On the east side of Balam Ja Way adjacent to the road is a Maya Chul Tun (Chultun) or excavated cave. We have cleaned the area surrounding the cave and places rocks for landscaping and safety.

Chultun Balam Ja Way

The entrance to the Chultun was filled with rocks and tree roots. The tree roots cluster and go deep into the Chultun probably to seek water. We are still opening the entrance of debris.




Maya Chultun

Above: The term “Chultun” is thought to be derived by the Maya word Chul, meaning either “wet” or “becoming wet” or possibly “tsul” meaning to “clean out or excavate” and the word tun meaning “rock” or “stone” thus chultun meaning “wet rock” or “rock that becomes wet” or perhaps more loosely “rock place that becomes wet”. The term “Chultun” in modern Yucatecan Maya is used to refer to a hole in the ground that is wet or contains water.




Wikipedia: A chultun (plural: chultunob' or chultuns) is a bottle-shaped underground storage chamber built by the pre-Columbian Maya in southern Mesoamerica. Their entrances were surrounded by plastered aprons which guided rainwater into them during the rainy seasons. Most of these archaeological features likely functioned as cisterns for potable water.

 Puleston DE. 1971. An experimental approach to the function of classic Maya chultuns. American Antiquity. 36(3):322-325.  An overview of chultuns throughout the Maya civilisation with some interesting observations on their use for water or food storage. PDF

The Chaa Creek Chultun is another indication of Maya existence at Chaa Creek Nature Reserve. 2012.


Maya caves in general - below adapated from:

The Maya book the Popul Vuh says that caves, water and mountains were the first forms of landscape with the creation of the world.  The Maya regarded any depression in the ground as a cave, including any niche between large stones. 

The Maya Rain God, Chaak, lived in caves, and many caves were entrances to the underworld, or Xibalba, the "Place of Fear." Xibalba was a underground court with twelve Lords of Xibalba, or Maya death gods.  Hun Came (One Death) and Vucub-Came (Seven Death) were the two primary death gods. 

The other ten gods were demons who caused sickness, starvation, poverty, fear, pain and death.  These demons were Xiquiripat (Flying Scab) and Cuchumaquic (Gathered Blood), both of whom caused blood diseases, Ahalpuh (Pus Demon) and Aalgana (Jaundice Demon), who caused bodies to swell, Chamiabac (Bone Staff) and Chamiaholom (Skull Staff) who caused decay, Ahalmez (Sweepings Demon) and Ahaltocob (Stabbing Demon), "who hid in the unswept areas of people's houses and stabbed them to death, and Xic (Wing) and Patan (Packstrap), who caused people to die from coughing up blood.  The rest of the inhabitants of Xibalba worked for one of these gods/demons.

In addition to being a place of death, the Maya believed that caves were places where souls could defeat death and become revered ancestors, making caves important places for burials and sacrifices. Caves also provide a venue for speaking with spirits to learn the right time for agricultural practices such as when to plant corn and burn the fields. 

To the Maya, caves were spiritual places in addition to being places of fear and death, and places for ceremonial rites and rituals.  Most known caves in Belize functioned as Maya ceremonial caves.  However, Maya rarely visited the caves, and then only to perform rites and rituals on ledges.  Special ceremonial pots were used in these rituals and at the end of the ritual, the pot was broken or punctured to release its spirit and to prevent the pot from ever being used again.

Caves were also useful places to satisfy the basic needs of the living - clean and fresh water, and safe storage for agricultural products such as clay pots of grains.


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