Can you believe it: more than two thousand years ago, the ancient Mayans knew how to filter the water to drink

Smart life cannot survive without fresh water. However, the shared water source is also one of the fastest spreading systems of infectious diseases, possibly destroying an entire large residential cluster system in a short time. No civilization would survive without fresh and clean water.

Many ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, had their own water purification systems. Autograph written in Sanskrit language of South Asians, dating back to 2,000 BC, records many ancient methods of water purification. Just recently, archaeologists have discovered that the Mayans in South America know how to filter water and even, their water filtration system is surprisingly efficient.

Tikal city today.

In the Mayan city of Tikal, once a big city but now a ruin lurking in the dense rainforest of Guatemala, the team found zeolite and quartz, two exotic mineral minerals with ability to filter contaminants in the water, for example bacteria, heavy metals and some other compounds. In fact, zeolite and quartz are so effective that they are still used in modern water filtration systems.

Surprisingly, this system will still be effective today, and the Mayans have discovered it more than 2,000 years ago.“, Anthropologist Kenneth Barnett Tankersley at the University of Cincinnati said.

The mineral zeolite is notable. It is a natural crystalline compound of silicon and aluminum, which are bound together by oxygen atoms to form a crystal lattice. Zeolite has good adsorption and ion exchange ability, making it an efficient natural water filtration system.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used zeolite to make pozzolan material, to build structures that were exposed to water, such as bridges and culverts. Archaeologists said that it was not until the early 20th century that humans used zeolite in water purification.

Tikal zeolite water filtration system is the oldest water filtration system in the Western Hemisphere, and also the world’s oldest example of using zeolite for disinfection in drinking water.“, The researchers concluded in the scientific report that was published in the journal Nature.

Can you believe it more than two thousand years ago the ancient Mayans knew how to filter the water to drink | Explore

Zeolite and quartz samples are found in the sediments of Lake Corriental.

Water purification was paramount to the Mayans, or in particular to the residents of Tikal City, for a number of reasons. Their water resources are contained within 10 storage areas, and considering the large population in this large city, plus the effects of seasonal drought and climate impacts, the water is clean. Very susceptible to bacteria or cinnabar – mercury sulfide, a red powder used by the Mayans in many religious activities.

Based on what we know about the Mayans, it is clear that they must have a way of keeping water clean year round. So Tankersley and his research team conducted an investigation of the three major water storage areas of the ancient city, in addition to studying a nearby sinkhole in order to analyze possible minerals here.

At Corriental Lake, one of the important water sources of Tikal City and one of the drinking water reservoirs used by the Mayans for thousands of years, scientists discovered zeolite and raw quartz sand. Only Lake Corriental contains zeolite, it is unlikely that the zeolite existed when the Mayans dug holes.

Can you believe it more than two thousand years ago the ancient Mayans knew how to filter the water to drink | Explore

Figure A shows the archaeological site on the satellite image. Figure B shows the location of the reservoirs relative to the city of Tikal. Figure C shows the Corriental reservoir.

In fact, the team believes the mineral comes from a mining site located 30km northeast of Tikal. In this quarry area, volcanic rock forms an aquifer capable of holding pockets of fresh water. Geographer Nicholas Dunning at the University of Cincinnati is no stranger to the area, having repeatedly experimented there.

It is an open-pit volcanic quarry with minerals such as quartz and zeolite. The rate of water permeation through the soil layers here is quite high. Mining workers are still taking water from this area to pour bottles. The water here is famous in the region for its cleanliness and sweetness“Dunning researcher said.

The archaeological team compared quartz and zeolite from Lake Corriental with samples from the quarry and found the results: they did not differ much. Using carbon dating, they determined the age of the sediment was between 2,185 and 965 years ago.

It is not clear how the Mayan water filtration system works, but through the evidence the team has gathered, it is possible to imagine the Maya built it like this.

Can you believe it more than two thousand years ago the ancient Mayans knew how to filter the water to drink | Explore

Most likely, the filtration system is behind a layer of dry stone wall, accompanied by zeolite and quartz crystals the size of sand grains, stone walls reinforced with knitting fibers or porous materials that dissipate over time, lying right upstream or at the entrance to the reservoir, [lớp vật liệu hữu cơ] entering the reservoir by flash floods that appear after tropical storms“, The scientific report writes.

It seems this water purification system is really effective. In other reservoirs, mercury deposits have been found, most likely due to cinnabar contamination of water. However, the researchers found no trace of mercury in the Corriental reservoir.

The ancient Mayans living in a tropical environment were the creators. This is a huge breakthrough”Said Professor Tankersley.

Many people consider the Native American settlements in the Uncle Cau West region to have no technology as well as technological innovations such as Greece, Rome, India and China. But when it comes to regulating freshwater, the Mayans are millennia ahead of other civilizations“.

Refer to Science Alert

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