After a 10 month exploration of the underwater marvel, a team of scientists in Mexico have uncovered the largest flooded cave system ever discovered.
The caves span 347 kilometres (216 miles) and is not just home to wildlife, but contains archaeological finds that have the potential to reveal lost secrets of the Mayan people.
“This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” said archaeologist Guillermo de Anda from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.
“It has more than a hundred archaeological contexts, among which are evidence of the first settlers of America, as well as extinct fauna and, of course, the Maya culture.”
De Anda is heading research team- the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM). The team has been exploring underwater caves in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo for decades.
This region is home to 358 cave systems, comprised of 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) of underwater labyrinth hidden underground.
Last week the Sac Actun System was discovered which was originally thought to be a part of two different systems. However, it turned out to be a part of the previously discovered Dos Ojos cave system, creating 1 mammoth underwater structure.
“We came really close a few times. On a couple of occasions, we were a metre from making a connection between the two large cave systems,” GAM exploration director Robert Schmittner told Mexican newspaper El Pais.
“It was like trying to follow the veins within a body. It was a labyrinth of paths that sometimes came together and sometimes separated. We had to be very careful.”
The discovery has now been made and the Dos Ojos is now recognised as a part of the Sac Actun, meaning it is now the largest known (347 kilometres) underwater cave.
The researchers have added that the Sac Actun could potentially be connected to 3 more underwater caves, making it even larger if they can make the link.
The team have also shown in videos and photos Mayan artifacts and ruins. Skip to 0:58 of the video to see this discovery.
“We’ve recorded more than 100 archaeological elements: the remains of extinct fauna, early humans, Maya archaeology, ceramics, and Maya graves,” de Anda told the Mexican media.
“It’s a tunnel of time that transports you to a place 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.”
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