An international team of archaeologists has explored underwater caves off the coast of Quintana Roo in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Several millennia ago, the ocean level here was much lower, it was possible to get into the caves from land, which was what the ancient miners of minerals did. Archaeologists have found numerous traces of their activities and established that they were extracting a valuable natural dye - ocher.
After studying the surviving stone tools, hearths and tools for the primary processing of ocher, scientists came to the conclusion that the mine worked for a very long time, supplying local tribes with ocher for about 2000 years. This happened between 12, 000 and 10, 000 years ago, and some experts believe that the mine was opened 800 years earlier. But it all ended overnight, although the mines had not yet been flooded at that time.
It is likely that ancient miners reassessed their work. The relief of the caves clearly shows how the natural cavities in the ground expanded and deepened as the ocher was extracted. The account of the extracted raw materials went to thousands of tons, moreover, we are talking about purely manual labor. But as the deposits were depleted, the miners had to go deeper, which became very dangerous - they did not possess the technology of strengthening mines and adits. Therefore, it was probably decided to move to the development of another field.
The flooding of the caves played into the hands of archaeologists, mothballing the mines, which did not allow the Maya to use them, who later settled these lands. In this region there is an extensive system of caves and cenotes, karst sinkholes, but so far only 2000 km of these undergrounds have been studied. Which of them were chosen by the Maya, and which were exploited by more ancient peoples and for what purposes, remains to be seen.