The University of Quintana Roo hosted an International Cave Exploration Conference at its Playa del Carmen campus from May 25-27. Cavers and researchers from Mexico and a host of countries including United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand gathered to discuss the intricate network of caves and cenotes that lies deep in the limestone of the Yucatan. The Riviera Maya is especially rich in caves and sinkholes and boasts the longest underground rivers discovered in the world to date.
Topics covered during the conference included exploration and recent discoveries such as the find of an intact skeleton of a huge sloth (the largest in the world) in the Puerto Morelos area and seven human skeletons in the Tulum area, all of which are over 10,000 years old and are causing anthropologists and paleontologists to reexamine the earliest inhabitants of the Americas and their migration patterns.
The caving community called on the Mexican authorities to work for the conservation of these extraordinary natural treasures and their fragile ecology given their vital importance to the peninsula. They also stressed the need to protect the finds of fossils, bones and the offerings of Mayan ceramics and other precious objects that lie in the depths of the cenotes. A 10,000-year-old skeleton was recently stolen from a cenote in the Tulum area and once exposed to the air, these ancient artifacts deteriorate rapidly.