Erik Vance in Xultún, Guatemala, for National Geographic News
May 10, 2012
In the last known largely unexcavated Maya megacity, archaeologists have uncovered the only known mural adorning an ancient Maya house, a new study says—and it’s not just any mural.
In addition to a still vibrant scene of a king and his retinue, the walls are rife with calculations that helped ancient scribes track vast amounts of time. Contrary to the idea the Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012, the markings suggest dates thousands of years in the future.
The Maya at Xultún were likely less concerned with the end of the world than the end of their world, according to Mayan-writing expert David Freidel of Washington University in St. Louis.
For ninth-century Maya, tabulating astronomical calendars to predict times of plenty was akin to gauging the stock market today, said Freidel, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
When the Mural was made, the Xultún region was facing “a period of intense drought. In fact, cities were collapsing in various parts of the Maya world in this era,” he said.
“The preoccupation of this king and his courtiers with astronomical calculation is not an arcane exercise. It has a very practical consequence for the people of the city of Xultún, which is, What the hell is going on with the economy?”
During tough times, the Maya looked to their leaders to divine the intents of the gods and appease them.
In turn, those rulers may have looked to the scribes, who many archaeologists believe used past events—in combination with mysterious, complex arithmetic—to predict the future.
These days we have the IPCC…..