The Intricacies of Mayan Calendar and Astronomy

The Intricacies of Mayan Calendar and Astronomy

A Summary Of Maya Time’s History

Beginning in the seventh century BCE, the Mayan societies of modern-day Mexico and Central America created a complex calendar. Although many people today are only familiar with it because of tabloid stories about alleged predictions it makes about the “end” of time, the calendar’s fame in scientific history is primarily due to the level of technological, social, and political sophistication it reveals was necessary to track historical time accurately. The portrayals of Tikal, Palenque, Copan, and Chich’en Itza in modern popular culture are the ones that give an accurate representation of ancient Mayan civilizations. These locations are well known for the calendric records found in various hieroglyphic writings and their “pyramid temples.”

Calendar Of The Maya

The Maya of the past were skilled astronomers. The ancient Maya created one of the most precise calendar systems in human history by combining their expertise in mathematics and astronomy. Cycles of time captivated the prehistoric Maya. The four most well-known Maya cyclical calendars are the Haab, the Tzolk’in, and the Calendar Round. In addition to this, the Maya created the Long Count calendar to order mythological and historical events. The Maya Long Count calendar’s 13 baktun cycle lasts for 1,872,000 days or 5,125.366 tropical years. One of the Maya calendar system’s most prolonged cycles is this one. On December 21, 2012, the winter solstice, this cycle ends.

Aztec CalendarSource: Wallpaper Flare

Using the Maya Civil (Haab) Calendar

The 365-day Haab cycle closely resembles the solar year. The Haab is a calendar of 19 months. The Haab is divided into 18 months with 20 days each and one month with five days. Wayeb is the name of these five days. 18 x 20 plus 5 equals 365 days. Some of these months were depicted by the Maya using multiple glyphs. These symbols are known as “variants.” A turquoise background frames different iterations of the same glyph.

Following a 365-day Haab cycle, the Maya farmers of Yucatan perform offerings and rites throughout the same months each year. The names of these rituals are Sac Ha, Cha’a Chac, and Wajikol. The Maya of Guatemala’s highlands observes specific rituals and ceremonies during the Haab month of Wayeb, a brief period of only five days.

Sacred Maya Calendar Tzolk’in

The Yucatec Mayan and K’iche’ Mayan names for the Maya sacred calendar are Tzolk’in and Chol Q’ij. There are no months listed on this calendar. Instead, it is constructed using the digits 1 through 13 and a series of 20-day glyphs to create 260 special days. Twenty times thirteen is 260 days. Any combination, such as 1 Imix’, doesn’t occur again for 260 days. The Tzolk’in is nine lunar cycles long, like human gestation.

The Tzolkin is also connected to the Sun’s zenith movements and the corn growth cycle. The Ajq’ijab’ in Guatemala’s highlands celebrate a new year celebration known as Wajxaqib’ B’atz’ every 260 days to usher in a new cycle of the revered Chol Q’ij or Tzolk’in Maya calendar. New calendar Day Keepers are initiated during this ceremony.
In the Yucatán, printed Tzolk’in calendars are standard. Several individuals use the printed Chol Q’ij calendar daily in Guatemala’s highlands.

Tzolkin CalendarSource: Wikimedia Commons

The Maya Calendar Round

The Tzolk’in and Haab calendars are woven together to create the Calendar Round. Any particular pairing of a Tzolk’in day and a Haab day will not occur again in the Calendar Round until 52 periods of 365 days have elapsed. The Maya believe that a person reaches the particular wisdom of an elder at 52.

The ancient Maya had a second calendar, the Long Count, to track any historical or mythical event lasting more than 52 years. The Long Count calendar uses a five-cycle counting scheme. The Gregorian calendar, which counts days, months, years, centuries, and millennia, is quite similar to this one.

The name and size of the several cycles vary in the Maya system, which also performs this function. Like Maya mathematics, the Long Count calendar system counts in the 20s. The third cycle is the outlier, where multiplying 18 by 20 results in 360, closer to a Haab cycle or solar cycle of 365 days than multiplying 20 by 20, which results in 400.

Calendar Of The Long Count Maya, Forward And Backward

A full Long Count calendar date includes Haab and Tzolk’in dates and the five cycles. As an illustration, the date January 1, 2000, is written as 12 Baktun 19 Katun 6 Tun 15 Uinal 2 Kin. utilizing the Maya system, 11 Ik’ 10 K’ank’in, or 11 Ik’ 10 K’ank’in.
Chronological day counted on the Gregorian calendar, starts with the birth of Christ. The days are numbered chronologically on the Maya Long Count calendar as well, beginning with the fictitious genesis date of 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u. The equivalent date is August 11, 3114 BCE. The creation date is depicted here in hieroglyphic form as it appears on Stela C at Quiriguá, Guatemala. Midday on this day saw the Sun at its highest point, and the Mayan constellation of the Turtle (Orion), which represents the Underworld, was at its lowest point.

On December 21, 2012, the winter solstice, the current Long Count calendar cycle will once more reach, with the Calendar Round date being 4 Ajaw 3 K’ank’in.

Calendar Of The Long Count MayaSource: Flickr

Astronomy In Maya

Astronomy was an essential practice in Mesoamerican society. This antiquated science represented order in the cosmos and the role of the gods to the Mesoamerican Maya people. Its arrangement mirrored the intrinsic harmony of their worldview, which was primarily religious. The Mayans placed a high value on grasping the essence of time. Their intricate calendar system, which blends spatial characteristics of the universe, such as animals and plants, with temporal movements of astronomical objects, proves that space and time were inextricably linked in their cosmology.

The Mayans utilized the sky as a time gauge despite needing water clocks or other specialized timepieces. Even while they valued the boundless expanse of the sky, the Maya took a particular interest in a few distinct celestial objects. The most significant heavenly bodies were the Sun, moon, Venus, and specific star groups and constellations.

Priest astronomers paid the most attention to these objects, carefully charting their travels around the sky and through the seasons for millennia. The Sun, widely acknowledged as the primary source of life on Earth, is the most significant object in the sky. A red hawk with an enormous, all-seeing eye represented Sun god Tonatiuh. The Sun appears at various positions in the sky depending on the season because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis.

The seasons we experience on Earth are a result of this tilt. The Maya made precise calculations of the Sun’s rising and setting times, and even more astoundingly, they established that the solar year has 365 days. All of the Mayan cities have astronomically oriented architectural designs.

In reality, many were observatories with unique viewing windows built into the walls. Each window represented a different celestial occurrence, such as the Pleiades constellation setting or the Sirius star rising. Structures were deliberately placed to line up with Venus, prominent stars like Capella and Sirius, or the transit of the Sun.

The elaborate and sophisticated nature of the Mayan calendar and astronomy system reflects this prehistoric culture’s superior mathematics and scientific understanding. They continue to fascinate and inspire people today. Their observations and computations have advanced our knowledge of astronomy and timekeeping.

About The Author

Rajika Nanayakkara

My name is Rajika Nanayakkara and I am a passionate writer with a deep love for ancient history. With a keen eye for detail and a natural curiosity, I have dedicated myself to exploring the mysteries and wonders of the past. Through my writing, I seeks to bring the stories of ancient civilizations to life, providing a glimpse into the rich and fascinating world of our ancestors. My writings has been featured through

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