The Sunken Cities Of Mesoamerica from the First Century AD

by Cheryl Norman (The legacy of V. Garth Norman lives on)


Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala is the deepest freshwater lake in Central America and is considered by many to be “the most beautiful lake in the world”. It is fed by nearby rivers, but does not empty into the Pacific Ocean. Three volcanoes are on its southern flank. The lake is surrounded by many villages in which Maya culture is still prevalent and traditional dress is worn. The Maya people of Atitlán are predominantly Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel. There is no road that circles the lake. Communities are reached by boat or roads from the mountains that may have brief extensions along the shore.

Several Mayan archeological sites have been found at the bottom of the lake. Sambaj, located approximately 55 feet below the current lake level, appears to be from at least the pre-classic period (ca. 1st Century AD). There are remains of multiple groups of buildings, including one particular group of large buildings that are believed to have been a city center.

A project titled “Underwater archeology in the Lake Atitlán. Sambaj 2003 Guatemala” was recently approved by the Government of Guatemala in cooperation with Fundación Albenga and the Lake Museum in Atitlán. Because of the concerns of a private organization as is the Lake Museum in Atitlán the need to start the exploration of the inland waters in Guatemala was analyzed. Archaeologists continue to dive deep into the lake and collect artifacts that are put into the Museum.


For a number of years underwater archaeologists have discovered ancient artifacts from a possible sunken city in Lake Izabel, Guatemala and near the southern coast of Belize in the Caribbean sea. Ongoing research will give us more information about the dating of these artifacts and possible ancient city.

An article about the many VOLCANOES in Mesoamerica gives additional insight into sunken cities.

Fig. 1- Lake Atitlan, Guatemala with tall volcanoes in the background “Google Search of Sunken Cities in Guatemala”.
Fig. 2 - Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Ocean on Belize Coast.
Fig. 3 - The coast of Guatemala & Belize where archaeologists dive underwater to study ancient sunken artifacts. “Google Search of Sunken Cities in Guatemala”:

Watch this video to learn more