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Mayan astronomical charts found in Guatemalan jungle are oldest known | Science | The Guardian

In Nonsense on May 10, 2012 at 15:39

Figures painted on the walls of a Mayan house

Mayan astronomical charts found in Guatemalan jungle are oldest known 

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.

“There are tiny glyphs all over the wall, bars and dots representing columns of numbers,” said David Stuart, a professor of Mesoamerican art at the University of Texas at Austin, who deciphered the symbols. “It’s the kind of thing that only appears in one place, the Dresden codex, which the Maya wrote many centuries later. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

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.

Archaeologists took an interest in the building, which lies among thousands of others, after Max Chamberlain, a student of Saturno, followed a looter’s trench to the site in 2010. Looters have targeted Mayan temples throughout history, using tree saws to cut up and remove large wooden monuments in the 1970s, and more recently taking vases, figurines and jade to sell on the art market.

 

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