National Geographic : 1916 Jul
THE LUSTER OF ANCIENT MEXICO for architectural magnificence in his no bles, he contributed his own share to ward the embellishment of the city. It was in his reign that the famous calendar stone, weighing, probably, in its primi tive state, nearly fifty tons, was trans ported from its native quarry, many leagues distant, to the capital, where it still forms one of the most curious monu ments of Aztec science. Indeed, when we reflect on the difficulty of hewing such a stupendous mass from its hard basaltic bed without the aid of iron tools, and that of transporting it such a distance across land and water without the help of ani mals, we may well feel admiration at the mechanical ingenuity and enterprise of the people who accomplished it. MONTEZUMA'S MAGNIFICENT MANSION Not content with the spacious residence of his father, Montezuma erected another on a yet more magnificent scale. This building, or, as it might more correctly be styled, pile of buildings, spread over an extent of ground so vast that, as one of the Conquerors assures us, its terraced roof might have afforded ample room for thirty knights to run their courses in a regular tourney. Remarkable were its interior decorations, its fanciful draper ies, its: roofs inlaid with cedar and other odoriferous woods, held together with out a nail and, probably, without a knowl edge of the arch, its numerous and spa cious apartments, which Cortes, with en thusiastic hyperbole, does not hesitate to declare superior to anything of the kind in Spain. Adjoining the principal edifice were others. devoted to various objects. One was an armory, filled with the weapons and military dresses worn by the Aztecs, all kept in the most perfect order, ready for instant use. The emperor was him self very expert in the management of the maquahuitl, or Indian sword, and took great delight in witnessing athletic exercises and .the mimic representation of war by his young nobility. Another building was used as a granary, and others as warehouses for the different ar ticles of food and apparel contributed by the districts charged with the mainte nance of the royal household. There were also edifices appropriated to objects of quite another kind. One of these was an immense aviary, in which birds of splendid plumage were assem bled from all parts of the empire. Here was the scarlet cardinal, the golden pheasant, the endless parrot tribe, with their rainbow hues (the royal green pre dominant), and that miniature miracle of nature, the humming-bird, which delights to revel among the honeysuckle bowers of Mexico. Three hundred attendants had charge of this aviary, who made themselves acquainted with the appro priate food of its inmates, oftentimes pro cured at great cost, and in the moulting season were careful to collect the beauti ful plumage, which, with its many-colored tints, furnished the materials for the Az tec painter. A separate building was reserved for the fierce birds of prey; the voracious vulture tribes and eagles of enormous size, whose home was in the snowy soli tudes of the Andes. No less than five hundred turkeys, the cheapest meat in Mexico, were allowed for the daily con sumption of these tyrants of the feath ered race. THE AZTEC ZOO DESCRIBED Adjoining this aviary was a menagerie of wild animals, gathered from the moun tain forests, and even from the remote swamps of the tierra caliente. The collection was still further swelled by a great number of reptiles and ser pents remarkable for their size and ven omous qualities, among which the Span iards beheld the fiery little animal "with the castanets in his tail," the terror of the American wilderness. The serpents were confined in long cages lined with down or feathers or in troughs of mud and water. The beasts and birds of prey were pro vided with apartments large enough to allow of their moving about, and secured by a strong lattice-work, through which light and air were freely admitted. The whole was placed under the charge of numerous keepers, who acquainted them selves with the habits of their prisoners and provided for their comfort and clean liness.