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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico

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Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico
BORIS G

A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings. The term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya, "Ts'onot" to refer to any location with accessible groundwater. Cenotes are common geological forms in low latitude regions, particularly on islands, coastlines, and platforms with young post-Paleozoic limestones that have little soil development.

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Cenote comes from the Mayan word “dzonot” or “ts’onot” which means sacred well, and had great significance for the Maya. First, they represented the main water supply in a land that has no surface water bodies and suffers long dry seasons. As a consequence, all Mayan villages were built in the vicinity of a cenote, in order to secure a permanent water supply. Second, cenotes were also important for religious reasons. They believed cenotes to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods. Archaeological research has found evidence of religious ceremonies that took place in or around cenotes, including human sacrifices.

Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico

While the best-known cenotes are large open water pools measuring tens of meters in diameter, such as those at Chichén Itzá, the greatest number of cenotes are smaller sheltered sites and do not necessarily have any surface exposed water.

Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico
BORIS G

Cenote water is often very clear, as the water comes from rain water filtering slowly through the ground, and therefore contains very little suspended particulate matter. This have attracted swimmers and cave divers from around the world who have documented extensive flooded cave systems, some of which have been explored for lengths of 100 km or more.

Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico
BORIS G

Some cenotes have been turned into public swimming pools of sorts. One of the best examples is the Cenote Zaci, located in Valladolid. Another cenote with some tourist infrastructure is the Cenote San Ignacio, in Chochola. This cenote is artificially lit and has an adjoining restaurant and other services that make for a more comfortable visit. Finally, the facilities at Cenote Sambula, in Motul, were recently remodeled.

Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico
BORIS G
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