Researchers say new analysis of the earliest known Mayan calendar, found in an ancient house in Guatemala, offers no hint that the world’s end is imminent. The painted room in the residential complex at the Mayan archaeological site of Xultun is believed to have been where the town scribe kept records, writing computations on the walls in an effort to find “harmony between sky events and sacred rituals,” researchers say in the journal Science.
The hieroglyphs date back to the ninth century AD, making them hundreds of years older than the calendars in the Maya Codices, which were recorded in bark-paper books from 1300 to 1521. Boston University archaeologist William Saturno says the discovery appears to be the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of Venus, and the 780-day cycle of Mars ::::
Dr Saturno says the writing looks like someone’s attempt to sort out a very long mathematics problem.
“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 of a Maya community,” Dr Saturno said.
“The ancient Maya predicted the world would continue – that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this. We keep looking for endings. The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It’s an entirely different mindset.”
The calendar includes no sign backing up the much-hyped myth that the Mayan calendar, and thus the world, will end this year.
Co-author Anthony Aveni, professor of astronomy and anthropology at New York’s Colgate University, says the only thing predicted to end in 2012 is one of the calendar’s cycles.
“It’s like the odometer of a car, with the Maya calendar rolling over from the 120,000s to 130,000,” Professor Aveni said.
“The car gets a step closer to the junkyard as the numbers turn over; the Maya just start over. The most exciting point is that we now see that the Maya were making such computations hundreds of years – and in places other than books – before they recorded them in the codices.”
Even though the 31 square kilometre site of Xultun, deep in a rainforest where tens of thousands of people once lived, was discovered about 100 years ago, the house where the calendar is drawn on the walls was only spotted in 2010.
“It’s weird that the Xultun finds exist at all,” Dr Saturno said. ”Such writings and artwork on walls don’t preserve well in the Maya lowlands, especially in a house buried only a metre below the surface.”