Cenotes Of The Yucatan Peninsula

By | September 5, 2019

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Chichen Itza, Mexico - Sagrado Cenote Azul. Source: (flickr.com)

Popular among tourists in Mexico are the Cenotes, whose name comes from the Mayan word “ts’onot” which was used to describe an underground water source. There are more than six thousand of these deep wells in the Yucatan Peninsula alone. While today they are primarily a source of tourist revenue, the cenotes served a far more vital role in the ancient Mayan civilization.

Cenotes are natural sinkholes which formed in areas with a limestone-based bedrock. As rainwater seeped through the soil, it dissolved the limestone, eventually causing the ground above to collapse. This resulted in giant caves filled with water, thus creating a series of underground lakes connected by subterranean rivers. Many of these cave systems span several miles. The concentration of cenotes around the Chicxulub crater, which is believed to be the impact site of the asteroid which exterminated the dinosaurs, suggests the impact accelerated the formation of the cenotes.

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Tulum The Pit Cenote. Source: (flickr.com)

There are four types of cenotes. Pit cenotes have a narrow entrance at the ground’s surface compared to the much wider diameter at the bottom. These are also referred to as jug cenotes. Cylinder cenotes are characterized by steep vertical walls. Cave cenotes, on the other hand, are named for the cave-like entrances which are located to the side rather than above the cenote. The final type of cenotes is the basin cenote, which is bowl-shaped and has shallows.