The project is focused on preserving the archaeological Mayan heritage deposited in these spaces, and to determine its satellite locations, dimensions and topographic characteristics.
Mayan Caves Discoveries
Uc Eunice Gonzalez, researcher and project leader of the Yucatan INAH Center, said that so far the database already has information on 300 of these underground spaces. “We have found underground walls with masonry constructions, underground accesses with jambs and lintels, rock carvings, materials such as mortars, pottery and dishes, and sometimes even a mural on the walls of the caves."
Throughout 11 years of work, the specialist has developed a classification system that divides the underground chambers into three groups depending on the purpose given to the space by the ancient Maya: spaces of ritual, domestic work or extraction of minerals. Each category has particular physical characteristics that have helped to investigate the daily lives of the ancient people that inhabited the Puuc Route.
After explaining that the term aktun means caverns or caves in the Mayan language, the archaeologist Uc Gonzalez clarified that within the classification of these spaces the areas used for ritual stand out. These were the caves where only the Mayan priests could enter; in the entrances of these spaces pre-Hispanic walls made of mortar have been found which shows that the access to these caves were restricted. They have furthermore found lintels that hide special chambers with rock carvings and drawings in shades of blue, a color associated with the sacred.
In the various entrances to these caves are signs like painted hands, deer, and representations of the Mayan god of rain, Chaac. "These are places where the priest entered to contact the gods of the underworld. For this reason, the pre-Columbian Mayans believed these caves to be portals between the human and the divine, which were not accessible to the common man, she said.
In these caves, said the specialist, one finds the suhuy 'ha holy or virgin water- which is the liquid that has not been seen, touched and tainted by man.Sixteenth-century historical sources mention how the suhuy 'ha was captured from stalactites with mortars specifically made for this purpose. Even today the Maya collect this ritual liquid for the use in ceremonies that they have been maintained for centuries. An example of such caves are Aktun-Usil and Calcehtok in the municipality of Maxcanú and Aktun-Sabakhá, region Tekax.