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Mayan Plumbing Found In Ancient City

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the series-of-tubes dept.

News 220

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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220 comments

Better than ours? (4, Funny)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093228)

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

Re:Better than ours? (5, Funny)

thoughtspace (1444717) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093260)

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

No , they sacrificed virgins to prevent that.

Re:Better than ours? (0)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093560)

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

No , they sacrificed virgins to prevent that.

What a waste.

(of virgins)

Re:Better than ours? (0)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094184)

    Nah, they just pruned the ugly virgins. The hot ones became "special" priestesses. You know, the ones that served to the leaders "needs". There's a name for those now. What is that? Oh ya. Whores. :)

Re:Better than ours? (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093840)

No , they sacrificed virgins to prevent that.

Don't say that on Slashdot!

Some people might get nervous around here....

Re:Better than ours? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093274)

All joking aside, Native Americans both in North and South America had rather terrible sanitation systems, even by the standards of their day. It was not unusual for them to defecate around the fire pits where they cooked and ate. At least the tendency in Europe, the Middle East and eastern Asia was to defecate away from living areas. However, even today we see some cultures who shit in the water that they drink. India is one such culture, and it's prevalent in Africa, too.

Re:Better than ours? (2, Insightful)

pipedwho (1174327) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093310)

However, even today we see some cultures who shit in the water that they drink. India is one such culture, and it's prevalent in Africa, too.

I thought it was people shitting in the water upstream from where 'somebody else' drinks.

Re:Better than ours? (2, Interesting)

Inner_Child (946194) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093340)

I thought we just called that "government".

Re:Better than ours? (4, Informative)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093378)

Actually, until Typhoid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoid) struck in the late 19th century, even king's used to defecate in their bedrooms. The stench of feces used to be quite common amongst the civilised.

It usually takes a large amount of death/discomfort/destruction for things to change unfortunately. Especially with such a large public works project such as sanitation and clean water.

All though the Thames still stinks, I'm sure that it used to be much, much, much worse than even India at the time.

Re:Better than ours? (3, Informative)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093514)

Even more important to improving sanitation than death, discomfort, and destruction was the concept of germs which was only just gaining traction in the late 19th century.

Re:Better than ours? (5, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093750)

you mean it was re-gaining traction. Funny how it took western civilization over 1500 years to get back to where medicine was at the peak of the Roman Empire. Marcus Varro, 36 B.C. "and because there are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases". Other Roman doctors know to use antiseptics and antibiotics, and knew of germs/viruses by indirect means. Of course, 600 years before that, Indian civilization knew and wrote of living infectious agents they couldn't see , and had drugs and procedure to kill them and to inoculate.

But in the mid 19th century U.S. physicians were putting leaches on Abraham Lincoln, the primitive morons.

Re:Better than ours? (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093870)

The question is, did those ancient Roman and Indian physicians actually know about germs, or were they just making a lucky guess? Without a microscope, the idea of "miasma" ("bad air") as an explanation for infectious disease, which was popular up through the 19th c., actually makes just about as much sense as germ theory. So I'd be interested to know the process by which the ancients arrived at their conclusion -- unless they devised some very clever experiments, they didn't really know what they were dealing with.

Re:Better than ours? (2, Interesting)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094060)

I wouldn't say a lucky guess. You don't have to see something to infer it's existence. The spread of a disease, the way it's spread, and the ways to stop it from spreading could all have led them to the conclusion that the disease was caused by some air-bound, invisible (to them) agent. Those Romans and ancient Indians seemed like smart guys. Presumably, they could imagine that some things were too small to be seen. They did both come up with the idea of the atom [wikipedia.org], after all.

Re:Better than ours? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094068)

The Romans and Greeks knew full well that dirty water spreads disease. That is why they went to such extraordinary lengths to gather water high in the mountains and pipe it through the cities. Their civil engineers did not need microscopes to figure that out.

Re:Better than ours? (4, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094118)

The question is, did those ancient Roman and Indian physicians actually know about germs, or were they just making a lucky guess?

But you can apply such an argument to anybody who doesn't have all the facts. Did Robert Boyle know, for certain, that gases were composed of minute particles, the kinetics of which could be used to derive his "Boyle's Law?" He did not. In the same sense as you are now implying, he made a "lucky guess." A guess which turned out to be correct, and his name has survived in history even though, in modern terms, he didn't know what the fuck he was talking about.

If somebody posits that minute organisms are the ultimate cause of disease, then I give that person props. I really don't give a shit that he cannot prove whether he's right. That fact is, he IS right. You attitude smacks of the bitterness of a person who has perpetually sought success but never achieved it. Whatever.

Re:Better than ours? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32094136)

" Funny how it took western civilization over 1500 years to get back to where medicine was at the peak of the Roman Empire. Marcus Varro, 36 B.C."

Blame Christianity.

Re:Better than ours? (1, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094196)

Well, the old Greeks already knew about atoms (that’s where the name comes from, after all), and also about steam engines.

But you can thank mostly the churches for going back to bullshit magic and being unable to write (except for the privileged) in what is called “the dark ages” for a reason...

Re:Better than ours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093540)

in the late 19th century, even king's used to defecate in their bedrooms.

The king owned a used, AND it defecated in his bedroom? Someone should tell the king to make sure his used is housebroken next time.

Re:Better than ours? (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093558)

It usually takes a large amount of death/discomfort/destruction for things to change unfortunately. Especially with such a large public works project such as sanitation and clean water.

And thousands of years later.... same shit, different century.

Re:Better than ours? (1)

Dr Herbert West (1357769) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093930)

If you're interested in the history of humankind's struggle to suss out the nature of disease, I strongly recommend a book called "The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson. It details the cholera epidemics of London during the mid-1800s, and is particularly concerned with the (then heretical) idea that illnesses could be transmitted thru contaminated drinking water rather that as "maisma".

There's maps, evil bureaucrats, the struggle to figure out how disease patterns relate to the location of London's water pumps-- very much a detective story. It's one of those "historical-fact-with-fictional-details" type books-- similar to parts of Stevenson's Baroque cycle.

It's got some great details about the really gross and horrible effects of cholera as well.

Re:Better than ours? (1)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094040)

I agree with you that even kings used to defecate in their own bedrooms, but I'm inclined to see that as a relatively temporary period that was the result of advances in civil engineering outpacing advances in medicine. Kings, and other rich people, got used to the smells because they had to if they wanted to live in their stone castles and fortresses.

Ideally, we would have had plumbing as soon as we stopped being nomads. Unfortunately, we had to deal with centuries (millennia?) of filthy people who shat where they sat. Even the lowest mammals know not to do that (whoa, those rhymed). But if it's the choice between dealing with a stinky house and dying from exposure/bandits, what can you do?

But again, I agree with the idea. Those were some nasty guys. But I suspect they knew it was nasty.

Re:Better than ours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32094192)

"Ideally, we would have had plumbing as soon as we stopped being nomads." Yeah but we had the technology in Indus Valley civilization, and in Greece, and in Rome, and in Egypt, and in South America - but we forgot it.

Re:Better than ours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093746)

All joking aside, Native Americans both in North and South America had rather terrible sanitation systems, even by the standards of their day. It was not unusual for them to defecate around the fire pits where they cooked and ate. At least the tendency in Europe, the Middle East and eastern Asia was to defecate away from living areas. However, even today we see some cultures who shit in the water that they drink. India is one such culture, and it's prevalent in Africa, too.

and in china where they will server it in restraunts

Re:Better than ours? (2, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093818)

Whew. Good thing we're more civilized in North America.

http://en.epochtimes.com/news/6-12-5/48967.html [epochtimes.com]

Re:Better than ours? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094000)

Ah, yes: because pissing in the ocean is the same as shitting in your soup. You're a real intellectual giant, aren't you?

Re:Better than ours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32094350)

You're a real intellectual giant, aren't you?

And you're one to talk? [photobucket.com]

Re:Better than ours? (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093288)

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.

Re:Better than ours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093642)

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

Actually the pressure to the shower goes up when you flushed the toilets. We are talking Mexico here.

Re:Better than ours? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093740)

That's actually a sign of shoddy/lazy plumbing. If you have 3/4" pipe come into the bathroom, then split off to the toilet and shower using 1/2" pipe, you won't have that problem.

Re:Better than ours? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094260)

    With all the home repairs I've done over the last few years, "shoddy/lazy" work isn't the exception, it's the norm. I'd be delighted to find well thought out and designed work than the crap that they've been building for the last couple decades.

    3/4" pipe coming into the bathroom would be one of those examples. You *may* have 3/4" pipe coming in there, but you'll have 1/2" pipe coming in between the meter and the house. I've installed quite a few whole house water filtration systems (effective ones, not the crap that door to door guys try to sell), and found 1/2" pipe. WTF. Well, I'm not a plumber, so I'm not replumbing their whole house, but I have to convert the 1/2" to 1" for the filter and then back down to attach for the house. It doesn't hurt their pressure at all (like much would be worse at that point), but they tell me about existing problems where you can't do things like start the laundry *and* flush a toilet. And that's on city water, not on a well.

    I really believe building codes are a suggestion, and only used when a repair contractor wants to make more money. "Nope, we have to do it this way. I know it'll cost double, but it's code."

No big surprise,,, (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093270)

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

Re:No big surprise,,, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093408)

Plumage featured in the head dress of the native Americans, not so much the Egyptians.

Re:No big surprise,,, (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093414)

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...

pattern? (3, Insightful)

ascari (1400977) | more than 3 years ago | (#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? (1)

libwolf (1074434) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093306)

Sure, but it's not cause of the plumbing.

Re:pattern? (4, Insightful)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093344)

If you don't have to go outside to shit, you grow complacent and weak.

Re:pattern? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094292)

... And most of the population don't know how to work an e-tool. Dig a latrine pit for fucks sake, I don't want to smell your shit rotting next door.

Re:pattern? (5, Insightful)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#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? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093640)

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".

Re:pattern? (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093850)

"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.

Re:pattern? (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093988)

Insensitive clod. I'm reduced to posting messages to slashdot written in my own blood, by the light of a burning hobo, over a half-duplex rfc1149 link.

Re:pattern? (2, Interesting)

hhedeshian (1343143) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093650)

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.

Re:pattern? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093862)

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 atmosphere conducive to my studies, to say the least.

But there were some incredible radio stations on the dial. And I learned to salsa AND break dance. Not really well, but good enough to impress my friends back home in Chicago. Ah, memories...

Now what were we talking about? Oh yeah, plumbing. It's a good thing. You don't realize how good until it doesn't work. And everybody knows that the Shining Ones brought plumbing to the Ananazi at Ba'albek, along with edible wheat.

Re:pattern? (2, Interesting)

c0y (169660) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093664)

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 (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.
- Charles Bukowski

Re:pattern? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094008)

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 a shit.

In fact I understand that squat toilets are still common in China, India, and the Middle East to this day.

Re:pattern? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093974)

No co-incidence. It is called 'earth quakes' and we all live on the same planet. So no co-incidence here.

Re:pattern? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094216)

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.

SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093280)

Get them out before we have to endure more imcompetence. Is it any wonder the middle east is 3rd world? Those towelheads are to stipud to make a bumb even!

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093316)

If you're referring to the recent attempt, he was actually a naturalized US citizen. And as far as I can tell from the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "towelheads" are pretty damned good at making bombs.

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093430)

Get them out before we have to endure more imcompetence. Is it any wonder the middle east is 3rd world? Those towelheads are to stipud to make a bumb even!

Wow. Racist shitheads get smarter and smarter every day.

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093628)

Wow. Racist shitheads get smarter and smarter every day.

Unless he's reverse astroturfing.

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093520)

Perhaps, but they appear to have more intelligence then you. They can spell in a 2'nd language. I have to say that I would prefer a number of educated Muslims over uneducated racists like you.

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093562)

U fergit camul ridin so that be camul ridin towellhead!!

Lets get um slashdot and ridim otta townn.

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093596)

Get them out before we have to endure more imcompetence. Is it any wonder the middle east is 3rd world? Those towelheads are to stipud to make a bumb even!

Careful, there. I have posted all sorts of horrible depraved "nigger" jokes, "Jew" jokes, and the like, and not one thing happened. Then I posted a joke about Muslims and Mohammad and *bam*, suddenly my IP address was blocked from Slashdot for several days. Slashdot even has a nice little webpage telling you that you've been blocked. Apparently the PC crowd has a lot of rampant favoritism, especially when one particular group gets its panties in a wad and bitches up a storm about everything a hell of a lot more than the others. Isn't it funny how it's considered cool to bash Christians and Judaeo-Christian beliefs in the media and Christians are expected to be adult enough to accept it and deal with it, but you make one negative remark about Islam and it suddenly doesn't work that way? AND no one sees this as a hypocritical double standard that needs to go?

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093652)

but you make one negative remark about Islam and it suddenly doesn't work that way?

Sure... They don't want their data centers to get bombed.

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (2, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093770)

It's hypocritical to an extent, but then again, the Jews and Christians typically don't threaten to kill you or follow through on their threats. I blame the moderate Muslims who say almost nothing against their extremist brethren. Other Christians put George Tiller in jail. Why is Osama still free?

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093778)

Er, George Tiller's killer. I should really use the Preview button for previewing.

Re:SOLUTION? DEPORT ALL MUSLIMIICS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093622)

God no! Who'll run the 7 Elevens?

Mystery solved! Doomsday cancelled! (1)

adosch (1397357) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093324)

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.

Cappadocians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093368)

Bob: Cecil, no civilization in history has ever considered chief hydrological engineer a calling.
[Cecil clears his throat meaningfully]
Yes, yes, the Cappadocians, fine.

and Mayans?

Plumbing allows people to bathe regularly. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093398)

Someone please alert Stallman to this basic fact.

Just waiting for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093432)

the giant flush of 2012

It was the beans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093440)

...evidence that the ancient Mayans had pressurized plumbing...

Pretty Neat (4, Interesting)

Tremegorn (1111055) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:Pretty Neat (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093518)

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?)

Re:Pretty Neat (1)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093584)

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.

Re:Pretty Neat (1)

GiMP (10923) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093712)

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.

Re:Pretty Neat (1)

delta98 (619010) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093528)

Stick around long enough and you'll find out.

Re:Pretty Neat (1)

delta98 (619010) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093544)

not trying to be funny but you are a walking fossil. In years to come someone will dig up our current civilization,scratch their head and ask the same questions.

Well, what happened to Roman civilization? (2, Interesting)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093568)

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 (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093718)

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 (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094042)

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:Pretty Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32094132)

What else do you do with a bunch of people that are basically killing machines?

Oh, right, send them to kill random people.

Re:Pretty Neat (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094232)

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...

And the history repeats, but with small alteration. That sounds exactly like how they describe Ottoman janissaries.

Re:Pretty Neat (2, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093848)

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 adds to the mystery, if they had engineering knowledge of similar level to the Romans, why did their civilization suddenly die out?

One could ask the same question of Western Society -- a tremendous amount of stuff which was apparently fairly well-known in antiquity didn't get found out again until the last several hundred years.

How is is that "our" civilizations suddenly died out? There's probably a good 1000 years in which we managed to root around in the muck whereas before we had better ways of doing it. WTF happened there?

Re:Pretty Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32094204)

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.

Name Dropper.

Re:Pretty Neat (1, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094296)

why did their civilization suddenly die out?

Are you actually serious with that question???

First of all: There are still 6.1 million Mayans around. Mostly in Yucatán, Guatemala (40% of the population!), Belize (10%), and Honduras.

Second: Hmm... there was this pretty big thing around 1492, wasn’t there? I think they “discovered” something. What was it again? India? Antarctica? I know it started with A... And then someone wanted lots of gold or something, and paid with, I guess mostly with diseases... Hmm... somehow I can’t remember it... <:-[[ Do you?

History of the World Part I (2, Funny)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093492)

This reminds me of my favorite scene from History of the World, Part I

"Pump the shit, right out of your house!"

Egyptian Influence? (1)

SplicerNYC (1782242) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093546)

Didn't Thor Heyerdahl show that ancient people could have crossed the ocean with their level of technology? I think it's entirely possible that the Egyptians could have made the trip and influenced the technology of the New World.

Re:Egyptian Influence? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094258)

That's right. Japanese invented time travel, and introduced Super Mario Brothers to the ancient Egyptians, and the rest is history.

Tubes.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093656)

Mayan's also had internet systems in place in what experts can only ascertain to be a series of tubes.

(commence beating the dead horse).

Plumbing? (1)

themoneyish (971138) | more than 3 years ago | (#32093706)

It's not just plumbing.... All of this has happened before, and it'll all happen again.

Re:Plumbing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093736)

It's not just plumbing.... All of this has happened before, and it'll all happen again.

Yeah, that's about what I got out of that James Spader flick too.

News for nerds.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32093886)

..flush that matters.

Next on Ghost Hunters... (1)

ProteusQ (665382) | more than 3 years ago | (#32094108)

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...

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