A team of archaeologists has discovered important Maya cave paintings in a Yucatan cenote. Led to the sinkhole deep in the jungle by locals who knew of it as a sacred site of the ancient Maya, archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi and his team found paintings covering an area almost 50 feet long and more than 16 feet high on the cave wall.
They feature a surprising variety of motifs. There are handprints (both negative and positive), birds, crosses, geometric designs and human figures including a warrior, recognizable by the shield he holds in one hand and a sword in the other. This proliferation of elements is remarkable and unique among the cave paintings found in the Yucatan.
The archaeologist said his team is motivated by this new discovery because it will provide new information about Mayan customs, “though we don’t yet know what these cave paintings mean nor to what period they belong.”
He said they have contacted researchers at the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) and other specialists with whom they will meet in the coming days at the site in order to identify the elements.
“Right now we’re unable to reveal the exact location, because unfortunately in the Yucatan, the looters and vandals are always a step ahead of us,” he said.
Grosjean, a certified diver, said that to study the meaning of the pictures, the team will take photos and then, “if the authorities allow it,” they will carry out a sustainable project giving visitors access to the site, and with that, they will “create jobs for local residents.”
Sustainability is key to preserving the archaeologically important site. Grosjean laments that there has been little interests shown at local, regional and federal government levels in proper conservation of Maya sacred sites and respectful use of them as tourist attractions. Some sites have even been converted into resorts with no care for their preservation or historic significance.
This short Spanish-language video shows the tiny hole the team dove through to emerge into the cave and the impressive span of the art works.