Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Max Chamberlain made an astonishing discovery two years ago while on a dig in the Guatemalan jungle excavating Xultun, the largest city in the Mayan empire. He was an undergraduate student at Boston University working under the supervision of Professor William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University.

Although Xultun was discovered in 1915, it had not been professionally excavated by archaeologists. Occasional looters searching for treasure had left their calling cards, however, in the form of many deep trenches that they dug to find and search buildings now located below ground and concealed by dense jungle growth.

During a lunch break, Chamberlain decided to explore a trench to see if he could find any sign of paintings on exposed walls. Saturno assured him that he would not likely find any paintings because they would have disappeared during the intervening centuries due to water, dirt, insects and encroaching tree roots. Professor Saturno was wrong.

While stumbling and crawling through the trench, he found an exposed wall with two red lines.

Brian Vastag of the Washington Post reported yesterday,

A quick excavation revealed the back wall of the building — replete with a mural of a resplendent Mayan king, in bright blue, adorned with feathers and jewelry.

Saturno’s team brushed off the wall and “ta-da!” he said. “A Technicolor, fantastically preserved mural. I don’t know how it survived.” Saturno immediately e-mailed contacts at the National Geographic Society, which agreed to fund a full excavation of the building.

The mural is the first Mayan painting found in a small building instead of a large public space. And it’s also the oldest known preserved Mayan painting.

They also uncovered other figures, including a scribe dressed in orange and three seated black figures wearing white loincloths and white pendants dangling from their necks.

They also found a lunar table showing a 4,784-day cycle of the Moon’s phases and a 7,000 year table showing Venus-Mars alignments. The latter find not only is important for its own sake, but it dispels the notion that the Mayans predicted the world would end this coming December 21st because they were calculating events that would occur long after that date.

The Mayan calendar ends on December 21st because that is the end of their Long Year, not the end of the world.

Please take a moment to look at the exquisite gallery displaying photographs of the figures in the Washington Post article.