Excavations at Chocolá

By: Robert Burkitt

Originally Published in 1930

View PDF

CHOCOLÁ is a big coffee, sugar, and cattle estate, watered by a stream of the same name; and belongs geographically to what is called the Pacific slope: this is to say, it belongs to that strip of country, twenty or thirty leagues wide, which lies between the volcanoes and the sea. Chocolá is in the upper and cooler regions of the slope. The mountains are close above you, and the sea appears as a white streak on the horizon. But the mountains are often in the clouds; and both the sea, and the wide intervening hot-country below you, are usually very much lost in the haze. The actual slope of the ground, in the Chocolá neighbourhood, is a steady easy slope, on the average about six in a hundred. Looking to the northwest, the big mountain in front is the volcano of Zunil. A little to the left, over the shoulder of Zunil, you can see the peak of another, and higher volcano, the volcano of Santa Maria which did so much damage twenty years ago. The face of the country has the general appearance of a waving sheet of bush, with patches of cultivation. But the apparent sheet is in fact very much broken by deep gullies and ravines that you don’t see till you get to them.

Drawn map of part of Chocola province
Plate I. Burkitt: Excavations at Chocolá

The country is fertile and well watered, and the climate pleasant. The people are mainly—and have been since time out of mind—Indians of the Nawalá and Ixtawacán tribes (Creole spelling: Nahualá, or Nagualá; and Ixtahuacan), Indians whose headquarters are the villages of those names, in the cold country behind the volcanoes. Their language is a Maya language, a dialect of Kichechí. The owner of Chocolá is a company in Hamburg.

The most conspicuous ancient remains in Chocolá are certain mounds which have long been objects of speculation, and to the Indians are objects of superstition. Those mounds, and the kind permission of the manager of Chocolá to examine them, were the chief cause of my stay.

The mounds, which may be about a dozen in all, are gathered together, in sight of each other, in that small part of the estate that I send you a map of (Plate I). The mounds are marked on the map with the fetters A, B, C, and so on. A couple that have no letters are perhaps not artificial; and probably there are some small artificial mounds not marked at all. Looking at the mounds as a whole, you see that they are strung out in a general northerly and southerly direction, which is more or less the general direction of the slope of the ground. There is no visible systematic arrangement among the mounds. The tops of B, C, and D are very nearly, if not quite, in a straight line, but that may be mere chance. The biggest mounds, which are each about forty feet high, are B, C, D, and J. H is not quite so high and the others are comparatively low.

Figure 1 is a view of Mound B, taken from the top of Mound C. In the foreground, on this side of the hedge, you may see some cattle. Mound A, beyond the hedge, is in a meadow. The distance is cut off by the haze. Figure 2 is a view of Mound C and Mound D. On the left, Mound C; on the right, diminished by perspective, Mound D. You are standing in the meadow of Mound B, a little east of that Mound. Beyond the meadow is the hedge that you saw in Figure 1.

The Chocolá mounds, big and little, seem to be all made of earth. You walk over them, and the surface is smooth, no sign anywhere of the usual stone steps. And when you dig in, you still find only earth. The Nebaj mounds are also, to all appearances, made of earth. And in their case there seems to be a plain reason: stone is very scarce in Nebaj. But that cannot have been the reason in Chocolá, where loose stone abounds in every gully and water course.

Another and much more remarkable character of the Chocolá mounds is their shape. They are not of the usual square, or oblong shape. There are no straight lines or corners to be seen in them. They are all round. And it is not that the corners can have been worn away. It is not a consequence of the mounds being made of earth. The Nebaj mounds, which are made of earth, are the usual rectangular pyramids, and there are distinct sides and shoulders. There are none in the Chocolá mounds. The Chocolá mounds are round, and I have no doubt, have been from the beginning.

And that fact of the mounds being round was my great stumbling block. I made no doubt, and I make no doubt now, that at least all the bigger mounds are grave mounds, and the contents of the graves would, no doubt, be of much interest. But where should those graves be looked for? The ordinary Guatemala burial mound is an oblong mound, with the principal burial, not in the middle of the mound, but somewhere on that middle line which is at right angles to the face of the mound. But I look at the Chocolá mounds, and I see no face. They give me nothing to go by. I wish to open a trench towards the middle of the mound, starting from somewhere outside. But which of the thirty-two points of the compass shall I start from? The mounds are too big for random experiments.

I determined to experiment, though not quite at random, with one of the smallest mounds, and then, if I had any success, to apply my new knowledge to one of the big mounds. The small mound might perhaps not be a burial mound; but it might contain some chamber, or some piece of stone work which would tell me how that mound, and probably the other mounds, faced, or I should get some other useful knowledge. But I got none.

I chose for my experiment the Mound A, and for the direction of my trench I chose the east. In my experience, mounds more often face east than in any other particular direction; and in the case of some of the Chocolá mounds, the lay of the ground somewhat favoured the idea of an eastern facing.

Figure 3 shows you the low Mound A, with the trench dug. The trench is due east and west, and you are looking west. The mound, which is about fifty metres in diameter, and between three and four metres high, stands in the middle of a flat. I have had the tall grass and scrub partly cleared off. On the right hand side, at two different levels, you see my dumps. The upper dump is simply on the side of the mound. The trench was first opened at that level. It is now at the lower level, and the dump is along the flat. The ground sinks a little, to the right, but so little that the dump advances very fast, and the wheelbarrows have to travel a good distance.

Figure 5 is a view in the opposite direction. You are in the trench and looking east. The boards are for the wheelbarrows. The man with the barrow is turning out towards the dump. The mountain peak far off is the volcano of Atitlán.

I carried the trench in a little further than the middle of the mound. The artificial nature of the mound was continually shown by bits of pottery or arrow beads in the earth, but by nothing else. No stonework was met with, nor any structure.

In Figure 3 you see before you a little piece of road. You can’t follow the road with your eye past the middle of the picture, but it goes off round the left of the mound. In Figure 4 you see the same mound and the same trench, from nearly the same point of view, but you are a little to the right of where you were and on the left of the picture you now see the continuation of the road. The road, in the course of time has come to be a little sunk below the level of the flat, and a few steps beyond the point you see the bed of the road runs over what is evidently an artificial line of stones. The line of stones crosses the road, and heads very nearly in the direction of the middle of the mound. The line of stones, as I found by digging, doesn’t reach the mound, nor near it. The stones come to an end in the flat, only a few steps from the road. But I had noticed those stones from the beginning, and of course it had crossed my mind that they might have been the work of those who built the mounds; and in that case might indicate the orientation of the mounds, or at least of the neighbouring Mound A. The mound might be found to face in the direction of that line of stones, or at right angles to it. And now that my trench on the east was a failure, I ran a new trench about twenty-seven degrees southeast which was the bearing of the line of stone work. And in Figure 4 you see that new trench, or you see the top line of it, to the left of the first trench, the two trenches meeting in the middle of the mound.

In the far end of the first trench, you can make out that there are steps going up to the surface. As the digging advanced, the working face of my trenches was usually not vertical, but took a stair shape, and the whole stair travelled forward. The left hand side of the mound where the horse is, is now disfigured by a small dump.

In Figure 6 you see the same two trenches, but you are now in front of the second trench, and the first trench is on the right. The road crossing the picture is the same road as before, and on the far side of it you see the little trench I made in getting to the end of the line of stones. The stairs you see in the mound are the same stairs as before, the stairs where the first trench left off.

They are beyond the middle of the mound. The middle of the mound, the point where the middle lines of the two trenches intersect, would be about where you see the upper part of a man. The man is in a pit. At the middle of the mound I expanded the junction of the trenches into a wide excavation which you don’t see, though you may be able to guess at it, and carried the excavation down into old ground, a couple of metres below the level of the trenches, so that the two trenches now abut on a pit. The man you see part of is in that pit, the other man is standing on the brink.

Figure 7 shows a stairway going down into a corner of the pit. The pit goes off to the right. The camera is very much turned down, and everything is out of proportion.

The second trench, and the central excavation, and the pit, gave just the same result as the first trench, that is to say, nothing. I had found neither grave, nor stone work, nor any indication that would be much help to me in attempting the bigger mounds, and much to my regret, I decided that for the time being, at least, I had better not attempt them.

I made some examinations of the big Mounds B, C, and D. I measured them. The resulting profiles appear in Plates III, IV and V. The two profiles of each mound intersect in the top of the mound, and in all three mounds the two profiles are taken in the same two directions. One direction is that of the straight line in which, as I have told you, those three mounds happen to lie. This direction is about four degrees west of true north, or east of true north. The other direction of the profiles is at right angles to that, and consequently about four degrees north of true east, or south of true west.

I made these profiles, originally, not to send to the Museum, but in order to find out where the middle of the mounds might be. I couldn’t tell by looking at them; they were too big. But I now send you these profiles, because they show something else. I bad had a suspicion that at least Mound C was not quite circular, that it was wider north and south than east and west. And the profiles show that that is the fact, and not only with Mound C, but with all three mounds.

You don’t easily see it by looking at the mere straddle of the profiles at the bottom. It is not easy to say just where the bottom is, especially in the case of D, which stands on a very sloping ground. But you see the fact plainly in looking at the peak. On each of the three sheets you see that in the upper profile, which is the northerly and southerly profile, the peak is blunter and wider than in the lower. The difference is not enough to catch the eye in walking round the mounds, but you see on paper that the difference exists, and the amount of it is about the same in all three mounds.

And that fact of the length of the mounds being about north and south suggests of course that they face about either east or west, and east would be more likely. With so much uncertainty about where to dig, it may be that nobody will ever care to dig, and the secret of the mounds will never be known. But in case of attempting them, I should begin with the supposition that if they faced anywhere, they faced about east.

Drawn contour map of part of Mound B in Chocola
Plate II. Burkitt: Excavations at Chocolá

* * * * * * * * * * *

Leaving Quezaltenango towards the end of November, 1926, I came down to the Pacific slope, and to Chocolá, and in Chocolá I was able to begin at once on one of the big mounds. The mound that I have taken is the one that on the map of Chocolá (Plate I) is marked B.

The digging when finished, if it is finished according to my present intentions, will be a trench from the east side, to the middle of the mound—or a little beyond the middle, the bottom of the trench to be about two metres below the level of the surrounding ground. To make sure of not missing anything like a central burial, the trench, at the bottom, will be four metres wide. The sides of course will slope outwards and upwards. And making the slope as steep as it can safely be, it appears from measurements that the sides of the trench or pit, round the highest part, will run out from the surface of the mound at about three metres below the top. The digging, consequently, falls into two parts, the first part being to cut off the whole top of the mound to the depth of three metres. Then comes the second part, in which the digging takes the shape of a pit, or a trench, tapering to the bottom.

The first part of the job, that of taking off the top of the mound—about eight hundred cubic metres of digging—is now done. You can follow the progress of that digging in Figures 8 to 13, which are numbered in the order of time. They are all taken from nearly one point, the only convenient point of view there was, which was on a rising ground to the northeast of the mound.

The digging went ahead on all sides, but of course in the figures you see only the north and east sides. On the right hand side you see the mound disfigured by a dump. There were two equal dumps, one on the southwest quarter and one on the northwest; and you see the one on the northwest. Figure 14, showing some men at work, is taken from that dump.

Such digging as this, of course, I gave out by task, the cubic contents of this or that section being found in the usual way, by surveying the surface. Consequently, in the parts to be dug at, I know the precise contours of the mound and in Plate II you see what those contours are. The three metre contour is of course the present edge of the top of the mound. The steepest part of the mound is yet to come, the part between contours three and seven. And you see now plainly the lie of the ground. The one metre contour, you might say is shapeless. But in the two metre contour and still better in the three metre, you now see plainly, not merely what you saw before by my profiles, that is, that north and south in the mound is longer than east and west—but that about north and south is longer, and about east and west shorter, than any other directions whatever, and are practically the axes of the mound. That lay-out of the mound, of course, does not prove that the mound contains or covers a burial. I suppose the most distinct probability of that lies in the fact of the total absence, in this neighbourhood, of the usual small burial mounds, or of any other sign of burial at all. But the lay-out is decisive in its suggestion—especially in coincidence with the similar lay-outs of Mounds C and D—the suggestion that east and west is the proper direction to try trenching. I might add that the only thing resembling structure so far found in the digging, was a pile of stones about a cubic metre in size, apparently a guide-pile, in the middle of the east side.

Both this time and last I have dug in Chocolá only at times of the year when digging in the north would be impossible. The northern dry season leaves nothing in the shape of a pit, or anything that might cave in or be damaged by rain, and can be taken up again later.

January 22, 1913.
My occupation since the last writing has been the one monotony of digging. The digging consists, as you know, in driving a big trench into Mound B. The trench, as had been decided, should go into the mound on the east side and measures, or is to measure finally, between extremes, about eighty feet wide, forty feet deep, and a hundred and fifty feet long and is now about three quarters done.

The first stage of the digging took the shape of cutting off the whole top of the mound to a level of three metres below the top point (Figures 8 to 14). The subsequent and much greater part of the work which I took up in July and am still engaged in, is the trench proper and Figures 15 to 24 have to do with that part.

Figures 15 to 18 are taken from near the same northeasterly point of sight that I made use of before in taking the photographs shown in Figures 8 to 13 and are numbered in the order of time. Looking at the mound in these pictures the level top that you see is the new top, the top left after the original top was cut off. And on the left hand side of the mound which of course is the east side, you see the mouth of the trench.

In Figure 15 the advancing trench is at the level of three metres below the new top, six metres below the old top. The road that you see cut round the side of the mound at that level is the road to one of the dumps. As before, there are two dumps, a northwesterly and a southwesterly; of which as before, only one, the northwesterly one (here on the right hand side of the mound), is in sight. The line marked by the foot of that dump—I mean the foot that runs down the slope—is very nearly on the north and south line through the middle of the mound.

In Figure 16 the trench at the three metre level is so far in that the working face is out of sight, and work has been started on the new level, the nine metre level, three metres below the last, and nine metres below the original top.

In Figures 16 to 18 you follow the progress of the nine metre digging. There is now a lower dump for this level. This dump has so little height that it quickly extends and makes a long run for the wheelbarrows. Of course the dumps, whether upper or lower, might have been brought nearer to the mouth of the trench but I didn’t wish to encumber, more than might be unavoidable, any part of the eastern half of the mound. In Figure 18 the working face of the trench is again out of sight.

Figures 19 and 20 are views of the mound and work, taken from further off, and from another direction. You stand on top of Mound C, and look about south. The top of the mound is already cut off. And in the new top you see the top of the trench, or so much of it as the bush doesn’t hide; and you see how far in the top of the trench goes—almost to the western brow of the mound.

The first of these pictures, Figure 19, is nearly contemporary with Figure 16 above, except that the road to the bottom dump is ready. Digging (as you can see by the men) is still at the upper level. You notice that from this point of sight you see not only the near dump that you saw before, but also the extremity of the far dump. You can make out a man there who seems to be emptying his barrow.

At the right hand foot of the mound you see the small hut that I put up as a tool house, and for a shelter during showers. The path that goes down from the near dump is the path to that hut. Just above the near dump and in fact surrounded by it, you can still make out the bulge of the old dump, the dump that received—or one of the two that received—the original top of the mound. But the old dumps are already much covered with bush.

In Figure 20, which is nearly contemporary with Figure 18, the new dump had spread out like a fan. And looking beyond the tool house, you now see the tip of the companion dump on the far side of the mound.

Drawn cross profiles of Mound B
Plate III. Burkitt: Excavations at Chocolá

The photographs in Figures 21 to 24 will give you a notion of the digging at close quarters. In Figure 21 you stand at the northern end of the top of the mound and look about south. You look across the width of the trench. The bare flat place on top with stakes in it, and with a fringe of bush, is the three metre level, the new top of the mound, nearly the whole width of which top the trench is now cutting away. The trench is traveling from left to right. On the far side, in the shadow, you see how the side of the trench comes down in shelves. Each shelf is a metre wide and a metre high. At the bottom, at the furthest left, is the floor of the trench, then at the six metre level. The work on the digging face is also conducted by shelves. The man near you with a pick axe, and the man further off (probably also with a pick), stand on a shelf of their own digging, a metre below the flat top, and will keep digging along that shelf till the block between them is gone. The earth is let fall to where you see it, that is, to the shelf below from which the dump men, as you see in the far corner, pull the earth into their barrows. In the corner below you, out of sight, other men are doing the same thing.

In Figure 22, you again look across the trench, but look north. The mountains are completely hidden by clouds. The hill is Mound C, of which the apparent apex, however, is in fact the apex of Mound D), beyond. On the floor of the trench, work is going on in two corners, of which you see one. The floor is still, as in the last picture, at the six metre level.

In Figure 23, the trench has been lowered to nine metres and the view, which is southeasterly, is partly like an enlargement of that which you saw further off in Figure 17. You see the trench as it enters the side of the mound. You stand on the six metre floor and can see at the left hand bottom corner of the picture a little of the floor of nine metres. The active part of the trench is, of course, between the two floors; but excepting for the two top men that you can see, the activity is all hidden.

Figure 24 is a view, nearly in the opposite direction. You stand now on the nine metre floor, in that part of it that you could just see in the last picture and look about northwest. The gap in the side of the mound is where the road to the dump went out, when the trench was at that level. It may strike you, in this picture that the side shelves and the floor of the trench seem to rise a little
as they go away, and in fact they do, the trench having a slight slope for drainage.

So much for the pictures. The mound so fax has been practically all earth. The artificial nature of the mound is constantly brought to mind by the turning up of some potsherd, or piece of obsidian, or bead. But there has been nothing so far worth mentioning, of a structural nature, excepting perhaps some stones here and there, so situated that they might have been guide stones in building, and also excepting (what has just lately come to light) an extensive layer of ashes, with occasional charcoal. The digging struck that layer just on top of my nine metre floor where these ashes were found to cover a patch as much as twenty feet in diameter, about the middle of the mound. The thickness of the ashes was in most parts one or two hands breadths above the floor. But the layer of ashes, or table of ashes, disappears into the floor and the total thickness is yet to be seen.

As I write, I’ve just come to the end of the nine metre digging, and digging at a lower level is about to be opened. If the mound is anything like others that I’ve dug, I shouldn’t expect now—not having found any burial between the three and six metre levels, where the mound was steepest—I should hardly now expect to find any burial (supposing burials to be present) till somewhat below the level of the natural ground. However that may be, my intention is to keep on now without stopping till the whole projected digging is done, which, all things considered, will likely not be much, if at all, before the end of March.

April 1.

I go back to my letter of January twenty-second. I said that I had then finished what I called the nine metre digging, the digging by which the trench was deepened to a level of nine metres below the original top of the mound or six metres below the new top.

Figure 25 which I now send—it was not then printed—shows the last moments of that digging. The floor is the same floor as in the preceding Figure 24, as you may see by counting the shelves from the floor up, which in each case is six. But you stand higher than in Figure 24 and the digging face, three shelves high, has been carried to its termination. As soon as the top men finished clearing the shelf they stand on, the nine metre digging was done.

When it was done, the digging returned to the mouth end, or east end, of the trench. The floor was again lowered and Figures 26 and 27 (in both of which you look due west) are views of the work at the new level. The lowering this time, as you may notice, was not three metres, but two, so that the new floor was eleven metres below the original top.

The next, and what is so far my last, lowering of the floor, was to a depth of another two metres, making that the thirteen metre digging, and Figures 28 to 30 show stages of that digging. In Figure 28 the point reached by the advancing floor is nineteen metres east of the centre of the mound. In Figure 29 it is three metres east of the centre. In Figure 30 it is three metres west, and the thirteen metre digging is finished.

The appearance of the wall, that you may notice, on some side shelves is merely my mending of places where the shelves had given away. The maintenance of the side shelves was a matter of consequence in the drainage. And in the last photograph, the inclined planes that you see dug in the side shelves were merely to get up and down by.


When I wrote you on the first of April, the completion of that thirteen metre digging was the stage that I had just about reached. And it was the stage that, writing in January, I had supposed might bring me to the bottom of the mound and the end of the job. Looking at the Mound B profiles that are shown in Plate II, you see that at thirteen metres below the top I must be at the level, or even below the level of the lowest outside surface anywhere immediate to the mound, and that I might have hoped to be down to natural ground.

It turned out that I was not. At the circumference of the mound, that is to say at the mouth of the trench, it appeared for a little that on the level of my thirteen metre floor I was down to natural gound. But a short distance in, on that level (to be precise, at about 28 metres east of the centre), I began again to find potsherds. And still further in, it turned out that not only was I not down to natural ground, I was not even at the bottom of the ashes, those ashes that in my letter of January I had spoken of having lately encountered.

The ashes had appeared at that time as an irregular patch about the middle of the mound, emerging from the nine metre floor. I remarked that the thick-ness of the ashes remained to be seen. And now in April, it still remained to be seen. The thickness of ashes had continued from the nine metre floor down to the eleven metre floor, and now again to the thirteen metre floor, and still went down.

In the advancing vertical sections of the digging, the thickness of ashes was seen to be interspersed irregularly with layers and pockets of other stuff, some-times sand, sometimes earth, sometimes clay, and most remarkably, sometimes leaves, the leaves being in thin patches, or sheets, and though caked together with the pressure, and rotten, still showing their green colour. Everybody spoke of them as green.

The ashes—as they were denominated on first sight, by whoever inspected them—the ashes themselves, when not dried to the colour of dust, seemed to be predominantly of a bluish, or blackish colour. The digging, at a little distance, had the appearance of a coal mine. And when fresh it stank. It stank like a freshly opened ash heap, or heap of garbage and ashes.

But though the bottom of the ashes was not yet in sight, the bottom, and the natural gound, could not really be far away. And to get down the remaining distance was the short stage further that, writing in April, I hoped that the weather would still allow me to reach. It didn’t allow me. The day I wrote you was Palm Sunday. Then came the interruption of work by Holy Week and then came the rain. Not that the mere daily or nightly showers of April would in themselves have much mattered, the thing was, that in getting down as I had done to my thirteen metre level I had got to the limit of drainage.

Let me say that, ever since the end of the nine metre digging, I had done no dumping of earth on the sides or skirts of the mound. I was too low. There was no depth left, in that neighbourhood, for dumping, and my new dump was a gully, a gully that you may see the situation of, in the general map of Chocolá. The water course there marked a little east of the mound, may be taken to indicate the gully.

Figure 31, which is from the same point of view as Figures 15 to 18, was a little after the start of the eleven metre digging. The two long dumps on the right are the old six and nine metre dumps. The new dump, at the gully, is a long way to the left, and not in the picture. But the two men that you see near the end of the trench, are wheelbarrow men, and are traveling on the road that leads to the new dump. You don’t see the road itself, nor the men’s feet, because coming from the new floor, the eleven metre floor, the road was for some distance a sunken road. Out to as far as the line of bush, the road was itself a trench; a narrow branch of the main trench; and the drainage of the main trench was by that branch.

In Figure 32 you stand in that sunken road, but the road is still more sunk. The floor of the main trench is now the thirteen metre floor, and the road sinks to meet it. Coming out from that floor, the road now slightly rises. The near barrow man, that you see coming, is coming a little up hill.

But there is still a remnant of drainage. The far barrow, just turning out of the trench into the road, is at the lowest point of the work; and along the side of the road, from that point, though you hardly notice it, there is a shallow drain. The drain of course doesn’t come up hill with the road, but it has now absolutely no fall; it is level. And the water of the trench was carried by that level drain to the lowest existing outlet. The lowest existing outlet was on a level with the thirteen metre floor.

So for any further lowering of the work there was now no natural drainage. And to lower the existing outlet to the gully would have been a great deal of trouble. But it happened I had been able to borrow a traveling pump. My plan was to pump out in the morning whatever water had gathered in the evening or night, and then go on digging. The days were still mostly fine. And I began by a new sinking of the road. But I had not got to an end with the road when the new digging struck a strong current of water—water coming through the earth, no doubt from the rain soaked hollow that there was on the north and east of the mound. The soaking water followed the diggers down. The pump was useless. The digging became a mud hole, and I stopped the work. The work would have to wait till some such time as Christmas, when all difficulties of drainage would be removed by the drought.

The trench remains in the stage in which it is seen in Figure 30. I put the existing drainage in as good order as might be, to withstand the rains, making arrangement for an occasional caretaker, and also planted quick-growing hedges, to be a help in screening the work from observation. And in the last days of April I left for Guatemala City.

Drawn cross profiles of Mound C
Plate IV. Burkitt: Excavations at Chocolá

* * * * * * * * * * *

The drawings reproduced in Plate VI show the digging of Mound B finished. You know that the digging was of the nature of a trench, a trench running into the mound from the east side to the centre and narrowing as it went down. The top width of the trench was various, depending on the surface of the mound. You see in the lower drawing that the bottom width, except at the centre of the mound, was four metres. At the centre of the mound the four metres was expanded to six, giving three metres clear at the centre in all directions. At the outer end of the trench a narrow wheelbarrow road, striking off at an angle, was the exit to the surface.

The trench, as you know, was not dug in all its height at once, but by successive lowerings of the floor; and in Figures 33 to 40, which illustrate the last stages of the digging, the bottom of the trench in every case is the last floor of all, the floor shown in the drawings.

In Figure 33 you stand at the surface end of the exit and look in. In Figure 34 you stand at the inner end of the trench and look out; and the corner that the wheelbarrow man is about to turn, and which in the last picture he has just turned, is the corner between the main trench and the road of exit.

Figures 35 to 38 are in the order of time. In Figures 35 and 36 the piece of upper floor at the far end is the ground you stood on in Figure 34 and is the floor at which last seaon’s work stopped. In Figure 37 that remainder of floor has disappeared; the new floor is the only floor, and you look at the last moments of digging. In Figure 38 you stand where the sheep are seen in Figure 34 and see the work finished. The man at the far end is in the central expansion of the floor. He stands at the intersection of the lines A13 and NS of the drawing, at the precise middle of the mound. Figure 39 and Figure 40 are successively closer views in the same direction, with a stake in the place of the man.

Looking at the upper drawing, you see that at the middle of the mound the digging was exactly fifteen metres deep; the floor was fifteen metres below the top of the mound. Going out from the middle, which is to say going east from the middle, the floor, as you see, slightly fell until, reaching about sixteen metres east, it began sharply to rise and continuing to rise in the exit and beyond the limits of the drawing, it came finally to the surface at the point where you stood in Figure 36, a point in the rolling meadow which surrounds the mound.

Looking at the right hand end of that drawing and seeing the already flat slope of the mound, you might guess without being told that the level of the ground round about was decidedly higher than the bottom of my digging in the mound. And in fact the point of exit in the meadow, though chosen as particularly low, was higher than the new bottom of the trench by about two metres. Water no longer ran out. And when I last saw my digging, after a time of rain, the digging was a long pond.

The object of this season’s digging was to get to the bottom of the artificial mound. That bottom was reached, as you may see in the drawing, at a depth of about fourteen and sixty centimetres below the top and turned out to be sand and gravel, a drift of sand and gravel and stones, such as may be seen in many a place on the Pacific slope. My trench went down about half a metre, as you see, into that sand and gravel, but without discovering a particle of pottery in it or of any other human remains.

The surface of the gravel in my drawing is no free-hand sketching, but plotted on continual measurements taken in the course of the digging, and you see that the surface was very level and even. And it was very level and even, not only east and west, which is the way you see it in the drawing, but in all directions, though showing (as might be expected) a slight fall towards the south, that is, towards the sea.

My digging, as I say, afterwards became a pond, and it would have become a pond even if I had gone no deeper than the top of that gravel. The top of that sand and gravel was still a metre and a half below the upper end of the exit, and it was anything from a metre and a half to two metres or more below the general neighbouring surface.

But the mound was built on the gravel. How did the surrounding surface come to be so much higher than that on which the mound stood? Was the mound built in a hole? I think not. I think that the ground now surrounding the mound, the ground of the meadow, is ground that has come there since the mound was built. That ground is certainly not virgin like the gravel. In sinking the road to the trench it was found that the earth contained occasional pot-sherds. Earth contained in muddy water constantly comes down from the hills, and some of it must stick. I think that since the time of whomever raised the mounds, the whole neighbourhood though lying in a slope (a general slope, as I have told you, of about six in a hundred) has become overlaid with earth to the depth that this gravel indicates, a depth of five or six feet. The level of the sand and gravel under Mound B is what was the level of the surrounding ground when the mound was new.

In one respect, however, the surface of the sand and gravel would seem to be not exactly the natural surface. The sand and gravel were found to contain many stones. In Figure 38, on the bottom floor and near the left hand corner, you see a stone of the gravel still in place. The stones on the right hand side of the floor, in the same figure, and the many stones on the floor in Figures 36, 38, 39 and elsewhere, are also stones of the gravel, but stones that have been extracted and, being too big for the wheelbarrows, have been rolled aside and left. And there were smaller stones in abundance. But it was curious that all the stones in the gravel, big and little, were completely sunk in it. Sometimes, as my drawing represents, a stone sunk in the gravel just grazed the surface, but no stone stuck out above. Usually in a drift of sand and stones, the surface is rough. Stones of all sizes stick out, and even lie on top. A horse has to pick his way. Here the surface was smooth. There were no signs of the surface having been a beaten floor, yet it would seem to have been to this extent artificial that it had been cleared of stones.

On that bed of sand and gravel stood the mound, a strange though simple structure, an outer mound of earth like a thick shell, enclosing a mixed mound of earth, sand, and what seemed to be ashes.

The sand was the same white or grey sand as underlay the mound; and in Figures 39 and 40 you see a couple of layers or pockets of the unmixed sand appearing on the face of the digging as white patches—not those up and down streaks which are merely the effects of drip on the face of old digging, but the two horizontal patches below. In Figure 39, the white shelf is mostly the effect of sunshine; but in the face of the digging, just above the shelf and in the left corner, the horizontal white patch is again a pocket of pure sand.

The other ingredients of the inner mound, the earthy and ashy ingredients, though much mingled with sand, were characterized by a blackish colour and by a bad smell. The blackish colour—from brownish to bluish black—which gave the digging in the inner mound the appearance of a coal mine, is indistinguishable in the photographs from mere shadow. The smell was of a sort that reminded me of something like a newly opened ash heap, or a heap of ashes mixed with rotten vegetables; while some described the smell as sulphurous. The smell, and a great part of the black colour, were lost by exposure to the weather. But in new digging both were plain. The transition from the outer mound to the inner was sharp, and a digger was informed of the transition at the same moment by his eyes and by his nose.

Among the lesser, but not less peculiar, ingredients of the inner mound, were sticks, charcoal, and leaves. The occasional sticks, which were always short sticks often charred at one end as if they had been fire-wood, and the occasional sprinklings of small charcoal, seemed to be accidents of the earth and ashes, like the occasional small stones. The leaves were in sheets.

And those leaves, as I have told you, notwithstanding that they were caked together and rotten, had still something of their primitive green colour, a conservation of colour which according to some opinion might be due to the strongly alkaline ashes. But for all their remnant of greenness, the leaves were so rotten and so tightly caked together, that it was never possible to see what leaves they were; only this was clear, that they were always long leaves, or at least of the sort that has parallel veins. Some of my men called the leaves grass. Others said Indian corn, or even plantain leaves. Others, considering certain pieces of stem, perhaps with more probability said palm leaves. Whatever they were, they were in sheets or layers which on the vertical face of the digging appeared as lines. The lines were found crossing the digging at very irregular intervals of height and were not commonly level but more or less bent or waving, and any one line was commonly of various thicknesses. The line might in places be as thick as your finger, seldom so much as twice that; and often tapered off to nothing. No single sheet seemed to be very extensive. Even when the trench was narrow, even when it came down to only four metres wide, it was seldom that a line of leaves could be traced across the whole width; and as the face of the digging advanced, any particular sheet, commonly in a short while, came to an end. The sheets might be called patches.

In Plate VI you see how the inner mound and the sheets of leaves would have appeared on a particular vertical section, the lengthwise middle section of the trench. Of course, I never saw that section. But I was in the habit of making sketches, to measure, of the advancing face of the digging, the advancing cross-sections, and from those momentary cross-sections—of which I had above a hundred—the section of the drawing is compiled.

You will understand in the drawing that a short line of leaves does not of necessity mean that the sheet or patch of leaves was small. It might have been large but one that the section of the drawing caught only a fringe of. In the same way, separate lines of leaves, in the drawing, do not always mean separate sheets. In the neighbourhood of five metres east of the centre, for example, and a little below the eleven metre level, you see a couple of long lines nearly on one level but with a gap between them. It appears from my notes that the two were one sheet; but there was, so to speak, a hole in the sheet, and it happened that the section of the drawing passed through the hole. Both in the outline of the inner mound and in the lines of leaves, a slight shifting of the section, towards you or away from you, might make many alterations.

But while there is nothing sacred about the particular section of the drawing, it probably tells as much truth as any other section. To take a detail, a frequent curious feature of the leaves, in the digging, was the fact of a sheet of leaves, or line of leaves, lying in some part of its course close above another line; and you see that the drawing shows several cases. And the drawing points correctly to another curious feature of the leaves, too large to be called a detail. The drawing represents the sheets of leaves as peculiarly abundant between the eleven and thirteen metre levels, and it was a fact in the digging that while, as the drawing also intimates, sheets of leaves were to be met with from top to bottom of the inner mound, yet between the eleven and thirteen metre levels was conspicuously the place where they most abounded.

In one respect the section of the drawing might be called defective. The section furnishes no example of a sheet of leaves in what was a frequent posture with them, that is, very decidedly out of level. The little cross-section on the left of Plate VI will show what I mean. The sketch is on the same scale as the main drawing, but instead of a lengthwise section of the trench you see a cross-section, the lower part of a vertical cross-section. The section is taken at five metres east of the centre of the mound and you look towards the centre. You look in the same direction as in Figure 38 and as I myself looked in, in making the original sketches. The right and left boundaries of the sketch are the shelving sides of the trench. At the bottom is the gravel. The waving line about the ten metre level is the face of the inner mound. That surface, where it crosses the middle of the trench, happens as you see to be just at the ten metre level, which of course is the level that you see that surface at in the main drawing, at five metres east. The dotted lines are the leaves. The sheets of leaves that strike the middle line are the same as in the main drawing struck the five metre east line. The sheets that were arranged one close above the other are still one close above the other. But the slopes are altered. You see in this cross-section—and there were many like a—how decidedly the sheets of leaves might be bent and out of level. They might he so bent and out of level that whatever the sight of them might suggest, it would not suggest the notion of floors.

I have had occasion more than once to speak of Indian mounds found to contain beaten floors, sometimes floor above floor. And it is a fact that the Indians at their feasts often strew their floors with leaves, not with grass or palm leaves, to my knowledge, but at least with pine needles. And had you no other sight of the leaves but those somewhat flattened lines which are all that appear in my main drawing, you might begin to wonder whether the sheets of leaves did not represent some sort of ill-leveled floors or patches of floor. But underneath the lines of leaves no line of beaten earth, nor any satisfactory sign of a floor, was to be seen. And though the sheets of leaves must doubtless in some way represent successive surfaces, I think that after seeing such lines and slopes as my small sketch brings before you, any notion of floors will be dismissed.

As the surfaces of the sheets of leaves were uneven and irregular, so also was the surface of the inner mound.

You see in the main drawing the contrast between the rough inner mound and the smooth outer. When you look down instead of up, when you look at the leaves instead of at the outer mound, you see no such contrast; the lines of leaves and the outline of the inner mound are alike uneven, and the likeness is especially striking in the small sketch. In fact, with au eye to the small sketch, you might be tempted to say at once that the surface of the inner mound was merely the topmost of a series of uneven surfaces, and that whatever should explain the one would explain the other. But whatever truth there may be in that (and I believe it contains the truth) that topmost surface is not the surface of a sheet but the surface of a mound, and looking at the main drawing, you will see that the mound has particular features. For one thing you see how the inner mound, in comparison with the outer, does not rise to anything like a peak. Westward of about east 7 or 8, the whole top of the inner mound looks somewhat flattened. And for another thing, you see that the general unevenness of the surface is most extreme on the side.

Drawn cross profiles of Mound D
Plate V. Burkitt: Excavations at Chocolá

And though by shifting the section of the drawing, the alterations that would be made in the outline of the inner mound might in details be violent, those two features would remain: the flattish top and the extremely irregular side. To me, in my digging, the irregularity of the side, as it developed, was especially perplexing. What process of building could have been so irregular? And I may say that when my digging, going down from level to level, struck the top of the inner mound and I saw the ashes and charcoal and the appearance of a heap, I began to think of things not built. I began to think of heaps of ashes that I had seen elsewhere. The Indians in some places at their periodical witch fires undesignedly raise heaps of ashes. The fireplace, in the course of generations, becomes a mound. And of course a thing that grew by chance might have many irregularities. But I had never seen those witch-fire mounds more than a few feet high. Any history like theirs for a mound of the size that this began to show, became very unlikely. And the appearance by and by of quantities of such stuff as sand, and even occasional clay—stuff that must have been carried there—was finally proof positive that this mound was not the result of any imperceptible growth, no matter on what scale, but was something deliberately built.

But was it built by bedlamites? How was it built so shapeless The explanation I have come to is simple, though for some reason I was a long time coming to it. The present shape of the inner mound is not its original shape. The mound was built up regularly, but the stuff it was built of was its ruin. A steep mound, such as the Indians would build, composed in great part of such stuff as sand and ashes, and that stuff often heavy with rain, was not stable. The mound was not exactly like a mound of wax in particular, it was not homogeneous. But it was porous. It became filled with water. Intermittently and irregularly the top sank. The sides bulged and spread. Independent of movements of the mass, and perhaps more important, rain, on such stuff as sand and ashes or on earth mixed with such stuff, rapidly cut and diversified the surface; and before the outer mound could rise to cover it, the inner mound had taken the shape of ruin that the drawing represents.

There was one curious detail that was not at first sight accounted for. On the side of the inner mound, among the numerous humps and bulges big and little, such as the drawing represents, there occurred sometimes (as happens also to be represented in the drawing) projections of another sort, projections incapable of holding themselves up and that must have existed from the first moment of their formation only by resting, as you see them rest, on contiguous parts of the outer mound. The outer mound, at that moment, must have been just at that level.

And my natural conclusion, for a long time, had been that the inner and outer mounds, for whatever strange reason, must have been built up together, built up abreast. Who was I to say what the ancient Indians might not have thought of doing? And such a blind process of work would account at once for the wildest irregularities in the surface of contact of the two mounds. Still, the notion of such a process was repugnant to the mind; and not only that, but seemed to add new mystery to the leaves. In such a process, which would make the distinction between inner and outer mound almost illusory, how should the leaves (whatever their purpose) have been kept entirely to the inner mound? Why should they never—with inside and outside at a level—why should they never by any chance have rim outside? But they never did. And I do not now believe such a thing as that the two mounds were built up together. The inner mound was built in the natural way, by itself, and became ruined in the way I have said; and the details of those flying rags and teeth, as I have called them, is merely a Last consequence of the same ruin. When the outer mound came to be built, the ruin of the inner mound did not at once cease. The outer mound, rising in a ring, protected so much as it covered, but nothing above. Whether by rain or by the mere traffic of the builders’ feet, the ruin above continued. Falling material sometimes overflowed the edge of the rising ring; and those ragged and jagged shapes were the precise result.

So much for the surface of the inner mound. Rain and ruin, and the materials, seem to account for it. And now to go back to the sheets of leaves.

I have rejected the notion of floors. I thought of several other things. I thought of roofs, thatch roofs that had fallen to the ground, roofs of perhaps such temporary shelters as in corn fields, and at feasts, Indians often put up. That would account for the long leaves and perhaps for the patchiness of the sheets. But the objection of the uneven ground remained, not to speak of the absence of fireplaces. Then again I thought of natural growths, growths that might have come up on the successive additions to the height of the mound and been successively cut down. But there were no signs of anything like roots. I even thought of certain strewings of leaves, or at least of green switches, practiced annually in some places at the time of the Five Days—not that I fancied this might be the same as that, but merely that if the leaves were not to be explained by any rational purpose or natural accident, they might be set down to some unknown superstition.

However, I remarked a little ago on the innuendo of the drawings, especially of the small one, and on the suspicion that the sheets of leaves and the surface of the inner mound would have one explanation; and I think that the explanation of the leaves is already found.

That inner mound, with its sandy and ashy constituents, was subject to rain and ruin, not only after it was built, but while it was building. The successive uneven surfaces marked by the leaves are themselves surfaces of ruin—ruin caused by rain; and the leaves are the attempt of the builders to hinder the ruin. At the present day, in these countries, mud bricks while still soft, or a new-laid mortar yard, or any construction of mud or mortar needing temporary protection from rain, is usually covered with leaves: plantain leaves, cane leaves, palm leaves, and long leaves, which lying horizontal may not keep out the water very long but make a shield against the beating of the rain. To suppose that that was the purpose of the sheets of leaves in the inner mound is only to suppose that the means used now were used then.

The mound was not built at once, but by degrees. When work was to be interrupted for a length of days, the workers, if rain was expected, were required to leave their work covered; and the mound was abandoned to the protection of leaves. The rain came. On a wide surface, such as the temporary top of the mound, there were by and by pools and currents of water underneath the leaves, The leaves in some places drifted apart, or drifted together, or drifted altogether away, and the covering became a patchwork. The sandy and ashy surface began to melt and wash down, and the watery mechanics continuing, the leaves that remained when work came to be resumed were naturally in such lines and shapes as the leaves in both drawings show: smooth, commonly, but variously undulating and broken.

With much bad weather, the benefit of the leaves might in places become next to nothing. Each of the places where you see a line of leaves near above another line is doubtless a place where the original fill between the two lines came near to being washed out. The appearance in the small sketch, with the two near lines in a hollow, would be the appearance due to two wash-outs in succession. A little more washing out between the two lines and the two would have at some point touched; and such appearances were seen. A line of leaves had sometimes an appearance of branching, an appearance of arabesque branching. Those undulating and osculating and tapering lines were explained, as nothing else could explain them, as being the action of water. And such things as finding streaks of sand interlarded in the thickness of a layer of leaves, like streaks of fat in bacon, and various little indescribable appearances, all fell at once into place: they were the precise effects of water. And something on a larger scale you may see in the drawings, which concur in the same explanation.

The object I hail at the time in introducing what I have been calling the small cross-section sketch, was to remedy a chance defect (as it might seem) of the main drawing. The lines of leaves in the main drawing showed no instance of the decided bending—the decided scooping out that was a frequent sight in the cross-section of the trench, and that the small sketch showed. It will now appear that the defect of the main drawing is probably not mere chance. The section in my main drawing is a radial section; it passes through the centre of the mound. But the course of water running off the mound would tend also to be radial. Appearances of channeling or scooping out would consequently be commonest in looking along a radius, as in the small sketch you look, and least common in looking at right angles to a radius, which is how you look in the main drawing; this seems to prove the point.

Taking the explanation of rain and ruin to be established, some little attempt may be made in the way of deduction.

Leaves would not be laid in dry weather. The abundance of leaves between the thirteen and eleven metre levels may be taken to signify a rainy season, the scarcity of leaves below and above that abundance, answering to preceding and following dry seasons. A decided reappearance of leaves at the top might mean that a second wet season was just begun. The wet season on the Pacific slope may be said to begin towards the end of April and to end about the end of November, amounting to some seven months of the year, the dry season making up the other five. A dry season and a wet season and another dry season and a little more, might be a year and a half: the raising of the inner mound may seem to have lasted about a year and a half.

The inner mound may possibly be like the outer mound, with a plan somewhat elliptical; but not to be too precise, suppose it circular and every way one shape. It will then appear from my drawing, with a little calculation, that the volume of that inner mound may be something between twenty-five hundred and three thousand cubic metres. Say twenty-seven hundred and fifty. Twenty-seven hundred and fifty cubic metres in a year and a half: how many men would that have taken?

But how much were the times of no work? The sheets of leaves in the rainy season part of my section look to me as if they might represent about five independent sheets, which would mean that during the rainy season there had been five stoppages of work, five periods of work and five periods of rest. How long were those periods? In places where the ancient calendar survives, the habit of the Indians is still to be found of engaging themselves for periods of twenty days. I will guess that in this case of the mound the periods of work and the periods of rest were twenty days each; and you see that five double periods of forty days each, would answer, nearly, to the seven months of the rainy season. For the two dry seasons the leafy record fails. But the system would not be likely to alter. And work and rest remaining equal, the year and a half of building would have comprised nine months of work.

Twenty-seven hundred and fifty cubic metres, then, in nine months of work; how many men would it have taken?

My men, all Indians, undoing the same work, did on a mean, working by task, something over three cubic metres a day, each man. Had they been working, not by measured task, but merely driven, they would not have done more than two, or two and a half. And they had pick-axes and shovels and wheelbarrows and boards for the barrows to go on; and their work, excepting at the last, was of course down hill. The ancient Indians, working up hill, and with whatever barbarous means they had, I should suppose would not have done much above one cubic metre a day, if so much. Say one metre. Twenty-seven hundred and fifty cubic metres, in nine months, at a metre a day a man. Nine months would be about two hundred and seventy-four days. One man’s work would have been two hundred and seventy-four cubic metres. Ten men would have done the twenty-seven hundred and fifty. It happens to come out very neat. The inner mound, in the required year and a half, but with half time work, aught have been the work of ten men. Of course the half-time work and the metre a day are both uncertain. With respect to the cubic metre, how far (you might ask) had the cubic metre to be carried? The sand, as the bottom of my digging showed, was near by; but where did the ashes and charcoal come from? Yet whatever the precise errors by the computation, it remains almost obvious, that the raising of the inner mound in the time that the leaves seem to signify, the time of a year and a half, even for the ancient Indians would have been no great work.

With the outer mound it was probably otherwise. The outer mound, down to the level of the gravel, must have had a bulk of something like thirty thousand cubic metres, perhaps more. It must have been ten or twelve times the inner. Ten men, working as before, would have taken, not a year and a half, but fifteen or twenty years at it. But that, of course, would not have been the Indian way of doing. If the Indians did as they do now with any big undertaking, their way would have been to enlist all the people of the neighbourhood, three or four hundred men, perhaps, and get the thing done in a few great efforts. The mound, in a time of work, would have looked like an ant heap, with the swarming people on it; and it is quite possible that the outer mound was raised in less time than the inner.

Cross sectional diagram of Mound B
Plate VI. Burkitt: Excavations at Chocolá

Anyhow it is to be thought that the inner mound was soon covered. Those who took means to protect their work in its building would not be slow to preserve it when built. And the surface of the inner mound was not found to contain roots, or stalks, or any sign of the vegetation that must have sprung up if the mound had been long abandoned. Besides, at this day, the mere sight of other mounds standing about, of near the same size, makes it almost evident (unless this mound was the first of its kind) that the ultimate size of the mound was foreseen. The outer mound, or outer shell, was not an afterthought, but was in the original plan.

A smooth, flat place having been prepared, a loose, unstable, sandy, and ashy mound was leisurely, but pertinaciously raised, to be overwhelmed with a mound of earth ten times its size. And all for what? On the evidence, I will offer no answer. For what were any of these mounds? Mounds, in appearance like this, are found scattered along the Pacific slope; sometimes, three thousand feet above the sea, as here, but sometimes down in the hot lands; sometimes in disorderly companies as here, but sometimes solitary; mostly near one size, about forty or fifty feet high, all of them, at least outwardly, made of earth though in a country abounding in stone; and all of them—which is their great mark—round mounds, not square or oblong, but round and smooth, without corners, steps, or terraces; and rising to a blunt peak, with no signs of ever having had anything on top.

The ordinary opinion about them has been that they are burial mounds, each mound the tomb of some great person. And my digging, though it may somewhat discourage that opinion, has not disproved it. My digging has not absolutely disproved that opinion even in the case of this mound. What is now proved is that, if this mound contains a burial, the burial is not central. But many burials m mounds are deliberately ex-centric. And granting that the shape of these mounds favours the probability of a central burial, if any, yet the absence of a central burial in this particular mound does not perhaps much lessen the probability of central burials in others; that is, unless it is to be thought that all these mounds are like this strange Mound B. But is that to be thought? Is it supposable, for instance, that all these mounds contain inner mounds of sand and ashes—or inner mounds at all? It may be supposable. But I should think it much more likely that this mound was exceptional.

And then questions come forward. What might be the nature of the exception? Could it be possible, say, that this mound actually contains a central burial, and that the burial has been found? Could it be possible (fantastic as it sounds) that the inner mound was itself in some manner the corpse? Which would lead back to the question of where the ashes and charcoal came from, and again to the prime question of how far the other mounds are like this.

Too little is known—or I know too little. I have set out the facts that I have dug up and perhaps somebody can put them together. I have been able, as I believe, to clear up the matter of the leaves and of the shape of the inner mound, and so at least prevent what might be much lost speculation. But so far as I can see, the general riddle of the inner mound, and of the whole mound, remains. My digging, instead of ending uncertainty, has rather started new uncertainties; and curiosity must be content to wait until somebody shall open another mound.

And in case any museum or traveler should wish to make the experiment (it may be worth saying) they might advantageously pick out some smaller mound than mine. In Chocolá itself, for example, the mound marked H on my map is another of these round mounds, but perhaps not more than four-fifths of the height of mine, and by a geometrical consequence only about half the bulk; and a trench in it, proportional to mine, instead of coming to near five thousand cubic metres of digging as mine did, would come to only twenty-five hundred.

With no central burial found, however, in the one mound, exceptional though the mound may be, that has been examined, and no guidance (as there is with rectangular mounds) to the situation of ex-centric burials, with (to be plain) no assured prospect of plunder, it may be that even so much digging will seem to be too much. I have been the recipient of alI possible help from various persons of Chocolá. I have had the pleasure of expressing my thanks to the European owners on the occasion of their rare visits, and have constantly had to thank Mr. Henry Kummerfeldt, the manager. Yet I could find it in my heart to wish those excellent people what they would look upon as a piece of extreme bad luck. I could wish that in the course of their extensive works they might somehow be compelled to the labour of leveling one of those mounds. Their methods would be destructive, but something would appear.

Human remains, such as bits of pottery, or of worked stone, were met with (though not in any great quantity) throughout the whole height of the mound, inner mound and outer mound alike, and down to the very surface of the gravel: but all evidently accidental, either dropped by the workmen or already in the earth or ashes that the workmen brought. The pottery remains, mostly coarse, included one or two fragments of small images. The stone remains included the ordinary obsidian knives, pieces of mill-stones, one or two small coarse mortars, a few inches of sheet mica, and the only thing of any kind that I thought worth saving was a somewhat uncommon bead, a thick cylindrical stone bead of a greenish colour and with spiral flutings (fifty-five by twelve millimetres).

Cite This Article

Burkitt, Robert. "Excavations at Chocolá." The Museum Journal XXI, no. 1 (March, 1930): 5-24. Accessed February 22, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/9266/

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to digitalmedia@pennmuseum.org.