ARCHEOLOGY – Among the Mayans, the color red was sacred but today it leaves traces. This red color is neither more nor less than mercury, again toxic. In the Mayan archaeological sites located in Central Americameresearchers found fairly worrying levels of mercury in 7 out of 10 monuments. A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Sciences On September 23, he reports that this mercury pigment was often found near hot springs or in volcanic areas.
“The bright red pigment of cinnabar was a priceless and sacred substance, but unbeknownst to them, it was also deadly, and its legacy lives on in the soils and sediments around ancient Mayan sites.” said Duncan Cook, geoarchaeologist and lead author of this study in the revision Frontier science news.
This marked taste for red prompted the Mayans to use a kind of mercury called cinnabar, which perfectly imitated blood. The Mayans used it especially on the ground during religious ceremonies, but also for painting or simply for decorative purposes.
Pollution dating from the 10th century still present
In collaboration with researchers from the UK and the US, Duncan Cook mapped his research to 10 classical-era sites (where mercury use was most prosperous). Of these 10 sites, 7 had very high levels of mercury to the point that researchers had to wear protective gear.
” The pollution Environmental mercury is typically found in urban areas and contemporary industrial landscapes. Discovering mercury buried deep in the soils and sediments of ancient Mayan cities is difficult to explain, until we start to consider the archeology of the region which tells us that the Mayans used mercury for centuries.” Duncan Cook said.
This is not the first time that researchers have found traces of mercury in Mayan archaeological sites. In a study published by scientific report In 2020, researchers discovered in the ancient Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, significant traces of mercury. This toxic product was the source of contamination in the drinking water tanks. The presence of phosphates and algae in the water could be toxic to consumers.
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