Buried Truth of the Maya (2019) - full transcript

Maya legend tells us that there is a hidden underground cave below Chichen Itza, now high tech archaeologists are here to find the buried truth.

Corey jaskolski: On a scale
from one to ten,

If those anomalies
are voids or passageways,

It's an absolute ten.

Narrator: A revolution
in technology

Is opening up a golden age
of archaeological discovery.

Corey: This is it,
this hole here drops off

A good 60 feet deep,
totally fatal to fall down.

Guillermo "memo" de anda:
Let's do it.

And national geographic
has exclusive access

To document
this groundbreaking journey.

Corey: Anytime you do a dive
with a bunch of new technology

And you come back with all the
technology, that's a win, right?

This team of explorers,

Led by one of the world's
foremost experts on the maya,

Are embarking on
an unprecedented expedition...

Chris millbern:
I'm definitely seeing stuff.

I'm pretty wildly excited
right now.

Narrator: ...On a quest
to stare deep underneath

The hallowed grounds
of chichén itzá...

Using lasers, drones,
and digital 3d modeling.

Corey: That's a big anomaly that
I didn't expect to be there.

Narrator: All in an effort
to unearth

One of the world's
most epic mysteries

Beneath one of the greatest

The buried truth of the maya.

65 million years ago,

An asteroid
careened toward earth,

And smashed into
mexico's yucatán peninsula.

Its apocalyptic impact
wiped out the dinosaurs

And killed 75%
of all life on earth.

Over time
thousands of sinkholes

And underground caverns formed

Through the cracks
in the limestone.

Filled with water,
these cenotes set the stage

For life to take hold
once more.

Many millions of years later,
a highly advanced civilization

Formed around
these water sources.

This life-sustaining resource
fueled the rise of the maya,

The largest civilization in the
western hemisphere at the time.

One of the most central
and sacred sites

In the entire maya kingdom
was called...

Chichén itzá.

Memo: Maya is a fascinating

They're in the middle
of the jungle,

They were so wise,
they did astronomical science,

And they do sacrifices
or they do offerings into caves.

Narrator: Perhaps
the ancient maya understood

This region's cataclysmic past.

Because they also thought
that to bring about water,

And life itself,

Chaac, the maya god of rain,

Required offerings
such as jewels, bloodletting,

And sometimes human sacrifice.

Memo: Scholars have said
that this is the place

To deposit the hearts
of victims.

Narrator: Today,
we're in a rare moment

Of archaeological discovery in
the world of the ancient maya.

Recent scientific surveys
suggest that the maya

Could have built
secret underground tunnels

And chambers
beneath chichén itzá.

According to maya folklore,
the most sacred cave,

Possibly full of generations
worth of jewels, gold, bones,

And other lost treasures
sacrificed to the gods,

Could lie beneath one of their
holiest temples, el castillo.

But to this day,
this underground cave remains

One of the greatest
unsolved mysteries

At the heart of chichén itzá.

Finding an entrance
into this potential crypt

Under el castillo

Would be one of
the biggest discoveries

Of the 21st century,

And could yield
untold discoveries

And archaeological treasures.

Corey: This is a massive cavern.

Chris: Yeah, no, that's huge.

Corey: Memo!
Memo: Hey, what's up?

Chris: Hey, man!

Corey: How's it going?
Good, buddy. Good to see you.

Chris: Long time no see, man!

Narrator: Uncovering it
is bringing two teams

Of archaeologists and
technologists together.

Chris: Hey, we got
something to show you.

Corey: Yeah, yeah.
Check this out.

Narrator: Guillermo de anda,
aka "memo,"

Is an inah archaeologist,
a national geographic explorer,

And one of the world's foremost
experts on maya archaeology

And their underground secrets.

Memo: I have been told
for years in this area

That there is a huge cavern
beneath el castillo.

We know that caves have
this big preservation factor.

It's going to be big news
for the world,

It's going to be
big news for mayanists,

If we find a way to get into
the cave beneath el castillo.

Corey: This is from the droning,
the lidar and the camera work

Around el castillo.

Memo: This is an amazing model,
huh? The detail.

Corey: Yeah, it's really
coming together, hey?

Narrator: Joining memo is the
pioneering technology company

Virtual wonders.

Together, they're creating
a high-tech 3d model

Of chichén itzá, in the hopes
of pinpointing an entrance

Into the hidden well
beneath the central pyramid.

Corey: My name is
corey jaskolski.

At virtual wonders I'm
the chief technology officer,

So, responsible for getting
all these crazy technologies

To work and come together
and play well in the field.

Virtual wonders
goes around the world

To cultural and natural places,
and tries to 3d scan them,

So that we can preserve
and share these places

With the entire world.

Working in these ancient sites
that are thousands of years old,

With a ground-penetrating radar
or laser scanner

That scans
a million points per second,

You can only imagine what
the people of those times

Would have thought
of these technologies.

They would've thought we brought
down gifts from the gods

To help understand
the world better,

And, in a way, that's true.

Things that I get probably
most excited about,

Even far more than this data,

Is el castillo not being aligned

Between cenote sagrado
and xtoloc.

Memo: And we know the maya
didn't leave anything to chance.

What we believe is they are
trying to put el castillo...

Corey: On top of
something important.

Narrator: The city planners
erected the pyramids

At the proximate intersection

Between four giant underground
water wells called "cenotes,"

To the north, south,
east, and west.

the maya built this pyramid

52 and a half feet off center,

Leaving it mysteriously

Which is unimaginable,

Given the maya's legendary

Mathematical and
architectural precision.

Some scientists believe that
the maya built this pyramid

Off-center to tower above
a pre-existing sacred cave,

Forming a link to the spirits
of the underworld.

Could this cave be filled
with undiscovered treasures

And sacrificial offerings
left for the gods?

Corey: I would have put this,

El castillo right between

Xtoloc and sagrado,

Not, you know,

Not offset between the two.

The fact that el castillo
is not well aligned

With cenote sagrado and xtoloc,

Which as an engineer, I look
at that and I say to myself,

You know, if you asked me
to build our biggest,

Most important building
for our culture,

I would have aligned it well
between the cenotes.

It's off by about 16 meters,

Which is a pretty big
margin of error for the maya.

Memo: We have to look
very, very hard on this

And work very hard on this
because, corey, I want us there.

♪ ♪

Narrator: The ancient maya's
prowess in engineering,

Mathematics, and astronomy
is legendary.

They invented the mathematical
concept of zero,

And they designed
their buildings

With the heavens in mind.

This can be seen twice a year
during the equinox,

When, on the northern staircase
of el castillo,

The movement of shadows gives
the impression of a serpent

Slithering down
into the underworld.

Corey: Not everyone
would climb this, right?

It was only the priests would
have, or the rulers, right?

Memo: Yes, yes. Only them.

Narrator: Towering
to impressive heights,

Each of the pyramid's sides
has 91 perilous steps.

Including all four sides,
the number of steps totals 364.

The final step into the sacred
temple on top totals 365,

The same number of days
in the year.

Memo: Wow!

Corey: This is something.

You really get a sense of its
power, which is why it existed,

To get closer to the gods

And show the power
of the civilization.

Memo: We're closer to heaven.

We're on top of the big,
sacred mountain of the maya.

Holtun right in front of us,
sacred cenote to the north,

Xtoloc to the south,
xkanjuyum to the east.

Corey: To go up there with memo

And to, you know,
survey the land

And look at what we're doing
is incredibly important.

So, I think there's definitely
something under el castillo,

We don't know what,
and I think a lot more studies

Need to be done in order
to tell us for sure.

Narrator: To dig deeper
into this mystery,

Memo and the virtual wonders
team are looking

To a recent study for clues
to find any entrance

Into the potential cave
under el castillo.

With their new technology,

Can they crack the code
and find an entry point?

Corey: Memo, you'll remember
this data,

This is from rene chavez.

Memo: I remember this well,
this is what started it all.

Corey: They put probes all over
the ground around el castillo,

And they measured the,
basically how well

Electricity flowed
through the ground.

Modern electrical systems

Generally employ metal wire
to conduct electricity,

But depending
on the circumstances,

Electricity can also
conduct through soil.

Corey: What he found was
these, these anomalies.

What he shows is an area
of higher conductivity,

They think maybe a cenote
under el castillo.

This is what sort of started it,
all this was the...

There were a lot of media
that were saying,

"they found a cenote for sure
under el castillo."

Memo: Yes, I know, I know,
this was a big thing.

Narrator: Various materials

Conduct electricity

So what could be causing these
areas of higher conductivity?

And could this be connected
to an actual subsurface world

Beneath el castillo?

Memo: It's not confirmed data,

But it makes sense
under the perspective

Of the oral tradition,
the legends,

The myths around here

That have always said there's
something under castillo.

Corey: Right.

Memo: If we can find the cenote,

If there is a cenote
or a cave down there,

Which I personally
believe it is,

We are going to find
an amazing offering.

Narrator: Because of chichén
itzá's historic standing,

The team can't physically
excavate the grounds.

by analyzing these data,

The teams develop a strategy

To search for
a long-lost entrance.

Memo: The best chance is to go

Right to the center
of el castillo.

Corey: I agree.

Memo: And see if we can get
better results

And find a way to understand
this thing better.

Corey: It needs
a lot more exploration

To figure out what it really is.

♪ ♪

Akasha sutherland: Today's the
gpr, ground-penetrating radar.

You're moving this lawn mower
back and forth,

And so while we're moving,

Then at the end we get this
nice, clear picture of voids,

Or if there are any
reflective spaces

That we don't know exactly
what's below there.

Corey: So, we're actually,
we're looking about 25 feet deep

Through the ground
here right now.

Akasha: Yeah.

Narrator: With the hopes
of tracking down an entrance,

This device gives them
basically x-ray vision

Below the earth
without physically altering it.

Akasha: Slow?

Corey: Yeah, a little slower,
yup, there you go,

There's the pace, yeah.

Akasha is our
chief communications

And outreach officer.

She's the reason that a lot
of our field stuff runs smooth.

Akasha: I know how to use
the lidar systems.

I am a strobe goddess.

So this takes
thousands of images

To create a perfect 3d model
of the structure.

It's all about
hitting the ground,

Just feeling comfortable
with yourself,

And once you have
that established,

Then everything else
is kind of cake.

Corey: I mean, her spirit
is just unstoppable,

She is always happy,
always smiling.

It doesn't matter
what's happening,

It doesn't matter if,
you know, we're injured

And going to the er, she's got
a big smile on her face

And is trying to lift
everybody up around her.

Akasha: How's it looking?

Corey: Looking good.

Akasha: Yeah?

Corey: There's actually
a little anomaly

At the beginning
of those stairs.

Akasha: Alright,
I'm marking it right now.

Corey: Alright. Cool.
Got the mark.

Akasha: Got it?

Narrator: The gpr
immediately finds something.

Hints of a mysterious
subterranean world rise up.

Akasha: We don't know exactly
what's below there.

We get this nice, clear picture
of voids or reflective spaces.

Corey: Alright!

And now we can go inside
and catch the inside bit.

Akasha: Let's go in!

Corey: Cool!

Try to bang that right up
against the wall.

Just nice and slow,
nice and slow!


Whoa, I'm seeing stuff,
keep going.

(akasha gasps)

Narrator: This mysterious void,

Found only a few feet away
from el castillo,

Might connect to
the hidden chamber below.

And if it does,
could this void lead the team

To an undiscovered entrance?

And possibly generations'
worth of ancient treasures

Sacrificed to the maya gods?

Narrator: Chichén itzá...

Was a dominant capital
of the maya world.

Recent scientific evidence
suggests the existence

Of a mysterious chamber

Beneath the massive ruin
of el castillo.

Corey: Whoa, I'm seeing stuff,
keep going.

(akasha gasps)

And using high-tech tools,

The virtual wonders team,
alongside maya experts,

Are trying to find
an entrance into it.

Corey: The biggest anomaly
was definitely

On the entry over there.

Akasha: Ok.

Corey: We are indeed
the first to do the gpr

Directly under el castillo,
that's a huge deal.

Nice and slow and steady,
if you can.

Yeah, we're seeing real good
about 15 feet deep or so.

Past that it gets
a little noisy,

But there's a lot we can do

To clean this up
in the software, too.

Akasha: Awesome.

Corey: Yeah, it seems like
maybe three feet down or so

There's probably a layer of rock
that might be either natural

Or it might be like
the base that they built on.

Akasha: Like the substructure?
Corey: Right.

Corey: To be able to actually
image what's beneath that floor

Is amazing.

You know, on a scale
of one to ten,

If those anomalies
are voids or passageways,

It's an absolute ten.

So we'll have to analyze the
data and see what it looks like.

Akasha: Check it out.

Narrator: While corey
processes the data,

Memo brings another member
of virtual wonders

Into the restricted areas
of el castillo...

Kenny broad: When was the last
time you were in here?

Memo: Well, it was about
a month ago, I believe.

Narrator: ...Looking for any
clues about the chamber below.

Memo: It's magical
just to be here,

And thinking about how many
thousands of stone

Are on top of our heads, man.

So, let's not think
a lot about that. (laughs)

Kenny: My name is kenny broad.
I'm the mission specialist.

Narrator: Kenny broad is
a national geographic explorer

And chief exploration officer
of the virtual wonders team.

Corey: I would describe
kenny broad as a mad scientist.

Narrator: As an expert caver,

He and memo may be able
to add crucial insight

On how to access the chamber
below the pyramid.

Memo: There's very few people

That have the privilege
to go in here.

Kenny: I don't wanna wait.

Memo: Alright, let's go!

Kenny: Being involved
in a new discovery,

It gives you this feeling
that you're doing something

Larger than just yourself.

Narrator: While there are
no portals to the underworld

On the ground floor, they hike
up to a sacred chamber,

Which holds some
intriguing clues.

Memo: And this is the...
Amazing room.

Kenny: Oh!

Memo: Here we are.

Kenny: Wow! Oh, my gosh,
that's incredible.

Memo: Yeah, this is where
the king use to sit.

Narrator: This is
the jaguar throne.

Kenny: So the king
used to sit here?

I mean, it really sticks out,

Because it still has, I assume,
the original paint?

Memo: Yes.

Narrator: From this
royal throne,

Kings watched countless humans

Sacrificed to the rain god,
chaac, at this nearby altar.

Could their remains lie
in the veiled crypt below?

Kenny: And those are the
original insets. Is that jade?

Memo: This is jade.

Narrator: To the maya,
jade was a royal resource

Used to communicate
with the gods.

Kenny: But there's
no local jade, so.

Memo: Exactly, yeah.

They bring it all the way
from guatemala.

It was one very important item,
only royalty had access to it.

This context is not only
a royal context

Where the king used to rest and
sit, it's also a funerary one.

There's a relationship
with death here, and life.

Kenny: Resurrection.
Memo: Resurrection.

Kenny: The cycle.
Memo: The jaguar is a cycle.

Narrator: The ornate
jaguar throne sits in front

Of something even more
grim and ominous.

Memo: This is an amazing wall
for a number of reasons,

And what we see here,
it's embedded bones.

They are long, long human bones
that are embedded on the wall.

There's one there,
another one here, and there.

My assumption
as a bioarchaeologist,

I believe these are leg bones.

Kenny: Looks like it would be
a femur or maybe...

Memo: Exactly, or tibias.

If you ask me I would say, yeah,

That might represent
bones of ancestors.

Kenny: Right.

Memo: Or people very powerful.

Kenny: What's your sense of
what could be behind this wall?

Memo: Well, I do really believe
that there is something

Intentionally deposited there,

Given the sacredness
of the site,

The importance of the place
within chichén itzá,

I believe it could be
a burial back there.

Kenny: I mean,
it makes logical sense.

Memo: It makes sense, yes.

Yeah, if somebody is buried here

It was for sure
a very important person, a king.

Narrator: Could the chamber
behind this wall of bones

Have once provided a gateway
to the cave below?

Kenny: I can feel the wind
coming through here.

It's like you've...

Memo: Oh, yeah.
You feel that? You feel that?

Kenny: Yeah.

Memo: That could be
a caving system down there.

Kenny: No, and right,
when we explore caves,

We look for that kind of breeze
as a, it's a sign.

Memo: When we feel that breeze,
it's, "let's go."

Kenny: Yeah.

Some more evidence that
there's something beneath.

Memo: And I think this means
that the cenote

That we're looking for
might be down there.

Kenny: Wow.

Memo: Or maybe an entrance.
Kenny: Right.

Memo: And you can see
some, some voids.

Kenny: Right.

Narrator: Because they can't
physically alter anything

Inside el castillo,
kenny and memo carry on

Looking for other ways in,
to no avail.

But back at the
virtual wonders headquarters,

Corey and akasha have processed
their gpr findings

And discover
something promising.

Corey: So we did this north face
first and went along this way,

Right along the fence line,
about about a half meter

From the fence line,
and then this way and this way.

But what we're seeing here,

These areas of
black-white-black like this

Are very strong radar returns.

I don't think they indicate
a void to me,

But I think they indicate rock.

There's nothing that interesting
on the north side to me.

We then started over here
and dragged the south side

Of the gpr
right on the corner here.

Again, seems like
there's a rock base,

But what's really interesting
to me is this return.

So this is in the southeast
corner of el castillo,

'cause this is between three
and four meters deep over here.

Memo: Oh, wow,
that's deep enough.

Corey: And there is what looks
like a really strong return.

Memo: It looks like
a very irregular cavity, right?

Corey: It looks, I mean, from a
single gpr radar-gram like that,

Yeah, I would say
that looks like a cavity.

Memo: So, like,
a natural cavity, I mean?

Corey: It's hard to say,

It's hard to say if
it's natural or man-made.

All you can really say is
it's a really strong return

That looks like a void.

Memo: How far actually
from the corner?

Corey: It's almost
exactly on the corner.

Memo: Ok, that's
very, very interesting.

Corey: Yeah.
Memo: Wow.

Corey: What I now want
to show you,

Kash and I took the gpr in this
excavated archaeology part

Underneath here, this doorway,
and we dragged it back,

And then the hallway turns
and goes into el castillo

Towards that rock fall.

Memo: Towards the center
of el castillo?

Corey: Right.

This right here is the brightest
radar reflection I've seen

Anywhere in chichén itzá.

Memo: It looks amazing.

Corey: I've been dragging
this radar around.

This to me is
a pretty clear void

At, look at that,
three to four meters deep.

Memo: Corey, I think
this is amazing,

But what I think
what amazes me even more

Is that both anomalies
are the same depth.

Corey: Yup.

Memo: So it might be a tunnel,
and that's very promising.

Narrator: Could this potential
tunnel be the gateway

To the proposed cenote below?

If so, where is its entrance?

Corey: The thing with gpr
that I always think about is,

If you see something

And you don't see anything
like that anywhere else,

Then you're like,
"ok, one weird anomaly."

But the whole thing is with gpr

When you start
building up a story,

When you start saying, whoa,
we're seeing weird stuff

At three and a half
to four meters here.

Memo: Might have comparison.

Corey: Maybe, you know, I think
it builds more meaning to me.

That's a big anomaly that
I didn't expect to be there.

None of the rest of the area
looks like that.

The other side that
goes up the substructure

Doesn't have any returns
that look like this.

This is a,
this is a big neon sign

Saying there's
something interesting.

Memo: Yes! That might be it.

Narrator: This possible tunnel
may lead in the direction

Of another chichén itzá
landmark: El osario.

El osario is also known as
the tomb of the high priest.

Another temple on the grounds
of chichén itzá,

Archaeologists have
traditionally thought

That el osario
was built in 980 ad

And modeled after
its bigger sister, el castillo.

But there's an even more
stunning parallel.

Memo: El osario
kind of replicates

What we see in el castillo.

Corey: Yeah, it looks
very much similar, yeah.

Memo: It's a radial pyramid,
four access stairways,

Snakes, snake heads at the end,
so the similarities are amazing,

Why not thinking there's
a cavern also in el castillo.

Corey: Yup.

Memo: Guess what,
el osario was built

Right on top
of a natural cavern.

We think that this cavern might
have tunnels or passageways

To get into this other tunnel.

That makes sense because
they are very close,

So it sounds like
a logical place

To find a passageway
to el castillo.

Narrator: The question is do
these underground passageways

Connect to the chamber
beneath el castillo?

Corey: They clearly
built the osario

To be over that important cave.

Because of the danger,

Climbing el osario
is restricted

To the general public.

Corey: It's a set of mayan
stairs, and they're super steep,

They're probably at like
a 45-degree angle,

Like the stairs
outside of el castillo.

Chris: Alright!

So, we'll connect this up?

Corey: Yeah, get it in there.

(speaking spanish)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

Memo: We're looking
for tunnels here.

Corey: Yes.

Memo: I want you guys to look
for possible areas or gaps,

And see if there's
a passageway behind.

Corey: Totally. Yep.

Narrator: To find any tunnels,

The team must use
their high-tech tools

In a difficult-to-reach spot.

Memo: Very few people
have been here

And nobody has been here
with technology.

Has used technology, right.

Chris: Yeah.

Corey: I guess they had 1800s
technology last time they...


Chris: Still counts,
it still counts.

My name is chris millbern,

And I'm the director
of field operations.

Anything that has to do
with tech or gear

Is under my purview,

Or at the very least
is me messing around

And running around
to make sure that it works.

Corey: Robot, cable, tablet.
Chris: Yeah.

Chris: Only three giant things,
it will be fine.

Corey: Yeah.

Chris: I'm definitely
the one sweating the most

If nobody's noticed.

Let's go! Let's do it!

Corey: Right!
Memo: Ok.

Narrator: To get
underneath el osario,

They must risk life and limb.

(speaking spanish)

Corey: Memo's about
to come down. Are you ready?

That hole is about
a 60-foot drop straight down,

Going down into this
little tiny cave.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪


Chris: Corey's on the way down!

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

Corey: Right, coming down.

Not a lot of room, hey?

Memo: Not a lot of room, man.

Corey: What's the drop?
Memo: 60 feet.

Corey: 60 feet. Yeah, cool.

But this is it.
We're, we're crammed in here.

Memo: How dangerous
this place is?

Corey: Yeah, man.

Memo: Any rock...

Corey: Yeah, you're dead.

Memo: ...And you're dead.


Corey: It's this tiny,
tiny little room.

I mean, you feel like
you're in the womb.

You're just crushed in there
with guillermo.

This must've been such
an important place for the maya

To build this massive monument
on top of it.

Narrator: To find any
undiscovered passageways,

And where they might lead,

The team breaks out one of
its most versatile devices.

Chris: Alright, corey,
borescope's on its way!

Narrator: The borescope
has a small camera

That can snake around
nooks and crannies.

Corey: Ok, so, I'm going to
feed out the borescope cable.

Memo: Ok.

Corey: And, guillermo, so we'll
have to straighten this out

So the borescope can articulate,
so be careful.

Alright, memo, start going.

Go a little bit more in.

Yeah, we got something

Hey, look at this. What is this?

Memo: I think this is the
original entrance to this cave.

Corey: Oh, right there. Right!

Memo: Yes.

Corey: Yeah. Oh, my god!

Narrator: But there's something
even more intriguing

About this
underground entrance.

The passageway has been
mysteriously blocked

By something man-made.

Corey: Do you think
they're cave-in,

Or do you think they were
blocked by the maya?

Memo: No, no, I think
it was the maya.

Corey: Right.

Memo: The ancient maya
sealed it.

Corey: Ok.

Memo: It was like
completely blocked.

Narrator: Memo believes
the ancient maya did this

Because of where
the passage points.

Corey: Wow.
Memo: Yeah.

Narrator: But why would
the maya have blocked off

An underground passageway

Between el osario and
the chamber below el castillo?

The team carries on
its investigation

And stumbles upon
a relevant clue.

Corey: I'm seeing something
on the walls.

See the white?

Stop there for a second.

What's that?

Memo: Right there
we see a piece of pottery.

Corey: Oh, that's pottery?

Memo: Yeah, oh, yeah.

Corey: Wow, wow,
hold on there for a second.

Memo: You see all
the ceramic there?

Corey: Where? Is that? Oh, yeah!

Narrator: The maya ritually
broke ceramic pottery

As sacrificial offerings

Alongside the people
they buried,

In order to free their spirit.

But the place the team has
found these ceramic sherds

Is even more mystifying.

Corey: The ceramic is on
a little shelf up there, right?

Is that what you're looking at?

Memo: No, it's not a shelf.
It's on the ceiling.

Corey: The ceramic's
on the ceiling?

Memo: Yeah.

Corey: You find pottery all over
the floor of the caves

All the time, but shards
of pottery, you know,

Hanging down like they could
fall on you like knives

From the ceiling, and,
you know, that's weird.

And that's the ceiling
we're pointed towards,

Right, you said?

Memo: Yes, exactly.

Corey: That's crazy.

Narrator: What would have
prompted the maya

To affix broken pottery
to the ceiling

Of this sacred
underground chamber?

Corey: Is it ritually
sacrificed pottery?

Memo: Yeah, this is
ritually sacrificed.

They used fire
as part of their ritual.

It's charcoal, mud and ceramics.

Corey: Wow!

Memo: And then they
mix it all together.

Corey: You think
they filled this in,

So that's the floor, really?

We're looking at maybe the floor
of what they filled in?

But it's our ceiling. Wow!

They mixed pottery,
charcoal and dirt

And filled that in
from the outside

To close off a passageway,

So that the osario shaft
was the only passage

Into this sacred cave.

You know, that's weird.

Narrator: But why did the maya
intentionally block

This underground tunnel?

Before they can investigate
any further...


Chris: Ooh, boy,
that's gonna be a big one.

Oh, (bleep)!

Lightning is probably
my least favorite.


Narrator: An unexpected storm

Not just the investigation,
but the lives of the men below.

Chris: A storm of that size

Is not something
I like to be around,

Next to a metal structure,

With my friends in a wet hole
right down below.

Hold on one second.

Corey: We can't tell
it's raining at all,

But we hear chris from the top
yelling down,

"guys, you better hurry up!
The lightning's coming in."

And we're like, "oh, no!"

Let's go!


Narrator: At chichén itzá's
pyramid el osario,

Archaeologist guillermo de anda

And cutting-edge technologists
virtual wonders

Are trying to unearth
an access point

To the tunnel that could
connect to the chamber

Below el castillo.

chris: Oh, boy!

Corey: Let's go!

Narrator: But their search
comes to a grinding halt

When lightning strikes.

Chris: So, lightning's coming in
and so is the rain,

So we're trying to get
these guys out of the hole

As soon as possible.

This is a little scary.

Narrator: Trapped in this tomb,
60 feet below,

They must evacuate
before it's too late.

Corey: Alright. Gracias.

Chris: There you go! Nice.
Corey: Gracias.

Corey: People have died
being hit by lightning.

We've got this big, metal frame
around it

That's being used
to lower people.


Man: How'd it go?

Corey: That was, that was crazy.

The lightning's just
ripping down all around.

Let's get out of here before
we're hit by lightning!

Man: Yes!

Corey: Yeah, yeah, chaac is, uh,
chaac is with us.

Safely out of harm's way,

The whole team reviews what
they found beneath el osario,

To try and work out
why the maya blocked off

This underground passageway.

Corey: Basically,
we put the borescope in

Everywhere it would fit.

Narrator: To help resolve
this mystery,

Maya archaeologist
dr. Jim brady joins the team.

Jim brady:
That's really terrific!

Corey: The pottery's right here.
Chris: Oh, is it that structure?

Corey: Those are
all the shards there.

Narrator: Dr. Brady is one
of the few archaeologists

Who have really explored
the mysteries of el osario.

His expertise could yield
crucial insight

Into this enigmatic
blocked passageway.

Corey: Which is crazy, right?

I mean, having the pottery
shards on the ceiling

Was a surprise to me.

I didn't know
that was down there.

And here's, here's charcoal.

And is that, that's charcoal,
and that is charcoal, too?

Dr. Brady: Yes, those
are bits of charcoal.

Corey: Ok.

Brady: We sampled that charcoal

And have gotten
the radiocarbon dates back

That come out about,
oh, 725, 728 ad.

Corey: 725? Wow.

Narrator: Traditionally, most
scholars believed el osario

Was built in 980 ad.

But recent research is turning
this notion on its head.

Brady: The osario was built
much earlier than people think.

This is about two and a half
centuries earlier than...

Corey: Really?
Brady: Yes.

Memo: Wow, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chris: How much earlier
does that place it

In comparison
to other buildings?

Corey: Like what's
el castillo, do you think?

Brady: The castillo
would be later,

And so this is gonna
change everything.

Corey: Oh, wow!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brady: And this is gonna
change everything,

Because rather than the osario
being a model of the castillo,

It might be
the other way around.

Corey: Yeah. Totally. Wow.

Narrator: The carbon dating
of the charcoal

Is changing history,

And proves el osario was likely
built before el castillo.

And for the team,
the ritual use of charcoal

Beneath el osario also provides

A significant piece
of the puzzle.

Memo: The pot shards and
the charcoal, you know,

That might be indicating
some kind of a ritual.

Kenny: Is this
sort of the same idea

That how they packed everything
off, closed something off?

Memo: Like termination ritual,
you mean?

Kenny: Exactly.

Memo: What you think, dr. Brady?

Brady: It looks like
it was terminated.

Narrator: A termination ritual
is the act of killing

A building's spiritual force.

This exorcism
typically happened

When the maya abandoned
their temples.

The termination ritual not only
closed off a building

To the living,

It also stopped the temple
from being visited by the dead.

Akasha: That's crazy!
Corey: Right?

Narrator: El osario may have
once had an entranceway

To this now blocked
underground tunnel,

Leading to the subterranean
chamber beneath el castillo,

And even been part of
a sprawling subterranean world.

But because this possible
passage is now blocked,

The team must regroup.

Memo: That's very interesting,
you know,

We've been desperately
trying to get,

To find an entrance
to this cavern or cenote

If there is one
right under el castillo.

Narrator: Memo, who knows
the chichén itzá underground

Better than anyone on earth,

Knows of one possible opening
to the maya underworld

That could provide
an underground gateway

To el castillo.

The only way to access it is
by using advanced technology

And facing extreme dangers.

Memo: Watch out
for snakes, please.

Yeah, the cenote is right there.

Narrator: The cenotes,

Ceremonial sacred sites
of the maya,

Could provide
concealed entranceways

To a sprawling underground
network of long-lost passages.

But flooded with water,

They're notoriously difficult
to explore, even deadly.

Memo: It's going to become
a little bit more slippery,

So careful with that,
we're gonna use the rope

Just to help ourselves
going down there.

Narrator: Despite this, memo
and the virtual wonders team

Are trekking to one
of the four cenotes

That surround the central
pyramid of el castillo.

The treacherous and seldom
explored underground cavern,

Called holtun.

Memo: This is the amazing thing
about technology,

That we can see things
that the eye can't.

I'm so glad that today
we have this little robot,

Because there is a huge tunnel

That turns a little bit to
the north, which el castillo is,

So that might be
a very good chance

To maybe connect
to the cenote under it.

Every time I go down there,
I find something new.

Let's go diving.

Narrator: For the team,

Searching these
underexplored chambers

Might be their best chance

At making
a groundbreaking discovery,

That could unlock

One of the ancient maya's
greatest secrets.

And if so, what riches
could they find?

Narrator: In their quest
to reveal

A secret underground passageway

And resolve the mystery
at the heart of chichén itzá,

Virtual wonders and maya
archaeologist guillermo de anda

Are making their way to
one of the four major cenotes

That surround chichén itzá's
main pyramid.

Deploying the most advanced
exploration tools available,

They plan to investigate
the westernmost cenote,

Called holtun.

Memo: This is the entrance, we
can go to the south side wall.

Narrator: Searching for
an underground passageway

That could lead to undiscovered
treasures beneath el castillo.

Memo: Cenotes have this mystery.

There is a passageway
that goes who knows where.

Memo: Ok. On rope!

(speaking spanish)

Narrator: It's a potentially
fatal 72-foot drop,

Perilous not just
for the divers,

But also for the pricey gear.

Corey: You good, chris?
Chris: Yeah.

Corey: Alright.
Chris: Ok.

Narrator: Corey and memo
will scuba dive

To look for any
concealed passageways.

Chris: Ok, we're in business.

Narrator: While field
specialist chris millbern

Pilots the rov from a raft
inside the cenote.

This small robot submarine
fits places that humans,

With their bulky scuba gear,
are just too big to go.

Man: You're going down
with a bag?

Chris: Si.

It is exactly as insane
as you would expect.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

This is not a carved-out cave
that's really comfortable,

It's not a place that
a lot of people have been.


It's some place that you have
to really know your stuff

To get down into,
and you have to take some risks

To make sure that
you're able to see it.

Corey: Is that you?
Chris: Yep, that's me.

Corey: Alright, go.

Cool. Props are turning.

There you go. You have video?

Chris: Yep.

Corey: Alright!

Are you on the slowest mode

Chris: I'm on
the slowest mode possible.

Stabilization's off,
'cause I want it to be off.

Corey: Ok.

Chris: Have a good dive, man.

Corey: Yeah. Thanks, buddy!
We'll see you soon.

Chris: Go find something.

Corey: Generally I'm against
using technology like rovs

In cenotes, and the reason is

'cause they have little
propellers that spin,

And that kicks up sediment
and silt in a lot of places,

And that sediment or silt
could contain little bones

Or bits of mayan incense,
charcoal, offerings like that.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

Chris: I apologize
for being silent.

I'm just,
I am so intently focused.

Corey: But being able to have
a talented rov pilot

Maneuver it through to see
where that passage goes,

It's critical because
this place has become

Incredibly sacred to me.

Narrator: In this underground
lair of the maya gods,

The team finds
extensive evidence

That holtun was a primary
repository for human sacrifice.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

Chris: Oh, oh, oh.

Come on.

Come on, baby! Keep moving.

My mom said that video games
weren't a career.

♪ ♪

I'm definitely seeing stuff.

Wow! This is beautiful.

We found a new cave.

I am, I'm pretty
wildly excited right now.

I think this keeps continuing.

Narrator: At the iconic
chichén itzá,

Virtual wonders
and memo de anda

Have found an undiscovered,
underwater passageway...

Chris: I'm definitely
seeing stuff.

Narrator: ...That could lead
to a hidden chamber

Below el castillo.

Chris: Wow! This is beautiful.

♪ ♪

We found a new cave.

I am, I'm pretty
wildly excited right now.

This is definitely its own cave
passage worthy of exploration.

There's the entrance.

I'm very afraid
of getting stuck,

But, you know, that's how
cave exploration goes.

Corey: Back in mayan times that
passage would have been dry,

So it would have been pretty
easy to go through on your belly

And crawl through the cave
and to go make offerings.

Chris: Ok, let's turn.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

We're definitely
in a large passage

That could have artifacts.

I'm checking all the shelves
that I can see,

To see if there's anything
that looks man-made.

This is spectacular!

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

What I'm trying to do is
fight buoyancy essentially

And go a little bit farther.

I'm trying to be very careful,

So that if there is anything in
here, that I don't disturb it.

The difference between
rock and artifact

Is gonna be something that
we might have to look at later.

So I'm checking all of
the shelves that I can see,

To see if there's
anything man-made.

I actually see fish
way deep there

In the cave, which is amazing.

I'm really hoping not
to disturb anything,

So I have to be really careful,

But this is spectacular,
I honestly can't believe it.

I had no idea that this was
gonna be on the other side.

Narrator: The question is:
Where does it lead?

Could it lead all the way to
a crypt beneath el castillo?

Chris: It definitely goes.

Corey: In cave terminology we
know that that passage "goes,"

Meaning that it continues on
past what we can see.

Corey: How big did you think
the passage was?

Chris: It could be 10 to even
30 feet up, I mean, it was tall.

It's hard to get scale
on this video,

So before, you know,
I make a grand claim,

But it was big enough to fit
a person definitely,

And it looked like
it went up pretty tall.

Corey: Wow!

Chris: We'll have to review
the video, though,

Because again I can't get scale
out of this video.

Corey: That's awesome!

Memo: These passageways
never go straight.

Corey: Right.

Memo: I mean, very seldom.

Corey: This one
definitely doesn't.

Chris: This one
didn't go straight,

This one went up, left,
right and down.

It could have gone in
any direction, absolutely.

There was a lot more to it
than what we saw.

Memo: We found a passageway.

Corey: Really successful dive.

Gracias. Alright.

Anytime you do a dive with
a bunch of new technology

And you come back with
all the technology

And everything looks
like it worked...

Man: Yeah.

Corey: It's a win, right?
Memo: (laughs) oh, yeah.

Chris: We gotta check it out
on video, man, I'm excited.

Memo: (laughs) yeah.

I feel amazed
and with a lot of hope

That this can take us towards
chichén, but chris said it's...

Corey: It bends.

Chris: Multiple directions.

I think we had options,
so, who knows?

It certainly is really lucky
that we had this tool with us,

Because there was no other way
we were seeing it today.

Narrator: Back at
tech headquarters,

The team scrubs through
the rov's footage together,

Hoping to gain more insight
into this newly discovered

Passageway deep inside holtun.

Chris: Alright, so wait until
this just goes over,

I want to show you
something really cool.

So this was the constriction

That was hardest for me
to get through.

Memo: Yeah, that was a hard one.

Corey: No one's ever been
back there, right, memo?

This is unexplored caves?

Memo: No, no, this is
completely unexplored.

Chris: So, obviously,
it extends up this way,

And there's actually
a little bit of passages

That come back around
on the back.

And then, when it
drops down here,

You'll see openings
all across the bottom.

I mean, it's huge
compared to the crevice

That it actually started at,
you know?

Memo: Yes. Yes, yes.
Corey: Yeah. Right, right, yeah.

Chris: Look down here.

You've got a passage
that comes here

And it also goes
in this direction.

Corey: Wow!

Narrator: Though they can't
tell if the passageway

Ultimately extends
to the potential cenote

Below el castillo, they do
collect important evidence.

Chris: So, zoom it back
just a little bit.

Corey: Zooming it back.

Chris: Now, here's where
I want you to check out.

Memo: Oh, that looks like bones.

Narrator: These bones
could be the remains

Of offerings to the gods.

But that's not all
the team discovers.

Corey: Oh, (bleep)!

Hey, hey, hey, hey, memo!
What is that?

What is that green bit
right there?

Memo: Oh, yeah?
Chris: Oh, man!

Akasha: Oh, my god!

Memo: Looks like a jade bead.

Corey: That was jade.

Narrator: Jade.

Memo: Wow!

Corey: Yeah, totally.

Chris: Wow!

Narrator: In the ancient world
of the maya,

Jade was a royal resource
and a precious commodity

Used to communicate
with the gods.

Corey: That's an offering, yeah.

Chris: Good eye, corey!

Memo: Yes!

Narrator: Only the elite
could make

A sacrificial offering of jade.

Inside this cenote

That had mysteriously run
catastrophically low

Through a prolonged drought,

The rulers may have believed

That the end of the world
was near.

Corey: I would suspect when
there's the worst droughts,

There were probably
the most sacrifices.

Narrator: Finding jade here, in
this newly discovered passage,

Could be a momentous

In a desperate plea
to the gods,

The maya elite could
have used this place

To offer their
greatest treasures,

All for the sake of rain.

Memo: There's another one.
Chris: Yeah.

Memo: This one,
look, this, this. Wow!

Narrator: These offerings may
have been a last-ditch appeal

To the gods to save
the city of chichén itzá

From apocalyptic doom.

by the 11th century ad,

This maya capital collapsed,

Largely due to an epic drought
that lasted over 15 years,

Causing the nearby cenotes that
sustained the city to run dry.

The effects of this drought

Gradually undermined
the city of chichén itzá,

And it was
eventually abandoned.

But this newly discovered

Riddled with evidence
of sacrifice,

Could someday lead to even
more offerings and treasures

And into the mysterious cave
below el castillo.

Captioned by
side door media services