EARLIEST MAYAN CALENDAR FOUND,
IT GOES ON FOR TRILLIONS OF YEARS
THE oldest-known version of the ancient Maya calendar has been discovered adorning a lavishly painted wall in the ruins of a city deep in the Guatemalan rainforest.
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 court scribes in A.D. 800 — the astronomers and mathematicians of their day.
Contrary to popular myth, this calendar didn't represent a countdown to the end of the world in December 2012, the study researchers said.
"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."
The newly discovered calendar is complex indeed, featuring stacked bars and dots representing fives and ones and recording lunar cycles in six-month chunks of time.
The Maya recorded time in a series of cycles, including 400-year chunks called baktuns. It's these baktuns that have led to rumors of an end-of-the-world catastrophe on Dec. 21, 2012 — on that date, a cycle of 13 baktuns was completed.
But the idea that this means the end of the world is a misconception, Stuart said.
In fact, Maya experts have known for a long time that the calendar doesn't end after the 13th baktun. It simply begins a new cycle. And the calendar encompasses much larger units than the baktun.