Mayan Ruins in the ancient site of Calakmul. Credit: All Mexico 365

Study Reveals Ancient Maya Civilization High Degree of Technological Advancement  

The ancient Maya created a filtration system some 2,000 years before similar systems were invented and used in Europe.

Thousands of years ago, in what is now Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, an ancient culture developed, creating intricate cities, temples, and pyramids. This culture would later be recognized as the ancient Maya civilization. Throughout. the years, numerous studies, archaeological excavations, and surveys have revealed that the ancient Maya developed to such a degree that they became one of the most advanced civilizations to ever come into existence in America.

Personally, I am perplexed by the Maya, not just because of their cultural influence, but because of the age of their civilization, but most importantly, technological development. I was lucky enough to visit Mexico, specifically the Yucatan Peninsula.

In fact, I grew up in the state of Quintana Roo, where I attended school and learned most of what I today know about the history of Mesoamerican civilizations.

That’s why whenever I read something about the Maya culture, all my senses light up, and I submerge myself into the subject.

Now, a new study has confirmed and reaffirmed the technological development of the ancient Maya. Specifically, the discovery is related to Tikal’s ancient city, one of the most prominent Maya cities ever created.

Archaeological surveys of Tikal have shown that the ancient Maya built intricately sophisticated water filters using natural materials imported across the empire.

Can you see the tip of one of Tikal's Pyramids not giving into the fog? Shutterstock.
Can you see the tip of one of Tikal’s Pyramids not giving into the fog? Shutterstock.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati discovered evidence of filtration systems in the Corriental Reservoir, an important source of drinking water for the ancient Maya in Tikal, in what is now northern Guatemala.

A multidisciplinary team of anthropologists, geographers, and biologists identified crystalline quartz and imported zeolite, materials that were imported from vast distances.

Quartz found in coarse sand and zeolite, a crystalline compound consisting of silicon and aluminum, creates a natural molecular sieve.

Such was the level of advancement of the ancient Maya that both these minerals are used in modern water filtration.

The filters would have removed harmful microbes, nitrogen-rich compounds, heavy metals like mercury and other toxins from the water that was drunk by the city people, explained Kenneth Barnett Tankersley, associate professor of anthropology and lead author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The most interesting thing is that such is the level of advancement of the filtration system that is still used today. In fact, the filtration system was created by the Maya around 2,00 years before similar systems were invented and used in Europe. This means that the ancient Maya effectively invented one of the oldest water treatment systems of its kind, anywhere in the world, researchers concluded.

One of the tallest Maya Pyramids at Calakmul. Shutterstock.
One of the tallest Maya Pyramids at Calakmul. Shutterstock.

For the ancient Maya–and many other civilizations in America–finding ways to collect and store clean water was vital. Tikal and other Mayan cities were built on porous limestone, making it difficult to obtain potable water for much of the year during seasonal droughts.

This proves, as explained by the researchers, that the ancient Maya were incredible innovators, forced perhaps to become such, due to the environment in which they lived.

Among many other innovations, the Maya invented writing and numeral systems. In fact, of all cultures in Mesoamerica, the Maya were perhaps the most literate.

Although debated, it is believed that it was the ancient Maya who first invented–introduced–the number zero to the world. The other theory suggests it was invented in ancient India. The Maya also introduced the world to calendars and oriented many of their monuments to the stars, which proves that in addition to being great innovators and engineers, they were astronomers. Find out more about the Maya in this article.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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