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Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza

Yucatán Mexico

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“The Well of Sacrifice”

The Sacred Cenote (Spanish: cenote sagrado, "sacred well"; alternatively known as the "Well of Sacrifice") refers to a noted cenote at the pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site of Chichen Itza, in the northern Yucatán Peninsula. It is located to the north of Chichen Itza's civic precinct, to which it is connected by a 300-metre (980 ft) sacbe, or raised and paved pathway. According to post-Conquest sources (Maya and Spanish), pre-Columbian Maya sacrificed objects and human beings into the cenote as a form of worship to the Maya rain god Chaac. Edward Herbert Thompson dredged the Cenote Sagrado from 1904 to 1910, and recovered artifacts of gold, jade, pottery, and incense, as well as human remains. A study of human remains taken from the Cenote Sagrado found that they had wounds consistent with human sacrifice. Interestingly, many perishable objects were preserved by the cenote. Wooden objects for example, which normally would have rotted, were preserved in the water. A great variety of wooden objects were found including weapons, scepters, idols, tools, and jewelry. Jade was the largest category of objects found followed by textiles. The presence of jade, gold, and copper in the cenote offers proof of the importance of Chichén Itzá as a cultural city center. None of these raw materials are native to the Yucatán, so people travelled to Chichén Itzá from other places in Central America in order to worship the gods. Pottery, stone, bone, and shells were also found in the cenote. Archaeologists have found that many objects show evidence of being intentionally damaged before being thrown into the cenote. Some speculate that this intentional damage is meant to be like “killing” the objects as sacrifice to the gods.

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Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza


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