Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Maya Calendar

The Maya Calendar - Information about the civilization from the Maya World Studies Center in Mérida, Yucatán. Describes the calendar, mathematical system, language, religion, and other aspects of Maya culture. Information is presented in both English and Spanish.

For a more sinister look at the Mayan Calendar, check out Mayan Doomsday Prophecy. The Mayan Calendar ends on Dec. 21st, 2012 and many believe the world will end on that day. If so, I plan on blogging through the apocalypse! I am a bit skeptical...

From the site:

The Maya Calendar was the center of Maya life and their greatest cultural achievement. The Maya Calendar's ancestral knowledge guided the Maya's existence from the moment of their birth and there was little that escaped its influence. The Maya Calendar made by the Maya World Studies Center in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico follows a centuries old tradition.

This Maya Calendar website is developing with the intent of providing a complete view of Maya culture; being that the Maya world was centered on the calendar, this name is more than appropriate for the Maya World Studies Center website.


SQPY23 said...

I've always been skeptical of this date and its notoriety, for one because it's so ballyhooed by the new agers - who are not the most critical thinking of folks; and for two because Mayan mythology and astronomical calculations are so incredibly rich and complex that glib interpretations strike me as, well, glib.

I recall some years back a reasonably scholarly article clarifying the issue, but I don't remember where I read it, and now I can't find it on the web. Anyway, here's was wikipedia has to say:

"The turn of the great cycle is conjectured to have been of great significance to the Maya, but does not necessarily mark the end of the world. According to the Popol Vuh, a sacred book of the Maya, they were living in the fourth world. The Popol Vuh describes the first three worlds that the gods failed in making and the creation of the successful fourth world where men were placed. The Maya believed that the fourth world would end in catastrophe and the fifth and final world would be created that would signal the end of mankind.

The last creation ended on a long count of Another will occur on December 21, 2012, and it has been discussed in many New Age articles and books that this will be the end of this creation or something else entirely. However, the Maya abbreviated their long counts to just the last five vigisimal places. There were an infinitely larger number of units that were usually not shown. When the larger units were shown (notably on a monument from Coba), it is expressed as, where the larger units are obviously supposed to be 13s in all larger places. In this creation we are only approaching, and the larger places are no where near the 13s that would match the end of the last creation.

This is confirmed by a date from Palenque, which projects forward in time to, which would be in 4772. The Classic Period Maya obviously did not believe that the end of this age would occur in 2012. There will be a Baktun ending in 2012, a significant event being the end of a 400 year period, but not the end of the age."

Jayusmc1986 said...

Although I am an independent Baptist I find the Mayan Calendar very interesting. Many may argue, that like Nostradamus, the predictions are vague and could be applied to many times and events if the right spin is applied. However, I find it very peculiar that in a Katune about 2012 (the end of time for them) that the author says that for (not verbatim) "half will be blessed and half will be cursed and the judgement of God will follow" (i'm not sure exactly the quote please find it for me). Now if you examine revelation by John then you know that he predicts 7 years of prosperity and 7 years of destruction and death before the judgement of God. The first thing I thought of when I read the Katune was not half of the population... but half of the time. If anyone would like to enlighten me further or discuss this topic add me at or email me at thank you

AMG said...

I like many others find the end date, or end period of the mayan calendar fascinating. Given the emperical evidence of conditions on this planet now and in the immediate future, one truly does not have to be a rocket scientist to see major change on the horizon. There are over 6 billion people on the earth and they all want the same things out of life. Maybe the changes to come will be a birth process..very messy...but truly profound for mankind.

alushe said...

Its amazing how ancient civilizations, had the creativity to develop custom numerical systems, that aproximated complex natural systems, with an accuracy that was surpassed only in the last centuries by our occidental culture

For example the predictive maya table of Solar and Lunar Eclipses ( _Mayas.pdf) that its totally integrated with his numerical astronomical time system...

Even more wonderfull, its the simplicity how were defined the time units from the visible planets trought (in equivalent modern concepts) sampling from a (clock signal) basic serie derived of the combination of two counting numeric systems (base 13 and base 20)

From the pdf, it looks like the theory i first saw in a book called "Los libros del tiempo" (buyed in the Monte Albán, Oaxaca bookstore) wich proposes that the mesoamerican calendar was based in numerical relations, derived from the observation of the visible planets and through the analisis of their astronomic periods

The mayas to designate a day used 20 names, counted with a numeric system base 13 (from 1 to 13), grouped in 5 days "weeks", and 20 days "months", to form 260 unique combinations like designations for days (number:name) in a repetitive calendar we call "tzolkin" divided in 65 days "seasons" (of course i am making a simil, werent called like that) Examples of the names are: Imix, Ik, Akbal, Kan, Chicchan, Cimi, Manik, Lamat, Muluc, Oc, Chuen, Eb, Ben, Ix, Men, Cib, Caban, Etznab, Cauac, Ahau. An example of a tzolkin date could be "1 Imix"

The list of names had intercalated orientation (orient, nort, ponient, sout) so every "week" (5 days) started and ended with the same orientation... and every of the 260 designations of days informs elapsed days and orientation. They also divided the calendar in periods of 52 days (unique combinations of 13 numbers with 4 orientations)

This system its then based on the relation of two sets: the base 13 numbers and the 20 names. The consecutive asociation was done trought simple counting, making pairs... there were not needed any operations with positional notation.

All this counts (asociations) are cyclic... repetitive, but not identical because every repetition starts at a diferent point in the cycle. I think of them, like time units (for example [day:orientation] to name a "week") The name of the repetition its given by is starting day (for example "week" 1-nort) The relation of two sets with a difference in cardinality of 1 its very common in the maya "time units" (for example 5 days:4 orientations) and its called "movement efect" because the maya didnt have a word for "time", to talk about the elapsing of time they used words related to movement

The maya also used a calendar of 365 days we call haab (divided in 73 "weeks" of 5 days or 18 "months" of 20 days plus 1 week... of bad luck) The haab is an alternate form of the tzolkin that relates (trought consecutive asociation) the number of day (from 0 to 19) and name of the month. Examples of the names of the month are: Pop, Uo, Zip, Zotz, Tzec, Xul, Yaxkin, Mol, Chen, Yax, Zac, Ceb, Mac, Kankin, Muan... An example of a haab date could be "4 Ahau - 18 Pop". Therefore, the day 0 Pop was the maya new year, and the haab date (for example "1 Imix - 0 Pop") designed the name of the year. The tzolkin-haab dates gave the mayas 94,900 unique combinations (of 260 tzolkin dates with 365 days of haab months) to name his days.

Here comes the really interesting part... To measure longer periods of time, the maya keeped lists of dates "sampled" from the tzolkin-haab succession of days at some fixed interval. Doing a mathematical analysis of the numeric properties of this calendaric system, was found that some astronomical intervals produced lists of "sampled" dates sorted (as a whole or in part) in ascending, descending order or with a fixed marker. The astronomical intervals where aproximated because the mayas used only whole numbers.

For example here are some lists of "sampled" dates at fixed intervals (using for simplicity 1Imix-0Pop as origin, not the historical 4Ahau-8Cumhu)
365 days : 1Imix-0Pop, 2Cimi-0Pop, 3Chuen-0Pop, 4Cib-0Pop, 5Imix-0Pop, 6Cimi-0Pop, 7Chuen-0Pop, 8Cib-0Pop...
Here, obviously se fixed marker its the "0 Pop" or new year day
584 days : 13Chicchan, 12Muluc, 11Ben, 10Caban, 9Imix, 8Chicchan, 7Muluc, 6Ben, 5Caban, 4Imix, 3Chichan...
Aproximated Venus sinodic revolution
116 days : 13Caban, 12Ben, 11Muluc, 10Chicchan, 9Imix, 8Caban, 7Ben, 6Muluc, 5Chicchan, 4Imix, 3Caban...
Aproximated Mercury sinodic revolution
378 days : 2Cauac, 3Caban, 4Men, 5Ben, 6Chuen, 7Muluc, 8Manik, 9Chicchan, 10Akbal, 11Imix, 12Cauac...
Aproximated Saturn orbital sinodic period
780 days : 1Imix-10Zip, 1Imix-0Xul, 1Imix-10Mol, 1Imix-0Zac, 1Imix-10Mac, 1Imix-0Pax...
Aproximated maximun Mars oposition to Sun
399 days : 10Ahau, 6Cahuac, 2Etznab, 11Caban, 7Cib, 3Men, 12Ix, 8Ben, 4Eb, 13Chuen, 9Oc, 5Muluc...
Aproximated maximun Jupiter oposition to Sun (this succession its ordered in the names)

The mayas used what now we call "astronomical" days (that start/end on midday) in order to keep all the astronomic observations of one night on the same date. Divided the sky in sections, and for the record of some visible planet, used like reference point the presence of close deep space objects and changed sections and objects over time.

There is much more to this theory.... but i am late already, and dont have more time to write about it.