Actun Tunichil Muknal ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฟ BELIZE

Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), known as “ATM”ย  is a cave in Belize, near San Ignacio and a Maya archaeological site that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware.

The cave is located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. The main cave system is about 3 mi ย  long and consists of a long river passage for approximately 2 mi ย  which ends at an upstream sump. A series of upper prehistoric passages continues another mile past the sump through massive breakdown boulders and giant rooms. The cave can be exited through a tight squeeze ending in a giant sink hole collapse in the jungle.

“The Crystal Maiden” a skeleton of a 17-year-old 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” (holes created to release spirits lurking within),ย  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.

Actun Tunichil Muknal wiki
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.

cave formations ATM

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.

cave formations ATM
These and many other species are quite common in river caves of this size in Belize.


The Belize Tourism Board, in coordination with the Belize National Institute of Culture and History, Institute of Archaeology, has granted licenses to a small group of agents to conduct tours to this cave, in an attempt to balance its protection against tourist revenue.

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