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Ancient Mayan workshop for astronomers discovered

  • In this undated photo made available by National Geographic, conservator Angelyn Bass cleans and stabilizes the surface of a wall of a Maya house that dates to the 9th century A.D. in the Maya city Zultun in northeastern Guatemala. Archaeologists have found the small room where royal scribes apparently used walls like a blackboard to keep track of astronomical records and the society's intricate calendar some 1,200 years ago. Anthony Aveni of Colgate University, along with William Saturno of Boston University and others, are reporting the discovery in the Friday, May 11, 2012 issue of the journal Science. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Tyrone Turner)

    In this undated photo made available …

  • This undated image made available by National Geographic shows four long numbers on the north wall of a ruined house related to the Maya calendar and computations about the moon, sun and possibly Venus and Mars; the dates stretch some 7,000 years into the future. Archaeologists have found the small room where royal scribes apparently used walls like a blackboard to keep track of astronomical records and the society's intricate calendar some 1,200 years ago. Anthony Aveni of Colgate University, along with William Saturno of Boston University and others, are reporting the discovery in the Friday, May 11, 2012 issue of the journal Science. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Tyrone Turner)

    This undated image made available …

Archaeologists have found a small room in Mayan ruins where royal scribes apparently used walls like a blackboard to keep track of astronomical records and the society’s intricate calendar some 1,200 years ago.

The walls reveal the oldest known astronomical tables from the Maya. 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 gotten some attention recently because of doomsday warnings that it predicts the end of the world this December. 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 that could extend well beyond 2012.

“Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?” observed Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., an expert on Mayan astronomy. “You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on.”

Aveni, along with William Saturno of Boston University and others, report the discovery in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The room, a bit bigger than 6-feet square, 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, the scientists said.

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

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Posted on May 10, 2012, in science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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