BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WOLF) -- Dr. Damien Marken, Instructor of Anthropology at Bloomsburg University, has been traveling to the classic Maya city of El Peru Waka' for the last decade to study water management practices.
"Some scholars have long argued that classic Maya kings controlled water sources. Well, what we see here is probably a little bit more complex. Some of these are probably controlled in terms of who has ultimate say over these water resources, probably by some of the dynasty, but it's also probably local elites as well in these different neighborhoods in the city," explained Dr. Marken.
He then began looking to work on the project with a soils expert. Two years ago he met Dr. Matthew Ricker at the school's new faculty orientation - they happened to be the only two professors there.
"He's like, 'well I do soils'. I was like, 'oh, wow! Well you might know somebody who does wetlands'. And he was like, 'well, I specialize in wetlands'. Well, cause I'm an archaeologist, and I'm actually looking for a soils person to start collaborating with in Guatemala," Dr. Marken recalled.
The cross-discipline partnership was extremely successful, with the team now being awarded a $25,300 grant from the National Geographic Society for their research. They say the collaboration and grant are opening up new possibilities.
"Things that I think might be really basic, the archaeologist might not have been thinking about, or something the archaeologist thinks is very basic, I might not have thought about. So it's adding to both of our collective knowledge and our ability to solve problems, our ability to look at these systems holistically," said Dr. Ricker.
They've been able to discover a lot about this old city, that once may have had 7,000 inhabitants and was abandoned around 950 A.D., including how the people used reservoirs to preserve drinking water.
"What we can think of in terms of this pond management is a way for us today to potentially create and maintain in a sustainable form, water resources that may not have them naturally, or in places where local rivers or streams are too polluted to drink," said Dr. Marken.
The professors have plans to head back to the field in Guatemala to continue their research. They say the National Geographic Society Grant will allow them to dive even deeper in their studies.