Well-pre­served ar­ti­facts found un­der Maya ru­ins

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Karen Zraick

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

The ar­ti­facts were found in a cave called Balamku, less than 2 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 Mon­day that the re­mark­able dis­cov­ery could help re­searchers re­write the his­tory of Chichen Itza, which flour­ished from roughly 750 to 1200 A.D.

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.

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,” 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 au­thor­i­ties about the cave more than five decades ago, but it was not stud­ied ex­ten­sively at the time. In­stead, ar­chae­ol­o­gist Vic­tor 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 de Anda’s team to its en­trance again.

At least 200 ar­ti­facts have been re­cov­ered, in­clud­ing frag­ments, ce­ramic in­cense hold­ers, con­tain­ers used to grind food and other items.

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