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Bradley Russell


I am an archaeologist studying the ancient Maya culture. Since 2000 I have been working to expand our understanding of the Late Postclassic political capital of Mayapan, The city of thousands of structures was the dominant center of Maya civilization in the northern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico for more than three hundred years (1100-1450AD) just prior to the arrival of Spaniards in the New World.

Video: Praying to the Maya Gods for Safe Passage Through an Underwater Cave

Before exploring the sacred, water-filled cenote, Sac Uayum, it was necessary to ask permission of not just local residents but the Maya gods and the cenote itself. The ceremony known as a Jeets’ Lu’um (calming of the earth) involved a series of prayers accompanied by offerings of candles and various ritual foods. Now video of the ritual is available.

Video: Cenote Sac Uayum’s Inner Sanctum

In the summer of 2013, The Mayapán Taboo Cenote Project, with support from The Waitt Foundation for Exploration and The National Geographic Society began an exploration of the still sacred cenote (sinkhole) Sac Uayum at the ancient Maya city of Mayapán. The work documented more than a dozen burials submerged below its water. Now for the first time, you can swim along with research diver Rait Kütt as he examines remains found in the 2nd chamber of what turned out to be an unexpected submerged cave system.

An Explosion of Color in Yucatan, Mexico

One of my favorite shots from this season’s fieldwork: a Yucatec Maya woman sells flowers in the local market in Tekax, Yucatan, Mexico.

Returning Maya Ancestors to Their Place of Origin

The team has located 15 human crania and a large number of other bones, attesting to the use of the site as a burial location.

Mapping the Watery Maya Underworld

The Mayapán Taboo Cenote Project will undertake an extensive exploration of the underwater cave, Cenote Sac Uayum, to document 20+ submerged skeletons and artifacts. Team leader and National Geographic Grantee Bradley Russell will also investigate the modern belief that a supernatural power- a feathered serpent- guards the water within. —– The Mayapán Taboo Cenote Project under…

In the Jaws of the Earth: Getting to the Bottom of Ancient Mayapán, Mexico

Experience what its like to descend into an ancient and lightless cenote, home to undocumented burials sites and artifacts.

Where Feathered Serpents Wait

The Mayapan Taboo Cenote Project team and a local shaman conduct a ceremony to ask the gods of sky, earth and the winds for permission to enter and explore Cenote Sac Uayum at the ancient Maya city of Mayapan, Mexico.