Hidden deep in a Guatemala jungle in the 9th-century Maya complex of Xultun, experts have found a previously unknown version of the Mayan calendar.
And according to the new find, Earth is going to be around for a very long time.
The ancient inscription that has been discovered is thought to be the oldest Mayan records to be found so far. Archaeologists say that it dates back around 1,200 years, which is at least 600 years older than previous examples found. However they say that in many ways, the newly found calendar corresponds with others. Initial findings have been published in Science Magazine by experts from Boston University.
The scientists say that the calendar precisely describes solar and lunar cycles and also the motion of the brightest stars. Experts feel it was probably used to conduct ceremonies and rituals which were synchronized with the positions of celestial bodies.
The calendar is apparently preserved in a good condition and is inscribed on the walls of a tiny cell, measuring little more than half a meter square.
Apparently the calendar projects some 7,000 years into the future, which gives us all a little more time. Experts say that the discovery means that December 21, 2012 simply marks the beginning of a new calendar cycle and not an apocalypse.
Anthony Aveni of Colgate University is a scholar of Mayan astronomy and co-author of the paper. He says, “Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?. You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on.”
On one wall of the cell is a Moon calendar which tracks the Moon's phases for around 13 years. Adjacent to that is a wall with figures which indicate 4 time spans from roughly 935 to 6,700 A.D.
The walls are decorated with portraits of kings and it is for them that the priests had kept the records, in order to give the kings sound advice. A photo can be viewed here.
“What you have here is astronomy driven by religion," says Aveni.
William Saturno of Boston University, who is leader author in the study told Science Magazine, “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,”
“It’s like an episode of TV’s ‘Big Bang Theory,’ a geek math problem and they’re painting it on the wall. They seem to be using it like a blackboard.”
Like other scientists who have studied the Mayan civilization, Saturno says that the Maya do not appear to have contemplated an end to the world.
“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,” Saturno said.