Actun Tunichil Muknal

Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), also known locally as Xibalba or ATM, is approximately 17 miles (27 km) from San Ignacio, in the Cayo District, and just a couple of miles from Barton Creek Cave. Notable as a Maya archaeological site that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. There are several areas of skeletal remains in the main chamber. The best-known is “The Crystal Maiden”, the skeleton of an adolescent (now thought to be a teenage boy), possibly a sacrifice victim, whose bones have been calcified to a sparkling, crystallized appearance.

The ceramics at the site are significant partly because they are marked with “kill holes”, which indicate that they were used for ceremonial purposes. Many of the Maya artifacts and remains are completely calcified to the cave floor. One artifact, named the “Monkey Pot”, is one of just four of its type found in Central America. The Maya also modified cave formations here, in some instances to create altars for the offerings, in others to create silhouettes of faces and animals or to project a shadow image into the cave. The cave is extensively decorated with cave formations in the upper passages.

Animal life in the cave includes a large population of bats, large freshwater crabs, crayfish, catfish and other tropical fish. Large invertebrates like Amblypygi and various predatory spiders also inhabit the cave. Agouti and otters may also use the cave. These and many other species are quite common in river caves of this size in Belize.

Other Maya archaeological sites in the vicinity are Cahal Pech, Chaa Creek, El Pilar and Xunantunich.

The Crystal Maiden. Yes, the movie legend of the Crystal skull originated here!

Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Belize