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Cave in Yucatán reveals fascinating new clues about life of ancient Maya

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Cave systems and cenotes are common in Yucatán and have been used by people for thousands of years as shelter and sources of water. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A group of Yucatecan speleologists has begun exploring a previously relatively unknown cave system near Ticul.

The geological formation has been christened Ch’uy Akún, meaning “elevated cave” in the Yucatec Maya language. 

As the name of the cave suggests, it is located above a small hill — a rare feature in Yucatán.

Within the cave, archaeologists have now found large deposits of prehispanic stone stools including metates, as well as pottery. 

But even more notable was the discovery of a Mayan structure within the cave itself. 

“We have known of the existence of this cave for some time, but recent archaeological finds are bringing increased attention to the site,” said Hebert Pech Canul of Ticul’s city government.

Archaeologists have not yet been able to date the structure found within the cave. But it is likely, as with most similar finds, that the stone construction dates to the post-classic period.

Earlier: Archaeology meets paleontology in Lol-Tún — the enigmatic flower-stone cave

Also within the cave, archaeologists have found the remains of a jaguar, which appears to have been ceremonially buried.

In the ancient Maya religion, jaguars were venerated and closely associated with caves and the underworld, as they were considered to be able to exist in the world of the living as well as the afterlife. 

Members of the community hope that the cave will be opened to tourism in the near future, but authorities say that there are still many impact studies that need to be completed before such an ambition can become a reality.

Several cave systems with similar features including Lol-Tún and Balancanché have been thoroughly explored but currently remain closed to the public due to damage inflicted to their infrastructure during 2020’s heavy rain season. 

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