If you haven’t heard about the Maya, then you’re about to. Famous for their Mayan Calendar (which people believed predicted the world would end on the 21st December 2012 – good job they were wrong), the Maya, located in pre-Columbian American were one of the most developed ancient civilisations during the pre-classic period; mathematicians, astronomers, builders and agricultural wonders are just a few of the contributions associated with the Mayans. And did you know? The Maya still exist to this day! In this post we’re going to be briefly looking at the Mayan Calendars.
The Maya had three calendars, The Long Count was used for historical purposes, helping the Maya to record their own history. The Haab was a civil calendar based on a year of 360 days consisting of 18 periods of 20 days. However, to synchronize it with the solar year, five days were later added. The Tzolkin was used for ceremonial purposes, based on a year of 260 days (20 periods of 13 days). The significance behind this calendar is still unknown but it’s thought to coincide with Venus’s orbit of 263 days.
Long Count or Mayan Calendar.
The famous calendar that we’ve all come to know about is the Long Count calendar, which started on 11 August 3114 BC, and ended on 21st December 2012 AD. The calendar calculated the solar year to a high level of accuracy; accumulating a day’s error in 4 years, today’s Gregorian calendar accumulates a day’s error after 3257 years. Note that it’s believed that the Mayan didn’t invent the calendar, instead it was passed down to them. However, for a calendar that has been speculated to have been used from around 2000 BC, you could say the calendar was a marvel of its time. Using symbols they could theoretically “tell the time”, like we have numbers or Roman numerals, the Maya had their own language, a language which has recently been decoded. There’s a great documentary on the cracking of the Mayan code (see below).