The ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula are extensive and easy to access from the Riviera Maya region along the coast, making it popular among both tourists and experts, who have been studying the site for decades. Still, the ruins reminded the world recently that they still have many secrets left to reveal, when tips from local residents uncovered a large unexplored cave on the site that is home to dozens of artifacts, bones and burned offerings to the ancient Mayan gods, which researchers plan to leave intact.
“To date, researchers have uncovered 155 ceramic incense burners, as well as clay boxes and other vessels in the site”, wrote the Smithsonian.
Secrets of Chichen Itza Mexico
Situated less than two miles east of the great El Castillo pyramid, the cave was first discovered around 50 years ago when locals alerted archaeologist Victor Segovia to its location. He ordered the cavern to be sealed after issuing a brief report, which promptly went nowhere. Last year, locals once again showed the location to archaeologists, who decided to explore.
The team participated in a six-hour purification ritual out of respect for local customs before entering the system of caverns, which is known as Balamkú, or “Jaguar God.” After entering the cave, researchers had to crawl in order to reach the seven chambers, where local Maya would leave offerings - often to Chaac, the central Mayan god of rain.
“Balamkú will help rewrite the story of Chichen Itza in Yucatan”, stated archaeologist Guillermo de Anda at a recent press conference.
All of the investigators who are involved with the cave rediscovery at Chichen Itza are also with the Great Maya Aquifer Project, which is working to map out the vast underground network of caves, rivers, cenotes and other water features that can be found beneath the surface of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula. In 2018, the project mapped a previously unexplored cave system that connects with an existing network of caverns to create the world’s largest underwater cave system.
More Chichen Itza Facts and History
The untouched state of the rediscovered artifacts and cave at Chichen Itza will allow researchers to investigate the level of cultural exchange that occurred between the ancient Mayan civilization and other pre-Hispanic Central American cultures. Investigators also hope to learn more about the Maya before the decline of Chichen Itza, using the latest 3-D mapping, paleobotany and other techniques to assist the research efforts.
The cave system of Balamkú is not the only secret Chichen Itza has given up recently, with other discoveries leading archaeologists to hypothesize that many of the most significant buildings at the site were originally built on top of cenotes. Researchers with the Chichen Itza Underground Project - which is part of the Great Maya Aquifer Project - discovered that the El Castillo pyramid is built upon an ancient cenote, prompting archaeologists to begin searching for the existence of tunnels that may lead to the hidden, watery depths below the great Mayan temple that attracts visitors from around the world to this sacred place.
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