Another representation of the Elephant-headed Rain god. He is holding thunderbolts, conventionalised in a hand-like form. The Serpent is converted into a sac, holding up the rain-waters.
Reproduction of a Picture in the Maya Codex Troano
I reproduce here a remarkable drawing from the Codex Troano, in which this god, whom the Maya people called Chac, is shown pouring the rain out of a water-jar (just as the deities of Babylonia and India are often represented), and putting his foot upon the head of a serpent, who is preventing the rain from reaching the earth. Here we find depicted with childlike simplicity and directness the Vedic conception of Indra overcoming the demon Vritra. Stempell describes this scene as "the elephant-headed god B standing upon the head of a serpent"; while Seler, who claims that god B is a tortoise, explains it as the serpent forming a footstool for the rain-god.
The image of the sun is held up by a man in front of his face; two men blow conch-shell trumpets; another pair burn incense, and a third pair make blood-offerings by piercing their ears.
Rich mines of silver existed in the new world, particularly in Mexico and Peru. The conquest of Mexico by Cortes in 1519 was speedily followed by the development of the rich silver mines of that country. From a very early period the Aztecs had been familiar with silver, and wrought it into many ornamental and useful articles. The mines were opened and extensively worked by the Peruvians in Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and other districts, and their production was greatly increased by the abundance of quicksilver, and its employment in the reduction of ores. Quicksilver is used for this purpose to a greater extent in Mexico and Peru than in other countries.
Wherever there are real roads in Mexico, there you may see the quaint old-fashioned ox-carts with wheels often made from solid blocks of wood cut to shape. Two oxen are generally yoked to each, but when heavy loads are to be dragged, four, six, or even more are used at once.
We have spoken only of the mestizos. The Indians are also interesting. There are many tribes, all with their own customs, and many with their old languages still in use. In the State of Oaxaca alone there are fifteen languages still spoken. Among the many Mexican Indian tribes perhaps the Aztecs, Otomis, Tarascans, Zapotecs, and Mayas are the best known.
In Central Mexico water is precious, and in the cities special men make it a business to sell water from house to house. The water-carriers of different towns greatly differ in the form and size of the jars they use and in the mode of carrying them. In the city of Mexico, where they are becoming an uncommon sight, the man carries two water-jars of metal, one in front, one behind, hanging by straps from his shoulders and cap; in Guadalajara a number of round pottery water-jars are set into a sort of a frame mounted on a cart or barrow; in San Luis Potosi there are four oval jars set into a wheelbarrow with an enormous wheel; in Guanajuato they use great slender jars nearly as tall as the man himself, with a ring of wood at the bottom to hold them when they are set on the ground.
It is noteworthy that these yotl are found figured in the picture-writings representing the various objects which the Aztecs used to pay as tribute to their sovereigns. The collection of Mexican antiquities in the British museum contains a cluster of yotl-bells. Being nearly round, they closely resemble the Schellen which the Germans are in the habit of affixing to their horses, particularly in the winter when they are driving their noiseless sledges.
As regards instruments of percussion, a kind of drum deserves special notice on account of the ingenuity evinced in its construction. The Mexicans called it teponaztli. They generally made it of a single block of very hard wood, somewhat oblong square in shape, which they hollowed, leaving at each end a solid piece about three or four inches in thickness, and at its upper side a kind of sound-board about a quarter of an inch in thickness. In this sound-board, if it may be called so, they made three incisions; namely, two running parallel some distance lengthwise of the drum, and a third running across from one of these to the other just in the centre. By this means they obtained two vibrating tongues of wood which, when beaten with a stick, produced sounds as clearly defined as are those of our kettle drums. By making one of the tongues thinner than the other they ensured two different sounds, the pitch of which they were enabled to regulate by shaving off more or less of the wood. The bottom of the drum they cut almost entirely open.
The teponaztli was generally carved with various fanciful and ingenious designs. It was beaten with two drumsticks covered at the end with an elastic gum, called ule, which was obtained from the milky juice extracted from the ule-tree. Some of these drums were small enough to be carried on a string or strap suspended round the neck of the player; others, again, measured upwards of five feet in length, and their sound was so powerful that it could be heard at a distance of three miles. In some rare instances a specimen of the teponaztli is still preserved by the Indians in Mexico, especially among tribes who have been comparatively but little affected by intercourse with their European aggressors.
Among the instruments of this kind from central America the most complete have four finger-holes. By means of three holes, four sounds (including the sound which is produced when none of the holes are closed) can be emitted: the fourth finger-hole, when closed, has the effect of lowering the pitch a semitone. By a particular process two or three lower notes are obtainable.
Rather more complete than the above specimens are some of the whistles and small pipes which have been found in graves of the Indians of Chiriqui in central America. The pipe or whistle which is represented in the accompanying engraving appears, to judge from the somewhat obscure description transmitted to us, to possess about half a dozen tones. It is of pottery, painted in red and black on a cream-coloured ground, and in length about five inches.
The Mexicans possessed a small whistle formed of baked clay, a considerable number of which have been found. Some specimens are singularly grotesque in shape, representing caricatures of the human face and figure, birds, beasts, and flowers. Some were provided at the top with a finger-hole which, when closed, altered the pitch of the sound, so that two different tones were producible on the instrument. Others had a little ball of baked clay lying loose inside the air-chamber. When the instrument was blown the current of air set the ball in a vibrating motion, thereby causing a shrill and whirring sound.
Conventional Serpent of the Mayas used for Decorative Purposes:
b, ventral scale;
c, dorsal scale;
f, incisor tooth;
g, molar tooth;
j, supraorbital plate;
l, ear pendant;
m, curled fang;
o, lower jaw;
q, incisor tooth.