The Maya civilization and other Mesoamerican systems may have had the most complex and intricate ancient calendar systems of all time. The Maya calendar in its final form probably dates back from the first century BC, which originates with the Olmec civilization.
According to the Canadian Museum of History, the Maya Civilization used a 200-day months system and had two calendar years, the 260-day Sacred Round (tzolkin), and the 365-day Vague Year (haab). These two calendars coincide every 52 years, called a "bundle," which is equivalent to a century in modern times.
According to the interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar, the world was supposed to end eight years ago on December 21, 2012. But the winter solstice of that year just came by and went without any issues and the world continued its pace. The year 2012 was never likely figured into the Mayan calendar.
It is amazing how the Mayans created their extraordinarily detailed timekeeping system based largely on astronomical measurements that let them schedule agricultural events, religious observances, and more.
The intricately designed Mayan calendar has drawn archaeological interests for decades which might look like originated from the spiritual point of view but actually is firmly grounded in science.
Mayans Are Great Astronomers
According to Discover Magazine, the ancient Mayans were great astronomers. They have erected buildings to serve as observatories and created detailed stone tables that describe the movements of the Moon, Mars, and other planets in the Solar System. Their observations of the celestial bodies formed the basis of their calendar that accurately measured the passage of time.
They use their two calendars in guiding their agricultural season and to dictate the timing of their religious observances. For thousands of years, members of the Maya civilization have counted the days in an unbroken string of timekeeping.
Much of the Maya civilization's understanding of time came from the movement of celestial bodies that they consistently observe. The few surviving books or tables from the Maya civilization detailed the movements of planets and an almanac that attempts to forecast the future based on them.
The oldest surviving book from that civilization is the Dresden Codex, which labels the movements of Venus, Mars, and the Moon. They also calculated the eclipses based on their observations on the movements of Jupiter and Saturn. Most likely, they aligned their religious events on the motion of the planets and their positions in the sky.
Maya Civilization's Long Count
The ancient Maya civilization has invented the Long Count to keep track of longer periods of time. The base unit of Long Count is called kin, or a day.
According to Discovery Magazine, 20 kin is called uinal (winal), while 18 uinal is equivalent to a tun, and twenty tuns are called a k'atun. Additionally, 20 k'atun is called a b'aktun. The magazine said that the odd 18 count would bring a tun closer to a solar year.
The Maya civilization once made a habit of writing the date using the Long Count. Archaeologists today also use it to tell the exact events that happened in the ancient Maya civilization, like how the city of Tikai was conquered by an alliance of rival cities of Caracol and Calakmui in A.D. 562.
Archaeologist Clive Ruggles said that the Mayan calendar has helped the Mayans back then to conceive history on a grand scale which created lengthy blocks of time.
Check out more news and information on the Maya Civilization in Science Times.