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Ch. XX.] DERIVATION OF THE AMERICAN RACE.
Whilst there are undoubtedly many curious coincidences in the customs of the ancient Mexicans and the peoples of eastern Asia, there are, on the other hand, so many differences that I believe it is safer to infer that they were essentially distinct in origin, and that there had been communication between the two peoples in very early times, but that the foreign influence in Mexico was extremely feeble, and too weak to check the growth of an essentially indigenous civilisation. Possibly sun and serpent worship, baptism, and the use of the cross as a sacred emblem, were the survival of religious beliefs that had obtained in the very cradle of the human race. We cannot, however, believe that mankind had, before the separation and dispersion of the eastern and western nations, attained to any great astronomical knowledge, and it is quite possible that the extraordinary coincidences between the chronological and astronomical systems of the Nahuatls and the eastern Asiatics might have been brought about by some of the latter having been stranded on the American shore.
Humboldt argued that, “as the western coasts of the American continent trend from N.-W. to S.-E., and the eastern coasts of Asia in the opposite direction, the distance between the two continents in 45° of latitude, or in the temperate zone, which is most favourable to mental development, is too considerable to admit of the probability of such an accidental settlement taking place in that latitude. We must then assume the first landing to have been made in the inhospitable climate of from 55° to 65°, and that the civilisation thus introduced, like the general movement of population in America, has proceeded by successive stations from north to south.”* If we are obliged to assume that the people themselves came from the old world, such an origin might be sought for them as well as any other; but all research since Hamboldt's time has favoured the idea that there are no signs of the Nahuatls being a newer people than the nations of Asia. And if it is not the derivation of the people, but of some coincidences in their observances and knowledge, we may seek for it some simpler solution than the migration of a whole people down through North to Central America. That solution is, I believe, to be found in the fact, not taken into consideration by Humboldt, that the great Japanese current, after traversing the eastern coast of Japan, sends one large branch nearly directly east across the Pacific to the coast of California, and an offshoot from it passes southward along the Mexican coast and as far as the western coast of Central America. In Kotzebue’s narrative of his voyage round the world, he says: “Looking over Adams' diary, I found the following notice— Brig Forester, March 24, 1815, at sea, upon the coast of California, latitude 32° 45' N. longitude 133° 3' W. We saw this morning, at a short distance, a ship, the confused state of whose sails showed that they wanted assistance. We bent our course towards her, and made out the distressed vessel to be Japanese, which had lost both mast and helm. Only three dying Japanese, the captain and two sailors, were found in the vessel. We took these unfortunate people on board our brig, and, after four months' nursing, they entirely recovered. We learned from these people that they had sailed from the harbour of Osaka, in Japan,
bound for another seaport, but were overtaken by a storm, in which they lost the helm and mast. Till that day their ship had been drifting about, a mere butt for the winds and waves, during seventeen months; and of thirty-five men only three remained, all the others having died of hunger.'” Is it not likely that in ancient times such accidents may have occurred again and again, and that information of the astronomical and chronological systems of eastern Asia may thus have been brought to the Nahuatls, who, from the ease with which they embraced the religion of the Spaniards, are shown to have been open to receive foreign ideas ?
The three arguments on which Humboldt principally relied to prove that a communication had existed between the east of Asia and the Mexicans may be explained without adopting his theory that the Nahuatls had travelled round from the old world. The remarkable resemblance of the Mexican and Thibeto - Japanese calendars might result from the accidental stranding of a Japanese or Chinese vessel on their shores, bringing to them some man learned in the astronomy of the old world. The correct orientation of the sides of their pyramidal temples was but the result of their great astronomical knowledge and of the worship of the sun. And the resemblance of their traditions of four epochs of destruction and of the dispersion of mankind after a great flood of waters, arose from the fact that the great catastrophes that befell the human race at the melting of the ice of the glacial period were universal over the CHAPTER XXI.
Return to Santo Domingo—The birds of Chontales—The insects of
Chontales-Mimetic forms-Departure from the mines-Nicaragua as a field for emigration-Journey to Greytown-Return to England.
HAVING finished our business at Masaya, we rode back to Granada on the evening of the second day, and the next morning took a passage in a fine steamboat that Mr. Hollenbeck, of Greytown, had placed on the lake to convey passengers and goods between Granada and San Carlos, at the head of the river San Juan. We arrived at San Ubaldo at two o'clock, and found our mules safe but foot-sore, through travelling over the rocky hills from Santo Claro. The San José plains were in a dreadfully muddy state, and for five miles we went plunging through the swamps. Most of the mules fell several times, and we had great difficulty in getting them up again. We passed two travellers with their mules up to their girths in mud, and incapable of extricating themselves, but could not help them, as we dared not allow ours to stand, or they would stick fast also. We had met, at San Ubaldo, the son of Dr. Seemann, on his way home to England. His pack-mule had stuck fast in the plains the night before, and he had passed the night sitting on his boxes, half sunk in the mud, and attacked by myriads of mosquitoes that had covered his hands, face, and neck with blisters.
It was two hours after dark before we got across the weary plains. We found shelter for the night at a small hut on their border, where, for a consideration, the occupants gave up to us their mosquito curtains and stretchers, and sat up themselves. I suppose in such situations people get used to the mosquitoes, but to us they were intolerable. They buzzed around us and settled on our hands and face, if the former were not incessantly employed driving them off. Those of our party who had no curtains had a lively time of it. A gentleman of colour, from Jamaica, who was returning to the mines after escorting young Mr. Seemann to the port, and who could find no place to rest in, excepting an old hammock, kept his long arms going round like a windmill, every now and then wakening every one up with a loud crack, as he tried to bring his flat hand down on one of his tormentors. A mosquito, however, is not to be caught, even in the dark, in such a way. It holds up its two hinder legs as feelers ; the current of air driven before a descending blow warns it of the impending danger, and it darts off to one side, to renew its attack somewhere else. The most certain way to catch them in the dark is to move the outstretched finger cautiously towards where one is felt, until a safe striking distance is reached. But what is the use of killing one when they are in myriads ? None whatever, excepting that it is some occupation for the sleepless victim. The black gentleman was a thinker and a scholar, and used to amuse himself at the mines by writing letters addressed to Mr. Jacob Elam, Esqre. (himself), in which he informed himself that he had been left legacies of ten, twenty, or thirty thousand