Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Day 3 - A.T.M. Cave

Actun Tunichil Muknal means in English, "Cave of the Stone Sepulcher". Though we were unable to take pictures due to former incidents with tourists, I can assure you the views were amazing! Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and kept us all safe and sound.

So why is this Mayan cave so cool anyways? If you keep up with your Mayan history you probably already know, but for those of us who don't, let the dark come to light. The Mayan culture is rich with sacrifices, blood-letting or otherwise. The Maya people believed that the caves were a portal to the underworld where their many God's lived. For us, it was no big deal to take the 30 minute hike to the waterfall, jump in, swim to the rocks, and begin navigating our way to the cool stuff. For the Maya people it was a different mindset entirely. The cave is pitch black, they probably had only torches, they were laden down with heavy pots, food, and the occasional human sacrifice. They would spend DAYS inside the cave and trek several miles to their destinations. Oh, and did I mention that they were [in their minds] traveling to the underworld so that they could reach out to unhappy Gods? I get scared walking around town at night by myself sometimes, so I can only imagine how brave these guys had to be to venture into the caves.

What was inside the cave? As the cave is where sacrifices were conducted, there were remnants of pottery where food was cooked and prepared (the smell of food was thought to attract the God's). Most of the pottery was broken. The Mayas believed that everything had a soul, so the pots were smashed, chipped, or had holes drilled into them to release the soul. There were finger bones strewn throughout. These were probably given by the brave souls who were conducting the sacrifices. Bloodletting was important as the Maya believed blood contained the soul. Sacrificing ones blood was symbolic of giving your soul to the Gods. Further into the cave larger bones started to appear, such as skulls. These human sacrifices were most likely offered to Chaac the Rain God and were thought to be children, mainly young boys. It was believed that Chaac liked children, and the crying of a child would draw him to the cave.

We spent about 3 hours in the cave, but I hardly noticed. Time seems to almost stand still the further back into the cave you venture. It is amazing to literally be able to walk the same paths that people you only read about in historic documents walked over 1,000 years ago. If you are up for an adventure of a lifetime, I would highly recommend you get your passport and head over the A.T.M. cave in San Ignacio, Belize.

No comments:

Post a Comment