Published: Wed, February 21, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Fossils, Mayan relics found in giant underwater cave in Mexico

Fossils, Mayan relics found in giant underwater cave in Mexico

Divers found what's been described as the "most important underwater achaeological site on Earth" in a discovery which could shed light on the ancient Maya civilisation.

According to Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH), water levels in the region rose 100 meters (330 feet) at the end of the Ice Age, flooding the cave system and leading to "ideal conditions for the preservation of the remains of extinct megafauna from the Pleistocene".

De Anda is also director of the Gran Acuifero Maya (GAM), a project dedicated to the study and preservation of the subterranean waters of the Yucatan peninsula.

"It is very unlikely that there is another site in the world with these characteristics".

Diving with scuba gear, they have been exploring the ancient relics left in the caves over the millennia, in a project sponsored by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Researchers say they found 248 cenotes at the 347-km (216-mile) cave system known as Sac Actun, near the beach resort of Tulum.

When they didn't have staircases, descending into the world's largest underwater cave could be unsafe - the amount of bones the cavern holds suggests not everybody was able to climb back out again, and the same fate may have been true for many animals.

The animal remains include gomphotheres ― an extinct elephant-like animal ― as well as giant sloths and bears, archaeologists told a press conference.

But their culture and the caves were nonetheless inextricably linked, with the divers finding numerous examples of Maya-era pottery and other ceramics such as wall etchings, but also evidence of larger artefacts, such as a shrine to the Maya god of commerce and a staircase structure inside one cenote.

An exploration group in Mexico have discovered the biggest underwater cave in the world.

The ancient Mayans viewed caves, "and especially ones that led to water, as extremely sacred places", the INAH said.

Finally, the specialist noted that Sac Actun is a surprising and relevant archaeological site since in this space there is a record of three probable old men, two discovered some time ago and one that has just been found. That other one is 18 kilometres (11 miles) long and is called "The Mother of all Cenotes" ...

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