The Mouth of the Well

The archaeologist Guillermo de Anda next to pre-Columbian artifacts in a cave at the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá. Credit Karla Ortega/Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology, via Associated Press

This new discovery in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula came to our attention just when we’re on an archaeological roll. It definitely gives us pause that there are still such important finds in the world.

In a cave under the ancient city of Chichén Itzá, Mexican archaeologists discovered a trove of ceramic artifacts that appear to be over 1,000 years old.

Archaeologists announced this week that they had discovered an extraordinary trove of well-preserved Maya artifacts under the ancient city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

The artifacts were found in a cave called Balamkú, less than two miles from the famed pyramid known as the Temple of Kukulcan, or The Castle, which sits in the center of the site.

Guillermo de Anda, an investigator with the National Institute of Anthropology and History, said in a statement on Monday that the remarkable discovery could help researchers rewrite the history of Chichén Itzá, which flourished from roughly A.D. 750 to 1200.

The city was built on top of a network of waterways, including sinkholes called cenotes, which the ancient Maya believed were sacred places that provided a portal to the underworld. Its name is sometimes translated as “the mouth of the well of the Itza,” the name of the main ethnic group in the area at the time.

Mr. de Anda and his colleagues were exploring that system of waterways when they found the artifacts, which date to around 700 to 1000 A.D., about 80 feet underground. The team has explored about 1,500 feet so far, crawling between various chambers connected by narrow tunnels.

“The place is extraordinary,” Mr. de Anda said in a video produced by the institute, speaking as he crawled through a dark, narrow passageway.

“Now comes a stage of documentation, protection and conservation of this marvelous and unique place.”

Local residents told the authorities about the cave more than five decades ago, but it was not studied extensively at the time, the institute said in its statement. Instead, the archaeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto ordered the entrance to be sealed, ensuring that its contents remained undisturbed. Last year, Luis Un, 68, who as a child was among the residents who had told officials about the cave, led Mr. de Anda’s team to its entrance again.

There are at least 200 artifacts, including fragments, ceramic incense holders, containers used to grind food and other items. Researchers expect that tests will show that they contain jade and remnants of seeds and bone that were used as offerings and have been found at similar sites.

Click here for the entire article, including the short video.

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