October 19, 2022
Researchers have found high levels of mercury contamination in Maya cities. They looked at many Maya sites including at Chunchumil in today’s Mexico, Marco Gonzales, Chan b’I and Actuncan in Belize, La Corona, Tikal, Petén Itzá, Piedras Negras and Cancuén in Guatemala, Palmarejo in Honduras, and Cerén in El Salvador.
Mercury contamination was found deep in the soils of these sites. Sealed vessels filled with liquid mercury have been found at Quiriqua in Guatemala, El Paraíso in Honduras, and the former multi-ethnic megacity Teotihucan in Central Mexico.
Objects were painted with mercury contaminated paints from cinnabar. The mercury leached from patios, floors, walls, ceramics into the soil and water. Cinnabar was mined outside of the main Maya region and imported into the Maya sites by traders.
Mercury poisoning causes damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver, and cause tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, and mental health problems and obesity. Maya rulers were often shown as obese in their murals.
The research is published in Frontiers in Environmental Science https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2022.986119
Heritage Daily has the report here: