Guatemala City: A 1,300-year-old Mayan text discovered in Guatemala provides the second known reference to December 21, 2012, touted as the world`s end date. However, archaeologists believe it has more to do with political history than the prophecy.
"This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy," says Marcello A. Canuto, director of Tulane`s Middle American Research Institute (MARI) and co-director of the excavations at La Corona in Guatemala.
The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic finds in decades, was announced June 28 at the National Palace in Guatemala, according to a MARI statement.
Canuto and Tomas Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, directing La Corona excavations, a site previously ravaged by looters, found the longest text ever discovered in Guatemala.
"Last year, we realised that looters of a particular building had discarded some carved stones because they were too eroded to sell on the antiquities black market," said Barrientos.
"So, we knew they found something important, but we also thought they might have missed something," added Barrientos.
Carved on staircase steps, it records 200 years of La Corona history, states David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas (Austin), US, who was part of a 1997 expedition that first explored the site.
While deciphering these new finds in May, Stuart recognised the 2012 reference on a stairway block bearing 56 delicately carved hieroglyphs.
It commemorated a royal visit to La Corona in AD 696 by the most powerful Maya ruler of that time, Yuknoom Yich`aak K`ahk` of Calakmul, only a few months after his defeat by long-standing rival Tikal in AD 695.
Thought by scholars to have been killed in this battle, this ruler was visiting allies and allaying their fears after his defeat.
"This was a time of great political turmoil in the Maya region and this king felt compelled to allude to a larger cycle of time that happens to end in 2012," says Stuart.
So, rather than prophesy, the 2012 reference places this king`s troubled reign and accomplishments into a larger cosmological framework.
"In times of crisis, the ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse," says Canuto.