Mayan Writing & the Long Count Stelae, Codices and Books Calendric Calculations Deciphering Hieroglyphs Maya Long Count Exercise
Stelae, Books and Codices: Mayan writing is depicted in several ways.• Stelae – carved, vertical glyphs on stone shafts or altars. – also horizontally on steps, benches – sometimes seen on bone, shell or stones.
Stelae Copan: Stelae 18 Rabbit, a Copan Ruler, as is usual in full-figure stelae, carries a ceremonial bar with dragon heads at either end. From the dragon heads emerge divine heads. http://www.misericordia.edu/users/davies/maya/texta.h tm
Copan, Stela 4 Stela 4s version of "18 Rabbit." The "18" numeral, is three lines plus three dots, with each line equal to 5. The "ubah" sign is included in the Kawil head through the circle/cross and the "rabbit" head facing upwards.
Erected July 22, 736 A.D. (188.8.131.52.0)Stela D is located at the farthestsouthern point of the "GrandCourtyard" of Copan.Like Stela A, it was erected bythe ruler "18 Rabbit."18 Rabbits face is hidden behinda God-mask.http://www.misericordia.edu/users/davies/maya/stelad.htm
Books: Popul Vuh • Books of the Chilam Balam (Mayan prophet) – “Book of the Community” is a collection of Quiche and Cakchiquel people. – Thought to have been written by Diego Reynos, a converted Indian in the mid 16th century. • The manuscript was lost and re-discovered by Father Francisco Ximenez in 1857. – Father Ximenez found the book in his parish, the El Calvario Church, at Chichicastenango, Guatemala. – The manuscript contains compiled oral histories of Maya culture. – Original manuscript was written in Quiche language using the Latin alphabet. • Father Ximenez translated the book into Latin and that work is located in the Newberry Library in Chicago, the original is lost.
Popul Vuh con’d• This work is considered by many to be a bible of the Maya- Quiche outlining the origin of the civilization and their cultural traditions and mythology.• The history of the Quiches down to 1550 is presented. Further contained is a collection of legends concerning Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl.• Contains legends of the Quiche Maya and written in Latin at an unknown date.• Not really a codex but certainly written by a historian soon after the conquest.• The book contains glyphs of some signs and many accounts of myths and legends of the early Maya.
Maya codices• Codices – most elaborate of writing medium, must have existed in the thousands, but only a few left. – made out of bark paper, or deer skin. – prepared from the inner bark of trees, fibers soaked in lime and then beaten smooth. – once dry it was white-washed with a thin coat of limestone or gypsum paste.
Classic Codices• Wright Codex – “Pottery Codex” – rectangular vessel, 10 in. high, Guatemalan. – Each side represents page of a codex. – Dates between A.D. 600 and 900.
Ceren, El Salvador • Joya de Ceren, a precolumbian village buried by surges and scoria fallfrom the 1658 eruption of Loma Caldera, a small vent along NW trending fissures associated to San Salvador volcano. • In their haste to escape, the villagers left behind utensils, textiles, food, ceramics, furniture and all of the other accouterments of daily life. • The village lay hidden until 1976 when it was discovered by Payson Sheets, an anthropology professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Sheets almost immediately began excavating the site, a process that has continued ever since. • Codex from Ceren, San Salvador – preserved under volcanic ash when Laguna Caldera volcano erupted in A.D. 600. – located on a bench in a communal building. – no text recovered, but painted with kaolin, cinnabar and iron pigments. http://www.theculturedtraveler.com/Heritage/Archives/Joya_Ceren.htm
The Dresden Codex• Best of the codices preserved, is at the Royal Library, Dresden, also known as the Dresdensis.• Was brought in 1739 to the King of Saxonys library in Dresden, where an unknown person sold it to the director of the library, Johann Christian Goetze.• Existence of the codex was made known to the world in 1774 when the director published his book: Peculiarities of the Library of Dresden, First Collection.• Publicly displayed for the first time in 1834. Contains 39 pages of prophecies, ceremonies for the new year, and astronomical data. New years ceremonies are depicted as well as a sort of agricultural almanac is contained in this codex.• The codex was almost destroyed during WWII but today is on display at the Dresden Museum.• The codex was vigorously studied by a librarian, Ernest Forstemann, 1822-1906, who after years of work began to break the numerical signs and code.
Dresden Codex •During the first world war, Martin Meinshausen deciphered the famous Calendar of Eclipses. Pages 57 and 58 of this codex provide a perpetual lunar calendar of 11,960 days consisting of 405 months, divided into 69 groups of 177, 178, or 148 days. •An accurate lunar calendar, with accurate predictions of solar eclipses. 11,960 divided by 405 gave the Maya a 29.5308 lunar cycle. Modern astronomers compute a lunar calendar at 29.5309 days. •Dates from A.D. 1250-1345.
Codex Tro-Cortesiano– Incomplete, now in Madrid– Drawn on amate paper and is 56 pages long.– Sold to the Museum by Pilar Bermudez de Castro.– For a considerable time it was thought to be two different codices. The first part "Tro", was brought to the attention of the abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, who discovered it in the private library of Juan Tro y Ortelano, a Professor of Paleography and a descendant of Hernan Cortes.– According to some sources the second half of the name "Cortesian", refers to the professors Spanish ancestry, some however, believe it derives from the codex being found in Extremadura, where it may have been taken by Cortes.
Other Post Classic Codices • Codex Peresiano – prophesies and ceremonies, possibly of east coast origin. – dates from the period of Mayapans rule in Yucatan, A.D. 1200. – Leon de Rosny, a botanist and Japanese language expert, found this codex in a wastebasket at the National Library of Paris in 1859, its papers blackened by chimney smoke. – A small codex of only eleven pages measuring 1.45 meters long by 22 centimeters wide. Thought to have been made in the twelfth or thirteenth century. – The codex contains information of prophecy and history and almanacs dealing with divinity. – One complete side of the manuscript details eleven successive katuns, or twenty year periods of time. It is not known how it came to Paris or how long it was there. • Grolier Codex – found in a dry cave by looters, northern part of Chiapas – almanac based on planet Venus – originally about 20 pages, A.D. 1230
http://www.mayavase.com/grol/groCodex de Parishttp://classes.bnf.fr/dossiecr/gc63-1.htm
Calendric Calculations• Maya Calendar• Calendar Round – Basic unit was a day, not broken down further. – two recurring cycles of time 260-day and 365- day ran simultaneously making up a period of 52 years.
Sacred Almanac (Tzokin)• 260-day cycle• Maya:Tzokin, Aztec:Tonalpohualli – primarily religious and divinatory – guidance of daily affairs – 20 named days, combined with numbers 1-13, in which the exact combination of name and number would recur every 260 days. – not based on natural phenomenon.
What is the Tzolkin?• The Tzolkin date is a combination of two "week" lengths.• While our calendar uses a single week of seven days, the Mayan calendar used two different lengths of week: – a numbered week of 13 days, in which the days were numbered from 1 to 13 – a named week of 20 days, in which the names of the days were:• As the named week is 20 days and the smallest Long Count digit is 20 days, there is synchrony between the two; – if, for example, the last digit of todays Long Count is 0, today must be Ahau; if it is 6, it must be Cimi. – Since the numbered and the named week were both "weeks," each of their name/number change daily; therefore, the day after 3 Cimi is not 4 Cimi, but 4 Manik, and the day after that, 5 Lamat. – The next time Cimi rolls around, 20 days later, it will be 10 Cimi instead of 3 Cimi. The next 3 Cimi will not occur until 260 (or 13 x 20) days have passed. – This 260-day cycle also had good-luck or bad-luck associations connected with each day, and for this reason, it became known as the "divinatory year."• The "years" of the Tzolkin calendar are not counted.• When did the Tzolkin Start? – Long Count 184.108.40.206.0 corresponds to 4 Ahau. The authorities agree on this.
Astronomical Year• 365-day cycle• Maya:Haab, Aztec:Xihuitl) – 18 named months of 20 days each, plus 5 additional days of apprehension and bad luck at the end of the year. – Days numbered from 0-19, and to return to any given date, 52 years would have to pass.
The Haab • In contrast to the Tzolkin dates, the Haab month names changed every 20 days instead of daily; so the day after 4 Zotz would be 5 Zotz, followed by 6 Zotz ... up to 19 Zotz, which is followed by 0 Tzec. • The days of the month were numbered from 0 to 19. This use of a 0th day of the month in a civil calendar is unique to the Maya system; it is believed that the Mayas discovered the number zero, and the uses to which it could be put, centuries before it was discovered in Europe or Asia. • The Uayeb days acquired a very derogatory reputation for bad luck; known as "days without names" or "days without souls," and were observed as days of prayer and mourning. Fires were extinguished and the population refrained from eating hot food. Anyone born on those days was "doomed to a miserable life." • The names of the month: 1.Pop 2.Uo 3.Zip 4.Zotz 5.Tzec 6.Xul 7.Yaxkin 8.Mol 9.Chen 10.Yax 11.Zac 12.Ceh 13.Mac 14.Kankin 15.Muan 16.Pax 17.Kayab 18.Cumku • When did the Haab Start? – Long Count 220.127.116.11.0 corresponds to 8 Cumku. The authorities agree on this.
Did the Mayas Think a Year Was 365 Days?• Although there were only 365 days in the Haab year, the Mayas were aware that a year is slightly longer than 365 days, and in fact, many of the month-names are associated with the seasons; Yaxkin, for example, means "new or strong sun" and, at the beginning of the Long Count, 1 Yaxkin was the day after the winter solstice, when the sun starts to shine for a longer period of time and higher in the sky.• When the Long Count was put into motion, it was started at 18.104.22.168.0, and 0 Yaxkin corresponded with Midwinter Day, as it did at 22.214.171.124.0 back in 3114 B.C.E. The available evidence indicates that the Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the seasons twice in 126.96.36.199.0 or 1,101,600 days.• We can therefore derive a value for the Mayan estimate of the year by dividing 1,101,600 by 365, subtracting 2, and taking that number and dividing 1,101,600 by the result, which gives us an answer of 365.242036 days, which is slightly more accurate than the 365.2425 days of the Gregorian calendar.• (This apparent accuracy could, however, be a simple coincidence. The Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the seasons twice in 188.8.131.52.0 days. These numbers are only accurate to 2-3 digits. Suppose the 184.108.40.206.0 days had corresponded to 2.001 cycles rather than 2 cycles of the 365-day year, would the Mayas have noticed?)
Zero and the Long Count• Numbers represented with a one as a dot and a five as a bar. – value is determined by its position.• No idea when zero invented – needed for calculating dates in the past. – invented in the Old World-India and Babylonia ca. 500 B.C.
Long Count• A starting point in the past as August 13, 3114 B.C., significance may be mythological such as the creation of the three Maya worlds.• Time in groups of 20 days: – kin=one day – uinal=20 days – tun=360 days – katun=7200 days – baktun=144,000 days• We translate them as 220.127.116.11.0 which is 9 baktuns, 14 katuns, 8 tuns, 0 uinals, and 0 kins.
When did the Long Count Start? • Logically, the first date in the Long Count should be 0.0.0.0.0, but as the baktun (the first component) are numbered from 1 to 13 rather than 0 to 12, this first date is actually written 18.104.22.168.0. • The authorities disagree on what 22.214.171.124.0 corresponds to in our calendar. I have come across three possible equivalences: • 126.96.36.199.0 = 8 Sep 3114 BC (Julian) = 13 Aug 3114 BC (Gregorian) 188.8.131.52.0 = 6 Sep 3114 BC (Julian) = 11 Aug 3114 BC (Gregorian) 184.108.40.206.0 = 11 Nov 3374 BC (Julian) = 15 Oct 3374 BC (Gregorian) • Assuming one of the first two equivalences, the Long Count will again reach 220.127.116.11.0 on 21 or 23 December AD 2012 - a not too distant future.
Gregorian vs. Julian Calendar• The Gregorian Calendar is a revision of the Julian Calendar which was instituted in a papal bull by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The reason for the calendar change was to correct for drift in the dates of signifigant religious observations (primarily Easter) and to prevent further drift in the dates.• The important effects of the change were: – Drop 10 days from October 1582, to realign the Vernal Equinox with 21 March – Change leap year selection so that not all years ending in "00" are leap years. – Change the beginning of the year to 1 January from 25 March
Deciphering Maya Hieroglyphics • It is the combination of imagery and hieroglyphs wich gives patterns meaning. – no list of signs with meaning for each. – no real alphabet. • Maya inscriptions thought to relate only to calendrics and astronomy because they were the first to be deciphered.
Mayan Epigraphers• Today epigraphers recognize the writing as a political or dynastic theme. – Researchers such as Yuri Knorosov, Tatiana Proskouriakoff, and Heinrich Berlin. • Knorosov-combining signs (consonant plus vowel) words were formed phonetically. • Berlin-emblem glyphs stood for centers, regions, or dynasties. • Proskouriakoff-dates corresponded to historical events of rulers and their families at Pedras Negras.• Linda Schele “Breaking the Maya Code” – dates on stelae and in codices are associated with events in rulers lives. assumption to the throne is dated then bloodletting or other rituals and their corresponding dates.• Still about 1/3 cannot be deciphered.
Maya Long Count Exercise1. Calculate the year that the New World was discovered in Mayan long count.2. What year did WWI begin in Mayan long count?3. Write the year of your birth in Mayan long count.4. In what year did you graduate high school as calculated by the Mayan long count?
Conversion• Gregorian to Mayan – http://www.pauahtun.org/cgi-bin/gregmaya.py• Long Count to Gregorian – http://www.pauahtun.org/cgi-bin/mayagreg.py