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2,000-Year-Old Maya Water Filtration System Uncovered by Researchers

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We have all heard of the Maya civilization, and it existed 2,000 years ago. Apparently, they built a unique water filtration system using materials they collected from miles away. Through excavations, researchers found this incredible creation in the ancient city of Tikal. The technology used is quite similar to modern systems. 

Researchers believe that the corriental reservoir filtration system was built by the Maya 2,185 years ago. The filtration system was built using crystalline quartz and zeolite, a compound of silicon and aluminum. Together they create a molecular sieve with the ability to remove harmful microbes, heavy metals, and other pollutants.

Even modern water filtration systems use the same minerals. So it amazing how the Maya discovered it more than 2,000 years ago. Archeologists believed that zeolite was first used for water filtration in the early 20th century. But this discovery proved them wrong. It seems that the Maya were way ahead of us.

Laslovarga, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have also found other water systems in Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China used in the 15th century B.C. It was found that the Maya civilization faced issues related to water quality because the city was built on porous limestone. This led to a small amount of water being available during seasonal droughts.

Drinking water from the corriental reservoir would have led to various illnesses due to the existence of cyanobacteria and toxic substances in the water. Meanwhile, the other reservoirs in the same area were contaminated with mercury, most probably because of the pigment the Maya used on walls and in burials. Only the corriental was free of mercury. 

Researchers believe that the Maya discovered the quartz and zeolite around Bajo de Azúcar, 18 miles northeast of the city. They must have observed how these materials purified the water, which is why they used them. The Maya had settling tanks from which the water flowed towards the reservoir before entering it. This would have made the water cleaner and drinkable.

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Nowadays, drinking water sources can become contaminated, which can cause diseases and sicknesses from waterborne germs. Therefore, drinking water sources require appropriate treatment to remove disease-causing agents. 

Public water systems use various methods to treat water, which provides us with safe drinking water. The most commons water treatment used is Coagulation and Flocculation. These chemicals added to the water provide a positive charge to neutralize the negative charge of dirt and other water particles. 

The particles then bind with the chemicals and form larger particles named floc. Floc settles at the bottom of the water due to its weight, and this process is called sedimentation.

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Once the floc has settled, the clear water on top will pass through various filters to remove parasites, bacteria, dust, viruses, and chemicals. Thereafter disinfectants such as chloramine or chlorine may be added to kill any remaining bacteria, parasites, and viruses and also to protect the water from any other germs.

UC’s discovery was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Featured image credit: Mike Vondranderivative work: MrPanyGoff, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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