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Maya Funerary Offering Found by Archaeologists in Cenote Near Chichen Itza
The offering contains human bones of at least 6 individuals, probably sacrificed during a pair of intense dry season periods, one nearly 1200 years ago and the other, 900, as well as ceramic vessels; jade and shell beads; flint and double leaf knives, shell round artifacts that might have been Tlaloc goggles, animal bones and a great amount of charcoal probably used during the ritual. Photo: UADY Arqueología Subacuatica.
MEXICO CITY.- Underwater archaeologists discovered in a cenote near The Castle pyramid at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, a Prehispanic funerary offering deposited in the flooded cave to ask for rain in 9th and 10th centuries, during 2 different drought periods.

The offering contains human bones of at least 6 individuals, probably sacrificed during a pair of intense dry season periods, one nearly 1200 years ago and the other, 900, as well as ceramic vessels; jade and shell beads; flint and double leaf knives, shell round artifacts that might have been Tlaloc goggles, animal bones and a great amount of charcoal probably used during the ritual.

The finding was made 26 meters deep down the cenote, 5 of them underwater, where a natural platform leads to a flooded cave, accessed diving horizontally during 25 meters. The position of the human bones reveals they were carefully placed there.

Where the cenote ends, at a 50 meters depth, bone remains of at least 20 humans and more than a hundred elements such as animal bones, ceramics and sculptures, among them, a standard-bearer with the shape of a jaguar, and a figure with goggles associated to Tlaloc, similar to representations in vessels discovered in Balankanche, Yucatan. Features of the finding make it similar to the one at the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza, the most important sinkhole of the region.

The discovery is part of the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY) project The Cult at Cenotes, conducted in flooded caves and sinkholes of the Mexican state of Yucatan, under supervision of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda, part of the team for 4 years, informed that discovery of this kind of offerings represent a recently registered ceremonial practice found in 5 cenotes of Yucatan Peninsula, which samples still undergoes research.

Funerary offerings were placed in natural niches of flooded caves, including human individuals; a hypothesis points out to individuals deposited might have been sacrificed.

Archaeologist De Anda remarked that regardless the reason of the ritual, it is clear that persons were not thrown from the surface, but placed in the bottom of the cenote. “Dating of offerings correspond to Late Classic (600-900 AD) and Post Classic, (900-1521 AD) respectively, and it corresponds with dates found in documentary sources that indicate 2 intense drought periods were suffered in the region in 9th and 10th centuries. These drought periods might have caused the Maya collapse phenomenon.

Regarding the funerary offering, and based in the position of archaeological material, apparently drought made the level of water descend between 3 and 5 meters, making the niche more accessible to people who would distribute the offering.

The UADY researcher remarked that the cenote located 2,300 meters away from Kukulcan or The Castle Pyramid, had not been explored before, remaining its context intact. “Space location analyses with cartographical methodology helped having an accurate register that will help determining if it is a ritual site similar to the one at Great Cenote of Chichen Itza.



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