Mayan civilization Mysteries
Angelyn Bass cleans and stabilizes the surface of a wall of a Maya house that dates to the 9th century A.D. A mysterious figure is shown painted on the wall in the foreground
Four long numbers on the north wall of the ruined house relate to the Maya calendar and computations about the moon, sun and possibly Venus and Mars; the dates may stretch some 7, 000 years into the future. These are the first calculations Maya archaeologists have found that seem to tabulate all of these cycles in this way
Mayan temples in Guatemala: Researchers have found walls adorned with unique paintings - one depicting a line-up of men in black uniforms, and hundreds of scrawled numbers - many calculations relating to the Mayan calendar
Never-before-seen artwork - the first to be found on walls of a Maya house - adorn the dwelling in the ruined city of Xultún
The Mayan sites in Guatemala have been investigated by scientists since the Seventies
The excavations, which were funded by National Geographic, have already revealed details about the Mayan calendar and the lives of the inhabitants which were previously unknown.
One wall of the structure, thought to be a house, is covered with tiny, millimetre-thick, red and black glyphs unlike any seen before at other Mayan sites.
Some appear to represent the various calendrical cycles charted by the Mayans - the 260-day ceremonial calendar, the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of the planet Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars.
Four long numbers on the north wall of the ruined house relate to the Maya calendar and computations about the moon, sun and possibly Venus and Mars; the dates may stretch some 7, 000 years into the future.
‘Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?’ observed Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., an expert on Mayan astronomy. ‘You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on.’
These are the first calculations Maya archaeologists have found that seem to tabulate all of these cycles in this way.
Although they all involve common multiples of key calendrical and astronomical cycles, the exact significance of these particular spans of time is not known.
Archaeologist William Saturno, of Boston University in the United States who led the exploration and excavation, said: ‘For the first time we get to see what may be actual records kept by a scribe, whose job was to be official record keeper.
‘It's like an episode of TV's 'Big Bang Theory, ' a geek math problem and they're painting it on the wall. They seem to be using it like a blackboard.’
The scientists say that despite popular belief, there is no sign that the Mayan calendar - or the world - was to end in the year 2012, just one of its calendar cycles.
Anthony Aveni, professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University, said: ‘It's like the odometer of a car, with the Maya calendar rolling over from the 120, 000s to 130, 000.
‘The car gets a step closer to the junkyard as the numbers turn over; the Maya just start over.’
Archaeologist William Saturno of Boston University carefully uncovers art and writings left by the Maya some 1, 200 years ago
DO THE MAYANS PREDICT THE WORLD WILL END IN 2012?
Incriptions on Mayan tablets found in temples such as Tortuguero refer to 'the end' - and many internet conspiracy theories have predicted our world will be swallowed by a black hole, hit by an asteroid or devoured by ancient gods.
But many ethnic Mayans dismiss the apocalyptic predictions as largely a Western idea.
Rather than the end of time itself, the inscriptions refer to the start of a new era.
The 'apocalypse' refers to the end of a cycle of 5, 125 years since the beginning of the Mayan Long Count calendar in 3113 B.C.
The paintings represent the first Maya art to be found on the walls of a house.
The walls reveal the oldest known astronomical tables from the Maya.
Scientists already knew they must have been keeping such records at that time, but until now the oldest known examples dated from about 600 years later.
Astronomical records were key to the Mayan calendar, which has gotten some attention recently because of doomsday warnings that it predicts the end of the world this December.
Experts say it makes no such prediction. The new finding provides a bit of backup: The calculations include a time span longer than 6, 000 years that could extend well beyond 2012.
Aveni, along with William Saturno of Boston University and others, report the discovery in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
The room, a bit bigger than 6-feet square, is part of a large complex of Mayan ruins in the rain forest at Xultun in northeastern Guatemala. The walls also contain portraits of a seated king and some other figures, but it's clear those have no connection to the astronomical writings, the scientists said.
One wall contains a calendar based on phases of the moon, covering about 13 years. The researchers said they think it might have been used to keep track of which deity was overseeing the moon at particular times.
Aveni said it would allow scribes to predict the appearance of a full moon years in advance, for example. Such record-keeping was key to Mayan astrology and rituals, and maybe would be used to advise the king on when to go to war or how good this year's crops would be, he said.
‘`What you have here is astronomy driven by religion, ’ he said.
On an adjacent wall are numbers indicating four time spans from roughly 935 to 6, 700 years. It's not clear what they represent, but maybe the scribes were doing calculations that combined observations from important astronomical events like the movements of Mars, Venus and the moon, the researchers said.
Why bother to do that? Maybe the scribes were ‘geeks ... who just got carried away with doing these kinds of computations and calculations, and probably did them far beyond the needs of ordinary society, ’ Aveni suggested.
Mayan Civilization: Explore the History and Mystery of the Ancient Mayan Ruins, Religion, Calendar, and More (Mayan Ruins, Mayan Religion, Ancient Civilization, Mayan Calendar)
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