The Maya city sunk in the deep sea has been discovered by archaeologists

Archaeologists from INAH have discovered a submerged Maya city in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. This is a city submerged in deep water.

City submerged in water

During the Late Pre-Ancient period (400 BC to AD 250), the ancient Mayans established a large settlement inside the lake on a small island, consisting of shrines to the gods, a birth square and a activities and family housing.

The lake is of volcanic origin, filling a huge crater formed by an eruption 84,000 years ago. It is hypothesized that a natural event related to volcanic activity caused the lake bottom to drop, resulting in the city being submerged to depths between 12 and 20 meters. Specifically, the volcano erupted, volcanic lava caused the rock to collapse, causing the ancient city to be submerged in water.


The peoples living around the lake are mainly Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel. During the Spanish conquest, the Kaqchikel initially allied with the invaders to defeat their historical enemies Tz’utujil and K’iche’ Maya, but they were subdued and subdued when they refused to pay tribute to the Spaniards.

Several Mayan archaeological sites have been found at the lake, including Sambaj, which lies about 16.7 meters below the current lake level, and Chiutinamit, discovered by local fishermen here. During the fishing process, they found these relics.

Explore this ancient city

A team of archaeologists led by Helena Barba Meinecke from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia has documented the ruins of the city to understand the subsidence process and the size of the settlement for future conservation.


The study managed to identify a number of new buildings, steles and ceramics, allowing the researchers to determine the geographic location of the structures and begin constructing a symmetric map of the city.

“With this planimetric map, we were able to determine that the site measured at least 200 x 300 metres,” says Helena Barba Meinecke.

Underwater archeology project

A project titled “Underwater Archeology in Lake Atitlán. Sambaj 2003 Guatemala” was approved by the Government of Guatemala in partnership with Fundación Albenga and the Lake Museum in Atitlán. A STAB member and Mexico’s representative to the 2001 UNESCO Convention said: “The mission could form the basis for a recommendation to establish a cultural center where people can visit the site through through digital reconstruction”.

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