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Mayan Plumbing Found In Ancient City 220

Posted by kdawson
from the series-of-tubes dept.
DarkKnightRadick writes "An archaeologist and a hydrologist have published evidence that the ancient Mayans had pressurized plumbing as early as sometime between the year 100 (when the city of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, was first founded) and 800 (when it was abandoned). While the Egyptians had plumbing way earlier (around 2500 BC), this is the first instance of plumbing in the New World prior to European exploration and conquest."
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Mayan Plumbing Found In Ancient City

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  • by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:37PM (#32093228)
    Wonder if their shower temperatures went loopy when they flushed their toilets too?
    • by thoughtspace (1444717) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:41PM (#32093260)

      Wonder if their shower temperatures went loopy when they flushed their toilets too?

      No , they sacrificed virgins to prevent that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      It turns out that that only happens when you aren't tossing enough severed heads down the steps of your blood-soaked skull-pyramids, and was thus an unheard of problem.

      The "shoddy contractors" theory of water temperature problems is actually just a lie promulgated as part of the post-colonization suppression of native mythology.
  • No big surprise,,, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:42PM (#32093270) Journal

    If the aliens gave pluming to the Egyptians, why not the Mayans?

    • No, not plumbing:

      from the series-of-tubes dept.

      Clearly, the aliens gave them both the internet! If only Senator Stevens had been an Egyptologist, we would have known sooner...

    • Because travellers from the future got to the Mayans before the aliens. So aliens had to settle on Egyptians.

  • pattern? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ascari (1400977) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:44PM (#32093278)
    There was Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in the Indus valley, then the Egyptians, then the Mayans. Is it just coincidence that advanced cultures tend to go under within a couple of centuries after they invent plumbing? If so, are we doomed?
    • Re:pattern? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by M. Baranczak (726671) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:53PM (#32093342)

      Is it just coincidence that advanced cultures tend to go under within a couple of centuries after they invent plumbing?

      Cultures go under all the time, with or without plumbing.

      are we doomed?

      Most certainly.

      • Re:pattern? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @10:48PM (#32093640) Journal
        I doubt that it's the plumbing per se; but a rise in interlocking technical and social complexity really helps if you want to "go under" in a way dramatic enough for history to notice.

        Barring fairly rare events(like the sudden appearance of really nasty plagues, or an advanced culture showing up and gunning you down, or both), low-complexity cultures don't really "collapse" in any useful sense. They wax and wane a bit, some years good some years bad, and they may undergo various sorts of linguistic and genetic shifts due to warfare and migration; but they aren't specialized enough for things to really go to hell.

        If you have interlocking specialization, though, you have entire institutions, and populations, that are basically dependent on large numbers of other structures and people for their continued existence. This makes it fairly easy for the right push to, instead of "reducing the hunter-gatherer population by ~10%" do something more along the lines of "catastrophic mass starvation, entire cities abandoned to the flames, the capital investments of 200 years annihilated within months".
        • by corbettw (214229)

          "catastrophic mass starvation, entire cities abandoned to the flames, the capital investments of 200 years annihilated within months".

          Oh please, 2009 wasn't that bad.

        • by dargaud (518470)
          There's a quote that says that no civilization / society is more than 3 meals away from revolution / anarchy...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hhedeshian (1343143)
        What'll be different, I think, is that a lot less information will be lost in the demise of a "modern" culture simply due to the global (that's the key word here) communications network and data archival abilities we now possess. If the US went into oblivion, the world wouldn't have to re-invent the Ford Model-T or "Freedom Fries"; That data will be quite difficult to get rid of due to geographic redundancy.

        Also, spoken langauges don't die off in short periods of time. Given the available compute power a
        • What'll be different, I think, is that a lot less information will be lost in the demise of a "modern" culture simply due to the global (that's the key word here) communications network and data archival abilities we now possess. If the US went into oblivion, the world wouldn't have to re-invent the Ford Model-T or "Freedom Fries"; That data will be quite difficult to get rid of due to geographic redundancy.

          Also, spoken langauges don't die off in short periods of time. Given the available compute power and potential advances in translation software, it should be relively easy to bring texts up to the new language. You won't need a giant rock and guys like Daniel Jackson spouting some Goa'uld nonsense.

          If you can't read Shakespeare in English, what's the point? Dante's Inferno becomes a work of intellect and story and loses all poetic meaning.

        • Your socalled "Freedom Fries" are a European invention, it's one of those rare things invented in Belgium worth a damn, and one of the few things Belgians are proud of (together with our beers & chocolates)
        • If the U.S. went into oblivion suddenly, the entire world's technological infrastructure would fail. Not just because of the loss of the U.S., but because of the turmoil and disorder that would result (or have been the cause). 50 years ago, the collapse would have been much less, 50 years from now such a collapse would be much worse (assuming the U.S. maintains its current position of dominance for the next 50 years).
          If the U.S. does not maintain its current position of dominance for at least the next 20 y
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Cultures go under all the time, with or without plumbing.

        When I was in grad school at Columbia, I lived in a Harlem sub-let that had plumbing from about about 100 C.E.

        I seem to recall some Mayan hieroglyphs around the front door, too. They translated as "Manny is a fuggin' puto"

        I don't know about the culture of New York, but those few years almost put me under. You could buy seven dollar bags of brown heroin in my building day or night. That, and the cockroaches the size of nutria did not make for an atm

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by M. Baranczak (726671)

          Oh, for those innocent years when we thought we could solve the world's problems by breakdancing.

        • I seem to recall some Mayan hieroglyphs around the front door, too. They translated as "Manny is a fuggin' puto"

          That must have been that bastard Ah Kin Xoc. He's been calling "Manny" (Mulac) a puto for years now, ever since he caught him banging Hun-Hunapu in the men's room at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by c0y (169660)

      Some people believe that toilets don't allow for complete elimination and are the source of a lot of colon cancer [toilet-rel...lments.com].

      For my part, I've realized that after a lot of years camping and having to squat over a hole I dig, that at some point my knees simply won't let me do that any more. I've come to believe that maybe people die younger in parts of the world that lack sit down toilets and remember this quote by Charles Bukowski:

      Sex is interesting, but it's not totally important. I mean it's not even as important (p

      • by lawpoop (604919)

        Some people believe that toilets don't allow for complete elimination and are the source of a lot of colon cancer.

        This is true, but plumbing ans sewer systems != sit-down toilets.

        IIRC, modern sit-down toilets were invented by John C. Crapper sometime in the 1700s. I could look this up and link this to wikipedia, but my karma is good enough.

        So all these ancient civilizations we're hearing about that had plumbing systems -- Egypt, the Indus valley, the Mayans, Rome -- they were all still squatting to take

        • You should visit a French motorway facility then - squat toilets can be seen in a modern western civilisation there.
    • No co-incidence. It is called 'earth quakes' and we all live on the same planet. So no co-incidence here.
    • Is it just coincidence that advanced cultures tend to go under within a couple of centuries after they invent plumbing?

      I’ll make it short:

      Yes.

    • by T.E.D. (34228)
      They Egyptian culture never "went under". They just got conqured a lot. Sort of like China, but on a smaller scale.
  • Guess we all know where all Mayans sacrificial human remains got flushed into now. I'm sure it'll be no time before some archaeological hippy is down there collecting petrified poo and proving the Mayan doomsday 2012 calendar wrong.
  • by jamshid (140925) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @10:00PM (#32093388)

    Okay, not really related to ancient Mayan plumbing, but that article did make me think about this great talk by neuroscientist and writer David Eagleman:
    http://www.longnow.org/seminars/02010/apr/01/six-easy-steps-avert-collapse-civilization/ [longnow.org]

  • Pretty Neat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tremegorn (1111055) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @10:16PM (#32093474)

    The guy who has the photo credit in the article (Kirk French) was my Archaeology TA during my freshman year. (I'm currently attending PSU for an EE degree). He's a really cool guy, glad to see he's doing well.

    That aside, this is actually a pretty big discovery; very few ancient civilizations actually managed complex engineering achievements like running water. If anything this just adds to the mystery, if they had engineering knowledge of similar level to the Romans, why did their civilization suddenly die out?

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Still not similar, it seems. And don't we have a sensibly clear image of what happened with their civilisation? (certain stagnation to some degree, also perhaps due to wasting of human resources; and locked into delicate, almost ceremonial balance with other local powers...a state which was rapidly destabilised by arrival of Europeans?)

      • by eln (21727)
        There are plenty of theories regarding the Maya collapse, but European invasion isn't one of them. The collapse happened well before the Europeans showed up.
      • by GiMP (10923)

        The theory that was told to me by Mayans, and confirmed by several online sources, is that of severe drought, exacerbated by deforestation. It seems that most large tribes split, smaller ones formed, and perhaps some small villages existed in a relative state of anarchy. By the time the Europeans arrived, there were still (or again) some larger tribes. Of course, the Mayans still live today, both ethnically and -- to a degree -- culturally.

        • When we're talking about the "collapse" of the Maya, we usually mean the "collapse" of the Mayan classic civilization and that usually means the abandonment circa AD800 - 1000 of what might have been cities but which were, in my opinion, which is always correct, because I speak loudly in restaurants, really big haciendas that put The Ponderosa to shame. This has nothing to do with the disappearance of the Maya people (Van Daniken aside) or the disappearance of their language or culture. Hell, the Maya held
    • If anything this just adds to the mystery, if they had engineering knowledge of similar level to the Romans, why did their civilization suddenly die out?

      Probably much like Roman civilization, the main power structure lost control. That seems to be recurring throughout all history and cultures.

      Obviously that's a huge simplification, but it no doubt contributed to the "collapse" of their civilization. I put "collapse" in parentheses, because Mayan civilization still exists to a certain degree.

    • Re:Pretty Neat (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:00PM (#32093718) Journal
      I've heard the theory suggested that engineering knowledge(and accompanying social and technical organization) is exactly what allows a civilization to suddenly die out.

      Technology(speaking in the broad sense, including things like complex social structures, bureaucracies, and so forth) is extremely powerful; but also makes it fairly easy to get locked-in to brittle trajectories where(even if alternatives are theoretically possible), your only real approach to any problem becomes "do whatever it is we already do; but more, and harder". This often goes poorly. Worse, you have usually managed to build a population that depends on your complex social structures, which makes for a fun die-off if they should come loose.

      When the Roman legions stopped being a net gain, through plunder and Romanization, and started to become a liability(since they couldn't expand the borders any further, and spent most of their time fighting civil wars to install one emperor after another), Roman civilization as a whole never really came up with an alternative. They pretty much just raised more, tried harder, passed a few more laws to try to preserve the status quo. Long-view, they were following a doomed path, proximately, though, they didn't really have a whole lot of options. Any emperor who adopted a "fewer legions" policy would find himself replaced with extreme prejudice by somebody willing to do the opposite.

      I don't know how the Mayans went down; but complexity quite possibly helped them along.
      • Re:Pretty Neat (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @12:01AM (#32094042) Homepage Journal

        Any emperor who adopted a "fewer legions" policy would find himself replaced with extreme prejudice by somebody willing to do the opposite.

        For some reason, I'm having mental images of Roman legions marching through Iraq and Afghanistan, with predator drones buzzing overhead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      That aside, this is actually a pretty big discovery; very few ancient civilizations actually managed complex engineering achievements like running water.

      Actually, the more I hear about ancient civilizations, the more I believe that in at least some regards, they had knowledge that was lost to the West until sometime after the Renaissance. They didn't know everything, but they sure as shit knew a lot. Certainly a lot more than has been attributed to them during most of my lifetime.

      If anything this just add

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Cylix (55374)

        The History channel's Modern Marvels nearly always provides a reference to the ancient rome.

        So much so that a running joke amongst my friends is that when Modern Marvel's eventually covers the "data center" they will likely mention it was first invented by the Romans.

    • why did their civilization suddenly die out?

      They unwisely got rid of all the telephone sterilizer technicians.

  • by rattaroaz (1491445) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @10:19PM (#32093492)
    This reminds me of my favorite scene from History of the World, Part I

    "Pump the shit, right out of your house!"
  • In ancient Mayan sewers, the team comes face-to-face with the ghosts of Mayan Roto-Rooter men!

    Ironic, true, but still a load of crap...

  • a pharaoh faucet major.

    .
  • may I assume they originated the plumber's butt crack?

  • Their civilization went down the tubes?

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb

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