by John Roach
via National Geographic News (December 13, 2005):
Archaeologists today revealed the final section of the earliest known Maya mural ever found, saying that the find upends everything they thought they knew about the origins of Maya art, writing, and rule. (Full online story here)
A detail from a vivid Maya mural depicting scenes of the creation story and, at the center, the maize god, who crowns himself king. The 30-foot-long mural was uncovered at the San Bartolo site in Guatemala. (image: Kenneth Garrett © National Geographic / source)
The painting was the last wall of a room-size mural to be excavated. The site was discovered in 2001 at the ancient Maya city of San Bartolo in the lowlands of northeastern Guatemala.
"It is really breathtaking how beautiful this is," said William Saturno, an archaeologist with the University of New Hampshire and the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. [...]
The painted wall dates to 100 B.C., proving that these stories of creation and kings—and the use of elaborate art and writing to tell them—were well established more than 2,000 years ago ago, centuries earlier than previously believed. [...]
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. [...]
Saturno, whose research has been supported by the National Geographic Society and is conducted with the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History, reports the finds in the January 2006 issue of National Geographic magazine. [...]
Saturno and his team plan to continue excavating at San Bartolo for years to come.
"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."