Entrance to a chultun at The Lodge of Chaa Creek, recently voted one of the top ten "greenest" accommodations in the world!
A chultun is a subterranean chamber carved by the Maya, out of the soft limestone crust with a narrow cylindrical opening through which it was accessed. This could be a single chamber or multiple chambers that are connected by small doorways and the entrance was covered with a capstone. This was done in areas where the limestone bedrock was close to the surface.
Chultuns are found all over the Maya region but archaeologists cannot conclude as to their exact use, but it has been thought to serve a variety of functions. One of the most persisting ideas is that chultuns were used as cisterns, for the storage of water. For this the interior was sealed by firing the limestone, this process prevented the water from percolating through the limestone bedrock. Other functions that have been suggested are food storage, fermentation of alcoholic beverages, and pickling of fruits and vegetables. The hot humidity and the carbon dioxide rich environment only allowed cdertain foods to be stored, some of this would be maize, Ramon nuts (Brosimum alicastrum), or cacao. For example Ramon nuts, an alternative food source of the Maya, could have been stored up to 14 months. In the case of alcoholic beverages it could be possible due to the fact that the humidity and temperature within the chultun is conducive to fermentation. Human remains have also been found in chultuns, this may suggest a form of ancestor veneration rituals honoring the individual initially in it. While this may indicate that chultuns were used as burial places, researchers agree that this would have been the last use. The result of many researchers has a general acceptance that chultuns must have served different uses in different places, or changed functions over time.
Photos by Marty Casado
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