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Rare 1,000-year-old canoe found in cenote near Chichén Itzá

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A wooden canoe used by the ancient Maya and believed to be over 1,000 years old was found underwater during the archeological work accompanying the construction of the controversial Mayan Train in Yucatán. Photo: INAH

A wooden canoe used by the ancient Maya and believed to be over 1,000 years old has turned up in Yucatán. It is nearly intact and extremely rare.

The discovery occurred as workers were preparing a path for the massive Mayan Train project, officials said Friday.

The canoe was found submerged in a cenote near Chichén Itzá.


Measuring a little over 5 feet / 1.6 meters long and 2-1/2 feet / 80 cm wide, the canoe was possibly used to transport water from the cenote or deposit ritual offerings, according to INAH, Mexico’s antiquities agency.

INAH described the extraordinary find as “the first complete canoe like this in the Maya area.” Experts from Sorbonne University in Paris will help with an analysis of the well-preserved wood to pinpoint its age and type.

A three-dimensional model of the canoe will also be commissioned to facilitate further study and allow for replicas to be made.

The canoe is tentatively dated to between 830-950 AD, near the end of the Maya civilization’s classical zenith, when dozens of cities across present-day southern Mexico and Central America thrived amid major human achievements in math, writing and art.

It was found while workers building a tourist rail project championed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador were inspecting the area surrounding the cenote which is near a section of the project that will connect with Cancun, Mexico’s top beach resort.

López Obrador has pitched the Tren Maya as a tourist-friendly infrastructure project that will help alleviate poverty in Mexico’s impoverished southern states, while critics argue it risks damaging the region’s delicate ecosystems.

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