Excavations reveal the 217-foot-long, spring-fed “Piedras Bolas” aqueduct underneath Palenque was designed to narrow at its end, producing a high-pressure fountain. It’s the first example of deliberately-engineered hydraulic pressure in the New World, prior to the arrival of the conquistadors in the 1,500’s. Now eroded, the conduit dates from 250 A.D. to 600 A.D.
“Palenque is unique in that it is a major center where the Maya built water systems to drain water away from the site,” says archaeologist Lisa Lucero of the University of Illinois, by email. Most Maya centers stored water in reservoirs for the winter dry season. “Palenque, thus, is a unique site; we would not expect to find such water systems elsewhere. That said, there is lots of lit on the different kinds of water systems. For example, all centers with large plazas have drainage systems to keep the plazas dry during rain. “
The conduit lay underneath several households and could have stored water during the dry season, suggest the study authors. Another possibility, the conduit’s flow may have, “created the pressure necessary for an aesthetically pleasing fountain, and perhaps served as an aid in the filling of water jars.”