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World’s Largest Underwater Cave Is Already Yielding Sacred Maya Relics

World's Largest Underwater Cave Is Already Yielding Sacred Maya Relics 86

It’s a place that almost seems too magical to exist: the world’s largest underwater cave, spanning an incredible 347 kilometres (216 miles) of subterranean caverns, discovered in Mexico a month ago.

When archaeologists unveiled this immense, immersed labyrinth, they said it wasn’t just a natural wonder, but an important archaeological find set to reveal sunken secrets of the ancient Maya civilisation – and already that promise is holding true.

Unveiling their preliminary findings this week, a research team led by underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said the sprawling cave consists of almost 250 cenotes (naturally occurring sinkholes) and hosts 198 archaeological sites, some 140 of which are Maya in origin.

021 underwater cave sac actun maya mexico 4(GAM/INAH)

“This undoubtedly makes it the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” de Anda says.

“Another important feature is the amount of archaeological elements that are there and the level of preservation they contain.”

Among the finds the divers have already uncovered are human remains, including skeletons and seemingly burnt human bones, that are at least 9,000 years old – suggesting human activity in the eastern Mexican region goes back thousands of years earlier than researchers thought, possibly as part of an ancient Maya trade route.

“The merchants followed established routes and used these places as ritual pilgrimage points, they made stops at altars and sacred sites to make an exchange with the gods and they’ve left their mark there,” de Anda told media at a press conference.

De Anda, who leads the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM), suggests people probably didn’t actually live in the branching underwater cave – called the Sac Actun System – but ventured inside it during periods of great climate stress to search for water.

021 underwater cave sac actun maya mexico 4(GAM/INAH)

But their culture and the caves were nonetheless inextricably linked, with the divers finding numerous examples of Maya-era pottery and other ceramics such as wall etchings, but also evidence of larger artefacts, such as a shrine to the Maya god of commerce and a staircase structure inside one cenote.

When they didn’t have staircases, descending into the world’s largest underwater cave could be dangerous – the amount of bones the cavern holds suggests not everybody was able to climb back out again, and the same fate may have been true for many animals.

021 underwater cave sac actun maya mexico 4(GAM/INAH)

Inside the cave, researchers found fossils of numerous creatures from the last Ice Age, including giant sloths and bears, as well as the remains of an extinct elephant-like animal called a gomphothere.

Amidst the excitement over this bevy of early discoveries comes a warning from the researchers, who caution the archaeological site is already imperiled by human activity – both from tourists who enter the cenotes to snorkel and swim, and also pollution: a major highway runs over much of the cave, which is also close to an open-air dump.

If those threats can be contained, there’s no telling what we could learn from this “enormous octopus” of a cave, which, as the researchers explain, could become even bigger – if divers can successfully link it to other branching underwater caverns nearby.

021 underwater cave sac actun maya mexico 4(GAM/INAH)

“There are other caves around Sac Actun that might be connected,” said one of the team, GAM’s chief of underwater exploration, Robert Schmittner.

“We’re already close to the next one and they’re probably linked. That other one is 18 kilometres (11 miles) long and is called ‘The Mother of all Cenotes’ … If so, the cave system would be longer than 500 kilometres, and it seems to have no end.”

Read More On This At ScienceAlert – Latest

Ancient

Archaeologists have discovered “unknown” constellations in an Egyptian temple

Archaeologists have discovered "unknown" constellations in an Egyptian temple 99
Previously unknown ancient Egyptian constellations found © Live Science

A team of scientists from Germany and Egypt, which carried out work in the ancient temple of Esna, found references to previously unknown ancient Egyptian constellations, but so far they cannot link them to existing ones.

In Egypt, archaeologists have discovered images of unknown constellations during the restoration of an ancient temple. This is reported by LiveScience.

Restoration work is being carried out in the 2,000-year-old temple by experts from Germany and Egypt. During the removal of soot and dust from the walls, drawings began to appear, with which the ancient Egyptians decorated the temple.

“The carvings and hieroglyphs look so vivid as if they were drawn yesterday. But we are not repainting anything, we are just removing the soot,” Christian Leitz says, professor of Egyptology at the University of Tübingen.

During the restoration, researchers cleaned up ancient carved scenes depicting constellations, including the Big Dipper and Orion. Scientists have also found previously unknown constellations, including a constellation called “Apedu n Ra” or “Geese of Ra”, which are the ancient Egyptian sun gods.

Archaeologists have discovered "unknown" constellations in an Egyptian temple 100

Mentioning these constellations, without depicting them, does not yet allow us to say which star clusters are in question.

The first modern description of a Greco-Roman temple in the city of Esna dates back to 1589, when it was visited by a Venetian merchant. The city of Esna, about 60 km south of the ancient capital of Luxor, used to have more temples. Two buildings were destroyed during the industrialization of Egypt, and the largest, the Temple of Esna, was used for storing cotton in the first half of the 19th century.

Archaeologists have discovered "unknown" constellations in an Egyptian temple 101

The sanctuary, which they decided to use as a warehouse, was prized for its location in the city center. Decades of desolation have left the temple dirty, covered in soot and bird droppings.

Archaeologists have discovered "unknown" constellations in an Egyptian temple 102

To date, only its vestibule remains from the temple. The large sandstone structure is supported by 24 columns, as well as 18 freestanding columns, decorated with paintings and carvings. It stretches 37 meters long, 20 meters wide and 15 meters high. But the remains of the temple are only a small fraction of its former size when it was built under the Roman emperor Claudius (reigned 41-54 AD). Scholars do not know what happened to the rest of the temple when a Venetian merchant visited it in the 16th century, little remained of the structure.

Archaeologists have discovered "unknown" constellations in an Egyptian temple 103

According to Leitz, the construction and decoration of the temple, including the astronomical drawings on the ceiling, could take about 200 years.

He notes that when the ancient Egyptians decorated the temple, they first drew with ink, creating sketches for carvers, and then colored the relief designs.

On the astronomical ceiling of the temple, many drawings have remained in ink, so they were found only during the restoration.

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Ancient

A portrait of an alien? In Bulgaria, archaeologists have found a clay mask of an unusual shape

A portrait of an alien? In Bulgaria, archaeologists have found a clay mask of an unusual shape 104
Ancient mask resembles an alien (Photo: Bulgarian National Radio)

A prehistoric clay mask or figurine without a mouth dating back to the 5th millennium BC was found in the prehistoric settlement of Salt Pit in northeastern Bulgaria.

A whimsical mask or figurine without a mouth combines human and animal features and resembles an ” alien” from a science fiction movie, archaeologists are sure.

“ Many people compare him to … an alien in a space suit,” the Bulgarian National Radio said in a statement about the discovery.

A late Eneolithic mask was found on the Provadia-Solnitsata mound in northeastern Bulgaria, its shape is close to triangular. The front side protrudes forward and contains an image of a supposedly human face, while the back side is dented and rough in shape.

According to archaeologists, each of the two corners of the upper side of the prehistoric mask or figurine has a short protrusion, “probably stylized ears.” The figurine’s ears have small holes that were used to carry or hang the artifact.

“The artifact was most likely a status symbol hanging on a person’s chest. Interestingly, there is even a hint of mouth on the artifact. But the emphasis is on the eyes – their shape, size, and the vertical polished stripes underneath say much more,” the researchers said.

The head of the archaeological team, Professor Vasil Nikolov, told Bulgarian National Radio that there is no way to know for sure what exactly the 6,000-year-old clay mask or figurine might have been used for by prehistoric people.

Judging by the two holes in the stylized ears of the mouthless mask, it could be hanging on the wall or even being a potter’s vessel lid that could be raised or lowered with a string. According to him, the image on the mask of an ” alien” is a mixture of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features and “is strongly associated with the masculine principle.”

Two furnaces from the Early Eneolithic ( Copper Age) were excavated at the mound of the Bazovets settlement in North-Eastern Bulgaria.

One of two prehistoric kilns dating back about 7,000 years, was first partially excavated in the 2019 archaeological season. However, during the last excavations of the Bazovets mound, it was completely exposed, and a second kiln from the same structure was discovered.

During the last excavations of the mound of the Bazovetsky settlement, 57 archaeological artifacts were discovered. These include items made of flint, animal bones, horns, and ceramics, including fragments of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines.

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Staffa – “Island of columns”, which according to the legends of the Vikings was built by giants

Staffa - "Island of columns", which according to the legends of the Vikings was built by giants 105

Some places on our planet are so amazing that legends have been made about them for millennia. According to one of the legends, earlier on Earth there was a race of giants, which I love to talk about in my articles. It may be rather strange, but there is plenty of evidence that giants are not just a beautiful fairy tale, but could actually live on Earth.

Interestingly, according to some scientists, gigantism in the past was characteristic not only of living things, but also of plants, insects and people. The reason for this could be a different composition of the planet’s atmosphere, in which a small size meant a small chance of survival.

Staffa - "Island of columns", which according to the legends of the Vikings was built by giants 106

Some of the ancient buildings are so majestic that people definitely could not build them, and there are traces of such ancient buildings in many countries. Huge stone blocks weighing several tons, which people could hardly lift, because they did not possess the technologies of our time. But there are wonders of the world, which are difficult to understand, and one of them is the “Island of Columns”. Either nature skillfully did its job, or the giants of antiquity could build this miracle, but about everything in order.

Fingal’s Cave is located on the Scottish island of Staffa. The height of the ancient temple is about 20 meters, and the width is only about 14. People who have fallen into the cave note that it is like an ancient temple built using amazing technology. This place is often called the melody cave, because you can hear amazing sounds of nature in it, as if the natural philharmonic society invited you to its free concert.

The mystery lies in the basalt columns, which look so amazing that you start to doubt the natural formation of these columns, maybe that’s why legends about giants appeared, that people do not believe that the columns could have appeared naturally? But let’s return to the legend, in which we are told about the amazing giant Fingal, who lay down to rest before his next fight. Up to this point, he has erected a unique king between Ireland and Scotland, in which there were thousands of such columns.

Staffa - "Island of columns", which according to the legends of the Vikings was built by giants 107

The giant’s rival came to a duel to the cave, and the war was met by Fingal’s wife, who pointed to her husband wrapped in blankets and said that this was their baby. The words of the giant’s wife frightened the other giant so much that he imagined his rival, whose height could exceed his height several times. Then he decided to escape from the place of the battle, destroying the dam behind him so that Fingal would not catch up with him.

Fingal’s Cave gained fame after the famous scientist Joseph Banks visited the small island in the 17th century. After his rave reviews, this place was visited by many famous people, and Felix Mendelssohn even dedicated his overture to the unusual musical grotto.

Staffa - "Island of columns", which according to the legends of the Vikings was built by giants 108

There is no direct connection between this piece of land and Scotland. First, tourists take a ferry to the Isle of Mull, and from there they follow boats to Staffa Island.

Here is such a beautiful fairy tale in which the wife of a giant cunningly did not let her husband fight.

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