A pyramid that’s part of the most famous Mayan ruin, Chichen Itza, is sitting atop an underground cavity that could, one day, destroy one of the new Wonders of the World.
Archaeologists poking around the Kukulkan pyramid at the site recently discovered that centuries ago, the Mayans built the impressive structure atop an underground river and near a series of sinkholes, the Associated Press reported.
Scientists did not stumble upon the discovery via excavation, but using an electrical resistance survey.
Through this method, they learned that beneath the Kukulkan lies an underground river chamber, covered by 13 feet of limestone that surrounds the pyramid, Prensa Latina added. These rivers are often connected to open cenotes, or sinkhole lakes. These are found all over the Yucatan in Mexico, where Chichen Itza is located.
“Remember what happened in the middle of the limestone, where we can have caverns, a subterranean river. It’s very possible that the pyramid is sitting on top of a cenote,” scientist Rene Chavez told Euronews.
The body of water is about 35 feet across and 65 feet deep, and is located about 65 feet beneath Kukulkan. Dangerously, a corner of the pyramid is actually resting above the cavity, a placement that may threaten to collapse the structure in the future.
But the fact that the Mayans built Kukulkan above the sinkhole in the first place is significant, because it hints at the ancient civilization’s fascinating relationship to the natural world and the universe.
In fact, the pyramid and its placement above and around the underground river and sinkhole could verify for archaeologists that the Maya’s temples and other sacred sites were symbolic maps of their cosmology.
Each sinkhole around Kukulkan may stand in for the four points on the compass, with the river at the center as the symbolic center of the Maya’s universe. In their culture, that center was a tree and its roots.
Denisse Argote, who hails from Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute, has assigned additional symbolic meaning to Kukulkan and its placement around the river and sinkhole.
“We know that in caustic areas, its surroundings have subterranean waters. So, taking into account the concept of the maternal womb, the origins of life and water which is the original of life, we have a double meaning which is very significant. Therefore, taking all these concepts into account we link it with a step to the sky in magical and religious thinking.”
Archaeologists are now going to dot Kukulkan with electrodes to peek inside and figure out when it was built; they believe the pyramid was constructed over many years, not one particular time period.
The Maya were a powerful civilization in their day. Its height was between 250 and 950, and occupied modern-day Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. A culture 15 million strong, they were known for mapping out exact calendars and tracking the stars with amazing accuracy.
[Photo Courtesy Fer Gregory / Shutterstock]