BBC: Maya's ingenious secret to survival

UC researchers find sophisticated water filtration in Tikal

The BBC spoke to a University of Cincinnati researcher about UC's discovery of sophisticated water filtration in the ancient Maya city of Tikal.

As part of its Ancient Engineering Marvels series, the BBC talked to Kenneth Tankersley, associate professor of anthropology in UC's College of Arts and Sciences, about a research project in Guatemala that identified minerals called zeolites in ancient Maya reservoirs used for drinking water. Zeolites are commonly used in water filtration today.

Kenneth Tankersley

Kenneth Tankersley

UC researchers collected sediment samples from Tikal's reservoirs and found zeolites in the Corriental reservoir, an important source of drinking water for the city. UC researchers found a potential source of zeolites in a nearby spring called the Bajo de Azúcar.

"It doesn't take a lot of deduction to imagine someone from Tikal thinking, 'If sweet, clean water is coming out of this crystalline, volcanic tuff, maybe we could break some off and use it to make our water clean as well,'" Tankersley told the BBC.

UC's study was published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. It was co-authored by UC researchers Nicholas Dunning, Christopher Carr, David Lentz and Vernon Scarborough. The researchers have collaborated on a number of groundbreaking archaeology projects in Mesoamerica.

Read the BBC story.

Featured image at top: The ancient Maya city of Tikal rises above the rainforest in Guatemala. Photo/David Lentz