A mysterious passageway sealed off by ancient Mayans has been discovered deep inside a grand temple built over 1,000 years ago.
Experts believe the tunnel beneath the Kukulcan temple leads to a cenote – a natural water-filled cave – at the famed Chichen Itza ruins.
They hope it will unlock further secrets of the doomed civilisation once the passageway is finally opened and explored.
Researchers discovered passageway while exploring an area that had never been seen before in underground labyrinths at the site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
It was discovered using an advanced technique called electrical resistivity imaging two years after the sinkhole was first discovered.
Experts believe the tunnel beneath the Kukulcan temple leads to a cenote
The secret passageway was discovered using electrical resistivity imaging (Image: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia)
A different passageway leading through the ancient temple (Image: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia)
A team of archaeologists are now planning to physically enter the area and try to open the passageway to see where it leads.
Underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda told El Universal: Through the ossuary [room] we can enter the cave beneath the structure and there we found a blocked passageway, probably closed off by the ancient Mayans themselves.
“We will enter again and, this time, we will try to open it to see if the passageway leads us to the entrance of the cenote beneath the castle.”
Experts are now hoping to physically investigate the passageway (Image: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia)
He added: “First, we want to prove it exists because no one has seen it. We only have the images. Then we’d have to explore it.”
The sinkhole was first discovered in 2015 by a team led by René Chávez, a researcher from the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Geophysics Institute.
Mr de Anda is working on the Great Mayan Aquifer Project which has made a number of big discoveries over the years as workers develop a 3D map of the underground caves and tunnels.
It is believed the tunnel was sealed off by the ancient Mayans (Image: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia)
Cenotes are natural sinkholes that develop when limestone bedrock collapses and exposes groundwater underneath.
Ancient Mayans are believed to have carried out human sacrifices at some of them.
Researchers have discovered thousands of the caves in the Yucan Peninsula – with many being used as swimming holes or tourist attractions.
The temple is part of the Chichen Itza ruins in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula (Image: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia)
Earlier this month, it emerged that a mysterious corridor had been found inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, more than 4,000 years after it was built.
Described as a ‘deep void’, the passage is at least about 100ft long and up to 230ft above ground, but explorers don’t know what it was used for.
They are now hoping a tiny flying robot can go in and help uncover the Egyptian pyramid’s secrets after discovering the corridor using cosmic-ray based imaging.