If you are fascinated by the concept of time, make sure to know about the Maya Calendar. This calendar system belonged to the Maya Indians, an ancient civilization that inhabited the region from Central America to Mexico.
Archaeologists, Sociologists, and Anthropologists have studied their scientific and advanced concept of time for years. Yet, exactly the exact date of the beginning of Maya Indians remains elusive, though one theory suggests that it was as early as 1,000 B.C.
Apart from their concept of time they also had a detailed alphabet, a progressive culture and educational system, technological know how combined with a thriving agrarian sector, a planned government, architectural, artistic expertise and a widespread trade system.
From the most of what remains as ruins of this antique empire, the Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichén Itzá emerges as the cornerstone of the Maya time mechanism.
In fact, the pyramid itself formed the calendar: four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform at the top, making 365, corresponding to the number of days in a calendar year. It was constructed in circa 1050 (late Mayan period), when Toltecs from Tula became politically powerful. This calendar became popular and it was soon adopted by the other Mesoamerican people like the Aztecs, the Toltec, Zapotec, Olmec, Mixtec, and others, with only variations in the names of the days of the week and the months.
Maya time followed a combined cyclic pattern, out of which emerged three calendars: one for religious events and astrological prophecy called the Tzolkin, a civil solar calendar called Haab and a long count used for inscriptions only.
This three-tier system followed the combined movement of the sun, moon and stars and even helped forecast eclipses and equinoxes. The Tzolkin consisted 260 days, the Haab of a little more than 365 days and following the solar cycle and the long count, which is the number of days from an imaginary starting date using a positional notation outline.
The cyclical concept of Maya time, also believed in concepts of many lives determined by the Gods in heaven. They also performed rituals to appease the Gods and maintain equilibrium of their ongoing existence in this cycle of lives.
To conclude, the three calendars occupied the centre stage of Maya life and culture. But strangely, just like its elusive beginning the end of the Mayas also remains shrouded in mystery. Theories suggest that at around 900-1000 A.D. they simply disappeared.
Though we have been able to crack the Maya calendar, which is often considered more accurate than the Gregorian, the beginning and the end of this remarkable time still remains obscure.
Joseph Paige © 2006