Maya Built Very Modern Water Filtration Systems at Tikal in Guatemala

AUGUST 12, 2021

The Maya built reservoir 2,185 years ago at the site of Tikal, early in its history. It relied on crystalline quartz and zeolite, a compound of silicon and aluminum to create a molecular sieve which removed harmful microbes, heavy metals and other pollutants, and these remained in use until Tikal was abandoned around 1100. Today, the same minerals are used in modern water filtration systems, and not discovered for use in modern times till the 20th century.

Other reservoirs in the area were polluted with mercury from pigments the Maya used on walls and burials. The quartz and zeolite came from 18 miles away. Teams will now look for similar techniques at other sites.

Smithsonian has the report here with photos: