Dos Pilas - The Site - Caves


During excavations, a total of 22 caves were located in the immediate vicinity of the Dos Pilas, totaling over 11 km in length. There are five major caves; Cueva de El Duende, Cueva de Río El Duende, Cueva de Río Murciélagos, Cueva de Sangre and Cueva de Kaxon Pec. Only these major caves were excavated and the offerings recovered from these caves included a sizeable amount of Preclassic pottery. The strong Preclassic traces found in the caves would imply that the caves were important long before the warlike Dos Pilas state was founded in the Late Classic. All the major architecture at Dos Pilas dates from the Late Classic and is aligned with important cave systems, showing that the builders of the city incorporated a thousand-year old sacred landscape into the design of their city.

On the hill forming the base of the El Duende group were erected several stelae containing toponym glyphs. One of these glyphs refers to water and the cave contains an underground lake directly underneath the hill, making it likely that the toponym is referring to this particular body of water. The fact that the El Duende group were originally named after this subterranean water source demonstrates how important this cave was to the ancient inhabitants of Dos Pilas.

The entrance to the Cave of Bats (Cueva de Río Murciélagos) lies 75 meters to the northwest of the Bat Palace. Although relatively dry in the dry season, after rainfall water can pour out through the cave mouth at a rate of 8m³/second, creating enough noise to be heard in the main plaza 500 meters away. Although the seasonal flow of water has washed away almost all archaeological remains from the cave, archaeologists consider that the Cave of Bats was of ceremonial importance to the inhabitants of Dos Pilas due to the dramatic torrent that flows through it in the wet season.

Investigation of the various caves at Dos Pilas revealed that all of the larger caves were part of a single drainage system and that the Cave of Bats is the drainage outlet for the system, this cave therefore being connected to the Cueva de Río El Duende. A continuation of the Cave of Bats was found to emerge inside the Bat Palace, where it was marked by a shrine.

A plaza group directly overlies the principal chamber of the Cueva de El Duende (not to be confused with the similarly named Cueva de Río El Duende), which lies just southwest of the El Duende pyramid. A 2 meter deep midden was discovered in this cave showing heavy use during the Preclassic and Classic periods. A ceramic vessel bearing the earliest dynastic text yet recovered from Dos Pilas was found in this midden. A thick cap of sterile yellow clay covers much of the floor of the main chamber, it appears to have been deliberately deposited in order to cover the entrance to the cave's longest tunnel, which passes underneath the El Duende pyramid and connects with the Cueva de Río El Duende. In the entrance of the cave were found large quantities of rubble, much of it consisting of finely finished stone that had been stripped from nearby buildings and used to block the cave entrance. James E. Brady believes that the blocking of this sacred cave was a part of a termination ritual carried out by the conquerors of Dos Pilas, who also blocked the entrances of the Cueva de Sangre (Cave of Blood) and possibly the western entrance of the Cueva de Río El Duende, suggesting that the caves were enormously important.

The Cueva de Sangre (Cave of Blood) is located about 2 km east of the El Duende group, it has more than 3 km of tunnel running underneath a small hill. The cave has four entrances, two of which had been blocked with rubble as at Cueva de El Duende. The west entrance appears to have been the principal entrance used by the ancient inhabitants of Dos Pilas. A small building was built above this entrance, the function of this building must have been linked to the use of the cave itself. A stone wall enclosed both the cave entrance and the building itself. Preclassic ceramic fragments were found inside the Cueva de Sangre.

Read more about this topic:  Dos Pilas, The Site

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