Discovery of oldest known Mayan calendar
Never-before-seen artwork – the first to be found on walls of a Maya house – adorns the dwelling in the ruined city of Xultún. The figure on the left is one of three men on the house’s west wall who are painted in black and wearing identical costumes.
May 10th, 2012
06:50 PM ET

Discovery of oldest known Mayan calendar

Nestled in the deep trenches of the Guatemalan rain forest, at the largest-known Classic Mayan site, Xultún, scientists have uncovered the remnants of what appears to be the earliest known Mayan calendar and murals.

Contrary to popular myth, Mayan experts have known for a long time that this calendar is not a countdown to the end of the world on December 2012, the study researchers said in a press conference to reporters.

The Mayan used a series of cycles to track time in which there were 13 baktuns each representing a 400-year chunk.

Researchers of the study say rumors surrounding a projected apocalypse on December 21, 2012, is a misconception. It is just the benchmark when a cycle of 13 baktuns will be complete and a new cycle begins.

“There was a lot more to the Mayan calendar than just 13 baktuns," said archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas, who worked to decipher the hieroglyphics found on the walls of a house, dating back to the early part of the 9th century (813 A.D.-814 A.D.).

"The Mayan calendar is going to keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future," added Stuart.

Archeologists working in the region stumbled upon these ruins back in 2010, while exploring the site of Xultún. They say the artifacts were well preserved in a never before seen house-like structure, which appears to be a workspace for Mayan scribes.

“It was actually my student, Max Chamberlain, who discovered to the Mayan house, while poking around a looters’ trench,” said William Saturno, lead author and archeologist at Boston University.

Due to the fluctuations in the wet and dry climates of the tropical regions in the rain forest, scientists did not expect these artworks to preserve well.  At first glance, Saturno and his research team did not think their findings would amount to anything.

“Initially, when we went to verify this as a Mayan painting, all we could see at the time was a single red line on a really moldy, dilapidated piece of stucco that had been uncovered by looters about 30 years earlier," said Saturno.

“In order to gain a better understanding of the dimensions of the house, I began excavating the looters’ trench to the back wall, I was shocked to find a beautifully preserved image of a Mayan king on his throne, with a great blue feathered head dress streaming off his head,” added Saturno.

Preserved paintings were found on the ceiling and on three of the four walls, covering the west and north walls of a small 6.6-foot-by-6 foot room, with a vaulted roof.  On the east wall, someone had painted a series of small, complex hieroglyphics.  The newly discovered calendar, features bars and dots recording lunar cycles in six-month chunks of time. The markings tipped the researchers off,  suggesting that on top of the wall murals was actually a calendar.

“All around us were paintings, we saw many life-size human figures painted in black and red hieroglyphs,” said Saturno.

Despite the remarkable findings, this team of researchers say they have only scratched the surface.

“We have 99.9 % of Xultún left to explore,” said David Stuart.

“Its actual boundaries have yet to determined and we are going to be working on it for many decades to come,” said Stuart.

The findings, supported by the National Geographic Society, are set to be published in a forthcoming article in the journal Science on Friday.

Filed under: Discoveries • News • On Earth
soundoff (424 Responses)
  1. aquarianphilosophy

    I just finished my 5 + years of research culminating in the best, positively inclined outlook for the 2012 phenomena relating to consciousness evolution and NOT doom anything. Please read as you are one of the few people I immediately thought of to want to hear your opinions. I am also holding a world meditation from my sister in belize whom will be meditating on the galactic center and will be channeling the energy to me and a large group in Sedona as we redirect the energy for the whole world.

    The following is my last 5 years of relevant research guided at one time by my father's NASA disclosure letters in order to bring this message of Peace and Consciousness. Namaste.

    "One of the major problems we face in our current Age is the conundrum of too many people believing in the exoteric or literal interpretations of their faiths; which even their religious leaders know the truth of the matter. The truth being that this, “End of Time” apocalypse theme does indeed happen every Age because all it means esoterically is that our “time” is ending in this AGE."

    At this point in our examination it is now important to consider that, due to media attention and world-wide “fame;” more than half of every person in the world (that is about half of 7 billion different consciousnesses), will each at one time be focused (if even lackadaisically or nonchalantly) on the exact date and time come December 21, 2012.

    What we have is now a potential for a massive uprising in consciousness, a “jump start” if you will; simply because enough of us will be concentrating on the “present state of man” – meaning we will not be focused on the regrets of the past, nor will we be hoping or dreading the future. No, we will be presently focused on the idea of our individual and collective mortality, the idea of time, and (if even inadvertently) the idea of consciousness.

    What you get from this may be debatable, but the fact stands that enough collective minds can and does alter reality (reality being simply an emanation of vibrational frequency/consciousness) and so it becomes, at the very least; a pivotal point in the evolution of human consciousness.

    Now comes the tricky part; how to get those that have not accepted co-creation as reality, to understand that it is imperative that we at least continue the vibrational energy of thinking about and working towards a positive outcome for humanity? For those types of individuals I would ask to consider this; if enough people are being Fearful of a certain “impending doom,” pessimistically recalling apocalyptic scenes from such blatantly ignorant films as the 2012 “hit” of the same name; we could possibly create our own collective negative outcome simply by manifesting what would not have even been otherwise.

    (If you enjoy my observations and my message of peace, please continue reading below as there are many factors to consider in this "Shift of the Age" and be sure if you agree with my points or find this a positive message that speaks to your inner-reason, to please share this with your friends to help perpetuate a beneficial future and outcome for humanity alike.)"

    December 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |

    So, That brings a 9000000000000000000000000000000000000000 pound weight off my shoulder to see it's on CNN's website!

    November 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  3. Christian

    It's actually the 'Maya', not the 'Mayans'. The term 'Mayan' refers to the language tree. 'Maya' refers to the people. The term 'Mayans' does not exist. I am a student of 'Maya' archaeology.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  4. riordajo

    so this means the world will end some other time, right?

    May 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  5. Pete VanderWel

    Never before seen artwork? Were the original painters blind?

    May 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  6. manny romero

    Here it is folks in a nutshell. Doomsday, Apocalypse coming, pole shifts, all to say not going to happen. But what it does appear that what we have here is a calender that predicts a cosmic event of a grand scale- the Galatic Alignment, which occurs on a cycle of ....ready for this....26,000 years!!!! Without the aide of telescopes or even the most basic astronomical observing devices except for the human eye, and no computers, as we would know one, this is absolutely astounding. Add to this is that these people did not exist that far back to witness the begining of such a cycle, thereby allowing them the ability to extrapolate the end of the current and the begining of the next. The Mayans appeared in central America approx. 2,000 B. C. and reached their height around 250 A.D. and it was within this period that they were able to predict this with amazing accuracy, with no more than observances with the naked eye. And this is a cosomlogical event of magnitude that we are only now able to understand, thousands of years later, only after we developed such advanced technology to do so.
    The Galactic Alignment coming is a fact, and these people called it. Amazing... Geniuses beyond our comprehension or perhaps the ancient astronaut theorists have some credibilty.
    Link to this for a primer on the Galactic Alignement... , and if you are the curious type you'll find yourself asking over and over..."How did they Know this".
    By the way from my understanding after reading on this is the Galactic Alignment is not to occur on a specific date and time and will not cause or be defined some specific event. Best described it is an "era" and it's passing will be no more eventful than the rising and setting of the moon.. But I ask again "How did these people so accurately predict this with such a small window of time to observe and with only the naked eye." Unless they had help or some shamanistic practice that allowed concious or subconcious travel through time and space.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  7. MojoJack

    People watch too much TV. They want to think that because they found some ancient chicken scratch on the wall in a cave that ancient people could see into the future like in X-files or something. Telling the future isn't something we can do now, why would we think they could do it then?

    May 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I don't have anything "stupid" to say to add to this topic so I'm signing off.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  9. BeerBrewerDan

    Whew! My schedule for Dec 22nd just opened up!

    May 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  10. athensguy

    There goes my aluminum foild hat business... darn it, CNN... couldn't you have wait just a cpl more months?

    May 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  11. Donner

    STFU Barney. Jesus!

    May 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  12. athensguy

    da mm it! I'll have to work on the 22nd!

    May 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  13. Barney

    All said, we are arrogant and foolish if we don't think we can be snuffed out at any moment. We live on a rock in space, floating around, and we don't think anything could happen? It will happen when it's supposed to. No time to waste, find Christ and make the most of this life and be a part of the next. God Bless.

    May 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  14. bobby frank - Dallas, Texas

    We should all respect this time as a renewal and try to make this a better world for our children to live in!

    May 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  15. FactChecker

    Everyone knows the zombie apocalypse will happen on December 21, 2012

    May 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Kwesoe

    What ever happened to the 89yr.old preacher who predicted the end of the world twice in one year? Did he bite the dust yet?

    May 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  17. Keith

    Tell the Christians that there is no apocalypse coming, those idiots have been waiting for over two thousand years.

    Some people never learn anything, others learn from their mistakes.

    May 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  18. luvlar

    Nooooooooo! I already gave away all my stuff and moved to a cave! Now what do I do?

    May 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  19. Dizzy

    As we make jokes, there are people out there preparing for this. there's something they can do about it if it were to happen. When it's done, it's done. All the preperation in the world, be damned.

    May 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  20. Donner

    CooCooKaChoo –
    Dude, but I DO want your "word" to end! Please?

    May 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  21. HearMe

    I know the secret...the SECRET to surviving 12-12. Operators are on duty, call NOW!

    May 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  22. Kukulkun

    What they are not telling you is ... The MAYAN'S were not the only civilization that pointed towards the year 2012 .. if you do your research every ancient civilization calander pointed towards this time for great change ... If you cannot see are feel the earth changes that are happening right now something is wrong ... It is sad that people want this negative reality of ruler ship that's ran by the ELITE to continue ... I know you don't want this Word to END but sorry to say its coming to a close .. Peace & love Kukulkun

    May 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • HearMe

      You do know where to drop off your stuff...right?

      May 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  23. Nikki

    Rats! I was actually beginning to look forward to it . . . .

    May 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • athensguy

      same here...

      May 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  24. Dan W

    I am glad that Western scientists have decided that the Mayan calender does not point to a Christian Apocalypse. What ever the heck that means, or why anyone was trying to build such an association.

    May 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Keith

      Because when you have people willing to wait over two thousand years for something you can bet you can get those idiots to believe anything.

      May 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  25. David (WA)

    Crud. Does this mean that John Cusack will be back in the sequel to 2012, which those creative movie-types will call "2013"? Meh.

    May 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  26. SPQR

    Let's say something does happen, does that mean that other civilization on earth 1000 of years later will have to decifer their future based on some grafitti on some wall in the Bronx ?

    Good luck.

    May 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  27. SPQR

    December 12, 2012 is a date that was recorded also by other civilizations in different places during different times. You have to agree that that is a little strange. Not saying anything will end. Just that it is strange and it would be interesting to find out soon. Either way we will have no control over it anyway so no need to worry.

    May 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  28. MalcolmXcrement

    Wait a minute. First the apocalyse is coming. Then it isn't. Then it is again. Now it isn't.

    Make up your minds!!! My family can't stay hunkered down in our basement forever...

    May 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • HearMe


      May 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  29. daniel940


    May 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  30. SPQR

    Doesn't that picture on the right look a little like Mitt Romeny at the beach?

    May 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  31. CAsch

    With the death of Dick Clark there can be no New Year. The Mayans have won.

    May 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  32. trex

    ......Come on te ab ag gers................GET YOUR GUNS.............RUN to your bunkers............seal it up........when ya hear people outside, SHOOT YOURSELF..............and let the wife and kids fend for us all the favor..........

    May 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  33. Omaha

    Actually it was just the Mayan calendar guy from thousands of years ago who got tired of forecasting thousands of years into the future who said, "I'm getting tired of doing this, let someone else figure this out!"

    May 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  34. rosie

    Well there is still the end of the world prophecy from the church in Cincinnati that says the world will end on may 29, 2012 and Jesus will return. Maybe all the folks that are sad can pin your hopes on that day.

    May 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • meemee

      That's too soon. Can't it wait at least until the latest Dancing with the Stars cycle is over?

      May 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  35. Sharkfisher

    If the mayans were so darn smart, where are the Mayans today? Why did they vanish as a culture? They were blood thirsty pagans. No more, no less.

    May 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • HearMe

      They travelled to another universe. This is common knowledge, taught in every Texas elementary school.

      May 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Keith

      What qualifies you to judge? You really dont' know anything about them. It is obvious you are a Christian because when you don't know anything you just make Sh it up.

      May 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • meemee

      Actually, the newest science says that the Mayan civilization collapsed from years of continued drought. The people who live in the region today are genetically direct links to the earlier Mayans. As for blood thirsty pagans, they weren't pagans, that refers to people in Europe who lived on the land and resisted Christianity (look up the Latin pagan, and learn European social history). The contest for bloodiest goes to the Christian Inquisitors, even if they burned and strangled people more often than drew blood.

      May 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  36. dr_pepper

    Coke or Pepsi ?

    May 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
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