From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia

Cenote 2
Mexico Cenotes
Cenote in valladolid mexico (21362599476)
Bolonchen Cenote Catherwood
Cenote IK KIL map

Cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya civilization for sacrificial offerings. The term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Mayats'onot—to refer to any location with accessible groundwater.

Formation[edit | edit source]

Cenotes are formed by the dissolution of rock, which creates a subsurface void that can be exposed by the collapse of the roof. This process is part of the larger karst landscape formation. Rainwater, which is slightly acidic due to dissolved carbon dioxide, percolates through the soil and causes dissolution of the limestone bedrock. Over time, this leads to the formation of underground caverns and cave systems. When the roof of one of these caverns collapses, it exposes the groundwater beneath and forms a cenote.

Types of Cenotes[edit | edit source]

Cenotes can be classified into four main types based on their shapes and the nature of their water flow:

  • Open Cenotes - These resemble a water-filled pit or rock pool and are exposed to the sky above.
  • Semi-open Cenotes - These feature a partial overhead dome that has collapsed on one side, allowing some light and air in.
  • Cave Cenotes - These are entirely enclosed except for the entrance and are often connected to extensive cave systems.
  • Ancient Cenotes - These are cenotes that have completely filled in with debris and no longer contain accessible water.

Ecology[edit | edit source]

Cenotes support a unique ecosystem with various species adapted to the dark, aquatic environment. These ecosystems are often isolated, which leads to a high level of endemism. The clear, mineral-rich waters of cenotes are home to a variety of life, including fish, turtles, and in some cases, unique species of blind cave fish. The surrounding areas are often lush and support diverse plant life due to the abundance of water.

Cultural Significance[edit | edit source]

For the ancient Maya, cenotes were not only a vital source of water in the dry Yucatán landscape but also held spiritual significance. They believed cenotes were gateways to the underworld and were used for various rituals, including offerings to the gods and human sacrifices. The most famous of these is the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza, where artifacts and human remains have been found, suggesting its use for such purposes.

Preservation and Threats[edit | edit source]

Cenotes face threats from pollution, over-tourism, and development. The delicate balance of the cenote ecosystems can be easily disrupted by the introduction of pollutants from agricultural runoff and sewage. Additionally, the increase in tourism has led to physical damage and changes in water quality. Efforts are being made to preserve these natural wonders through sustainable tourism practices and conservation efforts.

Tourism[edit | edit source]

Cenotes have become a popular destination for tourists seeking to experience their natural beauty, swim in their clear waters, or explore the connected cave systems through diving. Responsible tourism practices are encouraged to ensure the preservation of their unique ecosystems and archaeological significance.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD