Tuesday, 4 June 2024
-- Advertisement --
Liberty Club Level3 Divers24

Polish underwater archaeologists go to Guatemala again!

With its hand on the pulse of the epidemic situation, but already preparing the necessary documentation to obtain permits to enter the field, the Polish underwater archaeological expedition Petén Itzá Project led by Magda Krzemień from Jagiellonian University, is preparing for the next stage of its conquest of the notorious Guatemalan lake. As a reminder:
Published: October 28, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:25
Polish underwater archaeologists go to Guatemala again!

With its hand on the pulse of the epidemic situation, but already preparing the necessary documentation to obtain permits to enter the field, the Polish underwater archaeological expedition Petén Itzá Project led by Magda Krzemień from Jagiellonian University, is preparing for the next stage of its conquest of the notorious Guatemalan lake.

As a reminder: the previous edition of the expedition, which took place in 2018, was successful despite numerous adversities (a summary article can be found at the end of the post).

-- Advertisement --

The idea of the project was born in the mind of a Mayanist (a researcher of the ancient Maya culture) from a Krakow university. As she already had experience in underwater archaeology (one year of studies at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, and later postgraduate studies at the University of Warsaw and participation in underwater fieldwork with the Nicolaus Copernicus University and the University of Warsaw), she wanted to combine her two passions.

excavation of an underwater deposit Guatemala
Taking monuments out of the water photo: Petén Itzá Project

The region in which Petén Itzá (one of the largest lakes in Guatemala) is located is known to archaeologists primarily for its land sites. Evidence of inhabitation of the area for centuries has been found around the lake. Of particular interest to researchers is the existence of an urban centre, which developed at least from 800/700 BC on the island now known as Flores.

Equally important is the fact that relatively soon before the Spanish conquistadors conquered the area, the Maya Itza inhabited the site and made it a fortress that maintained its autonomy for a very long time (this was, in fact, the inspiration for the project’s initial title: “The Last Mayan Bastion”).

Underwater deposit excavated by archaeologists Guatemala
Taking monuments out of the water photo: Petén Itzá Project

The Spanish attacked the island in 1697 from the water, from the deck of a vessel built nearby called a galleot. This allows us to assume that relics related to the battle can be found at the bottom of the lake. Finally, both amateur divers and archaeologists who have dived here in the past have unearthed pottery from the bottom, associated with the cult activity of the local inhabitants several hundred years ago.

The expedition, in which apart from the leader, researchers affiliated with the Nicolaus Copernicus University (Mateusz Popek, Jakub Maciejewski) and the University of Warsaw (Małgorzata Mileszczyk) took part, was financed from private sponsors (main sponsors: Sebastian Lambert and Iga Snopek), subsidies from the Jagiellonian University and the University of Warsaw, the participants’ own resources, and from the crowdfunding campaign of the Polak Potrafi portal.

stone ring from the bottom of Guatemala lake
2. a small stone ring – the head of a mace which was mounted on a wooden club photo: Petén Itzá Project

Eventually, it was possible to obtain all the permits and reach the research site, where a Guatemalan collaborator was already waiting, ceramologist Bernard Hermes, a participant in the ephemeral and unpublished underwater research of the 1990s and an eyewitness to the excavation of ceremonial ladles at the time.

In 2018, the problem was the lack of a compressor, which was stopped at the border and only arrived in Flores after many long and tedious explanations… on the last day of the project. Fortunately, the Poles were supported in this by Guatemalan volunteer firefighters.

Archaeologists and local support Guatemala
A team of Polish archaeologists together with a Guatemalan collaborator and a brigade of bomberos from nearby San Benito fot. Petén Itzá Project

The lake rewarded and enchanted us. We managed to locate both pieces of weaponry that can be linked to the battle (the mace head), as well as fascinating deposits that are most likely evidence of the water cult that played a very large role in the Maya culture throughout its existence and throughout its area of operation. Its most famous manifestation is, of course, the offerings made to Chaak, the god of rain, in the Yucatan cenotes, well known to divers.

Speaking of cenotes – on the Tayasal Peninsula (separating the shallower, southern part of the lake from the very deep, northern part) there is a so-called aguada, a karst well similar to a cenote, which we would also like to explore. Unfortunately, it is currently very polluted by local smallholding activity, making it impossible to dive safely without very specialised equipment, but maybe one day we will!

sacrificial deposit found under water
Underwater documentation of the sacrificial deposit photo Petén Itzá Project

Since the verification of information from written sources and those from divers and archaeologists has been successful (not to say triumphant!), and its results have been compiled (in 2018 and 2019, when the second, laboratory season took place) and published – it is high time to continue the field part of the project.

This time, not only underwater “surface explorations”, i.e. investigations at the bottom of the lake, but also actual excavations are planned. The significant rise in the water level of the lake over the last few centuries, as recorded by geologists, is very interesting. This allows one more research hypothesis to be put forward.

a vessel found under water Guatemala
A vessel from the colonial era in the place where it was found – at the bottom of the lake photo Petén Itzá Project

The stony slopes and muddy bottoms around Flores Island may in fact conceal the ruins of the buildings of a city that existed there before the colonial town was built on it. We will also be looking for further evidence of Maya sacrifice in the lake’s depths and for clues to reconstruct these fascinating rituals.

We have plenty of ideas and research hypotheses, now we just have to wait for the virus to reverse and we’re packing our bags!

We invite you to read, among others, the article in “Archaeology: Just Add Water”, 2019 and follow updates on our fanpage Petén Itzá Project – Underwater Archaeological Expedition to Guatemala.

Authors: Magdalena Krzemień, Jakub Maciejewski, Małgorzata Mileszczyk
Main photo – colourful lanchas – motorboats, the basis of local communication – on Flores’ shores photo: Petén Itzá Project

Other posts
Share:
Facebook
Telegram
LinkedIn
Twitter
Pinterest
WhatsApp

About author

Goka
Kulturoznawca i archeolog podwodna związana z Uniwersytetem Warszawskim. Realizatorka i uczestniczka licznych projektów archeologicznych, niestrudzona popularyzatorka nauki.
-- Advertisement --
freediving dive insurance dan
-- Advertisement --
Level3 Club CCR Divers24
Recent post
Octopus nursery in the depths of the Pacific Ocean – remarkable discovery made by scientists in Costa Rica
Baltictech Conference, last days to catch tickets at discounted price.
Shearwater Peregrine TX: The Ultimate Diving Companion
Baltictech 2024: Dive into Inspiration - Tickets Now on Sale!
Adriatic Depths: Cultivating Sustainable Tourism through Underwater Heritage
Jared Hires: A Tragic Loss in the Depths of Plura Cave
WRECKS4ALL: Unveiling the Southern Adriatic's Underwater Heritage
You haven't read yet
Introducing the Divesoft Reel
Baltictech Conference, last days to catch tickets at discounted price.
Marcin Bramson Discusses His Switch to Divesoft Liberty and the Future of Rebreather Diving
Lungfish Orca v6 Rebreather Achieves CE Certification
Shearwater Peregrine TX: The Ultimate Diving Companion
Raid HYPOXIC TRIMIX OC course to 100 metres

Search...

The Divers24 portal is currently the largest online medium treating diving in Poland. Since 2010 we have been providing interesting and important information from Poland and around the world on all forms of diving and related activities.

Contact us: info@divers24.com