Archaeologists have unearthed the earliest calendar of the ancient Maya civilisation of Central America. It was written on the walls of a building within a vast lost city buried in the jungles of Guatemala.
Hundreds of inscriptions or “glyphs” etched or painted onto the building’s crumbling walls appear to represent the astronomical cycles of the Maya who assiduously followed the movements of the Sun, Moon and the visible planets such as Venus.
The calendar was created several centuries before the famous bark-paper Maya calendar known as the Dresden Codex, which was made just prior to the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the scientists said.
The room housing the mural appears to be the work space of scribes living in the Maya city of Xultun, a sprawling complex of buildings in Guatemala’s Peten region that was built between the first centuries BC and about 900AD over an area of 12 square miles.
Tiny, millimetre thick red and black glyphs appear to represent the various calendrical cycles of the Maya, such as the 260-day ceremonial calendar, the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of the planet Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars, according to a study published in the journal Science.