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A Taste of the Past…A Hint at the Future

I love a good juicy piece of history, and I found an article this morning to whet my appetite. We’ve all heard how the world is supposed to end at the end of this very year, 2012, due to the predictions of an ancient Mayan calendar. However, the discovery of a new (very old, actually) Mayan calendar brings that prediction to a halt.

Deep in the Guatemalan rainforest rests the remains of an ancient city, quiet and peaceful and unbeknownst to the outside world. This ancient city, Xultun, was first discovered in 1915. Only two years ago, archaeologists from Boston University were mapping Xultun when traces of ancient paint were found in a trench dug by looters. This led to the discovery of a 6-foot-by-6-foot room with elaborate murals painted on the north and west walls.

On one wall is the painting of a king (name unknown) sitting on his throne and wearing a crown. Another figure, looking somewhat suspicious, is peeking behind him.

Next to the king is a painting of a brilliant orange figure kneeling before the king. He holds a type of writing utensil, identifying him as a sort of scribe. (Perhaps this room was his own…) This painting is given the mysterious title “Younger Brother Obsidian” or “Junior Obsidian.”

Across from these two murals is a painting of three figures in loin cloths and headdresses. One is captioned “Older Brother Obsidian” or “Senior Obsidian”…another mysterious title.

Even more interesting, however, is what was discovered on the east wall. Here is painted a series of complex hieroglyphics that have been identified as a calendar. This calendar, dating somewhere around A.D. 800, is the oldest known Mayan calendar.

This calendar seems to have been used as a reference for scribes and mathematicians. The hieroglyphics compute numbers relating to the sun, moon, and possibly Venus and Mars. The calendar stretches years into the future, perhaps even as far as 7,000 years, disproving the previous prediction of the world’s end in December of 2012. Though the date is mentioned, researchers have said that rather than predicting an ending, the date represents the beginning of a new cycle.

In our day of computers and other amazing technologies, the technological efficiency of ancient paint and rock walls is mind-blowing. Despite the modernity of our time, there is still so much of the past that we have yet to uncover. Just imagine—only 0.1 percent of Xultun has been discovered! With so much left to be discovered, there is no telling what else we can learn of the past…or the future!


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