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Community & CultureScience

Maya Calendar Ending In 2012, New Inscription Discovered

 
20120630-201645.jpgResearchers working at the La Corona site in Guatemala have found a 1,300-year-old Maya inscription referencing the so-called “end date” of the Maya calendar, December 21, 2012; this is only the second known reference to this date.

This discovery is one of the most important hieroglyphic discoveries in the past couple of decades. The finding was announced at the National Palace in Guatemala on June 28, 2012.

 

 

“This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy,” says Marcello A. Canuto, director of Tulane’s Middle American Research Institute and co-director of the excavations at La Corona.

Marcello Canuto and Tomás Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala have been excavating various places at La Corona, which had previously been raided by looters.

“Last year, we realized that looters of a particular building had discarded some carved stones because they were too eroded to sell on the antiquities black market,” said Barrientos, “so we knew they found something important, but we also thought they might have missed something.”

20120630-201658.jpgInvestigating the building further, the researchers found “the longest text ever discovered in Guatemala. Carved on staircase steps, it records 200 years of La Corona history,” said David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and a part of the 1997 expedition that first explored the site.

When the researchers were deciphering the new finds, they recognized the reference to the ‘2012’ calendar end-date on a stairway block. The block was inscribed with 56 very delicately carved hieroglyphs.

“It commemorated a royal visit to La Corona in AD 696 by the most powerful Maya ruler of that time, Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’ of Calakmul, only a few months after his defeat by long-standing rival Tikal in AD 695. Thought by scholars to have been killed in this battle, this ruler was visiting allies and allaying their fears after his defeat.”

“This was a time of great political turmoil in the Maya region and this king felt compelled to allude to a larger cycle of time that happens to end in 2012,” says Stuart.

Referencing the 2012 date was likely done to associate the king’s troubled reign and his earthly accomplishments with a larger cosmological framework, similar to what modern politicians/leaders often do.

“In times of crisis, the ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse,” says Canuto.

It appears that the inscription was made in order to project the continued stability and cultural continuity of the king’s reign until this date far into the future. Of course, only a few hundred years later….

The discovery says much more about the nature of calendars and prediction, and the human interest in making them, than it necessarily does about the apocalyptic 2012 end-date prophecy attributed to the Maya in modern times.

Source: Tulane University
Image Credits: Tulane University, Wikimedia Creative Commons




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