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Mitla

buildings, stone, ancient, walls, stones, structures and beams

MITLA, in t115, or MICTLAN. A small town situated thirty miles east of the city of Oaxaca, in Southern Mexivo. It is notalde as being the site of one of the most famous and remarkable groups of Anteriean ruins. The surroundings are mountainous and inclose a wide, fertile val ley, in which, near the hanks of a stream, are located the ancient buildings still in a gond state of preservation. They consist of five great (-lusters Which have been termed: (1) the group of the Canton° Estaldishment : (2) the Columns; (31 the Armco: (4) the Adobe; and (51 the South Side: in all occupying an area of about 20n0 feet in width. Other foundations of razed buildings exist in the vicinity, and at some dis tance away, on an isolated hill, are the remains of a fort.

The buildings, which are worthy of the name of temples or palaces, are massive, rectangular structures of dressed stone, set on pyramidal platforms, and erected with surprising accuracy. The stones, usually of large size, and weighing as high as fifteen tons, are laid with sueh pre cision that the joints are scarcely discernible and for this reason little mortar was required. The ground plan is simple and the buildings are, as a rule, long and narrow, each containing only a single room, while the walls are but one story in height. The grouping of the buildings is in the form of quadrangles.

The walls, in many cases over four feet in thickness, are faced with dressed stone or plater. Mosaic stonework like that of Palenque (q.v.) is used lavishly, the designs being frets derived from animal motives. The exterior walls have no openings, but the doorways, either single or triple, on the courts are imposing in their mas sive treatment. There were no doors, but sockets for the insertion of awnings. Supports were worked out in the jambs. The rooms were veiled with beams of wood or slabs of stone. In ease the room was wide, two sets of beams were used, supported on a row of large stone columns, some of which are 16 feet high and 36 inches in diam eter. The roofs were massive and flat, and con structed of beams, cross poles. and filling material of brush, capped with rammed clay, similar to the method employed by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwestern United States. The floors were made of a durable cement. On the whole, the

Mitla buildings, while formal in plan and pro file, show perfect and charming mosaic surface decoration, arranged in panels which exhibit great fertility of geometric design, as well as skill in execution. This feature, so far as known, is confined to two groups, though it was probably used in others. In the Arroyo group mural paintings resembling the pictographs of the co dices were employed on the lintels. A note worthy feature is that sculpture is almost lack ing in these buildings.

Only one of the palaces has a basement story, and this cellar is cruciform. Several of these cruciform structures have been discovered in and near Al itla, but nowhere else in „Mexico have they been observed, except at Chile in Puebla. It is surmised that they were sepulchres of important personages. The character of the Mitla masonry is also seen in the interesting fortified bill situ ated about one mile west of the village. In loca tion, massiveness of construction, and skill in plan, it ranks with the ancient fortifications of Peru. Piles of rounded stones on the walls in dicate that the fort was defended by clingers. The quarries from which the ancient \litlans se cured their materials have been discovered. The blocks were obtained by channeling with stone picks and hammers the full length of the stones and across the ends; then channels were eut down the sides and under the blocks until they could be broken off. Enormous stones in all stages of the work still remain in the quarry. Pottery of excellent design and finish has been found. Large, well-executed figurine vases are numerous. The color is dark-gray like the an cient Zapoteean ware, but painted pottery is un common here. Fan-shaped implements and a few cells of copper represent the only metal objects found.

Consult: Charnay, Cites ct ruines anu'ricaines ( Paris, 18(13) Bandelier, dreliwoloyical Tour in Mexico in 1881 (Boston, 1884) ; Seler, 1-Band inu/crcirn roar Mitla (Berlin, 1895) ; llohnes, "Arehxologieal Studies Among the Ancient Cities of Mexico," in Publications of the Field Colum bian Museum (Chicago, 1897) : and Saville. "Cruciform Structures Near Alitla," in Bulletin of American Museum. of Natural History, vol. xiii. (New York, 1900).