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Mexico Cave Exploration Project

Mexico Cave Exploration Project

The submerged cave systems of Quintana Roo, Mexico are among the most productive contexts for understanding late Ice Age and early Holocene environmental conditions in the New World. Inundated as a result of rising sea levels these caves present researchers with near-pristine paleontological assemblages, archaeological deposits, sediment accumulations, and other potential sources of paleoenvironmental data.

As the first step towards the long-term study of terminal Pleistocene-to-early Holocene environmental conditions that characterize this understudied region, we propose to initiate a detailed, non-disturbance survey of one area of the Ox Bel Ha cave system. The project will focus on three assemblages of Pleistocene fauna and conduct additional exploration in order to characterize and understand them in terms of site formation, taxonomy, and taphonomy. Sites such as these are relatively new to science, and researchers are still working out appropriate ways for conducting non-destructive yet detailed analyses. To this end, this project will seek to incorporate emerging technologies that will permit more detailed recording than has been the norm. If successful, these methods can then be used to investigate and compare other assemblages known to exist in the cave. A comparative study of this nature would be a first for the region. Finally, we propose to hold a training workshop on scientific diving methodology for the local cave exploration community. The workshop will cover a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines that operate in the aquatic realm and will aim to promote and expand responsible underwater research in Quintana Roo caves.

For more information on this project, click here.


  • The Harte Family Foundation

  • The Waitt Institute

  • The National Geographic Society

  • UNAM

  • Subdirectorate of Underwater Archaeology, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History

  • The Center for Archaeological Studies

  • McMaster University

  • El Centro Investigador del Sistema Aquifero de Quintana Roo

  • Mexico Cave Exploration Project

  • Centro Ecologico Akumal

  • Global Underwater Explorers

  • Zero Gravity

Ox Bel Ha Science Project Video 2012-2013