Although the total extension of the aquifer of the Yucatan Peninsula is still unknown, it can be affirmed that between Tulum and Cancun there are, at least, more than 2,000 kilometers of an extensive network of flooded caves, cenotes and cavernous passages. Tunnels of time and natural water deposits extend throughout this region, according to Guillermo de Anda Alaniz, director of the Gran Acuífero Maya (GAM) project.
In this labyrinth, he adds, archaeologists, biologists, technologists and other experts investigate the life of the ancestral Maya and that of the people of the present, the symbolism of the submerged contexts, the biodiversity and other aspects, which are made known in the book Explorations of the Underground World. An approach to the great Maya aquifer.
Co-published by the Aspen Institute Mexico and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the work synthesizes the most recent findings and approaches of the research project.
De Anda Alaniz explains that the text includes the participation of renowned academics and scientists who investigate the Maya area, whose essays are written in a language suitable for the general public and specialized readers.
The book has an introduction written by the permanent representative of Mexico to the United Nations, Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez; a prologue by the executive director of the Aspen Institute Mexico, Enrique Berruga Filloy, and a presentation by archaeologist Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava (1951-2022), who was national coordinator of Archaeology at INAH.
Beyond the myth
According to Guillermo de Anda Alaniz, each of the nine chapters that make up the book stands out for its innovative character, either because it presents the results of recent findings or questions previous notions of Maya studies.
An example are the chapters “Reconsiderations of the sexual connotation of caves: the political implications of the sexual motif,” written by University of California scholar James Brady, and “Have we learned nothing since Seler? A critical rethinking of the meaning of the bat in Classic Maya iconography”, also authored by Brady together with epigrapher Jeremy Coltman, from the same university.
A chapter is dedicated to the new hypotheses related to Cenote Holtún, located in the Archaeological Zone of Chichén Itzá, which, according to specialists’ proposals, would have functioned in pre-Hispanic times as an astronomical-solar observatory.
In turn, Arturo Bayona Miramontes, biologist in charge of Environmental Studies of the GAM project, discusses the importance of stromatolites; organisms that date back to the beginning of life on the planet and which, in Quintana Roo, are preserved in various aquifers, which is why it is proposed that the entity be recognized as a sanctuary for these beings.
Other chapters, written by National Geographic Society explorer Corey Jaskolski, Universidad del Tepeyac scholar Arturo Montero García, UNAM researchers René Chávez Segura and Roberto Romero Sandoval, De Anda Alaniz and other authors, detail the links between technology and archaeology, through which advances in aquifer exploration and scientific understanding of the Yucatán Peninsula are made.
Explorations of the subterranean world. An approach to the great Maya aquifer will be presented on January 31, 2023, at 7:00 pm, at the Alcazar of the National Museum of History, Chapultepec Castle, in Mexico City.