Oldest Mayan calendar discovered. No sign of 2012 catastrophe.

Mayan astronomical charts found in Guatemalan jungle are oldest known

Paintings of the Mayan king and astronomical hieroglyphs unearthed in a room buried under a collapsed building

Ancient inscriptions on the walls of a looted house in the Guatemalan jungle are the oldest astronomical charts known from the Mayan civilisation.

Explorers chanced upon the writings while excavating a room buried under a collapsed building that was overgrown with rainforest vegetation in Xultún in the north-eastern region of Petén.

Researchers who dug debris from the room found bright and vivid paintings of the king and other figures preserved on the walls, leading them to speculate the owner might have been a royal relative.

One wall was covered with hundreds of small red and black symbols that tracked the phases of the moon, with others thought to represent the Mayan ceremonial calendar and cycles of the sun, Mars and Venus.

The hieroglyphs date to about AD814, making them considerably older than the Dresden codex, an 11th- or 12th-century Mayan book written on bark paper, which found its way to the Royal Library at Dresden in 1739. The Mayans kept detailed records of the heavens and tied traditional ceremonies to these celestial events.

William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University who led the exploration and excavation, said some calculations predicted astronomical events 7,000 years into the future. Contrary to some theories, there was no sign that the Mayan calendar ended abruptly in 2012.


Tip: @guardianscience

This made me smile. I love to hear when real scientists find something of extraordinary beauty and value. I just hope it does not get cheapened and tarnished by ridiculous claims of special predictive powers of the Mayans and speculative garbage that takes away from the fact that this culture deserves credit for what it was. Not what mystical mumbo jumbo people want it to be.

UPDATE (12-May-2012) A piece from Phil Plait who makes a good point. This doesn’t change anything. But convenient timing, huh?

[..] of course we know there’s nothing to any of the Mayan Apocalypse nonsense doomcriers are advocating. That’s all crap. But in this case, as far as I can tell, what they found doesn’t change much in this regard. It’s a fascinating archaeological find and gives insight on how the Mayans worked out their math and astronomy when it came to calendars — there are notes painted on the wall clearly describing the patterns of Venus and Mars in the sky, which is very cool — but I don’t think it changes the 12/21/12 nonsense at all.

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  3 comments for “Oldest Mayan calendar discovered. No sign of 2012 catastrophe.

  1. vvk123
    May 11, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    For people that claim to be skeptics and critical thinkers,you disappoint me, what evidence do you have that this is THE oldest Mayan Calender.let me guess, the explorers claim its the oldest.This made me smile too.. :)

    • KC3824
      May 13, 2012 at 9:29 PM

      It’s not that this calendar is the oldest Mayan calendar ever made, but rather that it is the oldest Mayan calendar that we have discovered. Just a quick look through the article in the first link seems to says that the age is currently given primarily by the hieroglyphics used in the drawings. My understanding from this article is that the hieroglyphics had fallen out of use well before the previous oldest known calendar. Though I suppose you could also read it to mean that a different dating technique was used and showed them to be the oldest discovered.

  2. May 13, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    It’s not the earliest Maya calendrical date, that would be in the last few centuries BC. It’s the oldest set of calendrical tables used for calculating dates. The others are in the surviving Maya books, where they function as calendrical/astronomical/astrological tables. This shares some features with them, notably ring numbers, used for counting back and forth. While we’ve known for some time that those books are based on information dating to at least the Terminal Classic (based on the calendrical material and how they were updated), this makes the link between Classic calendrics and the Postclassic codices quite plain.

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