Treasure trove of Mayan cave paintings discovered in Yucatán

Photo: Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi
Photo: Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi

Archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi and his team have discovered what could be the most important Mayan cave paintings on the Yucatán Peninsula.

Deep in the jungle in an undisclosed location, the paintings cover a rock approximately 15 meters/49 feet long and 5 meters/16.4 feet high inside a cave in the eastern part of Yucatan state, which also holds a small cenote of blue water.

“These are not the only cave paintings in the Yucatán, but they’re the most important because they have so many elements: birds, mammals, a cross, geometric figures, human forms including a warrior, as well as hands,” Grosjean, head of the Mexican Institute of Ecology, Science and Culture, told the wire service EFE.

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For now, the exact location is a secret.

“Right now we’re unable to reveal the exact location, because unfortunately in the Yucatán, the looters and vandals are always a step ahead of us,” he said.

Grosjean, who for more than 20 years has been dedicated to environmental rescue, said that in Yucatán there are more than 3,000 cenotes that have Mayan treasures and bones inside, and many have been looted.”

Grosjean is known for his activism on behalf of the Peninsula’s sacred cenotes, and has often spearheaded efforts to clean some of the most polluted sites.

The archaeologist said his team is motivated by this new discovery because it will provide new information about Mayan customs, “though we don’t yet know what these cave paintings mean nor to what period they belong.”

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He said they have contacted researchers at the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) and other specialists with whom they will meet in the coming days at the site in order to identify the elements.

Grosjean, a certified diver, said that to study the meaning of the pictures, the team will take photos and then, “if the authorities allow it,” they will carry out a sustainable project giving visitors access to the site, and with that, they will “create jobs for local residents.”

The archaeologist, author of the book “Secretos de los Cenotes de Yucatan” (“Secrets of the Yucatan Sinkholes”), believes the art of the ancient Mayas “can’t be kept hidden for just a privileged few; it should he exhibited with all the security provisions that a place with so much cultural value deserves.”

“Culturally speaking the Yucatán is full of riches, but unfortunately there’s no interest at the three levels of government (federal, state and municipal). They don’t value or respect the sacred Mayan sites, in fact some have been turned into beach resorts,” the diver said.

I hope that the new authorities (emanating from the July 1 elections) … take advantage of the potential and cultural richness of Yucatán, which is disappearing by leaps and bounds because of vandals and looters,” he warns.

With information from EFE

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