Mayan rituals found in lost Mexican cave

(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said they have begun exploring a previously unknown cave. It is located near the town of Chemuyil in the state of Quintana Roo in the eastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula.

However, the locals knew about the cave: not far from the entrance, archaeologists found debris and other traces of irregular penetration of people. But the most interesting is always hidden in hard-to-reach places.

So it turned out here too. In the most intricate part of the cave, the researchers found three objects that were tentatively dated to the late post-classical Maya period (1200-1521 AD). The first of them is a monochrome vessel, rather crudely made. It has one of its two handles, and at the base there is a concave cavity typical of Mayan pottery of this time.

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A spherical pot made of ceramics of about the same quality as the previous item was found shattered: the root of one of the trees on the surface had grown to the cave and pressed it against the stones. Both vessels, according to archaeologist Antonio Reyes, were installed over natural niches in the cave – probably where water drained from stalactites.

The third object is very different from the previous ones: it is also a ceramic vessel, but more carefully made and has three conical supports (legs). It was very close to a body of water, which, according to preliminary estimates, has a continuous flow in the lower part of the cave. The vessel was once laid upside down and surrounded by stones – from which archaeologists have concluded that this is a kind of offering. The first two vessels were used for ritual collection of pure water flowing down from stalactites.

Specialists from the Institute of Anthropology and History argue that there is not a single archaeological site in the vicinity with which the finds in the cave could be associated. It may seem strange only at first glance: only a few local residents, and not archaeologists at all, knew about the dungeon itself, the entrance to which is located on the edge of the resort town and next to a busy road.

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I must say that the Maya generally actively used karst caves for various purposes. But at the same time, in modern science, it is generally accepted that utilitarian (for example, collecting water in a drought) goals were only an application, and the main purpose of caves was sacred. Moreover, judging by the finds, the rituals in them were carried out in a variety of ways. Today we know about 2000 caves, in which there are traces of the Mayan civilization.

In some of them, the remains of people were found. There are two main hypotheses on this score. The first claims that these people were sacrificed to the gods. The second suggests that such a method of burial is more of an honor than a sacrifice. This assumption is due to the fact that in the “Popol-Vukh” – the epic of the Quiche people (belonged to the Mayan ethnic group) – the Maya underworld Xibalba is precisely a cave. That is, by placing the body of the deceased in it, the Maya simply shortened his path to the afterlife. Moreover, this path in their minds was, to put it mildly, thorny.

The same “Popol Vuh” tells about the journey to Xibalba of two twin brothers Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Judging by their history, the dead had a hard time. They had to cross three terrible rivers: one full of scorpions, the second – filled with blood, the third – with pus. Then the four talking lanes at the intersection tried to deceive the dead. From there, the travelers went to the council of Xibalba, which consisted of the underground gods of death.

In fact, they simply mocked the guests, putting them on a hot bench. Then the traveler went to the “House of Trials”. The epic describes five such houses: House of Cold, House of Jaguar, House of the Bat, House of Obsidian Knives and House of Darkness, where the main gods of Xibalba lived. In the “Houses of Trials” the pilgrims were subjected to cruel torture, as is often the case, with the best purpose – to quickly separate a person’s soul from his body.

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