Mayan astrology documentary
And until recently, the same could be said about the nature of the Maya themselves. For much of the 20th century, Maya experts followed the lead of Carnegie Institution of Washington archaeologist J. Eric Thompson, who argued that the Maya were peaceful philosophers and extraordinary observers of celestial events content to ponder the nature of time and the cosmos.
It was a beautiful vision—but nearly all wrong. When, in the s, the hieroglyphs—the most sophisticated writing system created in the New World—were at last beginning to be deciphered, a new picture of these people emerged. Mayan art and writing, it turned out, contained stories of battles, sacrificial offerings and torture. Far from being peaceful, the Maya were warriors, their kings vainglorious despots. Maya cities were not merely ceremonial; instead, they were a patchwork of feudal fiefdoms bent on conquest and living in constant fear of attack.
It is one of the ironies of this view that evidence for it has long been in plain sight. Each stela depicts a sumptuously bedecked king, and the monoliths are covered in hieroglyphs that, once deciphered, illuminated our view of Maya life.
Only four Maya codices are known to have survived. And one key to the glyphs from that time was saved: a manuscript that Landa wrote in about his contact with the Maya.
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It recorded what he mistakenly thought was the Mayan alphabet. Although parts of his manuscript were first published in , nearly a century would pass before epigraphers understood that Mayan hieroglyphs are actually a combination of symbols using both logographs words and syllabic signs units of sound.
However, it was not until the s that the full meaning of many hieroglyphs was understood. Today at least 85 percent of known Mayan texts have been read and translated. Abandoned by its original inhabitants more than a thousand years ago, the city remained unknown to outsiders for almost a millennium. A leader in the field of Mayan epigraphy is David Stuart, who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in at age 18—the youngest recipient of the so-called genius award—for his several publications and papers about deciphering Mayan hieroglyphs.
He defined some previously unknown glyphs and refined the spelling rules of the Mayan writing system. He has a special fondness for Tikal. Though Tikal may have been settled by at least b. Recent finds may yet force scholars to redefine the beginning of this period.
How does the Maya calendar work?
This spring, archaeologists working at the nearby city of Cival uncovered evidence that distinctively Mayan art and writing may have developed as early as b. Still,Tikal stands out.
Beginning in the s, well before other glyphs yielded up their meanings, researchers began decoding the Maya calendar from glyphs on stelae at sites all over the Maya world. Most stelae include the date of their creation, written in a five-number sequence known to scholars as the Long Count, or the number of days since the beginning of this current era. The earliest dated monument yet discovered in Tikal and all of the Maya lowlands, Stela 29, has a Long Count date of 8.
Understanding this calendar was an important step in understanding the history of the Maya. Of all the dated stelae found at Tikal, not one is from between a. This period of monumental silence is known as the Hiatus. For decades, scholars were at a loss to explain what happened during those years. But after the discovery of the Long Count, one of the next breakthroughs in deciphering the Mayan writing system was recognizing what experts call the emblem glyph—a unique hieroglyph that represents a specific city-state.
But why? As experts translated more glyphs, they learned that Tikal had lost a war with Caracol, a Maya city in present-day Belize. The evidence is a boast of the victory, in a. That crushing defeat must have hung over Tikal like a pall. Before the glyphs were read, no archaeologist would have dreamed that Caracol, though a substantial city-state, could have laid low the mighty Tikal. Other stelae at Caracol suggest that the key to its triumph was an alliance with Calakmul, another Maya powerhouse in present-day Mexico.
For more than years, then, Tikal may have been a conquered city-state, languishing in thrall to foreign rulers. Somehow, Tikal recovered. In , the city launched a war against Dos Pilas, about 70 miles to the southwest. So explicit are Mayan glyphs that archaeologists have by now compiled a chronology of 33 rulers of Tikal including at least one queen spanning years.
End of the World Averted: New Archeological Find Proves Mayan Calendar Doesn’t End
Scholars formerly named these rulers after the glyphs that signified them, such as Double Bird, Jaguar Paw and Curl Snout. As epigraphers learned to sound out the glyphs, they assigned phonetic names. As a young king, he fled Tikal when Calakmul declared war in a. Then, only five years later, Nuun Ujol Chaak lost again to Dos Pilas, which was most likely collaborating with Calakmul, probably the greatest Maya power at the end of the seventh century.
A drawing on a building in the Central Acropolis shows Jasaw carried in triumph into the city on a litter, leading his captive— perhaps the defeated lord of Calakmul—by a tether. Templeiv, erected about a. Only the upper levels of TempleIV have been restored, but thanks to a pair of wooden staircases that surmount the rubble, visitors can climb nearly to the top of this structure for the finest view at Tikal. A seemingly limitless green expanse of rain forest billows into the distance like waves on a chlorophyll ocean. There is no sign of any other human settlement.
The Lost World is a complex of pyramids and buildings southwest of the GreatPlaza. It was excavated and restored between and by Guatemalan archaeologists working on the Tikal National Project. Scroll down for video:. The painted figure of a man - possibly a scribe - is illuminated in the doorway of the Mayan dwelling, which holds symbols never seen before.
Angelyn Bass cleans and stabilizes the surface of a wall of a Maya house that dates to the 9th century A. A mysterious figure is shown painted on the wall in the foreground.
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Four long numbers on the north wall of the ruined house relate to the Maya calendar and computations about the moon, sun and possibly Venus and Mars; the dates may stretch some 7, years into the future. These are the first calculations Maya archaeologists have found that seem to tabulate all of these cycles in this way.
Mayan temples in Guatemala: Researchers have found walls adorned with unique paintings - one depicting a line-up of men in black uniforms, and hundreds of scrawled numbers - many calculations relating to the Mayan calendar. The Mayan sites in Guatemala have been investigated by scientists since the Seventies. The excavations, which were funded by National Geographic, have already revealed details about the Mayan calendar and the lives of the inhabitants which were previously unknown.
One wall of the structure, thought to be a house, is covered with tiny, millimetre-thick, red and black glyphs unlike any seen before at other Mayan sites. Some appear to represent the various calendrical cycles charted by the Mayans - the day ceremonial calendar, the day solar calendar, the day cycle of the planet Venus and the day cycle of Mars.
Although they all involve common multiples of key calendrical and astronomical cycles, the exact significance of these particular spans of time is not known. They seem to be using it like a blackboard. Archaeologist William Saturno of Boston University carefully uncovers art and writings left by the Maya some 1, years ago. Incriptions on Mayan tablets found in temples such as Tortuguero refer to 'the end' - and many internet conspiracy theories have predicted our world will be swallowed by a black hole, hit by an asteroid or devoured by ancient gods.
But many ethnic Mayans dismiss the apocalyptic predictions as largely a Western idea. Rather than the end of time itself, the inscriptions refer to the start of a new era. The 'apocalypse' refers to the end of a cycle of 5, years since the beginning of the Mayan Long Count calendar in B. The paintings represent the first Maya art to be found on the walls of a house. The walls reveal the oldest known astronomical tables from the Maya.
Scientists already knew they must have been keeping such records at that time, but until now the oldest known examples dated from about years later.
Astronomical records were key to the Mayan calendar, which has gotten some attention recently because of doomsday warnings that it predicts the end of the world this December. Experts say it makes no such prediction. The new finding provides a bit of backup: The calculations include a time span longer than 6, years that could extend well beyond Aveni, along with William Saturno of Boston University and others, report the discovery in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
The room, a bit bigger than 6-feet square, is part of a large complex of Mayan ruins in the rain forest at Xultun in northeastern Guatemala. The walls also contain portraits of a seated king and some other figures, but it's clear those have no connection to the astronomical writings, the scientists said. One wall contains a calendar based on phases of the moon, covering about 13 years. The researchers said they think it might have been used to keep track of which deity was overseeing the moon at particular times. Aveni said it would allow scribes to predict the appearance of a full moon years in advance, for example.
Such record-keeping was key to Mayan astrology and rituals, and maybe would be used to advise the king on when to go to war or how good this year's crops would be, he said.
On an adjacent wall are numbers indicating four time spans from roughly to 6, years. It's not clear what they represent, but maybe the scribes were doing calculations that combined observations from important astronomical events like the movements of Mars, Venus and the moon, the researchers said. Why bother to do that?
Experts unconnected with the discovery said it was a significant advance. The new work gives insight into that, he said, and the fact the room had a stone roof rather than thatching supports previous indications that the scribes enjoyed a high social standing. Scientists from Harvard University mapped more of the site in the s. The house discovered by Prof Saturno's team was numbered 54 of 56 structures counted and mapped at that time. Thousands at Xultzn remain uncounted.
The team's excavations reveal that monumental construction at Xultzn began in the first centuries B.