The Mayan calendar is a system used during the Mayan civilization period. This system of calculating days and months began sometime in the 5th century BCE. The Mayan culture is still prevailing among a few cultures that are residing in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and parts of Mexico.
WHO WERE THE MAYANS?
The Mayan civilization was once the most advanced of all civilizations in history. Maya was the name of the language they used to communicate, hence they are known as Mayans. The Mayan people excelled in agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making, mathematics, and creative architecture.
Though they excelled in many arts, they were best known for making calendars. The art and architectural works of Mayans are still being excavated in some parts of Mexico. Excavations of several Mayan sites have unearthed plazas, palaces, temples, and pyramids, as well as courts for playing the famous Maya ball game ‘Ulama’. By 900 AD, the Mayan civilization had collapsed due to many reasons, including drought, low crop yield, and overpopulation.
OVERVIEW OF THE MAYAN CALENDAR
The Mayan Calendars are a hieroglyph-heavy calendar composed of three interlocking calendars, unlike the more common solar-based calendars used in ancient times. Some sources say that the Mayans only contributed to the development of the calendars, and that they did not invent those calendars. Some of the features present in Mayan calendars are similar to the Gregorian calendar.
According to the Mayan calendar’s prediction, 2012 was supposed to be the end of the world. A Hollywood movie called ‘2012’ also portrayed the end of the world in 2012. However, the new prediction from the Mayan calendar claims that the world will end on the 21st of June, 2020.
HOW DOES THE MAYAN CALENDAR WORK?
The Mayan Calendar consists three separate calendars (also called wheels) which were used in tandem. They are:
- The Long Count
- The Tzolkin (divine calendar)
- The Haab (civil calendar)
Each of these calendars is cyclic, conveying that a certain number of days must occur before a new cycle can begin. This is the basic calculation of days and months in the Mayan calendar from the three wheels working together.
- The Long Count
The Long Count is an astronomical calendar which is used to calculate longer duration of time. The Maya called it the “universal cycle.” The Long Count comes with a cycle of 5,126 years. Each of these cycles is calculated to be 2,880,000 days long (about 7885 solar years). The Mayans believed that the universe would be destroyed and then recreated at the start of each universal cycle. According to this belief, 2012 was claimed as the end of the world.
- The Tzolkin(divine calendar)
The Tzolkin translates to “the distribution of the days.” It is also called the Divine Calendar, and the Sacred Round. It was used to plan religious ceremonies to worship God. This calendar has 260 days with 20 periods, with 13 days in each period. The days in each period are sequenced and numbered from 1 to 13. Each day is given a name (glyph) from a sequence of 20 day names. Hence, by using these calculations, the Tzolkin calendar of the Mayan calendar was used as a divine calendar.
- The Haab (civil calendar)
The Haab is a 365-day calendar that is divided into 19 months. Each of these months have 20 days, and one of the months has just 5 days. The Haab calendar was used as a harvest calendar, which helped to predict the planting of crops and their sowing times. This calendar has an outer ring of Mayan glyphs (pictures) which indicates all of the 19 months. These glyphs represent the personalities associated with each month. Each day is represented by a number in the month, followed by the name and glyph of the month. The Haab calendar calculation is somewhat inaccurate, as it is exactly 365 days long. In today’s Gregorian calendar, we adjust for this discrepancy by adding an extra day to the calendar once in every four years. Every such year to which an extra day is added is now known as a leap year.
Thus, the Long Count, the Tzolkin (divine calendar), the Haab (civil calendar) calendars, or the wheels work together to form the Mayan calendar.
HOW TO SET THE DATE IN THE MAYAN CALENDAR USING THE WHEELS?
A researcher at New Mexico State University, in his book “The Maya Calendar: A Book of Months” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017) explained the origin, working, and everything else there is to know about the Mayan calendar. His book is one of the major sources to understand the workings of a Mayan calendar.
A date in the Mayan calendar is identified by its position in both the Tzolkin and Haab calendars. This creates a total of 18,980 unique date combinations. These combinations of dates are used to identify each day within a cycle of about 52 years. This period is called the Calendar Round. This arrangement and combination of dates shows that the ancient Mayans had developed and designed their calendars with skill and logic.
To set a date in the Mayan calendar, the combinations of dates are represented by two wheels, which are rotated in different directions. The smallest wheel consists of 260 teeth, with each one having the name of the days of the Tzolkin calendar. The larger wheel consists of 365 teeth, and has the name of each of the positions of the Haab calendar. As both wheels rotate in different directions, the name of every Tzolkin day corresponds to a prefixed Haab position. Further, to set a date, the number of days from the “creation date” is counted, using the Long Count calendar. Thus, it is evident that the use of all three calendars [(the Long Count, the Tzolkin (divine calendar), the Haab (civil calendar)] in the Mayan calendar are required to set the date.
The following terms are used in the Long Count calendar to count the days and to set the date.
- Kin = day
- Uinal = month
- Tun = year
- Katun = 20 years
- Baktun = 20 katuns (or 400 years)
The kin, tun, and katun in the Long count calendar are numbered from zero to 19. The uinal in the Long Count calendar are numbered from zero to 17 and the baktun is numbered from one to 13. Similarly, the Long Count calendar has a cycle of 13 baktuns. These are some of the specifications in the Long Count calendar of the Mayan calendar.
THE TIMELINE OF THE ANCIENT MAYANS
The historical background of the Mayans is vast because they have lived in different time periods. The following are the time periods that marked the existence of the Mayans.
- The Archaic Period: 7000-2000 BCE
- The Olmec Period: 1500-200 BCE
- The Zapotec Period: 600 BCE-800 CE
- The Teotihuacan Period: 200-900 CE
- The Classic Maya Period: 250-950 CE
- The Post-Classic Period: 950-1524 CE
The timeline shows the Mayan period from the beginning of Mayan civilization to the end of Mayan civilization. However, it is not a confirmed fact that the Mayans do not exist as of today.
MAYAN CIVILIZATION: A FACTUAL RUN THROUGH
- Mayans were chocolate eaters.
- The Mayans had pretty intense beauty regimens.
● The Mayans were skillful enough to built cities in the jungle
● They were great astronomers and predicted the movements of the sun, moon, stars, and even planets.
THE MAYAN CULTURE TODAY
The Mayan civilization has not completely vanished. There are modern Mayan people who live and farm the same land that their ancestors once lived on. A small population of the Mayans lives in what are present-day lands of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and parts of Mexico. They maintain their traditions and beliefs, which was inspired by their ancestors. Some of them still follow the Mayan calendar instead of the normal Gregorian calendar.
The Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world as 21st June 2020. Is this as faulty as their 2012 prediction, or will it hold up to their skill as calendar-makers? Only time will tell.