Page:Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx.djvu/54

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longer understood, except perhaps by a few archæologists, who were sworn to secrecy. The names of the builders, their history, that of the phenomena of nature they had witnessed, the tenets of the religion they had professed — all contained, as we have said, in the inscriptions that covered these antique walls — were as much a mystery to the people, as to the multitudes which have since contemplated them with amazement, during centuries, to the present day.

Bishop Landa, speaking of the edifices at Izamal, asserts [1] that the ancient buildings of the Mayas, at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards in Yucatan, were already heaps of ruins — objects of awe and veneration to the aborigines who lived in their neighborhood. They had lost, he says, the memory of those who built them, and of the object for which they had been erected. Yet before their eyes were their façades, covered with sculptures, inscriptions, figures of human beings and of animals, in the round and in bas-relief, in a better state of preservation than they are now, not having then suffered so much injury at the hand of man, for the natives regarded them, as their descendants do still, with reverential fear. There were recorded the legends of the past — a dead letter for them as for the learned men of the present age. There, also, on the interior walls of many apartments, were painted in bright colors pictures that would grace the parlors of our mansions, representing the events in the history of certain personages who had flourished at the dawn of the life of their nation; scenes that had been enacted in former ages were portrayed in very beautiful bas-reliefs. But these speaking tableaux were, for the majority of the people, as

  1. Landa, Relacion de las Cosas (p. 328): "Que estos edificios de Izamal eran xi á xii por todos, sin aver memoria de los fundadores."