The Cave of the Stalagmite Temple, part of an underground network of archeological sites in Quintana Roo
Discovering altars inside caves and cenotes is common in the East Coast of Yucatán’s Peninsula - Photo: Taken from INAH's website

The Cave of the Stalagmite Temple, part of an underground network of archeological sites in Quintana Roo

12/02/2020
18:03
Antonio Díaz
Mexico City
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There are over 150 caves in the area that contain some kind of archeological vestige

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Officials of Civil Protection of the Solidaridad municipality in Quintana Roo revealed the discovery of vestiges in a cenote. Now, Mexico’s Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) reported that the place will be called the Cave of the Stalagmite Temple due to the speleothem that precedes the small Mayan altar inside it.

In addition, the place has joined the over 150 caves in the area that contain some kind of archeological vestige.

Archeologist Enrique Terrones was in charge of the inspection of the cave, an activity that he carried out with José Antonio Retes, from INAH’s representation in Quintana Roo.

Both archeologists agreed that discovering altars inside caves and cenotes is common in the East Coast of Yucatán’s Peninsula since the ancient Maya considered these places to be sacred for they believed water, fertility, and commerce deities, such as Chaac and Ek Chuah, lived there.

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Until now, the team has undergone interior planimetry. The Cave of the Stalagmite Temple is made up of dry sectors and other ones with shallow waters in an area of approximately 800 square meters. Due to the archeological materials recovered in the surface, experts deduce the shrine was used between the years 1200 and 1550, which matches with the period of many underground altars.

Terrones and Reyes said that this kind of structure in caves usually corresponds to the Late post-Classic period, which is pointed out by experts as a time of stability in the region due to the interaction of several factors.

They added that, for now, they have only performed a systematic tour in the dry part of the cave, locating some archeological materials in the surface, so now they are planning a more in-depth exploration that includes the consolidation and restoration of an altar that is located 20 meters from the entrance of the cave, which was modified by the ancient Maya for an easy access and, even, made some visible leveling in the land.

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The small pre-Columbian building was built with limestone and covered with stucco, which still has remains of blue paint. Its architectonic style corresponds to the East Coast, whose temporality has been defined in the Late post-Classic. The facade has a narrow entrance oriented to the West, it has a threshold in the superior part and, above it, a cornice over which runs a wall of the facade, up to the roof of the cave.

Experts said that although the cave has been named the Stalagmite Temple, as a matter of fact, the speleothem seems to correspond to a stalactite extracted from another cavity and nailed upside down from its natural shape. Future explorations will clarify this point.

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Five meters from the altar, experts located an outcrop of parent rock over which a mortar was dug; likewise, they found ceramic fragments from the Late post-Classic period, a small obsidian blade, and two human molars, evidence that is a result of transport inside the cave due to natural reasons. The materials are under a cleaning and classification process to obtain more information about the ceramic elements and their association to certain chronologies.

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