National Geographic : 1963 Jan
Sacred Maya well at Chichen Itza yields gold washed copper rings. Scientists believe a single donor tossed the rings as offerings to the gods. An air-lift recovered the treasure from the cenote. Frothy geyser spouts from the outlet of a suction pump on the bottom of the cenote, 40 feet below. Like a vacuum cleaner, the barge-mounted air lift sucks in water, silt, stones, and artifacts, and deposits the mixture on a screen. Divers in the depths direct the intake pipe by hand; compressed air powers the ingenious device. Canvas bucket at upper right lowers expedition members from the brink of the well. Grotesque rubber effigy, submerged for 500 years, reappears from murky waters at the cenote. EKTACHROMES (BELOWAND OPPOSITE) AND KODACHROMESBY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERBATES LITTLEHALES © N.G.S. THE AUTHOR (above, left) rides a foot-cramping canvas sack down into the Sacred Well of the Maya at Chichin Itza, Mexico. It's all part of a year's work for Dr. Melvin M. Payne. He inspects the extraordinary air-lift dredging operations whereby the Society, together with Mexican arch eologists and skin divers, has recovered precious relics and bones of human sacrifices thrown into the well of death by Maya priests. At 51, Dr. Payne has served the Society for 30 years. He has spent more than 15 months under canvas with Geographic expeditions stratosphere balloon flights, solar eclipse expe ditions, and excavations of early Indian dwelling sites. As Secretary of the Committee for Research and Exploration for more than ten years, he has administered the Society's world-wide scientific research program; for this he was honored in 1962 by a doctorate in science from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. A year ago he became Executive Vice President and Secretary of the Society, responsible for all its 4 membership, business, and legal affairs.