New expedition to explore underwater ruins in Lake Altitlán

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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.
An international team of archaeologists at Lake Altitlán includes researchers from Mexico, Belgium, France, Spain, Argentina, and Guatemala. Photo: Courtesy Guatemalan Ministry of Culture

Mexican archaeologists are joining colleagues from around the world to research the remains of a lost Mayan city beneath the waters of Guatemala’s Lake Altitlán

The underwater archaeological site in question is believed to date to the classical period but was likely occupied for 1,000 years, beginning in the 3rd century BCE.

The most widely accepted theory of how the ancient city came to be flooded has to do with a severe volcanic event.

Working side by side with the team of archaeologists from around the world, is the local Maya leader, Zapalú Toj who has given the project the blessing of the community.  

The existence of the submerged city has been known since the late ’90s, but concerns of causing damage have meant that only relatively small mapping incursions have been made in the past. 

Earlier: Chunyaxché, the pride of the Petén Maya in the Caribbean

A handful of other sunken archaeological sites exist across Mesoamerica, including on the Yucatán Peninsula within the waters of cenotes.

“We must be extremely cautious and conservative in our approach, the last thing we want is to cause damage to this gem of a site,” said team member and UNESCO representative Ulrike Guérin.

Guatemala is home to hundreds of archaeological sites, including the world-famous Tikal. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Aside from conducting standard research, archaeologists are also taking thousands of photographs, videos, and 3D images to ensure knowledge of the site survives well into the future. 

The 3D scans will also allow researchers to create a complete model which will help to understand the sunken city’s layout and the relative position of its structures. 

The site itself is made up of dozens of structures including ceremonial temples, stelae, and civic plazas or acropolis. 

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