In the study of ancient civilizations, myths often evoke a sense
of mystery and encourage further exploration into unknown aspects
of a culture. When John Stephens and Frederick Catherwood journeyed
to Uxmal in 1840, the indigenous people told them the legend of
the House of the Dwarf.
As related by Stephens, an old woman hatched a dwarf son from
an egg. The dwarf and the ruler of Uxmal challenged each other
to feats of strength, one of which was to build a house in one
night that was higher than any other. Although the dwarf despaired
at this challenge, his mother told him not to worry, and the next
day the dwarf awoke in what is now called the House of the Dwarf.
The legends of the House of the Dwarf, and the building itself,
captured European imaginations, and Catherwood drew several scenes
of the building. Stephens and Catherwood referred to the House
of the Dwarf as the Great Teocallis, teocalli being a pre-Hispanic
This image depicts the façade of the superstructure of
the House of the Dwarf. The wall is distinctive for its elegant
stonework. The passage of time (since the ancients worshipped
at the temple) is evident in this image, as the once-painted façade
is now bare and the middle section of the wall has caved away,
revealing an entrance to the inner temple. In the fore-ground
is an example of Catherwood’s depiction of the indigenous
workers reposing, a theme that extends to many other prints in
this collection. [Spanish version].