The Underworld

Millions of years ago, rainwater began seeping through Earth. In Belize, this ground was rich in limestone. The rainwater carried with it carbon dioxide from rotting plants. This rainwater and carbon dioxide produced a weak acid that ate away at the surface to create a swiss cheese-like series of caves.

Today, Belize has a huge system of caves to explore. Tourists often visit at least one cave while in Belize. Now, you might think that these caves are cramped and dark, but most are massive. There are even underground rivers that flow through these caves. This allows visitors to lazily float through them via an inner tube.

But what seems like a calm cave adventure is quite creepy. Especially when you learn that the Maya believed these caves were openings to the Underworld.

The most famous cave in Belize is Actun Tunichil Muknal. Try saying that three times fast! Belizeans and archaeologists simply call the cave “ATM”, and inside are some of the most important remains of ancient Mayan history – the Crystal Maiden.

The Crystal Maiden is the skeleton of a teenage girl who was sacrificed to the gods of the Underworld. Most archaeologists believe that human sacrifice would have taken place when the Maya experienced disease or drought. Killing children for sacrifice didn’t happen often. It would only happen if the Maya felt they needed to make a bigger offering to the gods.

The skeleton of the Crystal Maiden dates back more than 1,000 years. Her bones now have a shimmering, crystallized appearance due to the carbon build up in the caves mentioned above. Over the years her bones have become part of the cave floor and are a reminder of the ancient Mayas past.

I think this super scared spelunker will stick with the science of caves and leave the spooky stuff to the archaeologists.