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 surprising hazard lurks: mercury contamination. In a assessment article in Frontiers in Environmental Science, the researchers concluded that this contamination shouldn’t be current: it’s because of the frequent use of mercury and mercury-containing merchandise by the Mayas within the Basic 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 creator Dr Duncan Prepare dinner, Affiliate Professor of Geography on the Australian Catholic College, stated: “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 historical Mayan cities is troublesome to clarify, till we start to Research the archeology of the realm that tells us that the Maya folks have been utilizing mercury for hundreds of years.”

historical human air pollution

For the primary time, right here Prepare dinner and colleagues assessment 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 in all places 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 prompted this prehistoric mercury air pollution? The authors spotlight that sealed vessels stuffed with “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 often used cinnabar as mercury-containing paints and powders for adornment. This mercury can then seep out of yards, ground areas, partitions, and ceramics, and subsequently disperse into soil and water.

“For the Maya, issues may include Shul, or the non secular pressure that was dwelling within the blood. Therefore, the good 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 historical Mayan websites, stated co-author Dr. Nicholas Dunning, a professor on the College of Cincinnati.

As a result of mercury is uncommon within the limestone that lies underneath 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 injury 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 important 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 well known impact of metabolic syndrome, which will be attributable to 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 tendencies within the Mayan world, comparable to these on the finish of the Basic interval.

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

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

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