General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Sep 2017/11 Vulture
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Article suitable for Top Juniors and above

Professor Michael Coe

Question for July 2012

Did the Aztecs have ‘cenotes’ [sacred wells or sinkholes] or caves? Asked by Allenbourn Middle School. Chosen and answered by Professor Michael Coe.

Mexicolore Director Graciela Sánchez viewing a ‘cenote’ near Chichén Itzá in 1979
Mexicolore Director Graciela Sánchez viewing a ‘cenote’ near Chichén Itzá in 1979 (Click on image to enlarge)

They had sacred caves, but not cenotes. It was the Maya of Yucatan who had the cenotes (still the only source of water in many parts of Yucatan).

(Dr. Alfredo López Austín, also on our Panel of Experts, adds: No, these geological formations are characteristic of the Yucatán peninsula, inhabited by the Maya. The peninsula is a great chalky plain, virtually mountain-free, where the water filters down through the surface to form underground rivers, which give rise to ‘cenotes’.)

(Español: No. Estas formaciones geológicas son propias de la península de Yucatán, que habitaban los mayas. La península es una gran plancha calcárea, sin montañas (apenas unas muy pequeñas), donde el agua se filtra en la superficie y forma los ríos subterráneos. Estos ríos dan origen a los cenotes.)

NOTE: we intend to publish an article specifically on the importance of sacred caves in the coming months...

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

‘The Importance of Cenotes in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica’

Professor Michael Coe has answered 5 questions altogether:

(Talking of jigsaw puzzle pieces) why do there seem to be two 5-number domino pieces at the bottom of the Movement sign in the middle of the Sunstone?

Were there any laws governing when you could get married and have children?

Did the Aztecs have ‘cenotes’ [sacred wells or sinkholes] or caves?

If you’re so into Aztec stuff, would you like to have lived in Aztec times?

Who invented the 20-day calendar?

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