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El Coronel Modesto Mendez

No stranger had penetrated farther north in the territory. Then in 1848 Ambrosio Tut, the "governor" of the district of Peten and Colonel Modesto Mendez, Chief Magistrate and, clearly, the real power of the time in Flores, explored the great city of Tikal. Tut himself was maya, from the village of San José Itza language, located on the opposite shore of Lake Petén Itzá occupied Flores. No doubt that his people knew about the ruins, but the six days he spent in Tikal with Mendez Tut represent the first officially recognized site visit in modern times, about a thousand years after the demise of Tikal, fines to the period Clásico. It was not in this case explorers foreign, Stephens inclined as to publish their findings in other countries, Eusebio Lara, the assumption artist who accompanied, drafted drawings of monuments and statues as candid and unimpressive as Jose Calderon in Palenque. This may explain the limited attention given the discovery at that time.

The report Mendez appeared that year in Guatemala and some of Lara's drawings were published in Germany in 1853. But the global recognition of the existence of Tikal would have to wait yet. A captain John Carmichael made a brief visit to 1869 eight years later the Swiss doctor Gustave Bernoulli reached the ruins and pulled out some of the carved wooden lintels of the temples I and IV, that can now be admired in the Museum für Völkerkunde Basel. But 1881, equipped by "Mr. Sarg", a German who lived in the town of Coban and had already supported the issue of theft lintels Bernoulli, Tikal appeared in the explorer inglés Alfred Maudslay.

David Drew

Description Colonel Modesto Méndez V Tikal Temple (1848)

After spending nearly a thousand years buried in the jungle, the first information in modern times has come from Tikal is the story that Colonel Modesto Mendez, back then Corregidor Peten, made the expedition he led in 1848 in search of antiquities which he had heard.

Given the magnitude of the discovery, in subsequent investigations Tikal often alluded to this issue, Therefore in regard to the account of the same, published in April and May of that year in the Gazette of Guatemala, graphic documentation as provided by the drawings, quite inexperienced, Artist Eusebio Lara.

In these investigations, especially those dedicated to the discovery of Tikal (Hammond 1984, 1987), always been assumed that the first building to which this group of intrepid explorers arrived was that I now know as Temple or Great Jaguar, after going to visit other monuments, always located in the story and related to the first visited.
However, further review of the text of Mendez, together with some field tests, We immediately became suspicious of this hypothesis, hence we have decided to do a thorough analysis of what is told by the mayor, comparing all data provided with the current reality of Tikal, to determine with accuracy which were visited by issuing buildings, information that can be used for the state they were in the mid-nineteenth century.
Therefore, the method we propose is closely following the story from its beginnings Mendez to locate exactly the way access to Tikal and what was the path followed by the expedition.

The expedition left San Jose 23 February 1848 and after spending the night in a nearby point, the band members embarked at three in the morning the next day. In the canoes Hermosa, according Mendez, sailed five leagues to disembark at the other end of the lake. That distance is roughly between San José and El Remate, from east to west across the lake, so it is very possible that this was the site of the landing, at that time inhabited by some Indians to which the report also mentions.

After four road weary leagues pitched in a watery Mendez called the Ink, to which they arrived in the morning. It is not easy to determine which refers gouache, because in this way we could only identify a Laguneta now called El Tintal, located east of the lagoon and northern Salpeten known as Macanche.
It is likely that Ink and El Tintal are the same site, for this journey would have been a logical shift eastward in search of the same latitude as the ruins, thus evading more intricate vegetation zone extending between Lake Peten Itza and Tikal, while he served as a guide to know that they should always carry northbound.

That is where happens, to five p.m., the encounter between the issuance of Modesto Méndez and had been sent as an advance, he commanded by Governor Ambrosio Tut. The objective of this first issue, he had left eight days before, was to accurately determine the best way to get to the ruins. Tut informed him that the late shipment was due to the need to correct the way, as well as the difficulty in finding water. This last worry seriously Modesto Méndez, because the expedition was 19 people and did not trust that water reed was sufficient to supply them. Faced with this setback, sent a letter to the mayor by the men of the first expedition he returned to San José, requesting sending two water jugs.

Day 25 again undertook the road under torrential rains, day ended at four in the afternoon without that at that time had spotted some debris. The next day the march began at dawn but they returned to be victims of severe storms and downpours. According to Mendez tells, the three p.m., completely wet, began to find some fragments of pottery and a more open forest and, shortly after, from a regular lift hill, discovered in a higher height first building. It seems that this gave the expeditionary forces that, enthusiastically they approached to the foot of a beautiful staircase, Cuyo in the disputed passage, climbing cliffs and rubble, perhaps caused by earthquakes and high trees. When Modesto Mendez reached the top of the pull rope ladder sent to determine the magnitude of the same. The result was 50 feet high and 25 wide, namely, if we make the conversion to meters, whereas Castilian rods were equivalent to 0.86 m, will become a 21.5 m by ancho 43 m high.

With these initial data we can begin to analyze what was the building that originally came expedition. On the approach made to Tikal from the south, logical question is Temple V, although two hypotheses fit more: 1) who had had a westward deviation, accessing beyond spotting Lost World and the Temple IV, from 2) that a deviation from accessing eastward from the eastern part and they met with the rear of the Temple I.

In the first case, the possibility that the Temple IV was quickly discarded the data that describes the steps, since it was not noticeable or measurable. Regarding the second option, if we compare the measures of the steps of the Temple I and Temple V we see that the Grand Jaguar is much smaller in width -8.40 m-, V while the Temple has 19.30 m, nearest the figure measured by Mendez. Consider also the difficulty of the measurement could be performed in those years with the collapse and vegetation that covered. Therefore, does not seem unreasonable that a staircase of 19.30 m pudiera be assessed as 21.5 m, yes it would be absurd is that a staircase 9 m different measure more than doubled.

With respect to height, the steps of the Temple Temple V and I measured approximately 29 m height, which does not allow us to determine which of them relates. The ostensible difference measured by Méndez only be explained by an error in making the point or opt for a measurement because according to the slope, in the second case it Temple I arrojaría an approximate value of 39 V m and the Temple of 42 m, which is closer to the figure of Mendez.

When we describe the upper temple indicates that it has, from the order of the steps, 32 yards high, namely, about 27.5 m. The Temple I have 15 m tall and Temple V, with its huge cresting, rises 23.5 m above the bottom of the stairs. Again we see that it is more reasonable you are referring to the Temple V. To delve further into this gives us the dimensions of the top -23.22 m-, that when compared with that measured Temple V 23 m seems consistent, while far from the 11.5 m the Great Jaguar.

Finally, it is important to highlight the contributions of Eusebio Lara drawing referenced in the text and through a simplified image which is perceived but with some notable details of great interest. In it you can see the vegetation that covered the crest and the steps, ten graffiti drawing inside, three of them on the wall and the rest on the doorposts. But what is striking is that only draws a camera and the lintel is complete; this is important because we know that the lintels of Temple I, II and III had collapsed when photographed in Maler 1895.
The ledge on the door drawing is unique and comparable to the existing, while we can see a hole in the top left of the crest, that could correspond to that reported by Quintana and Noriega (1992:73) number in the vaulted space 9 inside the watershed.

Unfortunately the clean walls we have become Mendez speaks, century and a half after, in a tangled heap of commemorative graffiti of visitors of many tourists eager to perpetuate their way through the building, preventing identification drawn by Lara. However, one of the figures located in the right jamb of the door can still be guessed today below modern scratched.

Returning to the story of Mendez, once parts of emotion and impression made the discovery and before descending, thence discovered other palaces of equal elevation, what led to the investigation the following day.
In the morning 27 they went to the palace front, located two blocks away and although there was no trace of his ladder up to the highest. This was described Mendez: in great part appears damaged; but there are some useful and habitable rooms. The ceilings are barrel and are observed at certain distances, Palos rollizos crossed as to tie hammocks.
Continuing in the story, below gives us a figure that can be decisive for the identification of building: walls have two and a half yards thick (2.15 m); streets within two yards and a half wide and formed of forty long (34.40 m), including three four divisions under one roof (…) The roofs of the entries in this and the previous palace, are ink rolliza; in different parts of the interior are no written characters, and animal faces unknown.

As described can not be any of the great temples. In previous investigations it was interpreted based on the Temple I had gone to the Temple II, but this is unlikely because of the distance that separates (about 70 m between foot steps), and the absence of steps and the description of the internal.

If we start from the basis that the first of those visited was the Temple V, logical reaction would head north, perhaps through the wash. If so it would be understandable that the building has been found Maler Palace, about 150 m in a straight line from the previous temple. That facade of the palace lacks steps from the watery, measured 34 m long, inside there are different rooms, lintels are roundwood and on the walls you can see original graffiti.

The reference to the type match lintel of the first two palaces, confirms the hypothesis that the Temple was the first who visited V, since it is the only one that has lintels roundwood.

Once scanned the palace, observed down to the square in the foot is where we finally found something we wanted most Mendez: sculptures. Eleven stelae carved Speaks, three altars carved (round stones), as well as other 11 stelae eight altars unworked. Such a concentration of parts is only possible if it relates to the Great Plaza, so that if we continue with our hypothesis tour, would have crossed the Central Acropolis to the north, in search of the other palaces you saw yesterday, descending from there to the Gran Plaza.

The discovery and observation of contrails takes them all day and leave the next day, 28 April, exploration of new buildings. In its report Mendez that are routed to another palace located equidistant and with difficulty, aided by the roots of trees, we come to the main building. As relevant findings indicate that their walls have 3 thick rods (2.58 m) and ceiling of the main entrance watched with surprise, which was covered with beams of sapodilla, in which figures are carved with admirable delicacy, and many of the same characters to draw and sent copies to appear in the collection.

It seems logical question proximity of Temple I, even if it could be also the II or III. In any case it appears that the third day is when first seen carved lintel, which corroborates the hypothesis of initial arrival at Temple V.

This conference intended to also visit the other buildings no less magnificent, although not as high. Presumably visited the North Acropolis, Temple II and Temple III, without forgetting the temple 5D-33, of a similar height to the Temple II.
Day 29 February turned his attention to the first building and perhaps moved by the great bulk of its walls, He spent four men with crowbars to escalasen per share would indicate being boarded to prevent knowledge inside the palace, the sole purpose of seeing if they are idols or other hidden objects by their powerful owners. But after a hectic workday climbers could not penetrate more than two rods on the wall.

Excited about the job, continued the next day getting a rod penetrate more but without obtaining any discovery. The Temple V, as exposed Quintana and Noriega (1992:61), had before the intervention of restoration by the Tikal National Project between 1987 and 1991 a gap that was already reviewed by Maler in 1895 (Painter 1911) and that in 1987 had a depth of 2.65 m (3.08 rods), surely the case made by by Méndez.

On the same day on March, instructed Eusebio Lara who drew most importantly found, This quote from the rafters of sapodilla, forming the main gate of three palaces. It can be deduced that relates the temples I, II y III.
The next day, Mendez and his group made a farewell visit to the stone statues and four palaces remaining from the side of the North and East of this at whose feet we are. This information is one more fact which reinforces the hypothesis that V was in the temple where they camped initially.

Mendez also argues that we in the interior walls of our names and an inscription dated, that as Corregidor and Commander, those ruins and monuments declared as the property of the Republic of Guatemala. Unfortunately it has been found in the present inscription describes Mendez, perhaps because of the deterioration of which we spoke of the inner walls of the temple or the replenishment became part of the inside wall to repair the damage I caused gap. Anyway, left for further research finding that historical text which first publicly owned title gives this important cultural heritage of Guatemala.

Last, day 3 March the expedition started back not before sign and date your report in the capital of the empire of Tikal, on the third day of March 1848. With this and the subsequent publication of the report in the Gazette of Guatemala, Modesto Mendez closed the chapter on the transition from the ancient history of Tikal to the new era of researchers and archaeologists over one hundred years we have been revealing details about the historical significance of Tikal.

In conclusion we can say that the building that originally came on the expedition and that settled the camp is the Temple V, thence commencing exploratory visits to the rest. It is also important to remember that almost certainly visited the second building is the Palacio Maler, logical thing because it would be very difficult to understand that they had not visited the Central Acropolis. Also, may not reach the Temple IV, since only speaks of three temples hewn beams chicozapote; also, considering its size, would have deserved a special mention. We leave in any case paved the way for subsequent discussions that achieve more accurately fix these issues.

We can only express our deepest respect to the issue of Modesto Mendez, for his vision and by the notarial mayor gave his report, now almost 150 years, has allowed us to study quite closely the route they did in their discovery.

Gaspar Muñoz Cosme
Cristina Vidal Lorenzo

One Response to “El Coronel Modesto Mendez” Leave a reply ›

  • Exquisite report that one of the true adventurers of our country, I have traveled over the same 90 consecutive days to the Mayan ciuddes in mexico in bisicleta full soledad.pero cno my modest achievements are obscured nuestos lode of former countrymen.
    I would love to see if you send us the original text which makes lei over 10 years and I could not find a copy.

    Alvaro Paiz
    Nomada one

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