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Mayan calendar offers no hint of world’s end this year

Astronomical tables found in Guatemalan jungle oldest known; paintings of Mayan king unearthed.

world Updated: May 12, 2012 02:00 IST

The oldest Mayan Calendar found in an ancient Guatemalan house offers no hint of the alleged end of the world December 21 this year, researchers said.

The walls reveal the oldest known astronomical tables from the Mayan. Scientists already knew they must have been keeping such records at that time, but until now the oldest known examples dated from about 600 years later.

Astronomical records were key to the Mayan calendar, which has got traction

because of doomsday warnings predicting the end of life in December 2012.

Experts say it makes no such prediction. The new finding provides a bit of backup: The calculations include a time span longer than 6,000 years, meaning it could extend well beyond 2012, the journal Science reports.

“Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year,” asks Anthony Aveni of the Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, an expert on Mayan astronomy. “You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on,” said Aveni, who co-authored the study with William Saturno of the Boston University, and others, according to the Telegraph.

The room is part of a large complex of Mayan ruins in the rain forest at Xultun in northeastern Guatemala. The walls also contain portraits of a seated king and some other figures, but it's clear those have no connection to the astronomical writings, researchers said.

One wall contains a calendar based on phases of the moon, covering about 13 years. The researchers said they thought it might have been used to keep track of which deity was overseeing the moon at particular times.

The hieroglyphs date to about AD814, making them 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.

With GNS inputs

First Published: May 12, 2012 00:15 IST