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A team of researchers uncovered a 2,000-year-old filtration system built by the Maya in the ancient city of Tikal.
The researchers discovered the system during an excavation in northern Guatemala. Called the Corriental reservoir filtration system, the primitive system was one of the most advanced inventions of its time.
The system remained in use until the city was abandoned around 1,000 years ago.
To build the filtration system, the Maya paved the roads in their city so that water could be gathered in the surrounding reservoirs. When water flowed into the Corriental reservoir, it passed through tanks where the water would be filtered through a series of minerals. The researchers found that quartz crystals and zeolite, a compound of silicon and aluminum, were used to filter and remove impurities, microbes, and sediments in the water.
The team discovered that water in other reservoirs in the area was tainted by mercury, which may have come from some paint used by the Maya. However, the filtration system helped clean the water and remove contaminants from it. The scientists concluded that the water in the Corriental reservoir probably had the best quality in terms of taste and drinkability.
Lead author and archaeologist Kenneth Barnett Tankersley noted that the system would still be effective today, even if the filtration system was created a thousand years ago. The same minerals found in the ancient filtration system are used in modern-day ones.
Another archaeologist commented that the discovery is proof of the Maya’s technological capabilities and their advanced innovations.