Mexican archaeologists announced last week that they discovered a trove of more than 200 Maya artifacts beneath the ancient city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico.
The discovery of the Yucatán Peninsula cave – and the artifacts, which appear to date back to 1,000 A.D. – was not the team's original goal, National Geographic Explorer Guillermo de Anda, who helped lead the team, told NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition.
A local resident told the archeologists about the secret cave, known as Balamku or "Jaguar God." It had been known to locals for decades and about 50 years ago some of them told archeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto about the cave, but he ordered it sealed for unknown reasons, causing it to be forgotten. This time, the explorers decided to search the cave chambers, which involved crawling on their stomachs for hours to reach the coveted artifacts.
"When I get to the first offering, which is about an hour and a half crawling from the entrance, you know, the thrill that I feel, I started crying actually, and I realized I was in a very very very sacred place," de Anda said. He traveled alone in the cave for that first exploring trip.