Yucatan’s underwater river systems just keep on giving. We recently reported on divers finding that two large underwater caves were in fact linked into one vast system. The Sistema Sac Actun is 164 miles long and the 52 mile Dos Ojos, interconnect making the entire 216 mile system the world’s largest underwater cave network.
Diving anthropologists have joined with cave explorers to uncover the underwater cave and its amazing secrets including human remains dating back over 9,000 years and an elaborate Mayan shrine accessed through a sinkhole (cenote) in the jungle.
Remains indicate that the cave and cenotes were perfect habitats for early humans when water levels were much lower. It has been estimated that since the end of the Ice Age, water levels may have risen up to 330 feet (100 meters) submerging the cave systems and preserving the ancient remains.
Giant Sloths, Bears and Elephants??
The fossils of ancient, giant sloths, bears and gonphotheres (an elephant like animal) that roamed North America during the last Ice Age have been found in the cave.
“It is very unlikely that there is another site in the world with these characteristics. There is an impressive amount of archaeological artifacts inside, and the level of preservation is also impressive,” said Guillermo de Anda, speaking for INAH, Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute. “I think it’s overwhelming. Without a doubt it’s the most important underwater archaeological site in the world,” de Anda added.
This vast system carries underground freshwater reserves from across the Yucatan to its eastern coast and the thirsty and growing population along the Riviera Maya. This interconnected network also carries potential contaminants from landfills and dumps miles away. Find out more on how pollution is threatening this freshwater supply in our series: Can Mass Tourism be Sustainable? Part 2, Riviera Maya: Geology and Pollution.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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