Maya archaeologists unearth new 2012 monument

Jun 28, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Archaeologists working at the site of La Corona in Guatemala have discovered a 1,300 year-old year-old Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called “end date” for the Maya calendar on December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic find in decades, was announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala.

“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 the Maya ruins of La Corona. “This new evidence suggests that the 13 Bak’tun date was an important calendrical event that would have been celebrated by the ancient Maya; however, they make no apocalyptic prophecies whatsoever regarding the date," says Canuto.

La Corona for many decades has been known as the enigmatic “Site Q,” the source of many looted sculptures whose whereabouts had remained a mystery until its rediscovery only fifteen years ago. For the past five years, Marcello A. Canuto and Tomás Barrientos Q. (Director of the Centro de Investigaciones Arqueológicas y Antropológicas at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala) have directed the La Corona Regional Archaeological Project (PRALC) which has been investigating this intriguing Classic Maya city and its jungle environs.

In 2012, Canuto and Barrientos decided to excavate in front of a building that had been heavily damaged nearly 40 years ago by looters looking for carved stones and tombs. “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 co-director Barrientos, “so we knew they found something important, but we also thought they might have missed something.” In fact, in 2012, excavations not only recovered 10 more discarded hieroglyphic stones but also something that the looters missed entirely—an untouched step with a set of 12 exquisitely carved stones still in their original location (in total, 22 carved stones were recovered). Combined with the known looted blocks, the original staircase had a total of no less than 264 hieroglyphs, making it one of the longest ancient Maya texts known, and the longest in Guatemala.

While the archaeological team investigated when and how this particular staircase was built, Dr. David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center of the University of Texas at Austin undertook the decipherment of the many new hieroglyphic texts. Stuart was part of the first archaeological expedition to La Corona in 1997, and has been reading and reconstructing the site’s history ever since. The stairway inscription relates 200-years’ worth of political history of La Corona, its allies, and its enemies. Consistent with these themes, some of these stones portray rulers in various poses accepting tribute, dancing, and preparing to play the Maya ballgame.

Another entirely unexpected discovery was made on another stairway block bearing 56 delicately carved hieroglyphs. Stuart recognized that 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 (located in modern Campeche, Mexico), also known as Fire Claw or Jaguar Paw. Calakmul had been an immensely powerful kingdom for centuries until its king was defeated in battle by his longstanding rival Tikal (located in modern Peten, Guatemala) on August 3, 695. “Scholars had assumed that the Calakmul king died or was captured in this engagement” says Stuart, “but this new extraordinary text from La Corona text tells us otherwise.”

It turns out that the defeated Calakmul king was neither killed nor captured; in fact, in the wake of his inglorious defeat, he was visiting La Corona and perhaps other trusted allies to allay their fears after his defeat. Why the reference to the year 2012? Does it provide a prophecy of what is to come? No, the reference to this important date has much more to do with events in the 7th rather than 21st century.

The key to understanding the reference to 2012 is a unique title that this Calakmul king gives himself. In the text, he calls himself the “13 K’atun lord”—that is, the king who presided over and celebrated an important calendar ending, the 13th K’atun cycle (9.13.0.0.0). This event had occurred just a few years before in AD 692. In order to vaunt himself even further and place his reign and accomplishments into an eternal setting, he connects himself forward in time to when the next higher period of the Maya calendar would reach the same 13 number—that is, December 21, 2012 (13.0.0.0.0).

Rather than prophesy, the 2012 reference served to place this king’s troubled reign and accomplishments into a larger cosmological framework. “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. This evidence is consistent with the only other reference to the 2012 date in ancient Maya inscriptions—Monument 6 from Tortuguero, Mexico. “What this text shows us is that in times of crisis, the ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse,” says Canuto.

The project continues to study and record these newly carved stones, others of which record other important episodes of ancient history. Furthermore, the project plans to continue to fieldwork at La Corona, directed by Tulane University and the Universidad del Valle de , supported by the Ministry of Culture of Guatemala

Explore further: Scientists reproduce evolutionary changes by manipulating embryonic development of mice

More information: Images (c) Tulane University.

Related Stories

Mexico acknowledges 2nd Mayan reference to 2012

Nov 25, 2011

Mexico's archaeology institute downplays theories that the ancient Mayas predicted some sort of apocalypse would occur in 2012, but on Thursday it acknowledged that a second reference to the date exists on a carved fragment ...

Mayan glyphs detail priest's life, blood sacrifices

Dec 29, 2009

Experts are studying the first Mayan hieroglyphic script dealing with the life of a high priest, his blood sacrifices and acts of penance, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said.

Mass murder mystery of Maya kingdom

Nov 17, 2005

Forensic scientists with mass burial expertise have been called into an ancient Maya city in Guatemala to help unravel a 1,300-year-old mass murder mystery.

New insights into the life of the Maya

Nov 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Ancient artifacts are almost always concerned with rich and powerful religious and political leaders, but new excavations of an ancient Maya site have unearthed a pyramid decorated with murals ...

Women central part of pre-colonial Maya society

Mar 01, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Contrary to popular belief, women played a central role in Maya society before the arrival of Spanish explorers in the early 16th century, a University of California, Riverside, graduate student has discovered.

Recommended for you

Fragment of Ice Age ivory lion gets its head back

1 hour ago

Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, ...

Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge

Jul 29, 2014

Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland ...

Dinosaurs doing well before asteroid impact

Jul 29, 2014

A new analysis of fossils from the last years of the dinosaurs concludes that extra-terrestrial impact was likely the sole cause of extinction in most cases.

User comments : 18

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

flashgordon
1.5 / 5 (8) Jun 28, 2012
How come these supernatural religions always go to such messianic leanings?(Babylonian flood story Gilgemesh, Judeo-Christian messianism and Revelation stories[there's more than one revelation book; they just chose to include one in the new testament cannon], and Mayan end of the world 2012),

"The key to understanding the reference to 2012 is a unique title that this Calakmul king gives himself. In the text, he calls himself the 13 Katun lordthat is, the king who presided over and celebrated an important calendar ending, the 13th Katun cycle (9.13.0.0.0). This event had occurred just a few years before in AD 692.

In order to vaunt himself even further and place his reign and accomplishments into an eternal setting, he connects himself forward in time to when the next higher period of the Maya calendar would reach the same 13 numberthat is, December 21, 2012"

That's right, in order for the rich and powerfull to vault themselves into positions of power.
flashgordon
1 / 5 (6) Jun 28, 2012
What's really amusing about all this is that these kings thought it wise to wright down their conspiracy!
flashgordon
1 / 5 (9) Jun 28, 2012
houston, we have a problem; we have a bunch of conditioned irrationalists messianic scientists!
retrosurf
4 / 5 (6) Jun 28, 2012
>How come these supernatural religions always go to such messianic leanings?

Because it sells so well with the audience.

Religions that preach steady-state existence, or the slow turn of the wheel just don't have the marketing zing of one that predicts an exciting and rapidly approaching crisis.
flicktheswitch
5 / 5 (4) Jun 28, 2012
Equally well describes certain cable TV News outlets...
Birger
3.8 / 5 (5) Jun 29, 2012
Flickstheswitch,
I have wondered about the "consumers" of phrophesies of apocalypse. Do they never learn from past non-appearence of predicted disaster?
baudrunner
1.5 / 5 (6) Jun 29, 2012
There is never any mention of apocalypse. That is merely a sensational inference perpetrated by doomsday sayers and conspiracy theorists. The period of time in all likelihood refers to the next closest approach of Planet X, ie. Nibiru, the last of which was when the Nibiruans took Muhammed into the "heavens" for a quick orientation tour, and to determine man's readiness to embrace that higher state of awareness required to understand cosmology. Obviously man was not yet ready, because Muhammed was returned only to resume his agenda of slaughtering men, women, and children in the name of "God". Nibiru's orbit has a period of about 3,600 years, and if I am right, is currently returning from its perihelion.
VeliAlbertKallio
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 29, 2012
The newly discovered text proves that the ancient Maya sought consolation from the very fact that they were at the time living well within the 13 Bakt'un cycle. When the Maya faced great crises they sought reassurance that the end of the cycle was far.

The "date" 13.0.0.0.0. itself is somewhat a misnomer, because the Long Count started the time count for our present sun age: "the Age of Stable Sun". Hence, the date must start as "Day 0" and should be read as 0.0.0.0. to commence our present sun age.

Maya logograms "13" and "Bakt'un" that sit in front of "Day 0" simply refer to "increasing light", or "increasing fertility" that are followed by the sign Bakt'un.

The number "13" derives from the observation that it takes 13 days from the first sighting of a lunar crescent after a new moon for the lit part to grow until the entire lunar disk is illuminated at full moon. After 13th period waning and darkenss follows which is why the Maya were so concerned about 13th Bakt'un passage.
VeliAlbertKallio
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 29, 2012
The number 13 also expresses increasing fertility as increasing light brings increasing growth, night is followed by day, infertile winter by summer and the growth season (13 x 20 days)

A combination "13 Batkt'un" refers to the previous sun age: "the Age of Floods" during which Mother Earth fully recovered from the infertile, cold Bakt'un, the Second Sun: the Ice Age. Here the sign 13 Bakt'un is not a strict time reference to 13 x 400 tun years of 360 days, but to the completeness of restoration from the 'bad' Bakt'un. Popol Vuh refers to this era as "resurrection of Corn Man".

Thus the symbol 13 Bakt'un refer to the "Age of Floods" when Mother Earth regained her lost fertility after the Cold Ice Ages: "the Great Tribulation of 144,000" (= 400 tun years x 360 days) of relentless snowfalls and cold. The 400 rabbit (tun years) or Centzon Totochtin, when the shamans tried to connect with Mother Earth in her "drunken state" by consuming white alcoholic nectar of maguey plant.
VeliAlbertKallio
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 29, 2012
Popol Vuh describes the death of the first pair of twins (sun and moon) and the death of Corn Man as the plant growth was extinguished by this era of freezing climate. The Maya call people of this era of barren soils (due to lack of plant growth) as the "Mud People". It is also called Centzon Totochtin, 400 rabbit (tuns), 400 mad boys, 400 breasts, the First Bakt'un, 400 cold years, or the Great Tribulation of 144,000. This cold sun age, the Ice Age in Hopi version of the Four Mankinds, was characterized by its relentless snowfalls. The infertile Mother Earth appeared "as if drunken by snow", hence the ancient shaman tried desperately drink the white alcoholic nectar of the maguey plant in order to reconnect himself to the Mother Earth in her drunken, snow-laden state in an attempt to bring about Mother Earth's fertility.
Meyer
1 / 5 (2) Jun 30, 2012
What a job. Poor guy has THREE supervisors!
Titto
1.6 / 5 (7) Jul 01, 2012
How come people always want to believe this from illiterate indians that murdered their own people sacrificing to the sun?...yes they knew what's going to happen in the future...NOT!
But believing in what our Bible says rather?????
Anorion
3 / 5 (4) Jul 01, 2012
How come people always want to believe this from illiterate indians that murdered their own people sacrificing to the sun?...yes they knew what's going to happen in the future...NOT!
But believing in what our Bible says rather?????


bible is as much or even more, bullshit than some mayan prophecies just like quran and torah other religious idiocy
Lex Talonis
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 02, 2012
It's the calendar of Jesus who left Atlantis, to prophicise the word of the gods, to the descendants of the Jedi, who landed in the Battle Star Galactica from the moons of Flash Gordon, hanging around Uranus.

It's true - the escaped Nazi's living in the center of the earth, and the moon bases on the dark side of the moon, told me.

My aura energy channeling confirms it.

Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Jul 02, 2012
"How come people always want to believe this from illiterate indians that murdered their own people sacrificing to the sun" - Titto

Probably because the history mirrors their own deep aspirations.

JonesTown, Wacko, etc.

JGHunter
not rated yet Jul 02, 2012
What the hell is a step-aunt?

I don't personally understand how so much crap has been attached to the long count calendar, myths that have come from OTHER religious beliefs.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Jul 02, 2012
bible is as much or even more, bullshit than some mayan prophecies just like quran and torah other religious idiocy
Most erudite people scorned the new/old testament and it was considered as writings for illiterates, until the Vatican promoted it's status as the word of gawd in the 19th century.
Necrophage
not rated yet Jul 03, 2012
"Most erudite people scorned the new/old testament and it was considered as writings for illiterates, until the Vatican promoted it's status as the word of gawd in the 19th century."
A little revisionist history goes a long way. Ever heard of the Protestant Reformation or the Enlightenment?