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Then the two
we examine the drawing still more closely, and notice the four lines drawn in the lower part, as if to shade it. If we consider each line as equivalent to one unit, their sum represents the numerical four-can-in the Maya language. We have already seen that can also means serpent,' the symbols for the sea, canah. are placed, one on each side of the geometrical figure image of the peninsula, to typify the two gulfs whose waters bathe its shores-on the left that of Mexico, on the right the Caribbean Sea. That this was the idea of the inventors of the symbol is evident; for as the Gulf of Mexico is smaller than the Caribbean Sea, and the western coast line. of Yucatan shorter than the eastern, so in the drawing the imix on the left of the figure is smaller than the imix on the right, and the line on the left shorter than that on the right.
This explanation being correct, it clearly proves, as much as a proposition of that nature can be demonstrated, that the character owes its origin, among the Mayas,
to the configuration of the Yucatan peninsula, and its position between two gulfs, and that the inventors were acquainted with their extent and contour.
Not a few, even among well-read people, often express a doubt as to the ancient Mayas having possessed accurate information respecting the existence of the various continents and islands that form the habitable portions of the earth; questioning likewise if they were acquainted even with the geography and configuration of the lands in which they lived; seeming to entertain the idea that the science of general geography belongs exclusively to modern times.
The name Maya, found among all civilized nations of
antiquity, in Asia, Africa, Europe, as well as in America, always with the same meaning, should be sufficient to prove that in very remote ages the Mayas had intimate relations with the inhabitants of the lands situated on those continents, were therefore great travellers, and must, perforce, have been acquainted with the general geography of the planet.
We must not lose sight of the fact that we know but very little indeed of the ancient American civilizations. The annals of the learned men of Mayach having been either hidden or destroyed, it is impossible for us to judge of the scope of their scientific attainments. That they were expert architects, the monuments built by them, that have resisted for ages the disintegrating action of the elements and that of vegetation, bear ample testimony. The analysis of the gnomon discovered by the writer in the ruins of the ancient city of Mayapan, in 1880, proves conclusively that they had made advance in the science of astronomy. They knew, as well as we do, how to calculate the latitudes and longitudes; the epochs of the solstices and of the equinoxes; the division of time into solar years of three hundred and sixty-five days and six hours; that of the year into twelve months of thirty days, to which they added five supplementary days that were left without name and regarded as inauspicious. During these, as on the third day of the Epact among the Egyptians, all business was suspended; they did not even go out of their houses, lest some misfortune should befall them. All those calculations required, of course, a thorough knowledge of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and the other branches of mathematics. That they were no mean draughtsmen and sculptors, the fresco paintings, the inscriptions and bas-reliefs carved on marble, that are still extant, bear unimpeachable testimony.
The study of the Troano MS. will convince any one that the learned author of that book, and no doubt many of his associates, had not only a thorough knowledge of the geographical configuration of the Western Continent and the adjacent islands, but also of their geological formation. The "Lands of the West "are represented by these symbols,
which some have translated Atlan.1 They leave no room for doubting that the
Mayas were acquainted with the eastern coasts of said continent, from the bay of Saint Lawrence in latitude north 48° to Cape St. Roque, in Brazil, in latitude south 5° 28'. The two signs or of the locality placed under the symbols represent the two large regions of the Western Continent, North and South America; whilst the signs and O seen within the curve figuring the northern basin of the Atlantic, stand for the Land of Mu, that extensive island now submerged under the waves of the ocean.
The sign, as well as this
that forms the upper
part of the symbol, is familiar to all students of Egyptology. These will tell you that the first meant, in the Egyptian hieroglyphs, "the sun setting on the horizon," and the second, "the mountainous countries in the west."
As to the conventional posture given to all the statues of the rulers and other illustrious personages in Mayach it confirms the fact of their geographical attainments. If we compare, for instance, the outlines of the effigy of Prince Coh discovered by the author at Chichen-Itza in 1875, with
Kingsborough, Mexican Antiquities, vol. i., and Comment, vol. v. Atlan is not a Maya but a Nahuatl word. It is composed of the two primitives Atl,"water," and Tlan, "near," "between." The Maya name for the symbol is Alau.
the contour of the eastern coasts of the American continent,
belly of the statue, between the hands, would then be symbolical of the Gulf of Mexico and of the Caribbean Sea.1
Again, the outlines of the profile of the statue may also represent with great accuracy the eastern shores of the Maya Empire the head being the peninsula of Yucatan, anciently the seat of the government; the knees would then correspond to Cape Gracias a Dios, in Nicaragua; the feet to the Isthmus of Darien, the southern boundary of the empire; and the shallow basin on the belly would in that case stand for the Bay of Honduras, part of the Caribbean Sea. The Antilles were known to the Mayas as the "Land of the Scorpion," Zinaan, and were represented by the Maya hierogrammatist by the figure of that arachnid, or in his cursive writing by this other proof evident that he was as well acquainted
as we are with the general outlines of the archipelago.
'Various other statues discovered by the writer at Chichen-Itza have the same position, and hold a basin on the belly, between their hands. Others, again, are to be seen in the "National Museum" of Mexico, all having the same conventional attitude, with the head turned to the right shoulder.
2 Troano MS., part 11, plates vi., vii.
In the tableau, plate v., which forms the middle section of plate xiii. in the second part of the Troano MS., the author describes the occurrence of a certain phenomenon of volcanic origin, whose focus of action was located in the volcanoes of the island of Trinidad, figured by the image of a