Science news: Mayan excavation uncovers new calendar that debunks 2012 myth
Recent findings at a Mayan excavation in Xultun, Guatemala reveal new evidence of astronomical calendars that refute the popular idea that the Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012.
The report, Ancient Maya Astronomical Tables from Xultun, Guatemala was recently published in the May 2012 issue of Science by a team of researchers from the Archaeology Department of Boston University, the Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Colgate.
In 2005, Dr. William Saturno, then at the University of New Hampshire, discovered the oldest-known Mayan murals at a site at Xultun. In 2010, one of Dr Saturno’s students discovered a vegetation-covered structure that has now been excavated using grants from the National Geographic Society. (View a high-resolution photographic tour of the room)
The 2 meter square room with a stone bench and wall murals suggested to researchers that this was a meeting place and was used by Mayan scribes.
The walls and ceiling of the room are painted with several human figures.
Working with epigrapher David Stuart and archaeologist and artist Heather Hurst, the researchers noticed several barely visible hieroglyphic texts, painted and etched along the east and north walls of the room.
Many of these hieroglyphs relate astronomical computations, including at least two tables concerning the movement of the Moon, and perhaps Mars and Venus.
The most interesting part of their findings is that the astronomical tables, including four long numbers on the east wall represent a cycle lasting up to 2.5 million days.
The wall also features red marks that appear to be notes and corrections to the calculations; Dr Saturno said that the scribes “seem to be using it like a blackboard”.
The Xultun find is the first place that all of the cycles have been found tied mathematically together in one place. The calculations include dates some 7,000 years in the future, adding to evidence against the idea that the Maya thought the world would end in 2012?a modern myth inspired by an ancient calendar that depicts time starting over this year.
“The ancient Maya predicted the world would continue, that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this,” he said.
Dr. Saturno said, “We keep looking for endings. The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It’s an entirely different mindset.”
For a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Maya society view the video.