Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda and the remains of a sacrificial victim in a Yucatec cenote
Romey returned to Mexico to join up with de Anda for another week of exploring the cenotes. Join them as they dive remote sites for the first time!
This Classic period (A.D. 250-900) glyph may have marked the accession date of a king or the construction date of a building.
Few divers are able to access Yucatán's jungle cenotes.
Photos above by Melisa French. Click on images for larger versions where available.
by Kristin M. Romey
Diving with the Dead
Thousands of entrances to Xibalba, the Maya Underworld, can still be found
across the Yucatán peninsula. These water-filled sinkholes, or cenotes, served not only as passageways to the afterlife, but as lifelines for the present. In this riverless land, the Maya depended on the cenotes as their primary source of water. Great cities like Chichén Itzá and Mayapán centered around life-sustaining cenotes, and small villages in the Yucatec hinterland still rely on them.
Cenotes were also the home of Chac, god of rain, and when the rains didn't come, Chac was appealed to with prized gifts--and human sacrifice.
From the Field
A couple months after my first trip to Yucatán, I've returned to Merída for another week of cenote diving with Guillermo "Memo" de Anda. Memo is usually quite busy during the school year as coordinator of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán's underwater archaeology department, but he's still forging ahead in his mission to explore the thousands of cenotes scattered across Yucatan State. A handful of experienced divers have joined Memo and his students for the week to help follow up leads on previously unexplored cenotes in the Merída area. What our team discovers--or, in fact, rediscovers--on this expedition is the most basic tenet of any adventure: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
...that, and the most wonderful discoveries can happen in the most unlikely of places.
Diving the Maya Underworld
In ARCHAEOLOGY's May/June 2004 issue, Managing Editor Kristin M. Romey takes readers along on her first adventure into the watery depths of the Maya Underworld.
Cenotes in the Maya World Formed over tens or hundreds of thousands of years, cenotes were critical water sources in the Yucatán and, for the Maya, entryways into the Underworld.
ROVs to the Rescue Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) may help in the investigation of thousands of cenotes in Yucatán. Here's a look at one ROV team's recent expedition to cenote country, featuring exclusive ROV flight video!