When most travelers hear the words “Riviera Maya,” it’s fairly safe to assume that images of crystal clear Caribbean water and pristine,white sand beaches are what first come to mind… But as National Geographic is helping to show the world,there is much,much more to this tropical fantasyland than first meets the eye.
“The Mayapán Taboo Cenote Project has been hard at work documenting the sacred Cenote Sac Uayum at the site of Mayapán,Yucatan,” writes National Geographic online. “Our team has been mapping the form of Cenote Sac Uayum and the vestiges of human activity found there.”
Cenotes – pronounced “say-no-tay” – are essentially naturally occurring freshwater sinkholes located throughout the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula,with many found around Cancun,Tulum and Playa del Carmen. In addition,the ancient Maya often used Cenotes for sacrificial offerings.
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So far,the researchers have found six human skulls,other bones and ceramic shards,which are helping the team determine when and how indigenous ancient Mayan people used the cenote. Interestingly,many of the skulls show a similar deformation that seems to have been inflicted intentionally at birth. Researchers believe this was done as either a form of beauty enhancement or status symbol. Their work is often tedious but also spontaneously rewarding,with the potential for big surprises lurking around every turn.
“Yesterday provided the biggest surprise yet,” shared Bradley Russell via National Geographic explorer’s journal. “Working our way through a narrow side passage that we assumed would be a dead end,the team suddenly emerged into an enormous and beautiful second cavern,filled to the ceiling with water. We believe this is the first such connected cavern system found this far away from the coast.”
Already,the latest discovery has yielded a variety of human remains and some of the best-preserved skulls that have been found to date. The researchers have reason to believe that this system of interconnected cenotes may continue way beyond what they have discovered at this time and plan to continue exploring,one inch at a time.