INAH (National Institute or Archaeology and History of Mexico), is showing to the public video images of the inside of a cave submerged in the Yucatan, where underwater archaeologists have discovered important archaeological remains of animals and humans of the Ice Age, 12.000 years old.
|Lak'ech Ala K'in "I am you, and you are me." Maya Greeting|
Sacred Cenotes and Caves - Cenotes - 'dzonot' "ts'onot" - well
The Yucatán Península is divided in three states: Campeche, Yucatán, and the newly formed Quintana Roo.
With a porous limestone shelf, no lakes or above ground-rivers, Yucatán has only underground rivers. These rivers sometimes form underwater sinkholes that are called Cenotes, sometimes they form caves and lakes.
The Maya considered the Cenotes as the entrance to their "Underworld.
The "Sacred Doors to the Maya Underworld or U'kux Xibalbá," are underground bodies of water connected. Sometimes they create caves, open wells or ponds.
There are 2 kinds of Cenotes; the young ones, with rapid moving water, and the old ones, with slower flow due to sediments or/and collapse.
- Two hundred and fifty million years of dramatic changes in sea level formed spectacular caves and caverns. Many were created by a meteorite impact.
- Because of their alignment with the rim of the Impact Crater, many of the Cenotes, are being linked to the Chicxulub meteorite impact (65 million years ago).
This meteorite impact is associated with 75% of the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. The impact crater (110 miles diameter) is buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula with its center near the small town of Chicxulub, that means "the tail of the devil" in Maya.
- México is home of the 5 biggest caves registered in the world.
- The Yucatán Peninsula has over 10,000 Cenotes, less than half being studied.
- Some of the Cenotes still provide a source of fresh water in the rural communities. In some of them, you can see bubbles from the fresh water spring underneath the surface.
- These mythological places, where the "door of the underworld" with its nine levels was located, was sacred to the Maya.
The Underworld was called U'kux Xibalbá, and the Nine Lords of Xibalbá were in charge.
According to the Popol Vuh, the Maya sacred book, religious ceremonies were held inside the caves or Cenotes.
They were also used to gather materials for their arrows and limestone for ceramics and construction. They were, and are, in many places, the main source of water.
The Cenotes and Caves were used by the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations as:
- Shelter and places of refuge
- Sacred places where rituals of passage were performed, rituals of communication with the "abuelos," or Elders / wise old ones (grandfathers)
- Places of pilgrimage and offerings, rituals and prayers
- Bows for the 13 Tzuultaq'a (gods of the mountains and valleys) are offered together with incense, pom or copal, candles, cocoa beans, ceramic offerings and prayers for health, rainfall, harvest.
- Astronomical observatories.
- Burials, cremations and gathering place to invoke the dead
- Extraction of minerals and clay for pottery
- Abrasive stone from the Cenotes/Caves were used for polishing
- Points of the stalactites and stalagmites were used to produce artifacts
- Sources of drinking water
- Mythical places mentioned in the Popol Vuh, the Ancient Maya Sacred Book as Xibalbá, the sacred underworld inhabited by the Lords of life and death and the spirits of water and earth. The brothers Hun' Hunahpu and Vu'cub Hunahpu entered the underworld to confront theLords of Xibalbá, but are defeated and killed. Several years go by, and their sons, while playing ball near Xibalbá, annoyed the Lords with the noise of their ball game. The Lords called them into the cave, inviting them to play, so that they stop making noise. The *twins had to enter the cave and go through different challenges during seven** days and seven nights inside the different houses that Xibalbá has. In order to enter, they had to descend to the inside of the Mother Earth. Some of the challenges were: crossing a river of blood without drinking water, crossing valleys with thorny calabash trees, crossing roads and paths. Walking through four*** roads, one was red, another was yellow, white and, one of them, the black one, is the entrance to Xibalbá.
Mythology: The dead Maya were challenged to make several tasks inside the different houses that Xibalbá has. Some of the houses were:
- House of Gloom or Quequmaq' ha, where there is only darkness.
- House of Xuxulim' ha or the shivering house, full of jaguars stalking, jumping and making fun of the visitors, until they were contained inside the house.
- Zotzhi' h or the House of Bats, where bats flew around the twins.
- Chayim ha, or the House of Knives, with sharp pointed knives.
- Jaguar, snakes, toads and crocodile.
- Water Lily, associated with the entrance to the underworld and the connection between our physical world and the Underworld.
- Cacao tree, associated with fertility, with the water lily, jaguar and snake. In order to be able to go inside the Cacao tree, the Maya had to drink cacao while alive.
- Copal was burned inside the caves as an offering to their Gods
- Some pyramids and temples were built on top of Caves - Like in Teotihuacán, Xochicalco, etc..