The ancient Mayan cities were seriously contaminated with mercury


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The traditional Mayan cities of Central America by no means fail to impress. However beneath the soil’s floor, an sudden hazard lurks: mercury contamination. In a evaluation article in Frontiers in Environmental Science, the researchers concluded that this contamination just isn’t current: it’s as a result of frequent use of mercury and mercury-containing merchandise by the Mayas within the Traditional interval, between 250 and 1100 CE. This contamination is in locations so heavy that even in the present day, it poses a possible well being danger for unwary archaeologists.

Lead writer Dr Duncan Prepare dinner, Affiliate Professor of Geography on the Australian Catholic College, mentioned: “Environmental mercury air pollution is often present in up to date city areas and industrial landscapes. The invention of mercury buried deep in soil and sediments in historic Mayan cities is troublesome to clarify, till we start to Examine the archeology of the realm that tells us that the Maya individuals have been utilizing mercury for hundreds of years.”

historic human air pollution

For the primary time, right here Prepare dinner and colleagues evaluation all information on mercury concentrations in soil and sediment at archaeological websites throughout the traditional Maya world. They present that at places from the Classical interval the place measurements can be found—Chunchomel in in the present day’s Mexico, Marco Gonzalez, Chan Bay and Actuncan in Belize, La Corona, Tikal, Petén Itza, Piedras Negras and Canquen in Guatemala, Palmarigo in Honduras, and Serene, in Central America Pompeii, El Salvador – Mercury contamination will be detected all over the place aside from Chan Bai.

Concentrations vary from 0.016 ppm in Aktunkan to an uncommon 17.16 ppm in Tikal. For comparability, the TET restrict for mercury in sediment is outlined as 1 ppm.

Heavy customers of mercury

What brought about this prehistoric mercury air pollution? The authors spotlight that sealed vessels full of “elemental” (i.e., liquid) mercury have been discovered at a number of Maya websites, for instance Quiriqua in Guatemala, El Paraíso in Honduras, and the previous multiethnic Teotihucan in central Mexico. Elsewhere within the Maya area, archaeologists have discovered objects painted with mercury-containing paint, made primarily of the mineral vermilion.

The authors conclude that the traditional Mayas continuously used cinnabar as mercury-containing paints and powders for adornment. This mercury can then seep out of yards, flooring areas, partitions, and ceramics, and subsequently disperse into soil and water.

“For the Maya, issues may include Shul, or the religious power that was dwelling within the blood. Therefore, the sensible purple pigment of vermilion was a priceless and sacred substance, however unbeknownst to them it was additionally deadly and its legacy continues within the soil and sediments round historic Mayan websites, mentioned co-author Dr. Nicholas Dunning, a professor on the College of Cincinnati.

As a result of mercury is uncommon within the limestone that lies below a lot of the Maya area, they speculate that elemental mercury and Zanzibar discovered at Maya websites may have initially been mined from well-known deposits on the northern and southern borders of the traditional Maya world, and imported into cities by retailers.

Well being dangers and “myacin”

All this mercury would have been harmful to the well being of the traditional Mayans: for instance, the results of persistent mercury poisoning embrace harm to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver, inflicting tremors, impaired imaginative and prescient and listening to, paralysis, and psychological well being. Issues. Maybe it’s vital that one of many final Maya rulers of Tikal, the Darkish Solar, who dominated round AD 810, is depicted in frescoes as affected by morbid weight problems. Weight problems is a widely known impact of metabolic syndrome, which will be brought on by persistent mercury poisoning.

Extra analysis is required to find out whether or not mercury publicity performed a task in bigger social and cultural modifications and developments within the Mayan world, equivalent to these on the finish of the Traditional interval.

Co-author Dr. Tim Seaside, a professor on the College of Texas at Austin, mentioned: “We conclude that even the traditional Mayans, who hardly used the metals, brought about mercury concentrations to rise dramatically of their surroundings. This discovering is greater than that. Proof that simply as we stay in the present day Within the Anthropocene, there was additionally the Maya Anthropocene or the Mayacin. It appears that evidently mineral contamination has had an influence on human exercise all through historical past.”

Historic Maya reservoirs contained poisonous air pollution: research

extra data:
The Environmental Legacy of the Pre-Columbian Maya Mercury, Frontiers in Environmental Science (2022). DOI: 10.3389 / fenvs.2022.986119

the quote: Historic Maya Cities Have been Dangerously Contaminated by Mercury (2022, September 23) Retrieved September 23, 2022 from

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