Mayan Astronomy Essay

884 words - 4 pages

The Mayans were famous for their astronomical beliefs and heavy dependence on the sky. The Mayans originated from Mesoamerica, located on the southern side of Mexico spreading further downwards to Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and many South American countries. They were great astronomers, as they made heavy use of the motion of the Sun, the Moon, and the stars. With this, it is easy to assume that the Mayans were very intelligent since they were able to interpret these ideas without the use of telescopes and compasses. Instead, they used a fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as architectures, mathematics and naked eyesight. It is interesting that today we use their interpretations to calculate time and days of the year.
The Mayans developed calendars, based on the timing of constellations and careful observations of the sun, moon and planets. The most popular calendar known as the Tzolkin had a 260-day count. This calendar was combined with a 365-day year known as the Haab'. These two calendars came together every 52 years, allowing them to foresee rainy, drought and disease outbreaks. Planet Venus was also a very important part of Mayan cosmology. The Mayans kept detailed recordings of the position of Venus throughout the year as it was associated with war. Wars were organized according to the Moons position, and warriors and leaders would be sacrificed during the dark of the night. With recording these details, they believed that one year had approximately 584 days, comparative to the sun.
The Mayans honored many Gods, as many elements of the sky were significant to Mayan astronomy and ultimately their lives. First, the Sun God was Kinich Ahau, one of the most powerful Gods. They followed its path and horizons on a daily basis. They observed at Uaxactún, the spring and autumn Equinox, as along with the summer and winter solstice. This allows astronomers to see that they not only recorded the extreme events of the Sun and its Solstices but the Equinox rising in the East and West. The Mayan were therefore became experts at predicting solar occurrences.
As with the sun and planets, the Moon also played an intricate part in Mayan astronomy. The Moon Goddess was known Ix Chel (daughter of the Earth God); it is believed that she would fight with the Sun God at night. She was not only known for her fearless fights, but was also praised for her association with fertility and growth amongst humans and plants. The Mayans kept track of the space between consecutive full moons. It was believed that there were a total of 149 moons equaling to 29.53 lunar days. This is the actual figure for the lunation today.
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