National Geographic : 1961 Oct
rimming the cenote. "We've found an idol!" While our visitors applauded, Scott held aloft a foot-long figurine made of a rubbery substance. Weeks of planning and hard work were now bringing a reward. History was repeating itself in this deep natural well. Decades earlier an American consul, Edward H. Thompson, had come here to Chichen Itza for a similar purpose. Folk lore and early chronicles clearly indicated that this sacred cenote held vast treasure. The practical Thompson studied the cenote and the techniques available in the year 1904. "Draining, dredging, or diving-it must be one of these three," he said. He finally settled on dredging with a derrick, a hand windlass, and a steel scoop. Getting his equipment overland through difficult terrain to Chichen Itza took "months of the hardest work I have ever done." Even Wielding a two-foot machete like a paring knife, Avelino Canul peels an orange for a thirsty diver aboard the barge. A Maya who served as general foreman for the dredging project, Avelino learned to use an Aqua-Lung and proved a superb diver. Bone knife yielded by the cenote wears a wrapping of gold foil. Glyphs include numbers, possibly a date.