Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/104

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Nachan, or Town of Serpents, was the capital or chief.

This great city was already in ruins, buried in the thick wilderness, its site and very existence forgotten before the arrival of the Conquistadores. Cortes must have marched close to it once when he was on his way to Honduras, but he probably had no notion of its existence. The ruins were discovered by chance in the middle of the eighteenth century, by a curate of the little town Palenque in the neighborhood.

In 1764, the Spanish government sent explorers to visit these ruins, and since then they have been carefully studied. The importance and extent of the buildings seem to show that the ancient city was once the capital and centre of the ancient state of Mayapan. Traces of streets extend for a length of six leagues or more, following the course of mountain streams, which doubtless furnished the inhabitants with water.

The most important building at Palenque is the Palace. It rests on a truncated pyramid about fifty feet high, of which the base measures three hundred and ten feet by two hundred and sixty. Subterranean galleries penetrated the interior of the pyramid. It is made of earth, with external faces of large slabs; steps lead up to the top, on which is the chief building, a quadrilateral of two hundred and twenty-eight feet by one hundred and eighty; the walls are from two to three feet thick, ornamented with a frieze between two double cornices, covered with painted stucco, either red, blue, black, or white. There are fourteen entrances in the eastern front, which is the