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THE CAVES OF LOL-TÚN                                                                                                                        Printer friendly version


These caverns, whose name comes from the Maya “Lol” - Flower and “Tún” - Stone, are the largest known from the huge cave system that covers a great territory in southern Yucatán. They are located within the Puuc hills of Yucatán and are open to the public and have been arranged for a safe tour that comprises approximately 0.62 miles long in its interior by means of illuminated paths. In addition to being a fabulous natural phenomenon, Lol-Tún is an important archeological site. These caves contain evidence of humans’ earliest presence in Yucatán. Researchers have found a collection of bones belonging to extinct mammals, including mammoths, dated from 9000 - 7500 BC. Early pre classic ceramics (2000 - 1250 BC) have also been discovered here. The most important archeological find is the relief called "the Warrior," which is just outside the entrance. Researchers believe that it was carved in the Izapan style of Kaminaljuyu, the enormous pre classic site near Guatemala City.

The massive interconnecting caverns are visited on occasion by bus loads of tourists visiting the nearby ruins of Uxmal, Labná, Sayil, and other sites in The Puuc route. However, few realize the importance of this set of caves in the prehistory of México. Lol-Tún has given archeologists some of the earliest evidence of humans in the New World. The caves were used as butchery for Ice Age fauna during the Paleo-Indian Period of Mesoamerican prehistory.

Here, the visitor can learn the natural and cultural history of the Northern Maya lowlands within a 10,000 years period, from late Pleistocene to contemporary times. In one of its cavities, locally known as "Huechil" (from the Maya "Huech": Armadillo), archeological excavations were carried out and in one of its lowest levels extinct animal remains were found: Mammoth, bison, feline and other animals bones, indicating a colder climate period with a different environment to that of the present. Man made stone tools appeared in a superior level, probably produced by the first Peninsula' inhabitants.

Other material remains have been found in this and other parts of the cave including pottery, marine shells, stone artifacts, bas-relief carvings, petrogliphs and mural paintings corresponding to the distinct development stages of the Maya Culture. From the Formative period (600 BC - 150 AD) stands out the bas-relief carving known as "The Lol-Tún warrior" located at the entrance of the caves, presenting inherited traits from ancient Olmecs. Many of the archeological finds of prehistoric cave drawings are similar to these that were left on the nearby ruins of Uxmal, dating to the late Classic Period. But the hand outlines at Lol-Tún may be centuries older.

From Classic (150 - 900 AD) and Post Classic (900 AD to 16th century) can be observed cultural features such as mural paintings representing hands, faces, animals, geometric motifs and inscriptions; "Haltunes" or artificial containers carved in the rock for gathering natural dripping water as well as many petrogliphs, standing out those with flower motifs, which give the name to the cavern. There are also 19th century barricades constructed by rebel Mayas who sheltered in these and other southern Yucatán caves during the so called "War of Castes."

Visitors can admire many natural lime stone formations with capricious and suggestive forms that popular imagination has baptized with peculiar names such as: "Cathedral", "Grand Canyon Gallery", "Ear of Corn", "Stalactite rooms", and so on. It is important to notice the "Musical" columns, formed by the union of stalactites and stalagmites that produce sounds with different tones when they are knocked; or a magnificent gallery with its collapsed ceiling with descending tree roots and sun rays.

Outside of one of the entrances to Lol-Tún Caves is a large phallic monument. This monolith is almost the height of a person, and is very anatomically correct. It is a rather large example of a phallic tradition which was widespread in the Puuc region during the late/terminal Classic. This particular phallus was not originally found at Lol-Tún. It was found at a small site nearby and transported to the Lol-Tún archeological zone for protection and for the visiting public

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Yucatan, Lol-Tun Caverns, Puuc Route, Entrance 2 - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Roof Openning at The Caves of Lol-Tún
Yucatan, Lol-Tun Caverns, Puuc Route - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The Caves of Lol-Tún
Yucatan, Lol-Tun Caverns, Puuc Route, Phallic Stalagmite - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Maya Art at The Caves of Lol-Tún