Plumbing Design has scientists flush with excitement

DFN: Palenque, another mayan city for me to visit.

Mayan Plumbing Design Has Scientists Flush With Excitement
By David Bois | Wednesday, December 23, 2009 1:05 PM ET

An exploration of Mayan ruins in Chiapas, Mexico, that involved both archaeology and civil engineering in a cross-disciplinary study has found new evidence for Mayan technical sophistication.

As Live Science reports, Pennsylvania State University researchers have found that the Mayans both understood and could manipulate water pressure to the extent that the site involved in the study probably once featured flowing fountains, running water and perhaps basic flush toilets.

The Mayan city of Palenque is believed to have been at its peak 1,200 to 2,000 years ago, with a population of approximately 6,000 inhabitants. The site features extensive water management infrastructure designed to make use of the water from streams and springs that characterize the setting. One particular buried conduit stood out for the research team: it is more than 200 feet long, and unlike the other aqueducts that slope very gently and have consistent cross-sectional area throughout, this one features a notable slope and narrows markedly at the bottom. The design is for the express purpose of generating water pressure, and it is calculated that this feature could have sent fountain water spraying to a height of 20 feet.

The field work and its findings by anthropologist Kirk French and civil engineer Christopher Duffy offer the latest pieces of evidence supporting extensive technical knowledge and ability of the Maya, especially with regards to water management. Their research is currently published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.


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