"An excavation of an archaeological site in Guatemala has uncovered Mayan astronomical records dating to the ninth century A.D. The tabulated numbers, which predate existing Mayan astronomical documents by several hundred years, chart the motion of the moon and also seem to relate to the orbits of Mars and Venus. (And good news: they do not predict the world will end this year—in fact, some of the numbers appear to refer to dates far in the future.)
Archaeologists stumbled onto the astronomical tables, inscribed on the walls of a small building, while excavating part of the Xultun ruins, a large, heavily looted archaeological site in northern Guatemala, near its borders with Mexico and Belize. William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University (B.U.), recalls that an undergraduate student noticed the remains of a mural on one of the walls, triggering an excavation of the room, which had been partly exposed by looters. On three of the walls the researchers found figural paintings, along with a series of glyphs and numerals.
The presence of lunar glyphs in one of the numerical tables raised the possibility that the table related to astronomy. After all, evidence from later centuries has proved that the Maya kept highly accurate records of astronomical phenomena. But the context of the numerals, many of which have deteriorated beyond recognition, was not immediately clear. "It took some decoding," Saturno says.
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Quote of the Day: There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know. ~Ambrose Bierce