Mayan Mortuary Deposits in the Cenotes of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, Mexico


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date


Publication Title

Underwater and Maritime Archaeology in Latin America and the Caribbean


The Yucatan Peninsula contains a great number of submerged caves and collapsed dolinas of sedimentary limestone origin, locally known as cenotes. The importance of caves and cenotes for the Mayas was documented in the 16th century by Fray Diego de Landa and other chroniclers, but the interest in exploring them began in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with travelers like John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood and institutions like the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The Mayan infraworld, identified in the karstic systems, was associated with different mythological beings and fantastic animals such as the moan bird, as it was named by Eduard Seler. The spatial association of cenotes with pre-Hispanic settlements, the presence of culturally deformed skulls, and the presence of Late pre-Classic to Early Classic pottery, in one case directly associated with one osteological group, supports the hypothesis that the deposits have remained in situ since early pre-Hispanic times.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)