Archaeologists have dug up the oldest known Mayan painting inside a ruined pyramid deep inside a Guatemalan jungle. Dated at around 100BC, the paint-on-plaster mural depicts the Mayas' creation myth with an elegance and finesse suggesting the civilisation developed much earlier than previously accepted.
"It was like discovering the Sistine chapel if you didn't know there had been a Renaissance - like knowing only modern art and then stumbling on the finger of God touching the hand of Adam," William Saturno, the archaeologist who found the ancient masterpiece, told a press conference.
Mr Saturno, of the University of New Hampshire in the US, stumbled across the mural in the remote site of San Bartolo in 2001 while trekking through the jungle looking for another set of ruins. Exhausted, he says, he almost fell into a looters' tunnel in his search for shade and then looked up to find the figure of the great Corn God peaking out from the dirt on the wall above him.
Remarkably preserved for more than 2,000 years by the cool underground temperatures, the oranges and yellows, reds, greys, grey-blues and flesh tones remain clear. Now uncovered in all its splendour, the painting will feature in next month's National Geographic magazine.
The main nine-metre (30ft) wall of the mural shows the son of the Corn God creating the Mayan mythical and physical world. In one scene he offers up a fish and establishes the watery underworld, in another he sacrifices a deer and creates the earth. In a third he floats in the air holding out a turkey to make the sky, while in a fourth he is surrounded by the blooming flowers of paradise. Other sections depict the Corn God's birth, death and resurrection, and establish the principle of divine kingship with the Corn God crowning himself, and the first human king claiming his earthly crown from the surrounding deities.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
From the Guardian: