How to Read the Mayan Calendar

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The Maya actually used three different calendars.

  • The first was the sacred calendar, or Tzolk'in, which lasted 260 days and then started over again.  This calendar was important for scheduling religious ceremonies.
  • The second calendar was the Haab', or secular calendar, which lasted 365 days but did not account for the extra quarter-day that we have leap years to compensate.
  • The final calendar was the Long Count Calendar — the recording method that has caused all of the doomsday brouhaha of 2012.  On Dec. 21 this calendar completes a major cycle, which has triggered doomsday fears and mystical rumors about the end of an age.

 

Mayan CalendarHow the Mayan Long Count Calendar works
The Long Count Calendar may not predict doomsday, but it is good at covering long periods of time. Here's how it works:

Dates are written out as five numbers separated by four periods, such as 13.0.0.0.0.  The right-most position is called the k'in, which counts single days: 13.0.0.0.1, for example.  The k'in counts up to 19 and then flips back to zero, with counting picked back up by the second position, the uinal.  So 13.0.0.0.19 would become 13.0.0.1.0, much like a car’s odometer.

Each uinal is thus a block of 20 days.  The k'in position then picks back up, counting up to that 20, which then gets added to the uinal counter.  So the day after 13.0.0.1.0 would be 13.0.0.1.1 and then 13.0.0.1.2, all the way up to 13.0.0.1.19 and finally 13.0.0.2.0.

The uinals count upward as well.  While the Maya generally use a base-20 counting system, they modify this slightly for the uinal, which only counts up to 17 before rolling over to the third position, the tun.  Each tun is thus 18 blocks of 20 days, or 360 days — approximately a year by our solar calendar.

Tuns, in turn, count up to 20 before rolling over into k'atuns.  As 20 blocks of 360 days, each k'atun translates into 7,200 days, or just less than 20 years. The k'atun place then counts up before rolling over into the final digit, the b'ak'tun.

December 21st, 2012 marks the end of the 13th b'ak'tun of the Maya Long Count Calendar.  It's the day the counter will read 13.0.0.0.0. On Dec. 22, it will read 13.0.0.0.1.

Pretty cool system for an ancient civilization.........

 

Here's a link to the full article where I found this: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/50248963/ns/technology_and_science-science/

 

 

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