Navigation Links
Extreme archaeology: Divers plumb the mysteries of sacred Maya pools
Date:7/22/2010

CHAMPAIGN, lll. Steering clear of crocodiles and navigating around massive submerged trees, a team of divers began mapping some of the 25 freshwater pools of Cara Blanca, Belize, which were important to the ancient Maya. In three weeks this May, the divers found fossilized animal remains, bits of pottery and in the largest pool explored an enormous underwater cave.

[Click here to see a video (http://illinois.edu/assets/video/CaraBlanca2010.avi) and slide show (http://www.news.illinois.edu/slideshows/lucero/index.html) of the expedition.]

This project, led by University of Illinois anthropology professor Lisa Lucero and funded by the National Geographic Society and an Arnold O. Beckman Award, was the first of what Lucero hopes will be a series of dives into the pools of the southern Maya lowlands in central Belize. The divers will return this summer to assess whether archaeological excavation is even possible at the bottom of the pools, some of which are more than 60 meters deep.

"We don't know if it's going to be feasible to conduct archaeology 200 feet below the surface," Lucero said. "But they are going to try."

The Maya believed that openings in the earth, including caves and water-filled sinkholes, called cenotes (sen-OH-tays), were portals to the underworld, and often left offerings there. Ceremonial artifacts of the Maya have been found in pools and lakes in Mexico, but not yet in Belize.

Maya structures have been found near two of the eight pools the team surveyed.

"The pools with the most substantial and most obvious settlement at the edge also turn out to be the deepest that we know," Lucero said. The divers so far have explored eight of the 25 known pools of Cara Blanca.

The use of these pools at the end of the Late Classic period (roughly A.D. 800-900) corresponds to an enduring drought that deforested parts of Central America and some believe ultimately drove the Maya from the area.

The need for fresh water could have drawn the Maya to the pools, Lucero said. No vessels other than water jars were found in the structures built near the pools.

"They could have been making offerings to the rain god and other supernatural forces to bring an end to the drought," she said.

Patricia Beddows, one of the divers and a hydrologist and geochemist at Northwestern University, found that the chemistry of the water in each of the pools was distinct. She also found that the water in Pool 1, the pool with the huge cave and a Maya structure at its edge, held the freshest water of the pools surveyed. But the water contained a lot of soluble minerals, Lucero said, making it problematic for anyone who used it as their primary water supply. Those who drank the water over an extended period would have been at risk of developing kidney stones, she said.

The divers extracted core samples of the sediment at the bottoms of two of the pools. An analysis of the soil, debris and pollen in the cores will offer insight into the natural history of the cenotes and the surrounding region.

Lucero recruited expert cave exploration divers for the expedition. She provided food, lodging and other basics, but the divers donated their time and expertise. The dive team included Robbie Schmittner, Kim Davidsson (an independent cave dive instructor), Bil Phillips, and videographer Marty O'Farrell, who produced the video.

The research team also included archaeologist Andrew Kinkella, of Moorpark College. In Pool 1, Kinkella and diver Edward Mallon recovered ceramic jar shards in the wall of the pool just below the Maya structure.

Three more divers, Steve Bogaerts, James "Chip" Petersen and still photographer Tony Rath will join the project this summer.

Lucero has studied Maya settlements and sacred sites in Belize for more than 20 years, and works under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology, which is part of the National Institute of Culture and History, Government of Belize.


'/>"/>

Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Protein extremes gain relevance in massive proteomic studies
2. Plumage-color traits more extreme over time
3. Probiotics help extremely premature infants gain weight
4. Study shows extremely preterm children are 3 times as likely to have psychiatric disorder
5. Early Earth absorbed more sunlight -- no extreme greenhouse needed to keep water wet
6. Road salt and cars produce extreme water contamination in Frenchmans Bay, UTSC research reveals
7. Extremes of sleep related to increased fat around organs
8. Extreme genes shed light on origins of photosynthesis
9. First metallic nanoparticles resistant to extreme heat
10. Scientists track chemical changes in cells as they endure extreme conditions
11. Treatment for extreme nausea, vomiting during pregnancy
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Extreme archaeology: Divers plumb the mysteries of sacred Maya pools
(Date:4/19/2016)... -- The new GEZE SecuLogic access control ... system solution for all door components. It can be ... interface with integration authorization management system, and thus fulfills ... dimensions of the access control and the optimum integration ... considerable freedom of design with regard to the doors. ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... Research and Markets has announced ... 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... global gait biometrics market is expected to grow ... 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates multiple variables ... to compute factors that are not or cannot ...
(Date:4/13/2016)... physicians supporting Medicaid patients in Central Florida ... telehealth thanks to a new partnership with higi.   ... can routinely track key health measurements, such as blood ... they opt in, share them with IMPOWER clinicians through ... location at no cost. By leveraging this data, IMPOWER ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... May 26, 2016 , ... FireflySci has been manufacturing quartz ... all over the globe. Their cute firefly logo has been spreading to more ... makes spectrophotometer calibration standards that never require recalibration. These revolutionary standards have ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... 25, 2016 , ... Thailand’s Board of Investment’s New York ... Francisco. Located at booth number 7301, representatives from the Thai Government, research organizations, ... Thai biotechnology and life sciences sector. , Deputy Secretary General of the ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... May 25, 2016 , ... Founder ... double board-certified in surgery and surgery of the hand by the National Board ... stranger to going above and beyond in his pursuit of providing the most ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... May 25, 2016 , ... Scientists at the University of Athens say they ... may be hampering the research that could lead to one good one. Surviving Mesothelioma ... it now. , The team evaluated 98 mesothelioma patients who got ...
Breaking Biology Technology: