National Geographic : 1925 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE 'I Photograph from the Carnegie Institution THE SANCTUARY OF THE TEMPLE OF TIlE TABLES The ceiling of the sanctuary was supported by four square columns, all sides of which were covered with elaborate sculptures representing gods, rulers, priests, or warriors. In the foreground stand seven of the statuettes which formerly supported the altars across the back wall. The doorway in the center leads to the antechamber of the temple, the ceiling of which was similarly supported by four square sculptured columns. The fretlike ornament leaning against the back wall, between the first and second columns on the left, and the similar ornament just to the right of the doorway originally stood around the edges of the top of the roof, much like the iron fencing around the mansard roofs of fifty years ago. The long tail-like appendages are the tenons by which they were fastened to the roof. The other cenote is somewhat larger, being 180 feet in diameter, with vertical or even undercut sides; so that it is to be doubted whether it ever served as a source for water, and may from the first, because of its comparative inaccessibility, have been held in some veneration, if not, in deed, in actual awe (see page 84). ITZAN MAIDENS SACRIFICED TO TIIE GODS The Toltec-Aztec conquerors, however, appear to have been the first to capitalize successfully the semi-sacred character which it had acquired in the passing cen turies. This was done by inaugurating at its brink a gruesome sacrificial rite, which was destined to attract pilgrims thither from all parts of the Mayan world; no less, indeed, than hurling into its gloomy depths the young Itzan maid ens to appease the wrath of offended deities. Along with these human sacrifices all sorts of valuable personal objects were thrown into the pool, which until the pres ent day bears the name of Cenote of Sacrifice. Gold and jade ornaments, beautiful pieces of pottery, carved wood, in fact, everything of highest value found its way thither, there to lie for five cen turies or more, until rescued from oblivion by the dredge of an archeologist. SPECTACULAR SACRIFICE ATTRACTED THOUSANDS The very spectacularity of this cruel rite-the maidens at the brink of the dark pool, the incensing of the priests, the sides lined with waiting thousands, a push, perchance a startled cry, a splash below, and silence-all combined to arouse a general interest in the ceremony. Pil grims came from far and near to hurl their personal treasures into the depths.