This hieroglyph is the oldest recognized document of the Maya calendar

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Buried throughout the Las Pinturas pyramid in San Bartolo, Guatemala, hundreds of painted plaster mural fragments provide a window into historical Maya civilization. Two of these fragments kind the earliest recognized document of a Maya calendar, created between 300 and 200 B.C.

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The fragments depict the date of “7 Deer” from the 260-day sacred calendar widespread throughout historical Mesoamerica and nonetheless used in the present day by indigenous communities in Guatemala and southern Mexico, archaeologist David Stuart and colleagues report April 13 in Science Advances. The calendar system’s longevity attests to the persistence of Maya mental tradition, says Stuart, of the College of Texas at Austin.

From 400 B.C. to 100 A.D., Mayas razed and rebuilt the pyramid seven occasions, making a sequence of discrete time capsules stacked on prime of one another, says research coauthor Heather Hurst, venture director of the San Bartolo-Xultun Regional Archaeological Undertaking. By radiocarbon relationship each the fabric within the layer the place the calendar fragments had been discovered and the fabric used to bury that layer, researchers decided a slender time window through which the 7 Deer day document would have been produced.

In a calendar as soon as widespread throughout Mesoamerica, 13 numbers and 20 indicators are blended and matched to signify 260 particular dates equivalent to “7 Deer” (illustrated). The numbers 13 and 20 are sacred within the area, and the 260 days might replicate the size of human gestation.David StuartIn a calendar as soon as widespread throughout Mesoamerica, 13 numbers and 20 indicators are blended and matched to signify 260 particular dates equivalent to “7 Deer” (illustrated). The numbers 13 and 20 are sacred within the area, and the 260 days might replicate the size of human gestation.David Stuart

After 20 years of excavation, the location continues to be an vital supply of historical Maya artifacts. The earliest known Maya writing, additionally dated to between 300 and 200 B.C., was present in the identical time capsule because the 7 Deer day document (SN: 1/17/06).

The 260-day calendar system “survived not solely near 1,800 years within the Maya world earlier than the Spanish confirmed up, however it endured much more lately, since conquests . . . in a few of the most oppressed areas,” Stuart says. “I discover that an unimaginable factor.”

The truth is, the intricacy of the depiction means that the calendar system had already existed for hundreds of years by the point it was drawn, says Stephen Houston, an archaeologist at Brown College in Windfall, R.I., who was not concerned within the research. The characters are “very effectively practiced. This isn’t a stumbling child step.”

Ten different fragments described within the research characteristic completely different types of handwriting that point out a number of scribes labored on the murals. This implies that the Maya literary custom was already strong by this time, Houston says. “There’s a density of data right here.”

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