By Alan Boyle
For years, prophets of doom have been saying that we're in for an apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012, because that marks the end of the Maya "Long Count" calendar, which was based on a cycle of 13 intervals known as "baktuns," each lasting 144,000 days. But the researchers behind the latest find, detailed in the journal Science and an upcoming issue of National Geographic, say the writing on the wall runs counter to that bogus belief.
"It's very clear that the 2012 date, this end of 13 baktuns, while important, was turning the page," David Stuart, an expert on Maya hieroglyphs at the University of Texas at Austin, told reporters today. "Baktun 14 was going to be coming, and Baktun 15 and Baktun 16. ... The Maya calendar is going to keep going, and keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future."
The current focus of the research project, led by Boston University's William Saturno, is a 6-by-6-foot room situated beneath a mound at the Xultun archaeological site in Guatemala's Peten region. Maxwell Chamberlain, a BU student participating in the excavations there, happened to notice a poorly preserved wall protruding from a trench that was previously dug by looters, with the hints of a painting on the plaster.
Unprecedented Maya Mural Found, Contradicts 2012 "Doomsday" Myth
Under the Guatemalan jungle, 1,200-year-old paintings like no others.
By Erik Vance
Working with epigrapher David Stuart and archaeologist and artist Heather Hurst, the researchers noticed several barely visible hieroglyphic texts, painted and etched along the east and north walls of the room.
One is a lunar table, and the other is a "ring number"—something previously known only from much later Maya books, where it was used as part of a backward calculation in establishing a base date for planetary cycles. Nearby is a sequence of numbered intervals corresponding to key calendrical and planetary cycles.
The calculations include dates some 7,000 years in the future, adding to evidence against the idea that the Maya thought the world would end in 2012—a modern myth inspired by an ancient calendar that depicts time starting over this year.