Calcium oxalates in biofilms on limestone walls of Maya buildings in Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Microbial biofilms frequently cause the esthetic and biological deterioration of stone monuments. Chichén Itzá, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as one of the seven new wonders of the world, is one Maya archeological site affected by biofilms. In the present study, we analyzed the biofilms at three different building complexes of Chichén Itzá: the Lower Temple of the Jaguars, the Temple of the Warriors, and Tzompantli. Samples of biofilms and detached rocks were taken from walls with abundant white-, green-, black-, and orange-colored biofilms. The morphology of rock fragments and dust was analyzed by electron and optical microscopy and was structurally characterized by X-ray diffraction. An HCl treatment (5% v/v) was subsequently applied to eliminate carbonates. The morphological analysis evidenced the presence of cyanobacteria, algae, and lichens. Some algae formed small nodules on orange- or black-colored rocks. Lichens were associated with a distinct mineral content on the inner surface of rocks versus on the outer surface. The presence of calcium oxalates such as weddellite (C2CaO4·2H2O) and whewellite (C2CaO4·H2O) and other minerals, including quartz and feldspars, was confirmed by X-ray diffraction. The lichens collected from the Lower Temple of the Jaguars and Tzompantli were therefore confirmed to disintegrate rock surfaces through biomineralization and the formation of oxalate crystals. At sites with greater solar radiation, a higher quantity of weddellite and a lower quantity of whewellite were observed. In conclusion, the establishment of microorganisms on the stone surfaces of Chichén Itzá causes esthetic damage and also leads to the biomineralization of these rock surfaces.
KeywordsBiomineralization Lichen Fungi Algae Cyanobacteria Stone heritage
The authors thank Ana R. Cristobal, Dora A. Huerta, and D. Aguilar for providing technical assistance in the SEM and XRD analyses conducted at LANNBIO (CINVESTAV, Mérida) and also thank the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the management personnel at Chichén Itzá for providing authorization for sampling and assistance during fieldwork. This research was supported by the project Fronteras de la Ciencia 138, “Development and application of advanced materials for the restoration and conservation of historic monuments” (Desarrollo y aplicación de materiales avanzados para la restauración y conservación de monumentos históricos).
- Caneva G, Nugari MP, Salvadori O (2008) Plant biology for cultural heritage: biodeterioration and conservation. Getty Publications, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
- Casanova Municchia A, Bartoli F, Bernardini S, Caneva G, Della Ventura G, Ricci MA, Boun Suy T, Sodo A (2016) Characterization of an unusual black patina on the Neang Khmau temple (archaeological Khmer area, Cambodia): a multidisciplinary approach. J Raman Spectrosc 47:1467–1472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Chapman RL, Waters DA (2001) Lichenization of the Trentepohliales. In: Seckbach J (ed) Symbiosis. Springer, Netherlands, pp 359–371Google Scholar
- CONAGUA (2011) Registros de Lluvia y Temperatura de la Estación Meteorológica Pisté, Tinúm. Gerencia Regional de la Península de YucatánGoogle Scholar
- Flores-Guido JS, Espejel-Carvajal I (1994) Tipos de vegetación de la Península de Yucatán. In: Flores JS (ed) Etnoflora Yucatanense. UADY, Mérida, pp 1–35Google Scholar
- González-Gómez WS, Quintana P, May-Pat A, Avilés F, May-Crespo J, Alvarado-Gil JJ (2015) Thermal effects on the physical properties of limestones from the Yucatan Peninsula. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 75:182–189Google Scholar
- Jurado V, Miller AZ, Cuezva S, Fernandez-Cortes A, Benavente D, Rogerio-Candelera MA, Reyes J, Cañaveras JC, Sanchez-Moral Saiz-Jimenez C (2014) Recolonization of mortars by endolithic organisms on the walls of San Roque church in Campeche (Mexico): a case of tertiary bioreceptivity. Constr Build Mater 53:348–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Noguerol-Seoane A, Rifon-Lastra A (1997) Epilithic phycoflora on monuments. A survey of San Esteban de Ribas de Sil monastery (Ourense, NW Spain). Cryptogam Algol 18:351–361Google Scholar
- Perez-Monserrat EM, Fort R, Varas-Muriel MJ, de Buergo MA, de los Ríos A, Ascaso C (2013) Physical and aesthetical decay of built heritage from biological films developed on joint mortars. In: Rogerio-Candelera MA, Lazzari M, Cano E (eds) Science and technology for the conservation of cultural heritage. CRC Press, London, pp 93–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar