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Mayan Calendar (was Re: The New Year)

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Tuesday, January 21, 2003, 22:14
Nik Taylor writes:
 > James Landau wrote:
 > > I'm thinking of having them give a name to every day of the month like
 > > on the Mayan calendar
 > They didn't actually have a name of each day of the month.  They
 > had a 20-day week.  As the months were 20 days each that meant that
 > within a single year the first of each month had the same name, the
 > second of each month had the same name, etc., but, there was also a
 > 5-day "month" at the end of the year, with no interruption of the
 > 20-day month, so that the next year would start with a different
 > day of that 20-day week.

Now, I'm not sure I can agree with this.  It's not strictly wrong, but
it's not usual to relate the days of the tzolkin to the months of the

The Maya did have a cycle of 20 named days (calling it either a "week"
or a "month" is something of a semantic stretch).  This ran
concurrently with a cycle of 13 numbered days.  The combination of the
name of the day in the 20-day cycle and the number of the day in the
13-day cycle is the date in the _tzolkin_, a cycle of 260 days (this
is how long it takes the 20 and 13 day cycles to come back into
alignment).  Today (2003-01-21) is 9 Etznab.  Yesterday was 8 Caban
and tomorrow will be 10 Cauac.

Running parallel to the tzolkin was an entirely independant cycle, the
_haab_, a year of 365 days divided into 18 months of 20 days and a
short month of 5 days at the end of the year.  Today is 11 Muan,
yesterday was 10 Muan and tomorrow will be 12 Muan.

Taking the tzolkin and haab dates together gives us a calendar round
date (9 Etznab 11 Muan).  This combination will not recur for 18980
days (52 years).

There was also a cycle of 9 days known (by archaeologists, by analogy
with a similar feature in the Aztec calendar) as the "lords of the
night".  A particular combination of a lord of the night with a
calendar round date recurs once every 467 years.

In addition to all these cycles, linear time was recorded by a
seperate system based on a 360 day year (the _tun_), composed of 18
20-day months (this month called a _uinal_, and each day a _kin_).  20
tuns = 1 _katun_.  20 katuns = 1 _baktun_.  Higher units also existed
in the same vigesimal system.  This system is known as the long count.
It records the number of kins, uinals, tuns, baktuns, katuns etc to
have passed since August 13th, 3114 BC, which was 4 Ahau 8 Cumku and
ruled by the 9th lord of the night.  Today's date in the long count is (18 kins, 16 uinals, etc).


Nik Taylor <yonjuuni@...>