[time-nuts] MesoAmerican calendars, Solstice, etc.

Kevin.Birth at qc.cuny.edu Kevin.Birth at qc.cuny.edu
Mon Dec 17 20:33:42 UTC 2012

I don't know of any good online sources.  Most of the work on the Mayan 
calendar is published by archaeologists in books or in professional 
journals that require online subscriptions. 

There is growing evidence that the Mayan calendrical system began as two 
different systems.  One was a rough solar calendar of 365 days that later 
became known as the Haab.  The other system was a count of days that was 
not coupled to any celestial cycle.  Since it was simply a count of days, 
any cycle could easily be represented in it infinitely into the future or 
past.  This system consisted of units of 13 and units of 20.  The Long 
Count ending supposedly on Dec 21 (archaeologists are not entirely sure 
that we have the date right) is the 13th baktun with a baktun being 20 
katuns, and 20 tuns is a katun and 18 winals (360 days) is a tun.  As an 
aside, 13 katuns is a May, and there is evidence that there were 
significant, self-imposed political changes in the classic Mayan period. 

In the ethnographic record, the solstice is not a point in time, but the 
day of the sun's shortest path.  I'm not sure of what the start of the day 
was.  The Mayan word for day, "kin," seems to refer to the entire movement 
of the sun from sunrise to sunset.  I guess technically, this would make 
sunrise the beginning of the day.  The calendar is a count of kin.

The Mayan long count emphasizes cyclic time, so I fear that we all need to 
get up on the first day of 14 Baktun.  There is some evidence that the end 
of 13 Katuns is marked by a "hiatus" of construction found in the 
archaeological record, so it is possible that the end of 13 Baktun and the 
beginning of 14 Baktun is a time to stop doing things and take a deep 
breath before beginning the next great cycle.  So we probably should go to 
work on December 22nd in the Gregorian Calendar, but I guess we could try 
to explain to our employers that it is a bad day to complete anything.

The interpretation of the ending of the 13th Baktun as the apocalypse is a 
projection of Judeo-Christian-Islamic ideas of the end of the world onto a 
system which does not focus on endings. 

The best currently publishing authors on the Mayan count are Anthony Aveni 
and Prudence Rice.  I particularly like Rice's MAYA POLITICAL SCIENCE: 
TIME, ASTRONOMY AND THE COSMOS.  Aveni writes for a more general audience 
than Rice, however.



Kevin K. Birth, Professor
Department of Anthropology
Queens College, City University of New York
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing, NY 11367
telephone: 718/997-5518

"We may live longer but we may be subject to peculiar contagion and 
spiritual torpor or illiteracies of the imagination"  --Wilson Harris

"Tempus est mundi instabilis motus, rerumque labentium cursus." --Hrabanus 

Jim Lux <jimlux at earthlink.net> 
Sent by: <time-nuts-bounces at febo.com>
12/17/12 02:34 PM
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[time-nuts] MesoAmerican calendars, Solstice, etc.

You knew it would be coming..

A discussion over lunch brought up the question of precisely WHEN this 
Maya calendar rollover/civilization ending event would occur.  It's not 
enough to just say "dec 21st".. Does the event occur at the beginning of 
the day, end of the day, in which local time scale.. Local news media 
and the blogosphere are woefully ignorant of such basic questions which 
time-nuts learn to ask at their mother's knee.

I did find a reference that it's tied to the Solstice, or which we have 
a fairly precise instant:  1112UTC  (although I've seen other numbers 
floating around).  So, basically, I could not have to worry about going 
into work on Friday, because all the excitement will be over here in the 
Pacific Time zone(but I will have to get up real early to see it happen)

But just like other time scales, how did those mesoAmericans reconcile 
their 360 day cycle to 365.25... day intervals between solstices?

I've been rummaging through my ION CD of time and celestial nav papers, 
but didn't find anything at first on the whole issue (plenty on other 
astronomically derived scales).

Anybody have any decent links to go hunting for?

5000 years is plenty long for significant precession of the equninoxes, 
for instance.. Maybe those Maya astronomers did a bang up job measuring, 
but hey, they probably didn't account for those higher order effects.

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