Maya Civilisation could be the first to use filtered water


Ancient Romans, Chinese, Egyptians and Greece were known for their technological advancements. No doubt they had proved their prowess. Well, a new finding shows that the Maya civilization was well more advanced. The archaeologists found very sophisticated water filters made of natural materials in the Maya city of Tikal.

Tikal city is already known for its palaces and temples. The researchers from the UC dug out a volcanic mineral that captures microbes and heavy metals in one of the largest reservoirs in Tikal. They came across zeolite samples and crystalline quartz in the reservoirs and these minerals were not native to the region. The researchers found that the minerals were not present in the regions. As such they concluded that these were brought for filtering the reservoirs. Zeolite and Quartz are used in modern technology for filters.

Lead author and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the UC Kenneth Barnett Tankersley opined that Maya civilisation discovered the natural filter about 2,000 years ago that was still effective today.

Tikal is situated in the tropical forests of northern Guatemala. The city was one of preeminent Maya cities.

The researchers noted that Tikal had a dry season from November through April. The only way to get out of the dry spell was to store water. And storing water for a long time and to use it needs filtration. This led the Maya civilisation to think of the natural Quartz and Zeolite. The researchers found the presence of the minerals about 29 kilometers away.

Co- author and UC geography professor Nicholas Dunning and his team had unearthed sediments of these minerals from several of Tikal’s reservoirs. They also found that one of the largest reservoirs, Corriental, had much less contamination from toxin-producing algae and heavy metals than the other reservoirs. They also found that water quality here was much higher than others.

The researchers came across four distinct layers of minerals — , each a few centimeters thick, of brownish, millimeter-scale crystals. They also found that smaller crystals of zeolites dotted the quartz materials. The study found that these minerals can purify water by trapping both microbes and heavy metals in a porous structure. This system is widely used in modern times, Tankersley said

The researchers said that there was not much evidence to prove what Corriental’s filtration system looked like. But they said that woven reed matting could have held the zeolite and quartz containing rocks underwater just upstream of the inflow.


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