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Extreme archaeology: Divers plumb the mysteries of sacred Maya pools

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, <

Contact: Diana Yates
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Extreme archaeology: Divers plumb the mysteries of sacred Maya pools
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