The walls reveal the oldest known astronomical tables from the Maya. Scientists already knew they must have been keeping such records at that time, but until now the oldest known examples dated from about 600 years later.
Astronomical records were key to the Mayan calendar, which has gotten some attention recently because of doomsday warnings that it predicts the end of the world this December. Experts say it makes no such prediction. The new finding provides a bit of backup: The calculations include a time span longer than 6,000 years, meaning it could extend well beyond 2012.
Trees grow on top of a recently excavated mound built by the Maya that contains the rendering of an ancient figure, possibly the town's scribe.
"Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?" observed Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, an expert on Mayan astronomy. "You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on."
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