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The Mayan Calendar (Fear the end of the 13th Baktun!) December 17, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: , ,

According to some, the world is about to end on December 21st.  Of course, those people are pretty ignorant.

You see, the Mayan calendar “ends” on that date.  I use the quotes there because the Mayan concept of time was more cyclical, and all that will happen is the Mayan long count will reach the date, the end of the 13th baktun, which will mean, well, nothing really.

But today I’m not going to find a bunch of nut jobs to quote and rebut concerning this stupd “prophecy,” while making comments about how skepticism is da shiznit.  Today, I’m going to post what was a paper about the Mayan Calendar and their concept of time.  This was written in the Spring of 1998 (long before anyone was making a fuss about the 2012 issue, I think, so it does not come up in the paper), and was completed and turned in on April 20th, 1998; or what was the Mayan date of

I will not blame you for skipping this one, as it is fairly dry and is after all a term paper from a college sophomore.  But in case you wanted to learn a little something about the Mayan calendar, here’s one way to do so.

I have made some minor edits, and included some images.


Time and the the Mayan Calendar


We can admire the Maya for many things including their monumental temples and their wonderful hieroglyphic writing found on countless Stelae and other monuments throughout the Yucatan lowlands and Guatemalan highlands. But when we study the Maya in depth we discover that they had very old and very solid roots in things like agriculture that dealt with religious rituals and seasonal changes. Related to these things very directly were a complex set of calendars and time keeping systems that acted as a axis for all of their religious and secular activity. The Maya had calendars—plural—meaning that not one system of time-keeping was used, but three (maybe four, depending on how technical we want to be). These different time-keeping mechanisms were based on different cycles and were not alike in most ways but were related in very clear-cut and significant ways.

Of the three time keeping devices, the two calendars that were used were the sacred 260-day calendar—tzolkin—and the 365 day calendar known as the haab. Both were very different from our Gregorian calendar in structure as well as mechanics and combined to create a cycle of 18,980 days, slightly less than 52 solar years (Meyer 1). This 52-year cycle in known as the calendar round to the Maya and is significant because it is the amount of time that the tzolkin and the haab, running in unison, will not repeat. In a sense, the calendar round worked for the Maya like the century does in our calendar. The third time keeping method of the Maya is the Long Count dating method. When dates are found in Mayan sites the date is recorded using this method, along side the tzolkin and haab dates, which allowed us to coordinate the systems for our understanding.

The last mechanism worthy of mention is the very specific calculated solar year of 365.2422 days which is mentioned here to establish that the Maya were very aware that their 365-day haab, also known as the Vague Year, was not perfect in calculating the solar year. However, the Maya made no attempt to account for this difference by use of a leap day as we do because of the delicate relationship between the haab and the Tzolkin. If every four years another day is added to the haab, then the cycles of the year bearers (that will be discussed later) and their significance to the Maya would disappear. It is also important to note that despite the fact that the Maya did not use a leap day, they were very aware of and measured closely the effects of this decision, i.e. the accumulated change in seasons as the years cycled (Thompson 121).

Throughout this paper I will be using Mayan names for the days and Uinals (20-day “months”) in the Yucatec language as recorded in Sir J. Eric S. Thompson’s book, Maya Hieroglyphic Writing (pages 68, 106 respectively) and sometimes followed by the Quiché equivalent, found in Tedlock’s book on page 89, in parentheses. Example: Yucatec (Quiché). This will be done as to not confuse the different spellings or words used to express the same days or Uinals in different languages. The other names of days from the other Maya languages are included in the attached section #3.

The Mayan conception of time was by no means elementary or simple; “Mayan astronomers at Palenque were recording calculations which sweep more than 1, 250, 000 years into the past, and then foreword to dates over four millennia in the future” (Thompson 141). It is a controversial topic of whether the unit of time for the Maya was the day or the tun (360-days). If it was the tun, which can be vaguely called a year, then the kins (days) and Uinals (20 days) are just fractions of this basic unit like minutes and seconds are fractions of an hour. From the evidence that Thompson gives us in his book it seems as if the tun would be the more likely candidate for the unit of Maya time because of the large scale view of time that the Maya held—they seemed to think bigger. In his discussion of he Long Count Eric Thompson believes that the unit of time was the tun on the grounds of evidence such as the Chilam Bilam and other sources that refer to time periods in years more and more and days less and less. Also, as he states, if the Maya count were based on the day then “it would be logical to expect a straightforward vigesimal system with a year of 400 days” (Thompson 141-142). But as I will point out, the Maya did not use a pure vigesimal system, and they did not have a calendar of 400 days.

The Long Count:

The Long count was based on a vigesimal counting system, that is, a system of counting based on 20 instead of the decimal system we use. As the system is difficult to understand, and as I write this I find it harder to describe, I will use a description used by John Major Jenkins in his article Introduction to the Mayan Calendar:

It is written using dots to indicate placement values (for example: The leftward placements are of higher value. The Long Count dating method is based on a hierarchical day-count based on twenty. The above date represents the passage of 8 baktuns, 15 katuns, 6 tuns, zero uinals, and four days since the zero date (Jenkins 5).

Here is an adapted version of the table that Jenkins provides for us on the same page:

Long Count Periods (read right to left) Number of Days
1 kin = 1 day 1
20 days = I uinal 20
18 uinal = 1 tun 360
20 tuns = 1 katun 7200
20 katuns = 1 baktun 144,000
13 baktuns = 1 Great Cycle 1,872,000 (around 5,125 years)

And compare it to a pure vigesimal system:

Placement of number (right to left) Number of days
1 (comparable to the kin) 1
2 (“ “ “ Uinal) 20
3 (“ “ “ tun) 400
4 (“ “ “ katun) 8,000
5 (“ “ “ baktun) 160,000

As the tables above show, the Mayan Long Count, although based on the vigesimal counting system, is not a pure vigesimal system. The system of counting was altered slightly from the system used for counting objects as Peter Meyer reaffirms in his article The Maya Calendar:

When counting days, however, the Mayas used a system in which the first place [starting from the right] (as usual) had a value of 1, the second place had a value of 20, but the third place had a value not of 400 (20*20) [as a pure vigesimal system would] but of 360 (18*20). (This may have been due to the fact that 360 is close to the length of the year in days.) The value of higher places continued regularly with 7,200 (20*18*20), 144,000 (20*20*18*20), etc. (Meyer 1).

Based on the Mayan counting system, the Long Count dates events by stating how many days have passed since 3113 or 3114 BC (this depends on whether we use the Julian or Gregorian calendar, respectively). This dating method is used instead of the combination of the tzolkin and haab dates because the calendar round will repeat every 52 years, making the combination of a tzolkin and haab dates insufficient for dating events because any date, for example 1 Imix 2 Pop, will occur every 52 years or so, meaning that seeing this date on a stele will not tell us which revolution of the calendar round the event occurred, but only limits the possibilities to days that occur every 52 years.


Tzolkin“The Tzolkin, Mayan name derived from the word tzol which means “to put in order”, and kin that means ‘day’ (Imagenet. Origins, p. 1).” The Tzolkin calendar is the more complex and unfamiliar to us as compared to the haab and was under the control of certain individuals, called “daykeepers,” who had the responsibility of keeping track of the days and performing the rituals associated with them. Overall, the Tzolkin seems to have been a “divinatory almanac,” as Eric Thompson calls it in his book, meaning that it was used as a basis for predicting the future and what we might call fortune-telling. The days were actually considered gods or lords that carried the burden hence ruled each particular day name. Life surrounded by the Tzolkin was “not monotonous” says Thompson, the days followed “in unbroken succession, each bringing its charge of weal or woe” (Thompson, p. 66).

The Tzolkin was broken up into 13 day numbers and 20 day names. Here is the list of days and their equivalent names in the Quiché language. The numbers are present to list the sequence, do not confuse them with the day numbers mentioned above:1.Imix (Imöx)


Mayan glyphs for 20 day names

2.Ik (Ik´)

3.Akbal (Ak´bal)

4.Kan (C´at)

5.Chiccan (Can)

6.Cimi (Came)

7.Manik (Quej)

8.Lamat (K´anil)

9.Muluc (Toj)

10.Oc Tz´i´

tzolkin (1)

an alternate set of glyph images for the same day names

11.Chuen (Batz´)

12.Eb (E)

13.Ben (Aj)

14.Ix (Ix)


16.Cib (Ajmac)

17.Caban (No´j)

18.Eznab (Tijax)



The day names and numbers were indistinguishable from one-another as a single functioning unit with its own meaning and character. “The combination of number and day was a unit, and one part was as meaningless without the other as a telephone number is without the name of the exchange” (Thompson, p. 66). The day 13 Ahau, for instance would not be called 13, or Ahau because one without the other would be incomplete. Having one without the other is like me telling you that to make a cake you needed a half cup or saying that you needed sugar; if I gave you one then you would need the other to make sense of the directions. But despite the fact that a certain day is not identified by its name alone or its number alone, it is also clear that the day name, which is the name of that day lord, has a certain significance that differs from day to day and is separate from the number. Each day lord has his own characteristics and one day may be very different from the previous or the following. This relationship between the day names and numbers and their significance will be expanded when I discuss divination. The concepts of the advance of day names and numbers will become more clear when we establish how the mechanics of the Tzolkin works.

The numbers and days advance in unison; that is, the day name and number advanced on the beginning of a new day instead of the number advancing through what we would call a month. For instance, if today were 1 Manik then tomorrow would not be 2 Manik, but it would be 2 Lamat. This is because the day name Lamat follows the day name Manik in the sequence of days, and 2 follows 1. When, as the days progress, the number reaches 13, then the next day would be numbered as 1. And the last day arrives, then the names repeat in the same sequence from the beginning. This cycle continues indefinitely along with the haab which also cycles endlessly.

The major problem with the 260-day calendar, and to some extent the haab as well, is that there is no identifiable beginning. The Mayans saw time in cyclical terms, there is no beginning or end, it is just the kins, Uinals, tuns, and katuns rolling through time in an endless cycle.

A. . .major controversy about the 20-day calendar concerns the beginning day of the cycle. Central Mexican lists of the twenty day names usually begin with [Imix]. . .but the Mayan picture is less clear. Morley noted that ‘since the sequence of twenty day names was continuous, it is obvious that it had no beginning or ending, like the rim of a wheel: consequently, any day name may be chosen arbitrarily as the starting point.’ (Morley, Sylvanus.  An Introduction to the study of the Maya hieroglyphics.)

Despite the lack of absolute evidence for a day that begins the cycle, it is relatively accepted that Imix is the beginning day of the cycle and that the accompanying number would be 1; hence the first day of the Tzolkin is accepted as I Imix (Thompson 102, Tedlock 94). Whether or not this day actually was seen by the Maya as the beginning of the Tzolkin is something that will be argued over and may not ever be known for sure.

While talking about beginnings, it is appropriate to discuss the origins of the Tzolkin itself. Nobody is sure why the Tzolkin developed the way it did. The theory that I most widely encountered, whether in proposing it or attempting to discredit it, was that the 260-day period is very close to that of the human gestation period. Eric Thompson is a critic of this theory, saying that it “is not a very happy explanation because there is no logical reason why the period of pregnancy should be considered in establishing a divinatory almanac” (Thompson, p. 98). But despite Thompson’s critique, the theory is held by many to be reasonable and is held in veneration within the community of Mayanists.

Another prominent theory is that the 260-day period is the amount of time that the sun is south of the zenith of the latitude 14º 30´ (a little south of Copán). The problem with this theory is that this exact latitude does not accurately represent the whole of the Yucatan peninsula and the Highlands. In Some places in Yucatan the sun would be south of this zenith on as many as 311 days of the solar year (Thompson, p. 98). Thompson states that one “must Assume then that the cycle of 260 days originated on the periphery of the area in which it was current, and that, spreading northward and westward, it was eagerly adopted by peoples for whom it had no solar significance” (Thompson 98). This is the same as saying that the tzolkin was developed by someone living along the 14º 30´ latitude and spread throughout the limits of Mayan influence and accepted as it was.

Other common answers to this problem include that this cycle was created because it is the least common denominator of the numbers “13 and 20, both of which are important in Mesoamerican thought” (Tedlock 93). One version of this I found on line and sounds like this:

The time count used for corn cultivation must have been based on the initial Maya numeration which consisted of the number of fingers on both hands and feet or the number 20, a kal. The observation that 13 kal (260 days) were needed from the choosing of the location for the milpa until the burning of the felled forest patch and equal number of kal elapsed from the planting, through the growth and harvest until the corn was stored, gave origin to the first Maya calendar. (Imagenet. Origins of the Mayan Calendar, p. 1)

This may seem reasonable, but I am wary of lending this idea credibility because the idea is not sourced, hence it may just be speculation.

The most interesting [if not far-fetched] idea to me is this one from John Major Jenkins’ article;

The 260-day cycle does not directly correspond with any known astronomical period, yet it serves as a common denominator to synthesize the cycles of Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon, Earth [and] Mars (as well as the other planets). In essence, it is the key factor of all the planetary periods” (Jenkins 2).

It seems that the Mayan knowledge of astronomy was significantly advanced in calculating the movements of the massive bodies in our solar system and that the Maya may have used this knowledge to develop an unusual calendar.

The last theory of the tzolkin’s origin also deals with astronomy. Barbara Tedlock mentions “that a double tzolkin (520 days) equaled three eclipse half-years” (Tedlock 93). If I interpret this correctly then I conclude that this means that two tzolkin years would be the same time as one and one-half revolutions of the (lunar or solar?) eclipse cycle. Knowing that the Maya did calculate and predict eclipses, this theory is possible as well as the others. Whether any one of these theories, all of them (in parts), or none of them is correct, we at least have a good idea of what the Tzolkin was used for after its creation—a tool for divination.

Divination and Meaning of the day names and numbers:

Divination was believed, by at least some Maya, to involve the predicting of the future and fortune telling. The process itself is not particularly significant in this discussion because it would lead into too many directions that would go beyond the scope of this discussion of the calendars. What I would like to do is describe how the day names and numbers had significance when they were used for divination purposes. As I mentioned, each day name was considered to be a god to the Maya, and that as Thompson states they cannot be separated from the numbers and make any sense. However, in her study of the Quiché people and their rituals Tedlock disagrees with Thompson’s statement that day names and number were not separated based on the fact among the Quiché, “low numbers—1, 2, and 3—are ‘gentle,’ while the high numbers—11, 12, and 13—are ‘violent’” (Tedlock 107). Generally, what this means is that the higher the number along with the day name, the more serious or more severe the meaning of the day name and vice-versa relative to the value, good or bad, of the day god.

I will not describe all 20 days but will focus on how one day name—Imix–is evaluated from two different texts (Tedlock spends a whole chapter on the 20 days that is longer than this paper, thus I am doing myself and the reader a service by not discussing all of them). The mnemonic meaning that Barbara Tedlock discusses refers to her discussion of the meanings and associated phrases among the Quiché people of the Guatemala highlands. As she says in her book, “in actual practice the names [of days] are ‘read’ not as words in themselves but as a kind of oral rebus for quite other words; these other words are linked to the day name by means of paronomasia—that is, by means of poetic sound play” (Tedlock 107). In considering this, we must be aware that Tedlock’s study of the day names comes from her experience with more modern-day highland descendants of the Maya who do not share the same words as the majority of the Maya whom Eric Thompson discusses in his book. Thus, we must be aware that both of the discussions of the day names are coming from two different researchers getting their information from different places and times recorded in different languages.

Imix, according to Thompson, means the earth crocodile “whose back formed the surface of the earth” (Thompson 73) or more generally the earth and the abundance that is related to the earth. Thompson believes that this is due to the fact that the Quiche (possibly the same as Tedlock’s Quiché) associate Imox (their name for the day) with the earth god Mo´x. Whether this association is fortuitous or the two words have a common origin is unclear although Thompson seems to agree with the latter of the two possibilities (Thompson 71). The Mexican equivalent to Imix is Cipacti which symbolizes the earth crocodile. The word Cipacti itself translates loosely into “spiny creature” and the Aztec word for this day also means crocodile. The word Imox, which is similar to the modern Quiché word for this day, refers to the ceiba tree which symbolizes the abundance of mother earth in Maya religion. Thus, it seems reasonable to say that Imix at least vaguely represents the earth and hence the earth crocodile (Thompson 72-73).

Tedlock’s equivalent word for Imix is Imöx (Quiché) and she gives a different description than Thompson does. Tedlock’s approach is to break down the word into its “mnemonic phrases” and describe when the rituals are performed according to the number of the day. How she connects the word Imöx with the phrases “camöxiric (‘one becomes crazy’), nimalaj c´ulel (‘a big enemy’), and cumatz rib chiquiwäch Mam (‘humble oneself before the Mam [year-bearer]’)” (Tedlock 125) is unclear to me, however. The number of the day along with the name further defines the meaning of the day. Some of the rituals involved with this day are dependent on the number; according to Tedlock, on day Imöx numbers 1, 6, and 8, a daykeeper, someone who keeps the 260-day calendar, visits an appropriate public shrine and humbles himself or herself before the Mam (year-bearer) as to not be dominated by their power (which makes one go crazy). On high numbered Imöx days the diviners go to mountaintop shrines to present themselves to the Mam, asking the Mam to dominate persons, in the form of mental and physical sickness, who have used witchcraft against others—hence the “big enemy” (ibid.)

When divination is being performed the day Imix, say in the case of divination for an illness, indicates that an enemy (c´ulel) has asked a diviner for the illness to be put upon you (probably from a shrine on the top of a mountain on a high numbered Imix day). In a marriage divination, the presence of Imix indicates that the desired woman would cause the client to become crazy through unfaithfulness or other malign action (Tedlock 125). A final example of how the day names are used in divination is that a “child born on Imöx will be dominated by the power of the Mam. As a result, he or she will be weak, inefficient, undirected, even insane” (ibid. 126). It is relatively easy to see that the divinatory calendar was and still is highly interconnected with daily life and Mayan thought. It was not like the haab, which is almost purely a secular system for counting days [a separation of religious and secular calendars].

The Haab—365-day calendar:

The word haab is also referred to as the vague year and seems to mean “cycle of rains” (Jenkins 2). Unlike the tzolkin the haab is more like the Gregorian calendar than the tzolkin is in that the haab is broken down into what we could call months consisting of numbers for days. The haab is a 365-day cycle that is divided into 18 Uinals of 20 days each and a short month called Uayeb 5 unlucky days added, usually, to the end of the year. The word Uayeb means “unnamed” and therefore the 5 days are not named but do include many rituals. Each Uinal name has its meaning much like the days of the tzolkin do as we saw with my example of Imix. Here is a list of the Uinals starting with Pop, Uo, Zip, etc. which is where most people seem to start the haab:











The Burden (see below)










Uayeb (5 days)

Like our calendar, each Uinal starts on a day and continues until all the 20 days are through then moves to the next month. The problem comes about when we start looking into the numbers and what the first day of the month is. This has to do with what is referred to as the “seating” of the month.

As Eric Thompson discusses, most Mayan scholars have accepted that the first day of the Uinal is denoted as 0 Pop, 0 Uo, etc. This view holds that the day after 19 Pop would be 0 Uo and this would be the seating of the month. Thompson has quarrels with this on the basis of evidence that he has seen and discusses in depth in his book. “From all we know of the Maya philosophy of time and from all we can gather from the glyphs, the Maya were interested in recording the completion of time” (Thompson 119) is how he begins the argument. He concludes that “the days of the months were numbered 1-19, and that the day between the nineteenth of one month and the first of the subsequent month was usually called the seating of the new month, but sometimes was called the last of the old month. It is possible that ‘seating of’ is not the correct translation” (Thompson 121). What this means is that the seating of a month may not have been part of new the month at all but may have been the end of the last month even though it carried the name of the next month. Another way to look at it would be to view the seating as more like a transition, or as Thompson himself suggests, an “entrance of.” The question is, what exactly is entering in which the Maya were greeting? This problem makes deciphering the rest of the intricacies of the calendars even harder, especially the year-bearer problem that will be discussed in a few moments.

At the beginning of this paper I mentioned that the Maya were aware of the actual length of the solar year (365.2422 days) and that they did not attempt to correct for the difference by the use of a leap day. Eric Thompson tells us that “[s]uch a correction would have played havoc with the whole orderly plan of the calendar and would have disorganized the elaborate system of. . .different time cycles, which were of the highest importance for divinatory and ritualistic purposes” (Thompson 121). But not only would it cause problems with the divinatory aspect of the calendars, it would have caused problems by throwing off the year-bearer every 4 years.

The Year-Bearers (Mam) and the concept of Burden:

The year-bearer is the tzolkin date that falls on the start of the new haab year, which is the seating of Pop (0 Pop) or the first of Pop depending on whom you ask.. Because of the way that the haab and tzolkin correlate with each-other, only 4 day names from the tzolkin can fall on the beginning of the haab. Depending on how the two are calibrated, the 4 day-names will vary, again, depending on whom you ask. The standard system, according to Thompson, had the first of Pop (as 0 Pop could be interpreted as the last day of the old year as I discussed earlier) as only coinciding with the day names Akbal, Lamat, Ben, and Etz´nab. But supposedly “in parts of Campeche and Yucatan a shift took place, as early as [around July 1, 672]. . .and was apparently accepted generally in Yucatan in the sixteenth century” (Thompson 124). The change then made the days Kan, Muluc, Ix, and Cuauc the only names that fell on the first of the year. Tedlock gives the set of year-bearers used today in present-day Guatemala highlands among the Quiché; Ik (Ik´), Manik (Quej), Eb (E), and Caban (No´j) which is one of the sets that Meyer gives in the third chapter of his article.

Meyer gives the same three sets in his article that Thompson and Tedlock give together in their books. He mentions the Kan-Cuauc set that Thompson does but Meyer offers it as the result of the coming of the Spanish when the people of Mayapan “began to number their months from 1-20, instead of from 0-19” (Meyer. chapter 3, p.1) which may have been the same cause that Thompson mentioned because Thompson didn’t give a reason and Meyer only gave us a clue of the date (before the 16th century). This shift caused the set of year-bearers to change from the original Akbal-Etz´nab set to the Kan-Cuauc set just as the shift that Thompson mentioned caused. Perhaps the Spanish were the cause of this shift in the calendar when they arrived and as a result we are now having problems being sure what set of year-bearers is the correct one—assuming any one was correct.

It turns out that the set that one uses as the year-bearers depends on the month base being used, that is what the start of the month is, 0 or 1. The confusion seems to be related to uncertainty about the seating of the month, which is then transmitted to the seating of the year. It is best to let Meyer explain:

Some scholars. . .state that the Dresden and Paris Codices use the Akbal/Lamat system of yearbearers. This results from interpreting ‘the first of Pop’ to mean 1 Pop rather than 0 Pop. . .Thompson adduces some evidence that the 0 day of a month was really the last day of the preceding month, so that 0 Pop was really the last day of the old year, not the first day of the new year, but suggests that the Mayas themselves. . .may have become careless in drawing such distinctions. Be it as it may, the system of yearbearers used [here] interprets the 0 day of a month to be the first day of that month, implying that the system of yearbearers used in the Dresden Codex is Ik/Manik and not Akbal/Lamat. (ibid. p. 2).

Due to the lack of clarity in the issue of where the month is seated and the shifts that the Maya implemented in the calendar correlation’s, the problem of the year-bearer is also unclear. The sets used differs from place to place and I am only sure that the present-day Quiché use the Ik/Manik set.

IMG_20121217_123111What we are sure of is how the Maya saw the year-bearer as having to carry the burden of the year “as a load on his back” (Thompson 125). A drawing by Jean Charlot is included in Thompson’s book that is adapted from full-figure glyphs that, quoted from the drawings label at the front of the book, “represent arrival at the lub, ‘the resting place,’ of the deified numbers bearing the periods as loads, at the completion of the tun” (Thompson, Frontpiece). This drawing (above) shows many year-bearers with the glyphs of day-names on their backs; some resting, others not. The significance of the concept of Burden of the year has to do with divination; the year-bearer’s characteristics will be associated with the entire year the same way as I described when discussing divination. The same influences of the names and numbers of the year-bearer will further define the characteristics of the year. As a year begins, the tzolkin date that corresponds to the start of the haab then becomes the name of the god that will bear the year on his back for that year until he reaches the lub. The number that was associated with that day when the haab began will further describe the influence of the day god. The higher the number the more severe the lower the number the less severe. But of course this severity is relative to the value, good or bad, of that particular day god. A lower number of a good day god is not a good sign and vice-versa.

A Brief Word about the Venus Round:

Venus has a cycle of 584 days, says John Major Jenkins, which means that it will “rise as morningstar approximately every 584 days” (Jenkins 3). The round that is associated with Venus occurs when the tzolkin, haab, and Venus cycles all fall in unison. This happens every 104 haab and is known as the Venus round. This round holds importance to the Maya but must be kept short here as to not step on the toes of astronomy.

[This latter comment was in the interest of not being repetitive.  We students, back in 1998, were working as a class to cover many Mayan topics, and excessive discussion of astronomy would have been redundant with the work of the other students, who we were presenting these papers for]


To sum what has been said in these pages it is important to emphasize that the Maya thought in terms of cycles. Each calendar was a repeating cycle in themselves and all of the time-measuring systems that the Maya used combined to make many rounds such as the 52-year calendar round, the 1,872,000 day Great cycle formed by the long count, and the Venus round of 104 haab. The tzolkin’s importance lies in the complex divination practices that the Maya seemed to live for and the day lords that came in and out with the change of each day. The tzolkin is made up of 20 day names and 13 day numbers that are inseparable in defining what day it is but not in what the day means. Divination was practiced by interpreting the day names and numbers, and on certain days of the tzolkin year rituals where performed at shrines. The 18 Uinals of the haab act like months with 20 days each with an added short month of 5 days called the Uayeb. The year-bearers carry the tuns (ok, pun intended—but the Maya would have loved it!) from year to year and never seem to complain a bit about this burden. To see that the Maya knew so much about their universe and yet still found a way to collapse as a power should be a lesson to us though. If the saying is true that the bigger you are the harder you fall, then we, as the most “advanced” society in earth’s known history, better be careful as to where we are going.


1.Imagenet: [now defunct]

a. Calendar description and Coordination. http://www.imagenet.com.mx/calendar/description.html 3/13/98. 1 page.

b. The Components. http://www.imagenet.com.mx/calendar/components.html 3/13/98. 3 pages.

c. The Origin of the Maya Calendar. http://www.imagenet.com.mx/calendar/origen.html. 1 page

2. Jenkins, John Major. Introduction to the Mayan Calendar.

http://www.resonate.org/places/writings/mayan/jenkins1.htm 3/12/98. 7 pages.

3. Maya Calendar, The. Www.astro.uva.nl/michielb/maya/calendar.html 3/13/98. 2 pages

4.Maya civilization. Www.civilization.ca/membrs/civiliz/maya/mmc06eng.html 2/12/98. 3


5. Meyer, Peter. The Maya Calendar. http://www.magnet.ch/serendipity/hermetic/cal_stud/maya/

4/17/98. 6 pages.

6. Yaxk´in, Aluna Joy. Rising of the Sacred World Calendar. http://www.metatron.se/amaya5.html

2/12/98. 3 pages.

7. Resonate. http://www.resonate.org/places/toybox/mayan/ 3/10/98.


8. Craine, Eugene R. (ed). The Codex Pérez and The Book of Chilam Balam of Mani. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman. 1979.

9. Tedlock, Barbara. Time and the Highland Maya. University of New Mexico Press:

Albuquerque. 1982.

10. Thompson, J. Eric S. Maya Hieroglyphic Writing. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman.


I know, not very sexy.  To be honest, I don’t remember if I ran into any of the 2012 Mayan calendar stuff back then and ignored it, or if it did not exist as a thing then.  In either case, nothing more really needs to be said about what will not happen on, also known to us as December 21st, 2012.

All I know is that I have work that day and the evening before I will have (probably) attended the atheist meetup.



1. Apocalypse Not « atheist, polyamorous, skeptics - December 21, 2012

[…] just noticed that this post was my 360th! That is how many days are in 1 tun! (See here for details about what this means).  That must mean something significant, […]

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