7

Underwater Secrets of the Ancient Maya

Ancient Maya believed that the rain god Chaak resided in caves and natural wells called cenotes. Maya farmers today in Mexico’s parched Yucatán still appeal to Chaak for the gift of rain, Meanwhile cenotes are giving archaeologists new insights into the sacred landscapes of the ancestral Maya.

In ancient times, the natural well, or cenote, acted as a sacred sundial and timekeeper for the ancient Maya on the two days of the year, May 23 and July 19, when the sun reaches its zenith. At that moment it is vertically overhead, and no shadow is cast. The fact that the cenote is directly northwest of the main staircase of El Castillo, the famous central pyramid of Chichén Itzá, is not coincidental. The ancient Maya came here during times of drought to deliver offerings and to give thanks for a plentiful harvest. The Maya people have a strong relation to their gods, their sacred city and their extraordinarily accurate calendar.

8

Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings. The term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya, “Ts’onot” to refer to any location with accessible groundwater. There are an estimated 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Cenote water is often very clear, as the water comes from rain water filtering slowly through the ground, and therefore contains very little suspended particulate matter. The groundwater flow rate within a cenote may be very slow. In many cases, cenotes are areas where sections of cave roof have collapsed revealing an underlying cave system, and the water flow rates may be much faster: up to 6 miles (10 km) per day. Cenotes around the world attract cave divers who have documented extensive flooded cave systems through them, some of which have been explored for lengths of 62 miles (100 km) or more.

source 1, 2

4

The Amazing Underwater River in Cenote Angelita, Mexico

Some meters away before you get to the bottom of the cave, you see a river underneath, with trees and leaves floating on some liquid level. However it may seem like a river, it’s not a real river. It’s just a layer of hydrogen sulphide beneath. All in all, it looks startling and unforgettable when you get there and see it with your own eyes. On your way down you can actually see spectacular layers of rocks formed during the last ice age.

According to professional photographer, Anatoly Beloshchin, the underwater scenery is amazing. He describes, “We are 30 meters deep, fresh water, then 60 meters deep – salty water and under me I see a river, island and fallen leaves… Actually, the river, which you can see, is a layer of hydrogen sulphide.”

Secrets of the Maya Otherworld

image

Ancient Maya believed that the rain god Chaak resided in caves and natural wells called cenotes. Maya farmers today in Mexico’s parched Yucatán still appeal to Chaak for the gift of rain. Meanwhile cenotes are giving archaeologists new insights into the sacred landscapes of the ancestral Maya.

On the edge of a small cornfield near the ruined Maya city of Chichén Itzá, in the sparse shade of a tropical tree, a voice ricochets wildly up the mouth of a well. “¡Lo vi! ¡Lo vi!” the shout proclaims. “I saw it, I saw it!” “¡Sí, es verdad! Yes, it’s true!”

Leaning over the mouth of the well, underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda needs to make sure that this is what he has been longing to hear for so many months. “What is true, Arturo?” And his fellow archaeologist Arturo Montero, floating down at the bottom of the well, yells up again, “The zenith light! It really works! Get down here!” Then he whoops ecstatically. Read more.

Text
Photo
Quote
Link
Chat
Audio
Video