Reported in the June issue of National Geographic, 1,200 year old paintings that redefine our understanding of Mayan culture have been discovered in the ancient city of Xultún. At just 6 square miles, the small city in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle was not expected to yield any artwork at all but to the utter astonishment of National Geographic excavation leader William Saturno and his team, what they discovered was not only the only known mural to adorn a Mayan house but also vast calculations that suggest the oft-referenced Mayan “Doomsday” Calender (which some believe denotes the end of the world in 2012) is actually off by several thousand years (whew!). The stunning discovery was made in a small, incredibly preserved inner chamber that most likely belonged to the city’s scribe.
The elaborate calculations not only indicate dates some 7,000 years into the future but also denote the entire modern myth of a definitive “end of the world” did not actually form part of the Mayan ethos. “We keep looking for endings,” expedition leader Saturno said in a statement. “The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It’s an entirely different mindset.” Beyond being a thrilling discovery, the workroom and its art provide unprecedented insight into the true sociopolitical workings of Mayan culture, and perhaps more touchingly, a glimpse of their everyday life; the benches the Maya sat on to record and decipher their present far more than the future. See National Geographic Video: Mysterious Maya Calendar & Mural Discovered for a look inside the mural room.