Archaeologists have found a stunning array of 1,200-year-old Maya paintings in a room that appears to have been a workshop for calendar scribes and priests, with numerical markings on the wall that denote intervals of time well beyond the controversial cycle that runs out this December.
For years, prophets of doom have been saying that we’re in for an apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012, because that marks the end of the Maya “Long Count” calendar, which was based on a cycle of 13 intervals known as “baktuns,” each lasting 144,000 days. But the researchers behind the latest find, detailed in the journal Science and an upcoming issue of National Geographic, say the writing on the wall runs counter to that bogus belief.
“It’s very clear that the 2012 date, while important as Baktun 13, was turning the page,” David Stuart, an expert on Maya hieroglyphs at the University of Texas at Austin, told reporters today. “Baktun 14 was going to be coming, and Baktun 15 and Baktun 16. … The Maya calendar is going to keep going, and keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future.”
The current focus of the research project, led by Boston University’s William Saturno, is a 6-by-6-foot room situated beneath a mound at the Xultun archaeological site in Guatemala’s Peten region. Maxwell Chamberlain, a BU student participating in the excavations there, happened to notice a poorly preserved wall protruding from a trench that was previously dug by looters, with the hints of a painting on the plaster.