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■'' Three statues presented by Messrs Totten and Center in 18G0 were
about two feet high, of a dark, hard stone, in hiinian form with features and
limbs distorted. Two of them had square tapering pedestals ap])arcntly in-
tended to support the figures upright in the ground. Id., vol. iv., p. 144.

8 Id., vol. IV., pp. 239-40, 274.


of burned clay are more numerous in the huacas than

those of other material. Small vases, jars, and tripods,

some of the latter havino- their three leo-s hollow and

• -I

containing small earthen balls which rattle when the

vessels are moved, with musical instruments, compose
this class of relics. The earthen ware has no indica-
tion of the use of the potter's wheel; is found both
glazed and unglazed; is painted in various colors,
which, however, are not burned in, but are easily
rubbed off when moist; and many of the articles are
wholly uninjured by time. The specimens, or some
part of each, are almost invariably molded to imitate
some natural object, and the fashioning is often grace-
ful and true to nature. Perhaps the most remarkable
of these earthen specimens, and indeed of all the
Chiriqui antiquities, are the musical wind-instruments,
or whistles. 'These are of small dimensions, rarely ex-
ceeding four inches in length or diameter, with gen-
erally two but sometimes three or four finger-holes,
producing from two to six notes of the octave. No
two are exactly alike in form, but most take the shape
of an animal or man, the mouth-hole being in the tail
of the tiger and bird, in the foot of the peccary, in the
elbow of the human figure. Some have several air-
cavities with corresponding holes to produce the differ-
ent notes, but in most, the holes lead to one cavity.
One had a loose ball in its interior, whose motion varied
the sounds. Several are blown like fifes, and nearly all
have a hole apparently intended for suspending the in-
strument by a string.^ Other antiquities are reported
to exist at various points of the Isthmus, which white
men have never seen; instance a rocking stone in the
mountains of Veragua.^"

I close my somewhat scanty information concerning
the antiquities of Chiriqui with the general remarks
which their examination has elicited from different
writers. Whiting and Shuman speak of the sculptured

9 Hist. Mag., vol. iv., pp. 144, 177, 240-1, 274.
It" Secmaiui's Voy. Herald, vol. i., p. 314.


columns of Muerto Island as being similar to those in
Yucatan described by Stephens;^^ but it is hardly proba-
ble that this opinion rests on an actual comparison of
the hieroglyphics. Dr Merritt deems the axe or chisel
heads almost identical in form as well as material with
specimens dug up in Suffolk County, England; some
of the same implements resemble those seen by Mr
Squier in actual use among the natives of other parts
of Central America; while the arrow-heads and musi-
cal instruments are pronounced different in some re-
spects from any others known, either ancient or
modern. The incised characters represented in the
cut on page 17, together with many others, if we may
believe Mr .Seemann, have a striking resemblance to
those of Northumberland, England, as shown by Mr
Tate.^^ In some of the terra cottas, a likeness to
vessels of Koman, Grecian, and Etruscan origin has
been noted; the golden figures, in the opinion of
Messrs Squier and May, being like those found further
south in the country of the ancient Muiscas.-'^

One point bearing on the antiquity of the Chiriqui
relics is the wearing away by the weather of the in-
cised sculptures, which appear to Mr Seemann to
belong to a more ancient, less advanced civilization
than those in low relief^* Another is the disappear-
ance as a rule of human remains, which, however, as
Dr Torrey remarks,^^ cannot in this climate and soil
be regarded as an indication of great age ; and, more-
over, against the theory of a remote origin of these
relics, and in favor of the supposition that all may be
the work of the not distant ancestors of the jDeople
found by the Spaniards in possession of the country,
we have the fact that gold figures similar to those
found in the huacas were made, worn, and traded by

11 CullerCs Darien, p. 38.

12 Pirn and Seemann's Dottings, pp. 25-32; Tate's Ancient British Sculp-
tured Rocks.

13 BidxvelVs Isthmus, p. 37; Hist. Mag., vol. iv., p. 176.

1* 'A much liigher antiquity must be assigned to these hieroglyphics
than to the other monuments of America.' Voy. Herald, vol. i., p. 313.
15 Hint. Mag., vol. v., p. 50.


the natives of the Isthmus at the time of its discovery
and conquest ;^^ that the animals so universally imita-
ted in all objects whether of gold, stone, or clay, are
all native to the country, with no trace of any effort
to copy anything foreign ; and that similar clay is still
employed in the manufacture of rude pottery. ^''^

Costa Kica, adjoining Chiriqui on the west, is the
first or most southern of the states which belong polit-
ically to North America, all the Isthmus provinces
forming a part of Colombia, a state of the south-
ern continent. Stretching from ocean to ocean with
an average width of ninety miles, it extends north-
westward in general terms some two hundred miles
from the Boca del Drago and Golfo Dulce to the Rio
de San Juan and the southern shores of Lake Nicara-
gua in 11^ north latitude. Few as are the aboriginal
monuments reported to exist within these limits, still
few^er are those actually examined by travelers.

Drs Wagner and Scherzer, who traveled extensively
in this region in 1853-4, found in all parts of the state,
but more particularly in the Turialba Valley, which is
in the vicinity of Cartago, traces of old plantations of
bananas, cacao, and palms, indicating a more systematic
tillage of the soil, and consequently a higher general
type of culture among the former than are found
among the modern native Costa Ricans. The only
other antiquities seen by these intelligent explorers
were a few stone hammers thought to resemble imple-
ments which have been brought to light in connection
with the ancient mines about Lake Superior; but the
locality of these implements is not stated. Cabo
Blanco, reported by Molina ^^ as containing the richest
deposit of ancient relics, yielded nothing whatever to
the diligent search of the German travelers; nor did

16 Vol. i., chap. vii. of this work.

" Merritt and Davis, in Hist. Mag., vol. iv., pp. 176, 274.

18 In a work which I have not seen. That author's Coup cfOeil sur la
Bepublique de Costa Rica, and Memoir on the Boundary Question, furnish
no information on the subject.



their failure here leave them sufficient faith to continue
their researches on the island of Chira, where, accord-
ing to the same authority there are to be found ruined
aboriginal towns and tombs. At San Jose they were
told of figures of gold alloyed with copper which had
been melted at the government mint, and they briefly
mention hieroglyj^hics on a few ancient ornaments no-
where described. ^^ Mr Squier describes five vessels
of earthen ware or terra cotta obtained, in localities not
mentioned, from Costa Rican graves. Four of these

Terra Cottas from the Graves of Costa Rica.

are shown in the accompanying cut. Fig. 1, sym-
metrically shaped, is entirely without decoration ; Fig.
2 is a grotesque image supposed to have done duty
originally as a rattle ; Fig. 3 has hollow legs, each con-
taining a small earthen ball, which rattles at each

19 Wagner and Schcrzer, Costa Rica, pp. 465-6, 471, 522-4, 561.


motion of the vase ; and the top of Fig. 4 is artistically
moulded, apparently after the model of a tortoise's
back. An axe of green quartz is also described,
which to Mr Squier seemed to indicate a higher grade
of skill in workmanship than any relic of the kind
seen in Central America. The cutting edge is slightly
curved, showing the instrument to have been used as
an adze; the surface shown in the cut is
highly jDolished, and the whole is pene-
trated by a small hole drilled from side to
side parallel to the face where the notches
appear. This implement seems to present
a rude representation of a human figure
whose arms are folded across its breast.
Other implements similar in material but
larg-er and of ruder execution, are said to
be of not unusual occurrence in the sepul- ^^xe of Green
chres of this state. ^'^ Quartz.

Mr Boyle makes the general statement that gold
ornaments and idols are constantly found, and that
the ancient mines which supplied the precious metal
are often seen by modern prospectors. Dr Merritt
also exhibited specimens of gold, both wrought and
unwrought, from the (ancient?) mines of Costa Rica,
at a meeting of the American Ethnological Society in
February, 1862.'^^ While voyaging on the Colorado,
the southern mouth of the Rio de San Juan, Mr Boyle
was told by a German doctor, his traveling companion,
of a wonderful artificial hill in that vicinity, but of
whose exact locality the doctor's ideas appeared some-
what vague. On this hill, according to his statement,
was to be seen a pavement of slate tiles laid in copper ;
but the interesting specimens which he claimed to have
collected in this neighborhood had been generously
presented by him to museums in various parts of the
world, and therefore he was unable to show any of

20 Squier's Nicaragua, (Ed. 1856,) vol. ii., pp. 338-9, and plate.

21 Boyle's Bide, vol. ii., p. 86; Hist. Mag., vol. vi., p. 119.


them.^^ Father Acuna, an enthusiastic antiquary of
the Rich Coast, Hving at Paraiso near Cartago, reports
an ancient road which be beHeves to have originally-
connected Cartago with the port of Matina, and to
have formed part of a grand aboriginal system of high-
ways from the Nicaraguan frontier to the Isthmus,
with branches to various points along the Atlantic
coast. The road is described as thirty-six feet wide,
paved with rounded blocks of lava, and guarded at the
sides with sloping walls three feet in height. Where
the line of the road crossed deep ravines, bridges were
not employed, but in their stead the ascent and descent
were effected by means of massive steps cut in the
rocky sides. Some relics found near this road were
given to New York gentlemen. The priest also sj^eaks
of tumuli abounding in the products of a past age,
which dot the plains of Terraba, once the centre, as he
believes, of a populous American empire.^^ A channel
which connects the Kio Matina with Moin Bay has been
sometimes considered artificial, but Mr Keictiardt pro-
nounces it probably nothing more than a natural la-
goon.^* In the department
of Guanacaste, near the
gulf of Nicoya, was found
the little frog in grey stone
shown, full-sized, in the cut.
The hole near the fore feet

Frog in Grey Stone. ^^^j^ ^^^^ ^^ indicate that

it was worn suspended on a string as an ornament. ^^

Such is the meagre account I am able to give of
Costa Rican monuments. True, neither this nor any
others of the Central American states have been thor-
oughly explored, nor are they likely to be for many
years, except at the few points where the world's com-
merce shall seek new passages from sea to sea. The

22 Boijlc's Ride, vol. i., pp. 25-6.

25 Meagher, in Harper's Mag., vol. xx., p. 317.

2* Reicliardt, Cent. Amer., pp. 121-2.

25 Squier's NicaragvM, p. 511.


difficulties are such as would yield only to a denser
population of a more energetic race than that now oc-
cupying the land. The only monuments of the abo-
riginal natives likely to be found are those buried in
the ancient graves. The probability of bringing to
light ruined cities or temples south of Honduras is
extremely slight. It is my purpose, however, to con-
fine myself to the most complete account possible of
such remains as have been seen or reported, with very
little speculation on probable discoveries in the future.

Our next move northward carries us to Cape Gra-
cias a Dios on the Atlantic, and to the gulf of Fon-
seca on the Pacific, the inclosed territory of Nicaragua
stretching some two hundred and fifty miles north-
westward to the Wanks River and Kio Negro, widen-
ing in this distance from one hundred and fifty to about
three hundred miles. Dividing this territory by a
line along the central mountain ranges, or water-shed,
into two nearly equal portions, the western or Pacific
slope is the state of Nicaragua proper, while the east-
ern or Atlantic side is known as the Mosquito Coast.
This latter region is almost entirely unexplored except
along the low marshy shore, and the natives of the
interior have always been independent of any foreign

In respect of ancient remains the Mosquito Coast
has proved even more barren of results than Costa
Pica. A pair of remarkable granite vases preserved
in an Ensflish museum are said to have come from this
region, but as no particulars of their discovery are
given, it is of course i30ssible, considering the former
unsettled condition of all Central American boundary
lines, not altogether remedied in later times, that
there may be an error in locality. It is from ten to
twelve inches in diameter and height, as nearly as can
be ascertained from the drawing, and Humboldt re-
marks the' similarity of its ornamentation to that
found on some parts of the ruins of Mitla in Oajaca,


described in a future chapter. One of the vases as
represented in Humboldt's drawing, is shown in the
cut. The second vase is somewhat larger, more nearly

Granite Vase from the I\Iosqnito Coast.

uniform in size at top and bottom, with plain legs,
only diamond-shaped ornaments on the body of the
vessel, and handles which take the form of a head and
tail instead of two heads as in the first specimen.^''

Christopher Columbus in a letter speaks of having
seen on this coast, which he calls Cariay, a sculptured
tomb in the forest as large as a house ; and Mr Helps
imagines the Spanish conquerors sailing up the coast
and beholding amidst the trees white structures "bear-
ing some likeness to truncated pyramids, and, in the
settinof sun, dark fio-ures would be seen ao-ainst the
horizon on the tops of these pyramids ;"^^ but as he
is describing no particular voyage, some allowance
may be made for the play of his imagination. Mr
Boyle is enthusiastic over "the vast remains of a civ-
ilization long since passed away," but far superior to
that of Spain, including rocks cut down to human and

^^ Poivnal, in Archmologia, vol. v., p. 318, pi. xxvi. ; Huinboldt, Vues,
torn, ii., p. 205, pi. xiii. ;(Ed. in folio, pi. xxxix.); Id., in Antiq. Mex., torn,
i., div. ii., pp. 27-8, torn, ii., suppl. pi. vii., fig. xi.

27 Colon, Carta, in Navarrete, Col. dc Viages, torn, i., p. 307; Helpi
Span. Conq., vol. ii., p. 138.


animal shapes, artificial hills encased in masonry,
«is turned from their courses, and hieroglyphic
sculptures on the cliffs,-all in the Mosquito wilds
As a foundation for this, three men who descended the
Rio Mico and Blewfields River from Libertad, Nic-
arao-ua, to the sea, claim to have beMd extraordi-
nary ancient works. These took the form of a cliff
cut away where the river passed through a narrow
canon, leaving a group of stone anima s, ^niong which
was a colossal bear, standing erect on the brink of the
precipice as if to guard the passage. The natives re-
ported also to Mr Pim the existence of grand temples
of the antiguos, with an immense image o the abo-
riginal god Mico (a monkey) on the banks of this
river- but when subjected to cross-questionmg their
wond'erful stories dwindled to certain rude figures
palted on the face of a cliff*, which Mr Pim was un-
able to examine, but which seemed froni the native
description similar to the cliff'-paintmgs at Nijapa Lake
in Nicaragua, to be described on a future page

From a mound of earth fifteen feet m diameter, and
five or six feet high, on an island in Duckwarra La-
goon, south of Cape Gracias a Dios, Mr Squier unearth-
ed a crumbling human skeleton, at whose head wasarude
burial vase containing chalcedony beads, two arrow-
heads of the same material, and the human ^
figure shown full-sized in the cut, fashioned M
fmm a piece of gold plate. Antonio, an m- «
tellio-ent Maya servant, could see no resem- A
blance in this figure to any relics of his race mm
in Yucatan. Two additional vases of coarse
earthen ware were discovered, but contained
no relics On another occasion, during^ a
moonlight visit to the 'Mother of Tigers a
famed native suUa, or sorceress on the Ido-
cav which is a branch of the Wanks, about Golden
fifty miles south-westward from Cape Gracias, image.

28 Boyk^s Bide, vol. i., pp. 296-9; Pim and Seemann^s Dottings, p. 40L


Mr Squier claims to have seen a ruined structure, part
of which is shown in the cut. The
building- was of two stories, but the
upper walls had fallen, covering the
gfround with fraQi-ments. It is described
■ as "built of larg-e stones, laid with the

Home of the Sukia. , , i -j. i ^ ± in

greatest regularity, and sculptured all
over with strange figures, having a close resemblance,
if not an absolute identity" with those drawn by Cath-
erwood. A short distance from the building stood
an erect stone rudely sculptured in human
form, facing east, as in the cut. There
are, however, some reasons for doubting
the accuracy of these Bocay discoveries,
notwithstandins: the author's well-known
skill and reliability as an antiquarian,
since they were published under a nom
de plume, and in a work perhaps intended
by the writer as a fictitious narrative of

\ , r,Q Mosquito

adventures.''^ statue.

Across the dividing sierras, the Pacific slope, or
Nicaragua proper, has yielded plentiful monuments of
her former occupants, chiefly to the researches of two
men, Messrs Squier and Boyle. The former confined
his explorations chiefly to the region between the lakes
and ocean, while the latter has also made known the
existence of remains on the north-east of Lake Nica-
ragua, in the province of Chontales.^"

29 Bard's {E. G. Squier) Waikna, or Adventures on the Mosquito Shore,
pp. 216-17, 254, 258-60. The 'King of the Mosquitos' somewliat severely
criticised the work, in which, by the way, His Royal Highness is not very
reverently spoken of, as 'a pack of lies, especially wlien it was notorious that
the author had never visited the Mosquito Coast.' Pirn and Seernami's Dot-
tings, p. 271. 'Le desert qui s'etend le long de la cote de la mer des Antil-
les, depuis le golfe Dulce jusqu'k I'isthme de Darien, n'a pas offert jusqu'h.
present de vestiges indiquant qiie le peuple auquel on doit les monuments
de Palenque, de Quiragua, de Copan, ait emigre au sud de I'isthme.' Fried-
richsthal, in Nouvcllcs Annates des Voy., 1841, tom. xcii., p. 301.

"^^ Squier'' s Nicaragua; Boyle's Ride Across a Continent. Mr E. G.
Squier resided in Nicaragua as Charge d'Aftaires of the United States
during the year 1849-50. On account of his position he was afforded facil-
ities for research not enjoyed by other foreigners, and which his well-known


Although nothing like a thorough exploration of
the state has ever been made, yet the uniformity of
the remains discovered at different points enables us to
form a clear idea of the character, if not of the full
extent, of her antiquities, which for convenience in
description may be classified as follows: I. Mounds,
sepulchres, excavations, and other comparatively per-
manent works; II. Figures painted or cut on rocks
or cliffs; III. Statues or idols of stone; IV. Stone
weapons, implements, and ornaments; V. Pottery;
VI. Articles of metal. Remarking that nowhere in
Nicaragua have traces of ruined cities been found, nor
even what may be regarded positively as the ruins of
temples or other buildings, I proceed to describe the
first class, or permanent monuments, beginning in the
south-west, following the coast region and lake islands
northward, and then returning to the south-eastern
province of Chontales.

First on the south are the cemeteries of Ometepec
Island, which is by some supposed to have been the
general burial place of all the surrounding country.
These cemeteries, according to Woeniger, are found in
high and dry places, enclosed by a row of rough flat
stones placed a few inches apart and projecting only
slightly above the surface of the ground. Friedrichs-
thal represents the sepulchres as three feet deep and
scattered at irregular intervals over a plain. Boyle

antiquarian tastes and abilities prompted and enabled him to use to the
best advantage during the limited time left from official duties. Besides
the several editions of the work mentioned, Mr Squier's accounts or frag-
ments thereof have been published in periodicals in different languages;
while other authors have made up almost wholly from his writings their
brief descriptions of Nicaraguan antiquities. See Wappdus, Geog. u.
Stat., p. 341; Slvers, Mittelamerika, pp. 128-35; Tiedemann, in Heidel-
berger Yahrb., 1851, pp. 81, 91, 170; Miiller, Aincrikanische Urreligionen,
pp. 463, 484, 498, 544; Andrce, in Westland, torn, ii., pp. 3, 251; Heine,
Wanderbilder, p. 181; Holinski, La Californie, p. 252; Baldioin's Anc.
Anier., p. 124. Frederick Boyle, F. R. G. S., visited the covmtry in 1865-6,
with the examination of antiquities as his main object. Both works are
illustrated with plates and cuts; and both authors brought away interest-
ing specimens which were deposited by the American in the Smithsonian
Institution, and by the Englishman in the British Museum. 'J'avoue
n'avoir rien rencontre d'important dans mes lectures, en ce qui touche les
etats de Costa Rica et de Nicaragua.' Dally, Races Indig., p. 12.


found both fixed cemeteries fenced with a hne of heavy
stones and also separate graves. ^^ Thus no burial
mounds proper seem to exist on the island. The ashes
or unburned bones of the dead are found enclosed in
large earthen vases, together with what may be con-
sidered as the most valued pro23erty of the deceased,
or the most appropriate gifts of friends, in the shape
of weapons, ornaments, vessels, and implements of
stone, clay, and perhaps metal, all of which will be
described in their turn. When the burial urn is found
to contain unburned bones, its mouth is sometimes
closed with the skull ; in other cases one or more in-
verted earthen pans are used for that purpose.

On Zapatero, an island which lies just north of
Ometepec, distributed over a level space covered with
a dense growth of trees, are eight irregular heaps of
loose unhewn stones, showing no signs of system
either in the construction of each individual mound
or in their arrangement with reference to each other, ^^
An attempt to open one of the largest of the number
led to no results beyond the discovery of an inter-
mixture of broken pottery in the mass of stones. They
are surrounded, as we shall see, by statues, and are
believed by Mr Squier to be remains of the teocallis
known to have served the Nicaraguans as temples at
the time of the conquest. ^^ At the foot of Mt Mom-
bacho, a volcano south of Granada, was found a ruined
cairn, or sepulchre, about twenty feet square, not par-
ticularly described, but similar to those which will be
mentioned as occurring in the department of Chon-

31 'Nicht. . . .von abgesonderten Steinen umgeben, sondern fanden sich,
in einer Tiefe von drei Fuss, nnregelmassig iiber die Ebene zerstreiit.'
Friedrichsthal, in Sivcrs, Mittdamerika, p. 128; 'Les lies dii lac, notam-
ment Oinetepe semblent avoir servi de sepultures a la population des villes
environnantes, .... car on y rencontre de vastes n^crojwles on villes des
morts, ressemblant par leur caractere a celles des anciens Mexicains.' Id.
in Nouvclles Annales des Voy., 1841, torn, xcii., p. 297; in Load. Geog.
Soc, Jour, vol. xi., p. 100; Woeniger, in Squier's Nicaragua, pp. 509-10;
Boyle's Bide, vol. ii., p. 86.

32 Plan showing their relative position, in Squier's Nicaragua, p. 477.

33 ' On y trouve (sur les ties du lac) encore un grand nombre de ddbris
de constructions antiques.' Brasseur de Bourbourg, in Nouvclles Annales
des Voij., 1855, toin. cxlvii., p. 135.


tales; others were said by the inhabitants to have
been found in the same vicinity.^ In a steep-banked

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