posted on Dec, 4 2011 @ 06:27 PM
To continue my series of threads designed to educate and correct misconceptions regarding the Maya and 2012 I have decided to explain what exactly
composes the Mayan "calendar." I have seen many times on here people referencing a single Mayan calendar, but this is not true. Instead the Maya
used a number of calendars that were interconnected.
The first, which would be most familiar to us, is the haab. The haab was a 365-day solar calendar that was used to determine planting seasons. It was
composed of 18 months each with 20 days each and then another five nameless days at the end of the year. Originally, the names of the months
corresponded with certain events, usually agricultural related, that would occur during that time. However, since the haab did not account for the
fact that a year is slightly longer than 365-days these correspondences disappeared after a few centuries. This brings up another misconception I
normally see claimed. Time and again I see people on these boards stating that the Mayan calendar was most accurate calendar ever created, however as
we can clearly see they did not account for the fact that the year is slightly longer than 365 days, which makes our modern Gregorian calendar more
The second calendar is the tzolkin. While the exact purpose of the tzolkin is a mystery many modern Mayan communities use it to determine religious
ceremonies and rituals. This has led researchers to believe that it served a similar purpose to the Classic period Maya. The tzolkin is a 260-day
calendar, but its construction is slightly more complicated than the haab. Instead of breaking a cycle down into months and days it breaks it down
into day numbers and day names. There were 13 numbers and 20 names. Each day both the number and day would progress to the next. For example, the
tzolkin year began on 1 Imix'. The next day would then be 2 Ik'. After 13 days the number would revert back to one, but the name would continue on
its cycle. So, 13 B'en would then become 1 Ix. It would then take 260 days to return to the starting position of 1 Imix'.
From these two calendars the Maya produced the Calendar Round. The Calendar Round is a 52-year cycle that is composed of combining a haab date with a
tzolkin date. To create a Calendar Round date you would simply write down the tzolkin date followed by the haab date. Generally a Calendar Round
begins on 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk'u as this is considered the same Calendar Round date as when the world was created. It would then take 52 years to have this
date repeat, at which point one would complete a Calendar Round.
Since the Calendar Round was only useful for keeping track of dates within a 52 year period the Maya developed another calendar system to keep track
of historic dates. This is the famous Long Count. While much has been written about this calendar, it is actually a fairly simply system to
understand. In fact most of what you need to know about it is contained in its name. It was simply a count of days. In most cases the Long Count
starts on the mythical creation date, which corresponds with August 11, 3114 BCE. There are however other Long Counts that start before this date.
Most notable is Coba Stela 1. Once one knows the starting point all one has to do is count the days. To make things more manageable the Long Count was
broken down into different units. These units were:
k'in = 1 day
winal = 20 k'in = 20 days
tun = 18 winal = 360 days
k'atun = 20 winal = 19.7 years
b'ak'tun = 20 k'atun = 394.3 years
Most people believe that the Long Count stopped counting after b'ak'tun, but in fact it continues beyond that. The higher-order cycles follow along
the pattern of the lower-order cycles. For example, 20 b'ak'tun are equivalent to 1 piktun and 20 piktun are equivalent to 1 kalabtun. This brings
up another misconception I address in another of my topics. Many people believe that the Long Count ends or resets after 13 b'ak'tun, but this just
isn't true. If one looks at the way the Long Count is constructed it becomes immediately clear that this calendar was designed to go on forever. It
had no other purpose than the count the days.
These three calendars are the primary Mayan calendars, but there are a few lesser known calendars that functioned in supplementary role. The first is
the Lords of the Night. This date was composed of a glyph that referred to all of the lords followed by a glyph representing the lord of that night.
Every nine days this calendar would cycle back to the beginning. Another calendar was the Lunar Series which merely keeps information on the current
phase of the Moon as well as the current ruling lunar deity. The final calendar was the Venus cycle. Much like the Lunar Series, this calendar was
mainly astronomical and depended on the heliacal rising of Venus. It is believed that this calendar was used mainly for war and that rulers would plan
conquests around when Venus was rising.
So, as you can see there was more to the Maya's method of timekeeping than just a single calendar. It is a safe assumption that those who refer to
the "Mayan calendar" have not really done much research into the Maya and are merely trying to cash in on the 2012 hype. It is worth noting
similarities between the Gregorian calendar and the Mayan calendar system however. While we may not have a Calendar Round our own calendar is
essentially composed of a cyclical calendar and a linear calendar. We have our solar calendar that repeats every 365.25 days, but we also have our own
count of the years that is not designed to have an end. So, there is the Mayan calendar system in a nutshell. While it is very different than what
many New Age authors have led people to believe I personally find it to be much more interesting than just a single calendar and it certainly gives us
a look at what the Maya found to be important.