April 22, 2019
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More Mayan cave art found in southeastern Mexico

Merida, Mexico, Apr 11 (efe-epa).- Two caves found under thick tree cover in southeastern Mexico contain a rock carving, or petroglyph, of an ajaw - a dignitary, leader or king in the Mayan language - and other unique treasures, the archaeologist and writer who led the cave-diving expedition told EFE.

"We believe the face discovered in a cave represents a way of measuring the time, although experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and independent researchers have different hypotheses," Sergio Grosjean said.

The two caves found a few days ago 100 meters (330 feet) from one another in the jungles outside Homun, a municipality in the southeastern state of Yucatan, "reveal Mayan hand and forearm marks that had never been seen before in the Yucatan Peninsula," Grosjean said.

One of the caves has a beautiful cenote (sinkhole), he said, adding that what is most interesting about the ajaw petroglyph is that the location was not chosen haphazardly, but instead "it was carved into the contour of the cave taking advantage of calcite formation," he said.

The researcher and documentary adviser for National Geographic, Discovery Channel and BBC, who last year found another cave with paintings that are currently under study, said the new discoveries, as well as others found at Kaua, Akil and other sites, "confirm the high degree of respect for and knowledge about art that the pre-Columbian Mayans had."

This knowledge, he added, is reflected in "architecture, mathematics, astrology, astronomy and the construction of great temples like the Pyramid of the Magician in Uxmal, the Ek' Balam archaeological site and the Chichen Itza archaeological site's El Castillo pyramid.

The hand marks in the Yucatan caves have attracted the attention of various experts, according to Grosjean, who said "there are several hypotheses" about their meaning and that the lack of written sources regarding their symbolism makes the task more difficult.

"For our research colleague Carlos Evia, the hands in the caves could indicate control over water; in other words, they could mean that the cenote, or some body of the vital liquid, is already occupied," Grosjean said.

The archaeologist and cave diver, who has been involved in cenote clean-up efforts for the past 20 years, also offered the alternative perspective of INAH researcher Luis Alberto Martos, who says the hand forms possibly stem from "initiation ceremonies during puberty."

That hypothesis is based on the idea that "when the person ceases to be a child, but still is not an adult, they have no place in the community; that makes them a danger to society and so a propitiatory ritual is required."

The cave art found at a depth of 11 meters (36 feet) also could have been part of pre-hunting or pre-harvest rituals or even a means of pleading for rain, Grosjean said.

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