Water Industry News

Discovery Of Ancient Maya Water Filter System!

Evidence of a filter system developed by the ancient Maya in the city of Takal more than 2,000 years ago has been discovered, a system that would apparently still be effective even now.

A team of anthropologists, biologists and geographers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) found that zeolite and crystalline quartz had been imported from miles away, with the minerals used to create a natural molecular sieve. In fact, both minerals are still used in modern water filtration today!

Associate professor of anthropology and lead author of the study Kenneth Barnett Tankersley explained that these filters would have removed toxins, heavy metals like mercury, harmful microbes and nitrogen-rich compounds from the water. The team traced the minerals back to steep ridges around the Bajo de Azucar, which is approximately 18 miles north-eeast of Tikal. X-ray diffraction analysis was used to identify both in the reservoir sediments.

UC geography professor and co-author of the report, Nicholas Dunning, made further comments, saying “It was probably through very clever empirical observation that the ancient Maya saw this particular material was associated with clean water and made some effort to carry it back.”  He went on to say “They had settling tanks where the water would be flowing toward the reservoir before entering the reservoir. The water probably looked cleaner and probably tasted better, too.”

The next stage of the project, as Mr Tankersley explained, is to find out how widespread these filtration systems could have been throughout the ancient Mayan civilisation, as well as how erosion was prevented from harming the reservoirs themselves.

It’s certainly interesting to think that something discovered 2,000 years ago is still in use today and that, even with all the technology we have at our disposal these days, we are still reliant upon the natural world to help us where water management is concerned. Of course, as is becoming increasingly apparent as time goes on, our water supplies are dwindling around the world as a result of human activity.

Now is the time for both businesses and consumers alike to take a stand and do their bit to protect our precious water resources, which are by no means infinite and are already struggling under the pressures of climate change, urbanisation, surging population numbers and ageing infrastructure.

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