According to the Mayans, it wasn’t exactly a gate. The portal though which the dead passed into the underworld of their next life was believed to be a water medium, which is why enterprising Polish archeologists have spent their time searching lake beds and in underground reservoirs for Mayan artifacts. Their waterlogged quest reached fruition on an island in a Guatemalan lake where recently found relics of possible human sacrifices and evidence that this was also the location of a different kind of passing in the surface worlds – the last battle between the Maya and Spanish invaders.
“The Maya resisted the conquistadors for a very long time. Nojpetén - the last independent fortress of the Maya - was captured in 1697 after a great battle. The Spaniards attacked the island on ships, from which they shot their weapons at the Maya.”
Science in Poland is slowly releasing news of recent Polish archeological discoveries in late 2018 near Nojpetén, the capitol city on what is now called Flores Island in Petén Itza Lake in Guatemala. The first surprise was that there were so many ceramic artifacts and they were in such excellent, non-broken condition. That led the archeologists to believe they were not tossed carelessly into the water but lowered using nets as offerings to the gods. Those offerings in the ceramic vessels included animal bones and obsidian blades. (Photos of the artifacts here.)
“Ancient Maya used blades like this during their rituals. They could make blood-letting offerings or even kill somebody to offer human blood to the gods.”
Project leader Magdalena Krzemień of Poland's Jagiellonian University says weapons found in the underwater cache served two purposes – the obsidian (a glassy volcanic rock) blades were used to kill and carve offerings to the gods, while a well-preserved stone head of a mace – the deadly club of warfare in many cultures – was evidence that the last battle to preserve the culture, which ended in 1697, occurred here. Bringing the upper and lower worlds together in one piece was a large shell found near the nearby El Hospital island which was from the Caribbean and used for a variety of rituals covering the full circle of Mayan life from birth and maturation to sacrifice, war and death.
“That is a great beginning to the process of better learning their customs, beliefs and culture.”
Krzemień revealed that this large cache of artifacts was found on the surface of the lake bed, making them easy to recover. She expects that more will be found with some digging. That could explain why the news of this 2018 discovery is only trickling out now – the archeologists want to protect this historic and sacred site from reckless and unscrupulous recovery efforts.
The ancient gate to the underworld still attracts underworld characters – what a shock.