Archaeologists have found the oldest known Mayan astronomical hieroglyphs along with vivid paintings of a Mayan king in a buried room in the Guatemalan jungle, reports Ian Sample of the Guardian.The findings were published in the journal Science.
The hieroglyphs found in Xultún in northeast Guatemala were dated to about 814 CE, and some of the calculations predicted astronomical events 7,000 years into the future.
Contrary to popular theories positing that Mayan calendars ended on Dec. 21, 2012, the deep-time calendars found at the site do not abruptly end in 2012.
William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University, led the exploration and excavation of the room. His team became interested in the building (which lies among thousands of others) in 2010 when one of his students found a looter’s trench that led there.
David Stuart, a professor of Mesoamerican art at the University of Texas at Austin, deciphered the symbols and told Sample that archaeologists have “never seen anything like it.”
Stuart said that the tiny glyphs, bars and dots that covered two of the walls have only been seen in the Mayan Dresden codex — the oldest book written in the Americas known to historians — which was written on bark paper in the 11th- or 12th-century.
Saturno told the Guardian that one of the walls is covered in charts that seem to represent the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars.
The walls and ceiling are painted with human figures, including a portrait of a king dressed in blue feathers facing a figure in vibrant orange who was called “Younger brother Obsidian” based on markings by his face.
The Guardian has an interactive map of the room.
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