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In reply to my assertion that the falls had produced, and were now working back, the chasm, our guide, the lounging man from the house, said the rocks had always been as they were: he had lived there ten years, and there had been no change in them. Perhaps, if the buried Indians could rise from their graves where they were laid to rest more than three hundred years ago, they, too, would testify that there had been no change, and that the rocks and the leaping river were as they had been and would be for ever; for the untrained mind cannot grasp the idea of the effect of slowly-acting influences extending over vast periods of time.
We asked the guide if there were any cairns near, and he said there was one on the top of a neighbouring hill. Up this we climbed. It was the rounded spur of a range behind, jutting out into the Small plain before mentioned, and may be partly artificial. On the summit, which commanded a fine view of the country around, with the white cliffs and dark woods of the Amerrique range in front, was an Indian cairn, elliptical in shape, about thirty feet long and twenty broad. Several small trees had sprung up amongst the stones. Near the centre two holes had been dug down about four feet deep. Our guide told us that he and his brother had made them, to hide themselves in from the soldiers during the last revolutionary outbreak. Not a very likely story, that they should have chosen the top of a bare hill for a hiding-place, when all around in the valleys there were thickets of brushwood. He said they had found nothing in the holes; but we soon found fragments of two broken cinerary urns, one of fine clay, painted with red and black, the other much coarser and stronger, without
Ch. IX.] SEARCH FOR ANCIENT SCULPTURES. 165
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 maize-grinder, 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 as much battered and broken as possible; but 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 battered and broken. 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 8.TIslS. 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 burialplace 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. After he went away, 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, we 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 of which were about five feet long, three broad, and one thick. Here we got a clue to the explanation of the behaviour of our guide. When he told us that he knew not where there