In Yucatan there are still ancient archaeological sites that remain in operation, such is the case of the Múusench’een Cave, which has been a “virgin water” supply center used by generations of Maya priests in ritual ceremonies for more than 2,300 years. The cave is located in the east side of the state.
The specialist of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) Yucatán, Víctor Castillo Borges, highlighted the importance of this sacred site, since it still fulfills the primordial function for which it was built, without any alteration through centuries.
Since the site will soon be inside a solar energy plant, the place will be conserved as a sacred space for ritual purposes, so it will have a specific area of preservation, 100 meters long and 150 meters wide, in addition to constant surveillance to prevent unauthroized people to enter the site.
The place is hidden between two ancient Maya cities, which allowed the Maya priests to have a sacred place for the extraction of virgin water, which they use to perform different ceremonies. During the works done in the area, during almost two years, there were also found, without any alteration, three main buildings, which served to regulate access to the site.
In fact, inside the grotto-cenote there were five burials, corresponding to important characters from different Maya historic periods.
Interviewed in the framework of the Fifth Symposium of Maya Culture, Castillo Borges pointed out that the place is still considered as a sacred space, reason for which, the researchers complied with the conditions of the h’men (Maya shamans) to enter the site.
Two ceremonies were held before entering the cave, and at the same time, local workers performed another ritual before beginning to work there. Locals stated that when entering the cave, people need to be careful with “the bad wind“, which could be a lack of oxygen due to different natural factors.
The scholar explained that the cave is right between Ebtún and Cuncunul, current populations that harbor pre-Columbian sites. He recalled that the site was discovered (or re-discovered) in 2017, thanks to the archaeological tour carried out in the place where a photovoltaic park will be built, for the commercial use of solar energy .
Now it will be part of the Archaeological Atlas of Yucatan, in which more than two thousand sites have been registered.
He clarified that after the exploration of the place, in 2018 an archaeological salvage work was carried out, with which “the site turned out to be more important than previously thought”. He remarked that the ceramic evidence found inside the grotto showed that it dates from the upper middle Preclassic, corresponding to 300 BC; and at the same time, five burials were discovered.
A cenote was also found inside, which water mirror is 17 meters below ground level, and about 120 meters away from the cave’s entrance. Likewise, three of the constructions that managed the access to the cave were identified, of which structure number 58 is just above the cave, while number 59 and 60, a few meters from the first.
“Despite the fact that more than 2,300 years have elapsed, the site’s functionality has not been cut at anytime, as it is still used to extract the sacred “virgin water” used for ceremonies, therefore, the idiosyncrasies are still preserved”, the expert added.
He asserted that to carry out Maya ceremonies, the h’men must have virgin water, which is obtained from certain caves and cenotes that are considered sacred spots, since they are hidden among the rain forest of the Yucatan Peninsula in places of difficult access.
Castillo Borges commented that to enter the cave, two ritual ceremonies had to be performed, due to the fact that it is a sacred site, a task that was carried out by a Cuncunul h’men.
One of the ceremonies is the Ta’akbil ja ‘, ritual that is performed before entering the cave in order to collect the virgin water, and the Ta’akbil nal, ceremony to request permission for access, in which an offering is made with corn, specifically, in the form of pozole.
Every day, the workers hired for the solar energy project, performed a ritual before entering the cave, they rubbed themselves with rue, basil and alcohol, since in this way they “put on an armor against the bad wind”. At the same time, the works were suspended at noon, for a 15 minute period, since this is the time when “the bad wind” enters the site.
Finally, the specialist said that to carry out the work, three teams were formed, with three archaeologists and four people each, who worked 30-minute shifts in the interior of the cave.
“Inside the cave there is not much oxygen, in addition, the pressure inside it proportional to the humidity. In fact, toponymically, Múusench’een means “Lack of oxygen in the cenote”, which “is an original name has been maintained for many years,” Víctor Castillo Borges concluded.
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