news may 10 2012
Guatemala - Archaeologists working at the ruins of the Mayan civilisation have reported finding the oldest-known Mayan astronomical tables.
The site, in Guatemala, includes the first known instance of Mayan art painted on the walls of a dwelling.
A report says it dates from the early 9th Century, pre-dating other Mayan calendars by centuries.
Such calendars rose to prominence recently amid claims they predicted the end of the world in 2012.
The Mayan civilisation occupied Central America from about 2000 BC until its decline and assimilation following the colonisation by the Spanish from the 15th Century onwards.
Perhaps most intriguing among the finds were several finds related to astronomical tables, including four long numbers on the east wall that represent a cycle lasting up to 2.5 million days.
The east wall is mostly covered by tabulations of black symbols or "glyphs" that map out various astronomical cycles: that of Mars and Venus and the lunar eclipses.
The Xultun find is the first place that all of the cycles have been found tied mathematically together in one place, representing a calendar that stretches more than 7,000 years into the future.
The Mayan numbering system for dates is a complex one that, in modern-day terms, would "turn over" at the end of 2012.
But a site archaeologist points out that the new finds serve to further undermine the fallacy that this is tantamount to a prediction of the end of the world.
"The ancient Maya predicted the world would continue, that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this," he said.
"We keep looking for endings. The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It's an entirely different mindset."