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UC Researchers uncover the largest ancient Mayan dam in Mexico

Researchers and archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati have uncovered the largest Maya dam ever to be built in the pre-colombian city fo Tikal. That dam was constructed from cut stone, rubble and soil, and stretched more than 260 feet in length, stood about 33 feet high. It is reckoned to have held about 20 million gallons of water in a man-made reservoir.

The discovery has shed new light on the conservation efforts of the Maya, and how they used their natural resources to support their large population. The Maya Empire lasted over 1,500 years throughout environment issues, such as long periods of drought. The tropical city of Tikal, Guatemala, is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the Maya civilisation. The city dates back to before the 1st century AD and is one of the best sites for providing key information about the Maya Empire.

It is estimated that around 60-80,000 inhabitants lived in Tikal and that the new found dam was responsible for supplying water to all. The city's plaza, courtyard surfaces and canals all had channels in order to direct the rainwater into the water tanks and dam. The technology was very advanced but the Mayas only used stone age tools. In addition the Maya used beds of quartz sand to filtrate the water as it passed into the dam. The Maya would have had to travel at least 20 miles to collect this sand and transport it back to Tikal.

Professor Vernon Scarborough, UC Professor of Anthropology, believes the find will not only tell su mroe abotu the Maya but help our future water conservation efforts. He said "Water management in the ancient context can be dismissed as less relevant to our current water crisis because of its lack of technological sophistication. Nevertheless, in many areas of the world today, the energy requirements for even simple pumping and filtering devices – to say nothing about replacement-part acquisition – challenges access to potable sources. Tropical settings can be especially difficult regions because of high infectious disease loads borne by unfiltered water schemes. The ancient Maya, however, developed a clever rainwater catchment and delivery system based on elevated, seasonally charged reservoirs positioned in immediate proximity to the grand pavements and pyramidal architecture of their urban cores. Allocation and potability were developmental concerns from the outset of colonization. Perhaps the past can fundamentally inform the present, if we, too, can be clever.”

If you're interested in visiting the ruins of Tikal and other Maya ruins then please take a look at our Mexican and Guatemala trips. (Family Mexico)