The Red Cloud chief. (Red Cloud, Webster Co., Neb.) 1873-1923, July 20, 1911, Image 4

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tCitjt or THE 1TZAS
ONO fcefore the discover of America
there flourished In southern Mexico,
Guatemala, and parts of Honduras a
great civilization, which has been call
I'd the Maya. It may be said at the
outnet without exaggeration that this
civilization had reuched a height
'quailed by no other people of the
western hemisphere prior to the com
ing of the white man In architecture
In rculpture, and In printing the
Mayas excelled. Their priests were
astronomers of no mean ability, hav
ing observed nnd recorded without the aid of In
struments of precision such as aro known to us
the lengths of the Solar and Venus cars, and
probably the lengths of the Mercury and Man
rears. In addition to this they had developed
l calendar K)Htem and perfected a chronology
hlch in HOtnn of Its characteristics was supe
rior to our own.
The the ancient glory of this people bad long
line departed when Hernando Cortex first
tame In contact with thern on the coast of Yu
tatan In 1619 Their star bad set. Their great
Mt cities had been abandoned and lay In ruins,
ind their country was prostrated by the quar
rels of a score or more of petty Independent
ibleftnlns, each of whom was waging war on
the other. Kven the memory of the older clt
Im, of their culture, such as Palenque, Copan
sad Qulnlqua, for example, seems to have pass
ed from the mind of men, their former existence
forgotten. Famine, pestilence and Internecine
strife are al Hald to have been contributory
mums to the decay and eclipse which overtook
this brilliant aboriginal civilization several
MBturlcs before the Bpati-
Ub first set foot In the new
Probably the largest, am)
certainly the most mngnlfi
sent, of the ruined cltlef
which the Spanish conquer
ors found on their arrival In
Yucatar was Cblchen Itza,
around which even In It
isolation there still clus
fir a thousand traditions of
former sanctity and splun
lor. The name Chlcheu Itza
la Maya, and means Chi
mouth, Chen-wells and Itza.
tbe name of the Maya tribe,
who lived In the neighbor
hood of the place. "The
Mouth of the Wells of the
lUas" therefore Is the
neanlng of the name; nor
sould a more appropriate
rae have been applied to
the place by aay people.
The whole peninsula of
Yucatan la a vast limestone formation with lit
tle or bo surface water. One may travel for
Bile and miles and never cross rlvor or brook,
r even chance upon a modest spring. Indeed,
tbe northern part, where most of the great
ruined cities are located, water Is fully 70 feet
below the surface of the ground. Tbe modern
Inhabitants overcome this difficulty by means
t wells and windmills, which afford the only
source of water supply during tbe dry sea
son ( December to June) excepting what little
rain water may have been caught during the
rainy months nnd stored in rlHterns.
Dut of weHa and windmills the ancient May
M knew nothing, and, generally speaking, bad
It not been for the great natural reservoirs
which nature bod scattered here and there
ever the country Yucatan never could have
been colonized.
These great natural woIIh, or, as the Mayas
call them, conotes, are round nil over Yucatan.
They are usually about 150 feet In diameter, or
sometimes more, and about 70 feet In depth to
tbe level of the water. Geologists say that
these cenotes are places where the limestone
erust, which everywhere covith the surface
of Yucatan, has become weakened by the
washing of subtcrruncan wators and lias col
lapsed of Its own weight, forming great sink
holes or natural wolls on a lurge scale. And
now It Is clear why tho ancient Inhabitants
of Cblchen Itza so named their city. In the
course of their wanderings, the general trend
of which was northward, tho Itzas, entering
Yucatan from the south, finally reached tho
two cenotes, around which Chlchen Itza later
was built, but which then was probably noth
ing but wilderness. Hero the striking contrast
afforded by such an abundanco of water In a
country do generally parched could not fall to
have attracted their attention. The place must
have seemed to tho thirsty wanderers a God
given site for the location of their now home.
lly right of discovery they clnlmed the place,
and to the city which grew up around tho cen
otes they gave the name of Chlcheu Itza, "Tbe
Mouth of tho Wells of tho Itzns."
Tho two ccnotoa at Chlchen Itza have been
known by the Mayas from time Immemorial
as tho Cenoto Grande and the Cenote Sacra,
or tho largo Cenoto and tho Sacren Conotu, re
spectively. Tho first of theso only In former
times was used for tho water supply of the
city, the Sacred Cenoto being reserved for re
ligious use exclusively. It Is the latter, how
ever, and the religious observances held In
connection with It, which gave tho city Its
holy character. From far and near all over
Yucatan, and probably even from polntB more
distant, pilgrimages were mado to tho Sacred
Cenote. It seems to have been the most holy
brine of the Maya people, comparable only
In Importance to tho Mohammedan Mecca and
the Christian Jerusalem. In time of drought
offerings of all kinds were thrown Into It
treasures, and In cases of extremity even liv
ing human sacrifices.
Cblchen Itza today Is somewhat changed In
appearance from the time whon pilgrims came
from far and near to appease with human sac
rifice the wrath of offended deities. Now the
city lies burled In a thick Junglo, which has
steadily won Its way Into the very heart of
the holy place. Colonnades have been over
thrown and pyramids covered with trees to
tbelr summit; courts have been lost In a
tangle of thorn and creepers; and palaces
tripped of their sculptured embellishment.
Desolation baa spread everywhere In the
wake of tbe encroaching vegetation.
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To visit the ancient city now, one Jolts for
16 long and weary miles In a two-wheeled cov
ered cart drawn by three mules over the rough
est kind of a highway Imaginable. This pres
ent Inconvenience fortunately Is not to be one
of long standing. A new and atralgbt road la
about to be built and an automobile service to
tbe ruins probably established, which will
shorten the present length of the trip from
four hours to about half an hour. Now, bow
ever, this ride from Cltas, tbe nearest railroad
point, seems Interminable. Tbe road, so
called by courtesy only, winds through tbe Im
penetrable bush, which everywhero in the nat
ural state covem northern Yucatan. Through
this the creaking cart finds a dubious way mile
after mile until every muscle In one's body
groans an agonized protest. Finally, when It
seems that tho limit of physical endurance has
been reached, the cart suddenly lurches around
a sharp turn In the road and as If by magic
the lofty Castillo flashes Into view, towering
high above the plain nnd tbe rest of tbe city
In Its lonely magnificence.
This Imposing structure, the highest In Yu
catan, rises 78 feet abovo the plain. The
pyramid on which tho templo stands Is 195
feet long on fach sldo nt tho base and covers
ubout an aero of ground.
The Castillo would seem to have been the
center of tho ancient city, and probably Its
chief sanctuary. To tho north lies the Sacred
Cenoto und the cuuueway, Just mentioned,
loading to It. On tho cast Is a vast group of
buildings, colounadcti, courts nnd pyramids.
"The City of n Thousand Columns," as somo
one has plcturcxqucly described It. Duo west
Is tho group of structures known as the Hall
Court. To, tho south for half a mile or more,
scattered through tho Jungle, are pyramids,
courts, temples and palaces. The central lo
cation of tho Castillo with reference to all of
thoso, as well us Its great size and command
ing height, argue strongly that It was the
chief sauctuary of the Holy City.
Another Interesting group of structures at
Chlchen Uza, porhups slightly less sacred In
character than tho Cautlllo, Is the so-called
"Hall Court," mentioned above as lying Just
wost of tho Castillo. This group is composed
of two purullol masses of solid masonry, each
272 feet long, 27 foot high and 1C feet wide,
pluccd 119 foot apart from each other. Those
two groat walls, for Buch thoy really aro, form
a court nearly 300 feet long by 119 foot wide.
High on the side of each at tho middle point
from end to end there Is attached u stone
ring four feet in diameter with a hole through
It These rings are fastened to their respec
tive walls by tenons of stone, and aro so
placed that the surface of each Is perpendicu
lar to the vertical race of tbe wall. The ar
rangement Is very similar to the baskets in
our modern game of basket ball, except that
at Chlchen Itza the "baskets" have their open
ings perpendicular to the ground, while In our
game the openings In tbe baskets are parallel
with the ground. To make a basket at the
Chlchen Itza court a somewhat horizontal
throw, as In baseball, was necessary, while
nowadays It Is a toss that wins the goal.
At the open ends of the court formed by
these two walls stand temples, which In effect
Inclose tho area, definitely marking Its boun
daries. On top of tbe east wall, at Its south
ern end, there Is a beautiful temple, which
affords a commanding view of the entire court.
This has been called "The House of the
Tigers," because of a frlese of stalking tigers,
which is soulptured la alto-relievo around tbe
MJiOfiAMA or r4ujm arcHJCM&t jtza
outside of tbe building. Tills temple contains
also on the walls of an Interior room, an elab
orate mural painting representing an attack
by some enemy upon a city, perhaps Chlchen
Itza Itself, and Its defense by tbe Inhabitants.
Some of tbe poses taken by the combatants In
tbe conflict are extremely realistic; such as In
the throwing of Javelins, tbe swinging of war
clubs, and tbe like. This bit of mural decora
tion In The House of The Tigers at Chlchen
Itza probably marks the high-water mark of
aboriginal painting In the Western Hemi
sphere; at least It Is superior to everything
else that has survived.
The Identification of these two great walls
and tbe temples associated with them, aa a
ball court, reBts on firm historic foundation.
When the Spanish first came to Mexico they
found the natives playing a game of ball, which
was of sufficient Importance to have a spe
cial court or ground set apart for its exclu
sive uso. Several of tbe early Spanish writers
havo described tbe game 'In 'some detail, and
all agree as to Its having played an important
part in tbe life of the people. One chronicler
has It that the object of the game was to
strike tbe ball so that It would pass through
the opening In the stone ring above mentioned
as an Important feature of tbe Cblchen Itza
court. Ho adds that tho feat was one of con
siderable doxterlty, since the ball could not
bo hit with the bands, but that tho hips or
other parts of the body had to be used Instead.
This rulo of the gome very materially In
creased tho difficulty In making a "Maya baa-,
ket;" so much so, in fact, we aro told, that
the lucky player making this winning stroke
had forfeit to him ns a reward for bis skill all
the clothing and ornaments of tbe spectators.
At Buch times, the chronicler concludes, tbe
spectators wero wont to scatter In all direc
tions without loss of time, hoping thus to es
capo pnylng tho penalty, but that tbe friends
of the lucky player Immediately gave chase
and endeavored to exact the full forfeit.
Although the uame Ball Court has been giv
en to this group of temples-at Chlchen Itza,
It should not bo supposed on that account,
that this great court was built primarily for
sport. Such an explanation of Its fundamental
purpose Is Incompatible with any conception
which tho American aborigine ever seems to
havo entertained. To the Itza people the chief
function of their Ball Court was doubtless a
religious one. Games played there, If not
actually held In connection with religious fes
tivals, were at least sufficiently religious in
tbelr meaning as to completely overshadow
tbe element of sport as we understand the
term. That a game was played In which com
petition and skill entered In cannot be doubt
ed In the face of contemporaneous evidence,
and to this extent perhaps tne Mexican Ball
Courts wero athletic fields; but It must not be
forgotten for a moment that Its true signifi
cance was religious, and that the games which
were played there probably were held only In
connection with religious festivals. It Is not
Improbable, however, that the Astecs were
brooking away from the religious feature of
sport at the time of the Spanish Conquest, but
that "The Holy Men of tbe Itzas," as tbe peo
ple of Chlchen Itsa are sometimes called In
the early manuscripts, had taken any such
radical stop Is little short of Inconceivable, so
religious In character was the whole Maya
To tbe east of the Castillo lie a great group
of courts, pyramids and colonnades, "The City
of a Thousand Columns," already mentioned.
Here deRolation is wide
spret ' It seems as
thouK' n earthquake
must i shaken the
Itza cupltal at some
Row after row of col
umns have been over
turned and now He pros
trate within a foot of
their original positions.
Perhaps a capital or
a drum here and there
Is broken, but for the
most part the stones He Just where they felL
In Its entirety this section of the city must
have presented an Imposing appearance, being
literally a. forest of columns surrounding and
connecting the various courts. As to the use
of these great colonnades, tradition and his
tory are equally silent. Some think that they
were the law courts of the ancient city, where
Justice was administered and punishment
meted out. Others say that they were tbe
market places, where the produce of tbe sur
rounding country was bought and sold. This
latter explanation has one strong recommends
tlon In its favor In that the descendants oT
tbe builders of the ancient city of Yucatan,
the present Maya Indians, still hold tbelr mar
kets under the portals surrounding the plazas
In the towns and villages throughout the coun
try today.
South of the Cenote Grande there are a num
ber of well-preserved structures, most of them
presenting beautifully sculptured facades. To
these fanciful names have been given, which
probably have little or nothing to do with
tbe original uses of the buildings. One large
structure, for example, has been called "Tbe
Akabtzlb." Tbe name Is Maya and means
"The House of the Dark Writing." This build
ing was so called, because of the fact that
over one of Its Interior doorways there Is a
lintel Inscribed with hieroglyphs. This lintel
Is bo placed that the hieroglyphics can only
be seen by artificial light, hence the name,
"The House of the Dark Writing." Nearby Is
a round tower, with but one exception the
only structure of Its kind In the Maya area.
This Is called "The Caraco." Caracol Is the
Spanish word for snail, and since the Interior
circular corridor and spiral stairway of this
structure bear some remote resemblance to the
convolutions of a snail shell, the name was
applied to the building. Tbe Manjos (Spanish
for monastery) Is perhaps the most beautiful
building at Chichon Itza. It Is composite,
showing three different periods of construction.
The above are only a few of the many struc
tures at Chichon Itza. But In all directions for
several miles the brush Is strewn with ruins.
Crumbling walls and Jungle-ridden courts are
to be encountered on every side; disintegration
so far advanced that these once splendid pal
aces and temples are now but little more than
shapeless mounds of fallen masonry. Tbe total
area covered by ruins which may be assigned
to this center of primitive population has been
estimated by some as high as ten square miles.
That larger Maya cities yet remain to be dis
covered now seem highly Improbable so thor
oughly has tho general exploration of the area
been done. Consequently we may affirm with
but little hesitation that "The Holy City of the
Itzas" was the largest and most Important of
tbe Maya civilization and probably of abor
fglnal America as well.
Chlcaooans Protest Against Raz
ing of Historic Landmark.
Great Pile of Masonry Which Bun
vlved the Disastrous Fire of 1871
Very Rich In Romance snd
Chicago. Shall the oldest landmark
of tho north side, a spot rich In tradi
tion and romance, tho only remaining
monument of the time of Chicago's
victory In hor' greatest struggle for
life, bo profaned by a city's commer
cialism and destroyed In tbe name of
Shall the silent sentinel of stone,
the Ivy-mantled tower where sweet
hearts wore wont to meet, where chil
dren played and heard wondrous sto
ries of other days, bo reduced to
shapeless masB of stone and scattered
all ovor the city?
Is It not possible to preservo th
plcturesquo gray tower of tho old Chi
cago avenue pumping Htatlon to po
terlty to serve as a memorial of ths
great fire of 1871?
Thcs; are a few of the question!
rnlsed by scores of Chlcagoans whe
bad read of the plan to tear down thi
tower of the Chicago avenue pumplns.
station In the interest of municipal
economy. This ancient landmark
stands at the root or "Millionaire row."
North of tho famous old structure are
the homes of the rich. Since 1867 the
tower has Btood ns a constant re
minder of tho permanence of the work
of the city's founders.
Members of the Chicago Historical
society Joined in tho storm of protest
against tearing down the tower. They
were unanimous in tbe sentiment that
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Lives there the man who has not sighed for
leisure? And lives there the man who In his
more sober moments, has not been honestly
glsd that be must work? Human nature, which
sweetens under toll, sours in leisure. And It Is
by no means sure that the fall from Innocence
which first brought work Into the world "and
all our woe" was not bringing salvation dis
guised as labor. Faithfulness will dignify and
beautify even drudgery; no matter what ths
work Is, provided It Is honest, If It Is done well
It commands our Instinctive respect Besides,
It we did not all bare to work so hard to keei
lire the Jails would have standing room only
Chicago Water Tower.
this landmark should be preserved
and made one of the show places of
When Chicago began to burn, ths
evening of October 8, 1871, terror
stricken citizens fled north to the
tower In tbe belief that the flro would
be confined to a narrow district. The
following day tho fire reached tbe
tower and roared about Its base, de
stroying the machine shop and adja
cent buildings. Tho pumping engines
wero stopped and the walls of the en
gine house began to crumble The
roof and floors of the other buildings
gave way, but the tower stood firm
while tho flames raced northward.
Tbe great pile of masonry was pre
served when repairs were made, and
since that day has been rich In tradi
tion and romance,
Many stories of the tower deal with
the romances of some of the richest
sous and daughters of Millionaires'
row. An eloping couple Is said to
have been married at tbe top of the
tower. In the days of old thousands
of young men and maidens wandered
up the stairway to tbe summit to
pligbt their troth.
The doors of the tower were locked
long ago. Tbe only maglo key that
will unlock the door Is In the keeping
of the city authorities.
Tbe cltv authorities hold now that
disintegration has begun and that the
tower must go. This theory Is denied
by members of tbe Chicago Historical
society, who declare that the tower
k..H 4...l 4AAAA M
m uuiit iu Biiuiu ju,uuu years ana
i mat there is no danger of Its crum
I bltng for generations. Hundreds of
I visitors gaze In awe at the old tower
I every day.
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