Maya calendar

The Maya calendar is a system of calendars used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and in many modern communities in the Guatemalan highlands,[1] Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.[2]

The essentials of the Maya calendar are based upon a system which had been in common use throughout the region, dating back to at least the 5th century BCE. It shares many aspects with calendars employed by other earlier Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Zapotec and Olmec and contemporary or later ones such as the Mixtec and Aztec calendars.[3]

By the Maya mythological tradition, as documented in Colonial Yucatec accounts and reconstructed from Late Classic and Postclassic inscriptions, the deity Itzamna is frequently credited with bringing the knowledge of the calendar system to the ancestral Maya, along with writing in general and other foundational aspects of Maya culture.[4]


The Maya calendar consists of several cycles or counts of different lengths. The 260-day count is known to scholars as the Tzolkin, or Tzolkʼin.[5] The Tzolkin was combined with a 365-day vague solar year known as the Haabʼ to form a synchronized cycle lasting for 52 Haabʼ, called the Calendar Round. The Calendar Round is still in use by many groups in the Guatemalan highlands.[6]

A different calendar was used to track longer periods of time and for the inscription of calendar dates (i.e., identifying when one event occurred in relation to others). This is the Long Count. It is a count of days since a mythological starting-point.[7] According to the correlation between the Long Count and Western calendars accepted by the great majority of Maya researchers (known as the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson, or GMT, correlation), this starting-point is equivalent to August 11, 3114 BCE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar or September 6, in the Julian calendar (−3113 astronomical). The GMT correlation was chosen by John Eric Sydney Thompson in 1935 on the basis of earlier correlations by Joseph Goodman in 1905 (August 11), Juan Martínez Hernández in 1926 (August 12) and Thompson himself in 1927 (August 13).[8] By its linear nature, the Long Count was capable of being extended to refer to any date far into the past or future. This calendar involved the use of a positional notation system, in which each position signified an increasing multiple of the number of days. The Maya numeral system was essentially vigesimal (i.e., base-20) and each unit of a given position represented 20 times the unit of the position which preceded it. An important exception was made for the second-order place value, which instead represented 18 × 20, or 360 days, more closely approximating the solar year than would 20 × 20 = 400 days. The cycles of the Long Count are independent of the solar year.

Many Maya Long Count inscriptions contain a supplementary series, which provides information on the lunar phase, number of the current lunation in a series of six and which of the nine Lords of the Night rules.

Less-prevalent or poorly understood cycles, combinations and calendar progressions were also tracked. An 819-day Count is attested in a few inscriptions. Repeating sets of 9 days (see below "Nine lords of the night")[9] associated with different groups of deities, animals and other significant concepts are also known.


The tzolkʼin (in modern Maya orthography; also commonly written tzolkin) is the name commonly employed by Mayanist researchers for the Maya Sacred Round or 260-day calendar. The word tzolkʼin is a neologism coined in Yucatec Maya, to mean "count of days" (Coe 1992). The various names of this calendar as used by precolumbian Maya people are still debated by scholars. The Aztec calendar equivalent was called Tonalpohualli, in the Nahuatl language.

The tzolkʼin calendar combines twenty day names with the thirteen day numbers to produce 260 unique days. It is used to determine the time of religious and ceremonial events and for divination. Each successive day is numbered from 1 up to 13 and then starting again at 1. Separately from this, every day is given a name in sequence from a list of 20 day names:

Tzolkʼin calendar: named days and associated glyphs
Num. 1
Name 2
example 3
Yucatec 4
Classic Maya 5
Num. 1
Name 2
example 3
Yucatec 4
Classic Maya 5
01 Imix MAYA-g-log-cal-D01-Imix.png Imix Imix (?) / Haʼ (?) 11 Chuwen MAYA-g-log-cal-D11-Chuwen.png Chuen (unknown)
02 Ikʼ MAYA-g-log-cal-D02-Ik.png Ik Ikʼ 12 Ebʼ MAYA-g-log-cal-D12-Eb.png Eb (unknown)
03 Akʼbʼal MAYA-g-log-cal-D03-Akbal.png Akbal Akʼbʼal (?) 13 Bʼen MAYA-g-log-cal-D13-Ben.png Ben C'klab
04 Kʼan MAYA-g-log-cal-D04-Kan.png Kan Kʼan (?) 14 Ix MAYA-g-log-cal-D14-Ix.png Ix Hix (?)
05 Chikchan MAYA-g-log-cal-D05-Chikchan.png Chicchan (unknown) 15 Men MAYA-g-log-cal-D15-Men.png Men (unknown)
06 Kimi MAYA-g-log-cal-D06-Kimi.png Cimi Cham (?) 16 Kʼibʼ MAYA-g-log-cal-D16-Kib.png Cib (unknown)
07 Manikʼ MAYA-g-log-cal-D07-Manik.png Manik Manichʼ (?) 17 Kabʼan MAYA-g-log-cal-D17-Kaban.png Caban Chabʼ (?)
08 Lamat MAYA-g-log-cal-D08-Lamat.png Lamat Ekʼ (?) 18 Etzʼnabʼ MAYA-g-log-cal-D18-Etznab.png Etznab (unknown)
09 Muluk MAYA-g-log-cal-D09-Muluk.png Muluc (unknown) 19 Kawak MAYA-g-log-cal-D19-Kawak.png Cauac (unknown)
10 Ok MAYA-g-log-cal-D10-Ok.png Oc (unknown) 20 Ajaw MAYA-g-log-cal-D20-Ajaw.png Ahau Ajaw
  1. The sequence number of the named day in the Tzolkʼin calendar
  2. Day name, in the standardized and revised orthography of the Guatemalan Academia de Lenguas Mayas[5]
  3. An example glyph (logogram) for the named day. Note that for most of these several different forms are recorded; the ones shown here are typical of carved monumental inscriptions (these are "cartouche" versions)
  4. Day name, as recorded from 16th-century Yukatek Maya accounts, principally Diego de Landa; this orthography has (until recently) been widely used
  5. In most cases, the actual day name as spoken in the time of the Classic Period (c. 200–900) when most inscriptions were made is not known. The versions given here (in Classic Maya, the main language of the inscriptions) are reconstructed on the basis of phonological evidence, if available; a '?' symbol indicates the reconstruction is tentative.[10]

Some systems started the count with 1 Imix, followed by 2 Ikʼ, 3 Akʼbʼal, etc. up to 13 Bʼen. The day numbers then start again at 1 while the named-day sequence continues onwards, so the next days in the sequence are 1 Ix, 2 Men, 3 Kʼibʼ, 4 Kabʼan, 5 Etzʼnabʼ, 6 Kawak and 7 Ajaw. With all twenty named days used, these now began to repeat the cycle while the number sequence continues, so the next day after 7 Ajaw is 8 Imix. The repetition of these interlocking 13- and 20-day cycles therefore takes 260 days to complete (that is, for every possible combination of number/named day to occur once).

The earliest known inscription with a Tzolkʼin is an Olmec earspool with 2 Ahau 3 Ceh -, September 2, -678 (Julian astronomical).[11]


Haabʼ months: names and glyphs[12] in sequence
Classic Period

glyph sign

Meaning of glyph
Classic Period

glyph sign

Meaning of glyph
1 Pop Pop Maya months - 0 - Pop.svg 10 Yax Yax Maya-months-09-yax.svg green[14]
2 Woʼ Wo Maya months - 1 - Wo.svg 11 Sak Sak Maya-months-10-sak.svg white [14]
3 Sip Sip Maya months - 2 - Sip.svg 12 Keh Keh Maya-months-11-kej.svg red [14]
4 Sotzʼ Sotz' Maya-months-03-sotz'.svg bat 13 Mak Mak Maya-months-12-mak.svg
5 Sek Sek Maya months - 4 - Sek.svg 14 Kʼankʼin K'ank'in Maya-months-13-k'ank'in.svg
6 Xul Xul Maya-months-05-xul.svg 15 Muwan Muan Maya-months-14-muwan.svg
7 Yaxkʼin Yaxk'in Maya months - 6 - Yaxk'in.svg 16 Pax Pax Maya-months-15-pax.svg
8 Mol Mol Maya months - 7 - Mol.svg 17 Kʼayab K'ayab Maya-months-16-k'ayab'.svg
9 Chʼen Ch'en Maya-months-08-ch'en.svg black[14] 18 Kumkʼu Kumk'u Maya-months-17-kumk'u.svg
19 Wayebʼ Wayeb Maya-months-18-wayeb'.svg five unlucky days

The Haabʼ was made up of eighteen months of twenty days each plus a period of five days ("nameless days") at the end of the year known as Wayeb' (or Uayeb in 16th-century orthography). The five days of Wayebʼ were thought to be a dangerous time. Foster (2002) writes, "During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters." To ward off these evil spirits, the Maya had customs and rituals they practiced during Wayebʼ. For example, people avoided leaving their houses and washing or combing their hair. Bricker (1982) estimates that the Haabʼ was first used around 550 BCE with a starting point of the winter solstice.[15]

The Haabʼ month names are known today by their corresponding names in colonial-era Yukatek Maya, as transcribed by 16th-century sources (in particular, Diego de Landa and books such as the Chilam Balam of Chumayel). Phonemic analyses of Haabʼ glyph names in pre-Columbian Maya inscriptions have demonstrated that the names for these twenty-day periods varied considerably from region to region and from period to period, reflecting differences in the base language(s) and usage in the Classic and Postclassic eras predating their recording by Spanish sources.[16]

Each day in the Haabʼ calendar was identified by a day number in the month followed by the name of the month. Day numbers began with a glyph translated as the "seating of" a named month, which is usually regarded as day 0 of that month, although a minority treat it as day 20 of the month preceding the named month. In the latter case, the seating of Pop is day 5 of Wayebʼ. For the majority, the first day of the year was 0 Pop (the seating of Pop). This was followed by 1 Pop, 2 Pop as far as 19 Pop then 0 Wo, 1 Wo and so on.

Because the Haabʼ had 365 days and the tropical year is 365.2422 days, the days of the Haabʼ did not coincide with the tropical year.

Calendar Round

A Calendar Round date is a date that gives both the Tzolkʼin and Haabʼ. This date will repeat after 52 Haabʼ years or 18,980 days, a Calendar Round. For example, the current creation started on 4 Ahau 8 Kumkʼu. When this date recurs it is known as a Calendar Round completion.

Arithmetically, the duration of the Calendar Round is the least common multiple of 260 and 365; 18,980 is 73 × 260 Tzolkʼin days and 52 × 365 Haabʼ days.[17]

Not every possible combination of Tzolkʼin and Haabʼ can occur. For Tzolkʼin days Imix, Kimi, Chwen and Kibʼ, the Haabʼ day can only be 4, 9, 14 or 19; for Ikʼ, Manikʼ, Ebʼ and Kabʼan, the Haabʼ day can only be 0, 5, 10 or 15; for Akbʼalʼ, Lamat, Bʼen and Etzʼnabʼ, the Haabʼ day can only be 1, 6, 11 or 16; for Kʼan, Muluk, Ix and Kawak, the Haabʼ day can only be 2, 7, 12 or 17; and for Chikchan, Ok, Men and Ajaw, the Haabʼ day can only be 3, 8, 13 or 18.[18]

Year Bearer

A "Year Bearer" is a Tzolkʼin day name that occurs on the first day of the Haabʼ. If the first day of the Haabʼ is 0 Pop, then each 0 Pop will coincide with a Tzolkʼin date, for example, 1 Ikʼ  0 Pop. Since there are twenty Tzolkʼin day names and the Haabʼ year has 365 days (20*18 + 5), the Tzolkʼin name for each succeeding Haabʼ zero day will be incremented by 5 in the cycle of day names like this:

1 Ikʼ   0 Pop
2 Manikʼ   0 Pop
3 Ebʼ   0 Pop
4 Kabʼan   0 Pop
5 Ikʼ   0 Pop...

Only these four of the Tzolkʼin day names can coincide with 0 Pop and these four are called the "Year Bearers".

"Year Bearer" literally translates a Mayan concept.[19] Its importance resides in two facts. For one, the four years headed by the Year Bearers are named after them and share their characteristics; therefore, they also have their own prognostications and patron deities.[20] Moreover, since the Year Bearers are geographically identified with boundary markers or mountains, they help define the local community.[21]

The classic system of Year Bearers described above is found at Tikal and in the Dresden Codex. During the Late Classic period a different set of Year Bearers was in use in Campeche. In this system, the Year Bearers were the Tzolkʼin that coincided with 1 Pop. These were Akʼbʼal, Lamat, Bʼen and Edznab. During the Post-Classic period in Yucatán a third system was in use. In this system the Year Bearers were the days that coincided with 2 Pop: Kʼan, Muluc, Ix and Kawak. This system is found in the Chronicle of Oxkutzcab. In addition, just before the Spanish conquest in Mayapan the Maya began to number the days of the Haabʼ from 1 to 20. In this system the Year Bearers are the same as in the 1 Pop – Campeche system. The Classic Year Bearer system is still in use in the Guatemalan highlands[22] and in Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.[23]

Long Count

East side of stela C, Quirigua
East side of stela C, Quirigua with the mythical creation date of 13 baktuns, 0 katuns, 0 tuns, 0 uinals, 0 kins, 4 Ahau 8 Cumku – August 11, 3114 BCE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.

Since Calendar Round dates repeat every 18,980 days, approximately 52 solar years, the cycle repeats roughly once each lifetime, so a more refined method of dating was needed if history was to be recorded accurately. To specify dates over periods longer than 52 years, Mesoamericans used the Long Count calendar.

The Maya name for a day was kʼin. Twenty of these kʼins are known as a winal or uinal. Eighteen winals make one tun. Twenty tuns are known as a kʼatun. Twenty kʼatuns make a bʼakʼtun.

The Long Count calendar identifies a date by counting the number of days from the Mayan creation date 4 Ahaw, 8 Kumkʼu (August 11, 3114 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar or September 6 in the Julian calendar -3113 astronomical dating). But instead of using a base-10 (decimal) scheme like Western numbering, the Long Count days were tallied in a modified base-20 scheme. Thus is equal to 25 and is equal to 40. As the winal unit resets after only counting to 18, the Long Count consistently uses base-20 only if the tun is considered the primary unit of measurement, not the kʼin; with the kʼin and winal units being the number of days in the tun. The Long Count represents 360 days, rather than the 400 in a purely base-20 (vigesimal) count.

There are also four rarely used higher-order cycles: piktun, kalabtun, kʼinchiltun and alautun.

Since the Long Count dates are unambiguous, the Long Count was particularly well suited to use on monuments. The monumental inscriptions would not only include the 5 digits of the Long Count, but would also include the two tzolkʼin characters followed by the two haabʼ characters.

Misinterpretation of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar was the basis for a popular belief that a cataclysm would take place on December 21, 2012. December 21, 2012 was simply the day that the calendar went to the next bʼakʼtun, at Long Count The date on which the calendar will go to the next piktun (a complete series of 20 bʼakʼtuns), at Long Count, will be on October 13, 4772.

Table of Long Count units
Long Count
Long Count
Days Approximate
Solar Years
1 Kʼin   1  
1 Winal 20 Kʼin 20  
1 Tun 18 Winal 360 1
1 Kʼatun 20 Tun 7,200 20
1 Bʼakʼtun 20 Kʼatun 144,000 394
1 Piktun 20 Bʼakʼtun 2,880,000 7,885
1 Kalabtun 20 Piktun 57,600,000 157,704
1 Kʼinchiltun 20 Kalabtun 1,152,000,000 3,154,071
1 Alautun 20 Kʼinchiltun 23,040,000,000 63,081,429

Supplementary Series

Many Classic period inscriptions include a series of glyphs known as the Supplementary Series. The operation of this series was largely worked out by John E. Teeple (1874–1931). The Supplementary Series most commonly consists of the following elements:

Lords of the Night

Each night was ruled by one of the nine lords of the underworld. This nine-day cycle was usually written as two glyphs: a glyph that referred to the Nine Lords as a group, followed by a glyph for the lord that would rule the next night.

Lunar Series

A lunar series generally is written as five glyphs that provide information about the current lunation, the number of the lunation in a series of six, the current ruling lunar deity and the length of the current lunation.

Moon age

The Maya counted the number of days in the current lunation. They used two systems for the zero date of the lunar cycle: either the first night they could see the thin crescent moon or the first morning when they could not see the waning moon.[24] The age of the moon was depicted by a set of glyphs that mayanists coined glyphs D and E:

  • A new moon glyph was used for day zero in the lunar cycle.
  • D glyphs were used for lunar ages for days 1 through 19, with the number of days that had passed from the new moon.
  • For lunar ages 20 to 30, an E glyph was used, with the number of days from 20.

Count of Lunations

The Maya counted the lunations. This cycle appears in the lunar series as two glyphs that modern scholars call the 'C' and 'X' glyphs. The C glyph could be prefixed with a number indicating the lunation. No prefixing number meant one, whereas the numbers two through six indicated the other lunations.[25][26] There was also a part of the C glyph that indicated where this fell in a larger cycle of 18 lunations. Accompanying the C glyph was the 'X' glyph that showed a similar pattern of 18 lunations.[27][28]

Lunation length

The present era lunar synodic period is about 29.5305877 mean solar days or about 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes and 2+7/9 seconds. As a whole number, the number of days per lunation will be either 29 or 30 days, with the 30-day intervals necessarily occurring slightly more frequently than the 29-day intervals. The Maya wrote whether the lunar month was 29 or 30 days as two glyphs: a glyph for lunation length followed by either a glyph made up of a moon glyph over a bundle with a suffix of 9 for a 29-day lunation or a moon glyph with a suffix of 10 for a 30-day lunation. Since the Maya didn't use fractions, lunations were approximated by using the formula that there were 149 lunations completed in 4400 days, which yielded a rather short mean month of exactly 4400/149 = 29+79/149 days = 29 days 12 hours 43 minutes and 29+59/149 seconds, or about 29.5302 days.[29]

819-day count

Some Mayan monuments include glyphs that record an 819-day count in their Initial Series. These can also be found in the Dresden codex.[30] This is described in Thompson.[31] More examples of this can be found in Kelley.[32] Each group of 819 days was associated with one of four colors and the cardinal direction with which it was associated — black corresponded to west, red to east, white to north and yellow to south.

The 819-day count can be described several ways: Most of these are referred to using a "Y" glyph and a number. Many also have a glyph for Kʼawill — the god with a smoking mirror in his head. Kʼawill has been suggested as having a link to Jupiter.[33] In the Dresden codex almanac 59 there are Chaacs of the four colors. The accompanying texts begin with a directional glyph and a verb for 819-day-count phrases. Anderson[34] provides a detailed description of the 819-day count.

Short count

During the late Classic period the Maya began to use an abbreviated short count instead of the Long Count. An example of this can be found on altar 14 at Tikal.[35] In the kingdoms of Postclassic Yucatán, the Short Count was used instead of the Long Count. The cyclical Short Count is a count of 13 kʼatuns (or 260 tuns), in which each kʼatun was named after its concluding day, Ahau ('Lord'). 1 Imix was selected as the recurrent 'first day' of the cycle, corresponding to 1 Cipactli in the Aztec day count. The cycle was counted from katun 11 Ahau to katun 13 Ahau, with the coefficients of the katuns' concluding days running in the order 11 – 9 – 7 – 5 – 3 – 1 – 12 – 10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 13 Ahau (since a division of 20 × 360 days by 13 falls 2 days short). The concluding day 13 Ahau was followed by the re-entering first day 1 Imix. This is the system as found in the colonial Books of Chilam Balam. In characteristic Mesoamerican fashion, these books project the cycle onto the landscape, with 13 Ahauob 'Lordships' dividing the land of Yucatán into 13 'kingdoms'.[36]

See also


  1. ^ Tedlock, Barbara, Time and the Highland Maya Revised edition (1992 Page 1) "Scores of indigenous Guatemalan communities, principally those speaking the Mayan languages known as Ixil, Mam, Pokomchí and Quiché, keep the 260-day cycle and (in many cases) the ancient solar cycle as well (chapter 4)."
  2. ^ Miles, Susanna W, "An Analysis of the Modern Middle American Calendars: A Study in Conservation." In Acculturation in the Americas. Edited by Sol Tax, p. 273. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952.
  3. ^ "Maya Calendar Origins: Monuments, Mythistory, and the Materialization of Time".
  4. ^ See entry on Itzamna, in Miller and Taube (1993), pp.99–100.
  5. ^ a b Academia de las Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala (1988). Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala: Documento de referencia para la pronunciación de los nuevos alfabetos oficiales. Guatemala City: Instituto Indigenista Nacional.. For details and notes on adoption among the Mayanist community, see Kettunen & Hemke (2005), p. 5
  6. ^ Tedlock (1992), p. 1
  7. ^ "Mythological" in the sense that when the Long Count was first devised sometime in the Mid- to Late Preclassic, long after this date; see e.g. Miller and Taube (1993, p.50).
  8. ^ Voss (2006, p.138)
  9. ^ See separate brief Wikipedia article Lords of the Night
  10. ^ Classic-era reconstructions are as per Kettunen and Helmke (2005), pp.45–46..
  11. ^ Edmonson, Munro S. (1988). The Book of the Year MIDDLE AMERICAN CALENDRICAL SYSTEMS. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-87480-288-1.
  12. ^ Kettunen and Helmke (2005), pp.47–48
  13. ^ These names come from de Landa's description of the calendar and they are commonly used by Mayanists, but the Classic Maya did not use these actual names for the day signs. The original names are unknown. See Coe, Michael D.; Mark L Van Stone (2005). Reading the Maya Glyphs. London: Thames & Hudson. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-500-28553-4.
  14. ^ a b c d Coe, Michael D.; Mark L Van Stone (2005). Reading the Maya Glyphs. London: Thames & Hudson. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-500-28553-4.
  15. ^ Zero Pop actually fell on the same day as the solstice on 12/27/−575, 12/27/−574, 12/27/−573 and 12/26/−572 (astronomical year numbering, Universal Time), if you don't account for the fact that the Maya region is in roughly time zone UT−6. See IMCCE seasons. Archived August 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Boot (2002), pp.111–114.
  17. ^ For further details, see Thompson 1966: 123–124
  18. ^ Kettunen, Harri; Helmke, Christophe (2014). "Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs" (PDF). Wayeb, Comenius University in Bratislava, The Slovak Archaeological and Historical Institute. p. 51.
  19. ^ Thompson 1966: 124
  20. ^ For a thorough treatment of the Year Bearers, see Tedlock 1992: 89–90; 99–104 and Thompson 1966
  21. ^ See Coe 1965
  22. ^ Tedlock 1992: 92
  23. ^ Miles, Susanna W, "An Analysis of the Modern Middle American Calendars: A Study in Conservation." In Acculturation in the Americas. Edited by Sol Tax, pp. 273–84. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952.
  24. ^ Thompson, J. Eric S. Maya Hieroglyphic Writing, 1950 Page 236
  25. ^ Teeple 1931:53
  26. ^ Thompson Maya Hieroglyphic Writing 1950:240
  27. ^ Linden 1996:343–356.
  28. ^ Schele, Grube, Fahsen 1992
  29. ^ Teeple 1931:67
  30. ^ Grofe, Michael John 2007 The Serpent Series: Precession in the Maya Dresden Codex page 55 p.206
  31. ^ Maya Hieroglyphic Writing 1961 pp. 212–217
  32. ^ Decipherment of Maya Script , David Kelley 1973 pp.56—57
  33. ^ Star Gods of the Maya Susan Milbrath 1999, University of Texas Press
  34. ^ "Lloyd B. Anderson The Mayan 819-day Count and the "Y" Glyph: A Probable association with Jupiter". Traditional High Cultures Home Page. Archived from the original on May 6, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  35. ^ Coe, William R. 'TIKAL a handbook of the ancient Maya Ruins' The University Museum of the University of Pennsylvalia, Philadelphia, Pa. 1967 p. 114
  36. ^ Roys 1967: 132, 184–185


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Tedlock, Dennis notes, trans., eds. (1985). Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings. with commentary based on the ancient knowledge of the modern Quiché Maya. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-45241-X. OCLC 11467786.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
Thomas, Cyrus (1897). "Day Symbols of the Maya Year". In J. W. Powell. Sixteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1894–1895 (EBook online reproduction). Washington DC: Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution; U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 199–266. OCLC 14963920. Archived from the original on January 22, 2007 – via Project Gutenberg.
Thompson, J. Eric S. (1960). Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: An Introduction. Civilization of the American Indian Series, No. 56 (3rd ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-0447-3. OCLC 275252.
Tozzer, Alfred M. notes, trans., eds. (1941). Landa's Relación de las cosas de Yucatán: a translation. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University vol. 18. Charles P. Bowditch and Ralph L. Roys (additional trans.) (translation of Diego de Landa's Relación de las cosas de Yucatán [original c. 1566], with notes, commentary, and appendices incorporating translated excerpts of works by Gaspar Antonio Chi, Tomás López Medel, Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, and Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas. English ed.). Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. OCLC 625693.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
Voss, Alexander (2006). "Astronomy and Mathematics". In Nikolai Grube. Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. Eva Eggebrecht and Matthias Seidel (assistant eds.). Cologne, Germany: Könemann. pp. 130–143. ISBN 978-3-8331-1957-6. OCLC 71165439.

External links

2012 phenomenon

The 2012 phenomenon was a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or otherwise transformative events would occur on or around 21 December 2012. This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,126-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and as such, festivities to commemorate the date took place on 21 December 2012 in the countries that were part of the Maya civilization (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), with main events at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, and Tikal in Guatemala.Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae were proposed as pertaining to this date. A New Age interpretation held that the date marked the start of a period during which Earth and its inhabitants would undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and that 21 December 2012 would mark the beginning of a new era. Others suggested that the date marked the end of the world or a similar catastrophe. Scenarios suggested for the end of the world included the arrival of the next solar maximum, an interaction between Earth and the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, or Earth's collision with a mythical planet called Nibiru.

Scholars from various disciplines quickly dismissed predictions of concomitant cataclysmic events as they arose. Professional Mayanist scholars stated that no extant classic Maya accounts forecast impending doom, and that the idea that the Long Count calendar ends in 2012 misrepresented Maya history and culture, while astronomers rejected the various proposed doomsday scenarios as pseudoscience, easily refuted by elementary astronomical observations.

Baktun (TV series)

Baktun is a telenovela in Maya broadcast on Quintana Roo public television in August, 2013. A bʼakʼtun is a megacycle of the Maya calendar.


Cival is an archaeological site in the Petén Basin region of the southern Maya lowlands, which was formerly a major city of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the present-day Department of Petén, Guatemala.

The site flourished from about the 6th century BC through the 1st century, during the Maya Pre-Classic Period (see: Mesoamerican chronology). It may have had a peak population of some 10,000 people.

The site is about 25 miles (40 km) east of Tikal, on a ridge over the left bank of the Holmul river.

The site has temples on step pyramids and plazas arranged to point to astronomical events such as the equinox sunrise, and is surrounded by a defensive wall. The site's largest step-pyramid is 27 metres high and 70 x 40 metres wide. Some buildings were decorated with stucco sculptures depicting Mesoamerican deities.

The site was long lost in the jungle, and was discovered and partly plundered by looters around 1980. It was first mapped by explorer Ian Graham in 1984, who gave it the name Cival after a local word for "lagoon". The ancient name of the site is currently unknown.

Archaeological excavations of the site began in 2001 and are ongoing as of 2004, led by Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli. The project there originally began as part of investigations at the nearby Classic Maya site of Holmul, but attention was shifted to Cival as Cival's age and importance became apparent. The excavations are sponsored by Vanderbilt University and the National Geographic Society, the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, the Ahau Foundation, ARB, Interco Tire, PIAA and Warn Industries.

Investigations at Cival have added to knowledge of the Pre-Classic Maya, including revealing the earliest inscriptions with Maya calendar dates and showing dynastic succession of monarchs.

Some news reports have incorrectly stated that Pre-Classic Maya cities were previously unknown. Pre-Classic buildings in the Peten have been excavated by archaeologists since the work at Uaxactun in the 1920s, and the major breakthrough which revealed that the Pre-Classic Maya were more highly developed and urbanized in this era than had long been thought was the archaeological project at El Mirador starting in the late 1970s.


The Dreamspell is an esoteric calendar in part inspired by the Maya calendar by New Age spiritualist, Mayanist philosopher, and author José Argüelles, initiated in 1987 and released as a board game in 1992.

Harmonic Convergence

The Harmonic Convergence is the name given to one of the world's first globally synchronized meditation events, which occurred on August 16–17, 1987. This event also closely coincided with an exceptional alignment of planets in the Solar System.

Although the event had been predicted by author Tony Shearer in his book Lord of the Dawn (1971), the principal organizer of the Harmonic Convergence event was José Argüelles.

According to Shearer's interpretation of Aztec cosmology, the selected date marked the end of twenty-two cycles of 52 years each, or 1,144 years in all. The twenty-two cycles were divided into thirteen "heaven" cycles, which began in AD 843 and ended in 1519, when the nine "hell" cycles began, ending 468 years later in 1987. The very beginning of the nine "hell" cycles was precisely the day that Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico, April 22, 1519 (coinciding with "1 Reed" on the Aztec/Mayan calendar, the day sacred to Mesoamerican cultural hero Quetzalcoatl). The 9 hell cycles of 52 years each ended precisely on August 16–17, 1987. Shearer introduced the dates and the prophecy to Arguelles in 1970, and he eventually co-opted them and created the name Harmonic Convergence as the public title of the event.

The timing of the Harmonic Convergence was allegedly significant in the Maya calendar, with some consideration also given to European and Asian astrological traditions. The chosen dates have the distinction of allegedly marking a planetary alignment with the Sun, Moon and six out of eight planets being "part of the grand trine." Though Arguelles eventually connected the timing of the Harmonic Convergence with his understanding of the significance of Maya calendrics, the dates themselves were derived not from Maya cosmology but from Tony Shearer's reconstructed Aztec prophecies. The next predicted Harmonic convergence ( aligning of planets) will be in 2019 (3,03,19)

Herbert Spinden

Herbert Joseph Spinden (1879–1967) was an American anthropologist, archeologist and art historian who specialized in the study of Native American cultures of the US and Mesoamerica. In 1936 he was president of the American Anthropological Association. He was born in Huron, South Dakota. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1909 at Harvard where he specialized in Maya art under the direction of Alfred Tozzer, he then worked American Museum of Natural History where he undertook archeological studies in Mexico and Central America. While working as an archeologist in Central America he and Sylvanus G. Morley were among the American scientists gathering intelligence for the US Army. He then curated the collection of the Peabody Museum at Harvard, before taking museum positions in Brooklyn and Buffalo. He also did ethnographic studies among the Nez Percé. In 1919 he published a study of Maya calendrics giving a correlation between the Maya calendar and the gregorian calendar - a correlation which was nonetheless not widely accepted.

Howler monkey gods

Among the Classic Mayas, the howler monkey god was a major deity of the arts—including music—and a patron of the artisans, especially of the scribes and sculptors. As such, his sphere of influence overlapped with that of the Tonsured Maize God. The monkey patrons—there are often two of them—have been depicted on Classic vases in the act of writing books (while stereotypically holding an ink nap) and carving human heads. Together, these two activities may have constituted a metaphor for the creation of mankind, with the book containing the birth signs and the head the life principle or 'soul', an interpretation reinforced by the craftsman titles of the creator gods in the Popol Vuh.Based on its facial features, the stone sculpture of a seated writer found within the House of the Scribes in Copan is often described as a howler monkey. However, it is the two large statues of simian figures shaking rattles (see fig.), found on both sides of the 'Reviewing Stand' of Copan's temple 11, that approach much more closely the standard representation of this animal in Maya art and in Long Count inscriptions (including the snakes in the corners of the mouth). Variously described as wind gods and as 'were-monkeys' and ritual clowns, these statues may actually represent howler monkeys in their quality of musicians. A ceramic incense burner modeled like a howler monkey scribe has been found at Post-classic Mayapan.At the time of the Spanish invasion, the howler monkeys continued to be venerated, although the role they played in mythological narratives diverged. Bartolomé de las Casas stated that in the Alta Verapaz, Hun-Ahan (probably 'One-Woodcarver') and Hun-Cheven (Hun-Chowen in the Popol Vuh) were counted among the thirteen sons of the upper god, and were celebrated as cosmogonic creator deities. Among the Quiché Mayas, they were less positively valued: According to the Popol Vuh, Hun-Chowen and Hun-Batz 'One-Howler Monkey' (both artists and musicians) clashed with their half-brothers, the Maya Hero Twins, a conflict which led to their humiliating transformation into monkeys.

In the mantic calendar, Howler Monkey (Batz), corresponding to Spider Monkey (Ozomatli) in the Aztec system, denotes the 11th day, which is associated with the arts. In the Long Count (see Maya calendar), the Howler Monkey can personify the day-unit, which connects him to the priestly arts of calendrical reckoning and divination, as well as to ritualistic and historical knowledge.

Iglesia de Santo Tomás

The Iglesia de Santo Tomás is a Roman Catholic church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. It is located in the market place of the town which is known for its pottery and contains the Chichicastenango Regional Museum. It was built around 1545 atop a Pre-Columbian temple platform, and the steps originally leading to a temple of the pre-Hispanic Maya civilization remain venerated. K'iche' Maya priests still use the church for their rituals, burning incense and candles. Each of the 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Maya calendar year. Another key element of Chichicastenango is the Cofradia of Pascual Abaj, which is an ancient carved stone venerated nearby and the Maya priests perform several rituals there. Writing on the stone records the doings of a king named Tohil (Fate).

John E. Teeple

John Edgar Teeple (January 4, 1874 – March 23, 1931) was a chemical engineer who served as President of The Chemists' Club from 1921-1922 and received the Perkin Medal in 1927 for his work on potash during World War I.He was also an American researcher and contributor to the field of Mesoamerican studies during the first half of the 20th century. He published several papers on the epigraphy and astronomy of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, and he is most noted for being the first to decipher the nature and meaning of the series of glyphs in the Maya writing system known as the "Supplementary Series", proving they referred to the position of a given day in the lunar cycle.

The mathematically adept Teeple was encouraged into the field of Maya studies by his friend, the Mesoamerican scholar Sylvanus G. Morley, one of the foremost Mayanist researchers of his day. By this time (the mid-1920s), although a few details relating to the functioning of the Maya calendar system and some astronomical notation had been worked out, the great majority of ancient Maya inscriptions and glyphs remained mysterious and undeciphered.

John Major Jenkins

John Major Jenkins (1964 – 2 July 2017) was an American author and pseudoscientific researcher. He is best known for his works that theorize certain astronomical and esoteric connections of the calendar systems used by the Maya civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. His writings are particularly associated with 2012 millenarianism and the development of Mayanism in contemporary and popular culture, as an outgrowth from the New Age milieu. He is one of the principal people who have promoted the idea that the ancient Maya calendar ends on 21 December 2012 and this portended major changes for the Earth. He has self-published a number of books through his Four Ahau Press.

He died on 2 July 2017 from cancer of the kidney at the age of 53.


A kʼatun (Mayan pronunciation: [kʼaˈtun]) is a unit of time in the Maya calendar equal to 20 tuns or 7,200 days, equivalent to 19.713 tropical years. It is the 2nd digit on the normal Maya long count date. For example, in the Maya Long Count date (December 5, 2006), the number 19 is the kʼatun.

The end of the kʼatun was marked by numerous ceremonies and at Tikal the construction of large twin pyramid complexes to host them. The kʼatun was also used to reckon the age of rulers. Those who lived to see four (or five) kʼatuns would take the title 4-(or 5-)kʼatun lord. In the Postclassic period when the full Long Count gave way to the Short Count, the Maya continued to keep a reckoning of kʼatuns, differentiating them by the Calendar Round date on which they began. Each kʼatun had its own set of prophecies and associations.

Lords of the Night

In Mesoamerican mythology the Lords of the Night (Classical Nahuatl: Yoalteuctin) are a set of nine gods who each ruled over every ninth night forming a calendrical cycle. Each lord was associated with a particular fortune, bad or good, that was an omen for the night that they ruled over.The lords of the night are known in both the Aztec and Maya calendar, although the specific names of the Maya Night Lords are unknown.The glyphs corresponding to the night gods are known and mayanists identify them with labels G1 to G9, the G series. Generally, these glyphs are frequently used with a fixed glyph coined F. The only Mayan light lord that has been identified is the God G9,Pauahtun the Aged Quadripartite God.The existence of a 9 nights cycle in Mesoamerican calendrics was first discovered in 1904 by Eduard Seler. The Aztec names of the Deities are known because their names are glossed in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Tudela. Seler argued that the 9 lords each corresponded to one of the nine levels of the under world and ruled the corresponding hour of the night time, this argument has not generally been accepted, since the evidence suggests that the lord of a given night ruled over that entire night. Zelia Nuttall argued that the Nine Lords of the Night represented the nine moons of the Lunar year. The cycle of the Nine Lords of the Night held special relation to the Mesoamerican ritual calendar of 260-days and nights or -night which includes exactly 29 groups of 9 nights each, and also, approximately, 9 vague lunations of 29 days each.

The Nine Lords of the Night in Aztec mythology are:

Xiuhtecuhtli ("Turquoise/Year/Fire Lord")

Tezcatlipoca ("Smoking Mirror")

Piltzintecuhtli ("Prince Lord")

Centeotl ("Maize God")

Mictlantecuhtli ("Underworld Lord")

Chalchiuhtlicue ("Jade Is Her Skirt")

Tlazolteotl ("Filth God[dess]")

Tepeyollotl ("Mountain Heart")

Tlaloc (Rain God)

Maya numerals

The Mayan numeral system was the system to represent numbers and calendar dates in the Maya civilization. It was a vigesimal (base-20) positional numeral system. The numerals are made up of three symbols; zero (shell shape, with the plastron uppermost), one (a dot) and five (a bar). For example, thirteen is written as three dots in a horizontal row above two horizontal bars; sometimes it is also written as three vertical dots to the left of two vertical bars. With these three symbols each of the twenty vigesimal digits could be written.

Numbers after 19 were written vertically in powers of twenty. The Mayan used powers of twenty, just as the Hindu–Arabic numeral system uses powers of tens. For example, thirty-three would be written as one dot, above three dots atop two bars. The first dot represents "one twenty" or "1×20", which is added to three dots and two bars, or thirteen. Therefore, (1×20) + 13 = 33. Upon reaching 202 or 400, another row is started (203 or 8000, then 204 or 160,000, and so on). The number 429 would be written as one dot above one dot above four dots and a bar, or (1×202) + (1×201) + 9 = 429.

Other than the bar and dot notation, Maya numerals were sometimes illustrated by face type glyphs or pictures. The face glyph for a number represents the deity associated with the number. These face number glyphs were rarely used, and are mostly seen on some of the most elaborate monumental carving.

Mesoamerican calendars

Mesoamerican calendars are the calendrical systems devised and used by the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Besides keeping time, Mesoamerican calendars were also used in religious observances and social rituals, such as for divination.

The existence of Mesoamerican calendars is known as early as ca. 500 BCE, with the essentials already appearing fully defined and functional. These calendars are still used today in the Guatemalan highlands, Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.

Mesoamerican creation myths

Mesoamerican creation myths are the collection of creation myths attributed to, or documented for, the various cultures and civilizations of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and Mesoamerican literature.

The Maya gods included Kukulkán (also known by the K'iche' name Gukumatz and the Aztec name Quetzalcoatl) and Tepeu. The two were referred to as the Creators, the Forefathers or the Makers. According to the story, the two gods decided to preserve their legacy by creating an Earth-bound species looking like them. The first attempt was man made from mud, but Tepeu and Kukulkán found that the mud crumbled. The two gods summoned the other gods, and together they decided to make man from wood. However, since these men had no soul and soon lost loyalty to the creators, the gods destroyed them by rain. Finally, man was constructed from maize, the Mayans staple and sacred food. The deity Itzamna is credited as being the creator of the calendar along with creating writing.


Prodesis was a development project in the Lacandon region of Chiapas, Mexico, that ran from 2004 to 2008.

The aim of the project was to reduce pressure on the rainforest and combat poverty among its inhabitants, most of them being Mayan Indians and subsistence peasants.

Songs for the End of the World

Songs for the End of the World is the 15th studio album by rock musician Rick Springfield. The album was released in four versions, each with its own steampunk-themed cover art and unique bonus content. The album title is a reference to the Maya calendar.


Tzolkʼin (Mayan pronunciation: [t͡sol ˈkʼin], formerly and commonly tzolkin) is the name bestowed by Mayanists on the 260-day Mesoamerican calendar originated by the Maya civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

The tzolkʼin, the basic cycle of the Maya calendar, is a preeminent component in the society and rituals of the ancient and the modern Maya. The tzolkʼin is still in use by several Maya communities in the Guatemalan highlands. Its use is marginal but spreading in this region, although opposition from Evangelical Christian converts continues in some communities.

The word tzolkʼin, meaning "division of days", is a western coinage in Yukatek Maya. There are various terms in actual use in the languages of Maya groups who have maintained an unbroken count for over 500 years: The Kʼicheʼ use the term Aj Ilabal Qʼij [aχ ilaɓal ʠiχ] or Rajilabal Kʼij [ɾaχ ilaɓal ʠiχ], 'the sense of the day' or 'the round of the days' and the Kaqchikel use the term Chol Qʼij [tʃol ʠiχ], 'the organization of time'. The names of this calendar as used by the pre-Columbian Maya are not widely known. The corresponding Postclassic Aztec calendar, was called tonalpohualli, in the Nahuatl language.


A veintena is the Spanish-derived name for a 20-day period used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican calendars. The division is often casually referred to as a "month", although it is not coordinated with the lunar cycle. The term is most frequently used with respect to the 365-day Aztec calendar, the xiuhpohualli, although 20-day periods are also used in the 365-day Maya calendar (the Mayan tun), as well as by other Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Zapotec and Mixtec.

The 365-day cycle is divided into 18 veintenas of 20 days each, giving 360 days; an additional 5 "nameless days" or nemontemi are appended to bring the total to 365.The name used for these periods in pre-Columbian times is unknown. In Nahuatl, the word for "twenty days" is cempōhualilhuitl [sempoːwalˈilwit͡ɬ] from the words cempōhualli [sempoːˈwalːi] "twenty" and ilhuitl [ˈilwit͡ɬ] "day". Through Spanish usage, the 20-day period of the Aztec calendar has become commonly known as a veintena. The Aztec word for moon is metztli, and this word is today to describe these 20-day periods, although as the sixteenth-century missionary and early ethnographer, Diego Durán explained:

In ancient times the year was composed of eighteen months, and thus it was observed by these Indian people. Since their months were made of no more than twenty days, these were all the days contained in a month, because they were not guided by the moon but by the days; therefore, the year had eighteen months. The days of the year were counted twenty by twenty.

Each 20-day period started on a Cipactli (Crocodile) day of the tonalpohualli for which a festival was held. The eighteen veintena are listed below. The dates in the chart are from the early eyewitnesses, Diego Durán and Bernardino de Sahagún. Each wrote what they learned from Nahua informants. Sahagún's date precedes the Durán's observations by several decades and is believed to be more recent to the Aztec surrender to the Spanish. Both are shown to emphasize the fact that the beginning of the Native new year became non-uniform as a result of an absence of the unifying force of Tenochtitlan after the Mexica defeat.

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