Archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati have recently uncovered the largest ancient dam in Central America measuring 260 feet in length and 33 feet high.
This dam, in the ancient city of Tikal in northern Guatemala, was used to collect and hold up to 20 million gallons of water in its large reservoir. The discovery details, which can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate how this indigenous group conserved and used their own natural resources to support a society for more than 1,500 years, even during occasional periods of drought.
Vernon Scarborough, an anthropology professor at the University of Cincinnati and a co author of the study states, “The overall goal of the research is to better understand how the ancient Maya supported a population at Tikal of perhaps 60,000 to 80,000 inhabitants and an estimated population of five million in the overall Maya lowlands by AD 700.”
This feat is even more impressive when their water filtration system is taken into account. The archaeology team also discovered that water entering the large reservoirs only did so after ‘filtering’ through strategically placed boxes of quartz sand. Co author and professor of geography at the University, Nicholas Dunning, stated, “These filtration beds consisted of quartz sand, which is not naturally found in the greater Tikal area. The Maya of Tikal traveled at least 20 miles to obtain the quartz sand to create their water filters. It was a fairly laborious transportation effort. That speaks to the value they placed on water and water management.”