National Geographic : 1925 Jan
CIIICHEN ITZA, AN ANCIENT AMERICAN MECCA Photograph from the Carnegie Institution STAFF OF TIHE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION CIICHEN ITZA PROJECT From left to right: J. O . Kilmartin, engineer United States Geological Survey; Monroe Amsden, assistant archeologist and paymaster; E. H. Morris, archeologist in charge of excava tions; Mrs. Morris, and S. G . Morley, Associate of the Institution in charge of the Chichen Itza Project. The wreck of the expedition's only phonograph, an "archaic" model, strews the table in the foreground, an irreparable loss. ments of which were found built into these last crude walls (see page 94). Charcoal, potsherds of crude work manship scattered here and there about the colonnade, a single jade chisel, tell the tale, eloquently enough, of shoes too large for feet grown suddenly small, a final uncertain occupancy of halls de signed for more formal occasions, a last feeble flicker before the light went out. TEMPLE SITES YIELD FEW ART OBJECTS The yield of small objects, ceramics, obsidian knives, jade beads, earrings, etc., was very small, though this had been an ticipated. Digging in public buildings is always far less profitable than in tombs and dwelling sites. Temples and palaces were rifled of their treasures before they were abandoned. It is only the homely cooking-pot of clay, the humble corn grinder, and the polishing-stone that were left behind at the moment of departure, too heavy or too simple to be borne away over long trails to new homes, these and the sacred objects with the dead. This has been the almost universal ex perience in American archeology, and it was not to be expected that it would be reversed here. In subsequent seasons tombs will be located, and here the return of smaller objects will undoubtedly be much larger. The Maya buried their most cherished possessions with the dead, each accord ing to his trade-the huntsman with his favorite spear, the potter with his best loved bowl, the priest with his books of divination and ritual-and it is certain that part, at least, of this material culture will be recovered as the work proceeds. To-day how different is the story from that of other times. Silent are the tem ples, courts, and colonnades: gone the rulers, priests, and sacrificial victims; gone the artisans and builders; gone those humbler folk whose unremitting toil alone made all this pomp and pageantry possible-back to Mother Earth, en shrouded by the living green of tree and bush and flower. But of a moonlight night, standing on the lofty terrace before the palace of the Itzan kings, the silent city at one's feet, the temples and pyramids rising white and spectral above the dark forest, breezes whispering through the trees bring stirring tales of other days, other men, other deeds, and he who would may listen then and hear.