Archaeologists discovered maze of stone temples in underground caves
Mexican archeologists have discovered a maze of stone temples in underground
caves, some submerged in water and containing human bones, which ancient
Mayans believed was a portal where dead souls entered the underworld.
TZIBICHEN CENOTE, Mexico - Legend says the afterlife for ancient Mayas
was a terrifying obstacle course in which the dead had to traverse rivers
of blood, and chambers full of sharp knives, bats and jaguars.
Now a Mexican archaeologist using long-forgotten testimony from the
Spanish Inquisition says a series of caves he has explored may be the
place where the Maya actually tried to depict this highway through hell.
The network of underground chambers, roads and temples beneath farmland
and jungle on the Yucatan peninsula suggests the Maya fashioned them
to mimic the journey to the underworld, or Xibalba, described in ancient
mythological texts such as the Popol Vuh.
"It was the place of fear, the place of cold, the place of danger,
of the abyss," said University of Yucatan archaeologist Guillermo
Searching for the names of sacred sites mentioned by Indian heretics
who were put on trial by Inquisition courts, De Anda discovered what
appear to be stages of the legendary journey, re-created in a half-dozen
caves south of the Yucatan state capital of Merida.
Archaeologists have long known that the Maya regarded caves as sacred
and built structures in some.
But De Anda's team introduced "an extremely important ingredient"
by using historical records to locate and connect a series of sacred
caves, and link them with the concept of the Mayan road to the afterworld,
said archaeologist Bruce Dahlin of Shepherd University, who has studied
other Maya sites in the Yucatan.
Like a scene from ‘Indiana Jones’
The Associated Press followed de Anda and his team into the caves, squeezing
through tiny, overgrown entrances and rappelling down narrow shafts
and slippery tree roots.
There, in the stygian darkness, a scene unfolded that was eerily reminiscent
of an "Indiana Jones" movie — tottering ancient temple
platforms, slippery staircases and tortuous paths that skirted underground
lakes littered with Mayan pottery and ancient skulls.
The group explored walled-off sacred chambers that can only be entered
by crawling along a floor populated by spiders, scorpions and toads.
To find Xibalba, De Anda spent five years combing the 450-year-old records
of the Inquisition trials that the Spaniards held against Indian "heretics"
The Spanish were outraged that the Mayas continued to practice their
old religion even after the conquest. So they used the trials to make
them reveal the places where they performed their ceremonies.
Time after time, the defendants mentioned the same places — but
the recorded names changed over the centuries or were forgotten.
Asking around for names
Armed with clues from trial records, the archaeologists asked locals
for caves with similar-sounding names or coordinates that would place
The Mayas used the sinkhole caves, known as cenotes, as places of worship
and depositories for sacrificed humans. Many cenotes still contain pools
that supply villages with water. The best-known is the broad, circular
pool at the ruins of Chichen Itza.
The cenotes De Anda found were drier, better hidden and farther from
villages. They seem to have had a special religious significance because
even as the Maya were forced to convert to Christianity, they still
traveled long distances to worship there.
Among De Anda's discoveries are a broad, perfectly paved, 100-yard (100-meter)
underground road, a submerged temple, walled-off stone rooms and the
"confusing crossroads" of the legends.
"There are a number of elements that make us think that this road
is a representation of the journey to Xibalba," De Anda said. "We
think it is no coincidence that the road which comes out of the crossroads
leads to the west," the direction described as the way to the afterlife.
Altar dedicated to gods of death
At the center of one of the underground lakes, De Anda's team found
a collapsed and submerged altar with carvings indicating it was dedicated
to the gods of death.
In some of the chambers, it is almost impossible to move without slashing
one's skin on stalactites and stone formations projecting from the walls
and ceilings, leading De Anda to believe they are a representation of
the feared "room of knives" described in the Popol Vuh.
Bats are depicted in the ancient texts, and visitors have to duck to
avoid swarms of them. There's the "chamber of roasting heat"
which indeed leaves visitors soaked in sweat. Cool currents of surface
air penetrating some caves feel almost frigid, just like the legend's
"chambers of shaking cold."
While De Anda has not yet encountered a specific "jaguar chamber,"
jaguar bones have been found in at least one cave.
Subterranean "roads" interrupted by deep pools of water may
signify the rivers of blood and pus.
But why go to the trouble of reproducing hell? "Perhaps it was
to demonstrate power," De Anda speculates, or to give the living
an idea of the terrors they would meet en route to paradise.
Clifford Brown, a Florida Atlantic University archaeologist who has
worked in the region, agrees that the Mayas saw the cenotes as a portal
to the underworld.
"Everybody has heard of the cenote of sacrifice at Chichen Itza,
but it's less widely recognized that it was part of a generalized cenote
worship that existed at many sites," Brown said.
"There are a number of sites in the lowlands where there are caves
right underneath the principal temples, palaces and pyramids, which
are thought to represent a religious 'access mundi,' where you have
the pyramid representing the heavens, and the caves representing the
As a director and his crew shoot a controversial
film about Christopher Columbus in Cochabamba, Bolivia, local people
rise up against plans to privatize the water supply. While filming,
it becomes apparent that the events that occured during the American
Holocaust were so horrendous and inhumane that they are often too
difficult to imagine.The film masterfully
illustrates the fact that 519 years later, indigenous people still
endure oppression at the hands of the european invaders proving that
only time separates the 16th century european invaders from their
Watch the movie, leave a comment
Academia Semillas del Pueblo
"If Brown (vs. Board
of Education) was just about letting Black people into a White
school, well we don’t care about that anymore. We don’t
necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is
teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching.
We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain...We
don’t need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of
segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is
all within the box of White culture and White supremacy. We should
not still be fighting for what they have. We are not interested
in what they have because we have so much more and because the
world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American
way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead
to our own destruction. And so it isn’t about an argument
of joining neo liberalism, it’s about us being able, as
human beings, to surpass the barrier."
- Marcos Aguilar (Principal,
Academia Semillas del Pueblo)