Anthropologists John Linden and Victoria Bricker from Tulane University think they’ve finally figured out how a Maya calendar works, as they believe the calendar worked over a period of not 819 days, but 45 years.
A cycle featured in Maya calendars has been a mystery pretty much since it was rediscovered and its deciphering began in the 1940s.
Covering a period of 819 days, the cycle is referred to simply as the 819-day count. The problem is that researchers couldn’t match that 819 days up to anything.
But anthropologists John Linden and Victoria Bricker from Tulane University now think they’ve finally cracked the code. All they had to do was broaden their thinking, studying how the calendar worked over a period of not 819 days, but 45 years, and relate it to the time taken for a celestial object to appear to return to approximately the same point in the sky – what’s referred to as the synodic period.
“Although prior research has sought to show planetary connections for the 819-day count, its four-part, color-directional scheme is too short to fit well with the synodic periods of the visible planets,” they write in their paper.
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“By increasing the calendar length to 20 periods of 819-days a pattern emerges in which the synodic periods of all the visible planets commensurate with station points in the larger 819-day calendar.”
The Maya calendar is actually a complicated system made up of smaller calendars, developed centuries ago in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Of the component calendars, the 819-day count is the most baffling to modern anthropologists.
It’s a glyph-based calendar that is repeated four times, with each 819-day block corresponding with one of four colors and, scientists initially thought, a cardinal direction. Red was associated with east, white with north, black with west, and yellow with south. It wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers realized that this assumption was incorrect.
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