September 28, 1912
NO CLEW TO HISTORY
STUDENTS OF ARCHEOLOGY ALL PUZZLED OVER YUCATAN
Art and Architecture of Once Great People Are There, but Hieroglyphics Baffle All the Knowledge of the Scientists.
Pittsburg.--Through the efforts of Henry Hornbostel, head of the building bureau of the Pittsburg Carnegie Institute of Technology, there will be in the Carnegie Institute before a great while specimens of distinctive American art and architecture, the legacy of that mysterious people who lived ages ago in America, attained a high degree of civilization, developed a beautiful and cultivated art, and then passed away, leaving only these treasures of art and architecture to tell what their civilization had been. Already Mr. Hornbostel has been instrumental in arousing the Carnegie Museum of Washington to an interest in this field and it has set aside an appropriation for exploration of the art of Yucatan. In company with Lloyd Warren, Mr Hornbostel made a pleasure trip to Yucatan during a recent vacation, going far into the interior of the country where lies waiting a storehouse of material for students of archaeology with reference to hieroglyphics as well as art and architecture. The hieroglyphics are all the more alluring because of their baffling conditions, with never a clew (sic) yet discovered to work from in deciphering their meaning, which would reveal to us the minds of the wonderful ancient inhabitants of America. The priceless heritage has lain neglected and crumbling to ruins while at the same time huge sums are being paid by our museums for replicas of works of art of the eastern hemisphere.
With the completion of the Panama canal all signs point to a vast influx of northerners into these southern states and an awakening of interest in the study of the arts. Their pottery and decorative designs are already being made use of by enterprising dealers and advertisers in all kinds of wares as souvenirs of the celebration of the opening of the great canal.
"The day will soon come," says Mr. Hornbostel, "when excursioning to the ruins of Yucatan will be made as easily as to the Holy Land or to Egypt. It is now impossible for petticoats to travel into the interior of the country, as it is as wild and densely forested as the interior of Africa. Mr. Warren, myself and our guide made the journey from Merida, the capital of Yucatan, in the most primitive of wooden wagons drawn by three burros, and because of the loose construction of its wooden wheels and axles, which allow it to wabble from side to side without injury, wonderfully adapted to the rough stone roads of the country."
Two absolutely unique characteristics of the ancient people who built these ruins thousands of years ago, and of whom they and the pyramids on which many of them are built are the only trace, were noted by Mr. Hornbostel. The first is that the towns were built without walls or fortifications of any kind, there were no roads and the houses were far apart, making them indeed garden cities, and there were no beasts of burden. "This vanished race was a peaceful people," said Mr. Hornbostel, "and such architecture of a primitive race is absolutely unique in history. They had no fear of an invading army and no preparation to repulse one. They had no means of moving either an army or supplies." The second peculiarity noted by the travelers is the original form of architecture in the construction of the buildings, which are made of small stones, cut and dressed, with an original cantilever construction of arches. This structure, Mr. Hornbostel claims, he has not found anywhere else in all his study of architecture, ancient, medieval and modern.