“The ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and
stability rather than predict apocalypse.” —MARCELLO CANUTO
written in stone
By Bruce Bower
Although hieroglyphs previously found
at an ancient Maya site may or may not
mention December 21, 2012, as the end
of time, don’t cancel any New Year’s Eve
plans. Scientists working at the remains
of another Maya city have uncovered
another reference to the same 2012 date,
and the writing on the wall — make that
the staircase — concerns political turmoil back then, not apocalypse now.
Anthropologists who discovered
the 2012 reference among carvings on
22 stone steps at Guatemala’s La Corona
site announced the find June 28 in
“The ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability
rather than predict apocalypse,” says
excavation codirector Marcello Canuto
Hieroglyphs carved on this 1,300-year-old Maya stairstep mention December 21,
2012, apparently as part of a nearby king’s efforts to shore up his waning power.
of Tulane University in New Orleans.
On one staircase block, anthropologist
David Stuart of the University of Texas at
Austin, who led the decipherment of the
text, recognized a commemoration of a
visit in 696 to La Corona by the ruler of
Calakmul, a Maya site in what’s now
southern Mexico. Long thought to have
been killed or captured in a 695 battle
lost to a rival kingdom, the Calakmul king
apparently weathered that defeat and
visited his allies at La Corona to convince
them that he remained a strong ruler.
In the commemoration, the Calakmul
king refers to himself with a title signify-
ing that he presided over and celebrated
the end of a key Maya calendar cycle in
692. To attribute special status to his
weakened reign, Stuart says, the king
also connects himself to a future date
when the next calendar cycle would con-
clude — December 21, 2012.
Earliest American tools not all alike
Oregon finds hint Clovis hunters weren’t alone in New World
By Bruce Bower
Ancient residents of four caves in south-central Oregon may deserve bragging
rights as the earliest known North Americans. New finds in the caves unveil a
population that reached the New World
around the same time or shortly before
the famed Clovis hunters who roamed
the Great Plains and the Southeast at the
end of the Ice Age.
Regardless of who first set foot in
North America, populations practicing
at least two spear-making styles colonized the New World, say archaeologist
Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon in Eugene and his colleagues.
“The emerging picture is of multiple
movements from Asia into the Americas
by populations with multiple tool traditions,” says archaeologist James Adovasio
of Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa.
Excavations at Oregon’s Paisley Caves
find that four distinctively shaped stone
spearheads representing a toolmaking
style called the Western Stemmed Tradition date to between 14,000 and 13,000
years ago, Jenkins and his colleagues
report in the July 13 Science.
“We seem to have two different toolmaking traditions that coexisted in
North America and did not blend for
hundreds of years,” Jenkins says.
Some investigators have held that
Clovis-style implements were precursors
of Western Stemmed points. In support
of that scenario, a Wyoming site previ-
ously yielded Clovis points in deposits
below Western Stemmed points.
August 11, 2012 | SCIENCE NEWS | 15