Virtual Colloquium: Zeolite water purification at Tikal, an ancient Maya city in Guatemala

  • Feb. 24, 2021, 4:00 pm US/Central

Speaker: Kenneth Barnett Tankersley, University of Cincinnati

Fermilab employees and users can access the Zoom link below (Services login required): When: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM.

Location: ZOOM ONLY

Please note: you will need the passcode to enter the zoom

Anyone else can obtain the Zoom link the day of the colloquium by emailing Barb Kronkow at

Evidence for the oldest known zeolite water purification filtration system occurs in the undisturbed sediments of the Corriental reservoir at the Maya city of Tikal, in northern Guatemala. The Corriental reservoir was an important source of drinking water at Tikal during the Late Preclassic to Late Classic cultural periods. X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD) and six AMS radiocarbon ages show that between ~ 2185 and 965 cal yr B.P. the drinking water in the Corriental reservoir water was filtered through a mixture of zeolite and coarse, sand-sized crystalline quartz. Zeolite is a non-toxic, threedimensionally porous, crystalline, hydrated aluminosilicate with natural adsorbent and ion exchange properties, which removes harmful microbes as well as dispersed insoluble and soluble toxins from drinking water. The occurrence of zeolite in Corriental reservoir sediments expands our understanding of the earliest history of water purification and the long-term sustainability of an ancient Maya city.