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Detail of what could be the most important ancient Mayan cave paintings on the Yucatan Peninsula, discovered deep in the jungle by archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi and his team. EFE-EPA/Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi

Treasure of Mayan cave paintings discovered in southeast Mexico

The discovery may have revealed the most important Mayan cave paintings on the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Deep in the jungle, archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi and his team discovered what could be the most important Mayan cave paintings on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The paintings cover a rock approximately 15 meters (49 feet) long and 5 meters high inside a cave in eastern Yucatan state, which also holds a small sinkhole of blue water.

"These are not the only cave paintings in the Yucatan, but they're the most important because they have so many elements: birds, mammals, a cross, geometric figures, human forms including a warrior, as well as hands both negative and positive," Grosjean, head of the Mexican Institute of Ecology, Science and Culture, told EFE.

The archaeologist said his team is motivated by this new discovery because it will provide new information about Mayan customs, "though we don't yet know what these cave paintings mean nor to what period they belong."

The archeologist is a certified diver. The team penetrated 12 meters down into the cave by rappelling. They found the treasure at the end of June.

He said they have contacted researchers at the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) and other specialists with whom they will meet in the coming days at the site in order to identify the elements.

"Right now we're unable to reveal the exact location, because unfortunately in the Yucatan, the looters and vandals are always a step ahead of us," he said.

Grosjean, a certified diver, said that to study the meaning of the pictures, the team will take photos and then, "if the authorities allow it," they will carry out a sustainable project giving visitors access to the site, and with that, they will "create jobs for local residents."

The archaeologist, author of the book "Secretos de los Cenotes de Yucatan" (Secrets of the Yucatan Sinkholes), believes the art of the ancient Mayas "can't be kept hidden for just a privileged few; it should be exhibited with all the security provisions that a place with so much cultural value deserves."

"Culturally speaking the Yucatan is full of riches, but unfortunately there's no interest at the three levels of government (federal, state and municipal). They don't value or respect the sacred Mayan sites. In fact, some have been turned into beach resorts," the diver said.

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