In the last known largely unexcavated Maya megacity, archaeologists have uncovered the only known mural adorning an ancient Maya house, a new study saysâ€”and it’s not just any mural.
In addition to a still vibrant scene of a king and his retinue, the walls are rife with calculations that helped ancient scribes track vast amounts of time. Contrary to the idea the Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012, the markings suggest dates thousands of years in the future.
Perhaps most important, the otherwise humble chamber offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Maya society.
“The paintings we have hereâ€”we’ve never found them anyplace else,” excavation leader William Saturno told National Geographic News.
And in today’s XultÃºnâ€”to the untrained eye, just 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) of jungle floorâ€”it’s a wonder Saturno’s team found the artwork at all.
At the Guatemalan site in 2010 the Boston University archaeologist and Ph.D. student Franco Rossi were inspecting a looters’ tunnel, where an undergraduate student had noticed the faintest traces of paint on a thin stucco wall.
The pair began cleaning off 1,200-year-old mud and suddenly a little more red paint appeared.