The Mayan And Aztec Calendars Essay

2933 words - 12 pages

This book focuses on different types of calendars from a number of different places all around the world. This specific chapter, even more specifically this section, focuses on the Mayan calendar. These calendars were written by honored members of their aristocracy and were held to be of great value. The Spanish invaders believed them to be instruments of the devil and burnt great quantities of them. E. G. Richards explains that only four Mayan books are survive in the libraries of Europe, and one of those—The Dresden codex—suffered severe damage in another fire, one which was inflicted on that city in the Second World War. Richards says that the earliest record of a calendar survives from about 500 BC in Monte Alban near Oaxaca. This calendar employs a 260-day cycle, which was commonly used by several societies and is still in use among the present-day inhabitants of the region. The Maya used the calendar partly to anticipate propitious days to embark on wars and other activities. It was also used to record on stone pillars, or stelae, important events in the lives of their kings and to relate these to more mythical events of the past. The Mayan calendar system involved two major methods of specifying a specific date—the calendar round and the long count. The calendar round was used to specify a date within a period of about 52 years, while the long count served to relate such dates within a longer period named a great cycle. The calendar round involved three interlocking cycles of 13, 20, and 365 days respectively. The 365-day cycle was called a haab and was similar to the Egyptian wandering year. Each haab was divided into 18 periods called uinals; each uinal had 20 days and a name. The 18 uinal were followed by five epagomenal days called uayeb to give a total of 365 days (18 x 20 + 5). The Maya also had a 20-day period called a veintena. Each day in this cycle of 20 days received a name. Finally, there was a cycle of 13 days, which has been called a trecena. Each day was given a number in the range 1 to 13 to indicate its position in the trecena. The Maya sometimes had need to locate a date in much longer time spans. To do this, they had another system called the long count, which was essentially a tally of days elapsed since the start of an era—the great cycle—in the remote past. The Maya believed that time was cyclic and that at the end of a great cycle of 13 Baktuns, the world would be destroyed—only to be recreated for the next cycle.
E. G. Richards is a biophysics professor at King's College, University of London. Therefore, I believe that him and his book are credible sources of information and I feel comfortable using his book as a source. The information that he presents seems sound and the theories aren’t unusual. The information in this chapter of the book fits very well with my topic. I feel that Richards does a very good job explaining the Mayan calendar and all the different aspects that are associated with it. Overall this...

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