An unexplored underwater labyrinth full of ancient mysteries might sound like the stuff of adventure fiction, but archeologists in Mexico have discovered just that. The recent discovery of the underwater cave network is being described as “the most important submerged archaeological site in the world.” That’s according to Guillermo de Anda, an underwater archaeologist from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History who is working on exploring and excavating the underwater tunnels system beneath Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The tunnels, known as the Sac Actún System, were discovered last year and immediately stunned geologists with their size. So far, researchers have discovered a subterranean labyrinth of tunnels stretching for 347 kilometres (216 miles), but it is believed that there are more tunnels which haven’t been discovered yet.
While the tunnel network itself is fascinating, it’s what’s been inside the tunnels that has archaeologists so excited. The labyrinth is believed to have flooded sometime between 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, creating the perfect conditions to preserve all of the archaeological wonders inside. So far, some of the most tantalizing finds are human remains believed to belong to ancient Maya people. The Maya weren’t known to be this far east in Mexico during those years, leading researchers to speculate that this underwater labyrinth could have once been a cave system used as a shelter on a long-forgotten ancient trade route before it flooded.
Also found in the caves are Maya burial sites, ceramic fragments, and remains of extinct plant life dating back to before the end of the last Ice Age. One of the archaeologists working at the site calls the Sac Actún System “a tunnel of time that transports you to a place 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.” Guillermo de Anda adds that these tunnels occupied an important place in Maya belief systems and cosmology, possibly meaning there could be even more mysterious discoveries waiting at the bottom of this underwater labyrinth:
It is a very powerful, magical region, where the supernatural reigns, where the gods and deities lived, where the good and the bad coexist, and it was also where men came from.
Who knows what could be down there in tunnels yet to be explored? The blind race of Morlocks descended from ancient Maya traders know. But they’ll never tell.