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:2/11/2016)... 2016  Vigilant Solutions announces today that its license plate ... by Lee,s Summit Police Department to ... arrest of a homicide suspect. Kansas City ... 65 square miles and is home to roughly 100,000 residents. ... single mobile license plate reader system and also leverages Vigilant,s ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... PRAGUE, Czech Republic , February 8, 2016 ... first EU-regulated global payment platform which presents innovation ... Voice Biometrics Authentication feature called VoiceKey. --> ... payment platform which presents innovation for clients, comfort ... feature called VoiceKey. --> Worldcore ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... , February 3, 2016 ... market research report "Automated Fingerprint Identification System Market by ... Search), Application (Banking & Finance, Government, Healthcare, and Transportation) ... MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to be worth USD ... 21.0% between 2015 and 2020. The transformation and technology ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... Feb. 11, 2016  Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NBIX ) ... December 31, 2015. --> --> ... net loss of $29.3 million, or $0.34 loss per share, compared ... share for the same period in 2014. For the year ended ... million, or $1.05 loss per share, as compared to a net ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... and GERMANTOWN, Maryland , ... Frankfurt Prime Standard: QIA) today announced the introduction of ... gene expression profiling, expanding QIAGEN,s portfolio of Sample to ... researchers to select from over 20,000 human genes and ... between genes, cellular phenotypes and disease processes. --> ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ATLANTA , Feb. 11, 2016  Spectra BioPharma ... Organization (CSO) that provides biopharma companies the experience, ... implement and deploy outsourced sales teams. Created in ... team addresses both the strategic and tactical needs ... innovative sales solutions through both personal and non-personal ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 11, ... ... business-to-business publication dedicated to delivering cutting-edge information focused on the development and ... Sciences to become a premier sponsor of the 2016 BioProcess International Awards ...
Breaking Biology Technology: