More than 100 mysterious children’s handprints found on a Mexican cave wall were part of a Mayan coming-of-age ritual some 1,200 years ago

  • A total of 137 handprints were discovered on the walls of a cave in Mexico 
  • Experts say the prints were mostly made by children during a Mayan ritual
  • It is believed the handprints were part of a coming-of-age ceremony
  • The black prints represent death and red highlights  life or war

More than 100 black and red handprints were discovered on the walls of a cave in Mexico, possibly created during an ancient Mayan ritual.

Archeologists said most of the 137 prints were made by children some 1,200 years ago and believe it was part of a tradition when children entered puberty.

The cave, located near the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, is surrounded by large pyramid-like ruins and sits some 33 feet beneath a ceiba tree that is considered sacred in Mayan beliefs.

Archeologist Sergio Grosjean, who is working at the site, said: ‘They imprinted their hands on the walls in black… which symbolized death, but that didn’t mean they were going to be killed, but rather death from a ritual perspective.’

‘Afterwards, these children imprinted their hands in red, which was a reference to war or life.’

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More than 100 black and red handprints have been discovered on the walls of a cave in Mexico that may have been created during an ancient Mayan ritual. Archeologists say most of the 137 prints were made by children some 1,200 years ago and believe it was part of a coming-of-age ritual when children entered puberty

The Mayan rite of passage held rituals for both boys and girls.

For girls of the tribe, they would receive a shell around their waist that indicated a rightful age to birth children.

Boys, however, went on their first hunt and perform a bloodletting ritual to confirm that they could be viewed as men within their culture.

After completing the ritual, they received a white bead in their hair, and they lived in a separate place known as the ‘home of unmarried men’ until marriage.

Experts say the black prints represent death and the red symbolize life or war, as the boys were now old enough to hunt and go to battle 

The cave, located near the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula, is surrounded by large pyramid-like ruins and sits some 33 feet beneath a ceiba tree that is considered sacred in Mayan beliefs

Handprints in a cave has not yet been discovered by experts, but Grosjean argues that since most are from children, the prints had to have been made during a coming-of-age ritual.

Along with the handprints, archeologists found a carved face and six painted relief sculptures, which date from between 800 through 1000 AD, a time when severe drought struck the region and may have contributed to the classical Maya’s sudden abandonment of major cities.

While the first Mayan settlements date back nearly 4,000 years, there were still large centers when Spanish conquerors arrived in the early 1500s.

And experts are still uncovering the hidden wonders.

In June 2020, archeologists discovered a 3,000-years-old Mayan temple, making it the ancient civilization’s oldest and largest monument.

The temple site in Tabasco, Mexico, was discovered by international team archaeologists led by the University of Arizona during an expedition in 2017.

Handprints in a cave has not yet been discovered by experts, but Grosjean argues that since most are from children, the prints had to have been made during a coming-of-age ritual

While the first Mayan settlements date back nearly 4,000 years, there were still large centers when Spanish conquerors arrived in the early 1500s. And experts are still uncovering the hidden wonders. In June 2020, archeologists discovered a 3,000-years-old Mayan temple, making it the ancient civilization’s oldest and largest monument

The site, called Aquada Fénix, is 4,600 feet long and up to 50 feet high, making it larger than the Mayan pyramids and palaces of later periods.

It was built between 800 BC and 1000 BC, according to the team behind the discovery.

One of the most remarkable revelations from the find was the complete lack of stone sculptures related to rulers and elites, such as colossal heads and thrones, which are commonly seen in other Mayan temples.

This suggests that the people who built it were more egalitarian than later generations of Mayans.

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