The Mayan Calendar

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The Mayans originated in Mesoamerica, the region between Southern Mexico and South America. It was the home to many other cultures, including the Aztec. The Mayans were the first to keep historical records.  They used stone monuments to carve their historical records in.  They had created four different calendars, depending on their needs.

The Tzolk’in Calendar was the first one used by the ancient Mayans.  It consists of 260 days which is believed to be based on the fact that it would take 260 days to cultivate corn.  Some believe that it was just merely based on numbers since numbers played a significant role in the Mayan culture.  The number 13 and 20 were important numbers.  The calendar was made up of 20 day names and 13 numbers, the human body made up of 20 digits and 13 major joints in the human body.  The Mayans also believed that the date of birth determines certain characteristics a personality shows.  The calendar was used to plant and harvest corn.  At the beginning of each uinal, which is a period of 20 days, shamans would determine when certain ceremonial events would take part.

The Haab calendar is similar to the calendar we use today.  It is based on the cycle of the sun.  It consists of 18 uinals where each day has its own hieroglyph and number, totaling up to 360 days.  Since the sun wasn’t able to complete a full solar circle in 360 days, it was later on agreed on keeping the 18 uinals, but adding five nameless days, called the wayeb.  The Mayans considered the wayeb time the dangerious time.  They believed that the Gods were resting during that time, leaving the earth unprotected.  They performed ceremonies to keep evil away and to invite the Gods to return.

Since the Tzolk`in and the Haab Calendars didn’t count more than one year, the Mayans created the Calendar Round, counting 18,890 unique days, adding up to a period of about 52 years.  Still not completely satisified, they wanted to create a calendar that would take them through thousands of years.

The long count Calendar turned out to be a bit more complicated.  One day is referred to as a kin, 20 days as a uinal, 360 days as a tun, 7200 days as a katun, and 144,000 days as a baktun.  One span of the Long Count calendar is referred to as the Great Cycle which lasts 5125.36 years.  Determining when the last cycle began was quite a challenge.  An English anthropologist by the name of Sir Eric Thompson was determined to figure out the date with the help of the Spanish Inquisition.  Events during that time were recorded on the Mayan Long Count Calendar and the Gregorian Calendar.  This information was matched and then compared to the Dresden Codex, a Mayan document that survived the Inquisition.  This codex confirmed the beginning of the current Great Cycle on August 13th, 3114 BC.

In the recent years, many doomsday-believers refer to the Mayan Calendar as a time-bomb with a fast approaching explosion date of December 21, 2012.  There have been countless theories how the world is going to end.  Regardless of this, the Mayans don’t actually believe that the world will perish at the end of this current great Cycle.  In fact, they believe that it will be a time of celebration and rejuvenation.

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