Ake Travel Blog› entry 11 of 25 › view all entries
October 21st, 2009 – by: geokid
I have included pages 303 to 308 from volume 2 of Incidents of Travel in Yucatan by John L. Stephens: I think his work best capture the excitement of visiting mesoamerican sites.
The next morning we started for Merida, with the intention of diverging for a last time to visit the ruins of Aké. The road was one of the best in the country, made for carriages, but rough, stony, and uninteresting. At Cacalchen, five leagues distant, we stopped to dine and procure a guide to Aké.
In the afternoon we proceeded, taking with us only our hammocks, and leaving Dimas to go on direct with our luggage to Merida. Turning off immediately from the main road, we entered the woods, and following a narrow path, a little before dark we reached the hacienda of Aké, and for the last time were among the towering and colossal memorials of an aboriginal city.
We could not procure even eggs, literally nothing but tortillas. The major domo was away, the principal building locked up, and the only shelter we could obtain was a miserable little hut, full of fleas, which no sweeping could clear out. We had considered all our rough work over, but again, and within day’s journey of Merida, we were in bad straights. By great ingenuity, and giving them the shortest possible tie, Albino contrived to swing our hammocks and having no other resource, early in the evening we fell into them. At about ten o’clock we heard the tramp of a horse, and the major domo arrived.
In the morning he provided us with breakfast, after which, accompanied by him and all the Indians of the hacienda, being only six, we went around the ruins.
Plate LII represents a great mound towering in full sight from the door of the hacienda, and called El Palacio, or the Palace. The ascent is on the south side, by an immense staircase, one hundred and thirty seven feet wide, forming an approach of rude grandeur, perhaps equal to any that ever existed in the country. Each step is four feet five inches long, and one foot five inches in height.
They are from fourteen to sixteen feet in height, four feet on each side, and are composed of separate stones, from one to two feet in thickness. But few have fallen, though some have lost their upper layer of stones. There are no remains of any structure or of a roof. If there ever was one, it must have been wood, which would seem most incongruous and inappropriate for such a solid structure of stones. The whole mound was so overgrown that we could not ascertain the juxtaposition of the pillars till the growth was cleared away, when we made our whole, but with little or no enlargement of our knowledge as to its uses and purposes.
In the same vicinity are other mounds of colossal dimensions, one of which is also called the Palace, but of different construction and without pillars. On another, at the end of the ruined staircase, is an opening under the top of a doorway, nearly filled up, crawling through which, by means of the crotch of a tree I descended into a dark chamber fifteen feet long and ten wide, of rude construction, and of which some of the stones in the wall measured seven feet in length. This is called Akabna, casa obscura or dark house.
They were ruder and more massive than all the others we had seen, bore the stamp of an older era, and more than any others, in fact, for the first time in the country, suggested the idea of Cyclopean remains; but ever here we have a gleam of historic light, faint, it is true, but, in my mind, sufficient to dispel all unsettled and wavering notions.
In the account of the march of Don Francisco Montejo from the coast, presented in the early part of these pages, it is mentioned that the Spanish reached a town called Aké, at which they found themselves confronted by a great multitude of armed Indians.
There is no other mention of Aké, and in this there is no allusion whatever to the buildings, but from its geographical position, and the direction of the line of march of the Spanish army from the coast, I have little doubt that their Aké was the place now known by the same name, and occupied by the ruins last presented.
It is, indeed, strange that no mention is made of the buildings, but regard must be had to the circumstances of danger and death which surrounded the Spaniards, and which were doubtless always uppermost in the minds of the soldiers who formed that disastrous expedition. At all events, it is not more strange than want of any description of great buildings of Chichen, and we have the strongest possible proof that no current inference is to be drawn from the silence of the Spaniards, for in the comparatively minute account of the conquest of Mexico, we find that the Spanish army marched under the very shadow of great pyramids of Otumba, and yet not the slightest mention whatever is made of their existence.
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