Shimmying through a maze of dark tunnels below the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, archaeologists have rediscovered a long-sealed cave brimming with lost treasure.
According to a statement from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the cave is stockpiled with more than 150 artifacts, including incense burners, vases, and decorative plates adorned with the faces of ancient gods and other religious icons. The trove is believed to be just one of seven sacred chambers in a network of tunnels known as Balamku — “Jaguar God” — that sits below Chichén Itzá, a city that accommodated millions of people at its peak during the 13th century. The artifacts have likely been untouched by human hands for more than 1,000 years, according to the INAH.
Though the treasures were probably deliberately sealed off, the ritual cave, rediscovered in 2018 by archaeologists hunting for a sacred well below the city, has had at least one human visitor in the past millennium, National Geographic reported. The cave was initially discovered in 1966 by archaeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto, who wrote a report about the find, but never excavated before directing local farmers to seal the cavern’s entrance for reasons that are still unknown. Segovia’s records of the discovery went missing, leaving behind a mystery that would take five decades to solve.