On the Caribbean coastline in the Yucatán Peninsula near the Mexican state of Quintana Roo lies a vast labyrinth of secrets in what has been discovered as the world’s largest underwater cave. The project to explore this new region, led by the Great Maya Aquifer Project, or the (GAM) team, set out to map the elaborate network of caves that span 347 kilometres.
The cave systems they discovered there contain brand new ecosystems unlike anything seen on earth before, but they also contain one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. Underwater archeologist Guillermo De Anda, who works for the Mexico National Institute of Anthropology and History, told National Geographic that the caves contain “the most important submerged archaeological site in the world.”
De Anda added: “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 spoke with the Mexican media outlets and National Geographic to explain his findings.
Believe it or not, the work for the (GAM) team is just getting started, as the cave system may very well lead to an additional 3 caverns filled with unknown secrets. According to De Anda, the team has discovered a number of significant items including human remains, extinct fauna remains, early Maya archeology, ancient clay pots, and even Maya burial sites. “It’s a tunnel of time that transports you to a place 10,000 to 12,000 years ago,” said De Anda.
According to GAM Director Robert Schmittner, the team came close to proving the elaborate system of caves was all interconnected, missing the mark by nearly a meter.
Schmittner told the Mexican newspaper, El Pais, that exploring the cave, “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.”
It’s clear from this discovery that we still have a great deal to learn about our planet and its history. What other surprises may be lurking in unexplored regions of our planet? We can only speculate.