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Dec 29, 1999

Cave with Maya artifacts discovered in Cayo

Story PictureOne of the defining characteristics of our young nation is that it will always be considered a work in progress… with new frontiers, new challenges and new discoveries lurking around every bend of the river or fork in the trail. Tonight we invite you to join us on a hike down one of those forest trails in the Cayo District.

In a country with so much jungle-covered land and so few people it really shouldn’t be surprising… but the thought of being among the first to enter a newly discovered cave — especially one filled with ancient Maya artifacts — is still pretty exciting.

Stewart Krohn

"Like any great natural attraction, getting to this cave isn’t particularly easy. First it’s a two hour drive from Belize City into the Mountain Pine Ridge then it’s another two hours on foot through some very pretty jungle."

The jungle in question lies in the lower elevations of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Although seldom seen by tourists it is an area crisscrossed with picturesque streams and magnificent waterfalls. Old logging roads and chiclero trails allow access by foot or horseback. Today’s expedition was organized by residents of the nearby village of San Antonio who want to create a hundred thousand acre national park here to honor the memory of Don Elijio Panti, a Mayan doctor priest who gathered medicinal plants in these hills well into his 90′s… which is just about the age I’m feeling as we continue the fast paced march.

Stewart Krohn

"Of course lunch on the trail is never a problem. It’s prepared on the way." (hikers present armadillo and everyone laughs)

In case anyone was wondering, the armadillo was released shortly after the photo session.

The last half mile or so to the cave is a strenuous uphill hike… which raises the question of why anyone would have been wondering here in the first place. Inocenio Canto, the first human to enter the cave in perhaps a thousand years, says he was out hunting and just got lucky.

Inocencio Canto, Discovered Cave

"Well, I climb this hill here and I came out right here."

Q: "What did you do when you found it?"

Inocencio Canto

"I went in."

Q: "And what did you find?"

Inocencio Canto


And nothing, nothing except eerily beautiful stalactites and stalagmites anyway, is what this cave at first glance appears to contain. But Canto was still curious and later returned with some of his friends.

Q: "When you came back with other people what did you do?"

Inocencio Canto

"We went into this cave and we meet the pots and when we reach down there we came out again."

Q: "What did you think when you saw the pots? Were you surprised?"

Inocencio Canto


Q: "Did you ever see this kind of thing before?"

Inocencio Canto

"No, first time."

And now it was the first time to expose the cave’s secrets to the outside world. But to do that we had to descend through what the ancient Maya considered to be the gates of the underworld. Gates, I may add that are better suited to Maya sized frames than my own.

With the bright lights of the television camera overpowering the slender beam of the flashlights it wasn’t long before we discovered the cave’s manmade wonders: large clay pots, some whole and others in pieces.

Stewart Krohn

"This is one of a hundred pots found in this cave. Archeologists tell us that the ancient Maya didn’t live here below the surface of the Earth but they did worship here and used these pots in rituals and religious ceremonies."

The pots were likely used to house offerings of grain or collect the sacred water that dripped from stalactites. And while most of the pottery was undecorated, there was evidence that other, more elaborate ceramic pieces were also used. It is not likely that all of the cave’s secrets have yet been discovered. With the permission of the Archeology Department, the men of San Antonio are enthusiastically exploring the cave and a twenty-four hour guard is being kept at the entrance to ensure that nothing goes missing. A board of directors has been established to manage the proposed national park. Deputy Chairman Victor Tzib believes that the attractions of the area can be preserved and as well provide his community with much needed jobs.

Victor Tzib, Deputy Chairman, Park Board

"We have some caves and we have some Maya ruins and we have high jungles; we have howlers. What we are planning to do is to make it into a national park and then we are going to bring some tourists back here to make money."

Stewart Krohn

"Their plans for managing this newly discovered treasure are nothing less than ambitious. But if the ancient Maya could create this special place there is no reason why the modern Maya can’t succeed in preserving it. Stewart Krohn for News Five."

The committee formed in San Antonio, chaired by Maria Garcia, is working with Area Representative Dan Silva to make the National Park a reality.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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