Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) of Mexico made a significant discovery while carrying out improvement works in the archaeological area of Tulum, Quintana Roo. By removing a large rock blocking the entrance to a hidden cave within the walled area of the Maya city, they uncovered the skeletal remains of several individuals.

According to the archaeologists, upon removing the rock that sealed the entrance to the cavity, it was observed that it was literally splitting the skeletal remains of an individual, leaving the lower part of their body outside and the upper part inside. This would indicate that the person might have become trapped while attempting to access the cavity.

Further exploration of the cave revealed at least two small chambers containing at least eight burials, mostly of adults.

The skeletal remains were well-preserved due to the environmental conditions inside the cave. The bones were taken to the INAH laboratories in Quintana Roo for analysis.

The skeletal remains of various animals associated with human burials were also found, including mammals like domestic dogs, mice, opossums, and deer. There were also bird bones, reptiles such as turtles and lizards, fish like sharks and barracudas, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Some bones exhibited cut marks or had been crafted into artifacts like punches and fan handles, typical of the Maya culture in the region.

The coordinator of the archaeological research project, José Antonio Reyes Solís, reported that on the upper part of the cave’s front wall, a marine snail was found attached with stucco to the bedrock, as part of a decoration made by pre-Hispanic Maya.

A large number of Late Postclassic period (1200-1550 AD) ceramic fragments were found associated with the burials.

In three of the burials, a small mortar of the type decorated with incisions was discovered, and it has been intervened by a restorer for preservation.

According to the project coordinator, Antonio Reyes Solís, excavating within the narrow chambers of the cave posed a challenge due to the lack of light and adverse environmental conditions.

However, the use of new technologies such as laser scanners and high-resolution photography will allow for the generation of precise three-dimensional models of the cave and its archaeological context.

This discovery provides new information about the funerary and offering practices of the ancient Maya in Tulum. Research efforts in the cave continue with the aim of clarifying details about the local culture in the Late Postclassic period.


Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) de México

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