History of the Mayan Calendar

The Maya created the most elaborate calendar system of any culture in the world.  This intricate system led the Maya inhabitants to become the greatest astronomers of their time, identifying the rotations of the sun and moon. The Maya civilization plotted the movements of the moon, Mars, and Venus and calibrated the occurrences of lunar eclipses based on observations (Scharping, 2020). The Maya civilization thus aligned most activities with the position of the planets. The Maya calendar dates back to the 5th century BCE and is still used in the contemporary world. In the present day, the excerpts of Maya civilization are found in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and parts of Mexico, maintaining the culture and beliefs of the prehistoric community. The Maya civilization is attributed to being the calendar creators due to the immense developments they contributed to the system. However, the system predates the Maya civilization since it was already used in pre–Columbian Central America. It is presumed to have originated from the Olmec civilization. The Maya calendar is a masterpiece based on its extreme accuracy. It is approximately 10,000th of a day more accurate than the typical calendar in the contemporary world. The fundamental structure of the Maya calendar was in the form of stone slabs which the Maya priests carved representative figures and significant events in the civilization’s history.

The Maya Calendar

The Maya had a specific calendar dedicated to the human being. The sacred and personal calendar of the Maya was created to help human beings understand nature’s daily frequency and empower the individual with the energy of the universe. The Maya calendar consists of three vital calendars; the Long Count, the Tzolkin, and the Haab. Each day was sacred and meantthe relationship between animals, land, and humans. Each calendar is cyclical, meaning that several days must occur before a new cycle begins. The Maya calendar was written using hieroglyphics. The Mayan hieroglyphics used symbols referred to as glyphs to represent objects, sounds, and words.

Haab

The first most vital calendar was the Haab. The Haab resembles a 365-day solar calendar that is split into 18 months of 20 days each. In addition, there is one month which is only five days long. The calendar is characterized by an outer ring of Mayan glyph representing each of the 19 months. In the Haab calendar, each day is designated by a numeral in the month followed by the month’s name. Each glyph denotes a personality associated with the month, which was determined at birth.

Tzolkin

The second most crucial calendar was the Tzolkin calendar. The Tzolkin is also referred to as the spiritual calendar.In this calendar system, days are composed of two concepts, the tones and the day signs. Tzolkin consists of a 260-day year with 20 periods of 13 days.The 13-day calendar is constituted by the tones or numbers 1 to 13 (Bikos, 2019). The numbers are used to describe the intention of creation and the feminine aspect. In parallel with the 13 tones, each tone is assigned one of 20 different signs which describe the masculine aspect of creation. Each day’s names constitute a god believed to mark the passage of day and night by switching time beyond the sky.The Maya used the Tzolkin to plan for ceremonies and to pay honor and tribute to particular deities

 

The Long Count

The Long Count was developed to remove the inadequacies of the 52-year cycle. The Long Count would be used to ensure the continued measurement of time through the ages. The Long Count calendar is used to track the number of years in a particular period. The Maya referred to it as the Universal Cycle. The cycle is approximately 2,880,000 days long or 7,885 solar years. The Mayas believed that the universe is demolished and then recreated at the onset of every universal process.The destruction of the universe was presumed to happen when the gods were not satisfied with the actions of humanity. This beliefinspires the end of days prophecies with the most recent occurrence between the 2012 phenomenon.

According to the Gregorian calendar, the current age is the fifth age of the Maya,which began in August in 3114BC.According to Chilam Balam books, the road to the stars descended from the sky. The nine and the 13 gods descended from the heavens to teach the Maya about various cultural disciplines such as mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture. This marks the starting date for all ensuing counting akin to the birth of Christ as a starting point for contemporary historical dates. The long count year is only 360 days. The Long Count’s onset is the beginning of the current creation revolution and is proportional to the present age. The Long Count was based on various units of time entailing kin representing one day, a uinal representing a month, a tun representing 360 days, a Katun representing 20 tuns, and a baktun representing 400 years.

Reading the Maya Calendar

The Maya calendar used the three calendars simultaneously. There is a cycle of 20 names, a cycle of 13 numbers, and a 365 days soar year. Haab and Tzolkin identify the days only. The Long Count date comes first, followed by the Tzolkin date, while the Haab comes last. An example of a standard Maya calendar date includes12.0.0.0.0 3 Ahau 6 Kumku. The 12.0.0.0.0 is the Long Count date, and the Tzolkin date is the 3 Ahau, while the Haab date is the 6 Kumku. Thus, a typical date in the Maya calendar is defined by its bearings in the Tzolkin and the Haab calendars. This system produces a total of 18,980 distinct date combinations (Salmeri,2020). These combinations are used to distinguish each day within a cycle called a Calendar Round. The cycle lasts about 52 years until the three cycles line up again.In the Maya calendar visualization, the date combinations are denoted by two hoops revolving in opposite directions. The most miniature hoop incorporates 260 teeth, each comprising the days named in the Tzolkin. The larger hoop includes 365 teeth and consists of each of the bearings of the Haab year. In practice, as both the hoops revolve, the identity of the Tzolkin day commensurate to each Haab bearing.

Significance

The Maya calendar was used to serve both a sacred and practical purpose. The calendar was instrumental in astronomical estimations and divinations. The 260-day hoop was used to estimate extra-terrestrial events such as the surfacing of Venus and mars. It is also alleged to constitute the human ingestion cycle from conception to the birth of a human body and decide significant activities related to the deities and humans. The Maya calendar was also used to document important occasions such as battle dates, marriages, and their leaders’ reign (Lamb,2017). It was also used to name peopleand used as an eternal forecasting machine since each day had its unique associations and omens. The calendar was also used to determine past and future happenings. The birth of a child corresponded to predetermined fate since the date was connected to a particular deity who influenced his or her life actions. For example, being born on a day connected to a lucky god meant your life was full of luck. Besides, the last five-day month was considered sinister and was associated with bad omen and death. The Haab calendar was primarily used to determine agricultural seasons.The Haab was used to know when to plant and harvest crops,mainly maize. In addition, the Maya calendar was to correspond the actions of the Maya rulers to mythological events. The Maya priests calculated the anniversary days of the actual event and the rulers reenacted the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Scharping, N. (2020, December 22). How the Maya Created Their Extraordinarily Accurate Calendar Thousands of Years Ago. Discover Magazine. https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/how-the-maya-created-their-extraordinarily-accurate-calendar-thousands-of

Salmeri, S. (2020, April 29). Experiencing Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed- The Maya Calendar. Connecticut Science Center. https://ctsciencecenter.org/blog/experiencing-maya-hidden-worlds-revealed-the-maya-calendar/

Bikos, K. (2019). The Mayan Calendar. Timeanddate.com.https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/mayan.html

Lamb, W. (2017). The Maya Calendar: A Book of Months, 400–2000 CE. University of Oklahoma Press.

 

 

 

 

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