Front Matter
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Note on the author
 Atoms date prehistory
 The antiquity of the new world
 A town makes history
 The first traces
 Up to the ice
 A prehistoric world by Texcoco...
 In the devil's ravine
 The forgotten Vale of the...
 The temple site of Monte Alban
 Through the Mayan temples...
 Treasure from out of the earth
 The discovery of Tepexpan fossil...
 Past and present
 A short sketch of pre-Spanish cultures...

Title: Man and mammoth in Mexico
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081486/00001
 Material Information
Title: Man and mammoth in Mexico
Physical Description: 191 p. : illus., maps. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: De Terra, Helmut, 1900-
Publisher: Hutchinson
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: 1957
Copyright Date: 1957
Subject: Human beings -- Origin   ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Mexico   ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Guatemala   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Mexico
Statement of Responsibility: Translated from the German by Alan Houghton Brodrick.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081486
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltuf - AGM7684
oclc - 00887987
alephbibnum - 001366199

Table of Contents
    Front Matter
        Front Matter 1
        Front Matter 2
    Half Title
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Title Page
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Table of Contents
        Page 5
        Page 6
    List of Illustrations
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Note on the author
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Atoms date prehistory
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    The antiquity of the new world
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
    A town makes history
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
    The first traces
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
    Up to the ice
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
    A prehistoric world by Texcoco Lake
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
    In the devil's ravine
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
    The forgotten Vale of the Tarascans
        Page 96
        Page 96a
        Page 96b
        Page 96c
        Page 96d
        Page 96e
        Page 96f
        Page 96g
        Page 96h
        Page 96i
        Page 96j
        Page 96k
        Page 96l
        Page 96m
        Page 96n
        Page 96o
        Page 96p
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
    The temple site of Monte Alban
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
    Through the Mayan temples to Guatemala
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
    Treasure from out of the earth
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
    The discovery of Tepexpan fossil man
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
    Past and present
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
    A short sketch of pre-Spanish cultures in the high valley of Mexico
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
Full Text

I r



Pottery figure of a ball player (Nayarit)




Translated from the German by


HUTCHINSON & CO. (Publishers) LTD
z78-so2 Great Portland Street, London, W.z

London Melbourne Sydney
Auckland Bombay Toronto
Johannesburg New York

First published 1957

Set in eleven point Baskerville, one point
leaded, and printed in Great Britain
by The Anchor Press, Ltd.,
Tiptree, Essex


Note on the Author Page 9
Foreword 11
i Atoms date Prehistory I3
2 The Antiquity of the New World 19
3 A Town makes History 29
4 The First Traces 40
5 Up to the Ice 52
6 A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake 67
7 In the Devil's Ravine 82
8 The Forgotten Vale of the Tarascans 96
9 Paricutin 1og
io The Temple Site of Monte Alban 121
i Through the Mayan Temples to Guatemala 135
12 Treasure from out of the Earth 147
13 The Discovery of Tepexpan Fossil Man 160
14 Past and Present 172
A Short Sketch of Pre-Spanish Cultures in the
High Valley of Mexico 185
Index 189



The author detaching a fossil bone
The fossil elephant of Ixtapan
Stone implements found with the fossil elephant of Ixtapan
Stone artefacts, Chalco culture
Removing the Tepexpan fossil elephant bones
Mexican Indian dancers at Teotitlan del Valle near Oaxaca
The cheerful herdsman
Pottery figure of mother and child [from Tlatilco: Archaic culture]
Stone mask [Teotihuacan culture]
Ancient altar: new settlement
The icy summit of Ixtaccihuatl
Stone figure [Olmec culture]
Dark green jadeite mask from Monte Alban
Pottery urn in the form of a head with magical ornamentation
The Kaminal Juyu decorated skull
Reconstruction of the temple sites at Teotihuacan
Wall-painting at Bonampak
Aztec stone carving of the god Quetzalcoatl [Stavenhagen
Stone sculpture of Aztec goddess of the waters
The Tepexpan skull
Reconstitution of head of Tepexpan Man [by T. D. Stewart and
Leo Steppat]
Lacand6n Indian against a background of bas-relief at Bonampak


FIG. I Geographical situation of prehistoric sites in North
America 21
2 Typical Artefacts of Prehistoric Man in North
America 25
3 Map of the High Valley of Mexico 45
4 Sketch Map of the Glaciations on Ixtaccihuatl 55
5 Archaeological sites in the neighbourhood of
Mexico City 69
6 Diagrammatic section of the ancient Lake Lagoon
of Tepexpan 163
Endpaper-General Map of Mexico


Helmut de Terra was born, and grew up, in Germany. After
the conclusion of his university studies in Munich, he began those
researches in Asia which were soon to make his name well known.
Tibet and Chinese Turkestan were the preparation for expedi-
tions to Kashmir, India, Burma and Java. With support from
American scientific organizations, he undertook geological and
archaeological investigations into the most ancient evidence for
human origins and prehistory. After he had published a number
of scientific reports and works, at the outbreak of the late war
appeared his first popularly written book entitled Through the
Ancient World of the Indus (Durch Urwelten am Indus, F. A. Brockhaus,
Leipzig). From the winter of 1946 until the summer of 1952,
H. de Terra made yearly visits to Central America. With the aid
and assistance of the Carnegie Institute, the Wenner-Gren
Foundation and Columbia University, he was enabled to employ,
at most important archaeological sites, the newest methods of
radio-carbon dating. In this way, for the first time, the exact age
of some of the most ancient American monuments could be
established. The world's Press, and especially the American
magazines, have given considerable publicity to his discovery of
fossil Man in Mexico and of the existence of human settlements
ten thousand years old. Man and Mammoth in Mexico presents a
popularly written but thoroughly reliable picture of six years'
research in Central America.


It is, nowadays, more instructive than ever, to dig up the past
and to break the seals of the book of history. Our present is so full
of new problems and new ruins of all sorts. I trust that I have
conveyed in these pages something of the excitement of archaeol-
ogical discovery; my tale is, mainly, about revelations concern-
ing the remains of early Man in Central America. Within quite
recent years we have been able to use atomic physics in order to
determine the age of those cultures which preceded the empire
of the Aztecs. The radio-carbon method of dating has made us
revise all our ideas about the ancient history of Mexico and
Guatemala and I hope that what I have written will enable the
reader to visualize a drama whose first scenes are laid in remote
ages. It is a drama that gets more and more exciting as it goes on.
Little by little, we see more clearly the sequence of events that
gradually led up to the present, since in a country such as Mexico,
ancient traditions live on in our days. I have endeavoured, there-
fore, to describe some of these living links with past ages, for few
things are more stimulating to the imagination than a view of
what has gone before as something that fits into the general frame-
work of Man's destiny and fate.
What we can learn of ancient America is, like most history, all
too fragmentary. Nevertheless, we can, by the study of the patch-
work of evidence, glimpse ever new horizons and realize fresh and
perhaps unsuspected lines of linkage and comparison. And then
we are doubly blessed if, perchance, we can through archaeol-
ogical research, arrive at concepts that are comprehensible to all
and may enrich our daily lives.
Perhaps I may state here that I was attracted to American
archaeology because of my earlier researches in Asia. Of these
researches I gave some account in my first travel-book. I was
lucky enough to find aid and support, once more, from American
institutions, especially the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New
York and the Carnegie Institute in Washington. Without their
assistance I should have been unable to carry out my plans. I
also wish to express my thanks to Mexican institutions such as

12 Foreword
the Museo Nacional and the Instituto de Geologia of Mexico City.
Their representatives extended to me the most valuable help in
my work and their friendly collaboration served to confirm me in
my belief as to the common aims of museum authorities and
field-workers. I am most grateful to these Mexican colleagues.
Some of the illustrations in this book were placed at my dis-
posal by the United Fruit Company and by my friend Mr. Giles
G. Healey. Irmgard Groth and Walter Reuter allowed me, while
I was in Mexico, to make use of photographs from their rich
collection. I must also mention my debt to Mr. E. H. Sellards, the
curator of the Texas Memorial Museum at Austin, Texas. He
kindly allowed me to utilize some of his fine maps and also some of
his reproductions of prehistoric implements.

Atoms date Prehistory
T HIs story of mine about ancient America must lead off under
the sign of the atom. Not that I could have conceived of any
connection between atoms and archaeology when I under-
took my first journey to Mexico in November, 1945. What we
may call the atomic age in prehistory began, indeed, a year later
when the first experiments regarding the radioactivity of a certain
sort of carbon threw an entirely new light upon the field of
archaeological research. In the year 1946 a method was dis-
covered which allows us, through the measurement of the radio-
activity present in a given excavated object, to establish a sort of
atomic calendar. In fact, we now possess a new means for deter-
mining the age of bones and also, in a measure, of temples and
ruined monuments.
When we speak of the atomic age we think immediately of
fearful destruction through bombs and of the unspeakable horrors
that atomic warfare would bring upon mankind. However, from
the remotest times, the evil in this world has been accompanied
by good. So, also, the scientific knowledge that we have of the
power of the atom need not, of necessity, be used purely for des-
tructive purposes. We must admit, of course, that the atomic age
started badly, so badly, in fact, that many archaeologists began
to fear that, owing to widespread devastation, they would no
longer be able to carry on their investigations at all. Not one of
them could imagine that it was precisely his own science that
would, through atomic research, gain a new means for computing
and dating past ages, since without such dating there can be no
satisfactory classification of the mass of events and of human
experience which leads up to the days we are living in.
For those who know something of the history of human

14 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
inventions it will come as no surprise to learn that the new method
was discovered by chance in a laboratory. Nevertheless it was no
mere chance that the discovery was made by a chemist who had
turned his attention to atomic research in physics and to helping
the group of scientists engaged in the theoretical work that pre-
ceded the making of the first atomic bomb. In the year 1946
Dr. Willard F. Libby was requested, in connection with the
settlement of a lawsuit, to undertake the chemical analysis of the
sewage of an American town. Dr. Libby was a chemist but he was
also a member of the Institute for Atomic Research of the
University of Chicago and he was not content to confine himself
to a simple chemical analysis. The Geiger counter would indicate
if the sewage was radioactive or not. Extraordinarily enough the
sewage did show signs of weak radiation. It was difficult to imagine
where the radioactive substance had come from. At first it was
thought that the sewage may have been contaminated with
radioactive material which had, at that time, been distributed, for
purposes of study, in several different localities of the United
States. Libby, on behalf of the municipal administration, wrote to
the technical commission which had sent in the specimens. But no
radioactive material was known of in the vicinity of the town.
It was therefore obvious that the phenomenon must be due
to some peculiarity of the organic ingredients in the sewage
Most probably, therefore, this constituent of the sewage was
carbon, the most important element occurring in living things,
perhaps, indeed, a special carbon whose unstable isotope had
already been produced in the laboratory. However, this sub-
stance, known as carbon-I4, was only suspected to exist in nature,
its occurrence had not been actually proved. If, however, such
carbon was a by-product of organic life then its radiation must be
detectable with a sensitive Geiger counter. Carbon-14 would be
found in wood, shells and bones.
Dr. Libby procured his test-pieces from far and wide, wood
from the trunks of giant conifers in California, shells from the
coast of Florida, driftwood from Greenland, sea-weed from the
Pacific Ocean and animal bones from many different sources.
Experiments had to be conducted on specimens from all parts of
the world since this was the only way to discover the variation in
radioactivity presented by different organic matter. A specially
constructed Geiger counter (which could measure even the
smallest quantities of radioactive emanation) was, for months,

Atoms date Prehistory 15
employed on experimental material which before being used was
always chemically 'cleansed' [that is to say was transformed into
the element carbon] before its radioactivity was measured. Much
time and patience were necessary and lengthy calculations had to
be made so as to determine exactly the amount of the radio-
activity presented by any given specimen. Then came the question
of the possibility of contamination in the laboratory. The dis-
turbance from cosmic rays which continually pour down upon us
from outer space had to be eliminated. In order to isolate the
counter it was enclosed within a thick coating of lead and iron
plates, indeed, what might be called a 'bunker' was constructed
against cosmic-ray bombardment.
In this way it was discovered that the organic matter displayed
a uniform if slight radioactivity. That the radiation was uniform
was of the utmost importance, since, in order to compute the rate
at which the carbon lost its radioactivity, the original intensity of
the radioactivity must be determined. The mysterious power con-
tained in the atom could be measured through its radiation. In
the present case one could go farther since certain ancient organic
material was subjected to this new method of time-measure-
The theoretical explanation of the discovery is relatively easy
to understand. All living matter receives through the air a feebly
radioactive substance, the so-called radio-14, whose radioactivity
remains stable and uniform as long as the living creature main-
tains an exchange with the air, that is to say, during life. But with
the death of the organic substance, this stability ceases. The
radioactivity slowly and gradually fades away at a regular and
mathematical rate. One half of the original radioactivity dis-
appears after 5560 years. Since we know, then, this rate of
atomic disintegration as well as its original intensity, we have only
to measure in a Geiger counter the amount of radioactivity re-
maining, in order to determine the length of time which has
elapsed between the date when the organic matter ceased to live
and the present day.
The very first results obtained with ancient archaeological
material proved to be of astonishing accuracy-if account be
taken of certain fluctuations in the actual counting, variations
which are contained within easily determinable limits. Thus, for
instance, a piece of acacia wood from the sepulchral chamber of
the Egyptian Pharoah Zoser (at Saqqara) had been dated by the
archaeologists at 4650 years. The carbon-14 test gave a figure of

16 Man and Mammoth in Mexico

3949 years.1 Again experiments were undertaken on wood from a
mummy-coffin of Ptolomaic times. Its age had been calculated to
be 2280 years. The carbon-14 method gave a reading of 2190
years-thus a difference of only 90 years. In like manner, the
giant redwoods of California turned out to be as old as the
botanists had guessed from the reading of the ring-counts, that is
to say about 2928 years.
Very soon the problem was how to satisfy the demands of
archaeologists and geologists, for everyone was anxious to get new
data regarding his own special field of research. While the first
experiments were being carried on, the authorities of one museum
allowed themselves to play a trick on the discoverer of the carbon-
14 dating method. He was sent a piece of a modern wooden box
and told it was an ancient fragment of archaeological significance.
But the test showed conclusively that the specimen was modern
and the sender had to admit shamefacedly that he had set a trap
for the chemist.
As may be well imagined, this new method of dating was, for
a man just beginning investigations in Mexico, a matter of the
greatest importance, especially if one realizes how great were the
problems American archaeologists had to face, and, indeed, in a
measure, still do have to encounter. One must remember that in
the vast expanses of the Americas there are practically no ancient
written documents and consequently the difficulties were very
great in attempting to establish a chronological sequence of pre-
Columbian cultures. In the Americas there are no cuneiform in-
scriptions, no Rosetta stones, no papyri to serve in dating history.
Even the most ancient inscriptions on Maya monuments are not
older than the ist century B.c. The three Maya MSS. (much later
in date), one of which is the Dresden codex, afford but very little
information about the traditions of this gifted people who devised
an accurate calendar as well as an ingenious system of arithmetic.
Moreover, the Maya inhabited but a very small area of the
American continent-the peninsula of Yucatan and the adjoining
mountainous region of Guatemala and Honduras-so that their
relatively few hieroglyphic inscriptions bear only a very limited
significance when we think of the immensity of the Americas. The
few pre-Columbian Aztec MSS. are still more circumscribed in
It should be borne in mind that all radio-carbon dates have a plus or minus
figure which indicates that the chances are two to one that the date is within the factor.
Although the carbon-14 dating method has furnished results of the greatest interest
and importance it is still, to a certain extent, in the experimental stage. (Translator's

Atoms date Prehistory 17
their range for they do not date farther back than the 13th century
of our era. The main dilemma confronting American archaeolo-
gists was, therefore, a chronological one, and it was precisely for
its help in determining dates that the new carbon-14 method was
of such prime importance. It had now become possible to see more
clearly into the succession of cultures of whose real antiquity up
to then nothing had been known. And once some satisfactory
chronological basis had been established, then it was possible to
compare the American dating with those of other cultures, es-
pecially those of Asiatic origin. Even the geologists [who are,
generally speaking, concerned with much larger measurements of
time than the archaeologists], and the Ice Age specialists who
grapple with the problems of glacial phenomena, may feel the
need of the radio-carbon test when it comes to a question of the
dating of a skull or an artefact.
The most recent dating assigned to wooden objects from
glacial sites in America seem to prove that the geologists went a
little too far in their estimates. The end of the last Ice Age in
North America, which has been set at about 20,000 years ago,
should perhaps be regarded as having lasted a good deal longer.1
The same thing may be said with regard to certain estimates of
the age of caves and other archaeological sites which were in-
habited by Cro-Magnon man and the reindeer hunters in
Europe. Even biblical studies owe something to the carbon-14
tests, since the linen binding of a book of Isaiah, found in the
cave near Ain Feshka on the Dead Sea, proves to be of the age
which had been assigned to it by the archaeologists, i.e. about
150 B.C. Also forged 'antiques' can be detected especially in the
case of parchments, wood objects and shell ornaments, if their
age is supposed to be more than about one thousand years, for it
is hardly possible to measure the carbon-14 disintegration for
periods of less than this.
Chance would have it that on the very day of the Hiroshima
explosion I was discussing, with a colleague at Harvard Univer-
sity, my plans for research in Mexico. I can see the scene before
me as I write. I walked into his quiet study. I had the morning
newspaper in my hand. He glanced at the headline report and
then stared at me as though he were thunderstruck. Then he
murmured: 'Other cultures have collapsed for less cogent reasons

The author says in his text that the end of the last North American Ice Age may
have occurred as recently as Io,ooo years ago, but this estimate reflects a carbon-14
dating out of proper geological context. (Translator's Note.)

18 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
than this-drought, wars, exhaustion of the soil, social struggle
and religious fanaticism, but never as yet through the utilization
and realization of scientific theory.'
Why indeed should we carry on the further exploration of
ruins and worry ourselves about the beginnings of humanity, when
we were standing on the brink of what looked like an apocalypse
of self-destruction? Everywhere were new ruins and graveyards.
They had become commonplaces of human experience and a
reproach to our civilization. What had happened to turn our lives
so bitter, why did the so-called homo sapiens always have need of
such catastrophes? Ruins present problems that have for long
been known to archaeologists, but just because these problems
now seem so new, so modern, excavators must apply themselves
anew to their work and endeavour to obtain the solution of these
problems even if it is only a fragmentary one. Through the
annihilation of the present, it seemed as though the ancient his-
tory of the world's civilizations had risen up and become very
near to us. Excavated objects were once part of a life that is
perpetuated in us; they furnish us with new perspectives of value
to us here and now. From such objects we can reconstruct a
measuring-stick for long-past epochs. From the spoil of sites we
can reconstitute scenes which follow on each other as the incidents
in a film. History is a flickering and imperfect film whose audience
is for ever changing without however losing its essential human
qualities, which are for ever the same. The men who built the
Egyptian pyramids, the Aztec lords and masters, the slaves in
Babylon, the inventors of the wheeled vehicle, they were all, at
one time, real, living entities, men active in the short span between
birth and death.
The field archaeologist is, to some degree, like a detective; he
may find some significant meaning that lies behind a mass of
long-forgotten works of Man's hands. If he finds but one fragment
of the great mosaic of history, it throws light upon it, depicts and
maybe fits into the general course of a culture. So is the archaeol-
ogist's existence justified. In life better knowledge is arrived at
through recollection. In this connection, the psychologists have
penetrated far into the study of human conflicts because the
experiences of childhood are used in the analysis of adult deeds
and acts. Why should the historian and the archaeologist not
proceed in the same fashion, since their concern is with the
beginning and the early childhood of mankind?

The Antiquity of the New World

JUST as in 1946 there opened a new epoch in archaeological
research in America, so, in 1927, a new phase or chapter was
begun in American archaeology as such.
In the summer of 1927 an amateur archaeologist by the name
of Figgins discovered some mammoth bones near the small town
of Folsom in New Mexico. During his excavation, as he was
working carefully on the ribs of the Ice Age pachyderm, he came
across two stone spear- or javelin-heads fixed between the bones.
Ever since that time, thirty years ago, we have had proof of the
existence of a primitive American Man, a sort of 'Adam of the
Redskins', so to speak, even if his skeletal remains did not come to
light at Folsom, or have been discovered at any other site where
'Foslom Culture' man-made implements or artefacts have been
discovered. All the same, the find made by Figgins sufficed to
enlarge very considerably what we may call the prehistorical
horizon of North America.
The stone-spear or javelin-points (which since 1927 have been
known by the technical name of 'Folsom Culture') must, accord-
ing to the general opinion of specialists, have belonged to a people
of mammoth hunters who, about the end of the last North
American Ice Age, had their hunting-grounds towards the
eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Archaeologists and geolo-
gists are, therefore, agreed that Man must have flourished in
America io,ooo, or even 25,000 years ago. These mammoth
hunters came, presumably, out of Asia and must have reached
America by way of the Bering Strait which may well have formed
a land-bridge at the time of their immigration.
It was in the summer of 1936 and in the State of Colorado that
I first came in contact with American primitive Man, or rather

20 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
with his relics. These were found to the north of the city of Denver
on the Lindenmeier ranch. Excavations had been carried on there
by the Smithsonian Institution and had revealed a huge deposit
of bones in which the stone artefacts of the mysterious Folsom
Man were found in association with the bones of bison, wild
horse and mammoth. There were thousands and thousands of
split and charred bones. The site, indeed, must have for long
served as an open-air camp or settlement to which the hunters
returned again and again, probably because of the water supply
and of the wide prospect over the far-reaching hunting-grounds
nearby. There can be no doubt that Folsom Man was an expert
hunter and also the inventor of implements, lance-points, knives,
borers, drills and the like. He was, indeed, on the same cultural
level as the reindeer hunters (that is the Magdalenian men) of
Western Europe. The Folsom leaf-shaped spear-heads in hard
stone appear rather like those of the Solutrean culture of Western
Europe, but the former are, however, sufficiently original for us
to be able to assign to this primitive American Folsom Man a
remarkable inventive talent. It was a talent that, much later on,
found its expression in the temples of Mexico and Peru and in the
richly-coloured wall-paintings of the ancient Maya people.
We may see, then, how modest were the beginnings of the
ancient Americans. Both the North and the South of the dual
continent were gradually settled by roaming hunters. Later, under
the warm tropical sun, on the coasts, by the mountain lakes and
in fruitful valleys, the early Amerindians probed into the mysteries
of plant agriculture-maize, beans, gourds, pumpkins, squash
and potatoes were cultivated in fields. Later on they turned their
new riches into imperishable things and created splendid build-
ings and roads, invented hieroglyphic script and an accurate
calendar, built up mighty empires that lasted for more than a
thousand years before Cortes and Pizarro brought the native
Amerindian civilizations and high cultures to an end.
When we think of these things we should bear in mind that all
these achievements in art, astronomy, writing and temple con-
struction were reached without the assistance of those aids and
adjuncts which existed in ancient Egypt and in Mesopotamia. In
the Americas there were no wheeled vehicles, no potter's wheel,
no breed of draught animals and no knowledge of how to smelt
mineral ores. The pre-Columbian high cultures of the Americas
arose out of Stone Age cultures so that we may observe in them a
very special kind of human achievement which, without much of

0 *1*-'

S0 295 330

FIG. I.-Geographical situation of prehistoric sites in North
America (after E. H. Sellards)

22 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
the material or mechanical help that was forthcoming in the Old
World, created a way of life that was perfect in itself and com-
parable, as far as the creative power of the human spirit is con-
cerned, with the accomplishments of the Old World. We may
consider that this ancient America, without the help of techniques,
reached up to the stars, in contrast to later periods in which
technical appliances gave their stamp to culture and began to take
the place of spiritual values.
The first reliable reports concerning these things, as far as the
attention of Europeans was concerned, are to be found in the
writings of Alexander von Humboldt whose genius comprehended
the whole range of ancient American cultures whether repre-
sented by the manners and customs of tribes living in the forests
by the Orinoco River, or by the aesthetic enjoyment to be obtained
by admiring the ancient Mexican pyramids.
The antiquity of Man in the Americas is now seen to be very
great and the continent offers not only the geologists but also the
archaeologist a rich field for research. The American cultures and
civilizations indeed must claim an important place in the world's
cultural history.
It was, thus, in Colorado, as I have said, that my interest in
ancient America was first awakened, which is perhaps surprising
if I point out that my first investigations into the remains of the
most ancient human relics and remains were undertaken in
India. I have already written about my experiences in the sub-
continent and how, for months on end, I searched for the fossil
bones of a hypothetical predecessor of Man in the desiccated
landscape of the multicoloured 'Salt Chain' in north-western
India. I was, indeed, looking for the remains of apes which
millions of years ago lived in the warm foothills of the Himalayas
(Siwdlik). Those anatomists and palaeontologists who examined
and studied my collection of fossils, pointed out that, in some
respects, these anthropoid apes were nearer to homo sapiens than
are our nearest living relations the gorilla, chimpanzee or orang-
utan. During my explorations in India I was also able to identify
New Stone Age cultures in geologically datable formations. These
artefacts were found in association with fossil animal remains
such as were also unearthed during the discoveries of Java and
Peking Man in Eastern Asia.
However, today, it looks as though we should not speak of one
'cradle' of mankind since the finds in China and in southern
Africa, for instance, occur in regions so very widely separated

The Antiquity of the New World 23
from one another. Nevertheless, it is of the most absorbing interest
to seek for the most ancient traces of Man in those very regions
where, later on, most significant cultures developed, that is to say
in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China-and ancient Mexico.
In this latter region archaeologists had for decades been
studying the predecessors of the Aztecs and had discovered ancient
settlements and graves which told us, in merest outline, something
about a number of cultures much more ancient than that of the
Aztecs themselves. In this connection I could not help wondering
whether in the High Valley of Mexico-that was known to be an
El Dorado for archaeological research-it had not been assumed
that the prehistory of that area was a good deal shorter than, in
fact, it was. The specialists, indeed, nearly all asserted that in
Mexico there had not been any 'primitive' Man nor any really
ancient culture if we take the word 'ancient' in its geological
connotation. I had come to think that this standpoint could not
be maintained since it was most improbable that the early men of
the Folsom or similar types never went beyond the boundaries of
what is now the United States! Moreover, remains of Stone Age
Man had been found in Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and even southern
Chile. What could be the date of the most ancient graves dis-
covered under the lava layer near the Mexican capital? I was
anxious to learn about the lives of the first agriculturalists, of the
earliest settlers and of the makers of pottery objects.
Such fascinating problems were bound up with the concept of
a millenia-old relationship and association between Man and his
surroundings, with a sort of law that determined the reactions of
early Man to his natural environment. One had only to think of
Egypt and Mesopotamia to realize that there was a gap in the
picture which the archaeologists and excavators had given us of
ancient Mexico.
In order to appreciate this point perhaps we should glance at
the discoveries which stemmed from and followed after the
Folsom find. In this connection we shall have occasion to stress
something which is important for the understanding of the way in
which these finds were at first regarded, for they were almost all
appreciated in the light of a scientific prejudice which is not
justified by the geological evidence.
At one time, methods of what may be called geological dating
were but little heeded by American archaeologists and pre-
historians since the human skeletal remains discovered in the
Americas revealed no significant differences between these early

24 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Amerindians and those of historical times. For instance, the skulls
that were dug up proved, repeatedly, to be of so modern a type
that no one was able to believe in their great age. In these cir-
cumstances, it is understandable that the anthropologists were
inclined to regard with great mistrust each new account of fossil
human skeletal material. Here, however, was an attitude so
prejudiced as to have a cramping effect upon the development of
prehistorical studies in America, for it was overlooked, under the
influence of all the arguments against the great geological age of
early Man in America, that the so-called homo sapiens might
himself be very ancient-much more ancient than was generally
admitted-and furthermore that the spread and diffusion of Man
over the immense spaces of both Americas must have demanded a
much greater period of time than was apparently indicated in the
archaeological remains of ancient cultures. Moreover this negative
attitude with regard to the antiquity of Man in America was un-
justified since we had, in Europe and Asia, fossil remains of
modern Man which had been found in Ice Age sites. Moreover,
the astonishing diversity of the native Amerindian languages, a
diversity that seemed to point to several millenia of development,
could hardly be reconciled with a dating of only some 1500 years
before the Spanish Conquest.
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the discoveries
of fossil human skulls that the Dane Lund found years ago in the
Lagoa-Santa caves in Brazil, were recognized as very ancient only
as short a time ago as 1931. In these same caves had been found a
skeleton which, in the special terminology of the anthropologists,
is known as that of 'Confins Man', but in association with these
human bones, the palaeontologists found, during the excavation,
the remains of long-extinct fauna, such as giant sloths, ancient
types of llama and mammoth. Geologically speaking, there was
good reason to assign to this site and its contents a very con-
siderable antiquity-say, from 5000 to 1o,ooo years. The skull of
Confins Man provided rather a surprise for the anthropologist
since it was long dolichocephalicc) and not broad (brachy-
cephalic) as are the skulls of many, if not most, of the present-day
Amerindians, and indeed of those of the historical past. Thus, the
Confins skull raised an acute problem since, we should expect, if
we assume that the Amerindians all derive from Asiatic immi-
grants, that the brachycephalic Mongoloid type should occur in
all ancient Amerindian human remains.
Furthermore, such expectations were also disappointed in the


T A 5 6 8

FIG. 2.-Typical Artefacts of Prehistoric Man in North America
(after E. H. Sellards)
1-2: Folsom Points from Lubbock, Texas (radio-carbon dating
about 9883 Years)
3-4: Lance Points from Plainview, Texas
5-6: Lance Points of Clovis Type
7-8: Stone Points from the Sandia Cave, New Mexico

Man and Mammoth in Mexico

case of the 'Punin Man' from Ecuador, since his skull also is in no
way Mongoloid but seems rather to be related to those of peoples
of Negrito type whose representatives are scattered about from
India to the South Seas. The American archaeologist Junius
Bird also found long-headed human skulls, together with animal
fossils, in southern Chile, near the Strait of Magellan. He dated
these remains at about 5400 years.
In the meantime, the Folsom find in New Mexico had excited
the search for fossil Man to such a degree that between 1931 and
1933 no fewer than three discoveries of human skeletons were
made in Minnesota and all of individuals regarded as being
'ancient' in the geological sense of the word. One of these is known
as the 'Minnesota Girl'. Her skull does not indicate that in life
her appearance was that of a Venus; however, the anthropolo-
gists were satisfied that she was a 'primitive' Mongoloid and there-
fore corresponded to what the prevailing theory demanded that
she should be. In the case of the 'Minnesota Girl' the circum-
stances of the find were such that they could not be scientifically
checked and determined. Hence there arose discussions as to the
geological age of the discovery which, however, a committee of
experts finally agreed to fix at about 22,000 years since the skull
lay in the marsh-formation of a glacial lake whose age was well
enough established.
Again, it was mammoth hunters who in Brown's Valley in
Minnesota left behind them stone spear-heads with bones as they
drowned in the marshes during a hunting expedition. A much
more terrible fate overtook the owner of an ancient skull found at
Melbourne on the Florida coast. He was crushed flat by a
mammoth and the reconstitution of his head was extremely
In California, near Santa Barbara, as also between San
Francisco and Sacramento, fossil human bones have been
excavated recently. They may well be some 8000 years old.
After such undeniable proofs of very early Man in America a
great hush descended upon the camp of the critics and doubters.
Geological considerations, indeed, allow us to conclude that the
earliest Man appeared in North America during a warm inter-
stadial of the last glaciation, that in America is called the
'Wisconsin'. That the immigrants consisted of men of mixed
racial types is evident from two distinct sets of considerations.
First of all the skulls of the early Americans differ notably
from each other; secondly, the ancient Far Eastern homo sapiens

The Antiquity of the New World 27
type is really the result of 'racial' mixture. This last conception
was put forward by the late Dr. Franz Weidenreich, the cele-
brated anatomist, and in connection with the fossil skulls from the
so-called 'Upper Cave' at Choukoutien near Peking. Among
these he thought that he could recognize the characteristics of
several different human types.
In making this outline sketch of finds relating to early
American Man, we should bear in mind the work of the special-
ists who aided and assisted in the excavations, that is to say the
geologists, palaeontologists, botanists and soil experts. It was
from their collaboration with the archaeologists and from the
use the latter made of what are called the 'peripheral scientific
disciplines' that there was obtained a clear picture of climate
change and soil formation, of changing fauna and flora on which
the earliest Amerindian had to relief and which modified and
influenced his way of life. It is with a full appreciation of these
considerations that many of the archaeological discoveries have
been studied and described.
Since we can now set, so to speak, the geological background
for the life of early Man in America, so there may exist, a few
enthusiasts may think, some reason for believing in the legend of
the sunken continent of Atlantis. In fact, could ancient America
have been peopled from Atlantis?
On this question of the existence of an ancient Atlantis there
is a remarkably abundant literature, starting with the original
story as related by Plato and swelling up, during the Middle Ages,
to a mass of books, for the problem of Atlantis, together with those
of unicorns and the Deluge, was one of the main objects of dis-
cussion among medieval scholars. Alexander von Humboldt
thought it worth while to raise this question in 1799 in his account
of his travels. While he was in the Canary Islands he studied the
problem and summarily disposed of it. One can only echo his
words when he declares that geological proofs for the existence of
Atlantis just are not forthcoming there where logically we might
expect them, that is to say, in the Atlantic islands. These were
formed through volcanic action and arose from the ocean depths
in comparatively recent times. Moreover, since Humboldt's day
there has not been found in the Canaries or the Azores any
archaeological evidence that allows us to suppose that there ever
existed an ancient Atlantis continent.
The situation is rather different regarding the possibility of
later immigrations from the western parts of Europe or from

28 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Africa. It is possible that the Phoenicians may have sailed from
England to the north of Iceland, as they also appear to have
sailed along the western coasts of Africa, but it is hardly reasonable
to suppose that the Ice Age hunters of Europe managed to traverse
the Atlantic, especially since for such an exploit there is no
shadow of any archaeological proof. If the Folsom and other
Stone Age cultures of North America display stone implements
that resemble the leaf-shaped spear-heads of the Solutrean or
Magdalenian western European cultures, that constitutes no proof
of European Ice Age influence in America, since such resem-
blances may quite well have arisen from the limited possibilities
which exist in the technique of stone-chipping and the creation of
stone implements.
How various and varied are the stone artefacts of the early
Amerindians is apparent from the illustrations on page 25. The
diffusion and dissemination of such artefacts in geologically
ancient strata is shown on the sketch-map of North America. In
this continent and in Cuba there exist no less than sixty ancient
sites the great majority of which occur to the east of the Rocky
Mountains and in the States of Nebraska, New Mexico and
Texas. It was there that stretched the vast and wide hunting-
grounds of primitive Man, who, in the pursuit of his prey, must
surely have traversed the river that at the present time marks
the frontier between the United States and Mexico.
So, I decided, it was there in Mexico that I could hope to find
the remains of the hunted beasts-mammoth, bison and wild
horse-and perhaps also the bones of the most ancient American
hunters themselves.

A Town makes History

HAD always wanted to cross the Tropic of Cancer in some
place where it is clearly marked, such as on a highway, and
two days after I had passed the Texas border I was able to
gratify my wish and stop my car beside a white stone on which
the Tropic was plainly traced. From that point it was another two
days on to Mexico City. However, the road surfaces were in
splendid condition, the hotel beds comfortable and free of insects,
while in Cuidad del Valle a jaguar hopped, in leisurely fashion,
right in front of my car. In the town itself I found a group of
musicians lined up before an inn and playing a serenade in the
bright moonlight. A more romantic scene it would not have been
possible to imagine.
The only adventure I met with on the whole 2200 miles
stretch from New York was in the outskirts of Mexico City itself.
Here a young policeman insisted on playing the guide to a
visiting foreigner. In the evening traffic rush and jam of the great
city, I was very grateful to him. Each time we came to a red light
my uniformed companion blew shrill blasts on his whistle and we
shot on right past the traffic lights. That we ever got through
alive was due to the providence of God.
When I had soaked in a warm bath and washed off the dust of
my long drive, I was, at once, so to speak, plunged into Mexican
prehistory. As I read the morning papers I could not believe my
eyes. They were full of the news of mammoth bones which had
been discovered in the Plaza de Toros. There were lengthy reports
on the find that was treated as a matter of first-rate importance.
So, as it happened, I could not have had a more auspicious intro-
duction to Mexico. 'Scientists in the Plaza de Toros'-'Did the
early Mexicans hunt elephants?' so ran the banner headlines. Who

30 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
could avoid feeling affection for a country where such subjects
make the headlines on the first pages of the newspapers? About
nineteen feet down workmen had come across the ancient bones
just where the arena in the new sports' centre was being con-
structed. The gigantic bones lay in a deposit of loam or clay and
in association with remarkable round pottery objects. Some of the
bones, it was reported, showed signs of having been split-
presumably by human agency. Geologists and archaeologists had
at once hurried to the site.
I dropped the newspaper and thought about the ancient
Aztec tradition which told that in far-off ages the High Valley of
Mexico, in which the capital and its temples lay, was inhabited
by giants. 'Our forefathers were giants' said the Indians whom
Cortes had questioned in 1520. The Conqueror's companion,
Bernal Diaz, had also been shown giants' bones in Tlaxcala before
the conquest of the Mexican capital. Here, then, was the solution
of the riddle: the great bones belonged to the long-extinct
American elephant, that beast of the late Ice Age, which, when
the north of the continent became too cold for him, migrated
southwards into Mexico.
On the very next day a Mexican colleague took me out to the
site of the discovery. It lay between deep excavations dug for the
foundations of new buildings and but a little distance from the
elegant Avenida de los Insurgentes where latest model American cars
were gliding past sumptuous cinemas. The workman who showed
me the site was a broad-faced, stockily-built Indian with sur-
prisingly delicate hands. As he pointed out the fossil bone stratum
he had to hold up his trousers with his left hand for the buckle
of his belt had broken. In such circumstances I should not have
been able to deliver any sort of speech and I was in great admira-
tion of his composure. Since, in those days, my Spanish was very
poor, my colleague translated for me a report that I was lucky
enough to get at first hand from a man whose ancestors had
possibly killed mammoths in the very spot where we were stand-
ing, an Indian in whose veins there may well have run some Aztec
blood. The geological conditions of the sites looked very promis-
ing but a further examination of the fossiliferous layer was out of
the question. However, when we got to the Geological Institute,
where the bones had been brought, I did not feel at all certain
that the bones had been split by human agency; they were too
irregularly broken. Primitive Man would have gone to work in a
more careful fashion; he would at least have given his marks

A Town Makes History 31
some definite direction. What the bones showed were accidental
abrasions caused by impact of stones either in a stream or down
a declivity. Even the 'pottery objects' proved to be natural
formations. But all this did not matter much. What was more
important was that such things as mammoth bones existed in
Mexico City and that earlier observers, including Alexander von
Humboldt, had reported on fossil bones. It was indeed these
earlier literary allusions which had strengthened me in my
opinion that early Man may have existed in this neighbourhood.
When I mention 'this neighbourhood', I would not convey
the idea that I set out on a search for fossils over the whole area of
the high plateau around the city. Quite on the contrary, I felt that
the first thing I needed was an introduction to the city itself which
appeared to me, at the first glance, as having some almost fabulous
quality. Only ten days before I had been walking through the
sky-scraper canyons of New York which always convey the im-
pression that life is lived perpendicularly since only a few storeys
are within one's field of vision.
Here, in Mexico City, it was at least possible to take in the
width and height of the houses at a glance; here were corners and
then tall facades; here were gaps in the rows of houses where
Indian workmen were working deep down and moving around
wires and tubes that passed underground; here were old sculp-
tured coats of arms and baroque frontages between whose walls
the traffic often got jammed up in dangerous fashion. There were
Indian faces, blind beggars or men in broad-brimmed straw-hats,
women, with tiny children slung on their backs, sitting on the side
of the roadway near the parked Cadillacs and offering for sale
various objects to the passing tourists, things which were almost
invariably refused. Days and weeks are necessary before one can
retain, much less sort out, such novel sights and such unexpected
impressions. Friends, indeed, told me that, after thirty years'
residence in the city, they were always discovering the most un-
expected things: a politician kissing the hand of a blind beggar;
a boy with a tray of cakes and tarts balanced on his head while he
steered his bicycle with one hand and slipped along between two
motor trucks.
The capital of Mexico has, for me, something of what one may
call a menacing, an apocalyptic character. It is as though, at any
moment, there might occur an earthquake, a volcanic eruption or
a revolution. During the dry winter days the three million
inhabitants of Mexico City are often bathed in clouds of dust

Man and Mammoth in Mexico

which the wind blows up from the old lake bottoms of the valley
and then swirls slowly towards the gigantic mountains whose
peaks, snow-clad and ice-bound, reveal a cold, clear world which
is not a little surprising here in the sub-tropics. On unclouded
days you may see, drifting from the summit that bears the old
Aztec name of Popocatepetl, a slight trail of smoke to remind one
that as late as 1921 the volcano showered a rain of ashes upon the
city. If, when there is no haze, you look into the far distance,
your eye lights upon old craters and lava-fields lying to the south
and east, witnesses to a time, some thousands of years ago, when
the fire-mountains spewed out flame and projected molten
masses of dull-red glowing rocks and stone for miles over the flat
floor of the valley.
To the north, you can make out a silvery grey streak. It is
Lake Texcoco, afata morgana or will-o'-the-wisp, glistening in the
heat and haze of the desiccated plateau. Mexico City itself has
spread out on all sides from the old, original Aztec kernel which
was incorporated into the medieval Spanish settlement. This
expansion was possible only because the lake had dried up on
whose isles the Aztecs had built the capital of their empire. Their
city dated back to the beginning of the i4th century and it was
in 1521 devastated in appalling fashion by the Spaniards.
In the oldest part of Mexico City you may see houses leaning
against each other like drunken sailors and streets whose surface
is wrinkled into shallow waves. The subsoil, indeed, is subsiding
as is evident even at the pompous palace of the Fine Arts which,
since 1910, has sunk some six feet into the earth. In the depressions,
the rain-water collects and this leads, in the summer time, to
flooding. At times I have had to be carried by an Indian over the
streaming streets and into a department store. On occasion some
of the inhabitants have to go home in boats.
Because of the flood menace and also the ever-increasing
motor traffic, the city has spread out during the last decade over
areas which are, from the geological point of view, more secure,
and cover both higher situated ancient lake beds and also the
hills to the west, where a new villa district has grown up, extend-
ing a charming and Californian elegance over the countryside.
Here, near the beautiful shady Paseo de la Reforma-the finest
avenue in the city and one whose motor traffic can be compared
only with that of Fifth Avenue in New York-lies the most
ancient public park in the Americas, Chapultepec. It is said that
it contains trees dating from the time of Montezuma, that last of

A Town makes History 33
the Aztec emperors. I cannot say that I have been able to secure
any certain confirmation of this story, indeed I have not tried to,
but have always just contented myself with standing upon the
palace terrace-on which a hundred years ago the hapless Haps-
burg ruler and his unfortunate consort the Empress Carlota used
to walk-and gaze out on to the beautiful park and the great city
One cannot help thinking what Montezuma might have said
of the sky-scrapers that, during recent years, have been put up
even here, places such as the National Lottery Building and the
American Embassy. Maybe he would have smiled wisely and
pointed to the north where the ancient pyramids lie. 'Those,' I
used to imagine the Aztec ruler say, 'had stood for long before I
came to the throne, and they will outlast your modern structures
by a thousand years. You are worried by floods? I already warned
grim Cortes about that or I would have cautioned him had not he
and his captain Alvarado so cruelly tortured us. They burned my
subjects' feet so that they might reveal where the golden treasure
lay hid, but with my dams and barrages and water conduits the
ruthless conquerors did not concern themselves at all.'
In 1607 the new capital of Spanish Mexico almost slithered
into the lake. The waters menaced the Viceroy in his palace.
Those who escaped the flood ran the risk of being cast out as
pestiferous and of ending in a watery grave. So threatening had
things become that His Excellency Don Luis Velasco called into
consultation the few engineers he had at his disposal and decided,
wisely enough, to adopt the plans drawn up by his protig6, a
certain Enrico Martinez, alias Heinrich Martin, a man celebrated
in those days as cosmographer to His Catholic Majesty and as the
author both of a nautical almanac and a natural history.
Since we have mentioned this extraordinary man, perhaps we
may, for a moment, consider his full and diversified life. His
parents were Germans, who had settled in Seville where the
father enjoyed a considerable reputation as a printer. The fact
that he had been a Protestant does not seem to have told against
him. Even when he was a lad this Enrico, or Heinrich, passed for
a book-worm and a star-gazer. Whenever he got the opportunity
he would pump all the information he could out of navigators and
ecclesiastics. Hardly had he left school than his wise father sent
him to Paris where the youth studied mathematics and cosmo-
graphy. Under this last heading we may include such diverse
subjects as astronomy, navigation and the natural science of the

34 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Greeks and Romans. On his return to the Spanish capital, the
young bachelor of arts met Luis de Velasco, just appointed
Viceroy of New Spain and about to set sail with several ships for
Mexico. Enrico attached himself to the person of the Viceroy and,
a little later on, we find his traces in Mexico City where he acted
for a time as a translator and interpreter for the Commission of
the Holy Inquisition. Enrico spoke Latin, was acquainted with
Flemish and had learned from his father something of the art of
printing books. After Enrico had written his treatise for seafarers
and issued it from his own printing press, he was, with the help
and recommendation of the Viceroy-for the book had found a
ready sale in Spain-appointed cosmographer to His Catholic
Majesty. As a mathematician Enrico Martinez had no rival
in the New World and his greatest hour approached when
he laid before the Viceroy a remarkable plan for saving the
We can imagine him as he bent over the map and explained
to his illustrious patron the natural hydrographical system of the
lake's basin. 'We must circumvent nature. We must use a canal
to drain off the waters of the upper lake called Zumpango. In this
way alone can we prevent its waters, during the rainy season,
from flowing over into the lower and much larger lake of Texcoco
and from producing floods. The canal should be cut towards the
north-west, through the natural watershed that is hardly more
than a hundred and fifty feet higher than the level of Lake
Zumpango. In this way the overflow from the lake would be
diverted into the Tula River that runs down into the Gulf of
This was a masterly scheme, and, indeed, the only one which
was at all suitable for preventing the catastrophic floods that
menaced the city. The Viceroy gave his assent to the project-
he had, in fact, no other choice. He invested his unusually gifted
engineer with full powers to drive the canal through the water-
shed. Enrico employed, it seems, ten thousand workmen, hundreds
of whom died at the task, but his was the first army in the Americas
to set out for the conquest of a natural obstacle. The general was
a mathematician and an engineer operating under the eyes of the
whole viceregal Court. It was thirteen years later that the Pilgrim
Fathers landed on the coast of Massachusetts and it was another
two hundred years after that before the new United States pro-
duced a man who dared even to talk of such a grandiose engineer-
ing project as Enrico Martinez carried out. In the early i7th

A Town makes History 35
century there came from old Europe what the Germans call a
'Faustian' type of man who was to change the face of nature
in a region where the ancient Aztec rulers had already built
a barrage and an aqueduct for bringing water to their capital
In ten months Enrico Martinez had dug his canal. The
Viceroy and the Archbishop of Mexico, accompanied by a great
retinue, graced with their presence the formal inauguration.
Enrico's name was in every man's mouth and the engineer,
decked with a golden chain of honour, strode through the capital
like a conqueror.
But a few years later Don Luis de Velasco died. His successor
would not hear of any further work being done on the canal. In
vain Enrico implored permission to finish off the work and to
strengthen the walls with a revetment of brick. The sycophants
and toadies of the viceregal Court were league against Enrico.
He was accused of having misappropriated funds. Furthermore,
it was objected, the plans must be faulty since the city was
threatened with fresh floods. The Viceroy abandoned the ageing
engineer, who was shackled with fetters and thrown into a prison
where he had to eat, with common criminals, the food his sons
brought to him. Meanwhile the celebrated Dutch engineer,
Adriaan Boot, was appointed as Martinez' successor, but where,
at one time, Enrico had been able to work freely, Boot met only
with chicanery and constant evasions and subterfuges. The
Dutchman was accustomed to quite different treatment. He had
been given a free hand in his native country when he had applied
his invention for raising water, by means of windmills, from the
dykes into the canals. In Mexico everything depended upon
finishing off Enrico's work, upon deepening the canals and on
casing its sides. After only a few years Boot went back home in
disgust and Enrico Martinez was released from jail. Enfeebled
by his years of imprisonment, he set himself, nonetheless, to the
completion of his great task, but he could not obtain the necessary
backing and support. From his bed of sickness in the sleepy old
town of Cuautitlan, not far from the canal's banks, he saw its
walls give way before he died on Christmas night in 1629. The
monks of Cuautitlan monastery used, so I was told, to say a Mass
for the repose of his soul at each Christmastide. Still, a monument
to Enrico Martinez stands in the middle of Mexico City though
the inhabitants hurry by without worrying much about the flood

36 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
This story of Enrico Martinez is, curiously enough, linked
with a discovery which pointed, for the first time, to the existence
of very early Man in Mexico.
At the end of the last century men's minds reverted to old
Enrico and his great feat, for it was sought to divert the drainage
of the ever-growing city from what had become the almost dry
bed of Lake Texcoco. A few miles to the north-east of the old
canal's course, the watershed was pierced again. While the work
was going on there came to light hundreds of fossil bones near a
place called Tequixquiac. One day, an Indian workman came
across a curious object which he at once showed to the foreman.
He took it to the Geological Institute where Professor Barcena,
an expert in such things, studied it carefully and then published
a description of it. He considered that it was a fossil bone that had
been carved, by human agency, into the likeness of the head of a
coyote, the American jackal. Barcena visited the site of the find
and, after careful and critical examination of the geological con-
ditions, came to the conclusion that the carving was of the same
age as that of the fossiliferous stratum in which occurred the
remains of mammoths, wild horses, large felines and other extinct
mammals. 'Thus, there can be no doubt,' wrote the Mexican
scientist, 'that during the Ice Age there were men in Mexico, men
who, like the Magdalenian reindeer-hunters of western Europe,
fashioned art-objects out of animal bones.' According to Barcena,
indeed, Man in Mexico must have been as ancient as the cave-
dwellers of the Solutrean culture-phase in France.
That Barcena's colleagues to the north of the Rio Grande
took no notice of this important discovery can be easily under-
stood if we remember that the opinion generally prevailing at the
time was that Man had arrived in the Americas at a comparatively
recent date. I must admit that when I read Barcena's report it
aroused in me great hopes that further discoveries of a like kind
would one day be made. And these hopes were increased by
another discovery that was made as long ago as the 8o's of the
last century. The Mexican geologist Castillo had, indeed, un-
earthed a human skull at the foot of a volcanic hill not far from
the site of the present airport of Mexico City. The fragments were
embedded in a deposit of hard limestone which had been laid
down as the ancient lake dried up. In this case, also, a great
geological age must be assumed since precisely similar deposits
elsewhere had yielded the remains of Ice Age animals. However,
Castillo's discovery was also met with silence even in those circles

A Town makes History 37
of specialists where one would have expected to encounter at
least a measure of open-minded curiosity.
The soil of this ancient city appeared, then, to enclose in its
old deposits the evidence of drama.
The situation of the present day was, for me, fairly evident
from the first weeks of my stay. Again and again it was brought
home to me that art, modern art, played an important, indeed an
indispensable part in everyday life. With the exception of Italy,
I know of no country where, at the present time, significant
artists are so actively supported and encouraged by government
patronage for the adornment of public edifices. Not only in the
Mexican National Palace, the seat of the government, but also in
hotels, schools, in historical monuments and in modern buildings
one is confronted with the wall-paintings of Diego Rivera, of
Orosco and Siqueiros. The artistic merit of these men lies princi-
pally in their having broken away from French painting tradi-
tions and in having given their country an art that is intelligible
to all classes of society. The painters' art is a popular one that
appeals to and can be comprehended by the simplest Indians
from the backwoods. In pictures he can see depicted colourful
and joyous scenes of life in pre-Columbian Mexico, the women
flower-sellers in the market-place with the familiar background
of a landscape of lava cliffs or the tropical vegetation of the Gulf
Coast or the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
When we look at such paintings we may, of course, be moved
to feel that the artists have somewhat exaggerated, in their
hostile prejudice, the evils of the Spanish tradition and the
tortures inflicted upon the native Indian population. Still, we
must remember that the modern Mexican artists are, for the most
part, the propagandists of native tradition and that, furthermore,
the painters themselves are mostly of Indian origin.
The resurgence of the Indian peoples in Mexican daily life
was first brought home to me when I made a number of courtesy
visits to government departments. Especially among the younger
people there was a multitude of cheerful and lively-looking Indian
types-engineers, topographers, draughtsmen and professors-
whose appearance showed little or no trace of Spanish influence
and imprint. I shall not soon forget the impression I received from
the first of these visits. It was to an ancient building housing the
Commission for Public Works (Hydraulics Section). Here on five
spacious storeys there were offices with hundreds of technicians
working in conditions satisfactory to the most exacting of modern

38 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
standards. There were advisers from the United States and
Germany, together with Mexican cartographers, geologists, soil
experts and engineers. There were rooms with drawing-tables on
which lay exposed plans for barrages, canals, irrigation and new
workmen's settlements. One felt that one was peeping into the
Mexican brain, where it was operating with the greatest efficiency.
Here was a kind of General Staff where battles and whole cam-
paigns were planned which impoverished Mexico had to win
against the forces of nature if a really independent political and
economic unit was to be created to the south of the colossus of the
United States. Formerly the only formidable hindrance to the
carrying out of such far-reaching plans was the prevalent political
corruption, the patronage system, whereby the politicos and the
mutually hostile 'interests' worked sometimes for the benefit of
agriculture and sometimes to the advantage of industry and high
finance. The overriding plans demanded by a rational programme
for the common good were, however, disregarded.
However, it must be admitted that the Mexican Public Works
Department, for all its planning, has not been able to tackle
successfully the problem of the sinking soil. At least, during the
year of my stay, all that I could hear about were theories as to how
the slow subsidence of the city's foundations might be combated.
If we disregard the many slight earthquake shocks which
afflict the city every year, we must see more clearly with the
passing of time that Hernando Cortes, the founder of the Spanish-
Colonial capital, made a bad blunder when he decided to call
into new life the ruined Aztec city in the midst of the lake. The
ancient lake bed behaves, indeed, like a gigantic sponge. The more
water is taken out of it the more it shrinks and contracts. There
are still no regulations to govern boring for water. So it comes
about that hotels, institutes and even private individuals can sink
wells at their own expense-and at the expense of their neigh-
bours' comfort and safety. Thus the whole bowels, as it were, of
the centre of the city are disarranged since local subsidences are
beginning to displace the water-conduits, shift the telephone cables
and disorganize the sewers. Such disarrangement must obviously
imperil the wholesomeness of the drinking-water supply. More-
over, it is becoming more and more necessary to sink piles and
install pillars to prop up buildings. In the case of new edifices, it
is true, the supporting columns are driven down to a depth of
over a hundred and fifty feet and a new technique of soil physics
and chemistry has been evolved.

A Town makes History 39
The city, then, struggles on in its efforts to solve the age-old
problems of the lake bed. There are some people, indeed, who
advocate a radical solution and would leave the whole inner part
of Mexico City to its fate, that of slithering down slowly into the
earth. If such a thing ever occurred the capital would become
something unique in the world, a sort of fossil city that would
gradually disappear, without any sudden catastrophe, into the
bowels of the earth.
Before any such disaster occurs, however, a good deal of time
must elapse, since the modem Mexicans do not lack energy or
the power that imagination gives. A proof of their keen imagina-
tion is afforded, we may think, by the fact that the discovery of
mammoth bones seemed important enough to the newspaper
editors for them to devote the first pages of their morning editions
to prehistory.

The First Traces
is first day in the field is for every scientific worker an
occasion of memorable excitement. Where will the first
discovery be made? Shall we strike it rich right at the
beginning or shall we have to wait for days of wearisome
So, for me, the first day of my Mexican excursions raised high
hopes. The weather was splendid and my companion was a
colleague whose collaboration seemed very promising. As we
drove out from the city, the morning mists were rising and we
could see them drifting off towards the high mountains whose
icy crests and peaks glittered rose-red in the far distance. The
gilded dome of Guadalupe Cathedral shimmered in the soft
morning's light. We swept past the first streams of pilgrims
wending their way to the famed place of prayer; we encountered
snapping dogs and caravans of asses, shepherds, children and all
the things and people that throng the Mexican highways. We
dashed through the control-points of the traffic police and
pushed out on to the road that runs beside bare hills, quite close
to the railway tracks on which a train was puffing lazily through
the landscape.
All at once, there, on the left, at the foot of a rock-face, was an
excavation. We stopped the car. Thoughts and ideas tumbled
over each other in my mind in the matter of a few seconds. Here
we might find some geological data concerning the history of the
former lake. There, near that craggy hill, we might discover an
ancient lake shore, a formation with the fossil remains of animals,
and, possibly, traces of early Man. Such a beach might well
provide a clue to hidden things, to the very things I was seeking.
For I had come thousands of miles to see whether I could not, in

The First Traces 41
this region, set and determine a more ancient date than had
hitherto been known for Man in Mexico.
There was no time to be lost. Without giving my companion
any further explanation I hurried towards the excavation. I
jumped down into the trench and saw on its walls what exceeded
the most sanguine expectations. There in the topmost stratum
were fragments of coloured pottery, of bones and of stone imple-
ments. Below this was a sandy formation with the small shells of
fresh-water snails. This was the rubbish-heap of an ancient
settlement by the shores of an ancient lake. The pottery fragments
seemed to be Aztec. The bones were obviously the remains of meals.
What lay in the lower level? I followed the walls of the trench until
I came to a place that looked promising. I worked on it with my
pick until there appeared a long, pipe-like object, a whitish-grey
crumbling mass. Fossil ivory. The piece of an elephant's tusk.
Nearby lay another bone that resembled the vertebra of a large
ungulate or hoofed mammal. Only eight inches away were fish
bones. With the aid of my magnifying glass I could see that this
sandy deposit of the former lake was rich in all sorts of organisms,
especially diatoms, tiny fresh-water algae, and very small am-
phibians' bones. Such a jumble of land and water animals would
be possible only on a shore. That the level was geologically ancient
was proved clearly by the bones of vertebrates which have been
extinct since the end of the Ice Age.
Here, then, was a first discovery on the track leading to early
Man in Mexico, for it must be possible to trace the geological
formation of the beach right round the circumference of the lake's
basin. On a strand it was comparatively easy for the ancient
hunters to kill elephant and bison. This idea of a settlement on
the side of the lake did not look so improbable especially when it
is remembered that ancient peoples such as the Aztecs certainly
did live by the waters' side. Thus Cortes had to utilize a fleet of
Indian canoes in order to attack the Aztec capital which was
situated on a flat island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. In these
regions, it would seem, Man had, from very early times, accom-
modated himself to an existence that was bound up with the
But there were also other things in the excavation that
demanded attention. Between the lacustrine deposits and the
overlying pottery stratum, there lay a thin, whitish layer of stones,
a crust of calcareous matter. This reappeared, at the same level,
in the nearby hills and there displayed remarkably knobbly and

42 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
bulbous formations. The whole of its position and structure indi-
cated that it was the chemical product of the ancient lake and had
been apparently laid down as the lake dried up. If this were so,
it was important since, if the area of the lake had been modified,
its variations were most probably due to changes of climate which
would be highly significant for an understanding of the ancient
history of the neighbourhood.
I should probably have spent far too much time with my
mattock if I had not noticed how very impatient my companion
was becoming. Still, he had to wait until I had packed up my
booty into small packages and had labelled them. Then I jotted
down a few notes and took some photographs.
It was then only that I saw there was another witness. Behind
me stood an Indian child, staring at me with great dark eyes. In
his patched shirt and tattered trousers he did not seem at all out
of place in this historical site ... a sort of vision ofJoseph sold into
slavery. ,He addressed me in Spanish. Perhaps I wanted some
idolos? Idolos? Of course, those were the small, archaeological
pottery figurines. Without waiting for an answer he kneeled down
and pulled out of his ragged shirt some fragments of small images.
I clambered out of the trench the better to view his treasures.
There lay the headless trunk of a female figure and another,
painted red, topped with a turban-like head-dress. Its sightless
eyes stared emptily from an ancient past. Among the other things
was a tiny clay pipe in the form of a bird, its duck-like bill was
clearly recognizable. In childish fashion the lad showed me how
well he could blow through the pipe. Possibly the early settlers
by the lake had hunted ducks and maybe the clay images were
cult-symbols. I bought the child's collection for a few pesos. He
thanked me effusively and his whole face beamed as though he
had been given a fortune. Then he asked whether I had not an
old tyre in the car. What did he want a tyre for? Por hacer zapatos,
he said, to make shoes, astonished at my ignorance. I had not
guessed how valuable old tyres are as soles for shoes. The boy,
indeed, wore no shoes at all. He had the feet of an old man, brown,
wrinkled and scored with ill-healed cuts. The stony, cactus in-
fested soil is hard going for a young shepherd who must run after
his flock. I gave him a few pesos more. Maybe he really would use
the money for shoes and not for sweetmeats. Anyway, he was
overjoyed and ran off after his sheep which by this time had
scattered all over the slopes of the hill.
Hardly had the boy disappeared than my impatient com-

The First Traces

panion shouted out for me to go back to the car. We must not
spend more time here and waste our day else it would not be long
enough for us to do all we had planned. But I could not make up
my mind to leave such an exciting place when further finds were
possible. He must help take part in the search over that slope of
the hill. There might be stone implements there, even fossils. If
early Man had hunted mammoth along the lake shore then surely
on the nearby hills would be traces of human handiwork.
We scrambled up the hillside, slowly zigzagging and with our
eyes steadily fixed on the ground defended by the pale prickles of
a myriad dwarf cacti. It would be most difficult to find anything
on such a surface; moreover, my companion was quite new to
searching for artefacts. So I mentioned to him that natural stones
often look as though they have been fashioned by men's hands.
We must seek for certain signs and peculiarities such as notches
and striking platforms that indicate intentional preparation. And
there was another difficulty. The Mexican Indians have for
centuries and millenia chipped stone knives, scrapers and spear-
heads. Their culture, indeed, never quite emerged from the Stone
Age. We needed, then, further indications which would allow us
to compare known archaeological types with any new forms. The
present-day inhabitants of this region still use grinding stones to
triturate maize, wheat and spices; the so-called manos and matates.
In all the archaeological excavations there are found stone imple-
ments in great numbers. We can admire them in the museums,
especially the lance-heads and great knives of the Aztecs and
Maya. Most of these objects are fashioned out of volcanic glass, or
obsidian, either pearl grey or greenish in colour and most abun-
dant in Mexico.
As we were peering about all up the slope, I saw on the ground
a stone that was obviously of artificial configuration. One end
was sharpened to a point and the whole was of a flattened, leaf-
like shape. The fine, long stroke-marks that went from the edges
diagonally over the whole surface lent the object the form of a
spear or javelin head. Where had I seen something like that?
Certainly not in the collection of the Museo Nacional in Mexico
City, but rather among the lot of stone artefacts found, some time
before, together with fossils, in caves in the State of Arizona. Soon
I made two more finds. One was a stone with a flattened but
slightly rounded underside which at the top was worked to a
point. It fitted well into one's right hand and one's thumb slipped
quite naturally into a longish depression. Obviously another

44 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
man-made artefact. Then I noticed that the smooth under-part
was somewhat polished as though artificially worked with some
abrasive. Earlier finds of similar objects in Arizona had been des-
cribed as 'rubbing stones' or 'pounders'. They would be very
suitable for grinding fruit kernels or beating the fleshy leaves of
the agave so as to produce fibre for weaving or use as thread.
For me this stone was worth its weight in gold, as will be
readily understood, when I say that, later on, I unearthed similar
implements from strata that were more ancient than those of the
so-called 'Archaic culture' in which beginnings were made with
an agriculture and in which the first ceramics were fashioned.
Of course, I did not know, when I found this piece, that it was
the first of its sort or even that it proved the existence of Stone
Age cultures which long preceded the invention of agriculture
and pottery.
We had, then, made a fine start to our first day of discovery.
It looked as though we could not expect very much more for the
time being. Yet the results of this preliminary prospection proved
to be very modest compared with what was to come later on.
So we moved off to our next objective. It was exciting to think
that there we might also come across something new, for my
companion was to show me the great canal cut in which had been
found the first very ancient Mexican work of art, the carved bone
described by Barcena.
The landscape conveyed an impression of immense antiquity.
Village after village slipped by on the autostrade. The low houses
of adobe, sunbaked mud, or of brick, stood, in some cases, on old
refuse mounds from which archaeological objects in plenty could
be seen projecting. For untold generations the settlers had built on
the rubble of old ruins, for they were always attracted by the lake
shores where water fowl and fish abounded and where the mono-
tonous diet of maize and beans could be supplemented with food
rich in albumen. Such lake shores meant much for the pre-
Columbian inhabitants of Mexico, they meant hunting and
fishing, marsh grasses and reeds that could be dried and used to
make baskets. Then there was the possibility of carrying in canoes
the produce of the soil to markets where other objects, useful and
necessary, could be obtained by barter and exchange. The ancient
lake of Texcoco was certainly a powerful loadstone for the peoples
who had exchanged a nomadic way of life for that of permanent
We turned off from the autostrade and followed a road that

FIG. 3.-Map of the High Valley of Mexico

Man and Mammoth in Mexico

ran along the Gran Canal del Desague, an evil-smelling cloaca
which carries off the drainage from the three million inhabitants
of Mexico City. Just before we got to the small town of Zumpango
we met some fishermen who, at my request, showed us their catch.
In their nets lay silver-scaled fish, small fresh-water crabs, frogs
and dark-coloured lurche. The amphibians did not look as though
they would make a very tasty soup though the fishermen seemed
delighted at the prospect of such a dish. When he is hard pressed,
as the saying goes, the devil eats flies. During our conversation
with the fishermen we learned that many of the inhabitants on
the other side of Lake Texcoco still use the peculiarly American
atlatl, spear-thrower or throwing stick that greatly increases the
range of the short missile. That some of the fishing is done with
dynamite charges only goes to show what a mixture of Stone Age
and Atomic Age techniques characterizes Mexico.
As we approached the town of Zumpango the road got so bad
that the car only just managed to jolt forwards. We bumped from
one pothole to another raising clouds of dust that soon made us
look like millers caught under a bursting sack of flour. As far as
our dust-blinded eyes could distinguish anything at all, Zum-
pango seemed full of old churches whose Spanish Baroque porti-
coes made a fine, brave show against the tumbledown shacks that
served the inhabitants as dwellings.
On the ground of the market-place the peasants had spread out
their produce, maize, beans, chilli-peppers, squash, pumpkins and
herbs. Beyond the town we again met the canal whose stench had
in no way lessened though now the stream of liquid flowed through
a number of tunnels. We passed a workmen's settlement with
pleasing, simple dwellings surrounded with lawns and flower-
beds and then were slowed down a good deal by a long row of
steam-rollers, trucks and bulldozers that made one's thoughts
turn back to Enrico Martinez who, with his army of Indian work-
ers and his primitive tools, cut the first canal in Mexico. Certainly
the lot of the worker has much improved since those far-off days;
now he has social insurance, a health service, in many cases a
decent lodging and everywhere more tolerable conditions of
Soon afterwards we got to a low range of hills, the watershed
between the High Valley that has no natural drainage and the
river into which the sewage of the city now flows. There was a
cleft or ravine that was the goal of our morning's excursion. The
Valley of Bones. We could see down below us what looked like

The First Traces

fossils, but as it was time for luncheon we sat in the car and carved
into some cold chicken while we drank the contents of a thermos
flask. Half-starved dogs appeared from nowhere and fell raven-
ously upon the scanty remains of our meal. About us circled two
vultures until, disappointed in their hopes, they flopped off on
weary wings.
The Valley of Bones is made up of a number of small ravines
which score the landscape on all sides. The scene was desolate and
desiccated. A few goats nibbled at the shoots of dusty bushes while
two or three shepherd boys stared at us as we clambered down
into the canyon. Very soon we noticed a first fragment of fossil
sticking out of the cliff and in a few minutes we were at work with
pick and magnifying glass. Within an hour we had gathered quite
a respectable little collection of fossil fauna: teeth from two differ-
ent sorts of wild horse, for instance, which, together with our other
finds were later on identified, as to type and species, by an
American palaeologist. The richness of this ancient fauna was,
indeed, astonishing. There were not only large and small wild
horses (Equus crenidens and E. tau), one of which stood as high as
our domestic horse, but also remains of camel, llama, antelope,
stag and a huge bison (Gigantobison latifrons), perhaps an ancestor
of the American 'buffalo' that the famed Buffalo Bill once hunted
in the Wild West of the United States. We unearthed, also, the
teeth and portions of the skeletons of large felines, elephants and
birds of prey. Mingled with these remains of land animals were
the bones of tortoises, turtles and amphibians. Here must have
been a drinking-pool in the river, a place where beasts came to
slake their thirst. I had come across such an ancient water-hole
during my travels in Tibet. There antelopes and wild asses had
fallen victims to wolves and jackals; the bones of the prowlers'
prey lay piled up in heaps upon the earth. On each of my later
visits to the Valley of Bones I found more fossils but the summer
rains erode the walls of the canyon and expose the animal
This ancient landscape must once have been far richer and
more full of life than it is today. Where once the stags and wild
horses grazed there is nothing now but hares and field-mice for
there is no longer any decent pasture for domestic animals. The
absence of animal life, indeed, in this parched parcel of Mexico
leaves the landscape most melancholy, the more so, perhaps, since
one cannot help visualizing this same countryside in prehistoric
times, as the rich hunting-grounds of early Man who here pursued

48 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
herds of elephant, bison and deer. But, then, after all, had what we
may call 'early' Man really lived here? That was the important
question I had set out to answer.
On this first day we had not much time to search the ancient
fluviatile formations for man-made stone implements. I was able,
however, to get down to this task some weeks later when, together
with specialists, I spent two whole days in the Valley of Bones. We
unearthed not only stone artefacts but also a bone borer with a
polished point. On that day which marked an epoch in my life
I remember the heat was so great that drops of sweat kept
falling on my notebook. A friendly witness to my finds was a
German physician who had come out with me from Mexico City.
The bone implements lay close to the fossil tooth of a wild horse
and the polished point projected from the stratum, portions of
whose surface had fallen away some little time before.
Here, then, was the first geological proof of the antiquity of
Man in Mexico, since the artefact came from the same ossiferous
layer in which we had made the discovery of the mammalian
bones and these belonged to a fauna which has been extinct in
North America since the end of the Ice Age or the Pleistocene.
Thus the geological age of this stratum must be at least 10,000
years, and perhaps a good deal more. This bone borer, indeed,
occurred, I think, not very far from the spot where Barcena's
little bone figurine was discovered. It is tempting to think that the
borer may have belonged to that first Mexican artist who carved
the earliest art-object of this country.
Although this find spurred me on to further research I was
never able, on subsequent visits, to find any more artefacts at this
same place. However, in 1949, two of my young Mexican col-
leagues had the luck to unearth a small stone spear-head in the
ossiferous layer. To judge by its shape, this implement must be
classified in the same group as some stone implements that were
found at Plainview, Texas, and in association with the remains of
extinct vertebrate animals.
On this first day, then, and heavily laden with booty, we made
our way back to the car. Two shepherd boys, who had been
watching, with much curiosity, all our antics, lent us a hand. In
Mexico, however desolate a place may seem, one is never for long
quite alone. Either there are women grubbing about for sticks and
wood, or children will suddenly appear from behind a bush, or
there will be peasants armed with old-fashioned flint muskets on
the lookout for hare and squirrel. And there will always be some

The First Traces 49
wretched village cur urged by desperate hunger to scratch the
thankless soil.
Everyone gazed in astonishment at foreigners in short sleeves
toiling in the scorching sun. We must, indeed, have seemed very
suspicious to the country-folk, for why should anyone who wore a
decent pair of trousers and fairly presentable shoes dream of
engaging in manual labour? I think they all concluded I was an
over-enthusiastic and optimistic searcher after hidden treasure,
indeed, a man in such easy circumstances that he could afford the
time to grub about after things locked away in the recesses of the
earth. Certainly not one of our onlookers had ever been inside a
museum or seen the skeletons of primeval beasts displayed there.
The two shepherd boys carried their loads up to the car and
got what they seemed to think was a suitable tip. By now it was
already four o'clock in the afternoon and there was still a long
stretch of country to be covered before we could reach the
pyramids-our ultimate destination. We were dust-drenched and
tired, but still as my companion was most anxious to end our
eventful day with a visit to these famed monuments we set off on
what was, in fact, the second-best road to our goal. Soon we were
passing place after place with typical Aztec names-Tepexpan,
Acolman or Tequizitlan, each with its ancient Spanish church.
At Acolman, indeed, there was a fine 16th-century monastery. As
we ran through these villages one could not help but think of the
days when the Spanish missionaries overthrew the images of the
old gods and replaced them with statues of the saints. All about
us was a wealth of historical associations. Each village was in
itself a chronicle of past events, which, when we could read it
aright-if only with the help of potsherds and broken figurines-
would tell us of the ancient epoch when the pyramid builders
were at work.
The landscape had turned green before we got to the little
town of San Juan Teotihuacan. A small rivulet flowed beside the
highway and cattle, sheltered in the shade of trees near which
women were washing linen. We pulled up and, for a few minutes,
watched some boys who had gathered agave leaves and were now
beating them with rounded wooden cudgels. In a surprisingly
short time the fibres of a leaf would be detached, freed from the
pulp and thrown across the branch of a tree to dry. Agave and
other vegetable fibres were utilized in the earliest Indian cultures
but today the natural threads, in this part of the country anyway,
are used only for making cords and sandals, whereas, in earlier

50 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
times, baskets, snares, trap-loops and mats were woven out of
agave fibre. The rounded stone artefact I had found that morning
might well have served for the beating and pounding of agave
We had got as far as the wrought-iron bandstand in the little
town of Teotihuacan when my companion stopped the car and
pointed to an open shop-front. There lay exposed slabs of fresh
pork on which the flies swarmed in their thousands. Some face-
tious fellow had drawn a grinning pig on the whitewashed stone
wall of the shop. It was a pig that two uniformed men were
weighing on a balance. The accompanying legend, written in
Spanish and in red, ran thus: 'The Second World War'-but the
words might have applied either to the picture or to the shop.
It was cool evening when we approached the pyramids. On
the far-reaching plain of the high valley green patches of meadow
stood out. Far away, the tall volcanic peaks and ridges dappled
with mauve and purple shadows shimmered in the darkening sky.
Suddenly, against this background appeared the stone triangle of
the Pyramid of the Sun. In the half light it stood out like some
cabalistic sign. We stopped at the first great ruined site, the so-
called Ciudadela, the huge assembly court in the temple of the
god Quetzalcoatl. His dedicatory symbol of the feathered serpent
stood out in relief from one of the temple walls. You must
climb up a steep flight of steps in order to reach the gigantic en-
closure wall. From here we could gaze on to the tall temple and the
numberless ruins that surround the pyramids of the Sun and the
Moon. Geometrical architecture of a native Amerindian culture
that flourished almost two thousand years ago. Sanctuaries dedi-
cated to the gods of fire and rain and also to the ancient divine
hero, the feathered serpent famed in story, who had taught the
arts and agriculture to the barbarous and ignorant peoples of
archaic Mexico.
Apart from the great monuments, in part restored, nothing
much remains of this ancient civilization.
In the spacious court stands a monumental stone altar, a socle
on which were offered up sacrifices. Into this compound, at the
great festivals, the masses of devotees were packed .. from the
wall of the temple there gazed down upon us the symbol of the
Rain God Tlaloc-a stylized human face with owl's eyes and
jaguar's teeth-it stared like a sphinx into the magic of the
sanctuary that seemed still to reek of bloody sacrifice and to echo
ecstatic chant and song.

The First Traces 51
It was too late to think of visiting the whole of the temple sites
and we had to limit ourselves to a short examination which
sufficed, however, to raise a whole host of questions concerning the
origin of the ancient holy place. Why had the builders chosen just
this spot? True, it was possible that on this side of the valley use
might be made of certain springs which gush out from the foot of
the volcanic slopes and so irrigate the soil. But there were plenty
of springs elsewhere. There must have been some other and more
cogent reason. The ruins cover an area of some eight square kilo-
metres. For such constructions the first thing needful is solid
foundations. As far as I could see the earth consisted of a thin layer
of loose sand, but below, there is a limestone formation, a sort of
fossil cement which can be perceived, here and there, at the foot
of the ruins. This fossil buckler or shield allowed cyclopaean walls
and shrines to be built up on it. But building materials must have
been at hand. Here is volcanic stone on the spot, that is to say on
the slopes of the valley's sides, and this stone was of great use to the
ancient Mexican architects for it occurs in blocks and large pieces
piled up by nature from different flows of lava. There was, then,
available red, violet or grey coloured stone, easy to work. It was
only necessary to prise apart the rock in the quarries and then to
sort out the pieces according to colour, shape and degree of hard-
ness. What we may call the geological circumstances could hardly
have been more favourable-and, then, there were the springs and
the broad meadow-like land of fruitful soil.
The first to make systematic excavations at Teotihuacan was
Dr. Manuel Gamio and he was soon grappling with the problems
suggested by the disappearance of the temple builders' civilization.
How and why did this high culture fade out? He was inclined to
postulate a volcanic eruption such as destroyed Pompeii or which
laid down the Pedregal lavas near Mexico City, lavas that cover
ancient graves. But later investigations have afforded no proof at
all for Gamio's theories. So we are left with the problem. Why was
this pyramid site deserted? How died this centre of a great and
monumental art?
With such things in our minds we left the Teotihuacan ruins
now shrouded in darkness. Still, I hoped that there would be
opportunities for a further search after the right answer.

Up to the Ice

IN a land such as Mexico where the fierce power of natural
elements and Man's energy and enterprise clash more sharply
than in other countries, it is not surprising that there should be
prophets who specialize in predicting not just vague presages of
woe but definite catastrophes. On my first visit to Mexico City I
was often told tales about the sinking level of the lake and of the
subterranean waters which were ascribed to a progressive desicca-
tion of the central Mexican plateau. In a hundred years' time, so
declared one specialist in geography, the ice on the highest moun-
tains in the land would all be melted and there would be no more
water to supply the capital.
This dramatic statement would not, in ordinary times, have
been taken very seriously. However when our geographer made
his prediction, drinking water had become very scarce in the
Mexican capital. In many parts of the city-including that in
which I was staying-one had to fill up the bath-tubs in the
morning so as to have enough water to last until the evening. The
municipal authorities put out the not unusual excuses in the form
of statistics. The victims of the water shortage must realize how
rapidly their city had grown in recent years. Naturally the water-
level had sunk. They might also have added that the water con-
duits and pipes were hopelessly old-fashioned. Anyway, the water
problem formed a general subject of conversation, but that did not
lead to any increase in the rainfall or to any marked change in the
usual dryness of the soil and atmosphere.
In these circumstances it came about that I was asked if I
would not consent to display my geological experience in connec-
tion with the water reserves of one of the snow peaks. Perhaps I
might be able to find out how melted ice and rain-water might be

Up to the Ice 53
dammed up and preserved for the use of the city. Such a task was,
I must confess, rather outside my regular line of business, never-
theless I willingly accepted the proposals made, especially since
for the furtherance of my study of the prehistory of the high
plateau, it would be very useful to glance at the world of moun-
tains that had played so important a part in the last Ice Age.
The problems presented by the ancient lake and the evidence
of its changes of level must be considered in the geographical
framework of the region, but in order effectively to tackle the task,
it was necessary to obtain new data about earlier climatic fluctua-
tions and this could be best gathered up on the heights where
there was still plenty of ice whose movements could be studied.
Since it is always a thankless task to play the prophet, I re-
quested the competent authorities, in this case the Public Works
Commission, for the necessary help and support for my expedition.
I got the topographical maps of the regions which seemed to me
the most important for my enquiry, and I was given permission to
use the mountain huts. I was also to be accompanied by an
engineer who had already, on one occasion, been concerned with
the water supply problem in the region.
Any trip up to the high mountains must begin with a study of
weather conditions. Then one must get together the necessary
outfit and kit. The most useful things I took with me were my
mountaineering boots. Years before they had been made to
measure at Munich. They had seen much and useful service in the
Himalayas and then had been stowed away in a chest which for
years had been moved about from one attic and store-room to
another. Although these old mountaineering boots stood me in
good stead in Mexico, I have no love for them for they once
almost cost me my life.
One day, on an expedition into western Tibet, we were to set
off for an excursion in the mountains, so I put on my boots and
then mounted my horse. As soon as he heard the uncanny and to
him quite unfamiliar crinkling noise made as I unfolded my maps,
he rose on his hind legs, pawed the air like a circus animal, then
jerked forwards and set off at a terrific gallop so as to shake off the
horrid noise. Owing to the quite unexpected suddenness of the
creature's reactions, I lost my balance, slipped out of the saddle,
and with one of my mountaineering boots still caught in a stirrup
was dragged along the ground which was no soft Alpine pasture
but a nasty surface of very hard, sharp stones. Soon the skin on
the right side of my body was ripped off from shoulder to hand.

54 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Luckily the foaming monster was pulled up short by the banks of
a stream. After this experience I did not use the boots again until
this excursion into the lofty mountains of central Mexico.
However, this time, I was wise, and stuffed the boots in my
saddle-bag. I would use them only when I got to the edge of the
It was brilliant sunshine all the way to the foot of the peak we
were to scale; it was known in Aztec times, too, by the poetic name
of Ixtaccihuatl-that is the 'Sleeping Woman'-not because of
some Mexican Lorelei but because the alluring profile of the top-
most crest seems to resolve itself into the outlines of a head, a
breast, a knee and a foot-if one has imagination enough to
recognize them as the figure of a sleeping maiden. The ancient
motif of the Sleeping Woman was also represented on a calendar
we saw in the inn at Amecameca, the starting-point for our
mountaineering expedition. Here was the gracious maiden, snow-
white under the dark azure heavens, watched and guarded by a
seductive-looking youth whose multicoloured feather ornaments
reminded one of a cock's comb.
From the streets of Amecameca we could gaze up at the dark
forests from which a cool wind wafted down towards us the rich
perfume of the fir trees. I had never felt anything like this since
my last Alpine excursion. Here was real mountain air and an
unexpectedly happy change from the dust-laden atmosphere of
the High Valley. However, there was really nothing very Alpine
about the scene. The Indians who stood around in the chilly
morning were wrapped up in woollen serapes or blankets, and
showed no inclination to yodel. They asked us, however, if we
needed horses and provisions. Both were welcome enough since
we could get no farther with the car, but the 'provisions' consisted
only of a few tins of canned foods. We also needed a guide, an
Indian who could look after the beasts and show us the best path
to follow. We must also have ropes, since, in my experience, they
are always useful almost everywhere. The horses they brought
us did not look either very strong or particularly reliable. They
were small, tousled ponies fitted with hard wooden saddles.
After I had bought some additional provisions, eggs, butter,
chickens and piles of tortillas-thin, circular-shaped maize pan-
cakes-we began our ride through the fields in which the peasants
were repairing their runnels, for here, at the foot of the high
mountains, twice as much rain falls as in Mexico City, and there
is a good deal of flooding.

A I3,27


FIG. 4.-Sketch Map of the Glaciations on Ixtaccihuatl

56 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Beyond the fields the path rose steep and narrow between the
forest trees. The ponies slithered about on the slippery pine-cones
or stumbled against roots and stumps. Through the thick under-
growth gleamed the yellowish buds of a wild cherry while the
ground was flecked with anemones and evil-looking toadstools.
The trees of this mixed wood of fir and oak had worked their roots
like claws into the rocky slopes but the forest was uncannily quiet
and still. Only at intervals might one hear the cry of a jay or the
chirping of a tomtit. From time to time there might be a rustle in
the fallen oak leaves and there would be a squirrel jumping over
the ground. I asked the engineer what sort of animals lived in
these woods. The Spaniards, he said drily, had, as early as the
16th century, begun the systematic extermination of all the wild
life in the forests, moreover, the natives still poach in an attempt
to satisfy their longing for a meat diet.
It was later on, when I had the opportunity of consulting some
historical documents, that I found out how the Spanish economic
system resulted in the extinction of animal life in the forests. In
the 18th century the historian Francisco S. Clavigero told how the
governors and the viceregal court held battues at which thousands
of beaters drove stags, bears, foxes and badgers before the butts of
the Spanish sportsmen. The Indians, whose ancient religion
taught them that there existed a magical relationship between
Man and Beast, must have regarded as something very cruel
these massacres of game by the Christians.
How would it be, I asked, if the government were to form a
National Park, a huge animal preserve? I was thinking of the
splendid national parks in the United States and the incomparable
views they afford of wild life in the woods. My companion con-
sidered that in order to establish and guard such a place in Mexico
a great army of wardens and police would be necessary. Poaching
is in the Indians' blood and even the town-dwellers would have
no idea of respecting such a national park. The scheme was just
not feasible in Mexico. I could not resist telling him that I thought
the protection of nature and of wild life a sure sign of culture and
refinement, since such respect for nature springs from a need to
regard Man as linked with the natural order of things. The ancient
Chinese and Japanese laid out their strange, quiet temple gardens
so that in them philosophers, poets and painters might commune
with the voices of nature.
Quite suddenly the forest thinned out and soon we were
riding along a wall of rock over which a waterfall cast a silver

Up to the Ice 57
spray among green moss. Here, also, we could see the first signs of
former glaciation: an end moraine, almost 20oo metres lower
down than the edge of the present ice-field. Obviously a valley
glacier had pushed down as far as this depositing its burden of
stones and rubble. Unmistakable signs of glacial action could be
seen on scratched and scored rock surfaces, ice-polished blocks of
stone and the widely open, convex, shape of the moraine's sides
that indicated the former presence of the glacier's icy tongue.
It was not much farther on before we came upon the wooden
hut that had been placed at our disposal as a shelter. It was well
situated among green grass through which a mountain brooklet
gurgled. From here we could look right down into the lowlands
shrouded in what seemed like a smoky veil. Unfortunately, my
companion had either forgotten or had lost the key of the hut so
we had to use a screwdriver to get in since all the windows were
boarded up with thick shutters. As we entered rats and mice came
scurrying out of all the rooms and especially from the kitchen
whose iron stove had no chimney. However, after a search, we
found the pipe in a rubbish dump behind the hut. We soon got our
suppers ready but the Indian guide insisted on cooking his
tortillas on an open fire outside. The night was bitterly cold while
the heaven of stars glittered and sparkled in the magnificent
clarity found only on mountain heights. My altimeter marked
3400 metres, so we had a further 1500oo metres to climb before we
got into the region of the peaks. On the hut's roof there creaked a
wind-motor which might have generated a current and given us
electric light if there had been any bulbs; anyway, by candle-light
everything seemed much more romantic. It was also comforting to
reflect that our insect-powder might kill off some of the other
inhabitants of the hut, the fleas and maybe the bugs. But we were
so dog-tired when we slumped into our bunks that we had no time
to see whether the stuff was really efficacious or not.
The alarm-clock startled us back into life while a crescent
moon still hung above the trees. The hoarfrost seemed to have
congealed our limbs and as we rode off the horses' hooves clanged
hollow on the frosty ground. Swathed in his serape the Indian
guide pushed on ahead and played his pocket torch on the path
so as to light the way for us. In the darkness a great wall of rock
loomed up, its frozen surface glistening under the moonbeams.
Here the path dribbled away into the rocks. We must clamber up
as best we could on our feet. In Indian file we climbed steeply
until at last we got to the edge of the woods. It had by now

58 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
become so light that we could make out the icy summits towering
ghost-like above us. Then we noticed that we were on the edge of
a small plateau. Here we waited until the dawn flushed all the sky
rose-red and irradiated the ice-field. Right ahead of us flamed the
peak of Ixtaccihuatl as though illuminated from within by the
fires of its long dead volcano. From the topmost ridge the morning
winds were bearing towards us a rain of golden ice-flakes.
Far to our right rose the peak of the active volcano Popocate-
petl, its crater's edge jutting up over three miles high into the
dazzling sunshine of the morning. Like a polished and burnished
shield spread the ice-field of its northern slope while from the cone
of the mountain a faint whisp of smoke trailed far away into the
We were on the verge of a magic world of ice lit by the rising
sun and marked by the faint menace of the volcano's vengeance.
Such wonderful wizardry I have experienced nowhere else upon
this earth.
We had to push on much farther over the lava flows of the
plateau, masses of dark volcanic ash and gigantic blocks of vol-
canic rock that rose like walls on the far side of the table. Some of
the boulders bore scratches and showed polished surfaces similar
to those we had observed in the moraine on the day before. So the
ice on its journey downwards must have covered all the lofty
plateau, and the blocks, judging from their position on the edge
of the table, must indicate a phase of ice retreat when the frozen
water ceased to move forwards though its melting allowed its
burden of stones to sink to the ground. In the course of time,
lichen and moss had covered the blocks and thus taken something
of their freshness from them. Later on, I was able to see the same
sort of thing in the young moraines.
The trees were now far behind us, though from time to time
we rode past scattered and very stunted firs so jostled and buffeted
by the winds and the snow that their miserable branches were
flattened down towards the earth. Here also we saw a hare, the
one and only four-footed animal we ran across during the whole
of the expedition. The icy summits and snow-fields stood out with
startling clarity in the cold, lustrous air.
Right ahead of me a dazzling ice-field stood out from the dark
volcanic rocks. Beyond the mountain plateau the going became
very hard and steep. The horses kept on slipping upon the frozen
ground. But this difficult passage soon came to an end when we
reached a height of 4100oo metres. A biting wind whistled over the

Up to the Ice 59
cliffs and whipped into waves the tall grasses of the flat land we
had left behind us. We now found some difficulty in breathing
while our legs were heavy as lead. My companion had clambered
on to his horse once more, but soon had to dismount as the track
led over a great stony slope, an appalling cone of rubble deposited
by the moraines. Here there was no fleck of snow to be seen. At
last we got to a small valley. To our right was a tarn behind which
the real ice-field began. To get up the next five hundred yards or so
took over two hours of wearisome climbing. We did not dare to
guess how long we should need to reach the summit.
In any case, my companion did not much worry himself about
such theoretical problems. He was so exhausted that he let himself
flop down beside the edge of the mountain pool and declared that
he was far too fatigued to endure any more of such dreadful
torture. He glanced at my altimeter: 4560 metres. He asked, rather
bitterly, how much farther I thought that I wanted to climb. I
could not find it in my heart to blame him. Quite evidently he
had never experienced the passion of the true mountaineer who
must at all costs push on to the topmost peak. Moreover, for him
as an engineer, there was nothing much to be discovered up in the
eternal ice and snow. The Indian prophesied my certain death
should I dare to disturb the Sleeping Lady of his people's most
ancient legends.
I felt, however, that the first thing to do was to study what
lay around us and especially the composition of the most recent
moraines whose altitudes and whose relation to each other must
be cleared up. But time was passing by, and, before I had made
up my mind what to do, the first clouds of the day appeared on
the peak. In a short time these clouds would thicken into heavy
snow mists. We must make haste if we would anticipate them and
escape from being enveloped in a menacing snowstorm.
Before me stretched the ice-field whose low edge looked hollow
and gaped with great green crevasses. Behind and beyond beck-
oned the icy crest and the peak itself. From there I could gaze
out upon the highest volcano in Central America and feast my
eyes upon the Ice Age in the subtropics. So, I pulled on my
mountaineering boots, wound the rope around my wind-jacket,
cleaned my snow-glasses and with my pickaxe over my shoulder,
made my way up on to the ice-field. My tool was not a regular ice-
pick but the trusty instrument I always use in excavations. On one
side is a keen edge and on the other a sharp point. The stem is of
stout ash and the steel so tough that the hardest rock leaves no

60 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
mark upon it. This was the pick I had used when digging in India
when we had unearthed mastodon bones, the fossil teeth of anthro-
poid apes and man-made implements dating from the Old Stone
Age. Thus equipped, with pick and mountaineering boots, I felt
safe enough.
From the first slits and crevices in the ice, water gurgled
between green walls. Luckily enough the going was not too diffi-
cult and I soon was standing before an ice-wall with an over-
hanging cornice of snow, but before I could see how to negotiate
this new obstacle a thick mist enveloped me. I sat down and waited
for the cloud to drift by. An icy wind lashed my face and my
limbs had become heavier than ever. Then, suddenly, the sun
broke through and sparkled on the ice-wall that stood out clearly
against the blue of the sky. For the first time I noticed that the
wall to my left was cut through with great fissures. I sought out
the largest of them whose sloping walls allowed of my cutting
steps. At the first stroke I was winded. I had overestimated my
strength at the height of 47oo metres or nearly 15,7oo feet. I knew
I must seek an easier way so I walked for some distance in the
cleft until I came to a chasm filled with avalanche snow. This was
frozen so hard that when I had cut a few steps in it I was able to
get up to the snow cornice. It was, however, about half an hour
before I had surmounted the obstacle. It seemed much longer,
for a false step would have meant a most serious, possibly a fatal,
Then, all at once, I was on firm ice covered with a hard,
granular crust of snow which made the final ascent right up to
the crest a comparatively easy matter. Well, we have to have some
luck sometimes, or we would get nowhere at all. When, at last, I
did reach the peak, I was so exhausted that for some time I was in
no state to enjoy my victory. Slowly, however, the splendid
prospect took shape and form.
Towards the west I could look out over a bank of cloud on to
the glittering, snowy peak of the Nevado de Toluca maybe some
hundred and fifty miles away. Far, far below me lay the High
Valley of Mexico swathed in blue haze through which the craters
seemed little sand castles, lilliputian things that raised a smile.
From this stupendous height the individual features of the plain
were blurred. The pyramids of Teotihuacan, so imposing when
one comes upon them in the valley, could just be made out as tiny
dark blotches. I turned round. To the east there soared the icy
summit of Orizaba overshadowing the plain of Puebla. From

Up to the Ice 61
where I was Orizaba, in shape and form, hardly appeared worthy
of its great celebrity, but it is the second highest mountain in all
North America.
To the south, and so near that one almost dreamed of stretch-
ing out to touch it, glistened the ice-field of Popocatepetl reaching
right up to the gaping crater from which trailed a delicate wisp
of volcanic gas and smoke.
So appeared the world of ice. I must say that I felt out of place
in the exalted company of these mountain giants whose mighty
masses are surpassed only by Mount MacKinley in Alaska. The
altitude was enough to make one giddy. I was nearly nine
thousand feet above the High Valley of Mexico.
I had pulled my Leica out of my pocket and was getting ready
to take some photographs, but just as my eye was at the view-
finder, suddenly, without any warning at all, I was lost in a whirl
of cloud. The mists were piling up thick upon the crest and were
beginning to envelop the highest peak itself. From all sides the
vapour crept upon me and swirled in a blizzard of cloud. There
could be no more question of taking photographs. I must get down
again as quickly as I could.
When the weather got a little clearer I set off. The going was
easier than I had expected. The surface snow, it is true, had
become quite soft so that I slipped and slithered a good deal but
I never once lost my balance and got down to the tarn really
rather quickly.
How had my companions fared? Well, there they were, both
the engineer and the Indian, sleeping soundly enough through
their siesta. The horses, as usual, were grazing about on the
diminutive tufts and patches of grass. Without disturbing this
idyllic picture, I settled down to take some repose but my mind
kept running on what I had just seen. What about the prophecy
that the ice was rapidly melting? Was its complete disappearance
to be merely a matter of time? That the ice-field really was re-
treating was obvious all over the place. There was the fresh
moraine debris and, above all, the ice edge near the tarn no
longer occupied the same position it did in a photograph given me
by the German photographer Hugo Brehme. It dated from 1926
and allowed one to make a detailed comparison between the
extension of the ice-field now and twenty years earlier. Obviously
in the space of about two decades the ice had retreated some forty-
five yards, thus about two and a quarter yards a year. If one took
such a rate as applying also to more ancient movements of the

62 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
ice-field (for I had worked out with the help of a relief-map a
mathematical formula) one got the figure of 3600 years for the
time that had elapsed since the ice had begun to retreat from the
area marked by the last large moraine.
Since, according to the computation of the experts, the last
great advance of the ice in the American Cordillera was not much
more ancient, the latest moraines I had noticed might well have
belonged to the last glaciation which also induced a fresh forma-
tion of glaciers in the Rocky Mountains. What we were faced
with here was a new formation of ice, since the masses of ice of
the last great glaciation-which geologists place at the end of the
Pleistocene Period-had, everywhere, quite disappeared during a
subsequent warm period. It was in a later rather cooler and more
rainy epoch that the ice had again formed on the highest moun-
tains. It was just to this latest glaciation that the masses of ice,
which I had just been investigating, must belong. These, then,
could not be regarded, strictly speaking, as the last lingering evi-
dences of the real Pleistocene Ice Age.
All this allowed one to regard the future of the ice reserves
in Mexico rather more optimistically. Generally speaking, in
North America, as elsewhere in the world, the climate has varied
a good deal during the last millenia. It is therefore quite possible
that the retreat of the ice is only a passing phase, a tendency
which may well be reversed during a wetter period than that at
present prevailing. We cannot, in the present state of our know-
ledge, anyway, foresee, any considerable time beforehand, such
variations of climate. It would, then, be highly unscientific to
make precise prophecies and to base economic plans upon them.
Of course, if the clearing of the forests is allowed to proceed un-
checked, the pessimists in Mexico may see their worst fears
realized. Trees encourage a certain amount of humidity and
dampness which is an important factor in the maintenance of the
ice-fields, at least for some time.
What, however, was the significance of the old moraines which
we had seen on our ascent, on the first day, near the waterfall?
Since they lie some four thousand feet lower down than the present
edge of the ice, these moraines must surely be attributed to the
last great glaciation of the Pleistocene, perhaps indeed to the time
when mammoths and bisons grazed by the side of the greater Lake
Texcoco. Indeed, the lake itself may have been formed during the
last Ice Age, about ten thousand years ago, when a thick coating
of continental ice covered the northern parts of the United States.

Up to the Ice 63
Time had passed swiftly while I was dreaming about such
things. Clouds had already settled upon the surface of the tarn.
All at once it began to snow. The sleepers awakened and blinked
about them in amazement. The Indian stared at me as though I
had been a ghost. 'Jesuis Maria,' he murmured, 'where am I?' At
the same instant the engineer yelled out that the mountain forest
was on fire and pointed down towards the slopes. Sure enough
there were coming great, grey, ugly clouds from the dark woods
and the smoke seemed thickest in the direction we had to take to
get back to the hut.
Soon we could see that the whole forest was flaming and we
remembered that the last big blaze on the hillsides of Ixtaccihuatl
raged for weeks and destroyed several thousand hectares of stand-
ing trees. The engineer and I discussed what to do. He was of the
opinion that we ought to move along the edge of the high plateau
and seek some other way down.
The imminent danger from fire drove all thoughts of ice and
Ice Ages from my mind. On the way down our conversation was
all about the forest. The devastation of the fine Mexican wood-
lands had begun, so he told me, in the i6th century when Cortes
built the capital of New Spain on the ruins of the Aztec city of
Tenochtitlan. The conqueror used no fewer than five hundred
cedar trees in the construction of his own palace.
If it is true that we cannot deny the ravages wrought by the
Spaniards, still it must be admitted that the wrecking of forests
began long before the Spanish Conquest. We shall have something
more to say about this question later on in this book.
By the time we reached the border of the forest, clouds of
smoke were driving against us and, in the distance, we could hear
the ominous crackling of flaming trees. We rode as quickly as
possible along the edge of the woods and kept a sharp lookout
for any clearing that might allow us to reach the hut through a
part of the forest as yet unscathed by the conflagration. All at
once we spied a path that looked remarkably fresh as though
lumber-men and their tackle had been using it recently. We
followed this track for about half an hour and by then had got
down to the area of the old moraine just near a wooden hut. This
was not, however, our hut, but one that belonged to a paper and
pulp company whose employees were digging little channels to
lead the mountain waters to its mills. When we got to the hut we
were amazed to see that a tunnel had lately been driven into the
side wall of the moraine so as to increase the yield of the spring

Man and Mammoth in Mexico

that fed a stream. I had known Ice Age moraines as water reser-
voirs in other parts of the world but I had never seen such a thing
3400 metres above sea-level. We asked ourselves why the dozens
of such springs which undoubtedly existed in different places on
the mountain massif could not be captured and the subterranean
waters from the high mountains be piped right down into the valley
or even as far as Mexico City itself. Something might be done in
this way to relieve the water shortage in the capital.
A little farther on in the forest we came across a group of
Indians. They had set up a charcoal pile in a clearing and were
loading the charcoal on to asses. Among the Indians stood an
oldish man whose face was one mass of wrinkles. He was a gnome-
like and toothless creature. With the engineer as an interpreter I
asked the Indian if he knew this area well and if he thought that
the fire would spread much, he remarked, with resignation, that
there were forest fires here every year and that all we had to do
was to keep calm. What were we doing here anyway? When he
had heard the tale of our expedition to the heights, he began to
tell us a story. For forty long years he had climbed up the moun-
tain every day. Why? To get ice. What had the ice been used for?
we enquired. Well, he had sold it to the brewery, to the German
brewers in the city and also to the restaurant keepers. In those
days were there any wild animals hereabouts? Well, now and then
he might catch sight of a deer and once he killed a bear whose
flesh he hid in a hole in the ice right up by the tarn and then day
by day he ate its meat until it was all consumed. Yes, those were
the good old times. There were gold coins in circulation and men
were much more honest, though he admitted philosophically that
it was difficult for a rich man to be honest. Since those days the
only creatures that had increased in numbers were the rattle-
snakes and we must keep a sharp lookout for them.
With the introduction of artificially-made ice, his former
trade disappeared so that now he was selling charcoal, at a fairly
good price too. But how can a family of twenty be fed from the
profits of such a business? 'What,' we exclaimed, 'twenty people?'
Yes, he had had altogether twenty-two children, twelve of whom
had died. And how many of them had been in the Army? I
thought of Mexico's many revolutions. Four of his sons had
served with Zapata's troops and all had been killed. Tears welled
up in the old man's eyes. What had he thought of General
Zapata? Oh, he had been killed. And then a sharp light glinted
in his watery old eyes. Zapata would ride again, he said, ride

Up to the Ice 65
on a white horse. He would descend from the hill country and
drive out the swindlers, thieves and cheats who now ruled
Emiliano Zapata, of course, had wanted to institute land
reforms which would have given the Indians back their lost acres.
Zapata's aim was to divide up the big haciendas among the
peasants. Zapata, immortalized by Diego Rivera in his wall
frescoes. In the short space of forty years Zapata had become a
myth, a saviour-figure whose reappearance was anxiously awaited.
It is in such legends that the hopes of a people are crystallized.
My memory went back to the street singers I had seen nearly
twenty years before in Chinese Turkestan. There was a tousled
fellow in a lambskin coat and fur hat who played a stringed
instrument with one hand while with the other he manipulated
the little image of a mountain goat, making it dance. He sang of
the great hero Ishkander (Alexander the Great), of Yakub Bey, a
local historical paladin, and also of Captain Miller, Miler Bey,
the commander of the Emden in the First World War. Such legends
are tied neither by time nor place. They pass from mouth to
mouth, from one generation to another, and excite the imagina-
tions of men for whom the hero's deeds become exemplars of
behaviour. The saga of mighty actions sheds a brilliance upon the
workaday world so full of struggles and anxieties, so heavy with
cares and disappointments. The hero is always victorious. In the
subconsciousness of the people there lurks a prehistorical way of
thinking. There must be, as in most ancient times, a blood sacri-
fice by which the hero will save the world from its evils. Among
men who have been trained to a less emotional attitude, ideas, it
seems to me, often suffice. The struggle and the conflict are in the
realms of knowledge, of comprehension of antecedents in the
spiritual sense. Such being my own conviction, the reader will
not blame me, I hope, if the Mexican scene and background
calls to my mind the figure of Alexander von Humboldt who was
a man of just such spiritual quality. His influence can never be
forgotten in Mexico, or, indeed, in any part of Latin America.
His statue remains standing, unscathed by revolution, in front of
the National Library in Mexico City. If I had been able to tell
the Mexican charcoal-burner something of the heroes of my
world, I would have said something of Humboldt who, in his old
slouched hat, and with his notebook under his arm, long ago had
climbed up this very mountain. The peak that towered above us
he had surveyed and measured as he had other volcanoes in

66 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Mexico. He was not only concerned with comparing the record
height of South American Chimborazo with those of the Mexican
volcanoes. Mines, ancient MSS. and pyramids interested him as
much as the fire-mountains. I think that I would have preferred
his stimulating company to that of the Zapata the old charcoal-
burner evoked for us.

A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake
N OTHING can more excite and interest both the scientific
student and the layman than a discovery of archaeological
objects lying hidden beneath volcanic rocks. We have only
to think of Pompeii and how its treasures aroused so keen an
interest in the study of antiquity. We all are thrilled by the vision
of men's destiny overwhelmed by the sudden and irresistible
catastrophe of volcanic eruption. There is something peculiarly
moving and pathetic in the recovery of the victims' skeletons and
their treasures and everyday belongings that have been con-
cealed by a carapace of ashes and lava. It is, then, no matter for
wonder that the discovery of graves under the Pedregal lava-
field on the southern fringe of Mexico City had a great influence
upon our conceptions about most ancient Mexican cultures.
As long ago as the end of the last century, an American
archaeologist, Miss Zelia Nuttal, came across the remains of
graves which lay directly under the lava in the suburb of San
Angel. Here quarries had been cut which allowed us, for the first
time, to get an idea of the succession of strata in the great lava-
field. When, later on, in the same area, and, indeed, right in the
middle of the volcanic deposits, a towering temple was excavated,
speculation about the antiquity of Mexican cultures sometimes
reached what can only be called fantastic heights. People spoke
of an antiquity of seven thousand years and some seemed to think,
though they hardly dared to say, that the beginnings of the
Mexican cultures might go right back into geologically remote
ages. Anyway, the Pedregal site was considered to afford the clue
to the mysteries of the most venerable traditions of the land.
In my opinion the problem of the Pedregal lavas was, partly
at least, a purely geological one. The lava had been cut through

68 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
the whole of its eight metres thickness by a small stream. But this
hardly justified our attributing an age of seven thousand years
to the formation. Moreover, archaeologists had studied the
fragments of pottery vessels discovered under the lava at Copilco
and near the temple of Cuicuilco. These objects belonged appar-
ently to the Archaic culture phase which, in 1945, was still con-
sidered to have begun about the commencement of our era. But
that was only a vague guess. No one knew just how long the
Pedregal lava had held its secrets.
The lava, indeed, appeared very fresh and unweathered. Its
strangely corrugated surface, here and there coiled and corded
and sometimes undulating like the waves of a sea, seemed un-
disturbed. Also the partly reconstituted temple of Cuicuilco,
though surrounded on all sides by lava-flow, had been, very
largely, hidden by wind-blown surface-soil. It is true that the
conical form and the rather primitive masonry of the building
allowed one to conclude that it belonged to a less evolved archi-
tectural tradition than that of the Teotihuacan pyramids.
Basing my estimate upon geological experience, I came to the
conclusion that a dating of about two or three thousand years
would be about right for Cuicuilco. Graves from the Copilco site
(which had been transferred to a small museum with subterranean
passages and lighted show-cases) had lain in an area of dark soil
situated between the lava itself and the deposits left by the ancient
Great Lake of Texcoco. This soil had, owing to exposure to the
fierce heat of the lava-flow, assumed a fine light-red colour. It was,
indeed, a natural brick formation that had been fired in the kiln
lit by the volcanic eruptions. All these things were interesting
enough but they did not seem to throw much light upon the age
of the site.
My mind turned to geophysical methods and the systematic
search for fossils in those places where the lava could furnish infor-
mation about the underlying deposits of lacustrine clay, but such
sounding points promised but little chances of success. The
Pedregal formations were like a sphinx that excited one to ask
questions but which gave only puzzling answers.
But by the summer of 1949 we were in possession of the un-
hoped for instrument of carbon-14 dating. On 6th June of that
year I went out, with a group of young Mexican archaeologists,
to the temple of Cuicuilco in order to collect charcoal fragments
from the ancient settlement deposits. The fragments we could
find were so few in number and quantity that, by midday, we had


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^*e.m.e. edos AP A^OitO

l .:. .

"- .E ..... ZACA.. : /C CO

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(after Miguel Covarrubias)

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.* 2

70 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
almost given up hope of finding even the comparatively small
amount of carbon needed for the test. Then, quite suddenly, we
lighted upon a heap of charred maize-cobs, among which, also,
was the portion of an Archaic pottery figurine. The cobs were
quite small, only about one-fifth as large as those of the present
day, but such small cobs were usual in Archaic sites. We collected
a satisfactory quantity and were quite pleased with our day's
work. The radio-carbon test gave a dating of 2422 years, that is
to say 473 B.C. That, then, was the minimum date for the temple
settlement of Cuicuilco. Since the lava lay directly upon the
stratum with the charcoal-there was no weathered layer be-
tween-I concluded that the lava could not be less than two
thousand or more than two thousand five hundred years old. So
here was practically the first real information about the succession
of Archaic Mexican cultures. We knew already that Cuicuilco
belonged to the later phases of the Archaic cultures. Our next
dating must, then, be made at a more ancient settlement in order
that we might calculate, with more or less accuracy, the duration
of the 'Archaic culture' period. From the geological point of view
such a dating would be of much interest, since it would allow us
to situate the epoch of the last of those volcanic eruptions which
had begun, after the end of the Ice Age, with the formation of
several craters on the south-western fringe of the High Valley.
The tradition of volcanic catastrophes is still lively in the
minds of the modern Mexicans, as the following story will show.
In the summer of 1948 there appeared a sensational report in the
Mexican Press. Overnight a subterranean fire had erupted in the
fields of a little village called Chorobusco. The owner of the land
had seen a flash of fire and then as smoke rose from the ground he
had rushed off to call the fire brigade. I was on the spot and saw
the red cars pumping water through their hoses. Policemen formed
a cordon round the smoking earth while others were searching for
the incendiary. The newspaper reporters outdid each other in
surmises. It must be a volcanic outburst. The Paricutin volcano
had begun in like manner with smoke rising from a field. The
capital might be in danger. Pious people prophesied that Mexico
City, like Sodom and Gomorrah, would be visited by God's
vengeance and would meet with a well-merited fate. I must say
that I was not much impressed by the spectacle for I knew from
experience how fiercely even a small brown coal seam can burn
in a mine. As time went on, the curious onlookers began to slake
their thirst with highly-coloured lemonade and the firemen left

A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake 71
their red enamelled engines for the children to play with. No less
an authority than Alexander von Humboldt, who in Mexico is
still regarded as the patron saint and oracle of natural science,
pointed out as long ago as 1803 the ever-present possibility of
volcanic catastrophes.
The next dating experiment was made at the ancient settle-
ment of Zacatenco which its excavator, the late George C.
Vaillant, had correlated with an ancient lake shore. Zacatenco
lies beyond the north-western limits of Mexico City and was held
to be one of the richest of the archaeological sites. On my first
visit I could not help feeling a little disappointed, since the site
consists only of a rubbish heap lying at the foot of a projecting
cliff. On the mound stood a few miserable mud huts from which
emerged a pack of dogs, furiously yelping at my companions and
me. But in any case, the view from the mound had something
curious to offer. Before us rose the new buildings of some film
company whose sets were economically furnished with the trap-
pings of a romantic novel. To our left we could gaze upon the
gilded dome of Guadalupe Cathedral. It shelters the most precious
treasure of Catholic Mexico, the famed picture of the Mother of
God who here, so runs the legend, appeared in a vision vouch-
safed to a poor Indian.
It is significant that the miracle took place on a spot where the
Aztecs, in olden days, prayed to their Earth Mother-a link
between the old faith and the new and an event that redounded
greatly to the benefit of the Church, especially as the Blessed
Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in the guise of an Indian maid.
It was under the standard of Guadalupe that Mexican troops, in
the 40's of the last century, met the invading American army.
However, the result of the campaign was that the Mexicans lost
their northern territories of California, Arizona and Texas to the
United States. But whichever way we look at it, Guadalupe has
plenty of historical background.
We can, indeed, say the same thing of the Zacatenco rubbish
dump with the reminder that there a deeper insight may be
obtained than even at Guadalupe, into the beginning of Mexican
culture. Trenches clearly showed where the earlier excavations
had been made. The mound's many layers are rich in potsherds
and pottery fragments which, owing to the erosion of the ancient
settlements, have piled up against the rock-face. Here also were
portions of old worked stones from buildings which had been dis-
placed by the huts and gardens. Among the remains of ancient

72 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
hearths could be made out bits of extinct animals' bones. Inside
the trenches were visible a number of skulls with excellently pre-
served teeth. Children offered us small pottery figurines which
they had unearthed and used as toys. They were tiny images of
naked women who, thousands of years ago, had adorned them-
selves with splendid head-dresses. What interested me most was a
geological stratum which underlay the rubbish and had piled up
horizontally as rubble from the volcanic formations of the
mountains. This stratum was encrusted with a limestone deposit
undoubtedly due to the desiccation of Lake Texcoco. According
to our measurements this deposit was at eleven metres above the
level of the valley, so here we had an ancient beach eight metres
higher than that I had already identified at El Risco. Obviously,
then, here was certain proof that the lake had fluctuated in size;
its level had once been much higher than now and had risen and
fallen several times. As the waters withdrew they left behind them
a beach whose hard, encrusted surface had served the early
settlers as a foundation for their buildings.
Those who first excavated this site estimated its age as being
between 1800 and 2000 years and they considered that as the
settlement was apparently one of the oldest of pre-Columbian
Mexico, the site must represent the initial phase of Mexican
culture. However, the charcoal fragments which I collected from
under the pottery level gave, by radio-carbon tests, a dating of
about 3300 years and this estimate was confirmed, later on, by
the tests made on material from a comparable archaeological
site, that of Tlatilco. Since the topmost (and therefore the most
recent) level containing pottery at Zacatenco belongs to a more
recent cultural period of the 'Archaic' epoch' the mound may
have taken about a thousand years for its formation. The inhabi-
tants of Zacatenco could, then, justifiably enough, have cele-
brated the three thousandth anniversary of their dwelling-place
in the same year that the Mayflower discharged its Pilgrim Fathers
on the eastern coasts of the United States.
These first dating results indicated how important it was to
correlate, in the high valley of Mexico, the history of the human
settlements with geological and geographical phenomena and
especially with the variations in lake level and the consequent
changes in the distribution of the arable land available to the

1 This level, on account of the similarity of the pottery technique and the type of
earthenware vessels, may be, roughly speaking, equated with the Cuicuilco temple
site in the Pedregal lava-field.

A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake 73
earliest agriculturalists. In such circumstances, it seemed to me
that we should seek out some early settlement, in this region,
which had already attracted attention on account of its archaeo-
logical riches.
Such a site I was able to discover owing to the Mexican
archaeologist and artist, Miguel Covarrubias, who is an admirable
expert on all matters dealing with Indian cultures in his native
land. His beautiful home, just outside Mexico City, is a treasure-
house of art-objects from Asia, Africa and Mexico, and here he
showed me some pottery from Tlatilco, a site that with Zacatenco,
has proved to be one of the richest in relics of Archaic Mexican
culture. He suggested that I should examine the Tlatilco region
from the geological point of view and try my luck in dating the
site. Before I set out I made a map of the area around Tlatilco
and learned all I could about the constitution of the soil in the
district. Shortly afterwards, the Museo Nacional instituted system-
atic excavations at the Tlatilco site and this allowed of much
supplementary information being amassed.
The clay deposit of San Luis Tlatilco is situated in grass-
grown country watered by the Rio Hondo, a small stream which
flows down from the southern rim of the High Valley into that
part of the ancient lake bed where Zacatenco is also situated.
Down to about a depth of ten feet from the surface the earth
contains a great number of graves whose extent was first revealed
after brick kilns had been established nearby. The sites of the
graves can be recognized by the dark coloration of the soil. The
burial-places themselves are conical in section since the first
settlers constructed the pits as silos or storage cellars for food-
stuffs. It was later on that the holes were used as graves.
The first thing that attracted my attention at Tlatilco was the
brick-making. Indian labourers toiled all day long in the huge
pits and detached the clay with sticks, shovels or picks and carried
it in baskets to the centre of the pit where they worked the clay
into a substance of a mud-like consistency. This was then carried
by women and children up the slippery, steep paths to a place
where they dumped the contents of their baskets. Here the wet
clay was pressed into wooden moulds each of which was of the size
and shape of a brick-and then laid out in the sun to dry. A
hundred basket loads were needed to furnish a thousand bricks.
I watched the work-people, barefoot and caked with clay, panting
and gasping as they struggled up with their burdens under the
scorching sun. I was told that for a day's work of twelve hours, a

74 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
whole family earned about ten shillings, a wage that just sufficed
to keep them alive. Such outrageously low pay means, of course,
that the unfortunate people have to live in miserable huts of
corrugated iron and old packing-cases-but their windows are
always garlanded with flowers.
Early in the morning you would see the women sitting before
their stone slabs grinding maize. Pigs, chickens and dogs straggled
about among the children whose only toys were old tin cans. They
offered me a few poor pottery figurines. The parents keep the best
pieces for customers they can trust and who give good prices that
serve to eke out the wretched wages. The social blessings of the
Revolution seem to have passed by Tlatilco without leaving a trace.
My mind was full of these unhappy sights as I climbed up to
the excavations. Here there was a grave exposed in which could
be seen several skeletons and around about them painted vessels,
platters, vases and a few small earthenware figurines. At a higher
level in the same grave I came across similar objects. Such an
arrangement of two sets of burials in the same grave was charac-
teristic of Central America in pre-Columbian times. After a few
years and when decomposition had done its work, the skeletons of
the dead were exhumed and the bones reburied with new offerings
and vessels containing food and drink. So, it would seem that the
men of the Archaic culture believed in a hereafter and in eternal
life. That the cult of the dead also demanded mass sacrifice is
indicated by the heaping up of bones in a grave. The skull-forms
of the human skeletons are so varied that we must conclude they
denote a population of very mixed origins.
It was, however, the ceramics which at once and quite
clearly threw a light upon the existence of the Archaic settlers.
Among the figurines female figures predominate. The delicate,
slender upper parts of the body contrast with the exaggeratedly
broad hips-a fitting symbol of fertility such as is common among
primitive peoples. Clothing is either represented by an apron or
its place is taken by various styles of hairdressing or head-dress,
such as wigs or turbans. These latter are painted red and go well
enough with the pretty little faces whose features are often any-
thing but Mongoloid. There is also a number of the celebrated
double-headed and twin-faced figurines which remind one some-
times of certain of Picasso's paintings, and, then, again resemble
caricatures, clay masks or heads which might have served as
models for Daumier, so incredibly ironical and satirical do they

A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake 75
Among the objects from Tlatilco are representations of elegant
dancing-girls, of women who carry a child in their arms or who
lead a pet dog. There are dwarfs, there are masculine figures
which remind one of wrestlers, there are married couples sitting
on a seat, there are old men with beards and turbans and there
are girls with plaited hair. These are all to be seen, now, in
museum cases-figures with padded armour and helmets, a priest
wearing a pointed hood, a mask and an apron of some animal's
skin while he shakes his magic rattle in his hand. There are large
and small pottery masks, all red and depicting the fearsome cult-
demons who embody, maybe, the whole range of human fear and
These objects indicate well enough a developed social organi-
zation and we may say the same of the pottery vessels which are
mirrors of aesthetic taste and of poetic feeling. The vases may be
in the form of fish cunningly and symmetrically intertwined, or
there will be a singing birdjust about to take off in flight, and there
is a necklace of black pottery beads with a pendant in the form of
a duck. Who could dare to call such things primitive? This whole
collection reflects life, a way of regarding the world and a mode
of behaviour and comportment. These most ancient objects pro-
claim a victory over death and express the fact of life in the midst
of mouldering skeletons. A conquest of art. The death-cult also
was, in a measure, a defiant glorification of that joy of living which
with the present-day Indians sometimes breaks out in dance and
song and music.
However, Tlatilco offered yet another surprise that lay hidden
under the graves and in lower levels full of river-sand and rubble.
In the sand were not only fragments of charcoal, indicating the
existence of still more ancient settlements, but also a few stone
implements, though no pottery. Another and still more ancient
culture. The artefacts, missiles, rubbing stones and weapons
belonged, it is true, to a time before permanent settlements, when
the inhabitants of the region were principally occupied in the
hunting of small game and in the gathering of edible plants.
This was the epoch of the so-called 'Chalco' culture first identi-
fied by me at Chalco in the south-west of the High Valley of
How ancient was this culture phase? Here, again, the radio-
carbon tests were of great help. The charcoal fragments from the
lower sands at Tlatilco gave a dating of between 6400 and 7100
years. The deposits, then, are post-glacial, but geologically ancient

76 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
and belong to a period which is approximately the same as that of
the artefacts from the Ventana Cave in southern Arizona.
These, indeed, are not unlike the stone implements of the
Chalco culture. The overlying Archaic graves at Tlatilco, how-
ever, proved to be of about the same age as the lower pottery
levels at Zacatenco, that is to say, roughly, 3400 years. So, not
only were we able to determine the age of the two Archaic sites
but the reliability of the radio-carbon tests was once more proved.
Furthermore, we obtained a chronological outline of the Archaic
cultures, if we remember that the charcoal fragments from the
Cuicuilco temple site proved to be 2544 years old. The Archaic
period must, then, roughly speaking, have lasted from about 3500
to 2500 years ago. Further investigation may well show that these
dating are conservative since so evolved a culture as that of
Tlatilco must have demanded hundreds of years for its develop-
ment. With dates such as these, the archaeology of Mexico assumes
a place side by side with those of Egypt and Mesopotamia and
opens up new prospects both for archaeologists and for historians
of art.
What I was particularly interested in were the environmental
conditions and the influence exercised by climate and soil. The
grave levels showed clearly by their richness in humus and clay
that they were laid down in a relatively wet climate and the
validity of this assumption was, later on, proved by the pollen-
analyses carried out by the American professor, Paul Sears, in the
lake deposits of the High Valley of Mexico. His noteworthy
researches revealed, indeed, the occurrence of a short dry period
in late Archaic culture times, that is to say around about 500 B.C.
Moreover, this dry interlude is also reflected in the settlements of
that age, for archaeological material was, in one instance, re-
covered from under the present-day surface of Lake Texcoco.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that, in this later period,
settlements often lay some distance away from the old lake shores.
The desiccation had led to the soil being saturated with salt so
that the agriculturalists could no longer till the fields by the
lacustrine beaches. Men moved up and away from the lake and to
the wide stretching meadow lands where fruitful soil was to be
found. No doubt it was climatic change which dictated to their
builders the rather eccentric emplacements of the first temple sites
of Cuicuilco, Teotihuacan and Rio Hondo. It would be most
desirable to conduct further research into this problem of the
effect upon the cultures of the variations in the lake's level.

A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake 77
Near the village of Tepexpan there were still further surprising
things. I had heard of a sandpit there in which ancient animal
bones had been discovered. Nothing more was needed to arouse
my curiosity as a keen, and indeed, a professional bone collector.
Surely enough here was evidence that in geologically ancient
times the site had been a meeting-place for many sorts of beasts.
In the sandpit were the teeth of a large wild horse (Equus crenidens)
together with the remains of elephants, camels, buffaloes and
rodents. This was a late Ice Age fauna, as an American palaeolo-
gist later assured me, a collection of animals that was comparable
with that of which I had found the relics in the Valley of Bones
at Tequixquiac.
The sandpit was situated in an old beach formation 25 metres
above the present level of the lake. From the pit I walked up six
metres to another beach. Here, also, were limestone crusts and
rubble, but no bones. I proposed the name of El Risco for both
beaches since I had discovered the lowest of these lacustrine
beach-formations at the village of El Risco. Of these three the
highest and the lowest were datable from the remains of the Ice
Age mammals they contained. Thus it was clear that although, in
the course of ages, Texcoco Lake had gradually shrunk, there
were, from time to time, rises in the level of the waters. Obviously
such variations could have been caused only by one agency-
changes of climate, and these changes are reflected in the position
of the old moraines. In addition to all this we have to consider the
geological evidence which points to three wet and two dry climatic
phases represented in the deposits laid down in the valley. This
succession of five climatic phases corresponds with the triple
division of the last glaciation in North America during which the
continental ice-sheet advanced from the north and then retreated
again in a pattern which the glaciation experts have been able to
detect in the glacier-formations of the Rocky Mountains. However,
apart from the glaciation, the High Valley of Mexico was affected
by the great cycle of late Ice Age climatic variations. The advance
or retreat of the ice-cap in higher latitudes was reflected in central
Mexico by periods of great precipitation or of considerable
desiccation. For the first time, we were in possession of a picture of
climate change in subtropical America corresponding to the ebb
and flow of the great glaciers farther north. The wet periods, of
course, caused a rise in lake levels and an extension of the forests,
while during the drier periods the lakes shrank and the vegetation
area contracted.

78 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
What such climatic changes meant for the ancient hunters
and settlers may be judged from the present-day drama that is
being played out between Man and climate. We have only to
think of how severely the economy of the dry belt in the United
States-Arizona, Texas and California-had to suffer during the
drought of 1934-6. Thousands of families had to quit their homes.
Clouds of dust were driven diagonally right across the continent as
far as the eastern coastline. As late as the spring of 1953 I wit-
nessed a rain of dust in New York itself; a reddish grit fell threat-
eningly upon tall buildings and low alike. We may recall the
biblical stories of lean years and drought, the progressive desicca-
tion of North Africa and Mesopotamia when the peoples of
Carthage, Babylon and Nineveh, caught up in political quarrels,
felt the bounty of nature fail them. In the history of civilizations,
conflicts excited by ideologies have been not seldom exacerbated
by the tensions due to geographical and climatic conditions and
these have, again and again, led to the collapse of whole cultures.
In Mexico such factors are ever-present since in the economi-
cally important portions of the country too little rain falls.
Mountain chains and high barometrical pressures in the southern
latitudes hinder the regular flow of moisture-laden air. Mexico is
one of the lands where both politics and economy are subjected to
the climate. Such being the case, it would seem obviously necessary
to educate the people in a better knowledge of past events.
For all the reasons we have just seen, the High Valley of
Mexico appears to the trained observer as a stage where the
scenery has made the play. For instance, the latest wet phase of
the Ice Age provided rich pastures for elephant, buffalo and horse,
good hunting-grounds over which primitive Man spread and
where he found his subsistence. The following dry period without
doubt changed the whole picture of Man's life.
We can understand, then, why, in the geological strata, some-
times the remains of grass-loving beasts are quite wanting and that
layers of calcite occur that indicate a very dry climate. The post-
glacial dry period was, however, of comparatively short duration,
as is indicated by the succession of levels and cultures at Tlatilco.
Nevertheless, as we have already seen, the period of increased
rainfall did not continue uninterruptedly until the present time.
There were climatic variations, as, for instance, about 500 B.c., and
at no time during the last millenia have the people of Mexico
enjoyed the very favourable conditions in which the earliest
hunters lived.

A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake 79
When the dust storms of this short dry period began to die
down, the level of the lake rose by several metres. In the small
inlet of the lake near Tepexpan there is noticeable evidence of a
distinct, if not very considerable, rise in the level of the waters.
Here we excavated the remains of dwellings belonging to the
Teotihuacan pyramid culture period. They lay upon artificial
islands at levels some four metres above the present surface of
Lake Texcoco. As, maybe, the summer rains got more abundant,
the river vales and the lakes' borders would have allowed of
cultivation not only in the High Valley but also in other regions.
Thus there was an increase in Mexican energy which was reflected
in the imperishable creations of Teotihuacan and Monte Albin.
Architecture and art flourished in Central America and reached
their apogee with the achievements of the Maya, the Toltecs and,
last of all, the Aztecs. Such stupendous monuments as Teoti-
huacan were the work of men living in a rigid social organization
dominated by the cult of fire, rain and fertility divinities. But the
Sun and Moon temples, the spacious cities adorned with geo-
metrically conceived buildings, faded away and other peoples,
first the Toltecs and then the Aztecs, assumed the heritage of
Teotihuacan. As I came to know more about the whole problem,
my mind reverted again and again to the question I had asked
myself on that first evening when we had seen the pyramids in the
gathering dusk; what had led to the collapse of this culture? And
this question has more than a local and circumscribed application:
it relates to the whole of Man's history, to the eternal rivalry
between nature and human society.
The Tepexpan area threw a certain amount of light on these
matters. However miserably poor the place now may be, its
ancient 16th-century church reflects a more prosperous past. We
are reminded of the chronicles of the Spaniard Castafieda of four
hundred years ago and more, and also of the native Aztec MSS. in
which Tepexpan is mentioned. Today, the dwellings are backed
up against the wall of an ancient lava-stream and, indeed, the
houses of the Aztecs, near their fields and gardens, must have been
arranged in very much the same fashion. Traces of the Aztecs are
to be noticed everywhere. If you go from Tepexpan south-west-
wards along the volcanic hills your whole path is strewn with
Aztec (and more ancient) pottery fragments, earthenware
figurines and stone implements. Then you observe that the Aztec
remains occur only up to a certain height in the fields. If we move
up farther, there will be other archaeological relics, those of the

80 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Teotihuacan culture. The cultivable soil is remarkably poor and
then, soon, its place is taken by an ungrateful hard crust among
which, for some distance, you may still find some of the more
ancient potsherds. From such a state of things, which, later on, I
was able to observe near the pyramids themselves, it is quite
evident that the Aztecs, say, between A.D. 13oo and 1500, could
utilize, for agricultural purposes, only the lower slopes, while the
Teotihuacan people, between the 3rd and 9th centuries A.D., had
cultivated the whole extent of the slopes. The humus was gradually
eroded until the upper slopes were denuded, but this loss of useful
soil must have occurred before the time of the Aztecs. Possibly, I
thought, the erosion of the soil may have been caused by the huge
temple sanctuaries of Teotihuacan.
The builders and lords of this religious metropolis felled the
woods, first of all, of course, in order to increase their acreage of
cultivable land, and then, most of all, because an immense
quantity of wood was needed for building and for fuel. It was
upon the produce of the soil, the harvest of maize, beans, chilli
peppers, squash and pumpkins, that the great temples depended
for their very existence and their prosperity. Immense quantities
of wood were needful to fashion a permanent place where the
gods might be worshipped and where sacrifice could be offered up
to them. Wood was necessary for the temples' walls and flooring,
for the stucco revetments, to feed the sacrificial fires and fill the
kitchen stoves. It is known that the ancient Maya, in order to
obtain quicklime, had to use ten times as much wood as limestone
treated. At first, the more trees that were cut down, the more
bountiful were the harvests and so the greater the revenues and
riches of the temple-city. The gods, it seemed, had blessed this
increase. But, as all the wealth depended intimately upon the
pillaging of the irreplaceable forests, the golden age could not last
long. The heavy summer rains began to eat into the thin top-soil,
to drive ever-widening channels down the slopes, to cut crevices
that bore off the earth and destroyed a maize field here, a bean
plot there. After generations the returns from the soil began to
shrink. The hard, hostile crust which underlay the arable earth,
revealed itself like a pale shroud spread upon the upper slopes.
The gods seemed suddenly to have averted their faces from
their subjects. The almighty rain-god, Tlaloc, the demonic figure
with owl's eyes and jaguar's teeth, had shown himself to be deaf
to appeals. Then there must have been fierce quarrels among the
classes in a rigidly stratified community. Who had called down

A Prehistoric World by Texcoco Lake 81
the vengeance of the gods? No one would realize that men them-
selves were guilty, men alone. So the pillars of society buckled,
crumpled and collapsed. There was nothing for it but to flee
before the impending catastrophe. That a mass emigration did
take place is proved in the broad grasslands to the west of Mexico
City. Here the abundant pottery fragments and the grave fields
have yielded up objects that reflect the last dying echoes of the
Teotihuacan high culture.
I have been tempted, in this case, to present the evidence of
unwritten chronicles in order to explain the extinction of a culture
and of a society, since the explanation fits in well with what we
know of the general destiny of this land. How bitterly the Mexicans
have had to suffer from their evil heritage, we shall show later on.


In the Devil's Ravine
HE aeroplane from New York had set me down, in a very
bad storm, at Monterrey, beyond the Texas boundary. On
the airfield the palm-trees, lashed by the wind and rain,
bowed and bent and fluttered like umbrellas blown inside out.
Seen from the dark waiting-room the four-engined plane seemed
some gigantic fish whose metallic scales glittered under the arc-
lamps. At the entrance to the airport offices there stood three
downcast-looking Indians, their straw hats dripping water. They
had wanted to gaze at the gigantic bird and they stared through
the storm, their backs turned towards the airfield. As I looked at
them, still and unperturbed by the cars that kept whizzing by, I
could not help feeling that the plane which had brought me two
thousand miles had also carried me as many years back into Old
Mexico. The Indians, I think, could not see me, but I found a
welcome in their faces that expressed a strange timelessness.
From the taxi I could look out towards the dark mountains
that blazed up in the light of almost incessant flashes of lightning.
Somewhere out in that murky country must lie the ravine where
new excavations had been made. Unconsciously my hand searched
my coat-pocket as though to reassure myself that I really had come
here at a special invitation. An American archaeologist, indeed,
had opened up a new chapter in Mexican prehistory and he had
suggested that I should come down to Mexico and work with him.
His letter had both surprised and excited me, for in the north-
eastern region, quite near the Texan border, no important
archaeological finds were to be expected. Yet, rupestral paintings
and the remains of ancient cultures, right in the jungle, and far
from the centre of pre-Aztec civilizations, would throw much
light upon the past history of an area that was, archaeologically

In the Devil's Ravine

speaking, as yet quite unexplored. What I was especially anxious
to study was the evidence for ancient changes of climate such as I
had already observed in the High Valley of Mexico where such
variations are reflected in both the cultural sequences and in the
soil formations.
On the following morning I was awakened by the clanging of
church bells while from the streets arose the raucous cries of the
newspaper boys. Once again, as on the occasion of my first visit
to the country, archaeological news was splashed over the first
pages of the papers. In Mexico even the daily journals feature
news about the past, which, after all, considering the richness of
the country's ancient cultures, is perhaps not so surprising.
Moreover, the story of the pre-Spanish and native Indian civiliza-
tions, is an essential part of the new nationalistic legend which the
Mexican archaeologists continually enrich as they bring to light
further proofs of the great achievements of their Indian fore-
runners. Now, an expedition had found, in the tropical southern
portion of the land, new temples constructed by the ancient
Maya, and the papers carried long articles devoted to Mayan
The small plane of the Compania Mexicana de Aviacidn set me
down outside the town of Ciudad Victoria, on a field that looked
just like a meadow. Here I was met by the American archaeologist
who had invited me to inspect his new finds. He said that we could
start the next day and drive as far as the flooded roads would
allow us, for the rains had been torrential. In the meantime he
took me to an hotel where he gave me a brief account of his
explorations and researches on the Gulf Coast. When the coastal
town of Panuco was mentioned there came to my mind the report
left by the Spanish monk and chronicler Bernardino de Sahagin
who, in the year 1526, had questioned the oldest inhabitants of
Texcoco, near the Atzec capital, concerning the origins of their
'Many, many years before the Spaniards came,' wrote the
monk, 'the forefathers of the Mexican people landed from boats
at a place called Panoaya or Panuco'-on the other side of Vera
Cruz-'their leader was a high priest who brought with him the
image of the god who is called Tloquenauque, that is, the Unique
All-Comprising One, and whom they constantly consulted as an
oracle. From Panuco this people wandered off into the interior of
the country and founded the town of Tamoanchan where they
long lived in peace. With the immigrants were learned men,

84 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
magicians who understood the arts of writing, of painting and of
illustrating books.'
The high priest was said to have been fair-skinned and blue-
eyed, experienced in agriculture, art and science, a leader in every
sense of the word, and to him was later given the name of Quetzal-
coati or the 'plumed Serpent'. Around this name, in the course of
ages, were woven many legends and traditions which, it would
seem, had not much reference to the hero himself, but which
belonged to a common fund of most ancient beliefs. It was
recounted that after he had finished his work of institution and
instruction, he took ship and returned to his homeland from which,
however, one day, he would return to Mexico. No wonder that
the Aztecs, when the blue-eyed Hernando Cortes arrived, re-
garded him as nothing less than the divine hero come back again,
the incredibly powerful one who could make the lightning flash
and the thunder roar, a man, too, accompanied by those who
knew the mystery of books. Had he known or cared how to play
his mythical role, Cortes' conquest might have been much less
bloody and horrid.
Now near the legend-shrouded region of Panuco, archaeolo-
gists had, some time before, discovered evidence of ancient settle-
ments, which dated, it would seem, back to about the year 400 of
our era, so, perhaps, there may have been a kernel of truth in all
these fantastic stories. From the coast the young American couple
had moved up inland to a canyon known as the 'Devil's Ravine'
and there had discovered the traces of human settlements near
rock-paintings. When they could no longer endure the hard life in
the jungle the two had made their way to Ciudad Victoria and had
there taken up their quarters. They lived very frugally amid their
archaeological treasures. Their frugality was, indeed, immediately
apparent. They took me to a humble hut on the outskirts of the
town. It looked like anything rather than a rest-home where one
might recover from the fatigues of a field-archaeologist's life. My
colleague's young wife did, in fact, admit that she longed for a
bathroom with running hot water. Furthermore her husband was
having a lot of trouble with the jeep and the plague of mosquitoes
drove them nearly insane. Evidently a visit to the Devil's Ravine
was going to be no pleasure trip.
We then went to the school-house where the finds had been
laid out temporarily. The building was set in a splendid park
beyond which a drop-scene of blue mountains shimmered in the
sun above the heat-haze. The class-room was adorned with

In the Devil's Ravine

portraits of Mexican presidents and also of George Washington
and Franklin Roosevelt, all gazing sightlessly out of cheap frames
on to the remarkable show of objects excavated by the two young
Americans. There were stone implements, soil samples, portions
of sandals, pieces of bark wickerwork, there were bones and
multicoloured pottery fragments and little bags containing fossil
fruits and seeds. All these things had been unearthed from under
a rock-shelter and appeared to belong to a very primitive culture
that gave no hint of any high achievements. The early inhabitants
of this site must have been forest dwellers, food-gatherers, hunters
who practised also a primitive sort of agriculture. They were,
doubtless, savages, living beyond the perimeter of the great central
American culture zone. And yet this lowly people had produced
artists-as the photographs of some rock-pictures showed clearly
After this short introduction to the archaeology of the jungle
in the State of Tamaulipas, we had to face the problem of trans-
port. The jeep was not big enough to contain us three in addition
to the Indian workmen. We decided to leave all the arrangements
to Richard and eventually he found a solution. We would use the
Coca Cola truck which, on the following day, was to run up to the
last village on our route. From thence we could, with hired mules,
reach the Devil's Ravine.
The next morning we were up betimes and arrived punctually
at the starting-point. Already two small pigs and a number of
cackling-hens had been hoisted aboard the truck around which
stood the other passengers, Indians clutching bundles of clothes
and also a number of children. It looked improbable that all the
people and the baggage could ever be stowed away on the top of
the cases of Coca Cola bottles, but, strangely enough, we did all
manage to squeeze in. The two Americans and myself, as the
guests of honour, crowded on to the front seat beside the driver.
The scarlet truck then jolted off, but at the first big puddle the
overladen vehicle stuck fast. It took a good half hour's work before
we could get the back wheels free of the mud and a prodigious
amount of brushwood had to be cut and pushed under the tyres.
Soon, the road began to rise among forest-clad hills. In the great
heat the woods seemed parched and dried up. We were sur-
rounded by a grey network of murderous thorns through which
was cut the bumpy track pitted with great potholes.
At the first village we stopped to eat. We took up our positions
next to a pigsty-it was the only shady spot-and made a frugal

86 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
meal of canned beans washed down with draughts of Coca Cola.
Barefooted and clad in tattered shirts the boys and girls of the
place stood around and marvelled at our canned foodstuffs. For
the most part the children appeared well enough fed and only a
few of them had leg ulcers or inflamed eyes. But these children did
not look like Indians, in any case, they must have had a good deal
of Mediterranean ancestry. Where, then, were the Indians? They
had been exterminated, said Richard, who knew all about the
history of the region. The early Spaniards hunted down the
Indians like wild beasts or captured them as slaves. However, for
these misdeeds, the man who conquered this land for the Spanish
Crown, Don Jos6 de Escand6n, cannot be blamed. Don Jose,
Knight of the Order of Santiago and Conde de Sierra Gorda, set
out, in obedience to the viceregal command, to force the Spanish
rule upon the wild tribes living near the Rio Grande. The region
was an ill-famed one, not only because its inhabitants had the
reputation of being particularly savage, but also because it had
become the lair and refuge of political refugees and of men whose
forefathers had fled from farther south in Cortes' time. Here, amid
impassable forests, thorn thickets and hidden ravines, the Indians
not only held out but also prepared incessant attacks upon the
mission stations and the highroads. Before the noble Don Jose set
forth, with his small force of seven hundred horsemen, from the
town of Queritaro, on his crusade against the northern robber
bands, he gave explicit orders to his men that they were to treat
the Indians 'as Christians'. He would punish with death any
thieving or raping on the part of his soldiers. But like many
another military leader who has thought to preserve decency in
warfare Don Jos6 had to sacrifice one good resolution after
another. In fact he was unable to restrain his men from acts of
violence. They were, it is true, fighting a cunning and vindictive
enemy whose poisoned arrows came darting mysteriously from the
trees and bushes, while the Apaches and Comanches of the Rio
Grande's banks, would, on their agile mounts, make nightly
sallies to attack the Spaniards. The struggle went on for years,
trade-posts and missions were ravaged, monks scalped and
murdered. Indeed, Escand6n needed no less than ten years in
order to settle a bare fifteen hundred Spanish families and to
found the first towns, among which were Ciudad Victoria and the
Laredo that is now on the Rio Grande frontier between the
United States and Mexico.
Escand6n laid out roads and built monasteries, he founded

In the Devil's Ravine 87
trading factories on the principal river passages and fords in his
newly subjected province, that of'Nuevo Santander' that stretched
from the Rio Grande in the north to the towns of San Luis Potosi
and Queritaro in the south. In this long struggle the original
sparse native population was either destroyed or absorbed.
Our departure from the village was hailed by much laughter
and joking by the boys and girls who pretended that the taste of
the Coca Cola had made them drunk. As we jogged on, our
journey was interrupted by frequent stoppages; we broke down,
indeed, very often, and our average speed could not have ex-
ceeded nine or ten miles an hour. It was not until fairly late in the
afternoon that we struck stretches of country where better speed
could be made. Then, at last, we pulled up at the last village. It
was called Los Angeles, but, as may be well imagined, it had
nothing, except its name, in common with the Californian city.
The place lay in a valley and from afar was just a cactus hedge
above which the straw roofs of the huts looked like a row of mis-
chievous boys' faces. It seemed that, from here, there was a foot-
path that led to the Devil's Ravine. Our truck, which, on the way,
had shed a number of cases of Coca Cola as well as the two pigs,
pulled up outside a sort of farm. Here stood a man who was
apparently waiting for us. He gave his name as Salvador Rivera,
the proprietor not only of the local pub but also of the only shop.
In his fowl-house we spent a suffocating night. A newly-laid egg
beside my camp-bed showed that our presence had not upset the
hens at all.
In the morning light Sefior Rivera stood with crossed arms in
a Napoleonic attitude. He was, undoubtedly, in his way, a little
Napoleon, the sole ruler of his realm, and, in this god-forsaken
spot, the man and his career did not fail to make a certain im-
pression upon us. Sefior Rivera had served in Pancho Villa's army
-and had also spent a good deal of time working in iron foundries
in the State of Ohio. What he had thus earned, and otherwise
acquired, he had invested in a homestead and farm at Los Angeles.
He had, indeed, bought the property at a forced sale and for the
amount of the taxes owing. With the sale of spirits, pulque and
Coca Cola he was, apparently, making a good living. As we
looked at him, small, clumsy, sturdy, he seemed to fit in very well
with the reptilian rhythm of life in the place. His life's motto was
not to take himself too seriously. The great error of all leaders, so
he told us in disabused tones, was that they tended to have an
exaggeratedly high opinion of themselves. A man of action must

Man and Mammoth in Mexico

know his limitations and Senior Rivera had found that his lay
just in Los Angeles. This philosophical recipe for felicity did not
fail to impress me, but what was really worrying us was the
problem of how we were going to get a water supply for the week
we were to spend in the jungle. In the Devil's Ravine we could
count on no drinking-water at all, so Richard arranged with
Sefior Rivera for the establishment of a sort of'water mail'. Three
mules with two large water-containers each, should go with us
and then come back from our camp in order to fetch more water
from Los Angeles. The 'containers' would, of course, be the usual
petrol cans which the Coca Cola truck left at the village from time
to time. I observed, with some disgust I must confess, that our
water was scooped up out of a small pond in which the boys and
girls of the village took their morning baths. The pond also served
as the washing place for the village's dirty linen. Luckily I had
brought with me from New York a disinfectant that was guaran-
teed to kill even the most ferocious bacteria.
The whole morning slipped by with preparations for the trip.
The mules stood patiently in the shade of the pub while with their
tails they flicked off the troublesome gad-flies from their shining
flanks. Richard's wife decided to stay in the village in order to
make sociological investigations. I did not envy her the nightly
companionship of the barnyard. With our Indian followers we
took off and waved a farewell from the first turn in the road. As
the last huts disappeared we were at once swallowed up in a
thorny forest. Richard insisted on walking. In his tattered ticking
trousers, khaki-coloured shirt and slouched hat and with his shot-
gun on his shoulder he looked quite the old-timer off to seek gold
or big game in the jungle. Jaguars, it was interesting to learn,
were quite common in the region. Sportsmen from the neighbour-
ing American State of Texas would often come down after them as
far as this. I could not help wondering how Richard's little shot-
gun, at the best good enough for hares, could hold off the lord of the
jungle that the Indians call tigre or prevent him from attacking us.
The forest path wound along past stately acacias, oaks and
rubber trees. In the clearing would be masses of cycadeae, low-
growing, bushy shrubs with feathered leaves of the fern family.
I had seen these last in 1937 in Burma where they always re-
minded me of funeral wreaths. Our Indians called this decorative
plant chamal and claimed that a love-potion can be brewed from
the roots. The effects of the aphrodisiac were described with a
wealth of appropriate gesture.

In the Devil's Ravine 89
Then, quite suddenly, we found ourselves gazing through a
clearing and down into a deep canyon. This was the famous
Devil's Ravine but from our vantage point it did not seem to
justify its name. Out of the thickets arose the hysterical gobbling
of the wild turkeys while high up in the tree tops droves of small
parrots were shrieking and chattering. On our way down through
the dense forest, we were attacked by ticks which stuck their heads,
like knitting needles, into our skins. I got a number of these heads
embedded into my flesh just behind the buckle of my belt.
Slipping and slithering, the mules followed behind us down
into the dry bed of a former watercourse where the terrific heat
beat murderously against us. We were surrounded by bald, naked
grey-white rocks and boulders that dotted the woods like the ruins
of some deserted city. Richard opined that the jaguar had already
picked up our scent. Then, without any warning, appeared a
gigantic bull. He stood on the edge of the woods and glared at us,
in fact he was as suspicious of us as we were of him. My feet seemed
on fire. As we sat down to our midday meal we noticed that two of
the water-containers were leaking, so we poured the rest of the
water from them over our burning heads and bodies. After that
began a painful ride and walk down to the bottom of the ravine
through which, however, the mules picked their way with un-
erring step as though they were following some subterranean
watercourse. The light-coloured limestone boulders and blocks of
stones showed clear marks of water action, and this made our
thirst only the more acute. In vain we poked about in a search for
damp patches between the burning stones, but not even a bird
could have found there a drop to drink. How did the animals
of this thirst-ridden jungle find water, where did the deer, the
peccaries and the jaguars slake their thirst? But even if there had
lain hidden somewhere a pool fed by springs, we should not have
been able to find it. However, the woods looked fresh and green:
all their living denizens depended in some mysterious manner
upon some secret moisture. In the profound stillness of the after-
noon the forest was a strange setting that revealed nothing of its
secrets. Dripping with sweat, we pushed on until the shadows
began to lengthen. The heat was unbearable. We had been walking
for more than two hours. The fresh blisters on one's feet began to
burst so that the excruciating pain was like that of needles being
driven into one's flesh. We had almost decided that we could
carry on no longer when there came the welcome call of an
Indian's voice. Right above us and in the rock-face was the cave

90 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
where Richard and his wife had dug. The ravine's bottom was
here a few feet lower than a grassy plateau on which we would
have pitched our camp had there been any shade at all, but
Richard also pointed out that, at night, the jaguars can slip pretty
easily through tall grasses. So, though we were dead tired, we had
to climb up the slope of the hill to reach a clearing beneath the
cave. Here Richard's former encampment was plainly marked by
a mound of kitchen refuse.
On this very first evening it was quite clear that we had not
brought enough food with us; unfortunately I had not checked
off the arrangements. I counted three cans of meat and as many of
fruit juice, a large packet of rolled oats, some tea and cooking-fat.
The Indians had plenty of maize meal and beans so that it was
pretty obvious that we should soon have to be living on their
rations. They had settled down under a spreading tree, had
lighted a fire and were getting ready their evening meal of
tortillas and frijoles when something induced the leader of the
expedition to make the men a present of a can of meat from our
most scanty store. This meat, together with the fried flesh of an
armadillo they had caught, the Indians consumed with excellent
appetite. After dinner, Richard slung his hammock between two
giant trees of the primeval forest while I set up my camp-bed near
the rock-face.
It was not long before the ticks began to prick and bite me
under the blanket. Then began an unforgettable struggle with
these noisesome creatures which leisurely swooped down from the
trees and, with unerring instinct, made their way into every
portion of my wretched body. At first, I tried, with my pocket-
torch, to attract the storm troops of the tick army away from the
more sensitive parts of my anatomy, but I soon realized that there
was no effective means of protecting myself especially as each
warrior of the host at once burrowed under my skin, then, when
I had managed to extricate the creature, it appeared minus its
head. These insects, indeed, are about the only living things that
can lose their heads without their combat value being in any way
diminished. When the shrieks and whistles of the parrots an-
nounced the dawn, it was all too apparent how successful the
nocturnal attack of the tick army had been. For weeks after-
wards I had to scratch myself in the most sensitive parts of the
From my camp-bed, however, I could see how one of the
Indians was carefully inspecting his trousers for ticks and, it

In the Devil's Ravine 91
would seem, could find none. The pests had, in fact, devoted all
their attention to me, for even Richard had got off with only a
very few bites. He was most sympathetic, but his advice was
drastic: I must burn out the ticks from my skin with a cigarette,
otherwise ulcers would surely form.
After a breakfast of rolled oats and tortillas we climbed up to
the excavation. It lay under a rock-shelter and consisted of a
trench some five metres long and two wide which displayed a
variety of soil levels. I could make out five different cultural
strata each one of which was distinguished by a characteristic soil
colour and was also easily recognizable from its archaeological
contents. The second level from the top contained the remains of
camp-fires, charcoal and the charred bones of forest animals such
as deer, turkey and peccary, together with painted pottery frag-
ments which, apparently, belonged to a culture which must have
taken its origin in Toltec or early Aztec times, say, from A.D.
100ooo to 1300oo. Perhaps, however, the most interesting objects
were those which Richard had recovered from the two lowest
levels. There were fragments of bark sandals and basket wicker-
work, there were stone points and knives as well as tiny maize
cobs. Pottery was not found in these levels so that we may pre-
sume that when they were laid down the settlers at the site had no
knowledge of how to fashion earthenware. On the other hand
there were, however, stone mortars for the pounding of fruit
kernels and these, in some places, occurred in heaps. The stone
artefacts reminded me very much of those belonging to the
'Chalco' culture men, hunters and food-gatherers who, in my
opinion, inhabited the High Valley of Mexico in post-glacial
times and were, therefore, the predecessors of the men of the
so-called 'Archaic' cultures.
While I was examining these successive levels at the site, the
Indians, on Richard's orders, had begun a fresh dig on the slope
and under the rock-shelter. The undergrowth was first of all
removed from the area to be excavated and then this was divided
up into squares each one of which was numbered. The digging
started in the top square and then proceeded down to the lowest.
The earth shovelled out was passed through a sieve which at the
same time caused the pottery fragments and suchlike objects to
drop down in front of the wire netting. These were at once
collected and placed into numbered bags. The more delicate
things such as bones and fruits were packed in cotton wool and
put into glass containers.

92 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
Carvings or inscribed stones were, of course, not found. Such
creations were something the primitive forest folk could not
achieve. However, the coloured and painted pottery seemed to
me to be especially significant. It looked as though the potters had
kneaded the soft clay and then fashioned it into long coils which
were first of all used to lay out a simple ground plan of the vessel
desired and then employed to build up, in spiral fashion, the rest
of the pot. The potter then smoothed the surface with a polished
bone or a piece of husk from a gourd. Mineral or vegetable
pigments were utilized for painting the coloured decoration. It
was, indeed, just the painting which was so instructive for it
revealed not only the taste of the artisan but also the religious
creed of a whole culture. The patterns, in fact, accorded with
traditions connected with spirit exorcism and with the chase, the
weather and the cycles of fertility. The Pueblo Indians of New
Mexico still to this day decorate their pottery and their woven
stuffs with geometrically stylized figures of birds, snakes, rain-
clouds and animals pierced with arrows. They leave the rim-line
of a painted pot broken in one place, so that the spirit dwelling in
it may escape. These Indians also smash the bottoms of the pots
buried with the dead so that the spirit may go free. Since very
early times, then, the Amerindian artisan had produced not only
objects of utility in our sense of the term, but things which are
regarded by all nature folk as magical. Arts and crafts were
expressions of worship, symbols of the mysterious relationship
that links us with an invisible but very real world around us, a
world of which Man is only a small part, and into which he fits
only if he realizes that he forms a constituent of the whole. With
such beliefs the individual can never feel entirely isolated, just as
the membership of a tribe or family promotes a sentiment of
solidarity which is also defined by the adoration of animals and
other magical symbols. We modern men, especially since the
18th century, have moved too far away from the concept of what
may be called collective consciousness, as we may realize, if we
reflect for a moment on the political efforts we exert, on many
occasions, to satisfy our hereditary need for such things.
That the Amerindians today still work without a potter's
wheel is a striking illustration of the fact that lack of technical
appliances (such as, for instance, existed in ancient Egypt) has
not hindered the aborigines of the Americas from expressing their
spiritual concepts most worthily by the products of their handi-
work. Their attitude to all creative activity was influenced by a

In the Devil's Ravine 93
feeling of helplessness which demanded magic aid to enable them
to exist in the face of a hostile nature.
The rock-paintings discovered by Richard are within the rock-
shelter. They consist of a few isolated human hands, delicately
shaped like those of the present-day Indians. In addition to the
hand stencils were strongly stylized human figures, standing in
couples, and, apparently, representing some sort of procession.
The rich red pigment must, when it was fresh, have stood out
from the white rock-surface and have conveyed to hunters
returning from the chase a feeling of home and security.
By midday the heat had again become unbearable. Even the
lively parrots had retired to repose in their tree-tops where they
perched, their little heads sunk in their iridescent plumage. All
was still save for the incessant and insistent shrilling of insects'
sharp song from among the lianas and gigantic blossoms of the
On the following morning we woke up rather damp. A heavy
dew had fallen. It had been brought, doubtless, by cooler and
damper air from the Gulf of Mexico coast. So was explained the
green freshness of a forest that got no rain at all.
That day the digging went on without anything much of
interest coming to light. The lowest and most ancient soil level
contained neither maize nor any other vegetable remains, only a
few stone implements, the witnesses, most probably, of a primitive
hunting way of life. How old were such cultures? Maybe they
related to elephant and bison hunters in geologically remote
times. Richard had, indeed, unearthed elephant bones about
thirteen miles farther down the valley; these remains lay beneath
the stones and boulders of the old river bed. Perhaps in the next
few days we might find the relics of an antique fauna together with
stone implements. Then we should learn something about the
prehistory of this jungle area and indeed of the vast region
stretching from the coast right up into the interior of Texas.
Richard had also discovered, in this valley, and in a rock-shelter,
underneath levels containing pottery, some fragments of fossil
bones which might throw light on our problems. We decided to
visit this other rock-shelter as soon as we had finished with the
first site.
I must admit, however, that I looked forward to the prospect
of this march with mixed feelings. First of all because our food
stocks had almost disappeared and then also because Richard's
'water mail' was not working too well. Up to now we had had

94 Man and Mammoth in Mexico
only one delivery of water and the mules had had to go two days
without a drink. The only food we had left consisted of beans,
rolled oats and a little cooking-fat. There was also, maybe,
enough tea for two meals. Unfortunately Richard, thoroughly
occupied with his archaeological work, had not found time to go
shooting. I had gone out once or twice but met with no luck and
saw nothing that looked at all appetizing. Even the jaguars
apparently had something better to do than to pay us a visit.
Every time we saw a hole in the valley walls we searched for
imprints of claws or hooves and indeed, on several occasions, we
did run across isolated cattle wandering about aimlessly in the
wilderness. Such homeless creatures could obviously not have
lasted long in an area where there were jaguar about, though
Richard seemed to think that at night the cattle were driven by
the Indians into stone pens or corrals.
One day, however, towards evening, Richard pointed to a
sandbank on which could be clearly seen the paw-marks of some
large cat. They looked fresh enough and led from the dry river
bed up a slope and into a cave. And it was just here that there
was the only possible site for our camp. Farther on the ravine
was impassable and cculd be negotiated only by making a
considerable detour. We were too tired to move from where we
were and, moreover, it had begun to get dark. In addition to all
this we had just lost a mule. So, come what might, we must pitch
our camp right over the fresh tracks. Richard said that the
jaguar had surely scented us.
We sat by a blazing fire and ate the everlasting rolled oats
and beans, and warmed-up tortillas, leathery pancakes which
once tasted are for ever abhorred. Then we fell to discussing why
this ravine had, in former days, and for long ages, attracted
settlers and hunters while for the past five hundred years or so
the whole area had been uninhabited. The vegetables, such as the
maize cobs which had been unearthed from the excavations,
indicated a fairly developed agriculture such as would be
impossible in present-day conditions. The animal life, in the past,
must also have been more abundant. We had not seen a single
deer or turkey in or about the ravine. There must once have been
a moderately abundant rainfall, but then set in a period of
desiccation. The springs dried up and the level of the ground
waters sank in the valley where the early settlers had, here and
there, cultivated small plots of land. Maybe this climatic change
was the same which about the year A.D. 1300 forced the Pueblo

In the Devil's Ravine 95
Indians in the southern Rocky Mountains to forsake their cleverly
constructed cliff dwellings.
It must be admitted that although this explanation seems
probable enough we have no real proof of the correlation. One
thing is certain. In this region before the time of the Chalco-
culture hunters and food-gatherers, elephants had flourished, so
that we are almost surely justified in assuming the occurrence of
an ancient, though post-glacial, wet period. This evidence
collected in a remote part of Mexico fits in with what we know of
the general climatic history of the country. The variations of
climate could be determined, in outline at any rate, here in the
north-eastern jungle, by the differences in the amount of rainfall
at different periods reflected in consequent changes in cultures.
As the moon rose over the heights, a freshening breeze blew
down the ravine. In the pale light the forest took on all sorts of
exciting and unexpected shapes and forms. High-perched clumps
of trees were transformed into castles. The rugged rocks resolved
themselves into gigantic visages with deep-set eyeholes and tooth-
less mouths. The north wind rustled in the branches and a few
fireflies flitted about like jack-o'-lanterns.


The Forgotten Vale of the Tarascans
F ROM Ciudad Victoria I gazed out on the blue heights of the
Sierra Gorda. Behind them, to the south-west, lay San Luis
P( t'si famed for its mines.1 From the time of the Spanish
(onquest men have there tried their luck underground. Of luck
above ground there was not, it would seem, much to speak of.
From the air, this central highland looks more like a geological
map than anything very hospitable to Man. The slopes are pitted
and cut with the dark openings to ravines. The valleys are dotted
with pastel-coloured houses with closed shutters.
The outlines of the mountains shimmered in the heated air as
though they were melting away. The streams had no apparent
sources or any mouths, in fact they were rivers of a sort not
uncommon in limestone formations. Despite their ancient
churches, the villages looked somehow temporary as though they
had never evolved from the mission stage of bygone times. As I
flew I had, however, noticed on the eastern edge of the moun-
tainous region, some thick forests and a few waterfalls which
tumbled down the ravines towards the lowlands of the coast.
The vast barren and desiccated area was bordered, indeed, by
tropical woodlands engendered by the damp, warm air from the
Gulf of Mexico surging upwards and towards the dry zone of the
In this land lies shrouded the secret and mystery of a vanished
people, the Huastecs, whose culture is known to us from ruins and
various art objects which are met with right as far as the upper
waters of the Rio Verde. Here may be seen grass-grown hills
whose shape clearly indicates that they were once great temple
1 Not to be confused with the better-known mining centre of Potosi in Bolivia.
JTranslator's Note.,

The author detaching a fossil bone

The fossil elephant of Ixtapan

Stone implements fund with the fossil elephant of Ixtapan

Stone artefacts, Chalco culture

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