An archaeologist investigating a chultun
Entrance to chultun at Xunantunich.

A chultun (plural: chultunob' ) is a bottle-shaped underground storage chamber built by the pre-Columbian Maya in southern Mesoamerica. Their entrances were surrounded by plastered aprons which guided rainwater into them during the rainy seasons. Most of these archaeological features likely functioned as cisterns for potable water.

Chultunob' were typically constructed in locations where naturally occurring cenotes[1] were absent (such as the Puuc hills, which sit hundreds of feet above the Yucatán Peninsula aquifer). While many were constructed to collect water, not all may have served that purpose. Some may have been used for storage of perishable comestibles, or for the fermentation of alcoholic beverages. After a chultun ended its usefulness, many were used for discarding refuse or for human burials. This makes chultunob' an excellent source of information on both the life and death of ancient settlements of the Prehispanic Maya.


  1. ^ Sinkholes formed in limestone karst.

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