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June 24 , 2009

The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft: The Native Races, Antiquities


The present volume of the Native Races of the Pacific States treats of monumental archæology, and is intended to present a detailed description of all material relics of the past discovered within the territory under consideration. Two chapters, however, are devoted to a more general view of remains outside the limits of this territory—those of South America and of the eastern United States—as being illustrative of, and of inseparable interest in connection with, my subject proper. Since monumental remains in the western continent without the broad limits thus included are comparatively few and unimportant, I may without exaggeration, if the execution of the work be in any degree commensurate with its aim, claim for this treatise a place among the most complete ever published on American antiquities as a whole. Indeed, Mr Baldwin's most excellent little book on Ancient America is the only comprehensive work treating of this subject now before the public. As a popular treatise, compressing within a small duodecimo volume the whole subject of archæology, including, besides material relics, tradition, and speculation concerning origin and history as well, this book cannot be too highly praised; I propose, however, by devoting a large octavo volume to one half or less of Mr Baldwin's subject-matter, to add at least encyclopedic value to this division of my work. There are some departments of the present subject in which I can hardly hope to improve upon or even to equal descriptions already extant. Such are the ruins of Yucatan, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, so ably treated by Messrs Stephens, Catherwood, and Squier. Indeed, not a few relics of great importance are known to the world only through the pen or pencil of one or another of these gentlemen, in which cases I am forced to draw somewhat largely upon the result of their investigations. Yet even within the territory mentioned, concerning Uxmal and Chichen Itza we have most valuable details in the works of M. M. Waldeck and Charnay; at Quirigua, Dr Scherzer's labors are no less satisfactory than those of Mr Catherwood; and Mr Squier's careful observations in Nicaragua are supplemented, to the advantage of the antiquarian public, by the scarcely less extensive investigations of Mr Boyle. In the case of Palenque, in some respects the most remarkable American ruin, we have, besides the exhaustive delineations of Waldeck and Stephens, several others scarcely less satisfactory or interesting from the pens of competent observers; and in a large majority of instances each locality, if not each separate relic, has been described from personal examination by several parties, each noting some particulars by the others neglected.
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