Cenote Ziiz Ha – Valladolid, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Cenote Ziiz Ha

A cenote filled with Colonial era artifacts whose waters cannot be accessed.  


After the Caribbean coast, cenotes are likely the most recognizable natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula. These sinkholes come in several shapes and sizes, and their importance was recognized by the indigenous Maya peoples, not only as freshwater sources but also for their belief systems. A certain cenote has even gained the name of “Pet Cemetery” due to the large number of animal bones found at its bottom. Many other cenotes are known for their wealth of religious offerings such as jewelry.

Ziiz Ha (“cold waterwell” in Yucatec Mayan) currently stands on the grounds of the Catholic convent of San Bernardino de Siena, built in the mid-16th century, and is covered by a colonial stone structure that appears to be a well. Even with this construction, which obstructs access to the cenote’s waters even more than the natural cave above it already did, Ziiz Ha has been explored by diving archaeologists for decades.

Rather than pre-Columbian jewelry or prehistoric animal bones, what they have found here dates to the Colonial era that defines its architectural surroundings. Weapons, most of them artillery, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries were a bulk of the findings. The origins of these firearms, cannonballs, and similar objects represent the Colonial history of the region, as they include not only Spanish examples but also several British ones. This is due to the production of weapons in the British Empire, as well as their arming of troops and civilians in colonies.

The weapons were discarded either to keep them away from enemy hands or just to get rid of them. The huge haul of colonial war artifacts found in the cenote represents an important archaeological heritage.

Know Before You Go

The Cenote is located within the grounds of the Convent of San Bernardino, and access to it is required in order to visit the cenote. Verify pricing and opening times for the Convent before visiting.

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