System of canals found under Mayan tomb likely built as gateway to afterlife

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System Of Canals Found Under Mayan Tomb Likely Built As Gateway To Afterlife

Archaeologists in Mexico made a surprising discovery under a seventh century tomb that could reveal a huge detail about the Mayans and their religious beliefs.

Below the Temple of Inscriptions belonging to King K'inich Janaahb' Pakal, former ruler of the Mayan settlement known as Palenque, is a system of nine canals measuring roughly 55 feet in length.

"The presence of these canals is very important and very significant," said Arnoldo Gonzalez, the directory of archeology in Palenque, whose team discovered the waterways as a result of a dig that started in 2012.

Gonzalez and his team of researchers believe the tomb, constructed between 683 and 702 A.D., were purposely built atop a spring to give Pakal's spirit a path to the afterlife.

An inscription in the tomb reportedly says that in order to be accepted in the underworld, the dead must be submerged in the water of a god called "Chaac."

While the researchers remain hopeful that the tomb's placement signified a much greater meaning to the Mayans, Gonzalez did not rule out the possibility that the canals were simply part of a drainage or water supply system.

"We must also consider that the ancient Palenque residents designed the hydraulic system to metaphorically reproduce the path that led K'nich Janaab' Pakal to the waters of the underworld," he said.

More photos from King Pakal's tomb:

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King Pakal's Tomb
A view of the K'inich Janaab Pakal crypt at the Maya Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque in Chiapas state July 9, 2013 in this picture provided by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Mexican and French archaeologists have detected two cavities in Palenque's famous Maya Temple of Inscriptions by using radar technology. The archaeologists discovered the two cavities, measuring between two and three metres, on the frontal part of the temple by using a non-destructive and non-invasive ground penetrating radar (GPR). They also discovered that King Pakal's burial crypt does not rest on the original rock, indicating the funeral chamber was not the starting point in the construction of the whole temple, as was stated by its discoverer, archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. Picture taken July 9, 2013. REUTERS/INAH/Handout via Reuters (MEXICO - Tags: SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Archaeologists stand next to the K'inich Janaab Pakal crypt at the Maya Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque in Chiapas state July 9, 2013 in this picture provided by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Mexican and French archaeologists have detected two cavities in Palenque's famous Maya Temple of Inscriptions by using radar technology. The archaeologists discovered the two cavities, measuring between two and three metres, on the frontal part of the temple by using a non-destructive and non-invasive ground penetrating radar (GPR). They also discovered that King Pakal's burial crypt does not rest on the original rock, indicating the funeral chamber was not the starting point in the construction of the whole temple, as was stated by its discoverer, archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. Picture taken July 9, 2013. REUTERS/INAH/Handout via Reuters (MEXICO - Tags: SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A view of the K'inich Janaab Pakal crypt at the Maya Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque in Chiapas state July 9, 2013 in this picture provided by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Mexican and French archaeologists have detected two cavities in Palenque's famous Maya Temple of Inscriptions by using radar technology. The archaeologists discovered the two cavities, measuring between two and three metres, on the frontal part of the temple by using a non-destructive and non-invasive ground penetrating radar (GPR). They also discovered that King Pakal's burial crypt does not rest on the original rock, indicating the funeral chamber was not the starting point in the construction of the whole temple, as was stated by its discoverer, archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. Picture taken July 9, 2013. REUTERS/INAH/Handout via Reuters (MEXICO - Tags: SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
MEXICO - MARCH 01: Panel inside the Sun Temple depicting King Pakal (603-683) and his son Cham-Bahlum before the god of the Sun, Palenque (Unesco World Heritage List, 1987), Chiapas, Mexico. Mayan civilisation, 7th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
MEXICO - MARCH 01: Glyphs on the sarcophagus of King Pakal (603-683) in the Temple of the Inscriptions, ca 675, Palenque (Unesco World Heritage List, 1987), Chiapas, Mexico. Mayan civilisation, 7th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
MEXICO - MARCH 01: The tomb of King Pakal (603-683) in the Temple of the Inscriptions, ca 675, Palenque (Unesco World Heritage List, 1987), Chiapas, Mexico. Mayan civilisation, 7th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
View of the jade mask of Mayan King Pakal, at the National Museum of Anthropology and History, in Mexico city, 28 September, 2007. Considered one of the most important museums of the world, the National Museum of Anthropology and History owns the world biggest collection of pre-Columbian art, divided in 24 thematic rooms. AFP PHOTO/Ronaldo SCHEMIDT (Photo credit should read Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)
Mayan auto sacrificial stone panel from structure XXI, Palenque, Mexico. 600-900 AD. At the centre we can see the king K'nich Janahb Pakal with his son. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
The tomb of King Pakal from the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, 615-683. Artist: Pre-Columbian art (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Temple of Inscriptions, Palenque, Mexico. This pyramid topped with a temple is an example of classical Mayan architecture. Within the pyramid a chamber was discovered housing the sarcophagus of Pacal the Great, a king who ruled from 615-683. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)
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