Mexico before Cortez: Art, History, Legend

Mexico before Cortez: Art, History, Legend

Mexico before Cortez: Art, History, Legend

Mexico before Cortez: Art, History, Legend

Excerpt

In Mexico there are about ten thousand archaeological sites. In recent years the rate of discovery of old sites has increased radically as roadbuilders and mechanized farmers dig and bump accidentally into the buried stones of antiquity. A similar wave of discovery has appeared in Greece, Italy, and India. The farmer or engineer may find that suddenly, because of the past--represented, say, by a rare kouros under a Piraeus street or a stele in a Zapotec cornfield--he must suspend all work and wait for his national government to decide what to do with its national treasure.

In the United States these problems do not trouble us. Although we too had Indians, the subsoil in our land hides few secrets of ancient art and history. The reasons have largely to do with the conditions of the Indian in our country. North of Mexico, there were few great concentrations of Indians; the scattered tribes were largely nomadic. It was these barbarians from the north who would periodically sweep down into the civilized lands of Mexico, conquer the sedentary peoples there, and eventually learn the way of city and farm and become civilized themselves. The last of the tribes to follow this pattern before the arrival of the European was the Aztecs.

Because our Indians were nomadic, they left nothing to record or recall an ancient past. (Only in a few western states, Where the Indian had a village life, do any cultural patterns of the past survive.) Thus, we in the northern part of the continent do not ponder over an ancient period in North America. Our history begins, so we conceive it . . .

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