Archaeologists at the Xultun Maya site near the western border have unearthed stunning new finds including the oldest known Maya astronomical tables. The find at Xultun includes the first known find of Maya art painted on the walls of a dwelling. Xultun is an early Classic Maya archaeological site located 40 kilometers east of Tikal in northern Guatemala. Xultun is the largest known Classic Maya site and contains a 35 meter tall pyramid, 2 ball courts, and 24 stele the oldest of which dates back to 899 AD.
A report in SCIENE magazine says that the Maya art dates to the early 9th century , and pre-dates other Maya calendars by centuries.
Archaeologists William Saturno from the University of Boston and David Stuart from the University of Texas at Austin presented their findings at a press conference in Washington. “We have never seen anything like this before”, sad Stewart, pointing out that these type of hieroglyphs are found in only one other place: the bark-paper books from the Dresden Codex which the Maya’s wrote much later in 1,250 AD. “The Xultun finds provide the first direct evidence of astronomical information from the summit of Maya glyphic literacy, the Classic period,” remarks archaeologist Stephen Houston of Brown University. He calls the recording of astronomical tables on walls rather than in a book “baffling, even astonishing.”
A report in the Guatemala newspaper Prensa Libre says that the walls of the dwelling discovered practically intact are richly adorned with images of a Maya king, drawings of Maya men, and numerical symbols corresponding with the Maya Calendar. But it notes that this Maya calendar is unique in that instead of the 13 cycles or baktun that were known until recently, it has 17, which according to experts debunks the theory that the Maya Calendar predicts the apocalypse at the end of 2012.
Xultun was discovered in 1915 and the US archeologist Sylvanus Morley (1883-1948) who drew the first rudimentary map of the city. Investigators highlight the importance of the discovery as it is unusual for this type of primitive painting to be preserved in excellent condition in the Maya lowlands “especially in an ancient dwelling buried a mere meter underground”. What is really important is that we can see what the Mayas were doing – the astronomical tables – and not in books, centuries before they were registered in the codex.
The north wall of the dwelling opposite the entrance depicts the king richly dressed and adorned with blue feathers and Maya glyphs near his visage that according to what has been translated, refer to him as Hermano Minor or Minor Brother. On this same wall are found hieroglyphs representing 813 AD, a time when the Maya civilization was in decline.
A report in the Christian Science Monitor says that the hieroglyphs, painted in black and red, along with a colorful mural of a king and his mysterious attendants, seem to have been a sort of handy reference chart for Maya court scribes in A.D. 800 – the astronomers and mathematicians of their day. Contrary to popular myth, this calendar isn’t a countdown to the end of the world in December 2012.
“The Mayan calendar is going to keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future,” said archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas, who worked to decipher the glyphs. “Numbers we can’t even wrap our heads around.”