Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mayan Mural Discovered Dating to 100 B.C.

The above is one panel the oldest known Mayan Mural. It was discovered in 2001 and tells the Mayan story of creation:

The first part of the mural shows the establishment of order to the world.

The world is propped up by trees with roots leading to the underworld and branches holding up the sky, Saturno said.

Four deities, who are representations of the maize god's son, provide a blood sacrifice and a unique offering before each tree.

"The story starts with this deity, who is patron of kings, standing in water. He's running a large spear through his own penis, letting blood. Blood is squirting all over the place," Saturno said.

The sacrificial bloodletting is accompanied by the offering of a fish to represent the watery underworld.

The second offering is a deer to represent the land, the third a turkey representing the sky, and the fourth is the scent of fragrant blossoms wafting from the flowery east.

The east is the direction of paradise and where the sun is reborn every day, Saturno explained.

Next the mural shows the maize god setting up the tree at the center of the world and crowning himself king.

This section of the story traces the maize god's birth, death, and resurrection, which brings sustenance to the world.

The final scene shows a historic coronation of an actual Maya king.

His name and title are written in hieroglyphics. Taube said the writing style is different than that known from later periods, but is nevertheless sophisticated.

By receiving the crown in the company of the gods, the king in the mural likely claimed the right to rule from the gods themselves—not from parents, as did later kings, Saturno said.

As mentioned, the mural dates to 100 B.C., previously archaeologists believed this type of art did not become established prior to 700 A.D.

Another find at the same site:

In addition to the mural, the researchers found the oldest known Maya royal burial, dating to 150 B.C. It serves as further proof for the existence of early Maya kings.

Finally, the site has promise for the future:

"This is a tip of iceberg," he said. "The site is one square kilometer [0.4 square mile] in area. This room we've spent so much time in … it's a four-meter-by-nine-meter [13-by-30-foot] space."