Underwater cave could reveal prehistoric fauna

The underwater cave system of Sac Actun has Pleistocene fauna and remains of early human settlers
Sac Actun – Courtesy of GREAT MAYAN AQUIFER PROJECT
21/01/2018
15:31
Newsroom
Mexico City
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Sac Actun, an underwater cave system recently discovered to have an extension of 347km, could help shed light on the type of fauna of the Pleistocene era and on the first humans to inhabit this area, according to Tomás Pérez coordinator of the Mayan Studies Center at the Institute of Philological Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

The researcher said that Sac Actun, located in Tulum, in the Yucatán Peninsula, has remains of the Pleistocene era, over 9,000 years before Christ, and of the first Mayan settlers, thanks to the glaciation which allowed the access to animals and humans into the caves.

“There was a time when sea level descended over 120 meters from the current level we know today; there was so much frozen water in the poles that the sea level descended overall,” he said.

The scholar said that with such a low water level it was possible for humans to enter the caves and perform rituals and leave offerings, as many had the custom of leaving their dead inside the caves.

“The last glaciation was 9,000 years ago, so the sea level rose again, flooding the caves. We have such similar caves in all the Peninsula and their exploration began a few decades ago. What's new about this system is that spelunkers had worked in two allegedly independent caves but they ended up discovering it was just one system,” he added.
 

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Pérez is positive that this new finding will prove the hypothesis that the Yucatán Penninsula has been inhabited since ancient times.

“Each exploration provides new data. Recently the remains of a little girl dubbed Naia were found, and she's one of the oldest human remains to ever be found in Mexico. Plus, finding evidence of animals will allow us to know which kind of fauna lived here during the Pleistocene,” he claimed.

The coordinator of the Mayan Studies Center said that given the importance of this heritage, the area should be protected, as there are divers who enter the caves and “move or remove” pieces found inside them.

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