Maya Calendar Round
Calculations of the congruence of the 260-day and the 365-day Maya cycles is almost exactly equal to the actual solar year in the tropics, with only a 19-minute margin of error.While the Maya are known for their phenomenally accurate, complex, calculations of the orbits of stars, planets and moon, and precise reckoning of the solstices and eclipses, there is also an effective, but much more ordinary, almost easy to understand calendar. Even that, the shamans had to calculate.
(www.civilization.ca/membrs/civiliz/maya/mmc07eng.html - Accessed 10/18/2000) Mystery of the Maya
The Calendar Round
It was used to name individuals, predict the future, decide on auspicious dates for battles, marriages, and so on. Each single day had its omens and associations, and the inexorable march of the 20 days was like a perpetual fortune-telling machine, guiding the destinies of the Maya.
(http://www.civilization.ca/membrs/civiliz/maya/mmc06eng.html) - Maya Civilization
The ancient Maya and other Mesoamericans used a 52-year pattern, a calendar round, referred to as a bundle -- like our concept "century" -- composed of two cycles which fit together like cogwheels with unequal numbers of teeth.
260-day CountThe Maya (Mayan, by custom, refers only to language) divided their year into four quadrants with 65 days in each. We are unsure where the number 260 comes from, but it might relate to the period of human gestation or the interval between the planet Venus' emergence as eveningstar and morning star. Regardless of where it comes from, the 260-day cycle is the first in the Calendar Round. It is made by intermeshing the number symbols (dots for units and bars for fives) from 1-13 with the glyphs for twenty days named after deities who carry time acros the sky.
|The 260-day count - tzolkin|
also described in terms of type of animal:
The first day on this calendar would be 1 Imix. The second would be 2 Ik, followed by 3 Akbal. The thirteenth would be 13 Ben which would be followed by 1 Ix, 2 Men, 3 Cib, etc. A period of 260 days brought the calendar back to 1 Imix.
In case this is hard to follow, think of our calendar with names for the days of the week and numbers for the days of the month. In October, there are 31 days, but only seven weekday names, so Friday the thirteenth is followed by Saturday the fourteenth, Sunday the fifteenth ... and then, by the time names for days of the week run out, we're back to Friday, but with a new number; this time, Friday, the twentieth. It will be many months before we start again by reaching a new Friday the thirteenth.Since it still keeps track of time, priests today continue to use this "Tzolkin" calendar (also known as Sacred Calendar, the Earth Calendar, the Sacred Almanac, and the Count of Days) for divination.
Vague Year or haabA second, solar calendar named "vague" because it only approximates the 365 day calendar is composed of eighteen months with twenty days in each. The twentieth day makes use of the Maya's concept of zero since, instead of its being numbered twenty, it is described as the day of the seating of the following month. The months of this agricultural calendar are:
The Maya dreaded the five intercalated days (Uayeb) and the end of the 52-year period. Towards the end of the longer interval, they worried the gods might be dissatisfied with mankind and bring about the end of the world.
But all this pales by comparison with the end of the 5125-year Long Count Calendar cycle which will be here in 2012.Maya Calendar Quiz
Most of the information comes from Linda Schele's and David Freidel's A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya; New York: William Morrow and Co, Inc., 1990.