Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers To Explore Sacred Maya Pools Of Belize

A team of expert divers, a geochemist and an archaeologist will be the first to explore the sacred pools of the southern Maya lowlands in rural Belize.

The expedition, made possible with a grant from the National Geographic Society and led by a University of Illinois archaeologist, will investigate the cultural significance and environmental history and condition of three of the 23 pools of Cara Blanca, in central Belize.

Called cenotes (sen-OH-tays), these groundwater-filled sinkholes in the limestone bedrock were treated as sacred sites by the Maya, said University of Illinois archaeologist Lisa Lucero, who will lead the expedition next spring.

“Any openings in the earth were considered portals to the underworld, into which the ancient Maya left offerings,” said Lucero, who is a professor of anthropology at Illinois. “We know from ethnographic accounts that Maya collected sacred water from these sacred places, mostly from caves.” Studies of shallow lakes and cenotes in Mexico and Guatemala have found that the Maya also left elaborate offerings in the sacred lakes and pools. Items found on the bottom of lakes in these regions include masks, bells, jade, human remains, figurines and ceramic vessels decorated with animals, plants and the gods of fertility and death.

“Diving the sacred pools of Cara Blanca, in central Belize, is necessary to determine if they have similar sacred qualities,” Lucero said.

Patricia Beddows, a lecturer of earth and planetary sciences at Northwestern University and an expert diver who has explored cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, will also explore the geochemistry and hydrology of the pools of central Belize.

“Once underwater, we will first have to cut out some of the jungle wood so that we can even reach the bottom,” Beddows said. “After mapping for fragile Maya artifacts, we will also take water data and manually drill sediment cores.”

The sediment samples will provide a record of changes in surface and water conditions, Beddows said.

“Were the Maya challenged by droughts in the area? Did the water quality suddenly go bad due to sulfur or other geologic factors? We hope these cenotes will provide a rich story of linked human and environmental conditions,” she said.

The cenotes vary in depth from 5 to more than 50 meters, Lucero said. The extraordinary depth of some of the pools, their sheer walls, the probable presence of underwater caves that may lead to other pools and the potential for encountering wildlife (a crocodile was spotted in one of the cenotes the team will explore) all add to the complexity and danger of the task, she said. But the team will include some of the most accomplished technical divers in the world and will be in radio contact with British special forces, who train in the region, to coordinate a medical evacuation in the event of a health emergency.

The divers will videotape and map the pools and any artifacts they find.

One of the three pools the researchers will explore has a substantial Maya structure on its edge, likely ceremonial. Preliminary investigations of the structure conducted by archaeologist Andrew Kinkella, of Moorpark College, turned up a lot of jars and the fragments of jars. This could indicate that the site was important for collecting sacred water, Lucero said. She plans to conduct a limited analysis of the structure while the divers explore the pools. Kinkella will join Lucero’s team, and will search the sheer walls of the cenotes for niches, like those carved by the Maya in other pools, where artifacts were deposited.

Lucero has spent more than 20 years studying settlements and sacred sites that were important to the Maya in Belize, and works under the auspices of the Institute of Archeology, which is part of the National Institute of Culture and History, Government of Belize.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Seeking balanced networks: how neurons adjust their proteins during homeostatic scaling.

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

More VideoLinks >>>