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The Maya Calendar

The Maya calendar is not the oldest known calendar but the most accurate one. The Maya were consummated astronomers and had at least 20 calendars, based on several astrological movements, but actually used two main calendars, a sacred year of 260 days and a vague year of 365 days. The Mayans invented a solar "civil" year of 365 days. Far more exact than any other contemporary cultures. The central principles that governed the most Traduction of Stela C in Quiriguá, marking the beginig of the 5 Maya Eracommon features of both forms of the Mesoamerican calendar may very well have been developed in sites of the  Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala  and neighboring Chiapas. Stelas with the earliest known Long Count dates come from this general area, as Tak'alik Abaj (Ca 200 BC), and El Baúl (Wm. Clay Poe, 1997), recent findings in the Petén Lowlands, including an Altar in Polol, Stelas in El Mirador and Uaxactún, the San Diego Cliff carvings and the San Bartolo Murals, confirms that the calendar was well in use in the Late Preclassic. The astronomers of the cities of Copán and Tikal  measured the duration of the lunar cycle over many years; their result compares extremely well with today's value: The observations made in Copán spanned 149 lunations or 4400 days and gave the length of a lunar month as 29.5302 days, while the observations of Tikal spanned 81 lunation or 2392 days and resulted in a lunar month of 29.53086 days. The modern value, believed to be the best available, is 29.53059 days. For Venus they give its orbital period as 584 days; today's value is 583.92 days. All the Astronomic complexes in the Classic Maya cities are Named "Ë Groups", after the first discovered group in Uaxactún, Petén, Guatemala.  12 Eb'
(37 AD).
Earliest Long Count date recorded in Paired Glyph pattern,
Stela 1 from  El Baúl, Cotzumalguapa, in the Pacific lowlands

 We know, however, that they made calendar emendations and developed a more precise notion of solar time than that embodied in our own calendar. Thus, the true sidereal year (that is, the exact amount of time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun, as determined by the precision instruments of modernPolol, Altar 1 fragment astronomy) consisted of 365.242198 days.  In our Gregorian calendar -- making due allowance for leap years -- the year has 365.2425 days, results in an error of 3.02 days in 10,000 years, while the year of the ancient Mayans numbered 365.242129 days!!!. This results in an error of 1.98 days for every 10,000 years. The Maya use the sacred year (Tzolk'in) for religious purposes and to name children, for example. The vague year (Haab) is used for such things as planting crops. The least common multiple of the two calendars, called the calendar round, has 18,980 days or 73 sacred years or 52 vague years. A Maya month or "Uinal" consists of 20 solar days or "K'in". They left Us their knowledge in  Jade and Obsidian objects as well as in Stelas, pottery, wooden lintels and the Codices. The Last Long Count date  recorded is Ixlú's Stela 2 910 AD (left), marking the end of the Classic Maya civilization

The Tzolk'in (See Glyphs) is the sacred calendar of the Maya and is based on the cycles of the Pleiades. The cycle of the Pleiades uses Tzol'kin26,000 years, but is reflected in the calendar we are using by encompassing 260 days. It uses the sacred numbers 13 and 20. The 13 represented with numbers and 20 represented with sun/glyphs. Quiriguá's Stela C.The Tzolk'in has four smaller cycles called seasons of 65 days each guarded by the four suns: Chicchan, Oc, Men and Ahaw. There are also Portal days within the Tzolkin that create a double helix pattern using 52 days and the mathematics of 28, this calendar was used to give the name of the newborn. Among the Ki'ch'es of the western highlands in Guatemala these same nine months are replicated, until this very day, in the training of the aj k'ij, the keeper of the 260-day-calendar( ch'olk'ij). However, a number of researchers believe that the length of the 260 day component of the Calendar Round cycle isCeibal round Observatory, the earliest one in the Maya Culture defined by a 260 day period from one zenith transit of the sun until the next. In the zone between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn there are days on which the sun passes directly overhead at local noon. Vertical objects at that time cast no shadow. On the Tropic of Cancer there is a single such day, June 22, the summer solstice. On the Tropic of Capricorn the day is December 22, the winter solstice. On the equator the zenith transits of the sun divide the year into two equal halves. Between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer, the zenith transits of the sun divide the year into a longer portion with the sun transiting to the south of the zenith, and a shorter portion with the sun transiting to the north of the zenith. The zenith transit days are always equidistant from the summer solstice. A 260-day zenith transit interval occurs at a latitude of 14°47’21”N. The transit dates are April 30 and August 13.  One of the earliest Maya sites Kaminaljuyú's coordinates are 14°37’55”N, near  of the above mentioned exact coordinates, that lay in  today's zone 7 in Guatemala City, that engulfed the area's much older  ceremonial site of El Naranjo, that was conquered by Kaminaljuyú. That August 13 is the classic Maya creation day lends credibility to this interpretation.

 This sacred calendar is still being used for divination by the traditional Maya all over Guatemala. It is nine months after the beginning of training in divination that the young novice is actually "born" and solemnly initiated into his office. Thus, in the perception of the Maya, man and calendar have the same roots; they are both of the same lunar origin.  Much has been channeled from the Pleiades. Alcyone figures prominently in Mayan astronomy. The Mayas believe it is the home of their ancestors. The Pleiades star system is referred to as the seven sisters and our sun aligns with Alcyone every 52 years. In Mayan cosmology the precession of the Pleiades is tracked using the Calendar Round (52 years) and the New Fire ceremony.

The Haab' is based in the cycles of earth. It has 360 + 5 days or kins, totaling 365 days. The Haab uses 18 uinals or months with 20 days in each month. There is a 19th month called a Wayeb and uses the 5 extra and nameless days, considered evil or bad luck days. Each month has its own name/glyph. Each day uses a sacred sun/glyph.

 The Tun’Uc is the moon calendar. It uses 28 day cycles that mirrors the women's moon cycle. This cycle of the moon is broken down into 4 smaller cycles, of 7 day each. These smaller cycles are the four phases of moon cycle.  A 104-haab Venus Calendar was used also (Ek' Okib’ ). The Ek' Moluk, Mars Cycle and  the Ek’Ox based in the Sirius cycle, among several more.

Longer cycles can be incorporated in the Maya calendar, we do not know how they used the largest numbers in billions of years. A K’atún consists of 20 Tun (about 19.7 years), and was celebrated  with twin pyramids complez in Tikal and Yaxhá,  a Bak’tún of 20 K’atún (about 394 years), a Pik’tún or 20 bak’túns (about 7,885 years), a Kalab’tún or 20 piktuns (about 157,703 years),  a Kinch’il’tún   or 20 Kalab'túns (about 3.2 million years), Alautún or 20 Kinch’il’tún (64 million years), and the Hablatún or 20 Alautún (About 1.26 billion years!!!). Note that the only exception to multiplying by twenty is at the tun level, where the uinal period is instead multiplied by 18 to make the 360-day tun. The Maya employed this counting system to track an unbroken sequence of days from the time it was inaugurated. The Mayan scholar Munro Edmonson believes that the Long Count was put in place around 355 B.C. This may be so, but the oldest Long Count date as yet found corresponds to 32 B.C. We find Long Count dates in the archeological record beginning with the Bak'tún place value and separated by dots. For example: equals 6 Bak'tún, 19 K'atún, 19 tuns, 3 uinals and 0 kins. (See example below). Each Bak'tún has 144000 days, each K'atún has 7200 days, and so on. If we add up all the values we find that indicates a total of 1007640 days have elapsed since the Zero Date of The much discussed 13- Bak'tún cycle is completed 1872000 days (13 Bak'tún) after This period of time is the so called Mayan "Great Cycle" of the Long Count and equals 5125.36 years.
See Cycles Glyphs below.


Day Glyph

Only in the impressive carved monuments from Quiriguá, Days of either the Tzolk'in or Haab year are represented by articulated vignette-glyph digraphs similar to the left figure.  The overt vignette on the left of the figure encodes 14. The glyph on the right, called a day glyph, encodes a Haab' vignette depending on its face.


Calendar Round                                 

The "Calendar Round" is like two gears that inter-mesh, one smaller than the other. One of the 'gears' is the Tzolk’in, or Sacred Round. The other is the Haab, or Calendar Round. The smaller wheels together represent the 260-day Sacred Round; the inner wheel, with the numbers one to thirteen, meshes with the glyphs for the 20 day names on the outer wheel. A section of a large wheel represents part of the 365-day year - 18 months of 20 days each (numbered 0-19), and the five days remaining at year's end (Wayeb). In the diagram, the day shown is read 4 Ajaw 8 ‘Kum’kú. As the wheels turn in the direction of the arrows, in four days it will read 8 K’an 12 ‘Kum’kú. Any day calculated on these cycles would not repeat for 18,980 days - 52 years. (Maya century). Each day was named in reference to the two calendars.
13 Ahau     0 Pop
Ritual         Solar

Day Glyphs

Historians number the sacred year in month numbers one through 13 and day glyphs corresponding to numbers one through 20. In this format there are no month glyphs. The day numbers, glyphs and names are: (Back to Text)

Day 1, ’Imix Water, Wine, Sea Dragon

Day 2, ’Ik  Air, Life

Day 3, Ak’bal  Night

Day 4, K’an  Corn

Day 5, Chik’chan  Serpent

Day 6, Cimi Death

Day 7, Manik’  Deer, grasp

Day 8, Lamat Venus, Rabbit

Day 9, Muluk  Rain

Day 10, Ok Dog

Day 11, Chuwen  Monkey

Day 12, ’Eb Broom

Day 13, Ben  Reed

Day 14, ’Ix  Jaguar, Magician

Day 15, Men  Bird, Eagle, Wise One

Day 16, C’ib Owl, Vulture

Day 17, Kaban Force, Earth

Day 18, ’Etz’nab  Flint Knife

Day 19, Cauak Storm, Kawak

Day 20, ’Ahaw Lord, Ahau

Each succeeding day causes both the day number and glyph number to advance by one, e.g., 1 Imix, 2 Ik, ..., 13 Ben, 1 Ix, 2 Men, and so on. Since 13 and 20 have no common divisors, this system uniquely represents all 260 days of the sacred year.

Month Glyphs

The Haab year is divided in day numbers zero through 19 and month glyphs corresponding to numbers one through 19, where the last month represents the five uncounted days (Wayeb) of the Haab. The month numbers, glyphs and names are:

Month 1, Pop Mat

Month 2, Wo Frog


Month 3, Sip  Stag

Month 4, Zots  Bat


Month 5, Tzek  Skull

Month 6, Xul Termination


Month 7, Yaxk'in  Red

Month 8, Mol  To Gather


Month 9, Ch'en  A Well, Cave

Month 10, Yax Green


Month 11, Sak  White

Month 12, Keh A Forest


Month 13, Mak A Cover

Month 14, K'ank'in  Yellow, Skeleton, Ribs


Month 15, Muwan  Falcon, An Owl

Month 16, Pax  A Drum

Month 17, K'ayab Turtle

Month 18, 'Kumk'u Dark


Month 19, Way'eb  A Ghost

Each succeeding day causes the day number to advance by one. When the day number wraps from 19 to zero (or in the month of Wayeb from 4 to zero), the month glyph advances by one. For instance, a Maya day written 0 Pop is followed by 1 Pop, ..., 19 Pop, 0 Uo, 1 Uo, and so on. A calendar round date consists of the sacred day concatenated with the vague day, e.g., 2 Yax’kín 10 Ajaw. A unique combination of sacred day and vague day recurs only once in the calendar round, where the beginning of each round is established at the correspondence 2 Ik 0 Pop.

Initial Series

The Calendar Round and Long Count Dates: To correlate all historical records and to anchor dates firmly in time, the Maya established the "Long Count," a continuous count of time from a base date, 4 Ahaw 8 Kum’ku’, which completed a round of 13 Bak’tuns far in the past. There were several ways in which one could indicate the position of a Calendar Round dated in the Long Count. The most direct and unambiguous was to use an Initial Series notation. The series begins with an outsized composition of signs called the Initial-Series-introducing glyph, which is followed by a count of periods written in descending order. On the earliest known monument in Tikal (Stela 29), the Initial Series reads: 8 Bak’tuns, 12 k’atuns, 14 tuns, 8 winals, 15 k’ins, which is written: IS. It shows that the Calendar Round date that follows falls 1,243,615 days (just under 3,405 years) after the 4 Ahau 8 Kum’ku’ on which the Long Count is based.

The Lunar Series:

Many inscriptions from the Classical age of Maya civilization (200-900 AD) record the age of the moon, the number of days elapsed since new moon.  The earliest example dates from 357 A.D., in an inscription from Uaxactún.  In this and about  200 other inscriptions,  the age of the moon is contained in the "supplementary series" or "lunar series" glyphs that follow immediately after what is called the "initial series" or long count date on the monument.

Ver imagen en tamaño completo
27th (day of the moon) has arrived (


The lunar series glyphs are essentially a date in a lunar calendar. In addition to giving the age of the moon, the lunar series names the current lunar month, and indicates whether it is 29 or 30 days long. Astronomically, the lunar or synodic month is the time from new moon to new moon. It is approximately 29.5 days long. The Maya scribes alternated  lunar months of 29 and 30 days to keep the lunar calendar synchronized with the phases of the moon. Other lunar calendars, including the calendar used in most Islamic countries, adopt the same convention.

Historians write a Maya long count calendar round date in the form, e.g., 13 Ahau 18 ‘Kum’ku, where the first five vignette fields designate the Bak’tuns, K’atuns, Tuns, Winals and K’ins, followed by the Tzol'kin and Haab' days, in order. In a  Stela it would look like this: (Back to text)

Note the reading order in a Stela: A,B,C,D,E,F,G
See Writing
9 Bak'tuns
17 Ka'túns
O Tuns

O Winals
 0 K'íns
13 Ahau
18 Kum'kú

Long Count names, glyph and gods:  (Back to text)

1 Day
LC[ 0 ]

20 Days
LC[ 1 ]

360 Days
The “year”
LC[ 2 ]

7,200 Days
20 “Years”
201 Tuns
LC[ 3 ]

144,000 Days
400 “Years”
202 Tuns
LC[ 4 ]

2,880,000 Days
8,000 “Years”
203 Tuns
LC[ 5 ]

57,600,000 Days
160,000 “Years”
204 Tuns
LC[ 6 ]

1,152,000,000 Days
3,200,000 “Years”
205 Tuns
LC[ 7 ]

23,040,000,000 Days
64,000,000 “Years”
206 Tuns
LC[ 8 ]

460,800,000,000 Days
1,280,000,000 “Years”
207 Tuns
LC[ 9 ]

460 billion 800 million Days; 1 billion 280 million Tuns

Patron Gods

Each month of the haab also had a patron god, whose names, for the most part, we do not know. On fully dated monuments in the Mayan area, the largest and most noticeable glyph was what is known as the Initial Series (IS) glyph; in the center of the IS glyph was another, smaller glyph, which was the patron god of the current month. Occasionally, the patron god glyph has been used to determine the month when the actual haab month glyph is effaced. The patron glyphs are shown below, along with what we know of their associations.

The Patron Gods of the Haab Months

Pop, Jaguar

Wo, Underground Jaguar

Sip, Marsh Beast

Sots, Xoc (fish)

Sek, Patron?

Xul, Patron?

Yaxk’in, Sun God

Mol, God D

Ch’en, Moon Goddess

Yax, Venus

Sak, Frog God

Keh, Earth Beast

Mak, God of #3

K’ank’in, God K Monster

Muwan, Patron?

Pax, Night Sun God

K’ayab, Young Moon Goddess

Kumk’u, Crocodile God

Wayeb, Patron

Reckoning the Maya and Gregorian Calendars

 A point of considerable historic interest is the conciliation of the Maya and Gregorian calendars. This amounts to: selection of an origin for the initial long count, selection of the calendar round corresponding to that count, and correlating a specific long-count date on the Maya calendar with the corresponding date on the Gregorian calendar. The Maya reckoned their chronology in great cycles of 13 baktuns (about 5,128 solar years), the beginning of the current cycle 4 Ahau 8 Cumk'ú corresponding to august 13, 3114 BC. No long count date occurs with a Baktún count of more than 12, except that occurs. A widely-accepted school of thought holds that in the Maya long count system marks the beginning of a new cycle, and so is equivalent to In this view, 13 baktuns make up a great cycle or, Maya era, of 13 x 144,000 = 1,872,000 days (approximately 5125.37 solar years).

The date is equal to August 13 3114 B.C.
The date is equal to December 21 2012 A.D.



Dark Rift

 "On, the December solstice sun will be found in the band of the Milky Way. We can call this an alignment between the galactic plane and the solstice meridian. This is an event that has slowly converged over a period of thousands of years, and is caused by the precession of the equinoxes. The place where the December solstice sun crosses the Milky Way is precisely the location of the "dark-rift in the Milky Way...'Xibalbá be' - the road to the underworld."

On the winter solstice of 2012, the noonday Sun exactly conjuncts the crossing point of the sun's ecliptic with the galactic plane, while also closely conjunction the exact center of the galaxy.

Jenkins further proposes that this grand cross in time is symbolized by the Mayan Tree of Life, found at the core of Mayan cosmology.


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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:33 -0500
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