Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Stone Sepulchre) is commonly referred to as ATM Cave.  Located near San Ignacio, Cayo District, it is notable as a Maya archaeological site, where calcified skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware have been found.  ATM was undoubtedly a sacred ceremonial site for the Maya.  There are several chambers, with several areas of skeletal remains in the main chamber. The best-known is “The Crystal Maiden”, the skeleton of a teenage girl, whose bones have been calcified over the years to a sparkling, crystallized appearance.

The hike to the cave entrance through the lush Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve requires visitors to cross streams, and once inside the magnificent cave, the exploration begins.  The tour requires climbing and swimming, as well as crawling through small spaces.  Visitors remove shoes and explore the cave in socks only, to protect the artifacts on the cave floor.  Photography is now disallowed inside the cave, unless special permits are obtained.

Ceramics found at the site are significant, not only because they are intact, but also because they were used for ceremonial purposes. Many of the Mayan artifacts and remains are completely calcified to the cave floor. The Mayans also modified cave formations here, in some instances to create altars for the offerings, in others to create silhouettes of faces and animals, or to project a shadow image into the cave. The cave is extensively decorated with cave formations in the upper passages.

A visit to this site is truly profound and unforgettable.

 

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Please note: Visits to this cave are guided only by certified tour operators and personnel. Please contact your hotel tour desk for more information.

 

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