INAH, Switzerland and National Geographic Society come together to protect the heritage of caves and cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula

Abundant in biodiversity, submerged landscapes of dream and archaeological and paleontological evidence of the first order, the Great Mayan Aquifer is also a rigorous site in terms of its care and demanding specialized research. Therefore, this morning at the National Museum of Anthropology, a grant was announced that the Swiss Ministry of Culture will grant to the Great Mayan Aquifer Project (GAM), of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Resultado de imagen de cenotes

This support, which includes an investment close to two million pesos, was detailed in its background and objectives in a press conference led by the Swiss ambassador to Mexico, Eric Mayoraz; by the National Archeology Coordinator of INAH, Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava; and by the head of the GAM Project, Guillermo de Anda.

Since its inception, the GAM Project has promoted the exhaustive digital registration of archaeological contexts in caves and cenotes. The context is essential not only for archeology, the GAM studies these sites in a multidisciplinary way. PHOTO: JILL HEINERTH / GAM PROJECT

“Being able to associate, in this case with the Swiss government, in favor of research, conservation and dissemination of the cultural heritage of our country, is always very satisfactory,” said archaeologist Sánchez Nava when thanking, on behalf of the anthropologist Diego Prieto, director INAH general, support for the GAM project.

It was emphasized that the subsidy will be focused on research and, particularly, on digital preservation work, hand in hand with the National Geographic Society, of six underground archaeological contexts, whose elements, characteristics and spatial relationships highlight the main role of caves in Mayan ritual activities.

Ambassador Mayoraz explained that, annually, the Ministry of Culture of his nation selects projects around the world aimed at the protection of cultural property, hence Mexico occupies a priority place in the agenda of said office.

Resultado de imagen de cenotes

He pointed out that the GAM Project “on the one hand, brings together tradition”, since it is carried out with the greatest respect for the archaeological contexts and indigenous worldviews that still surround the cenotes and submerged caves of the Yucatan Peninsula; “And, on the other, innovation”, because it is a shortener of laser scanners, 360-degree cameras, scanning sonars and other cutting-edge technologies that accompany archaeological fieldwork.

Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda, explained that the six selected archaeological contexts are located in Quintana Roo and Yucatán, and stand out from the thousands of similar sites that exist in both territories due to the abundance of biocultural elements that they house.

Resultado de imagen de cenotes

“In Quintana Roo we will work in the cenote of the God of Commerce, which is part of the Sac Actún System, the largest flooded cave in the world, while, in the Chichen Itza Archaeological Zone, we will focus on the Holtún cenote, which, although it has been very studied in its shallow regions, it still houses many elements such as vessels, Tláloc sculptures and anthropomorphic representations in its deepest sections, at 40 and 45 meters ”.

After explaining the delicate work process that will be implemented in the Balamkú cave, a Mayan underground sanctuary rediscovered by the GAM Project, in 2019, De Anda commented that three other contexts will be worked on and are also home to outstanding vestiges.

In one of them is a vessel with hieroglyphs, said the explorer of the National Geographic Society, pointing out that this inscription probably refers to the date ‘8 ajaw’, “fateful for the Maya, for alluding to an end cycle, and that could help us understand this particular context, where we also have identified at least nine individuals that could have been sacrificed in ancient times. ”

Mayan vessel submerged in a Yucatan cenote, with a hieroglyphic inscription of a date, probably 8 ahau, the only one of these characteristics documented underwater. PHOTO: CRISTINA LIMONTA / GAM PROJECT

Mayoraz, Sánchez Nava and De Anda agreed that the results of the subsidy granted by Switzerland would be collected by 2021, and will help generate digital products for the public dissemination of science and community participation in the understanding and care of the aquifer and its submerged cultural heritage.

In this regard, they announced the bi-national and inter-institutional intention to capture the achievements of this alliance in a temporary exhibition that would simultaneously be presented at the National Anthropology Museums of Mexico and Switzerland, as well as at the National Geographic Museum, in Washington DC, United States. United; tentatively in the middle of next year.


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