Divers search Mayan Ruins Submerged in Guatemalan Lake

ABC News:Scuba divers are exploring the depths of a volcanic lake in Guatemala to find clues about an ancient sacred island where Mayan pilgrims flocked to worship before it was submerged by rising waters. The Maya built soaring pyramids and elaborate palaces in Central America and southern Mexico before mysteriously abandoning their cities around 900 A.D.Samabaj, the first underwater archaeological ruins excavated in Guatemala, were discovered accidentally 12 years ago by a diver exploring picturesque Lake Atitlan, ringed by Mayan villages and popular with foreign tourists.Roberto Samayoa, a businessman and recreational diver who grew up near the lake has dived in it for years. He says in a newspaper report that he would often find pieces of pottery from the Mayan pre-classic period. In 1996, he found the site, with parts of buildings and huge ceremonial stones, known as stelae, clearly visible.He named it Samabaj, after himself, but only in the past year have professional archaeologists taken an interest, mapping the 4,300-square-foot (400-square-meter) area with sonar technology and excavating structures on a raised part of the lake bed.Researchers believe this area, 50 feet below the lake’s surface, was once an island until a catastrophic event, like a volcanic eruption or landslide, raised water levels. The rising lake drowned the buildings around 250 A.D., before the height of the Mayan empire, and ceramics found intact there suggest the inhabitants left in a hurry.