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Thomas William Francis Gann.

The Maya Indians of southern Yucatan and northern British Honduras online

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of the incense burner. Fragments of the bottoms of round pots were
found scattered about on the ground level, many of them having bits
of this charred incense still adhering to them.

The mound appears to have been constructed in the following
manner: First, a number of pieces of burning incense and round jars
containing the same substance were strewn thickly over an area ap-
proximately 40 yards in circumference; next a foundation or plat-
form 2\ feet in height was formed by placing together a number of
large rough blocks of limestone, among which were scattered the
fragments of about 20 incense burners, decorated outside with human
figures in high relief. Over this was plastered a layer of mortar 18
inches to 2 feet hi thickness in which was embedded the alligator
seen in figure 18. Fires were lighted on top of this mortar till its
upper layers were discolored, and into the fire while still burning
were thrown fragments of two clay images, two small oval vases, and
a number of beads. Over the ashes and charcoal left by the fires
earth and blocks of limestone were heaped to a height of 18 inches,
and in this layer was buried the stone turtle already referred to;
finally on top of the earth layer was placed a conch-shell trumpet.

Mound No. 3

Mound No. 3 (No. 26 on the plan, fig. 14) was situated immediately
between Mounds Nos. 6 and 11. It was roughly circular in shape, 120
feet in circumference and 3 feet in height. On being dug away to
the ground level it was found to be composed of earth and small
blocks of limestone, among which were numerous potsherds and frag-
ments of terra-cotta images, though the latter were so small that it
was impossible to tell how many images they represented. The pot-
sherds varied very much, some being rough and undecorated, others
polished and well painted in geometrical devices. Fragments of
flint spearheads and obsidian knives were also found in this mound.

70806°— 18— Bull. 64 5



66 BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY [BULL. 64

On reaching the ground level the opening of a narrow passage 18
inches square was discovered which led obliquely downward toward
the east for a distance of 8 feet; it was lined with roughly squared
flags of limestone and terminated in a small stone-lined chamber
2 feet square. On the floor, half buried in fine dry earth, lay a small
urn, roughly made of coarse pottery, neither painted nor glazed. It
was circular in form, 38 h inches in circumference, with a semicircular
handle at each side, and was covered by a mushroom-shaped lid; with
the lid in situ the whole formed a somewhat irregular sphere. In the
urn and almost completely filling it were 20 small pottery figurines,
comprising 3 warriors, 1 seated human figure, 4 alligators, 4 dragons,
6 quashes or picotes, and 2 serpent-like creatures.

The warrior figures resemble very closely those found in Mound No.
24 (see pi. 8), the only difference being that while two of them hold
shields on their left forearms, and grasp spears in their right hands
(as in pi. 8), the third warrior from this mound grasps a long dagger,
instead of a spear, in his right hand. The seated figure is very
similar to those from Mound No. 24 (see fig. 15), the only difference
being that the glans penis is grasped in the left hand while the right
hand wields the knife. The alligators are closely similar to those
already described, except that they are solid throughout instead of
being hollow. They are painted red, white, and black, and vary in
length from 5£ to 6i inches. The tigers are similar to those found in
Mound No. 24, but are rougher, and not so carefully modeled; all are
hollow and are painted red throughout. The four dragon-like
creatures vary from 6 to 7 inches in length; the body, which is round
and slender, ends in a flattened bifid tail; the mouth, which is held
wide open, is furnished with a set of formidable teeth. Upon the
upper lip is a horn-like excrescence, and over the thorax are one
dorsal and two lateral fins. Each animal is painted white over the
whole surface; the inside of the mouth is painted red over the white
layer. The six quashes are exactly similar to those found in Mound
No. 24, as are also the two serpents.

Mounds containing animal and human effigies appear to be singu-
larly limited in their distribution. At Santa Rita seven have been
explored in all, each containing 1 to 49 effigies, some very crudely
and roughly made from sun-dried clay, others nicely modeled and
painted in various colors. Probably several more of these mounds
had been removed by the former owners of the estate to obtain stone
for building and road-making purposes, as figurines similar to those
taken from the excavated mounds were found in the possessioii of
coolie laborers working on the estate, which they said they had
found from time to time when digging for stone. The effigies com-
prise figures of men, alligators, turtles, quashes, lizards, birds, sharks,



gann] MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS 67

and gnakes, together with two-headed dragons and other mythologic
animals. Similar mounds containing animal effigies have been found
at Douglas, about 18 miles southwest of Santa Rita; at Bacalar,
25 miles northwest; at Corozal, less than a mile south; and near
San Antonio, about 9 miles north of it. In each of these localities
only a single effigy was found, the workmanship of which resembled
so closely that of the Santa Rita specimens that it would be difficult
to decide from which locality they had come.

So far as it has been possible to ascertain, no similar human and
animal effigies have been previously discovered in this section of the
Maya area. The significance of these figurines appears to be some-
what obscure. They are not invariably found associated with hu-
man remains, though this may be owing to the fact that the bones
have completely perished through decay, or because cremation has
been practiced. They show no signs of use or wear and were evi-
dently made only to be buried. The hollow specimens frequently
contain one or more beads of red shell, greenstone, or clay in their
interiors, while in most cases they have been found associated with
fragments of pottery incense burners, which in this region seem to
have been very commonly mortuary in use. On the whole it seems
probable that these figurines were merely votive offerings to the
gods, buried with the dead. Some of them may indicate the occu-
pation of the individual with whom they were buried. A priest and
warrior from the same mound have been described, whose occupant
may have combined the double office, while a small statuette of an
old man, with a macapal slung over his shoulders, by a strap passing
across the forehead (typical of an Indian laborer of the present day),
was found by a coolie digging out stone from a mound at Santa Rita
many years ago.

Mound No. 4

Mound No. 4 (No. 7 on the plan of the Santa Rita mounds) * has
recently been excavated, together with nearly the whole of the earth-
work on its south side. The mound was circular at the base, conical
in shape, 57 feet in height, 471 feet in circumference, and was built
of blocks of limestone held together by mortar. On the south side
of the mound and continuous with it was a circular earthwork 100
yards in diameter. The walls inclosing the circular space varied
from 10 to 25 feet in height. They were higher toward the north,
where they were continuous with the large mound, and lower toward
the south, where an opening 30 feet wide gave access to the
inclosure. The summit of the mound was truncated, circular, and
about 20 feet in diameter. It was covered by a layer of alluvial

1 Figured in pi. xxxvm of the Nineteenth Rep. Bur. Amer. Ethn., as the Great Central Lookout
Mound.



68 BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY [bull. 64

earth 4 inches in thickness, on removing which the following objects
were brought to light, lying on the layer immediately subjacent,
near the center of the mound: (a) A leaf-shaped spearhead of very
light yellow flint, 5 inches in length; (b) a leaf-shaped spearhead of
reddish flint, 5^ inches in length; (c) an eccentrically-shaped
flint object (fig. 19, a), 4\ inches in breadth by 2 J inches in
depth, of light grayish flint, very neatly and carefully chipped;
(d) a large, well-made flint arrowhead, deeply grooved on each side
of the base, 2£ inches in length, and of light grayish color (fig.
19, b); (e) the broken end of a roughly chipped flint hook or crescent
(fig. 19, c). With these flint objects were found a small red-stone
bead and a quantity of pieces of broken images, as arms, legs, faces,
hands, breastplates, etc., in rough pottery. Below the alluvial layer
the mound was composed of large blocks of limestone, held together
by mortar, giving it the consistency of masonry and rendering
digging in it very difficult. At a depth of 6 feet a small oblong
chamber was opened, built of rough blocks of limestone, about 8




a be

Fig. 19. — Objects from Mound No. 4.

feet by 3 feet, within which were found fragments of human bones,
the head pointing to the north. At both head and feet a few very
ro uglily chipped spearheads were found. At a depth of 10 feet
another small chamber, 4 feet in length by 2 feet in height and 2
feet in breadth, was opened, also composed of rough blocks of lime-
stone. Within this were four basin-shaped vessels; two, somewhat
larger than their fellows, were superimposed upon them (fig. 20).
These basins were made of rough pottery, colored yellow, with a
broad red stripe round the rim. Each was pierced by a pair of
small round holes, 1 inch apart, repeated at equal intervals four times
round the circumference, about one-half inch from the margin. The
perforations in the upper vase corresponded exactly to those in the
lower when they were discovered, suggesting that they had been con-
nected by cords of henequen fiber, ti-li, or some perishable material
which had disintegrated. It was considered certain that these vessels
would contain a number of the small pottery figures which similar
vessels from neighboring mounds had yielded. On removing the
cover from the first one, however, it was found to contain nothing



Gann] MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS 69

but a small quantity of impalpable dust. The second contained
about an equal quantity of similar dust, together with a small rough
opal. The excavation of this mound was continued to a depth of
about IS feet, but nothing further was discovered.

The circular space inclosed within the earthwork was surfaced by
a layer varying from 2 feet to 3 feet in thickness, resting on the bed-
rock, and composed of rubble and powdered marl beaten into a
compact mass, covered by two layers of cement, one beneath the
other, which formed a smooth level floor over the whole inclosure.
A great part of the earthwork and the rubble from the floor of the
inclosed space have been removed to repair the Corozal streets.
Nothing, however, was found within them with the exception of a
few broken flint axheads and spearheads, some hammerstones (which
are found practically everywhere), fragments of obsidian knives,
and quantities of potsherds. Plate 10 shows a section through the
earthwork in process of removal at its western extremity.

The wall is 21 feet 8 inches in height at this point, though only
about 17 or 18 feet are shown in the
photograph, as the ground was filled up
behind the men excavating by a heap
of -limestone dust 3 or 4 feet high, left
after the stones had been removed. The
wall is composed here from the ground
up of — (1) a layer of small rubble, 18
inches in thickness, the stones compos-
ing which had apparently been picked FlG - ^-Po^ry^is from Mound
off the land; (2) a layer of cement, 6 to 8

inches in thickness (the upper surface of this layer is continuous with
the upper surface of the cement covering the inclosed space, and the
two together evidently formed originally one continuous flat, smooth
pavement) ; (3) a layer of large rough blocks of limestone, 8 feet in
thickness, built in together with some care, but without the interven-
tion of mortar (these blocks had evidently been quarried out especially
for this purpose, as they were quite fresh and showed no signs of weath-
ering) ; (4) a cement layer 3 feet in thickness, composed of alternate
thin layers of bluish gray cement and thick layers of yellowish
cement, which can be faintly seen in the photograph. At the point
B, plate 10, were found a quantity of ashes and small pieces of charred
wood; the large stones in the neighborhood were also blackened by
the action of fire, and ashes were mixed with the lower part of the
cement layer, which would seemingly indicate that a large fire,
lasting a considerable period, had been kept up at this point on top
of layer c before the cement capping was added. The top layer, 8 feet
high, is composed of loose, friable mortar with rough blocks of lime-
stone set in it irregularly and finished with a conical cap. In the




70 BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY [boll. 64

upper center of plate 10, b, may be distinguished a trench, 3 feet
in width, which runs through the whole thickness of this layer.
Its walls are composed of rough limestone blocks mortared together.
The trench was completely filled in with small loose rubble similar to
that found in layer a.

The high, steep, solidly constructed mounds, the bases of many of
which are connected with more or less circular earthworks, were
probably lookouts or observation mounds. Most of these mounds
terminate in a narrow flattened summit too small to have supported
even the smallest temple, while many of them form the centers or
nuclei of other groups of mounds. Few contain anything besides
the stone, mortar, and earth of which they are constructed, though
some of them contain superficial interments. That at Santa Rita is
exceptional in that it includes stone-faced cysts. These mounds
extend in a more or less regular chain along the coast of Quintana
Roo and British Honduras, reaching from the top of Chetumal Bay
nearly as far south as Northern River, and extending inland in a
southwesterly direction along the courses of the Rio Hondo and Rio
Nuevo, though many are situated at a considerable distance from
either sea or rivers.

Mound No. 5

Mound No. 5 (No. 27 on the plan, fig. 14), situated about 200 yards to
the southeast of the fortification, was 3 feet in height, 30 feet in diam-
eter, and nearly circular. It was built of blocks of limestone, rubble,
limestone dust, and earth. Many of these blocks had evidently been
taken from some building, as they were well squared. About the center
of the mound, at the ground level, a small cyst was discovered, 3
feet long, 2 feet broad, and 1 foot high, built throughout of rough
flags of limestone. Within it were two vases; one, shown in figure
21, a, is of rough unpainted pottery, 4 J inches high, with a small
earlike projection on each" side, each of which is ornamented with
an ear plug. Vases with these earlike projections and ear plugs are
not uncommon in this area, and are probably highly conventionalized
incense burners. The figure of the god outside (which, as will be shown
later on, was represented after a time by the face only) has here had
every feature and ornament of the face eliminated with the exception
of the ears and ear plugs, which would always be unmistakable.

The other, seen in plate 11, is an egg-shaped vase standing on
three short legs. It is decorated outside with a human face and was
originally painted white throughout and ornamented with black lines.
It has a small opening at the top covered by a triangular stopper.
Within this vase were found two small polished beads, one of green-
stone, the other of red shell. Throughout the mound were found
numerous fragments of incense burners, with the small head of a



BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY




ULLETIN 64 PLATE 10



a. SECTION THROUGH EARTHWORK INCLOSING CIRCULAR SPACE.
SANTA RITA








b. SECTION OF WALL THROUGH SANTA RITA



gann]



MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS



71



tiger, 2 birds, 5 small beads, 2 malachates, 4 net sinkers, and the
ceremonial bar shown in figure 21, c; all in rough pottery. About
5 feet from the northern edge of the mound were found human bones,
representing a single interment, seemingly of a male of middle age.
The skull and long bones, which were Yery brittle, though -they
hardened on being exposed to the air for a day, were gotten out only
in fragments. The molar and premolar teeth are heavily coated
with tartar but are not greatly worn down at the crown ; the incisors,
on the other hand, are very much worn and in life must have
been nearly level with the gum. Marked attrition of the incisors
seems to be present in nearly all the teeth Of individuals past
middle life found in sepulchral mounds throughout this area, which




d v 9

Fig. 21. — Objects found in Mound No. 5.

is rather remarkable, as the staple diet of the ancient inhabitants
must have been nearly identical with that of the Indians of the
present day; that is, maize ground to a fine paste on a stone metate,
which of necessity contains a good deal of grit from the metate, so
much so that the modern Maya say that an old man eats two rub-
bing stones and six rubbers during his life. This gritty nistamal
wears down the back teeth of the modern Maya almost to the gum,
but does not materially affect the front teeth; yet it is the latter,
not the former, which we find affected in maxillae from the mounds.
One of the molar teeth from this burial has had a triangular piece
removed from its crown (fig 21,/). Along one edge of the gap left
the tooth is carious.



72 BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY f bull. CI

Mingled with the human bones were found: (a) A flat, oblong ob-
ject, made of finely polished bone, 1 inch broad and one-tenth inch
thick. Its original length could not be determined, as the upper
part had been broken away, (b) Three beads, one of polished green-
stone, two of polished red shell; one of the latter was lj inches long,
with two incomplete perforations passing through it longitudinally.
It had probably been intended to form part of a wristlet, (c) Parts
of three small obsidian knives which had evidently seen considerable
use, as their edges were much chipped, (d) The curious object shown
in figure 21, d, front view, and e, side view. It is made of cop-
per, and was evidently used as tweezers, either for the removal of
hair, for which purpose it would be admirably adapted, as the lower
expanded parts of the blades when pressed together come into such
close apposition that the smallest and most delicate hair can be
removed by means of them; 1 or for the extraction of small thorns
from the skin. Landa mentions the fact that the Maya were in the
habit of removing the hairs from their chins and lips, but if this little
implement was the only one employed for the purpose the custom can
not have been a very common one in this locality, as no other
similar specimen was found in any of the mounds. Passing from
north to south through the mound, about 8 feet from its center, were
two parallel rows of limestone flags, set perpendicularly, about 18
inches apart. Againsjt the outer of these rows lay a considerable
accumulation of animal bones, probably those of the tapir. In the
space between the outer row of flags and the edge of the mound
were found 10 oblong blocks of limestone, averaging 18 by 10 inches,
the upper surfaces of which were hollowed out to a depth of 3 or 4
inches. These were probably intended as water receptacles for the
use of fowls or small animals kept about the home, as precisely sim-
ilar small stone troughs are made and used by the modern Indians
for this purpose. The space between the rows of flags was floored
with mortar, but nothing was found within it.

Mound No. 5 A

Mound No. 5 A (No. 28 on the plan, fig. 14) was situated
within a few yards of the opening into the circular earthwork
attached to Mound No. 7. It was long and narrow, nowhere ex-
ceeding 2 feet in height. It was built throughout of small limestone
bowlders, mixed with a large proportion of black earth. The limits
of the mound were difficult to define, as the earth of which it was

» Landa, in mentioning the beardlessness of the Yucatecans at the time of the conquest, says it was
reported as being brought about by applying hot cloths to the chins of the children. This seems improb-
able. "No criavan barbas, y dezian que les quemavan los rostros sus madres con panos calientes, siendo
nifios, por que no les naciessen, y que agora crian barbas aunque muy asperas como eerdas de tocines."—
Landa, op. cit., p. 114.

The pure-blood Indians of the present day have but a very scanty growth of hair on the face and pubes,
and in some cases even the few straggling hairs which they possess are pulled out.



Gann] MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS 78

built had been washed down and mingled with the surrounding soil
to so great an extent that it was almost impossible to determine where
one began and the other ended. This mound or ridge has not as
yet been completely explored, but in the part which has already been
dug down two interments were found. The first was quite super-
ficial, about 1 foot below the surface, near the eastern extremity of
the ridge. The bones were those of a well-developed male, of rather
unusual height and muscular development for a Maya Indian; they
were in an exceptionally good state of preservation, though not pro-
tected from the surrounding earth by cist or burial chamber. Un-
fortunately, the skull was smashed into small fragments by a careless
blow of the pickax before it was realized that a burial existed at the
spot. The body appeared to have been buried lying upon the right side,
with the legs flexed at the knees and thighs. From one of the incisor
teeth a quadranglar piece had been cleanly removed (fig. 21, g) .
Unfortunately, the tooth in contact with it on the other side could not
be found, so that it was impossible to ascertain whether a correspond-
ing piece had been removed from this also. The tooth was much
worn at the cutting edge. Landa describes a grinding down of the
teeth to a sawlike edge, for ornamental purposes, practiced by the
Yucatecans at the time of the conquest, 1 and it seems probable that
this tooth was operated on for a similar purpose.

With the bones were found: (a) An oblong piece of marble-like
stone, 2 inches long, 1£ inches broad, and 1 inch deep, polished on
all its surfaces, probably used for smoothing or burnishing; (b) what
appeared to be a piece broken from a rubbing stone which had been
squared, and which showed marks on its upper surface indicating
that it had been used for giving an edge to stone implements; (c)
fragments of rough unpainted pottery.

The second interment was that of a child 8 to 10 years of age.
The site of this burial was within a few feet of the first, at a depth
of about a foot below the surface. The bones, which were in a fair
state of preservation, were in contact with the earth of which the
mound was built. The corpse appeared to have been laid on the
side, with the legs drawn up. With the bones were found only a
few ornaments broken from pottery incense burners, as ear plugs,
small animal heads, and part of a quilted breastplate.

This mound was probably of a much later date than the other
mounds described at Santa Rita. It is merely an irregular ridge
built of earth and stones, while the earlier mounds just referred to
are well defined and constructed of blocks of limestone with rubble,
limestone dust, and mortar filling in the interstices. The bones,

1 "Tenian por costumbre acerrarse los dientes dexandolos como diente de sierra y esto tenian por galan-
teria, y hazian este officio viejas, limandolos con ciertas piedras y agua."— Landa, op. cit., p. 182. Simi-
larly filed teeth have been discovered at Copan and in caves at Loltun. See Joyce, Mexican Archaeology,
p. 294.



74



BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



[bull. 64



though placed' under the most unfavorable conditions, having
been in direct contact with the damp earth, are in an excellent
state of preservation, far better, indeed, than even the best preserved
of those in the other mounds where the conditions are decidedly
more favorable. The skeletons of children are practically never
found in the other mounds, as the bones have long since disappeared
completely, while here we find the bones of a child under 12 years
of age in a fairly good state of preservation. There are a number of
these sepulchral ridges at Santa Rita, many of them hardly distin-


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Online LibraryThomas William Francis GannThe Maya Indians of southern Yucatan and northern British Honduras → online text (page 7 of 15)