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Ch. IX.] SEARCH FOR ANCIENT SCULPTURES.
broken cinerary urns, one of fine clay, painted with red and black, the other much coarser and stronger, without ornament. The custom of the Chontales Indians appears to have been to burn their dead, and place the ashes in a thin painted urn, inclosed within a stronger one. This was buried, along with the stone for grinding maize, and a cairn of stones built over the grave, in the centre of which was sometimes set up the statue of the deceased.
It was evident that the tomb had been ransacked in search of treasure ; but our guide was very reticent about it. He admitted, however, on further questioning, that he had found a broken “metlate," or maizegrinder, in the grave. Velasquez got down into the deepest hole, and unearthed some more fragments of pottery, but nothing more.
We then descended the steep face of the hill again, and crossed the plain to where the "worked stones” were lying. We found them to be broken fragments of statues, one larger, better worked, and in much fairer preservation than the others. They had all been much battered and broken. The greater size and solidity of this one had made it more difficult to deface. It was in two parts, the head being severed from the body. The total length of the two fragments was about five feet. The face had been much shattered. The nose was gone, and the mouth defaced, but enough was left to show that the latter had been protruding. The eyes were in good preservation, prominent, and with the eyeballs projecting. Around the head was an ornamented circlet, like a crown. The arms were laid over the breast, and were continued upwards over the shoulder, and partly down the back, as if it had been intended to indicate the shoulder-blades. The legs were doubled up, and continued round to the back, in the same way as the arms.
The back of the figure was elaborately carved, the most noticeable features being a wide ornamented belt around the waist, and two well-carved crosses, one on each shoulder.
The other stones lying about were broken portions of other smaller figures and of pedestals. All were made out of very hard, tough trachyte; and the labour required to make the principal one out of such difficult material without tools of iron must have been immense.
The fragments were all lying out on the bare plain. I thought they must have been brought from some burial-place of the ancient Indians. Our guide, on being asked, said he had seen other cairns of stones besides these on the hill-top, but could not recollect where. He was very uneasy when questioned ; and at last said he had business to attend to, and left us abruptly. In his absence we examined all around for traces of graves. Between the plain and the river was a thicket of low trees and undergrowth. Peering into this, we saw some heaps of stones; and, pushing in amongst the bushes found it was full of old Indian graves, marked by heaps of stones, in the centres of some of which still stood the pedestals on which the statues had been placed. Most of the heaps were about twenty feet in diameter, and composed of stones of the average size of a man's head: but one, from the centre of which grew an immense cotton-wood tree, was made of about a dozen very large stones, some about five feet long, three broad, and one thick. Here we got a clue
Ch. IX.] DEFACEMENT OF ANCIENT STATUES.
to the behaviour of our guide. When he told us that he knew not where there were any more cairns, he was standing within thirty feet of one hidden by the thicket, which bore evident marks of having been recently disturbed. It was the cairn of big stones. One of these had been overturned, and some fresh-cut poles, that had been used as levers, were lying alongside, with the green bark broken and bruised. A hole had been dug underneath it, and filled up with stones again. Our lounging friend had been doing a little exploring on his own account. Many of the natives believe that treasure is buried under these heaps of stones; and the interest that foreigners take in them they ascribe to their wish to obtain these treasures. Our guide, wishing to get these himself, had taken us to the single grave on the top of the hill, which he had already ransacked, and professed ignorance of the others. I only hope that he did not compound with his conscience for the lies he had told us by coming back after we left, and trying to break off the nose of another idol, as the natives call the images. They think they show their zeal for Christianity by defacing them. This is why scarcely any of the noses of the images are left. They form the most salient points for attack. And that the images have not been utterly destroyed by the ill-usage they have had for three hundred years is due to the hard, tough rock of which they are made. It is probable that the statues at El Salto were brought out from the cairns into the plain, and publicly thrown down, defaced, and broken, when the Spaniards first took possession of the Juigalpa district, and forced Christianity upon the Indians; for the conquerors everywhere overthrew and mutilated the “idols”