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The Mayan Calendar


Today's Date is:


This is one of the most fascinating calendars, devised by the Mayans in Central America, comprising various elements that combine to form a series of continuous cycles. These elements the Haab, Tzolkin and the Long Count, and they are explained below along with how they combine to form larger cycles of dates.

The Haab

This element of the calendar was the civil element and most closely resembles our calendar in that it has a "year" of 365 days. The year is split into 18 "months" of 20 days each, with a period of five days at the end, called Uayeb. The years are not numbered, just an indication of the recurrence of the months. The months are as follows:


1

Pop

7

Yaxkin

13

Mac

2

Uo

8

Mol

14

Kankin

3

Zip

9

Chen

15

Muan

4

Zotz

10

Yax

16

Pax

5

Tzec

11

Zac

17

Kayab

6

Xul

12

Ceh

18

Cumku
           
19

Uayeb

The days within each of these months are numbered 0 to 19, so the first month would run from 0 Pop to 19 Pop then following on to 0 Uo and so on. Uayeb was numbered from 0 to 4. The years are not numbered but are identified by other means in conjunction with the other elements of the calendar. As all Haab years contain 365 days it slowly shifts in relation to the Gregorian calendar over time.

The Tzolkin

This was the religious element of the calendar, and consisted of two cycles of 20 and 13 days respectively. The days in the 20-day cycle were named as follows:


1

Imix

6

Cimi

11

Chuen

16

Cib

2

Ik

7

Manik

12

Eb

17

Caban

3

Akbal

8

Lamat

13

Ben

18

Etznab

4

Kan

9

Muluc

14

Ix

19

Cauac

5

Chicchan

10

Oc

15

Men

20

Ahau

Alongside this cycle was a 13-day cycle with days numbered from 1 to 13. These two cycles running side by side produced a greater cycle of 260 days, each with its own designation, after which the cycle would repeat. So, for example, the first 30 days of each cycle would be as follows:

1 Imix 7 Manik 13 Ben 6 Cauac 12 Chicchan
2 Ik 8 Lamat 1 Ix 7 Ahau 13 Cimi
3 Akbal 9 Muluc 2 Men 8 Imix 1 Manik
4 Kan 10 Oc 3 Cib 9 Ik 2 Lamat
5 Chicchan 11 Chuen 4 Caban 10 Akbal 3 Muluc
6 Cimi 12 Eb 5 Etznab 11 Kan 4 Oc

Calendar Round

When the Haab date and the Tzolkin date are combined, a cycle of unique dates is created whereby lasts 52 years before the same combintion of dates recurs. This is called the calendar round. The calendar round at the time of writing (31st December 2011) is 12 Kan 12 Kankin. Tomorrow will be 13 Chicchan 13 Kankin .

The Long Count

The long count was used to work out dates over longer periods, and comprises a series of numbers that count up day by day and click over to the next unit at various points in the count. The smallest unit in the count is a Kin, equal to one day. There are 20 kin in a Uinal, 18 Uinal comprised a Tun etc. The complete structure of the levels in the count is as follows

Unit Comprising Days Years
Kin   1  
Uinal 20 Kin 20  
Tun 18 Uinal 360  
Katun 20 Tun 7,200 19.7
Baktun 20 Katun 144,000 394.3
Pictun 20 Baktun 2,880,000 7,885.2
Calabtun 20 Pictun 57,600,000 157,704
Kinchiltun 20 Calabtun 1,152,000,000 3,154,072
Alautun 20 Kinchiltun 23,040,000,000 63,081,431

The long count is synchronised to the tzolkin in that the 20 days in each uinal relate to the 20-day cycle in the tzolkin. The final number of the long count identifies the tzolkin day, for example if today's count is 12.19.19.0.4, then the tzolkin day is Kan, the only difference being that day 20 in the tzolkin (Ahau) is represented by 0 in the long count.

2012 and "end of era"

It is widely believed that the Mayan long count ends on 21st December 2012, when the count clicks over to 13.0.0.0.0. However there is no evidence to confirm this nor that it signals the end of the world to the Mayans. Firstly there is no evidence that the long count was used to predict anything in the future or mark any astronomical events or cataclysms. Secondly, there are references in Mayan artifacts of dates far beyond those represented by the current count and comprising more than the current number of levels. In fact there is nothing to suggest that this is nothing more than the current baktun count clicking over to the next number, and the count will continue thereafter with 13.0.0.0.1, 13.0.0.0.2 etc, as per the table above.


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