In the ancient cities of the Maya, the level of mercury was significantly increased

In the cities of the ancient Maya in Mesoamerica, they found a huge amount of mercury in the soil. In a review article in a journal

Frontiers in Environmental Science researchersconcluded that this contamination was caused by the frequent use of mercury and mercury-containing products. In places it is so strong that it poses a potential health hazard for archaeologists.

“Environmental pollution by mercury is usuallyobserved in modern urban areas and industrial landscapes, said study lead author Dr Duncan Cook, Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Australia. "The discovery of mercury buried deep in soil and sediment in ancient Mayan cities is difficult to explain until we start looking at the archeology of the region, which tells us that the Maya have been using mercury for centuries."

Cook and his colleagues analyzed all the data onmercury concentrations in soil and sediments at archaeological sites throughout the ancient Mayan area. They showed that in places of the classical period, the level of mercury is highly elevated.

The authors emphasize that hermetic vessels,filled with liquid mercury have been found at several Maya sites, such as Quirica in Guatemala, El Paraiso in Honduras, and the former cosmopolitan metropolis of Teotiucan in Mexico. Elsewhere in the Maya region, archaeologists have found objects painted with mercury-containing paints, mostly made from the mineral cinnabar.

The authors conclude that the ancient Maya oftenused mercury-containing paints and powders for decoration. This mercury may have leached from patios, floors, walls, and ceramics and then entered soil and water.

Since mercury is rarely found in limestone,which underlies much of the Maya region, they suggest that the elemental mercury and cinnabar found at Maya sites may have been mined from known deposits on the northern and southern frontiers of the ancient Maya world and imported into the cities by merchants.

Mercury was a danger to the health of the ancientsMaya: For example, the effects of chronic poisoning include damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver, tremors, visual and hearing impairment, paralysis, and mental disturbances.

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