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The Maya Calendar - Nothing to do with the "2012 stuff" !!

par Philippe Potter-Moloch, dimanche 12 décembre 2010, 09:00

The Maya developed a sophisticated calendar. The ritual calendar that

developed in Mesoamerica used a count of 260 days. This calendar gave
each day a name, much like our days of the week. There were 20 day
names, each represented by a unique symbol. The days were numbered
from 1 to 13. Since there are 20 day names, after the count of thirteen was
reached, the next day was numbered 1 again. The 260-day or sacred count
calendar was in use throughout Mesoamerica for centuries, probably
before the beginning of writing.
The Maya also tracked a vague solar year in which they counted 365 days
per year. Because they could not use fractions, the "quarter" day left over
every year caused their calendar to drift with regard to the actual solar
year. The 365-day year contained months were also given names. numbers
0-19 before they changed, so that the count goes Zero Pohp to 19 Pohp,
then continues with Zero Wo.
In addition, the Maya used special glyphs to indicate time periods, the kin
represented one day. Winals are periods of 20-days which we now call a
month. The Tun was a year of 360 days and the K'atun was a time period
of 20 years of 360 days each. As we will see later, the K'atun ending was a
special time period celebrated by the Maya. It has its parallel in the
modern world, the period of time which we call a decade. The Maya also
counted 400-year periods called Baktuns. The Maya used these time
periods in a special day count which is now called the Long count. Today a
typical long count date is written thus: This represents 9
baktuns, 14 k'atuns, 12 tuns, 2 winals and 17 k'ins. [Special note: All names
given here are in the new orthography developed by native Maya of
Guatemala. Their system is being accepted by many various organizations
of Maya and similar forms of this orthography are being adopted by other
Maya groups. In reality, this system probably makes it easier for English
speakers to pronounce the actual words. Given the Maya propensity for
words and language it is only a natural development.

Among their other accomplishments, the ancient Mayas invented a

calendar of remarkable accuracy and complexity. At right is the ancient
Mayan Pyramid Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico. The Pyramid of Kukulkan
at Chichén Itzá, constructed circa 1050 was built during the late Mayan
period, when Toltecs from Tula became politically powerful. The pyramid
was used as a calendar: four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform
at the top, making a total of 365, equivalent to the number of days in a
calendar year.
The Maya calendar was adopted by the other Mesoamerican nations, such
as the Aztecs and the Toltec, which adopted the mechanics of the calendar
unaltered but changed the names of the days of the week and the months.
An Aztec calendar stone is shown above right.
The Maya calendar uses three different dating systems in parallel, the
Long Count, the Tzolkin (divine calendar), and the Haab (civil calendar).
Of these, only the Haab has a direct relationship to the length of the year.
A typical Mayan date looks like this:, 3 Cimi 4 Zotz. is the Long Count date.
3 Cimi is the Tzolkin date.
4 Zotz is the Haab date.

What is the Long Count?

The Long Count is really a mixed base-20/base-18 representation of a
number, representing the number of days since the start of the Mayan era.
It is thus akin to the Julian Day Number.
The basic unit is the kin (day), which is the last component of the Long
Count. Going from right to left the remaining components are:
uinal (1 uinal = 20 kin = 20 days)
tun (1 tun = 18 uinal = 360 days = approx. 1 year)
katun (1 katun = 20 tun = 7,200 days = approx. 20 years)
baktun (1 baktun = 20 katun = 144,000 days = approx. 394 years)

The kin, tun, and katun are numbered from 0 to 19.

The uinal are numbered from 0 to 17.
The baktun are numbered from 1 to 13.
Although they are not part of the Long Count, the Mayas had names for
larger time spans. The following names are sometimes quoted, although
they are not ancient Maya terms:
1 pictun = 20 baktun = 2,880,000 days = approx. 7885 years
1 calabtun = 20 pictun = 57,600,000 days = approx. 158,000 years
1 kinchiltun = 20 calabtun = 1,152,000,000 days = approx. 3 million years
1 alautun = 20 kinchiltun = 23,040,000,000 days = approx. 63 million years
The alautun is probably the longest named period in any calendar.

When did the Long Count Start?

Logically, the first date in the Long Count should be, but as the
baktun (the first component) are numbered from 1 to 13 rather than 0 to
12, this first date is actually written
The authorities disagree on what corresponds to in our calendar.
I have come across three possible equivalences: = 8 Sep 3114 BC (Julian) = 13 Aug 3114 BC (Gregorian) = 6 Sep 3114 BC (Julian) = 11 Aug 3114 BC (Gregorian) = 11 Nov 3374 BC (Julian) = 15 Oct 3374 BC (Gregorian)
Assuming one of the first two equivalences, the Long Count will again
reach on 21 or 23 December AD 2012 - a not too distant future.
The date may have been the Mayas’ idea of the date of the
creation of the world.

What is the Tzolkin?

The Tzolkin date is a combination of two "week" lengths.
While our calendar uses a single week of seven days, the Mayan calendar
used two different lengths of week:
• a numbered week of 13 days, in which the days were numbered from
1 to 13
• a named week of 20 days, in which the names of the days were:
0. Ahau 1. Imix 2. Ik 3. Akbal 4. Kan
5. Chicchan 6. Cimi 7. Manik 8. Lamat 9. Muluc
10. Oc 11. Chuen 12. Eb 13. Ben 14. Ix
15. Men 16. Cib 17. Caban 18. Etznab 19. Caunac

As the named week is 20 days and the smallest Long Count digit is 20 days,
there is synchrony between the two; if, for example, the last digit of today’s
Long Count is 0, today must be Ahau; if it is 6, it must be Cimi. Since the
numbered and the named week were both "weeks," each of their
name/number change daily; therefore, the day after 3 Cimi is not 4 Cimi,
but 4 Manik, and the day after that, 5 Lamat. The next time Cimi rolls
around, 20 days later, it will be 10 Cimi instead of 3 Cimi. The next 3 Cimi
will not occur until 260 (or 13 x 20) days have passed. This 260-day cycle
also had good-luck or bad-luck associations connected with each day, and
for this reason, it became known as the "divinatory year."
The "years" of the Tzolkin calendar are not counted.
When did the Tzolkin Start?
Long Count corresponds to 4 Ahau. The authorities agree on

What is the Haab?

The Haab was the civil calendar of the Mayas. It consisted of 18 "months"
of 20 days each, followed by 5 extra days, known as Uayeb. This gives a
year length of 365 days.
The names of the month were:
1. Pop 7. Yaxkin 13. Mac
2. Uo 8. Mol 14. Kankin
3. Zip 9. Chen 15. Muan
4. Zotz 10. Yax 16. Pax
5. Tzec 11. Zac 17. Kayab
6. Xul 12. Ceh 18. Cumku
In contrast to the Tzolkin dates, the Haab month names changed every 20
days instead of daily; so the day after 4 Zotz would be 5 Zotz, followed by 6
Zotz ... up to 19 Zotz, which is followed by 0 Tzec.
The days of the month were numbered from 0 to 19. This use of a 0th day
of the month in a civil calendar is unique to the Maya system; it is believed
that the Mayas discovered the number zero, and the uses to which it could
be put, centuries before it was discovered in Europe or Asia.
The Uayeb days acquired a very derogatory reputation for bad luck;
known as "days without names" or "days without souls," and were
observed as days of prayer and mourning. Fires were extinguished and the
population refrained from eating hot food. Anyone born on those days was
"doomed to a miserable life."
The years of the Haab calendar are not counted.
The length of the Tzolkin year was 260 days and the length of the Haab
year was 365 days. The smallest number that can be divided evenly by 260
and 365 is 18,980, or 365×52; this was known as the Calendar Round. If a
day is, for example, "4 Ahau 8 Cumku," the next day falling on "4 Ahau 8
Cumku" would be 18,980 days or about 52 years later. Among the Aztec,
the end of a Calendar Round was a time of public panic as it was thought
the world might be coming to an end. When the Pleaides crossed the
horizon on 4 Ahau 8 Cumku, they knew the world had been granted
another 52-year extension.

When did the Haab Start?

Long Count corresponds to 8 Cumku. The authorities agree on

Did the Mayas Think a Year Was 365 Days?

Although there were only 365 days in the Haab year, the Mayas were aware
that a year is slightly longer than 365 days, and in fact, many of the month-
names are associated with the seasons; Yaxkin, for example, means "new or
strong sun" and, at the beginning of the Long Count, 1 Yaxkin was the day
after the winter solstice, when the sun starts to shine for a longer period of
time and higher in the sky. When the Long Count was put into motion, it
was started at, and 0 Yaxkin corresponded with Midwinter Day,
as it did at back in 3114 B.C.E. The available evidence indicates
that the Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the
seasons twice in or 1,101,600 days.
We can therefore derive a value for the Mayan estimate of the year by
dividing 1,101,600 by 365, subtracting 2, and taking that number and
dividing 1,101,600 by the result, which gives us an answer of 365.242036
days, which is slightly more accurate than the 365.2425 days of the
Gregorian calendar.
(This apparent accuracy could, however, be a simple coincidence. The
Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the seasons
twice in days. These numbers are only accurate to 2-3 digits.
Suppose the days had corresponded to 2.001 cycles rather than 2
cycles of the 365-day year, would the Mayas have noticed?)
In ancient times, the Mayans had a tradition of a 360-day year. But by the
4th century B.C.E. they took a different approach than either Europeans
or Asians. They maintained three different calendars at the same time. In
one of them, they divided a 365-day year into eighteen 20-day months
followed by a five-day period that was part of no month. The five-day
period was considered to be unlucky.

<3<3 Tabitha CountessTahbulla Potter-Moloch wrote :

" During the time of the Mayan Civilization, its territory stretched across
what is now known as Mesoamerica and the Yucatan Peninsula. There
were three periods of Mayan history, the Pre-Classic 300BC-250AD,
Classic Period 250AD-900AD, and... the Post Classic-after 900AD. All held
significant events for the civilization. However, during the Post Classic
period, around 750 AD, the Mayan Civilization started to collapse. Many
mysteries have been shared and stories told about how this down fall
occurred, yet not one can come to a distinct conclusion. Peasant revolt and
agriculture abuse are just a few of the possibilities that may have lead to
the destruction of the city.

The most widely accepted of these theories on the collapse of the Mayan
Civilization is a peasant revolt. The hierarchy of the Maya was completely
dependent on slave labor. The people of most power were nobles and
priests. These higher classes were often rich in power and wealth, but few
in number. Miller suggests that at one point the oppressed Mayan workers
all gave up their way of life and retreated into the Puter Jungle (Miller, 22).
Thompson agrees, writing that "In city after city the ruling group was
driven out or, more probably, massacred by the dependent peasant, and
power then passed to the peasant leaders and small-town witch town"
(Thompson, 105). In conclusion, the priests and nobles were left to fend for
themselves. Previously dependent on the slaves and peasants, the
civilization dissolved because the nobles and priests did not know how to
work the land.

Another accepted theory about the end of the civilization is that the
Mayans abused their land in trying to produce agriculture, and this lead to
a lack of resources. Soil exhaustion, water loss and erosion were some of
the consequences to the Mayans' chosen agricultural techniques. The
Mayans also used a slash and burn method of clearing the forest in order
to produce ground for crop growing. This extremely wasteful method
created a lack of natural food for the local wildlife and forced migration
and scattering. "