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Mayan Calendar and Time (Period 5)

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 5 months ago
Mayan Calendar and Time




The Mayan people are thought to have had one of the most extensive and developed calendric system of any civilization. In total, they had 3 calendars: The "Long Count", the "Tzolkin" (religious/Sacred Round calendar) and the "Haab" (vague year/civil calendar).



These 3 calendars intersected on numerous occasions, and were thus not entirely individual. But they were each used for different purposes.





The "Tzolkin" Sacred Round Calendar consists of 260 days. Each day of the year had a corresponding name (similarly to our days of the week: monday, tuesday...etc.) There were 20 day names, yet only 13 days in a week. Because of this, once 13 of the 20 day names were used, the first day of the second week would be day name 14.


(Example: Day 1 = Imix, Day 2 = Ik', Day 3 = Ak'bal, Day 4 = K'an, Day 5 = Chikchan, Day 6 = Kimi, Day 7 = Manik', Day 8 = Lamat, Day 9 = Muluk, Day 10 = Ok, Day 11 = Chuwen, Day 12 = Eb, Day 13 = Ben, Day 1 = Ix, Day 2 = Men, Day 3 = Kib, Day 4 = Kaban, Day 5 = Etz'nab, Day 6 = Kawak, Day 7 = Ahaw, Day 8 = Imix, Day 9 = Ik', Day 10 = Ak'bal...etc. )


Each of the 260 days was traced back to a deity who was thought to have influenced the people that were born that day. Religious events and ceremonies were planned with the Sacred Round Calendar. This calendar runs in a circular motion that is never interrupted and it was in use way before the beginning of writing in Mesoamerica.







They also used the "Haal" (Solar/Civil/Vague Year) Calendar which consists of 365 days, and 18 months with 20 days each (0-19...but they counted 0 as a day). In addition, they had a short month of 5 days called "Wayeb". These 5 days were unnamed and considered unlucky.


(The months are (in order): Pohp, Wo, Sip, Sotz’, Sek, Xul, Yaxk’in, Mol, Ch’en, Yax, Zak, Keh, Mak, K’ank’in, Muwan, Pax, K’ayab, Kumk’u.)


(Using the first month for example, “Pohp”, the year would start with Zero Pohp, then continue to Nineteen Pohp, and then Zero Wo, and Nineteen Wo, and so on.)


(Thus putting the days and the months together, the calendar would be read so: One Imix Zero Pohp: Two Ik One Pohp. When the thirteenth day was reached the next day was Thirteen Ben Twelve Pohp: then One Ix Thirteen Pohp: Two Men Fourteen Pohp. After that, Seven Ahaw Nineteen Pohp, the next day was Eight Imix Zero Wo. )


The calendar was missing fractions, thus a “quarter” day was left over every year, which allowed the calendar to drift, and not relate anymore to the actual solar year


Also, the Maya used glyphs to indicate time periods. Kin = one day. Winals = 20 days, Tun = year of 360 days, K’atun = 20 years of 360 days, Baktun = 400 years.




Each day of the year had two names, their solar calendar name and their sacred round name.  The Solar Calendar and Scared Calendar only coincide every 52 years.  A major festival is celebrated at the end of each cycle. The days that we see on monuments are from both of these calendars.



The "Long Count" calendar was used to track every single day from a "zero date". This calendar has a starting point (when the universe was created) which the Mayans record as August 13, 3114 BCE. This date is believed to be related to an astronomically significant or mythological event. This calendar lists days from the past and far into the future. In fact, it is in this calendar that the day "December 12, 2012" is the last date recorded, thus leading people to believe it is the last day of the world.



They also used this calendar to trace the credibility of the king. King Pacal used to the calendar to count dates in the future. He counted so far ahead that to us the number he found would be October 23, 4772.





Other than the calendars, the Mayan also believed that the stars told their kings when to go to war, hold religious festivals, and to celebrate royal marriages. With their accuracy of the stars the Mayans predicted the cycle of Venus and knew when solar and lunar eclipses were to be expected. Some of the buildings at Chichén Itzá are thought to have been used as observatories to study the stars.






One of the pyramids at Chichén Itzá was built so that when March 21 and September 21 (spring and autumn equinoxes) came around and the sun was setting the shadow would fall right on the nine level stair case. The pyramid has four staircases with ninety-one stairs in each which if you add to the top level it equals 365 days. 








The kings and noble men used their ability to predict events and knowledge of these calendars to keep power and order in their land. The Kings used the date and stars to know when to go to war, when they should get married and when a new king was to rule. This knowledge was very valuable because it was what made the other people think that he was a king that spoke with the gods.










 Works Used



Galvin Flum, Irene. The Ancient Maya. New York, USA : Benchmark Books, 1997.













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