Some of the most wonderful things have been discovered by accident: Teflon, microwaves, and yes, even Cheese Puffs. A group of archaeologists in Mexico might argue their accidental discovery may be a bit more consequential, though, after stumbling upon a cave left untouched for 1,000 years that could help experts better understand the fall of the ancient Mayan civilization.
While searching for a sacred well underneath the historic site of Chichén Itzá in Mexico, a team of archaeologists recently came across a cave system known as Balamku and noticed it was full of shockingly well-preserved Ancient Mayan relics like incense burners, vases, decorated plates, and other objects dating to between 700 and 1000 AD, according to National Geographic. The findings are particularly exciting because researchers believe they may be able to answer important questions about what was going on in the Mayan world before Chichén Itzá fell. Needless to say, the archaeologists were pretty stoked about their happy accident.
“I couldn’t speak, I started to cry," Guillermo de Anda, one of the explorers who came upon Balumku, said in an interview with National Geographic. "I’ve analyzed human remains in [Chichén Itzá’s] Sacred Cenote, but nothing compares to the sensation I had entering, alone, for the first time in that cave."
The team didn't simply turn a corner and walk into the unexplored caves, but rather came upon them while slowly inching their way through tight tunnels on their stomachs in search of the aforementioned well. That's when de Anda's headlamp illuminated a bunch of artifacts that had been sitting undisturbed for so long that stalagmites had formed on them. It turned out that they had entered what was just the first of seven different ritual offering chambers.
“Balamku can tell us not only the moment of collapse of Chichén Itzá,” de Anda said. “It can also probably tell us the moment of its beginning. Now, we have a sealed context, with a great quantity of information, including useable organic matter, that we can use to understand the development of Chichén Itzá.”
While de Anda and team are the first to really explore Balamku, National Geographic notes that it was actually first discovered back in 1966 by a group of farmers, and explored briefly by an archaeologist who apparently decided not to excavate it, and instead had the farmers seal it back up.
Let's just hope he didn't have a good reason to make sure it remained sealed...
h/t Travel & Leisure