yucatan peninsula

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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.

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The site of Muyil (or Chunyaxché) located in the northeastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Muyil dates to the Middle Formative (350 BC) and was continuously occupied until the arrival of the Spanish.  Muyil was located along a trade route on the Caribbean once accessible via a series of canals. Among the most commonly traded goods were Jade, obsidian, chocolate, honey, feathers, chewing gum, and salt. It is believed that throughout much of its history, Muyil had strong ties to the center of Coba located some 44 kilometres (27 mi) the northeast.

The stingless bees of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula are famous for more than their gentle dispositions. These ancient pollinators are prized for their healing honey and their deep connection to Mayan culture.

Heifer has worked with farmers in the Yucatán to revive stingless bees and to reinvigorate the cultural memory surrounding them. Jason Woods, World Ark’s Senior Editor, travelled to Mexico to learn more about these unusual pollinators and to meet the farmers who raise them. Read his full article in the summer edition of the World Ark Magazine!