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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-26-11 12:44 AM
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An Ancient Watery Underworld
May 25, 2011, 11:40 am
An Ancient Watery Underworld

A. Kinkella
The view from one of the deepest known pools at Cara Blanca, Belize.

Lisa J. Lucero, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, recently completed an expedition to central Belize to study ancient Maya underwater offerings.

On Oct. 24, 2010, Hurricane Richard transformed the landscape where I conduct archaeology in central Belize. Huge swaths of the tropical forest were flattened. But damage to ancient Maya sites was surprisingly minimal. Then, in mid-April, there were concerns about wildfires as the dry season wore on, turning dead vegetation into a tinderbox waiting for a spark. I arrived in Belize for the diving expedition at Cara Blanca in early May, dreading the effects of the enormous fires. There was another landscape transformation, but again the ancient sites remained largely undamaged.

How could these ancient buildings withstand such forces of nature? They have survived many natural challenges since the Maya abandoned them by A.D. 900. This got me thinking about resiliency regarding not the sites, but the Maya.

Resiliency is important for scientists too. The original purpose of the Cara Blanca diving expedition was to explore for ancient Maya offerings 200 feet underwater in one of the thousands of caves and water bodies thought to be portals to the underworld, Xibalba. We wanted to determine if the Maya intensified rituals in an attempt to get the gods to bring an end to a series of droughts that struck the Maya area between A.D. 800 and 900. But the large trees that have been falling for hundreds of years, the extreme darkness and deep bottom silt precluded that, at least for now.

As one door closes, another opens into a world of extinct megafauna.


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