Earliest Evidence of Maya Calendar Found Inside Guatemalan Pyramid

17 April, 2022
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Earliest Evidence of Maya Calendar Found Inside Guatemalan Pyramid

A glyph representing a day called "7 Deer" on mural fragments dating from the third century BC found inside the ruins of a pyramid in Guatemala marks the earliest-known use of the Maya calendar, one of this ancient culture's renowned achievements.

The fragments were found at the San Bartolo archeological site in the jungles of northern Guatemala, which gained fame with the 2001 discovery of a buried chamber with elaborate and colorful murals dating to about 100 BC depicting Maya ceremonial and mythological scenes, researchers said on Wednesday.

The pieces with the "7 Deer" glyph were unearthed inside the same Las Pinturas pyramid where the still-intact later murals were located. As was the case with this structure, the Maya often built what initially were modest-sized temples, then constructed ever-larger versions atop the earlier ones. This pyramid eventually reached about 100 feet (30 meters) tall.

The glyph found on the mural fragments for "7 Deer," one of the calendar's 260 named days, consisted of the ancient Maya writing for the number seven over the outline of a deer's head.

University of Texas professor of Mesoamerican art and writing David Stuart, lead author of the research published in the journal Science Advances, described the fragments as "two small pieces of white plaster that would fit in your hand, that were once attached to a stone wall."

"The wall was intentionally destroyed by the ancient Maya when they were rebuilding their ceremonial spaces - it eventually grew into a pyramid. The two pieces fit together and have black painted calligraphy, opening with the date '7 Deer.' The rest is hard to read," Stuart added.

"The paintings from this phase are all badly fragmented, unlike any from the later, more famous chamber," Stuart said.

Until now, the earliest definitive Maya calendar notation dated to the first century BC.

Source: Reuters 

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