Skip to main content
×
Home

Measuring deep time: the Sidereal Year and the Tropical Year in Maya inscriptions

  • Michael J. Grofe (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Maya inscriptions contain numerous examples of long intervals of time that count both backward and forward from a fixed point of historical reference to specific mythological dates, often thousands of years in the past or future. This paper considers the evidence that these intervals incorporated precise calculations of both the sidereal year and the tropical year. Furthermore, it outlines a specific methodology for assessing the likelihood that these distance numbers were either intentionally calculated to incorporate these astronomical measurements, or if these results are merely coincidental.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Measuring deep time: the Sidereal Year and the Tropical Year in Maya inscriptions
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Measuring deep time: the Sidereal Year and the Tropical Year in Maya inscriptions
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Measuring deep time: the Sidereal Year and the Tropical Year in Maya inscriptions
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All
Apenes O. 1936, Possible derivation of the 260 day period of the Maya calendar. Ethnos 1, 58.
Aveni A. F. 1992, The Moon and the Venus Table: an example of commensuration in the Maya calendar. In Aveni A. F. (ed.), The Sky in Mayan Literature, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 87101.
Aveni A. F. 2001, Skywatchers, University of Texas Press, Austin.
Aveni A. F. 2009, The End of Time: the Maya Mystery of 2012, University Press of Colorado, Boulder.
Aveni A. F., Bricker H. M., & Bricker V. R. 2003, Seeking the sidereal: observable planetary stations and the ancient Maya record. Journal for the History of Astronomy 34, 145161.
Aveni A. F., Dowd A. S., & Vining B. 2003, Maya calendar reform? Evidence from orientations of specialized architectural assemblages. Latin American Antiquity 14 (2), 159178.
Aveni A. F. & Hartung H. 1981, The observation of the Sun at the time of passage through the zenith in Mesoamerica. Archaeoastronomy no. 3 (supplement to Journal for the History of Astronomy 12), S51–S70.
Aveni A. F. & Hartung H. 1989, Uaxactún, Guatemala, Group E and similar assemblages: an archaeoastronomical reconsideration. In Aveni A.F. (ed.), World Archaeoastronomy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 441461.
Beyer H. 1943, The Long Count position of the Serpent Number dates. Proceedings of the 27th ICA, Mexico, 1939, Mexico City, pp. 401405.
Boot E. 2005, Continuity and Change in Text and Image at Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico: a Study of the Inscriptions, Iconography, and Architecture at a Late Classic to Early Postclassic Maya Site, CNWS Publications vol. 135, CNWS, Leiden.
Bricker V. R. & Bricker H. M. 1988, The seasonal table in the Dresden Codex and related almanacs. Archaeoastronomy no. 12 (supplement to Journal for the History of Astronomy 19), S1–S62.
Bricker V. R. & Bricker H. M. 1992, Zodiacal references in the Maya codices. In Aveni A.F. (ed.), The Sky in Mayan Literature, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 148183.
Broda J. 2000, Mesoamerican astronomy and the ritual calendar. In Selin H. (ed.), Astronomy Across Cultures, Kluwer, Dordrecht/Boston/London, pp. 225267.
Broda J. 2006, Zenith observations and the conceptualization of geographical latitude in ancient Mesoamerica: a historical interdisciplinary approach. In Bostwick T.W. & Bates B. (eds), Viewing the Sky through Past and Present Cultures: Selected Papers from the Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, Pueblo Grande Museum Anthropological Papers no. 15, Phoenix, pp. 183212.
Capitaine N., Wallace P. T., & Chapront J. 2003, Expressions for IAU 2000 precession quantities. Astronomy & Astrophysics 412, 567586.
Coe M. D. 1994, Mexico: from the Olmecs to the Aztecs, Thames and Hudson, New York.
Coggins C. 1982, The zenith, the mountain, the center, and the sea. In Aveni A.F. & Urton G. (eds), Ethnoastronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the American Tropics, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, pp. 4968.
Edmonson M. 1988, The Book of the Year: Middle American Calendrical Systems, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Evans J. 1998, The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy, Oxford University Press, New York.
Gaida M. 1990, Die kulturelle und politisch-ökonomische Stellung Copans im Maya-Gebiet in der klassischen Zeit (300–900 n. Chr.), Beiträge zur allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Archäologie, Bonn.
Girard R. 1948, El Calendario Maya-Mexica: Origen, Función, Desarrollo y Lugar de Procedencia, Editorial Stylo, Mexico City.
Girard R. 1966, Los Mayas: Su Civilización, su Historia, sus Vinculaciones Continentales, Libro Mex, Mexico City.
Grofe M. J. 2003, Calculations of the Tropical Year and precessional cycles: two bone fragments from Tikal Burial 116. Unpublished paper presented for Mesoamerican Writing Systems, NAS 191 for Dr. Martha J. Macri, University of California–Davis, June 5, 2003. Available from the author.
Grofe M. J. 2007, The Serpent Series: Precession in the Maya Dresden Codex. Dissertation for the University of California at Davis.
Grofe M. J. 2010, The Copán Baseline: Kˈatun 9.11.0.0.0 and the Three Hearthstones in Orion. Presentation at the 75th SAA Meeting, St. Louis.
Grube N. & Schele L. 1993, Naranjo Altar 1 and Rituals of Death and Burials, Texas Note No. 54, CHAAAC, Austin.
Jenkins J. M. 1998, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: the True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date, Bear & Co, Santa Fe NM.
Jones C. & Satterthwaite L. 1982, The Monuments and Inscriptions of Tikal: the Carved Monuments. Tikal Report No. 33, Part A, University Museum Monograph 44, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Linden J. 1996, The Deity Head variants of Glyph C. In Macri M. J. & McHargue J. (eds), Eighth Palenque Round Table, 1993, Vol. x, Pre-Columbian Art Research Center, San Francisco, pp. 369377.
Looper M. G. 2002, The 3-11-pih Title in Classic Maya Inscriptions, Glyphdwellers Report 15, Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project, Davis.
Looper M. G. 2003, Lightning Warrior: Maya Art and Kingship at Quirigua, University of Texas Press, Austin.
MacLeod B. 2008, The 3-11-Pik Formula, Lecture delivered at UT Austin Maya Meetings, University of Texas, March 2, 2008.
Malmström V. 1973, Origin of the Mesoamerican 260-day calendar. Science 181, 939941.
Malmström V. 1978, A reconstruction of the chronology of Mesoamerican calendrical systems. Journal for the History of Astronomy 9, 105116.
Malmström V. 1997, Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon: the Calendar in Mesoamerican Civilization, University of Texas Press, Austin.
Martin S. & Grube N. 2000, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya, Thames & Hudson, London.
Meeus J. & Savoie D. 1992, The history of the Tropical Year. Journal of the British Astronomical Association 102 (1), 4042.
Mendez A., Barnhart E. L., Powell C., & Karasik C. 2005, Astronomical observations from the Temple of the Sun. Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture 19, 4473.
Merrill R. H. 1945, Maya sun calendar dictum disproved. American Antiquity 10, 307311.
Milbrath S. 1988, Astronomical images and orientations in the architecture of Chichen Itza. In Aveni A.F. (ed.), New Directions in American Archaeoastronomy, BAR International Series 454, British Archaeological Reports, Oxford, pp. 5779.
Milbrath S. 1999, Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars, University of Texas Press, Austin.
Moyer G. 1981, The origin of the Julian Day system. Sky & Telescope 61, 311313.
Neugebauer O. 1969, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, Dover, Mineola.
North J. 2008, Cosmos: an Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Nuttall Z. 1928, Nouvelles lumières sur les civilizations americaines et le système du calendrier. Proceedings of the 22nd ICA, Rome, pp. 119148.
Proskouriakoff T. 1970, On two inscriptions at Chichen Itza. Papers of the Peabody Museum 61, 457467.
Rice P. M. 2007, Maya Calendar Origins: Monuments, Mythistory, and the Materialization of Time, University of Texas Press, Austin.
Severin G. 1981, The Paris Codex: Decoding an Astronomical Ephemeris, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.
Šprajc I. 2001, Orientaciones Astronómicas en la Arquitectura Prehispánica del Centro de México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.
Tedlock B. 1982, Time and the Highland Maya, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Teeple J. 1930, Maya astronomy. Contributions to American Archaeology 1 (2) (Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication 403), 29116.
Thompson J. E. S. 1927, A correlation of the Mayan and European calendars. Field Museum of Nat. Hist. Publ. 241 (Anth. Series 27(1)), 322.
Thompson J. E. S. 1932, The Solar Year of the Mayas at Quirigua, Guatemala. Field Museum of Nat. Hist. Publ. 315 (Anth. Series 17(4)), 366421.
Thompson J. E. S. 1950, Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: an Introduction, CIW Publication 589, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington DC.
Tichy F. 1981, Order and relationship of space and time in Mesoamerica: myth or reality? In Benson E.P. (ed.), Mesoamerican Sites and World-Views, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, pp. 217245.
Toomer G. J. 1978, Hipparchus. In Gillispie C.C. (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 15, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, pp. 207224.
Van Stone M. 2010, 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya, Tlacaélel Press, Imperial Beach.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union
  • ISSN: 1743-9213
  • EISSN: 1743-9221
  • URL: /core/journals/proceedings-of-the-international-astronomical-union
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 54 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 117 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.