My theory of Jaredite geography centers on the country of Honduras. I feel that the center of the land, the principal city of Moron, was located near the Bay of Fonseca. I have attempted to locate ancient archaeological sites there, but there are not many recognized sites due to the lack of archaeological surveys in the area. There are a few recognized sites, such as Copan, but there are few in the south of the country, especially on the Pacific littoral and coastal areas. I recently came across an account by Ephriam G. Squier regarding the ancient site of Tenampua, located in the department of Comayagua, which contains a great deal of detail which is not currently available in the literature. This could possibly be one of the ancient Jaredite cities mentioned in the Book of Ether. It is located directly north of the Bay of Fonseca, and would have been on the way from Moron to the Atlantic (or Ripliancum) on the north of the country. I have included the entire text of his 1853 report and have highlighted portions that I feel are especially relevant.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF NEW-YORK 7 OCTOBER, 1853. RUINS OF TENAMPUA, HONDURAS, CENTRAL AMERICA.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF NEW-YORK 7 OCTOBER, 1853. RUINS OF TENAMPUA, HONDURAS, CENTRAL AMERICA.
The following letter, from Hon. E. G. Squier, giving an account of some remarkable ruins discovered by him in the State of Honduras, Central America, was communicated to the Society by Prof. W. W. Turner, of Washington.
COMAYAGUA, HONDURAS, Juno 18, 1853.
My Dear Sir : Honduras, as its name implies, is a region of high mountains and deep valleys. But although this is its general aspect, its surface is relieved by a number of large plains of surpassing beauty. One of the finest of these, and constituting perhaps the most remarkable natural feature of the State, is the great plain of Comayagua — so called from the capital city of the same name — situated in the very centre of the State, midway between the two oceans. It is upwards of thirty miles long, and from ten to fifteen wide. This is exclusive of the lateral or dependent valleys of the streams which flow into this natural basin. It is in this basin that the Ilumuya, with its hundred sources, takes its origin. Flowing due northward, at a distance of about twenty-five or thirty miles, it unites with the Sulaco, and forms the great navigable river Ulua, falling into the Bay of Honduras. The greatest extent of the plain is from north to south, and at its southern extremity, where the great range of the Cordilleras is wholly interrupted, side by side and interlocking with those of the Humuya, are the head waters of the river Goascoran, running due south into the Gulf of Fonseca. The plain is surrounded by mountains five or six thousand feet high, and consequently enjoys a climate cool, equable, and salubrious, comparing in respect of temperature with the Middle States of our Union, during the month of June. The average temperature for the year is about 77° Fah. The hills and mountains adjacent to the plain are covered with pines, which in this latitude have their range at something less than two thousand feet above the sea. Wheat and other products of the temperate zone also flourish among the hills, and on the " mesas " or terraces of the mountains. The productions of the plain, however, are essentially tropical. Its soil is exceedingly fertile — in fact, the valley offers all the conditions for attracting and sustaining a large population. We might therefore expect to find here the traces of a considerable aboriginal population. But, up to this time, I believe, the world has had no intimation of the existence of any such remains. They nevertheless exist, and hardly a step can be taken, in any direction, without encountering some of them, of greater or less interest. Those in the plain proper are, however, much injured and defaced. Honduras was peopled contemporaneously with Mexico, and Comayagua is one of its oldest towns ; and it is well known that the Spanish conquerors and bigots, so far from endeavoring to preserve the monuments of the aborigines, strove rather to deface and destroy them, as a means of weaning the Indians from their primitive rites, and causing them to forget their traditions and customs. The names of the principal towns in the valley, nevertheless, indicate that they were anciently Indian towns. Indeed, in some of them the predominating portion of the population is still unmixed Indian. Lamani, Tambla, Yarumela, Ajuterique, Lajamini, and Cururu, are all Indian names. There are also many Indian towns which have been entirely abandoned, as the population of the country has decreased, and of which the traces are now scarcely visible.
The principal ruins, strictly aboriginal and of ancient architecture, are in the vicinity of Yarumela, Lajamini, and near the ruined town of Cururu. They consist of large pyramidal, terraced structures, often faced with stones, conical mounds of earth, and walls of stone. In these, and in their vicinity, are found carvings in stone, and painted vases of great beauty. The principal monuments, however, retaining distinctly their primitive forms, can hardly be said to be in the plain of Comayagua. They are found in the lateral valleys, or on the adjacent tables ("mesas") of the mountains. Of this description are the ruins of Calamulla, on the road to the Indian mountain town of Guajiquero ; of Jamalteca, in the little valley of the same name ; of Maniani, in the valley of Espino ; of Guasistagua, near the little village of the same name ; of Chapuluca, in the neighborhood of Opoteca ; and of Chapulistagua, in a large valley back of the mountains of Comayagua. I have visited all of these, but in many respects the most interesting, and by far the most extensive, are those of Tenampua.
The ruins of Tenampua are popularly called "Pueblo Yiejo," Old Town. They are situated on the level summit of a high hill, almost deserving the name of mountain, about twenty miles to the southeast of this city, near the insignificant village of Lo-de-Flores, by the side of the road leading to the city of Tegucigalpa. The summit of the hill is a plain or savannah, covered with scattered pines, and elevated about sixteen hundred feet above the plain of Comayagua, of which, in every part, a magnificent view is commanded. The hill is composed of the prevailing soft, white, stratified sandstone of this region, and its sides, except at three points, are either absolutely precipitous, or so steep as to be nearly if not quite inaccessible. At the accessible points, where narrow ridges connect the hill with the other hills of the group, are heavy artificial walls of rough stones, varying in height from six to fifteen feet, and in width, at the base, from ten to twenty-five feet. These walls are terraced on the inner side, for convenience of defence. At various points there are traces of towers, or buildings designed perhaps for the use of guards or sentinels. The dimensions of the wall correspond to the greater or less abruptness of the slope along which it is carried, and are greatest where the ascent or approach is easiest. Where narrow gullies or natural passes existed, the hollows have been filled with stones, so as to present a vertical outer face, corresponding to the rocky escarpment of the hill. Naturally, I think this place is the strongest position I have ever seen. That it was selected, in part at least, for defence, is obvious. Under any system of warfare practised by the aborigines, it must have been impregnable. The defensive design is made still more apparent by the existence, in the centre of the area of the summit, at a place naturally low and marshy, of two large square excavations, now partially filled up, which were clearly designed for reservoirs. But the most interesting features of Tenampua are not its ruined walls and defences. The level summit of the hill is about one and a half miles long, by half a mile in average width. The eastern half of this large area is crowded with ruins. They consist chiefiy of terraced mounds of stone, or of earth faced with stone, of regular rectangular forms, their sides conforming to the cardinal points. Although the stones are uncut, they are laid with great precision. Most of the small mounds, which occur in groups, and are arranged with obvious design in respect to each other, are from twenty to thirty feet square, and from four to eight feet in height. There are none of less than two, but most have three or four stages. Besides these there are a considerable number of large pyramidal structures, varying from sixty to one hundred and twenty feet in length, of proportionate width, and of different heights. These are also terraced, and generally have ruins of steps on their western sides. There are also several rectangular enclosures of stone, and a number of platforms and terraced slopes. The principal enclosure is situated in the very midst of the ruins, at a point conspicuous from every portion of the hill. It is three hundred feet long by one hundred and eighty feet broad. The wall is fourteen feet broad, but now elevated only a few feet above the ground. It seems to have consisted of an outer and inner wall, each about two feet thick, between which earth had been filled to the depth of two feet. Transverse walls then appear to have been built at regular intervals, dividing it into rectangular areas, resembling the foundations of houses. It is not improbable they were surmounted by structures of wood, devoted to the use of the priests or guardians of the great temple — in the same manner that, according to the chroniclers, " the cloisters of the priests and attendants" surrounded the court of the great temple of Mexico. The line of the wall is only interrupted by the gateway or entrance, which is on the western side, between two oblong terraced mounds, in which the ends of the wall terminate. To preserve the symmetry of the enclosure, the opposite or eastern wall has in its centre a large mound, also terraced and regular in form, equalling in size both those at the entrance. Within the enclosures are two large mounds, the relative positions and sizes of which can only be explained by a plan. The largest has three stages and a flight of steps on its western side. From its southwest angle a line of large stones, sunk in the ground, is carried to the southern wall. The north line of this mound coincides with one drawn from east to west, through the centre of the enclosure. Between it and the gateway is a square of stones, sunk in the ground, which may mark the site of some edifice. The second pyra- mid is situated in the northeast corner of the enclosure ; it has the same number of stages with the larger one just described, mid like that, has a flight of steps on its western side. At the extreme southeast corner of the hill is another enclosure similar to this, except that it is square, and has open- ings in the centre of each side. It also contains two terraced mounds, ascended by steps. Between the great enclosure, or central structure, and the precipice which faces the hill on the south, is a depression or small valley. This is terraced upon both sides, the terraces being faced with stone, ascended by various flights of stone steps. The principal mound beyond this depression is situated upon the edge of the precipice, due south of the great mound in the principal enclosure. It commands a view of the entire southern half of the plain of Comayagua, and fires lighted upon it would be visible to all the inhabitants below. I could not resist the conviction that its position had been determined by this circumstance. There are many other striking features in these ruins, of which no adequate idea can be conveyed except from plans, and which therefore I shall not attempt to describe. The most singular, perhaps, consists of two long parallel mounds, each one hundred and forty feet in length, thirty-six feet broad at the base, and ten feet high in the centre. The inner sides of each, facing each other, appear to have consisted of three terraces, rising like the seats of an amphitheatre. The lower terraces are forty feet apart, and faced with huge flat stones, set upright in the ground, so as to present an even front. The outer sides of these mounds have an appearance corresponding with that of the walls of the great enclosure, and each seems to have been the site of three large buildings. The whole rests on a terrace three hundred and sixty feet long. Exactly in a line with the centre of the space between, these parallels, and distant twenty-four paces, are two large stones placed side by side, with an opening of about one foot between them. Fronting these to the northward, and distant one hundred and twenty paces, is a large mound occupying a corresponding relative position in respect to the parallels, aud having a flight of steps on its southern side. Upon these mounds, as indeed upon many of the others, are standing large pine trees, upwards of two feet in diameter.
Without attempting to define the special purposes of these parallels, it seems to me probable that they had a corresponding design with the parallel walls found by Mr. Stephens at Chichen-Itza and Uxmal, in Yucatan. Doubtless games, processions, or other civic or religious rites or ceremonies, took place between them, in the presence of priests or dignitaries who were seated upon the terraces on either hand. The form of the various mounds at Tenampua precludes the idea that they were used as the foundations of dwellings. It seems quite clear that they were either altars or sites of temples — counterparts of those of Guatemala, Yucatan, and Mexico, and of a large portion of those found in the Mississippi Yalley, — with all of which they accurately coincide in the principles of their construction. I was able to excavate but one, situated in the vicinity of the great temple. The mass of the mound, after pentrating the stone facing, was found to be simple earth. But the interior of the upper terrace was composed almost entirely of burnt matter, ashes, and fragments of pottery. Great quantities of these fragments were discovered, and I was able to recover enough of some vessels to make out their shape, and the paintings and ornaments upon them. Some were flat, like pans; others had been vases of various forms. All were elaborately painted with simple ornaments or mythological figures. One small, gourd-shaped vase, of rude workmanship, I recovered nearly entire. It was filled with a dark-colored, indurated matter, which it was impossible to remove. Fragments of obsidian knives were also found. Near the western extremity of the summit of the hill are two deep holes with perpendicular sides, sunk into the rock. They are about twenty feet square and twelve feet deep. Although now partially filled with earth, a passage is to be discovered at the bottom of each, leading off to the north. These passages seem to have been about three feet high, by nearly the same width. How far they may go, or whither they lead, is unknown. The water which flows into them during rains finds a ready outlet. I am unprepared to decide whether these openings are natural or artificial, but incline to the opinion that they are natural, with perhaps artificial improvements or adaptations. A ruined pyramid stands near the principal mouth. The tradition concerning them is that they were dug by the "antiguos," and lead to the ruins of Chapulistagua, beyond the mountains of Comayagua, and were designed to afford an easy means of flight in case of danger. Altogether there are here the remains of between three and four hundred terraced, truncated pyramids of various sizes, besides the singular enclosures, etc., which I have mentioned. The whole place, as I have already intimated, probably served both for religious and defensive purposes. This union of purposes was far from uncommon among the semi-civilized families of this continent. You will see in my work on the Monuments of the Mississippi Yalley many instances in which structures strictly religious occur within works clearly defensive. It was within the area, and on the steps and terraces of the great temple of Mexico, that the Aztecs made their final and most determined stand against the arms of Cortez. It is not to be supposed, however, that this was a fortified town, or a place permanently occupied by any considerable population. The summit of the hill is rocky, and the soil thin and poor, affording few of the usual accessories of a large Indian population, abundant water and rich lands. The builders doubtless had their permanent residences in the plain below, and only came here to perform religious or sepulchral rites, or to find safety in times of danger. I must not forget to mention that the paintings on the vases found at Tenampua are identical with those of Palenque and Yucatan. Some of them are exact counterparts of figures found in the Dresden MS.
I am, Sir, etc., etc., E. G. SQUIER.