Images de page

The lines lightly etched here are painted blue in the original. As in our topographical maps the edges of the watercourses, of the sea and lakes, are painted blue, so the Maya hierogrammatist figured the shores of the Mexican Gulf, indicated by the serpent head. The three signs of locality, placed in the centre of said gulf, mark the site of the extinguished volcano known to-day as the Alacranes reefs. The serpent head was, for the Maya writers, typical of the sea, whose billows they compared to the undulations of a serpent in motion. They therefore called the ocean canah, a word whose radical is can, "serpent," the meaning of which is the "mighty serpent."

[ocr errors]

The lines of the drawing more strongly etched, the end of which corresponds to the sign are painted red, the color of clay, kancab, and indicate the localities that were submerged and turned into marshes. This complex sign is formed of the emblem of countries near or in the water, and of the cross, made of dotted lines, symbol of the cracks and crevices made on the surface of the earth by the escaping gases, represented by the dots. . . ., and of small circles, O, images of volcanoes. As to the character is composed of two letters, equivalent to Maya and Greek letter A, so entwined as to form the character equal to the Greek and Maya K, but forming a monogram that reads aac, the Maya word for "turtle."



Before proceeding with the etymology of the name Mayach, it may not be amiss to explain the legends and the other drawings of the tableau. It will be noticed that the characters over that part of the drawing which looks like the horizontal branch of a tree are identical with those placed vertically against the trunk, but in an inverted position. It is, in

fact, the same legend repeated, and so written for the better understanding of the map, and of the exact position of the various localities; that of the Mexican Gulf figured on the left, and of the ideographic or pictorial representation of the Caribbean Sea to the right of the tableau. In order to thoroughly comprehend the idea of the Maya author, it is indispensable to have a perfect knowledge of the contours of the seas and lands mentioned by him in this instance, even as they exist to-day. Of course, some slight changes since the epoch referred to by him have naturally taken place, and the outlines of the shores are somewhat altered, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, as can be ascertained by consulting maps made by the Spaniards at the time of the conquest.

The adjoining map of Central America, the Antilles, and Gulf of Mexico, being copied from that published by the Bureau of Hydrography at Washington, may be regarded as accurate (Plate III.). On it I have traced, in dotted lines, figures that will enable any one to easily understand why the Maya author symbolized the Caribbean Sea as a deer, and the empire of Mayach as a tree, rooted in the southern continent, and having a single branch, horizontal and pointing to the right, that is, in an easterly direction.

A glance at the map of the "Drowned Valleys of the Antillean Lands" (Plate IV.), published by Professor J. W. Spencer, of Washington, in the "Bulletin of the Geological Society of America" for January, 1895, which is reproduced here with the author's permission, must convince any one that the ancient Maya geologists and geographers were not far behind their brother professors, in these sciences, of modern times, in their knowledge, at least, of those

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »