New cenote discovered under the pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza

By Valeria Bigurra Peñavera

Below the pyramid also known as "The Castle" there is a water cavity that remained hidden. This discovery will help experts to learn more about the history of those who once inhabited the area.

A group of scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) reported the discovery of a new cenote on Thursday. It is located at the Chichen Itza archaeological site beneath the pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as “the Castle."

The entire Yucatan peninsula has approximately 10,000 cenotes. In this sense, finding another one is nothing new. But, as the anthropologist and researcher at the INAH’s Yucatan Center, Ivan Franco Caceres, said during an interview with Mexican weekly Proceso, the true significance of the discovery is that the cenote can be associated not only with the people who inhabited the city of Chichen Itza, but also with the group inhabiting the area even two or three thousand years before its foundation.

"I understand that before the meteorite that crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula 76 million years ago, there were already many cenotes, and the meteorite’s shock waves created even more," the anthropologist said during the interview.

The body of water has a length of 25 by 30 meters and is located at a depth of 20 meters below the pyramid.

Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda, told Mexican daily Excelsior that the news is a breakthrough because it confirms many of their hypotheses that the Mayans wanted to represent the universe with these constructions.

Chichen itza

"Chichen Itza 3" by Daniel Schwen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons. 2009.

The pyramid of Kukulkan is in fact located right in the middle of four other cenotes. One located north, one south, one east and one west. The new one is the fifth, right beneath the pyramid. Experts say it represents the "axis mundi" or axis of the world. "The point where the sacred ceiba grew, the roots of which reached the underworld and, with its branches, reached the four cardinal points," according to de Anda.

Rene Chavez, one of the specialists who led the team told Mexican daily El Diario how the story began in 1997, when another team of archaeologists from the UNAM, in a joint effort from universities from the United States conducted a study of the structure of the Castle, and found that below it there were gaps, which at that time were attributed to trenches and tunnels. The lack of resources at the time prevented them from further research. And now, 20 years later, Chavez returned to the team project around the pyramid by placing a series of 96 electrodes through which a current was passed. And that was how the discovery was made.

De Anda says that now the work is to see if there is any tunnel inside the pyramid connecting the pyramid with the cenote; and to look for remains of some kind of offering. For that they will use the electrode technology, created by UNAM, which was used to scan the ground and make this discovery.

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