26 APRIL 1890, Page 12


AMONG the ancient races of the American Continent, there are perhaps none whose remains have excited greater interest than those of the strange people who at some remote period of antiquity inhabited the mountain ranges between Mexico and Colorado. Here, in the deep recesses of the mountains, lived a race to whom the use of metal was un- known, who made themselves strongholds in the sides of gorges so steep and difficult of access that they can be reached only by the aid of ropes and ladders. These cliff-dwellings consist of caverns in the rock, faced externally with massive walls, and bear a general resemblance to the houses of wild tribes in Syria. They are found in such vast numbers, and extend over so great a space of country, that the total dis- appearance of their owners has always been a subject of wonder. In the deserted rooms are found the implements of a people ignorant of the use of metal, their simple household goods, remains of their food, and even articles of their dress. The people themselves have vanished. A few months ago, the world was startled by the news that somewhere among the mountains of Chihuahua, in Mexico, had been found at last the slender remnant of a race whose works rank high among the wonders of a continent. The men are described by their discoverer, Scbwatka, as belonging still, to all intents and purposes, to the Stone Age ; and it is possible that from them may be gleaned some knowledge of the manners and customs of the lost Cliff-Dwellers. Since then, explorations have been continued among the mountains some few hundred miles north of the scene of Schwatka's discovery, and in March a party of searchers returned to Durango, having collected much interesting information, and bringing with them many relics of this singular people. The explorers relate that they found the sides of one caiion, which was the principal scene of their investigations, honeycombed for a hundred miles with cliff-dwellings. It appears that natural hollows in the rock lave been supplemented by massive walls of stone; and if the accounts are to be relied on, some of the habitations thus formed are spacious enough to hold several hundred men. One dwelling is described in which the rooms now existing are

said to number more than a hundred, while remains of its upper storeys indicate an even greater amount. A building, supposed from its construction to have been meant for public assemblies, contains, among others, a chamber 40 ft. long. The floors are strewn with sand, on which remain the evidence of frequent fires. The timbers of this house, as in many other instances, are still in place, and must have cost the builders no small toil, with their rude appliances, before the wood was shaped and smoothed for use. Some buildings are said to show traces of a siege. Others appear to have been purposely dismantled.

It is clear that the Cliff-Dwellers were not a warlike race. The only martial relics yet discovered consist of armour made of aspen bark, and a few slender arrow-heads of flint. The many implements which have been found point to the peace- able pursuits of husbandry. Nearly every house contains its granary and rude hand-mill, and in addition to the masonry of the dwellings, many reservoirs of stone are to be seen, evidently intended for irrigation. One of these, some fifty yards across, has water in it still. Most of the implements are of bone, from which the Cliff-Dwellers contrived to make knives, boring-tools, needles, and even saws. Their axes are of stone,—in some cases of granite, with a deep groove near the blunt end round which to fix the handle. The handles in many instances remain. The leaves of the yucca appear to have been to this simple race much what the bamboo is to the rude nations of the East. From its fibres they plaited baskets, often with coloured patterns ; they wove mats, ropes, and string. With looms, of which parts in perfect preservation still remain, they wove into cloth wool and hair and yucca-fibre. Their pottery, like their implements, is already widely known, for many searchers have visited the more easily accessible of the dwellings : but the recent expedition has brought home a great number and many varieties of cups and jars of clay. The most striking kind is decorated with conventional designs, in black upon a white ground. The dryness of the district, and particularly of the rocky chambers where these remains were discovered, is the reason given for their remarkable preservation. Of the inhabitants them- selves we learn but little. We may examine their houses, their dress, food, implements, and weapons, but of the men themselves there are but scanty traces. The few skulls which have been found prove to us, from their shape, that they belonged to a people among whom prevailed the practice of flattening the backs of their children's heads by tying them down upon boards. These boards are still to be seen, and are said to show plain marks of the cords with which the skulls of these unfortunate victims of fashion were forced into the correct shape. Of traces of pictorial art we hear nothing. No musical instruments have been found, unless it be something doubtfully alluded to as "an instru- ment like a flute." Such is the account of the most recent discoveries in the cliff-dwellings of Colorado. The world- wide interest now felt in archeology will not allow the question to pause here; and if these accounts are genuine, as we see no reason to doubt, we shall soon hear more of explora- tion and discovery in the footprints of a vanished race.