Extreme Archaeology
Archaeologists Go 'Deep' in Belize


CHAMPAIGN, Ill., July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they'll go to great depths -- almost 200 feet -- to explore the mysteries of freshwater pools important to the Mayans of Central America.

Researchers from the University of Illinois are engaging in so-called extreme archeology in exploring the pools and underwater caves at Cara Blanca, Belize, a university release said Wednesday.

"We don't know if it's going to be feasible to conduct archaeology 200 feet below the surface," project leader and anthropology professor Lisa Lucero said. "But they are going to try."

The Maya believed openings in the earth, including caves and water-filled sinkholes, were portals to the underworld and often left offerings there. Maya structures have been found near two of the eight pools the Illinois team surveyed.

"The pools with the most substantial and most obvious settlement at the edge also turn out to be the deepest that we know," Lucero said. The divers so far have explored eight of the 25 known pools of Cara Blanca.

Lucero has studied Maya settlements and sacred sites in Belize for more than 20 years under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology, which is part of the National Institute of Culture and History of Belize, the university release said. (from upi.com).

* Divers found fossilized animal remains, bits of pottery and – in the largest pool explored – an enormous underwater cave.

* The Maya believed that openings in the earth, including caves and water-filled sinkholes, called cenotes (sen-OH-tays), were portals to the underworld, and often left offerings there. Ceremonial artifacts of the Maya have been found in pools and lakes in Mexico, but not yet in Belize.

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