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Archeologists Explore Ancient Maya Site Located Beneath Chichen Itza

Located not far from the Pyramid of Kukulkan (also known as El Castillo) is a series of cave systems used by the ancient Maya thousands of years ago for various purposes.

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One site, located less than 3 kilometers from the Pyramid was recently explored by a group of experts led by archaeologist Guillermo de Anda, director of the Great Mayan Aquifer (GAM) project.

De Anda examining the artifacts inside the cave. Image Credit: Karla Ortega.

The ritual cave is known as Balamku, or “Cave of the Jaguar God” and was found by local farmers more than fifty years ago, who at the time reported its existence to archeologists.

The cave was visited by Mexican archaeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto, who instead of excavating it decided to seal it shut, most likely to protect its historical treasure hidden inside.

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A report was penned down by researchers. However, the papers were lost in time somewhere in the archives.

Eventually, people forgot about it altogether.

In 2018, De Anda was made aware of the cave and thanks to a partly funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society, an archeological mission was set up to explore the cave’s wonders.

“I couldn’t speak, I started to cry,” said De Anda while speaking to  National Geographic.

The artifacts discovered inside the ritual cave beneath the ancient Maya City of Chichen Itza. Image Credit: Karla Ortega.
The artifacts discovered inside the ritual cave beneath the ancient Maya City of Chichen Itza. Image Credit: Karla Ortega.

“I’ve analyzed human remains in [Chichen Itza’s] Sacred Cenote, but nothing compares to the sensation I had entering, alone, for the first time in that cave. You almost feel the presence of the Maya who deposited these things in there.”

Inside the cave, the team led by De Anda found ritual objects including intricately decorated vases, incense burners and decorated plates, all of which experts hope will help them understand the rise and fall of the city better.

Amon the artifacts, one vessel is thought to depict the rain god Tlaloc.

De Anda and his team revealed that many other offerings inside the cave had markings representing the ancient Maya universe.

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Balamku is located close to another ritual cave known as Balankanche, which was discovered by experts in 1959. Inside it, they reported having discovered around 70 ritual artifacts.

But Balamku is much larger than Balankanche.

“Balamku appears to be the ‘mother’ of Balankanche,” De Anda explained to Nat Geo.

“I don’t want to say that quantity is more important than information, but when you see that there are many, many offerings in a cave that is also much more difficult to access, this tells us something.”