While exploring the world’s largest cave system in the world, the Sac Actun System, archaeologists discovered ancient Mayan relics and fossils of extinct animals. The latter find included fossils belonging to giant sloths, bears, and an ancient species that resembled elephants called gomphotheres.
The Sac Actun System, located in Mexico, is made up of two of the world’s largest cave systems in the country. The two underwater cave systems were connected by The Underwater Exploration Group of the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM).
According to GAM director and underwater archaeologist, Guillermo de Anda, the cave can be considered the most important archaeological site in the world. This is due to its large abundance of archaeological information relating to the first settlers of America, as well as to extinct fauna and Mayan relics.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History announced on Monday, February 19, that it has discovered nearly 200 artifacts at the site, most of which belonged to the ancient Mayan civilization.
De Anda claims that the findings will provide archaeologists a better understanding of the Mayan civilization that inhabited the area prior to the arrival of the Spanish. This includes new insight into the Mayans’ rituals, pilgrimage sites, and pre-Hispanic customs.
The archaeologists discovered human bones, ceramics and wall etchings. One of the most noteworthy finds were a shrine dedicated to the Mayan god of commerce and a staircase that could be accessed through a sinkhole. The human bones are believed to be at least 9 thousand years old.
According to de Anda, the humans found in the cave system were likely searching for water during a period of drought. Judging from the Mayan relics found at the site, this drought likely cause water levels to recede around 1,000 AD, an event which forced many Mayan communities deeper inside the caves to look for water.
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