The Maya culture is really amazing; it not only boasts extremely advanced knowledge, but it also had a calendar system which governed the center of their lives. Of all the calendars made by Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya calendar is definitely the most sophisticated.
During your visits to the archaeological sites of Yucatán, have you seen in the shops some small souvenirs such as key chains or necklaces with Maya symbols? These are the months of the Maya calendar! But do you know what they mean?
The precision of the Maya calendars lies in the fact that the count of the days (called “Kin” in Maya) is continuous and uninterrupted, beginning with “day zero” which they consider as the starting date.
Interesting fact: they had several calendars, each one dedicated to a particular topic. The two most important of these were the “Tzolkin”, of 260 days, and the “Haab”, of 365 days; and from the moment of birth, everyone’s life was governed by these calendar counts.
Wouldn’t it be easier to have just one calendar instead of several? Probably yes, but let’s look at why each of these was significant.
Tzolkin, the 260 days calendar:
This calendar was the most used by the Maya people, for it governed the timing for agriculture, family customs, and religious ceremonies, for the life of the Maya man and woman was predetermined by the “Tzolkin” date upon which he or she was born.
Haab, the 365 days calendar:
This calendar was used to measure the solar year, in other words, it quantified the rotations of the earth around the sun in 365 days. This calendar divided the year into 18 months, called “Uinal”, each of which had 20 days, with five additional days known as “Uayeb”. Each Kin is written using a number from 0 to 19, and each Uinal was represented by a glyph (except the Uayeb days which were numbered from 0 to 4).
As well as these two calendars, they had one which marked the beginning of time, or at least when they started keeping track of it in writing. For this they had the “long count” or “beginning series”, where all the days since a specific start date were recorded. According to various studies, this date was determined to be the equivalent of August 13, 3114 BC in the Gregorian calendar.
Sources: mayacalendar.com, bibliotecapleyades.net
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