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Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, Vol. II.

John L. Stephens

Book Overview: 

The year is 1838. The scene is the dense Honduran forest along the Copán River. Two men, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, are about to rediscover Mayan civilization. Their guide, slashing through the rampant growth with his machete, leads them to a structure with steps up the side, shaped like a pyramid. Next they see a stone column, fourteen feet high, sculptured on the front with a portrait of a man, “solemn, stern and well fitted to excite terror,” covered on the sides with hieroglyphics, and with workmanship “equal to the finest monuments of the Egyptians.” Stephens records these discoveries and also his travels in Central America, where he had been sent by President Van Buren as special ambassador to the ill-fated Republic of Central America. The republic being engulfed in civil war when Stephens arrives in Guatemala, he finds himself dodging revolutionary armies while he hunts for a “legitimate government” to which to present his credentials. Catherwood, meanwhile, directs his immense artistic talent to illustrating views of Mayan architecture. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan was a best seller in its day and has been called an “Indiana Jones” saga by modern reviewers.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I had it brought to the side of my hammock. My effort made him happy, and I began to think my prostration was merely the reaction from over-excitement; and by degrees what I began to please our host I continued for my own satisfaction. The troubles of my companions no longer disturbed me. My equanimity was perfectly restored, and, breakfast over, I set out to look at the ruins.

Ever since our arrival in Yucatan we had received courtesies and civilities, but none more thorough than those bestowed by our host of Nohcacab. He had come out with the intention of passing a week with us, and the Indians and the whole rancho were at our service as long as we chose to remain.

Passing through one of the huts, we soon came to a hill covered with trees and very steep, up which the proprietor had cut, not a mere Indian path, but a road two or three yards wide, leading to a building standing upon a terrace on the brow of the hill. The f. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This books takes you to an amazing journey of discoveries in the the Yucatan Peninsula in the mid-19th century. A definite must for Maya enthusiasts.

This is probably the book that gave birth to the studies of the Maya civilization.

See my review under Vol. 1

Stephens two books about his early nineteenth century travels to the Yucatan are much cited in studies of the Maya, his speculations about their civilization and Catherwood's illustrations of their monuments and inscriptions being epochal for their accuracy and thoroughness. Planning a trip to wh...more

John Lloyd Stephens's Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vol 2 continues its author's intelligent survey of Maya ruins in the State of Yucatan. Although this book is not quite as good as the author's earlier Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas & Yucatan, Vol 1 and Incidents of Travel...more

ame as the other one.

Remarkable for its insight into conditions of travel and race relations in the 19th century, as well as its evidence of Mayan ingenuity in harvesting water. The etchings are as remarkable as the text, and the text is a delight in simply portraying the realities of fatigue, heat, and fever; all of...more

Not for anyone I can think of

This book is well written by an enthusiastic explorer.

I know the area which adds a lot. Still, try it. Become immerse reed in stevens's enthusiasm, always measured