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Keywords:

  • geoarchaeology;
  • groundwater quality;
  • Maya;
  • water use;
  • Yucatán Peninsula

ABSTRACT. Chunchucmil, on the Yucatán Peninsula, was densely populated in the Maya Late Classic period (ca. a.d. 550–830), even though it depends principally on groundwater. In the 1990s, hydrologic investigations were conducted to determine whether groundwater could have met domestic and agricultural needs. The region's groundwater is near the surface and is influenced by sea-level fluctuations; however, geochemical analysis revealed that groundwater quality is not affected by mixing with seawater. The potential exists for high and spatially extensive nitrate contamination in this karstic area, yet water-quality analyses revealed only moderate levels of nitrate in the groundwater. Agricultural limitations are imposed by chloride, total dissolved solids, and salinity, as indicated by electrical conductivity; domestic water use is limited by the presence of nitrate, sulfate, and chloride. Throughflow in the ring of cenotes (sinkholes) around the Chicxulub impact crater may explain the movement and spatial distribution of water-quality constituents in Chunchucmil's groundwater.