The Maya Underworld - U'kux Xibalbá

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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. 
Inside 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.
Animals and Plants Associated with the Underworld 

  • 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..
20,000 year old skull found in Tulúm, Quintana Roo

Caves, War and Believes

Caste War
In the Caste War of the Yucatán (1847–1901), when the Maya were fighting to "be treated as humans," the Cenotes were a used as a place to hide and live.
The Maya were considered animals because of their believe in their gods and not the Spanish god.
Caves were used as refugees in the Caste War and they are still gathering places to make the famous JIPIJAPA hats, also known as the Panama hats. 
The fiber of the plant Jipijapa, huano palm, is so brittle that the artisans have to weave them inside the caves because of their humidity and temperature. 
Modern Maya, in the town of Becal, Campeche, weave the hats in underground caves located in their back yards.

Cave of Balankanché  Cyark.org
Perspective of the limestone column in the Cave of Balankanché  created from laser scan data. Courtesy of Cyark.org – A Perspective is a screen shot of a 3D Point Cloud, 3D Models and Digital Reconstructions.

  
Balankanché, México © María O. Baum

Balankanché Caves - "Throne of the Jaguar Priest"

Ceremonial site with impressive formations, idols and ancient pottery in the positions where they were left by the Ancient Maya. 
  • The "Balam Throne", an altar where the Maya celebrated their ceremonies, is impressive. 
  • The 20 ft. throne is formed by stalactites and stalagmites, in the form of the sacred Ceiba tree. 
  • The sacred tree of the Maya represent the 3 levels of existence: the underworld (roots), the physical level (trunk) and the heavens (branches).
  • Several objects can be seen where they were left; clay dishes, copal burners, "metates", the stones for grinding maize, and other objects, are still lying where the priests left them. Pay special attention to the tiny "metates" dedicated to the Aluxes, the small beings that protect the sacred places.
  • The mask of the Rain God CHAAC or Tláloc decorates many of the clay pots. 
  • At the end, crystal-clear water surrounds another altar. Usually, in the Cenotes, there are tiny shrimps and blind fish. Little fruit bats can be seen on the ceiling. 
  • There is a small outdoor museum at the entrance and the presentations are in different languages. 
  • Check the time for the language of your choice, although you can enter when there is a different language on the tape. If you are claustrophobic do not enter. It is like a steam bath inside. It is always a good idea to travel with a small battery operated fan. The explanation tape is presented in English, Spanish and French.
The Cave of the Jaguar’s Throne inside the Grotto of Balankanché, in the Yucatán, is located near Chichén Itzá.

México © María O. Baum
The Three Planes of the Maya Existence (planes or levels depending on the translation)
  • The Major Cosmic plane or force with 13 levels,
  • The Earth plane or U'kux U'lew' with 4 elemental forces, and
  • The Underworld or U'kux Xibalbá with 9 levels. The entrance was located in the Cenotes and Caves.
The Temples were also divided
  • Cosmic Temples were called Tolán Kaj'
  • The pyramids were called Tolánes
  • The Underworld Temples were the Tolán Ku
The only way to enter the sacred temples was through the doors of the Underworld of the sacred Cenotes and caves.
  • Some Cenotes are accessible for swimming, snorkeling and cave diving.
  • In many of the Cenotes, we still can see the offerings from the Maya to their Gods. Please respect them. 
  •  Cave diving is an extremely hazardous sport and should only be done by advanced divers and always accompanied by a guide. 
  • If you swim, do not use sunscreen, do not eat and do not be loud.
  • There are some sites that you can enjoy an inner-tube adventure like in Xel Ha. In Cenote del Jaguar - Pac Chen - you climb down past stalagmites and stalactites, as in the case of the Aktun Chen.
  • In some of the sites there is an entrance fee and services.
Akumal, South of Cancún, is in the middle of one of the best regions for cave diving. 
In some of the Cenotes or caves you can swim or snorkel.


  • Dos Ojos - Two Eyes - IMAX - Hidden Worlds - Featured in a 2002 IMAX film, Journey Into Amazing Caves and the 2006 BBC-Discovery Channel series Planet Earth. Superb snorkeling, very popular place. Two Cenotes connect to the large cavern. Water temperature is 77 Fahrenheit throughout the year. 
The water is exceptionally clear as a result of being rainwater filtered through limestone. Snorkeling and cavern diving site. It is part of the Nohoch Nah Chich cave system. 
Flooded cave system north of Tulúm, Quintana Roo. 
Explored since 1986, the extent of the cave system is more than 80 Km., 25 Cenotes have been discovered, and there is still more to explore. 
Sistema Dos Ojos Length m. 64455; Depth-396 ft.- with 25 connected Cenotes Parallel to the Nohoch Nah Chich/Sac Actun cave system, is one of the worlds longest cave; large volumes of groundwater flow towards Caleta Xel'ha, a nearby coastal lagoon. WC and Restaurant. 48 Km. S. of Playa Del Carmen - 3 Km. S. of Xel-Ha - On right 4 km down dirt road.
  • X'Tacunbilxunana, Bolonché'en, Bolonchenticul - "9 wells" - Bolonchenticul is famous because it was the only town to escape the cholera epidemic. North of the town lies an ancient Maya city that was destroyed by the Spanish when they used the stones of the pyramids and temples for their Church and their constructions. A few sculptures and hieroglyphic texts can be visited. South of Bolonchén are the caves of X'tacunbilxunan. 120 km East from Campeche, Campeche
Magnificent picture at  Shot of Cave of Balankanche  
 Smith College  
  • Calcehtok Caves "Actun Spukil" - Cal (neck), Ceh (deer) - Tok (stone). Named after a carved deer found at the site. It is the second largest cave system after Loltún. Arrow tips, hammers made of quartz, sculptures, idols, obsidian knives, several chultunes "stone cisterns," and, human burials were found. The cave has wonderful stalactites and stalagmites with more than 30 connected caves that have been explored, and many more that have only been mapped. Because of the complexity of the site, and, the ancient relics, it can only be explored with a guide. Good shoes are required; climbing and walking. To start, the so-called ladder leading down into the cave that is secured to the top by rope, wire and hook, looks extremely dangerous, however, it is extremely secure and with care, you will have no trouble descending.I would strongly advise that you bring flashlight, good hiking shoes and a small towel, as the ground is extremely slippery and you will work up quite a sweat. The guide is extremely attentive to your needs and safety. This is a once in a life time experience that should not be missed by anyone who is in decent physical shape. Mérida - 43 miles away. - Uxmal- 30 min.  - Guides- about $ dlls. approx. for an hour, but there are several different routes, prices and length of tours. A visit to the nearby Oxkintok archaeological site is recommended.
  • Chac Mool "Jaguar's Claw"  Large cavern with views of the jungle from the inside of the cave. WC and Restaurant, snorkeling and swimming. Fee 22 Km. S. of Playa Del Carmen - Across from Puerto Aventuras.
  • El Eden - Ponderosa - Beautiful coral Cenote, with a large island in the center. Very easy access for swimming, it has an overhang with tree that is used to jump into the Cenote. Excellent for snorkeling because of its unlimited visibility: fish, eels and turtles. 3 Km. S. of Puerto Aventuras. $ US
  • Chikin' Ha  Lots of fossils in one of the Cenotes. On the other one, you can swim through a tunnel to an underground air chamber. There are no facilities. 5 Km. S. of Puerto Aventuras, before X'pu Ha, across Barceló Maya. Long way down bumpy road. Fee
  • Kantun Chi Four Cenotes, most of them are caved. The Cenotes of K'atun Chi, Zaskaleen, Uchil Ha and Zazil Ha are along jungle trails. The further one, has a small Maya temple next to it. Restaurant, bike rentals, horseback riding. Not very good for swimming. Rental equipment available for Snorkel. You will find Kantun Chi as soon as you pass Chikin Ha Cenote.
  • Cristalino Beautiful, very primitive, with no facilities: locals go there. You can dive into the Cenote from a 15 ft. ledge (3.5 m.). Close to the Highway, as soon as you pass Kantun Chi.
  • Azul "Blue" Jungle setting with more open air and more algae than Kantun Chi, there is a snack bar. It is close to the road; as soon as you pass Cenote Cristalino. 
  • Taj-Majal - Four Cenotes interconnected -  snorkeling for advance swimmers. It has WC and Restaurant. 5 m. under water to come out in a cave that has light shining from the ceiling. 26 Km. S of Playa Del Carmen - 5 km S. of Puerto Aventuras - S. of Xpu-Ha
Balancanche' Museum
  • Temple of Doom - Calavera - Skull - 3 open Cenotes like small holes; one has approx. 30. ft. and two of them, 4 ft. in diameter, creating a shape of a skull. The Cenotes are shaded by thick canopy and there are no facilities. Great for swimming, 10 Ft. drop down into the Cenote; there is a rope swing and a ladder. 2 Km. from Tulúm on the road to Cobá, on the right side of the road. Very rugged and rocky jungle path. 
  • Gran Sac Ak'Tun - White Water Ladder steps lead to the Cenote with openings; this popular site is shallow on one side and deep on the other. Brilliant decorations and crystal clear water. Great for snorkeling and swimming. WC. 5 Km. from Tulúm via Cobá.
  • Aktun Ha' - Water Cave - Car Wash - Locals used to wash vehicles here, very easy access; it is like a tiny lake. Snorkeling is good in winter, in the summer there is algae. WC available. 8 Km. from Tulúm via Cobá - 4 Km. past Gran Cenote on the left side of the road.
  • Cristal - Naharon Great for swimming and snorkeling. The entrance ticket includes the entrance to Escondido across the street. 4 km S. of Tulúm on the right side of the road.
  • Escondido - Maya Blue - To get to it you have to walk 2 km. in the jungle. Described by the locals as Tarzan and Jane style-secluded Cenote. WC - Good swimming and snorkeling. Entrance ticket includes the Cenote Cristal entrance fee. 4 Km. S. of Tulúm on the left side - across from the Cristal Cenote
  • Chichén-Itza Sacred Cenote or Sacred Well - 980 ft. long Sacbé, the Maya raised road, connects the Sacred Well to other well. The city was perfectly designed with Temples and pyramids According to the Spanish Priests, the Maya sacrificed objects and human beings into the Cenote to worship the rain god Chaac. You can't swim in these Cenotes.
  • From 1904 to 1910, the American pseudo-archaeologist Edward Thompson dredged the sacred Cenote and took gold, jade, pottery and ceramics, as well as human remains destroying many of them and sending the rest out of México. 
  • The other Cenote in Chichén is dry. To have an idea of what happened in this area read the story of Alma Reed:

INAH   Among the most interesting discoveries in the natural caves and Cenotes of México: - Osseous remains of the most ancient person in the Americas, many Pre-hispanic Maya offerings, and two 19th century rifles used during the Guerra de Castas (Caste War). 
According to archaeologist Matos, systematic explorations of Cenotes (underground natural pools) began in 1990’s decade. 
“Caves and Cenotes are interesting places because the sacred and profane coexist. We found domestic life as well as constructive material extraction vestiges, but their main role in Maya culture was as sacred gates that connected cosmic dimensions”, explained Matos, director at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). 
Thousands of years ago, the Yucatán península was a great prairie and many animals, that are now extinct, as gomphotheres and glyptodonts, lived in the area. Osseous remains are being studied. The skull of the Woman was found in Quintana Roo. It is the most ancient in America with more than 11,600 years old. Another woman’s skull, Mujer de Palmas, is 10,000 years old. INAH 329 

Dzibilchaltun  - 30 minutes from Mérida and the famous site where the impact of the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs is Dzibilchaltun, a beutiful Maya site. The main structures are:
  • Temple Of The Seven Dolls, seven small effigies found at the site. 
  • A Sacbé, the ancient Maya Road, connects the temple to the rest of the site. 
  • Famous on the Spring Equinox, when the sun rises and shines directly through one window of the temple and out on the other side, hundreds of people gather. Similar event to the descending snake of Chichén Itzá, the temple of the Flying God in Tulúm, etc., except that in this site the temple is small. 
  • There is a small Cenote that the roof caved and it is like a little lake, I wouldn't swim there, but it is very pretty. 
  • The Spanish used the material of the temples and pyramids for their churches and houses and usually you will find their churches on top of the main sacred sites. There is a 16 th.C. Spanish church built on top of a destroyed temple.
  • The Museum has been closed for more than a couple of years, but check before you go.
  • The price of the entrance includes the Museum but it has been closed for a long time. There is a charge to park, a charge to enter the site and an extra charge for the entrance to the park. 30 min. N. of Mérida


Cuevas o Grutas de Loltún – Caves – “Stone Flower” Yucatán Loltún– LOL "flower" and TUN "stone"
One of the largest caves on the Peninsula and the most studied with evidence of human contact going back 7,000 years.
  • The 10,000 year-old cave, was a religious center and place where clay was gathered for manufacturing utensils. It has several paintings and negative-hand impressions on the walls. Also the stalactites and stalagmites were filed and used as points for spears. 
  • Only 1.2 mi. has been explored. There is evidence that confirms human occupation. - Mammoth bones, bison, cats, horse remains and extinct vegetation were found. (plehistocénico). 
  • Fresco paintings on the walls; "hands in negative", human faces, animals, decorative figures, geometric shapes, etc... Tools were also recovered from the site. Mural paintings representing hands, faces, geometric motifs, animals, and inscriptions; artificial containers carved in rock for gathering natural dripping water, petroglyphs with flower motifs; give the name to the Grotto's. 
  • The sacred caves or Cenotes were used by the Maya, to extract clay to make their ceramics. The stalactite points were used as tools. 
  • A couple of stalagmites can be "played" like musical instruments when struck with one's fist, producing two deep bell-like tones. 
  • When the Maya were fighting for their rights to be treated as HUMANS in the Caste War, this Cenote was used as a shelter. 
  • Even to this day, the cave system has not been fully explored. 
  • The only way to visit the cave is by taking the two hour tour but it is worth it to have a guide. You would lose many of the beautiful sites if you entered alone.
  • Guided tours: at 9:30 am, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm. 
  • Entrance about 12 dlls. plus the guide. Bilingual guides work for tips.  Check the time at your hotel before you go.
There is no swimming, but it is on of our favorite cave if you go on a small group or with a quiet group.
- 68 mi. SW of Mérida, 5 mi. S of Oxkutzcab, 15 mi. NE from Labná  

T'Zabnah Caves - ZAB-na "The King’s Palace" 
With thirteen Cenotes within the caves, this wonderful system, has stalactites, stalagmites and a huge chamber. 
  • The Cathedral resembles the Cúpula of the Cathedral of Mérida, or so the guide says. 
  • The legend says that a Maya prince and princess, found refuge in the caves, after they escaped from an evil kidnapper. They lived there forever, and sometimes people can hear them. 
Stop in Techo, 25 mi. S. of Mérida, to find a guide. In the Palacio Municipal building there are guides.
Quintana Roo Speleological Survey
Caves.org
Sport divers have been looting cenotes
Biospeleology in Yucatan



Speleological Survey added this information: Quintana Roo Speleological Survey
Added three new underwater caves including Sistema X'cacel Pequeña, Sistema Three Holes, and Sistema Swan Lake Siphon. 
We have also updated information for Sistema Dos Ojos, Sistema Xunaan Ha, Sistema Dos Pisos, Sistema Regina, Sistema Minotauro, Cenote Balun Actun, Sistema Swan Lake Spring, and Cenote Renzo. 

Maya Symbols and Mythology
Underwater Museum - 400 Life Size Sculptures 
Underwater Cave Maps  Gallery of obligate cave species (Stygobites) that inhabit the anchialine caves of Quintana Roo.

National Geographic  What a Meteorite Has Wrought National Geographic A limestone shelf juts from the arid north shore of the Yucatán Peninsula. This region lies along the rim of a massive crater formed 65 million years ago when a city-size meteorite plowed into the Earth. The impact raised dust clouds that darkened the sky, altered weather, and triggered a mass extinction, including the dinosaurs. The meteorite also left a ring of fractures in the bedrock of the peninsula that gradually filled up with fresh water, forming holes known today as cenotes. Deemed a source of life by the ancient Maya, cenotes hold centuries-old artifacts ranging from everyday pots to the skeletons of human sacrifices.


INAH - Cenote Las Calaveras (Skulls) - 120 skeletons found, is the largest concentration of bones. The Cenote Las Calaveras, located in Quintana Roo, could be the best preserve pre-Hispanic funerary and largest concentration of human skeletons in the Maya area. So far, its depth 120 skeletons have been found and it is estimated that the figure could rise to 150, as research progresses. The underwater archaeologist Carmen Rojas Sandoval, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH-Conaculta) reported that in that place there have been 120 skeletons dating between the years 125-236 AD, beating the Cenote at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, and that even before this finding represented the largest number of skeletons deposited in flooded areas such that the ancient Mayas used as funerary deposits. "On the characteristics of the location and number of skeletons found is likely to find at least 30 more or even to have up to 200, which would exceed the number of human remains found on land in one of the largest Maya cities Classic period (125-236 AD): Tikal, in Guatemala. "The specialist, Quintana Roo INAH Center, explained that since 2007 the INAH holds the systematic recording of the remains of the cenote Las Calaveras, work on which has the participation of National Geographic.  In this regard, he added, in the cenotes bones are preserved better than in terrestrial environments, because the forest floor is acid, and coupled with environmental conditions deteriorate. "In contrast, in the water of the cenotes alkaline conditions, darkness and stable environment with no currents or fauna that attack, the bones are kept extremely." As part of archaeological research in underwater caves of Quintana Roo, the archaeologist said that for more than a decade studying the INAH four skeletons with a length of between 12,000 and 8,000 years or so, which places them in the pre-Maya or prehistoric period. The remains belong to two women, one man and one with sex defined. One of them had 40 years of age at death, while the other was a 25 year old, and his bones were found with funerary treatment characteristics and not sacrifice. It should be noted that these caves flooded, 10,000 years ago were dry due to melting were full of water and were used as funerary deposits.
MayaJourney.com

"ElDuende," a Maya Legend: The Three Treasures: Let's Explore!Bilingual Book Series/Series de Libros Bilingües (Volume 2)




México © María O. Baum

INAH: Among the most interesting discoveries in the natural caves and Cenotes of México: Osseous remains of the most ancient person in the Americas, many Pre-hispanic Maya offerings, and two 19th century rifles used during the Guerra de Castas (Caste War).
According to archaeologist Martos, systematic explorations of Cenotes (underground natural pools) began in 1990’s decade.    “Caves and Cenotes are interesting places because the sacred and profane coexist. We found domestic life as well as constructive material extraction vestiges, but their main role in Maya culture was as sacred gates that connected cosmic dimensions”, explained Martos, also Archaeological Studies director at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Thousands of years ago, the Yucatán peninsula was a great prairie and great animals, that are now extinct, as gomphotheres and glyptodonts, lived in the area. Osseous remains are being studied, the skull of the Woman of Najaron, found in Quintana Roo, id the most ancient in America.
More than 11,600 years old, is one of the important Prehistoric pieces of the exhibition. Another woman’s skull, Mujer de Palmas, 10,000 years old, shows sacrifice marks. Other items exhibited are Maya ceramic objects like vessels, pots, anthropomorphic incenses and urns; green stone beads, alabaster vases, copper rattles and a mask inlaid in stone and shell. During the 19th century Caste War, insurrect Maya people used caves as refugees; they were used to hide arsenal: discovery of 129 rifles inside a Cenote near Valladolid, Yucatán.



National Geographic
A limestone shelf juts from the arid north shore of the Yucatán Peninsula. This region lies along the rim of a massive crater formed 65 million years ago when a city-size meteorite plowed into the Earth. 
The impact raised dust clouds that darkened the sky, altered weather, and triggered a mass extinction, including the dinosaurs. 
The meteorite also left a ring of fractures in the bedrock of the peninsula that gradually filled up with fresh water, forming holes known today as cenotes. Deemed a source of life by the ancient Maya, cenotes hold centuries-old artifacts ranging from everyday pots to the skeletons of human sacrifices.
120 skeletons found, is the largest concentration of bones. The cenote Las Calaveras, located in Quintana Roo, could be the best preserve pre-Hispanic funerary  and largest concentration of human skeletons in the Maya area.
So far, its depth 120 skeletons have been found and it is estimated that the figure could rise to 150, as research progresses.
The underwater archaeologist Carmen Rojas Sandoval, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH-Conaculta) reported that in that place there have been 120 skeletons dating between the years 125-236 AD, beating the cenote at Chichén-ItzáYucatán and that even before this finding represented the largest number of skeletons deposited in flooded areas such that the ancient Mayans used as funerary deposits.
"On the characteristics of the location and number of skeletons found is likely to find at least 30 more or even to have up to 200, which would exceed the number of human remains found on land in one of the largest Maya cities Classic period (125-236 AD): Tikal, in Guatemala. "
The specialist, Quintana Roo INAH Center, explained that since 2007 the INAH holds the systematic recording of the remains of the cenote Las Calaveras, work on which has the participation of National Geographic. The natural reservoir of water was detected in 2002, when the presence of human remains was reported by a diver.
In this sinkhole 30 meters in diameter, these human remains found in a perfect state of preservation, allowing the development of genetic and anthropological studies to learn more about the ancient Maya people who settled in this region, said Sandoval Rojas.
In this regard, he added, in the cenotes bones are preserved better than in terrestrial environments, because the forest floor is acid, and coupled with environmental conditions deteriorate.
"In contrast, in the water of the cenotes alkaline conditions, darkness and stable environment with no currents or fauna that attack, the bones are kept extremely."
This degree of conservation, he said, allows for further study to determine if the bodies were deposited there by some violence ritual activity or the removal of any vital organs like the heart, to offer it as an offering to the Maya gods. Other aspects that can be known from the analysis of the skeletons, there are migrations, health status and life expectancy were the Mayas in ancient times.

Funeral Deposits
The archaeologist Carmen Rojas said the high number of skeletons have been found in this and other cenotes of the Maya area has been determined that these water areas had the role of cemeteries, since some of the bones present burial treatments, the be accompanied by vessels and animals as offerings.
The cenotes also served as ritual sites, and in this sense, he said, from skeletal remains is now known that not only women sacrificed and thrown to those areas, but also sacrificed adult men who were captured in combat.
Sandoval Rojas explained that "the burial treatment of the sacrifices are distinguished as two different practices. The latter took place when the body as an offering to the deities.
"While the burial treatments were related to the preservation of human remains and the commemoration of the dead. It is thus possible that certain groups were preserving Maya ancestors, in order to support their lineage and claim control of some resources, "he said.
He noted that the ancient Mayas, cenotes, caves like those represented entrances to the underworld called Xibalba, so they were used as natural burial chambers.
As part of archaeological research in underwater caves of Quintana Roo, the archaeologist said that for more than a decade studying the INAH four skeletons with a length of between 12,000 and 8,000 years or so, which places them in the pre-Maya or prehistoric period.
The remains belong to two women, one man and one with sex defined. One of them had 40 years of age at death, while the other was a 25 year old, and his bones were found with funerary treatment characteristics and not sacrifice.
It should be noted that these caves flooded, 10,000 years ago were dry due to melting were full of water and were used as funerary deposits.