Archaeologists in Guatemala have retrieved artefacts from ancient Mayan ruins submerged in picturesque Lake Atitlan. Local officials estimate that the relics could be more than 2,000 years old.
Scuba divers exploring the underwater ceremonial site of Samabaj found the remarkable pottery pieces intact. Although the artefacts had spent thousands of years at the bottom of Latin America's deepest lake, their detail of carvings and color are still evident.
Rosendo Morales, exhibition co-ordinator of local museum official, said, "We have found pieces in Samabaj dating back 200, 300 B.C. to 300 A.D. of different types such as incense burners of 1.5 meters with four incredible cardinal points. We are still asking questions about how these items could have been preserved for 2000, 2200 years in the lake up to now and still retain a texture that you can appreciate."
The recreational diver and local who accidentally discovered the Mayan ceremonial site some 14 years ago, talked about his own theory into how the ruins have survived thousands of years in the mystical lake.
Roberto Smayoa, investigator at site, said, "A small mountain was practically gone. It was submerged under water that has the same conditions of the small mountain so it's a small volcanic hill that is framed by two volcanoes and all of the springs that you can find around. The theory is that it was a place of pilgrimage that overlooked the entire lake and all the little platform trails, some damaged, indicate this was a ceremonial site."
Researchers believe the artefacts was housed on an island until a catastrophic event, like a volcanic eruption or landslide, raised water levels and drowned out the ancient pilgrimage site of Samabaj.
With investigations still taking place, the exact location of the site is a closely guarded secret, since archaeologists want to protect it from looters who fish in the ruins for artefacts to be sold on the black market.
Once complete, tourist officials hope to open Samabaj to curious international visitors.