Diving for underwater offerings

Chip with jar neck sherd

By Lisa J. Lucero - Scientist at work


We did not leave for the field until 9:30 a.m. Because our exploration diver Chip Petersen is using trimix (oxygen, nitrogen and helium) gases, double-checking the gas tanks before and after the hour-plus trip to Pool 1 is critical.

Using this gas mix will allow him to safely and effectively explore depths beyond traditional scuba diving, and that is where we expect to find Maya offerings.

At Pool 1, as the divers began getting their gear in order, Ernesto, Cleofo, Juan Antonio and Stanley constructed a ladder that the divers need to enter the pool, since the surface is eight feet below ground level.

Our videographer, Marty O’Farrell, noticed last season that the bottom of the pool is roughly half the size of its surface, because of the slope beginning on the south side going down toward the cave opening.

Andrew explored the shelf approximately 15 feet below the surface beneath Structure 1, the ceremonial building (likely a water shrine) on the southwest edge of the pool. Why is this significant ?

Because this underwater topography (bathymetry) determines where divers search for offerings. If the Maya made offerings from this building, they probably would have either landed on the shelf 15 feet below or rolled all the way down, 150 to 200-plus feet. The depth is the first challenge.

The second challenge is negotiating the numerous trees that have collapsed into the cenote over who knows how many centuries. Naturally, the highest density of trees is found immediately under Structure 1.

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Belize Diving archaeology

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