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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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In an effort to help preserve the Mayan artifacts in the ATM cave, and stop accidental destruction from camera droppings, cameras have now been banned from the ATM cave, unless approved by NICH. After another unfortunate event, the Cayo Tour Guide Association made a great call.

ATM, as it is commonly known, is an archaeological site that has ancient skeletal remains, ceramics, and many other items used for rituals. The best-known of all the remains are those of the "The Crystal Maiden", the skeleton of a teenage girl, whose bones have been calcified to a sparkling, crystallized form. She has been photographed by many, but now all that comes to an end and the tour groups come to a screeching halt.

Tours were stopped a few weeks back because someone had knocked out a tooth from the skull; believed to have been a direct cause of tour guides hurrying and flooding the cave with tourists. The ATM cave was closed for one day, and after a briefing with tour guides, tours resumed. Now, recently, a tourist dropped his camera on to the skull itself and shattered the back of it. After an unofficial meeting, tour guides of the C.T.G.A. suggested that cameras should not be allowed in to the cave.

The letters of notification have been sent, cameras are now banned as of Friday, 4th May 2012, unless they have permission by N.I.C.H., and ultimately permission from Dr. Jamie Awe. How will this decision affect the cave?� Well, that remains to be seen.


Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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ATM Cave Closed - Tourist Dropped Camera On Ancient Skull

The Actun Tunichil Muknal cave or ATM - for short, may be the most prized and treasured Mayan site in Belize - and that's because of the spectacular skeletal remains of 15 individuals that can be found there.

They are estimated to be over a thousand years old - and the most precious is the so called Crystal Maiden, the skeletal remains of a young woman.

Not far from Belmopan, it is a popular tourist destination, but a couple weeks ago, during one of the regular tours, one of the tourists got a little careless around one of the skeletons. He dropped his camera, fracturing one of the thousand year old skulls.

No, it wasn't on the famous crystal maiden - but it is still a very serious issue, and today we spoke to Director of the Institute of Archaeology Jaime Awe who told us how serious it is, and how they plan to prevent this from happening again.

Dr. Jaime Awe - Director, Institute of Archaeology
"Recently, we had a small accident at the Actun Tunichil Muknal Archaeological Park. We believe that a guest - a tourist - who was in there, was taking a photograph with a camera. The camera slipped and fell out of their hands, and it landed and damaged one of the skulls, and it broke a section of the upper part of the skull. I sent in a team from the Institute of Archaeology, and we went in. We looked at the skull, and we think that we can make repairs to it. We have been, for some time, thinking about disallowing the use of cameras in the cave, unless under special permission. And when this incident happened a couple weeks ago, it really spurred that decision and urged us to implement it as of now. Hence, as of this past week, and we will no longer allow guests and visitors to go in with cameras. I am compiling that we will put on a DVD, and these will be available for sale to guests going to the site. And in many ways, this will help us - and again, to enforce this law - at the same time, it might be another source of revenue for the Institute of Archaeology. The cave is awesome; it contains the remains of people who were sacrificed in there. It contains artifacts that were left in there as offerings to the gods, and the cave is beautiful in terms of its formation. To me, it is not just the cultural remains in the cave that make it important; it's also the cave formations in different rooms in some of the chambers in the cavern. So it's certainly one of Belize's premier caves. I think that this incident has made us all acutely aware of the need to be conservation-minded, of the need to be careful, of the need to tell people that they've got watch where they step. We can put in lights in the cave, and we could set barriers up, but then, it would total destroy the beautiful experience that one has. This incident has made all the tour guides a lot more aware that they are the vanguards. They have to be responsible for the tourists that go in there that they have to manage these groups with a lot more care."

Since a small section of the skull was broken, the team plans to fix it so that the break is not obvious, and as for the tourists entering the cave, cameras are banned as of the 4th of May unless they have permission by N.I.C.H.

Channel 7

Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 955
Should be interesting where everyone will be leaving all there Cameras while they take that tour since every single tourist will have camera gear with them as they tour the area.


Joined: May 2000
Posts: 7,051
I don't imagine they are referring to snappy cameras but rather the large apparatus that professionals and amateur enthusiasts pack around. The ATM cave is usually the only site on this particular tour so they will probably leave their gear in their hotel room.

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 7,051
If they do ban snappy cameras too that would be kind of tough with the "go" experience cameras made today.

The DVD will have great professional photos that should keep people happy.

Joined: May 2009
Posts: 1,046
Dropping a camera is an extremely rare event and banning cameras from ATM for this reason is idiotic. Perhaps better guide training and less crowding are the answer? Why did the guide not maintain some separation between the tourist and the artifact?

The availability of a 'professional' DVD for purchase is a great idea and should be expanded to all archaeological sites. If you ban cameras, you will reduce tourist visits. Tourists who show up with cameras are unlikely to leave them at the gate due to the risk of theft.

If instead of a camera, the tourist dropped a flashlight would we also ban flashlights in the cave?

Last edited by aj baxter; 05/24/12 02:07 PM.
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 108
Visitors shouldn't be hovering directly over the remains to begin with. Just to get a photo??? A little respect and common sense would go a long way. Sadly that was a mishap waiting to happen.
Why not build a simple rope barrier? You wouldn't expect to walk into any museum and touch priceless paintings or artifacts.

Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,461
Its the best idea to preserve the artifacts in the cave, maybe not best for visitors, but we have to think long term. All cameras are banned and visitors have to wear socks so they are cautious about where they put their feet. Yrs ago someone stepped on a skull. We are lucky enough to see something like this with our own eyes and that will have to suffice.

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