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Earliest evidence of Maya calendar found inside Guatemalan pyramid

Earliest proof of Maya calendar discovered inside Guatemalan pyramid

The glyph discovered at an archeological web site within the jungles of northern Guatemala dates from the third century BC. Earlier than this, the earliest calendar notation dated to the primary century BC.

April 14, 2022, 3:37 PM UTC / Supply: Reuters

A glyph representing a day referred to as “7 Deer” on mural fragments courting from the third century BC discovered contained in the ruins of a pyramid in Guatemala marks the earliest-known use of the Maya calendar, one in every of this historical tradition’s famend achievements.

The fragments have been discovered on the San Bartolo archeological web site within the jungles of northern Guatemala, which gained fame with the 2001 discovery of a buried chamber with elaborate and colourful murals courting to about 100 BC depicting Maya ceremonial and mythological scenes, researchers stated on Wednesday.

The items with the “7 Deer” glyph have been unearthed inside the identical Las Pinturas pyramid the place the still-intact later murals have been positioned. As was the case with this construction, the Maya usually constructed what initially have been modest-sized temples, then constructed ever-larger variations atop the sooner ones. This pyramid ultimately reached about 100 toes (30 meters) tall.

The glyph discovered on the mural fragments for “7 Deer,” one of many calendar’s 260 named days, consisted of the traditional Maya writing for the quantity seven over the define of a deer’s head.

College of Texas professor of Mesoamerican artwork and writing David Stuart, lead writer of the analysis printed within the journal Science Advances, described the fragments as “two small items of white plaster that would slot in your hand, that have been as soon as hooked up to a stone wall.”

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“The wall was deliberately destroyed by the traditional Maya once they have been rebuilding their ceremonial areas — it will definitely grew right into a pyramid. The 2 items match collectively and have black painted calligraphy, opening with the date ‘7 Deer.’ The remaining is difficult to learn,” Stuart added.

“The work from this part are all badly fragmented, not like any from the later, extra well-known chamber,” Stuart stated.

Till now, the earliest definitive Maya calendar notation dated to the primary century BC.

The calendar, rooted upon observations of the actions of the solar, moon and planets, was based mostly on a ritual cycle of 260 named days. The 260-day calendar, referred to as the tzolk’in, was one in every of a number of inter-related Maya programs of reckoning time, additionally together with a photo voltaic 12 months of 12 months, a bigger system referred to as the “Lengthy Depend” and a lunar system.

The calendar was among the many achievements of a tradition that additionally developed a writing system encompassing 800 glyphs, with the earliest examples additionally from San Bartolo. The Maya constructed temples, pyramids, palaces and observatories and engaged in subtle farming with out utilizing steel instruments or the wheel.

San Bartolo was a regional heart throughout the Maya Preclassic interval, spanning from about 400 BC to 250 AD. This age set the muse for the blossoming of Maya tradition throughout the subsequent Traditional interval, recognized for cities together with Tikal in Guatemala, Palenque in Mexico and Copan in Honduras.

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale and NASA research scientist Dr. William Saturno
NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale and NASA analysis scientist Dr. William Saturno examine the San Bartolo Maya archaeological web site in Peten, Guatemala on Dec. 11, 2007.Invoice Ingalls / NASA by way of Getty Photographs file

About 7,000 mural fragments — some as small as a fingernail and others as much as 8-by-16 inches (20-by-40 cm) — have been discovered at San Bartolo, amounting to what anthropology professor and research co-author Heather Hurst of Skidmore Faculty in New York state referred to as “a large jigsaw puzzle.”

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The “7 Deer” and different notations seen on 11 San Bartolo mural fragments examined within the research trace at mature inventive and writing conventions within the area on the time, suggesting the calendar already had been in use for a few years.

“Different websites will seemingly discover different examples, maybe even earlier examples,” Hurst stated.

“Second, the scribal custom represented in these 11 fragments is numerous, expressive, their know-how for paint preparation and calligraphic fluidity is spectacular — this was a well-established custom of writing and artwork,” Hurst added.

Some Maya communities at this time nonetheless use the traditional calendar.

“This calendar system has lasted for not less than 2,200 years, maintained by the Maya throughout occasions of unimaginable change, stress and tragedy,” Stuart stated.

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