mexicans, and lodged in the official house, would be found the various articles of native manufacture: cloth, ornaments, elaborate featherwork, pottery, copper implements and ornaments, and a great variety of articles not necessary to enumerate.

We must now briefly consider their arts and manufactures. Stone was the material principally used for their weapons and implements. They were essentially in their Stone Age. Their knives, razors, lancets, spear and arrowheads were simply flakes of obsidian. These implements could be produced very cheaply, but the edge was quickly spoiled. Axes of different varieties of flint were made. They also used flint to carve the sculptured stones which we have described in the preceding chapter. They also had some way of working these big blocks of stone used in building. But they were not unacquainted with metals—the ornamental working of gold and silver had been carried to quite a high pitch. Were we to believe all the accounts given us of their skill in that direction, we would have to acknowledge they were the most expert jewelers known. How they cast or moulded their gold ornaments is unknown. They were also acquainted with other metals, such as copper, tin, and lead. But we can not learn for what purpose they used lead or tin, or where they obtained it.40

Cortez, in one of his letters, speaks of the use of small pieces of tin as money. But we have already seen that the natives had not risen to the conception of money. They certainly had copper tools, and bronze ones. It seems, however, that their bronze was a natural production and not an artificial one—that is to say, the ores of copper found in Mexico contain more or less gold, silver, and tin. So, if melted, just as nature left them, the result would be the production of bronze.41 They were then ignorant of the knowledge of how to make bronze artificially. This shows us that they had not attained to a true Bronze Age; and yet the discovery could not have been long delayed. Sooner or later they would have found out that tin and copper melted together would produce the light copper that experience had taught them was the most valuable.

The most important tool they made of copper was the ax. The ax, in both Mexico and Yucatan, was made as represented in this illustration. From their shape and mode of hafting them, we see at once they are simply models of the stone ax; and this recalls what we learned of the Bronze Age in Europe. At first they contented themselves with copying the forms in stone.

Nature, everywhere, conducts her children by the same means to the same ends. This form of ax is a representation of a carpenter's hatchet. The next cut is from the Mendoza collection, and represents a carpenter at work. He holds one of these hatchets in his hand, and is shaping a stick of timber. The other cut represents a form of copper tool found in Oaxaca, where they were once used in abundance. The supposition is that this implement was used for agricultural purposes—probably as a hoe. The pieces of T-shaped copper said to have been used as money, are diminutive forms of this same tool. The statement is sometimes made that they had a way of hardening copper. "This," says Mr. Valentine, "is a hypothesis, often noted and spoken of, but which ranges under the efforts made for explaining what we have no positive means to verify or to ascertain." The presence of metals necessarily implies some skill in mining; but their ability to mine was certainly very limited. Gold and silver were collected by washing the sands. We do not know how copper was mined; the probabilities are that this was done in a very superficial way. Whenever, by chance, they discovered a vein of copper, they probably worked it to an easy depth, and then abandoned it. M. Charney speaks of one such locality, discovered in 1873. In this case they had made an opening eleven feet long, five feet wide, and three feet deep. To judge from appearances, they first heated the rock, and then perhaps sprinkled it with water, and thus caused it to split up.42 This is about all we can discover of their Metallic Age. It falls very far short of the knowledge of metallurgy enjoyed by the Europeans of the Bronze Age; and, with the exception of working gold and silver, it was not greatly in advance of the powers of the North American aborigines.43 Certainly no trace of mining has been discovered at all on the scale of the ancient mines in Michigan.

A few words as to some of their other arts, and we will pass on to other topics. In manufacturing native pottery, they are spoken of as having great skill. The sedentary Indians everywhere were well up in that sort of work.44 They knew how to manufacture cotton cloth, as well as cloth from other articles. We have stated that paper furnished an important article of tribute. They made several kinds of paper. One author states that they made paper from the membrane of trees—from the substance that grows beneath the upper bark.45 But they also used for this purpose a plant, called the maguey plant. This was a very valuable plant to the aborigines, since we are told that the natives managed to extract nearly as great a variety of useful articles from it as does an inhabitant of the East Indies from his cocoa palm. Amongst other articles, they made paper. For this paper, we are told, "the leaves were soaked, putrefied, and the fibers washed, smoothed, and extended for the manufacture of thin as well as thick paper."46

They used feathers for plumes, fans, and trimmings for clothing. The articles the Spaniards are most enthusiastic in praising is that variety of work known as feather mosaic. They took very great pains with this sort of work. The workman first took a piece of cloth, stretched it, and painted on it, in brilliant colors, the object he wished to reproduce. Then, with his bunch of feathers before him, he carefully took feather after feather, arranging them according to size, color, and other details, and glued each feather to the cloth. The Spanish writers assert that sometimes a whole day was consumed in properly choosing and adjusting one delicate feather, the artist patiently experimenting until the hue and position of the feather, viewed from different points, and under different lights, became satisfactory to his eye.47

This disregard of time is a thoroughly Indian trait of character. Years would be spent in the manufacture of a choice weapon. The impression is given that these feather-workers formed a craft, or order, and that they lived by themselves. But this would be such an innovation on the workings of the gens that there is probably no foundation for it.

We will now consider the subject of religion. We can never judge of the real state of culture of a people by their advance in the arts of government and of living alone. Constituted as men are, they can not help evolving, in the course of time, religious conceptions, and the result is that almost all the races and tribes of men have some system of belief, or, at any rate, some manner of accounting for the present condition of affairs, and some theory as to a future state. It is true that these theories and beliefs are often very foolish and childish, still they are not on that account devoid of interest. From our present standpoint, we can clearly see that the religions belief of a people is a very good index of their culture. At first such conceptions are necessarily rude, but as the people advanced in culture, they become clearer.

Fearing that we will be misunderstood in the last statement, we will state to whom it applies. The Christian world hold that God revealed himself to his chosen people, and that we draw from his Word what is permitted mortals to know of his government and the future world. We make no question but that this is true. But long before there was a Hebrew people there was a Paleolithic race, who doubtless had some vague, shadowy, ill defined idea of supernatural power, and sought, in some infantile way, to appease the same. Afterwards, but long before the glories of Solomon, a Neolithic people were living in Palestine, and the same culture was wide-spread over the world. To this day a large part of the world's inhabitants have never so much as heard of the Christian religion. It is to such people that we especially refer.

The religious beliefs of the Indians have not been fully studied as yet; but, until that is done, it is scarcely possible to understand and fully weigh what is said as to the religious beliefs of the Mexicans. What we can discern of the religion of the Nahua and Maya tribes shows us that it is not at all probable they had reached a stage of development in which they had any idea of One Supreme, Over-ruling Power. But our scholars differ on that point, many contending that the Mexicans distinctly affirmed the existence of such a God.48 To form such conceptions implies a power of reasoning on abstract topics that is vain to expect of a people in their state of development. We think, therefore, that the idea that they had such a belief, arises from a misconception. Let us see if we can discover how that was.

Nearly all of the North American tribes had some word to express supernatural power. The Iroquois used for this purpose the words "oki" and "otkon."49 The first meaning of these words is "above." As used by these Indians, however, they expressed the working of any unseen, mysterious, and, therefore, to them, supernatural power. There was, however, no idea of personality or of unity about it. Other Indian tribes had words to express the same meaning. The English and French explorers translated these words into their languages in various ways. The most common is the rather absurd one of "medicine," which has passed into common use. Thus, to mention one in very frequent use, we have the expression "Medicine-men"—meaning their priests and conjurers. The same custom prevailed among the higher class of sedentary Indians of Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs used the word "teotl" to express the name meaning; the Mayas, the word "ku;" the Peruvians, "huaca." But the word used, in each case, meant not so much a personal supreme-being as it did an ill-defined sense of supernatural, mysterious power. This point not being clearly understood, it was quite natural that the early writers understood by these various expressions their name of the First Cause.

In the present state of our knowledge, it is certainly very hard to give an intelligent statement of the religious conceptions of the Maya and Nahua tribes. Among the Nahuas, their conception of creative power was that of a pair—a man and wife. These were not the active agents, however—they engendered four sons, who were the creators. This seems to be a widely extended form of tradition. Two authors, writing about fifty years after the conquest, speak of the four principal deities and statues. They had a great many idols besides—but four were the principal ones.

It would be very satisfactory could we frame some theory to account for this state of things. If we could only be sure that each god was symbolic of some of the elements—or, if we could only say that this was but another instance of the use of the number "four"—and thus connect them with the cardinal points, it would be very satisfactory to many. The amount of study that has been bestowed on this question is very great, and it is very far from being settled. Each of these four was the principal, or guardian, deity of a particular tribe.50 All of these appear in native traditions as historical personages, as well as deities. It is for this reason that Mr. Bandelier concludes that the "four principal gods were deified men, whose lives and actions became mixed up with the vague ideas of natural forces and phenomena."51

As prominent a figure as any in Central American Mythology is Quetzalcohuatl; and we can form a good idea of the force of the preceding remarks by considering this case. The name is a compound of two words, "quetzal-cohuatl"—and is, says Mr. Bandelier, a fair specimen of an Indian personal name. He tells us that the meaning is "bright," or "shining snake." Others have translated it, "feathered serpent." We have referred to the attempt to show that the tablet of the cross, at Palenque, had reference to him. Those who think he was the nature-god of the Nahuas find a great deal of significance in the name.52 Mr. Bandelier, after carefully considering all reference to him by the early writers, shows that it is quite as likely that Quetzalcohuatl "was a man of note, whose memory was afterward connected with dim cosmological notions." It is plain that our idea of the culture of the Mexicans will vary according as we consider the base of this myth to be a man, or the forces in nature producing the fertilizing summer rain.53

The worship of Quetzalcohuatl was very widely extended; but it was mostly confined to the Nahua tribes. But there are somewhat similar traditions among the Maya tribes; and this is one of those few points which, like the similarity of their calendar systems, seems to point to a close connection in early times. The Quiches have a very similar myth. Briefly, it is to the effect that four principal gods created the world. One of these was named Gucumatz—meaning, also, shining, or brilliant snake. Some think that this is the same personage as Quetzalcohuatl, and from this fact show how true it is that the operations of the forces of nature everywhere affect the minds of men in a similar manner.54 Others will not, however, go as far as this, and will only say there is a similarity between the two characters. The tribes in Yucatan also have a tradition of Cuculcan, whose name means the same as the two already mentioned. The authority who refers to him speaks of him only as a man. The Quiche legend, already referred to, speaks of Gucumatz only as a god. The Nahua traditions of Quetzalcohuatl, as we have seen, are confused accounts of a man and a god.

The traditions having reference to the earthly career of Quetzalcohuatl represent him as having considerable to do with Tulla and Cholula. At Tulla he appears in the light of a great medicine-man, or priest; at Cholula, as a sachem. Still other traditions represent him as a great and successful warrior. None of these characters are incompatible with the others, from an Indian point of view. These traditions are so hopelessly confused, that it is doubtful if any thing of historical value can be gained from them. As a deity, he was worshiped as god of the air or wind. Why he should be so considered is answered in various ways. If, reasoning from his name, we choose to believe he is a nature-god—as such standing for the thunder-storm, clouds of summer—then, as the winds "sweep the path for the rain-clouds," he would be considered their god. Also, following out this line of thought, we can see how, as the god which brings the fertilizing summer rain, he would be considered the god of wealth, and the patron deity of traders.

We must not lose sight of the fact that all these traditions are most woefully mixed; that, since the conquest, many ideas from other than native sources have been engrafted on them; and, furthermore, that other explanations that are worth considering can be presented. The horticultural tribe located at Cholula had Quetzalcohuatl for their tutelar deity. Their crops depend upon the timely descent of the rain. What more natural than that they should regard such rains as sent by him? This pueblo was also famous for its fairs. "By its geographical position, its natural products, and the industry of its people," it became a great trading market. Near it was raised cochineal dye, in large quantities. This was eagerly sought after by traders from a distance. Cholula was also famous for its pottery. The Tlaxcaltecos told Cortez that the inhabitants of Cholula were a tribe of traders; what more natural, then, than that their tutelar deity should become, in the eyes of foreign tribes, the god of traders.55

Quetzalcohuatl was but one of the four principal gods. The tutelar deity of the Mexicans was Huitzilopochtli. His altars were almost daily wet with the blood of sacrificed victims. No important war was undertaken, except with many ceremonies he was duly honored. If time were so short that proper care could not be bestowed on the ceremonies, then there was a kind of deputy god that could be served in a hurried manner that would suffice.56 After a successful battle, the captives were conducted at once to his temple, and made to prostrate themselves before his image. In times of great public danger, the great drum in his temple was beaten. The Spaniards, by dire experience, knew well the meaning of that awful sound.

The plate represents what was probably the idol of Huitzilopochtli. "It was brought to light in grading the Plaza Mayor in the City of Mexico in August, 1790. It was near the place where the great Teocalli stood, and where the principal monuments of Mexico were. They were thrown down at the time of the conquest and buried from sight. It is an immense block of bluish-gray porphyry, about ten feet high and six feet wide and thick, sculptured on front, rear, top and bottom, into a most complicated and horrible combination of animal, human, and ideal forms."57 This idol is generally stated to be that of the goddess of death. But Mr. Bandelier, after carefully reviewing all the authorities, concludes that it represents the well-known war-god of the Mexican tribe.58

To properly conduct the services in honor of these various gods, required established rites and a priesthood. What we call "Medicine men" wizards, and names of similar import among the northern tribes, were more correctly priests. There was no tribe of Indians so poor but what they had these priests. But we would expect this office to increase more in power and importance among the southern Indians. Among the Iroquois, we are told each gens elected certain "keepers of the faith." These included persons both male and female. Their principal duty was to see that the feast days were properly celebrated. From what we know of the gens we feel confident that they would be perfectly, independent in religious matters as well as in other respects. Consequently it is not probable that there was even in Mexico any hereditary caste of priests.59

However set aside, or chosen, or elected, we have every reason to believe that the organization of the priesthood was systematic. The aspirant for the office had to acquaint himself with the songs and prayers used in public worship, the national traditions, their principles of astrology, so as to tell the lucky and unlucky days. When admitted to the priesthood, their rank was doubtless determined by meritorious actions. Successes in war would contribute to this result as well as sanctity, a priest who had captured several prisoners ranking higher than one who had captured but one, and this last higher than the unfortunate who had taken none.60 We must not forget that war was the duty of all among the Mexicans. The priests were not in all cases exempt; part of their duties may have been to care for the wounded. It is not likely that the priests of any one god ranked any higher than the priests of others, or had any authority over them.

This body of priests of whom we have just treated concerned themselves a great deal with the social life of the Mexicans, and their power was doubtless great. Their duties commenced with the birth of the child, and continued through life. No important event of any kind was undertaken without duly consulting the priests to see if the day selected was a lucky one. The Nahuas were, like all Indians, very superstitious, so there was plenty of work cut out for the priests. Into their hands was committed the art of explaining dreams, fortune-telling, astrology, and the explanation of omens and signs. Such as the flight and songs of birds, the sudden appearance of wild animals; in short, any unexpected or unusual event, was deemed of sufficient importance to require in its explanation priestly learning. In addition there was the regular routine of feasts.61 We have seen what a multitude of gods the Nahuas worshiped. Like all Indian people, they were very fond of feasts and gatherings of that character; therefore feast days in honor of some one of the numerous deities were almost constantly in order, and every month or two were feasts of unusual importance. The most acceptable sacrifice to these gods, and without which no feast of any importance was complete, was human life.

This introduces us to the most cruel trait of their character. It was not alone true of the Mexicans, but of all the Nahua tribes and of the Mayas, though in a less degree. On every occasion of the least importance victims were sacrificed. Any unusual event was celebrated in a similar manner. Before the departure of a warlike expedition, the favor of Huitzilopochtli was sought by the sacrifice of human life; on the return of the same, similar scenes were enacted. On all such occasions the more victims the better. These victims were mostly captives taken in war, and wars were often entered into for the express purpose of procuring such victims. They were even made a subject of tribute. Devout people sometimes offered themselves or their children for the sacrifice. The number of victims, of course, varied from year to year, but it is possible that it counted up into the thousands every year.

What we are able to gather from the religious beliefs of the civilized nations sustains the conclusions we have already arrived at in reference to their culture. We can but believe this had been greatly overrated. It is the religion of barbarians, not of a cultivated and enlightened people the historians would have us believe in. It is a religion in keeping with the character of the people who had confederated together for the purpose of compelling unwilling tribute from weaker tribes. It is in keeping with what we would expect of a people still in the Stone Age, who still practised communism in living, and whose political and social organization was founded on the gens as a unit.

It will not be out of place to devote some space to a consideration of their advance in learning; and first of all let us see about their system of counting or numeration. This knowledge, as Mr. Gallatin remarks, must necessarily have preceded any knowledge of astronomy, or any effort to compute time. They must have known how to count the days of a year before they knew how many days it contained. We all know how natural it is for a child to count by means of his fingers. This was undoubtedly the first method employed by primitive man. Proof of this is found in the wide extended use of the decimal system. Among the civilized nations, traces of this early custom are still preserved in the meaning of the words used to express the numbers.

To express the numbers up to twenty, small dots or circles were used—one for each unit. For the number twenty they painted a little flag, for the number four hundred, a feather; and for eight thousand, a purse or pouch. The following table represents the method of enumeration employed by the Mexicans. But it is necessary to remark they used different terminations for different objects.62

Substantially the same system of numeration prevailed among all the Nahua tribes and the Mayas. It will be seen from this table that the only numbers having simple names are one, two, three, four, five, ten, fifteen, twenty, four hundred, and eight thousand. The other names are compounds of these simple names. It is also easy to understand their method of pictorial representation. In reference to the flag, the feather, and the purse, we must remark that, when these were divided into four parts, only the colored parts were counted. The collective number, used among them much as we use the word dozen, was always twenty; but queerly enough their word for twenty varied according to the object to be counted. The regular word given in the table was "pohualli." In counting thin objects that could be arranged one above the other, the word twenty was "pilli." Objects that were round and plump and thus resembling a stone, were counted with "tetl" for twenty, and other words for different objects.63

The division of time or their calendar system, is one that was thought to show great advance in astronomical learning, but of late years it has been shown that this also was overrated. This question of how to keep a record of time was a difficult one for primitive man to solve; that is, when he began to think about it at all. A long while must have elapsed, and considerable advance in other respects been made before the necessity of such a thing occurred to them. The increase and decrease of the moon would form a natural starting point. It is well known that this is about as far as the knowledge of the Indians extended. The Maya word for month means also moon, showing this was their earliest system of reckoning time.64

The various Nahua and Maya tribes of Mexico and Central America had reached about the same stage of development. But their calendar system is so similar that it affords a strong argument of the original unity of these people.65 All of the civilized tribes had months of twenty days each, and each of these days had a separate name, which was the same for every month of the year. This period of twenty days was properly their unit of time reckoning. It is true they had smaller divisions,66 but for all practical purposes, they were ignored. As none of these tribes possessed the art of writing, they had to represent these days by means of hieroglyphics. The following table shows the Mexican and Maya days, the meaning of each, and the pictorial sign by which they were represented. We must notice that the Maya hieroglyphics look more arbitrary, more conventional than the Mexican. This is interesting, because some of our scholars now believe the Mayas were the inventors of the calendar. Their hieroglyphics, therefore, as being the older of the two, should appear more conventional. In the Mexican hieroglyphics for the days, we can still trace a resemblance to the natural objects they represent; in the Maya hieroglyphics, this resemblance has disappeared.

It is not out of place to theorize as to the facts already mentioned. The first thing that strikes us is that they should have chosen twenty days for a unit of time. There must have been some reason lying back of this selection. It would have been more natural for them to have chosen a number of days (say thirty) more nearly corresponding to the time from one new moon to another. Whether we shall ever learn the reason for choosing this number of days is doubtful; but Mr. Bandelier has given us some thoughts on this subject, which, though he is careful to state are not results, but mere suggestions, seem to us to have some germs of truth, the more so as it is fully in keeping with Indian customs.

He points out that many of the names for these days mean the same as the names of the gens in the more northern Indian tribes. Thus seven of the days have the same meaning as the names of seven of the nine gens of the Moqui tribe in Arizona. He, therefore, suggests that the names of these twenty days are the names of the twenty gens of the aboriginal people from whom have descended the various civilized tribes under consideration. Indeed, this is expressly stated to be the method of naming the days adopted by the Chiapanecs, one of the tribes in question.57

As soon as the people commenced to take any observation at all, they would perceive that it took just about eighteen of these periods of twenty days to make a year. So the next step appears to have been the division of the year into eighteen months. These months received each a name, and were of course designated by a hieroglyphic. The names of the Mexican months seem to have been determined by some of the feasts happening therein. There is great diversity among the early writers both as to the names of these months, and the order in which they occur, as well as by the hieroglyphics by which they are represented.68 It does not seem worth while to give their names and meaning. We give a plate showing the name, order in which they occur, and hieroglyphic symbol of the Maya months. In point of fact, the months were very little used, as we shall soon see it was not necessary to name the month to designate the day; but of that hereafter.

But it would not take these people very long to discover that they had not hit on the length of a year. Eighteen months, of twenty days each, make only three hundred and sixty days; so the next step would be to add on five days to their former year. As these days do not make a month, they were called the nameless days. They were considered as being unlucky—no important undertaking could be commenced on one of them. The child born therein was to be pitied. But we will see that the expression, "nameless days" was hardly the case among the Mayas, though it was among the Mexicans.

Perhaps this will be as good a place as any to inquire whether they had exact knowledge of the length of the year. As every one knows, the length of the year is three hundred and sixty-five and one quarter days, or very nearly; and for this reason we add an extra day to every fourth year. We would not expect to find this knowledge among tribes no farther advanced than we have found these to be. If, as our scholars suspect, the Maya be the one from which the others were derived, they would be apt to possess this knowledge, if known. Perez, however, could find no trace of it among them.69 Many authors have asserted that the Mexicans knew all about it. Some say they added a day every four years; others, that they waited fifty-two years, and then added thirteen days; and some, even, give them credit for still closer knowledge, and say they added twelve and one-half days every fifty-two years.70 Prof. Valentine, who has made their calendar system a special study, concludes that they knew nothing at all about the matter.71

The beginning of the year is variously stated. Among the Mexicans it seems that, while the authors differ very much, all but one places it on some day between the second day of February and the tenth of April. As their word for year means "new green," it is probable they placed its commencement about the time new grass appeared. The Mayas are said to have placed the commencement of the year about the sixteenth of July. As this happens to be just about the time that the sun is directly overhead in Yucatan, it has been surmised that the natives took astronomical observations, and tried to have their year commence at that time. But it must be manifest that, if they did not possess a knowledge of the true length of the year, and so make allowance for the leap-year, in the course of a very few years they would have to revise this date.

Refer once more to the Maya table of days. Suppose the first day of the year to commence with the day Kan. As there are twenty days in a month, we see that the second month would also commence with Kan. In like manner, Kan would be the first day of every month of that year. When the eighteen months were past, there would still remain the five days to complete the year. Now, although they were said to be nameless days, the Mayas gave them names. The first day was Kan, the second day Chichan, the third day Quimij, the fourth day Manik, the fifth day Lamat. The regular order of days we see. They were now ready to commence a new year.

The next day in the list is Muluc. This becomes the first day of the first month of the new year. But, being the first day of the first month, it was the first day of every month of that year. At the end of the eighteen months of that year, the five days would have to be named in their order again, which would carry us down to Gix, the first day of the first month of the third year. It would also be the first day of every month of that year. Similarly we see that Cavac would be the first day of every month of the fourth year. The fifth year would commence again with Kan. So we see that four of these twenty days became of more importance than the others. The years were named after them. The year in which the month commenced with Kan was also called Kan. The same way with the other days. So the name of the year was either Kan, Muluc, Gix, or Cavac. These four days were called "carriers of the year;" because they not only gave the name to the year, but because the name of the year was also the name of the first day of every month of that year.

The foregoing will help us to understand the Mexican method. Let us refer now to the list of Mexican days. The first day of the first month was Cipac. For the same reason as above set forth, this would be the first day of every month of the year. The five extra days either were not named at all, or at any rate they were not counted off in the table of days. The consequence was that Cipac was the first day of every month; for we have just seen that it was the first day of every month of the first year. At the end of the eighteen months the five nameless days would come in; but, as they did not form part of a month, were not named. The first day of the first month of the next year would be named as if they had not occurred.72 But, when they came to name the years, we find they proceeded on exactly the same principle as the Mayas. Thus four of the twenty days, occurring just five days apart, were taken to name the years. These days were Tecpatl, Calli, Tochtli, and Acatl.73

Mr. Bandelier, who made the valuable suggestion in regard to the origin of the names of the days, has also suggested that, inasmuch as there are four of the days more prominent than the others, they may signify four original gentes, from which the others have come. It seem to us, however, when we notice they are just five days apart, that the system pursued by the Mayas in naming their years explains the whole matter.

Before we mention the longer periods of time in use among them we must refer to another mode of reckoning time, and trace the influence of this second method on the one already named. The method already explained seems to have been a perfectly natural one—the second method is founded on superstition. A large part of the duties of the priests, we remember, was to determine lucky and unlucky days, and in soothsaying. For this purpose they made a peculiar division of time, which we will now try and explain.

For some cause or other, thirteen was a number continually recurring in their calendar. We can perceive no reason why it should have been chosen. It has been suggested that it was just about the time from the appearance of a new moon to its full. Be that as it may, the number of days thirteen comes very near to what we would call a week. Among the Mexicans, and probably among the Mayas, these thirteen days were divided into lucky, unlucky, and indifferent days, and were supposed to be under the guidance of different gods. The priests had regularly painted lists of them, with the deities which governed them. These lists were used in fortune telling.

We must now inquire as to how they kept track of the years. The Mayas named their next longer period of time an ahau. There is some dispute as to what number of years it meant. Most of the early writers decide that it was twenty years;74 but Perez, whose work we have already referred to, contends that it was twenty-four years. And this conclusion seems to be confirmed by a careful study of some of their old manuscripts.75 Thirteen of these ahaus embraced their longest period of time, known as an ahau-katun. It had a length of either two hundred and sixty or three hundred and twelve years, according as we reckon either twenty or twenty-four years to an ahau. It may be that the length of an ahau varied among the different tribes of the Mayas.

The Mexicans also had this week of thirteen days. Twenty of these weeks, or two hundred and sixty days, formed that part of the year they called the moon-reckoning; the remainder of the year was the sun-reckoning. Their longer period of time was also based on this number. A period of thirteen years they called a tlapilli; four of these constituted a cycle equal to fifty-two years. The end of this cycle was anxiously awaited by the Mexicans. They supposed the world was to come to an end on one of these occasions. As the time drew near, the furniture was broken, the household gods were thrown into the water, the houses were cleaned, and finally, all the fires were extinguished. As the last day of the cycle drew to a close, the priests formed a procession, and set out for a mountain about six miles from Mexico. There an altar was built. At midnight a captive, the bravest and finest of their prisoners, was laid on it. A piece of wood was laid on his breast, and on this fire was built by twirling a stick. As soon as fire was produced, the prisoner was killed as a sacrifice. The production of new fire was proof that the gods had granted them a new period of fifty-two years.

To understand how the years in this cycle were arranged and numbered, we must refer once more to the Mayas, for though they did not use the cycle themselves, yet they give us a hint as to how it was obtained, and afford one more reason why we should think the Mayas were the originators of this calendar system. We give a table showing the arrangement of the days of the year among the Mayas. We will take the year Kan—that is, we remember, when Kan was the first day of every month. We would naturally think they would describe a day by giving the name of the day and the month—as, the day Kan, of the month Xul, or the first day of the month Xul—but instead of so doing, they made use of the period of thirteen days.

For instance, we see, by looking at the table, that the day ten Kan can not be any other day during the year than the day above mentioned; so that, for all purposes, it is sufficient to give the day and its number in the week. We notice, however, that the last five columns of figures for week days of thirteen are just the same as the first five. But this did not confuse any, for the last five columns of days belong to the "sun-reckoning," the others to the moon-reckoning. And though the number of the day in the week was the same, yet a different deity ruled over them than in the corresponding days of the first five columns. We can not affirm that we know this to be true of the Mayas. Such, however, we know to be the case among the Mexicans.76

Now we notice in this almanac that the last day of the year Kan, is number one of the week. As the count goes right along, the first day of the next year, Muluc, must be number two. If we would make an almanac for that year, we would find the first day of the third year would be number three of the week. If we were to continue this, we would find that the first days of the years, would range from one to thirteen. This table shows the number in the week of the first day of the first fourteen years. The first day of the fourteenth year would be number one of the week again, but this time one Muluc, and not Kan. If we would continue our researches, we would quickly discover that fifty-two years would go by before we would have a year Kan in which the first day of the year would be number one again.

We think the above explains the origin of the Mexican cycle of fifty-two years. The Mayas either never had this cycle, or had abandoned its use.77 The Mexicans however, used this period of time, and they numbered their years in it in such a way that we can not explain it, unless we suppose they derived it in some such a way as just set forth. We give a table showing the order of the years in a cycle, and also notice that all that was needed was the number and name of the year to show at once what year of the cycle it was. The year seven Calli, for instance, could never be any other year than the twentieth of the cycle.78

To express the dates, they of course painted the hieroglyphic of the day, and dots for the number of days. This cut, for instance, expresses the day-date "seven Acatl." They generally wrote the dots in sets of five. Seven was sometimes expressed in the above manner. When they wished to express a year-date, they made a little frame and painted in the hieroglyphics of the year, and dots for the number. This date here expressed is their thirteen Acatl, which, by the above table, is seen to be the twenty-sixth year of the cycle.

We have already dwelt too long on this part of the subject. Glancing back over the ground, we see there is nothing implying astronomical knowledge, more than we would expect to find among a rude people. We find there are several particulars of the Mexican system which we could not understand, except by reference to the Maya system. It would bother us to explain why they should choose the days Tochli, Acatl, Tecpatl, and Calli, to be the names of their years, if we did not know how the Mayas proceeded. We would be at a loss to explain why they choose the number of fifty-two years for the cycle, and arranged their years in it as they did, if we had not learned the secret from the construction of the Mayas' almanac. From this comparison, we should say the Mexican calendar was the simpler of the two. As the Mayas had twenty days in the month, and, for priestly use, weeks of thirteen days, so they took twenty years, which, as they imagined, were supported by four other years, as a pedestal for their next longer period, the ahau; and for apparently no other reason than that they had weeks of thirteen days, they took thirteen of these ahuas for their longest period of time. They did not use the cycle of fifty-two years, but they numbered their years in such a way that, in effect, they were possessed of it. The Mexican did away with all but the cycle of fifty-two years.

No account of the calendar system of the Mexicans would be complete without reference to the so-called calendar stone. The stone, the face of which is sculptured as represented in this cut, was dug up from the square in front of the cathedral of the City of Mexico, where it had been buried in 1557. When the temple was destroyed, this stone still remained entire. Finally the authorities, fearing it attracted too much attention from the natives, ordered it buried. It was brought to light again in 1790, but its early history was completely forgotten. The astronomer Gama pronounced it a calendar stone, and his interpretation of the characters engraved on it have been the foundation for the idea that the Mexicans had considerable knowledge of astronomy.79 Prof. Valentine and others have, however, shown that it was simply a sacrificial stone, which the artist had decorated in a peculiar manner. This stone is considered by some to be so important that we will condense Prof. Valentine's description of it as being the best at hand. Not all of out scholars accept it, however. The central figure is the face of the sun-god. It is decorated in a truly savage style. It has ear-rings, neck-chain, lip-pendant, feathers, etc. The artist's design has been to surround this central figure with all the symbols of time. We notice on each side of the sun a small circle or oval with hieroglyphics resembling claws. In Mexican traditions these represent two ancient astrologers who were supposed to have invented the calendar. According to Nahua traditions of the world, there had been four ages of the world; at the end of each age, the world was destroyed. Right above and below the ovals with the claws, we see four squares containing hieroglyphics.

Each of these squares refers to one of the destructions of the world. The upper right hand square contains the head of a tiger. This represents the first destruction of the world, which was by tigers. The four dots seen, in this square do not refer to a date as they generally do; it is a sacred number, and constantly reappears in all hieroglyphics referring to feasts of the sun. To the left of this square, crowded between it and the pointer, can be seen the hieroglyphic of the day Tecpatl. The little dot is one, so this day one tecpatl probably refers to the day in which the feast in reference to this destruction was celebrated. The second age was terminated by a hurricane. The upper left hand square containing the hieroglyphic for wind refers to this destruction. Between this square and the pointer is crowded in the hieroglyphic of one Calli, referring to the feast in memory of this destruction. The third destruction of the world was by rain, the lower left hand square containing the hieroglyphic of rain. Below, not very distinctly, is the date of this feast, one quiahuitl. The last destruction was by water, represented by the lower right hand square. The date of this feast as represented below is seven Ozomatl.80

Passing out of this central zone we notice the hieroglyphics for the days of the month arranged in a circle. The A shaped ray from the head of the sun indicates where we are to commence to read; and we notice they must be read from right to left. Resting on this circle of day, we notice four great pointers not unlike a large capital A. They are supposed to refer to sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight. Next in order after the days we notice a circle of little squares, each containing five dots. Making allowance for the space covered by the legs of the pointers just mentioned, there are found to be two hundred and sixty of these days; they, therefore, refer to the days of the moon reckoning. We notice four smaller pointers not quite so elaborate as those already referred to, resting in this circle. They probably refer to smaller divisions of the days. The next circle contains a row of glyphs not unlike kernels of corn. One hundred and five are represented on this circle; they refer to the days of the sun reckoning.

Resting on this circle of days are small towers; they, like the smaller pointers, refer to divisions of the day. Adjoining each of these little towers is a figure; this cut represents one of them. We notice they form a circle extending clear around the stone. The meaning of this circle is gathered from other painted records. It represents a rain storm; four drops are seen falling to the ground. The ground is cultivated, as shown by the three ridges; a grain of corn is represented lying on the ground. This band on the stone is in honor of the rain-god.

There remains only to explain the outer row or band. At the bottom is a rude representation of two heads with helmets. The meaning of these figures is unknown. From each of these figures extend in a semicircle a row of figures of this shape, ending with pointers at the top, between which is a year-date. Near the points on each side is what might be described as four bundles tied together. Each of the small figures just described is the representation of a cycle of fifty-two years.

The date on the top is the year date, Thirteen Acatl. This is an easily determinable date. From Mexican paintings, we know the conquest of Mexico occurred in the year Three Calli. From this tracing their years back by the table given earlier (Arrangement of Years in a Mexican Cycle), we would find that the first Thirteen Acatl we meet was in the year 1479. This is exactly the date when, according to tradition, the great temple was finished, and this stone dedicated by bloody sacrifices. If we count the number of signs for cycles, we find that there are just twelve on each side, twenty-four in all. As the artist could easily have made this number more or less, the probabilities are that it means something. The most plausible explanation is, that in the year 1479, they had traditions of twenty-four cycles. But this number of cycles is equivalent to twelve hundred and forty-eight years, which would carry us back to about the year 231, A.D., which date we must bear in mind; not that we think there is any scientific value to it, but for its bearing on other matter at the close of the chapter.81

We come now to consider the subject of their picture writings. The germ of writing is found in the rude attempts to assist the memory to recall past events. Some of the northern Indian tribes resorted for this purpose to belts of wampum. When a new sachem was to be invested with office among the Iroquois, the historical wampum belts were produced; an old man taking them in hand, and walking back and forth, proceeded to "read" from them the principles of the confederacy. In this case, particular events were connected with particular strings of wampum.82 Pictorial representation would be the next stage. At first the aim of the artist would be to make his drawings as perfect as possible. A desire to save labor would soon lead them to use only the lines necessary to show what was meant. This seems to be about the stage of picture writing, reached by some Indian tribes, who have left here and there specimens carved on rocks.

This cut is a specimen of such writing from the canon of the San Juan in Arizona. Although quite impossible to read it, there is no doubt but what it expressed a meaning at the time it was engraved.

From this stage of development would naturally arise symbolical paintings. Thus "footsteps" might signify the idea of going. A comma-shaped figure, issuing from a person's mouth, would stand for speech. The next step is what we might call rebus-writing, where not the thing itself was meant but the sound. Thus this cut represents Chapultepec—meaning grasshopper-hill, or locust mount. It is evident, here, the pictures of the objects represent the name. They, probably, did not use this principle farther than to represent the proper names of persons and things before the coming of the Spaniards.

Some think that, in addition to the above, the Mexicans used, to a very limited extent, a true phonetic writing—one in which the figures refer not to the thought, but to the sound of the thought.83 Others are not ready to concede that point. They could not have been further along than the threshold of the discovery, at all events. The Spanish missionaries were very desirous of teaching the Indians the Pater-noster, the Ave-Maria, and the Credo. Either the Indians themselves, or the priests (probably the latter), hit on the device of using painted symbols for the words and syllables of the church prayers and formulas. Thus in this manner was painted the word Amen. The first sign is the conventional figure for water, in Mexican "atl," which stood for A. For the second syllable they put the picture of a maguey plant, in Mexican "metl." The whole, then, was "atl-metl," which was as near as they could express the word amen. We must observe, that this was after the conquest.84

The plate opposite is one of the paintings of the Mendoza collection. This collection, we must remember, was made after the conquest, simply to gratify the curiosity of the King of Spain. The matter treated of is the events connected with time when Motecuma the fifth "chief-of-men" held office. Around the edge we see the hieroglyphics of the years. We notice he was chief-of-men from the year one calli to two tecpatl. About the only thing recorded of him is the different pueblos he conquered. In all he subdued thirty-three; but only eleven are shown in this plate. The pueblos are indicated by a house toppling over—flames issuing from under the roof. The other little hieroglyphics are the names of the pueblos. The last one in the second transverse line from the bottom is the hieroglyphic of Chalco, which we thus learn was reduced to tribute under this chief. All the events indicated in this cut took place before the discovery of America.85

A second part of this codex has reference to the tribute received from various tribes. In this cut the left-hand figure is the hieroglyphic of the town of Chilapi, and is an excellent representation of their rebus-writing we have just referred to. It is a tub of water, on which floats a red-pepper pod. The Mexican word for this last is chilli, for water it is "atl.". The word "pa" means above. For the full word we have "chilli-atl-pa." Contracted, it becomes chilapi. The figure to the right is the tribute. The five flags denotes one hundred. Below is represented a copper ax-blade—from which we infer that the Pueblo of Chilapi had to furnish a tribute of one hundred copper axes.

A third part of this same collection refers to the Mexican customs. In this cut we have represented the training of a boy at the different ages of four, six, thirteen and fourteen years of age. The little round marks number the years of his age. The little elliptical-shaped figures show the number of tortullas the child is allowed at a meal. The boy is trained to carry and make various things, to row a boat, and to fish.

The most interesting of Mexican picture-writings is the record of their wanderings. This was formerly supposed to represent their migrations from Asia—but is now known to refer only to their wanderings in the Valley of Mexico. De Lafield, in his "Antiquities of America," gives a full representation of this picture-writing. Bancroft's "Native Races," Vol. II, pp. 548-49, give a very good reduced copy. We will not attempt to reproduce it all. This cut represents the beginning of it. A man is seen crossing a stream in a boat. The figure behind him may mean an island, on which are represented some pueblos and human figures. On the opposite bank of the stream, to which the footsteps lead, is the hieroglyphic of Culhuacan, "the curved mountain." The year date of this movement is "one tecpatl." The character within that of Culhuacan is Huitzilopochtli, their national god. The flakes issuing from his mouth signify that he is guiding them. The principal figures about this map are the hieroglyphic names of various places where they stopped, and the time spent at each place.

The Mayas seem to have been further advanced in the art of writing than their Nahua neighbors. Specimens of their hieroglyphic writings have been given in the preceding chapter. The hopes of our scholars were greatly raised when, in 1863, the announcement was made that there had been discovered, in Madrid, a Maya alphabet, which, it was expected, would unlock the mysterious tablets just mentioned.

The alphabet thus discovered is represented in the next cut. It will be seen that some of the letters have a number of different forms. This discovery was hailed as of the greatest importance, and a number of scholars at once set about to decipher the tablets. They were speedily undeceived. The alphabet is, practically, of no help whatever. Prof. Valentine even goes so far as to declare that this alphabet was not of native origin.

He thinks that Bishop Landa, who is the authority for this alphabet, and who was Bishop of Yucatan from 1549 to 1579, being anxious to assist the natives in learning the new faith, set about the manufacture of an alphabet for them. This he did by having the natives paint some native object which came the nearest to the sound of our alphabet. Thus, for instance, this symbol there are excellent reasons for supposing represents the sun, or the word "day." The Maya word for this is te. We find that this is the symbol that Landa employs for the letter T, only, in his drawing, the central dot has fallen into the lower dashes. Nearly all the other letters can be traced to a similar source.86 But the professor's reasoning does not satisfy all. He is believed to be right in a number of his identifications; but still the characters might have been used in a phonetic way.87

There is no doubt but that the Mayas had a different system than that in use among the Nahua people. The knowledge how to use it was, probably, confined to the priests; and, furthermore, the system was, doubtless, a mixed one. A few phonetic characters might have been used; but they also used picture-writing. The plate above is a sample of the manuscripts they left behind. It is in the nature of a religious almanac, and refers to the feasts celebrated at the end of a year. The line of characters on the left hand are the days characters Eb and Been. In the lower division, a priest offers a headless fowl to the idol on the left. In the middle division, the priest is burning incense to drive away the evil-spirit. In the upper division, the assistant, with the idol on his back, is on his march through the village. As yet, we know but very little about the tables. We know the hieroglyphics of days and of months.

Examining the tablets in the Temple of the Cross, at Palenque, represented below, we notice a large glyph, at the commencement of the tablet, something like a capital letter. This, Mr. Valentine thinks, represents the censers which stood in the temples before the idols, in which fire was constantly kept.88 Running through the tablets we notice glyphs, in front of which are either little dots, or one or more bars with little dots in front of them. These are day-dates. The dots count one—the little upright bars, five. The probabilities are that this tablet is a sort of list of feast-days in honor of the gods represented by the central tablet.

As we have made a considerable effort to acquaint ourselves with the social organization and customs of the various tribes, and have spent some time in learning the details of their calendar system, and their advance in the art of writing, it will not be out of place to inquire as to their history—to determine, if possible, some of the dates to be given for the arrival of the tribes, and some of the important points of their prehistoric life. Whatever difficulties we have experienced in acquiring a knowledge of their customs will be greatly increased now. Their architecture, social organization, and general enlightenment could be perceived by the conquering Spaniards, and our information in regard to the same should have been full and complete. We have seen, however, how meager it is. The only light thrown on these disputed points is the result of the labors of modern scholars. When we were made acquainted with some of the first principles of Indian society, we could read with profit the accounts of the early writers.

But, when we come to ask for dates in their history, we are almost entirely at sea. The traditions, in this respect, are almost worthless. So, all that we shall attempt to do, is to present some of the thoughts of our scholars as to the probable connection of the civilized tribes with each other, and what value is to be given to the few dates at our command. We will begin, first, with the Maya tribes. This includes those tribes that speak the Maya language, and its dialects. It was in their territory that the most striking ruins were found. They include the tribes of Yucatan, Guatemala, Chiapas, and Tobasco. Then there comes a break; but they were also settled on both banks of the River Panuco. Many theories have been advanced as to the origin of the Mayas. As yet, the question is not solved.

Not a few have supposed them to be the same as the Mound Builders of the United States. Dr. Brinton has pointed out that the language of the Natchez Indians contains some words of the Maya.89 A Mexican scholar, Senor Orozco-y-Berra, thinks it probable that the Mayas once occupied the Atlantic sea-board of the United States; that they passed from the peninsula of Florida to Cuba, and thence to the other Caribbean Islands, and so to Yucatan. He states that the traditions of the Mayas uphold this view.90 But others are not ready to admit it. We have found a number of points of resemblance between the Mayas and the Nahuas. Differences we would, of course, expect to find; but still the points of resemblance are sufficiently strong to indicate either that the tribes were once subject to the same influence, from whence they derived their culture, or else that they are descended from the same stock. We have reverted to the worship of Quetzalcohuatl, and shown how the Quiches, under the name of Gucumatz, worshiped a similar deity. We have also referred to the great similarity of the calendar system.

From the limited space at our command, it is not possible to refer to the traditions of the Maya tribes. We will refer to but one manuscript bearing on this question; but this is, probably, the most important one. This manuscript was written by a native with the Spanish letter, but in the Maya language. It was written not far from the time of the conquest of Yucatan by the Spaniards, and the account is, doubtless, as full a one, from the native stand-point, as can be given. The period of time used by the author is Ahau, which we have seen is either twenty, or twenty-four years.

Carefully going over this manuscript, Prof. Valentine arrives at the following conclusions: About the Year 137, A.D., the Mayas started from some place they called Tulla, or Tullapan, on their migration. Where this place was we do not know. The traditions of all the civilized nations refer to this place as a starting-point. It was a "land of abundance." It may be that this was but some fabled place, such as almost all primitive people have traditions of.91 About the year 231, A.D., they arrived on the coast of Central America, and spread themselves over a large part of it. This same manuscript speaks of the "discovery" of Chichen-Itza, 522, A.D. The date of the founding of Uxmal is given as about the year 1000, A.D. From 1000 to 1200, A.D., was the golden era of the Mayas in Yucatan.

The tribes at Uxmal, Mayapan, and Chichen-Itza formed a confederacy of which Mayapan seems to have been the head. About the year 1200, inter-tribal war broke out. It seems to have been caused by the arrival of Nahua tribes, who established themselves in Mayapan. They were finally expelled, but they left the Mayas in such a state of exhaustion that they could not present a united front against the Spaniards. Such are the conclusions of Prof. Valentine. He estimates the length of an Ahau at twenty years, and it does seem that the author of the manuscript used that number of years.92

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