Cenote: A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.
Ancient Mayan Civilization: this is one of the ancient world’s most advanced civilizations, one that abandoned its great cities around 1524 AD.
Cave divers have located Ancient Mayan relics in an underwater cave dubbed the Blind Fish Cave near the island of Cozumel off the Yucatan Peninsula. Artifacts include pots and bowls, alongside the shells and bones. Because the Ancient Mayans believed that deep waters were the portal to the underworld, a spiritual place of life and birth, death and rebirth, it made sense that these items were part of religious sacrificial rituals.
But, these items were found more than 3,500 feet – well over half a mile – from the cave entrance, making them difficult to reach even with 21st-century diving equipment. In 2016, it took divers several hours to reach this location, making it a physical impossibility for Mayans to have swum there. So, how did they access this remote spot? This fascinating, full-length video shares the incredible story.
A team of cave divers used advanced rebreathers in their exploration, wherein carbon dioxide is chemically rescrubbed for rebreathing. This system eliminates the bubbles that disturb cave sentiment and is therefore more ecologically sound, and its gas management can allow for a six- to eleven-hour dive, crucial in case divers get lost in the dark twisted underground cave system.
Two additional challenges:
As divers traveled the underwater route, they spotted light above them, discovering another cenote, deep in the heart of the jungle. If they could mark this spot and begin their next dive from there, then it would reduce the length of the dive to the Blind Fish Cave from about 3,500 feet to 1,000 feet. This was a crucial find.
So, could the Mayans have used this as the portal to the Blind Fish Cave? Not a chance! Even with today’s modern diving equipment, it’s an hour of swimming – and the water table was about the same as today, it is believed. Even on foot, the 1,000-foot walk from this cenote to the location of sacred relics, through dense jungle, was formidable.
So, how did the explorers solve this mystery? Two teams, one underwater and one above, synchronized their efforts. The above ground team slashed through the jungle with machetes, using GPS technology to find their way above the Blind Fish Cave. Meanwhile, the divers swam to the relics and pounded a steel rod into the cave ceiling in hopes that the above ground team would hear them.
This audacious plan actually worked, and archaeologists identified a depression in the terrain that showed where a cenote once existed. Underwater video cameras have captured intriguing footage of the relics and archaeologists now have a rich area of jungle to explore for signs of a previously-unknown Ancient Mayan city.
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