Characters such as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft have established the archaeologist as an exciting figure. They make the profession seem as though it’s full of danger and adventure.
In truth, though, few archaeologists end up fighting Nazis or sinister conspiracies. It’s a discipline more concerned with care and patience than gun battles and explosions.
A story coming out of Chichén Itzá, a familiar, pre-Columbian site in Mexico, has shown just that. A popular tourist attraction, Chichén Itzá seemed to be a site that was known from top to bottom.
According to The Associated Press, though, that wasn’t exactly true. On March 4, Mexican archaeologists announced that they’d made a remarkable discovery.
They had unearthed 155 braziers and incense burners in a cave less than two miles from the main pyramid of Chichén Itzá. The implements bore the image of Tlaloc, an ancient rain god.
Finding such objects of worship near the famous area wasn’t surprising. Chichén Itzá means “at the mouth of the well of the water wizards.”
What was a bit shocking was how long it took experts to make the discovery. Smithsonian Magazine reported that locals alerted an archaeologist named Víctor Segovia Pinto to the cave’s existence about 50 years ago.
Pinto ordered the cave immediately sealed. In fact, that’s part of the reason why so much of the site has survived.
The artifacts remained completely intact, but Pinto’s report to Mexican government officials was long forgotten and the cave sat abandoned for a half century.
It only came to attention when residents approached another group of archaeologists. They were working with the Great Maya Aquifer Project, an attempt to document the myriad subterranean channels beneath the area.
In fact, experts have praised Pinto’s decision to seal the cave. By leaving it untouched, it has granted these scientists an unparalleled opportunity to understand Mayan culture.
Still, the insights won’t come quickly. The archaeological team had to exercise patience prior to even entering the cave.
According to Agence France-Presse, a deadly coral snake coiled near the entrance of the cave for four days. Locals also requested that the scientists perform an ancient ritual prior to entering.
The wait was worth it. Mexican archaeologist Guillermo de Anda has called the items within the cavern a “scientific treasure.”
“What we found there was incredible and completely untouched,” he said.
What’s more, he believes that it may hold the answer to other mysteries, such as whether or not there’s a sinkhole lake beneath one of Chichén Itzá’s pyramids.
“Let’s hope this leads us there,” he said. “That is part of the reason why we are entering these sites.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.