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March 20, 2006
Mayan Underworld

I found this fascinating.

TULUM, Mexico, March 20 (Reuters) - The ancient Maya once believed that Mexico's jungle sinkholes containing crystalline waters were the gateway to the underworld and the lair of a surly rain god who had to be appeased with human sacrifices.

Now, the "cenotes", deep sinkholes in limestone that have pools at the bottom, are yielding scientific discoveries including possible life-saving cancer treatments.

Divers are dipping into the cenotes, which stud the Yucatan peninsula, to explore a vast underground river system.

Hefting air tanks, guidelines and waterproof lamps, they have so far mapped 405 miles (650 km) of channels that form part of a huge subterranean river delta flowing into the Caribbean sea, and they are only just starting.

Fascinating story. Sadly, local pollution and the intrusion of "sport" divers have already endangered this ecosystem.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:43 PM