'Incredible' archaeological treasure trove discovered in cave under Chichen Itza

Archaeologists have discovered an "incredible" treasure trove of artefacts in a cave underneath Mexico's most famous Mayan ruins.

The Balamku cave was first discovered more than 50 years ago by locals in the ancient city of Chichen Itza, but the official sent to investigate mysteriously sealed off the entrance with stones, and the site remained unexplored.

Balamku means 'jaguar god' in Mayan - but researchers had to contend with another dangerous animal to gain entry to the cave.

The indigenous Mayas who live in the area warned the team from Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) that a venomous snake guarded the site.

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Incendiaries, that indicate a ritual use in pre-Hispanic times, are seen at Balamku cave, located in the archaeological site of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico March 4, 2019. INAH - National Institute of Anthropology and History/Karla Ortega/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda is seen at Balamku cave, located in the archaeological site of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico March 4, 2019. INAH - National Institute of Anthropology and History/Karla Ortega/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda observes a pre-Hispanic artifact at Balamku cave, located in the archaeological site of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico March 4, 2019. Picture taken March 4, 2019. INAH - National Institute of Anthropology and History/Karla Ortega/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Archaeological artifacts and incendiaries, that indicate a ritual use in pre-Hispanic times, are seen at the Balamku cave, located in the archaeological site of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico March 4, 2019. INAH - National Institute of Anthropology and History/Karla Ortega/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda observes a pre-Hispanic artifact at Balamku cave, located in the archaeological site of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico March 4, 2019. INAH - National Institute of Anthropology and History/Karla Ortega/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
View of El Caracol, the Observatory, a structure at the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza in Yucatan State, Mexico, taken on February 13, 2019. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP/Getty Images)
People visit the Kukulcan Pyramid at the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza in Yucatan State, Mexico, on February 13, 2019. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP/Getty Images)
People visit the Kukulcan Pyramid at the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza in Yucatan State, Mexico, on February 13, 2019. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP/Getty Images)
CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 29: A detail of mini El Castillo pyramids sold by local vendors on September 30, 2018 in Chichen Itza, Mexico. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Lumix)
CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 29: A general view of the El Castillo pyramid on September 30, 2018 in Chichen Itza, Mexico. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Lumix)
CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 29: Local men dressed as Mayan Warriors pose for a portrait on September 29, 2018 in Chichen Itza, Mexico. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Lumix)
CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 29: Tourists enjoys the Cenote Ik Kil outside of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Cenotes are massive sinkholes formed when the ceiling of a cave collapses underwater, creating a network of underwater caverns in crystal clear water that divers come from around the world to explore. In ancient times, cenotes served as the Mayan civilizations only source of water and were also held as being sacred to the Mayan People. They believed that the sinkholes represented a passage to the underworld, or 'Xibalba in the Mayan language. Archaeologists have found fossils of mammoths, massive jaguars, and sloths in these underground cave systems, as well as human bones indicating ritual sacrifice and human presence in the cenotes as far back as 9,000 years ago. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Lumix)
CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 29: Tourists enjoys the Cenote Ik Kil outside of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Cenotes are massive sinkholes formed when the ceiling of a cave collapses underwater, creating a network of underwater caverns in crystal clear water that divers come from around the world to explore. In ancient times, cenotes served as the Mayan civilizations only source of water and were also held as being sacred to the Mayan People. They believed that the sinkholes represented a passage to the underworld, or 'Xibalba in the Mayan language. Archaeologists have found fossils of mammoths, massive jaguars, and sloths in these underground cave systems, as well as human bones indicating ritual sacrifice and human presence in the cenotes as far back as 9,000 years ago. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Lumix)
Relief depicting human skulls, detail of the Tzompantli, or Wall of Skulls, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
View of the Kukulcan Pyramid (El Castillo) from the Venus Platform, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
Relief depicting the Mesoamerican ballgame, from Chichen Itza, Copan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
View of Temple of the Jaguars and the Kukulcan Pyramid (El Castillo) from the Great Ball Court, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
The Group of the Thousand Columns with the Temple of the Warriors in the background, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
Chac Mool statue, Temple of the Warriors, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
View over the Great Ball Court and the Temple of the Jaguars, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
Las Monjas, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
El Caracol tower, astronomical observatory, archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
Las Monjas (left) and La Iglesia (right), archaeological site of Chichen Itza (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1988), Yucatan, Mexico. Mayan civilization.
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They found one at the entrance, which blocked their access for four days.

After performing a six-hour ritual at the locals' behest, the team were finally able to enter the cave.

To reach the chambers they had to navigate narrow connecting passages, sometimes crawling because the gaps were so tight.

In the depths of the cave they found a "scientific treasure," Mexican archaeologist Guillermo de Anda said.

They found incense burners and vessels containing among other things carbonised remains of food, seeds, jade, shell and bones that the ancient Mayas offered to their gods.

Hundreds of artefacts were in "perfect condition".

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