An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs/Chapter 3
CHAPTER III. HOW THE MAYA RECKONED TIME
Among all peoples and in all ages the most obvious unit for the measurement of time has been the day; and the never-failing reappearance of light after each interval of darkness has been the most constant natural phenomenon with which the mind of man has had to deal. From the earliest times successive returns of the sun have regulated the whole scheme of human existence. When it was light, man worked; when it was dark, he rested. Conformity to the operation of this natural law has been practically universal.
Indeed, as primitive man saw nature, day was the only division of time upon which he could absolutely rely. The waxing and waning of the moon, with its everchanging shape and occasional obscuration by clouds, as well as its periodic disappearances from the heavens all combined to render that luminary of little account in measuring the passage of time. The round of the seasons was even more unsatisfactory. A late spring or an early winter by hastening or retarding the return of a season caused the apparent lengths of succeeding years to vary greatly. Even where a 365-day year had been determined, the fractional loss, amounting to a day every four years, soon brought about a discrepancy between the calendar and the true year. The day, therefore, as the most obvious period in nature, as well as the most reliable, has been used the world over as the fundamental unit for the measurement of longer stretches of time.
Table I. THE TWENTY MAYA DAY NAMES
In conformity with the universal practice just mentioned the Maya made the day, which they called kin, the primary unit of their calendar. There were twenty such units, named as in Table I; these followed each other in the order there shown. When Ahau, the last day in the list, had been reached, the count began anew with Imix, and thus repeated itself again and again without interruption, throughout time. It is important that the student should fix this Maya conception of the rotation of days firmly in his mind at the outset, since all that is to follow depends upon the absolute continuity of this twenty-day sequence in endless repetition.
Fig. 16. The day signs in the inscriptions.
Fig. 17. The day signs in the codices.
The glyphs for these twenty days are shown in figures 16 and 17. The forms in figure 16 are from the inscriptions and those in figure 17 from the codices. In several cases variants are given to facilitate identification. A study of the glyphs in these two figures shows on the whole a fairly close similarity between the forms for the same day in each. The sign for the first day, Imix, is practically identical in both. Compare figure 16, a and b, with figure 17, a and b. The usual form for the day Ik in the inscriptions (see fig. 16, c), however, is unlike the glyph for the same day in the codices (fig. 17, c, d). The forms for Akbal and Kan are practically the same in each (see fig. 16, d, e, and f, and fig. 17, e and f, respectively). The day Chicchan, figure 16, g, occurs rarely in the inscriptions; when present, it takes the form of a grotesque head. In the codices the common form for this day is very different (fig. 17, g). The head variant, however (fig. 17, h), shows a slightly closer similarity to the form from the inscriptions. The forms in both figure 16, h, i, and figure 17, i, j, for the day Cimi show little resemblance to each other. Although figure 17, i, represents the common form in the codices, the variant in j more closely resembles the form in figure 16, h, i. The day Manik is practically the same in both (see figs. 16, j, and 17, k), as is also Lamat (figs. 16, k, l, and 17, l, m). The day Muluc occurs rarely in the inscriptions (fig. 16, m, n). Of these two variants m more closely resembles the form from the codices (fig. 17, n). The glyph for the day Oc (fig. 16, o, p, q) is not often found in the inscriptions. In the codices, on the other hand, this day is frequently represented as shown in figure 17, o. This form bears no resemblance to the forms in the inscriptions. There is, however, a head-variant form found very rarely in the codices that bears a slight resemblance to the forms in the inscriptions. The day Chuen occurs but once in the inscriptions where the form is clear enough to distinguish its characteristic (see fig. 16, r). This form bears a general resemblance to the glyph for this day in the codices (fig. 17, p, q). The forms for the day Eb in both figures 16, s, t, u, and 17, r, are grotesque heads showing but remote resemblance to one another. The essential element in both, however, is the same, that is, the element occupying the position of the ear. Although the day Ben occurs but rarely in the inscriptions, its form (fig. 16, v) is practically identical with that in the codices (see fig. 17, s). The day Ix in the inscriptions appears as in figure 16, w, x. The form in the codices is shown in figure 17, t. The essential element in each seems to be the three prominent dots or circles. The day Men occurs very rarely on the monuments. The form shown in figure 16, y, is a grotesque head not unlike the sign for this day in the codices (fig. 17, u). The signs for the day Cib in the inscriptions and the codices (figs. 16, z, and 17, v, w), respectively, are very dissimilar. Indeed, the form for Cib (fig. 17, v) in the codices resembles more closely the sign for the day Caban (fig. 16, a', b') than it does the form for Cib in the inscriptions (see fig. 16, z). The only element common to both is the line paralleling the upper part of the glyph (
*) and the short vertical lines connecting it with the outline at the top. The glyphs for the day Caban in both figures 16, a', b', and 17, x, y, show a satisfactory resemblance to each other. The forms for the day Eznab are also practically identical (see figs. 16, c', and 17, z, a'). The forms for the day Cauac, on the other hand, are very dissimilar; compare figures 16, d', and 17, b'. The only point of resemblance between the two seems to be the element which appears in the eye of the former and at the lower left-hand side of the latter. The last of the twenty Maya days, and by far the most important, since it is found in both the codices and the inscriptions more frequently than all of the others combined, is Ahau (see figs. 16, e'-k', and 17, c', d'). The latter form is the only one found in the codices, and is identical with e', f', figure 16, the usual sign for this day in the inscriptions. The variants in figure 16, g'-k', appear on some of the monuments, and because of the great importance of this day Ahau it is necessary to keep all of them in mind.
These examples of the glyphs, which stand for the twenty Maya days, are in each case as typical as possible. The student must remember, however, that many variations occur, which often render the correct identification of a form difficult. As explained in the preceding chapter, such variations are due not only to individual peculiarities of style, careless drawing, and actual error, but also to the physical dissimilarities of materials on which they are portrayed, as the stone of the monuments and the fiber paper of the codices; consequently, such differences may be regarded as unessential. The ability to identify variants differing from those shown in figures 16 and 17 will come only through experience and familiarity with the glyphs themselves. The student should constantly bear in mind, however, that almost every Maya glyph, the signs for the days included, has an essential element peculiar to it, and the discovery of such elements will greatly facilitate his study of Maya writing.
Why the named days should have been limited to twenty is difficult to understand, as this number has no parallel period in nature. Some have conjectured that this number was chosen because it represents the number of man's digits, the twenty fingers and toes. Mr. Bowditch has pointed out in this connection that the Maya word for the period composed of these twenty named days is uinal, while the word for 'man' is uinik. The parallel is interesting and may possibly explain why the number twenty was selected as the basis of the Maya system of numeration, which, as we shall see later, was vigesimal, that is, increasing by twenties or multiples thereof.
The Tonalamatl, or 260-day Period
Merely calling a day by one of the twenty names given in Table I, however, did not sufficiently describe it according to the Maya notion. For instance, there was no day in the Maya calendar called merely Imix, Ik, or Akbal, or, in fact, by any of the other names given in Table I. Before the name of a day was complete it was necessary to prefix to it a number ranging from 1 to 13, inclusive, as 6 Imix or 13 Akbal. Then and only then did a Maya day receive its complete designation and find its proper place in the calendar.
The manner in which these thirteen numbers, 1 to 13, inclusive, were joined to the twenty names of Table I was as follows: Selecting any one of the twenty names as a starting point, Kan for example, the number 1 was prefixed to it. See Table II, in which the names of Table I have been repeated with the numbers prefixed to them in a manner to be explained hereafter. The star opposite the name Kan indicates the starting point above chosen. The name Chicchan immediately following Kan in Table II was given the next number in order (2), namely, 2 Chicchan. The next name, Cimi, was given the next number (3), namely, 3 Cimi, and so on as follows: 4 Manik, 5 Lamat, 6 Muluc, 7 Oc, 8 Chuen, 9 Eb, 10 Ben, 11 Ix, 12 Men, 13 Cib.
Table II. SEQUENCE OF MAYA DAYS
Instead of giving to the next name in Table II (Caban) the number 14, the number 1 was prefixed; for, as previously stated, the numerical coefficients of the days did not rise above the number 13. Following the day 1 Caban, the sequence continued as before: 2 Eznab, 3 Cauac, 4 Ahau. After the day 4 Ahau, the last in Table II, the next number in order, in this case 5, was prefixed to the next name in order—that is, Imix, the first name in Table II—and the count continued without interruption: 5 Imix, 6 Ik, 7 Akbal, or back to the name Kan with which it started. There was no break in the sequence, however, even at this point (or at any other, for that matter). The next name in Table II, Kan, selected for the starting point, was given the number next in order, i. e., 8, and the day following 7 Akbal in Table II would be, therefore, 8 Kan, and the sequence would continue to be formed in the same way: 8 Kan, 9 Chicchan, 10 Cimi, 11 Manik, 12 Lamat, 13 Muluc, 1 Oc, 2 Chuen, 3 Eb, and so on. So far as the Maya conception of time was concerned, this sequence of days went on without interruption, forever.
While somewhat unusual at first sight, this sequence is in reality exceedingly simple, being governed by three easily remembered rules:
Rule 1. The sequence of the 20 day names repeats itself again and again without interruption.
BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGYBULLETIN 57 PLATE 5
TONALAMATL WHEEL, SHOWING SEQUENCE OF THE 260 DIFFERENTLY NAMED DAYS
Rule 2. The sequence of the numerical coefficients 1 to 13, inclusive, repeats itself again and again without interruption, 1 following immediately 13.
Rule 3. The 13 numerical coefficients are attached to the 20 names, so that after a start has been made by prefixing any one of the 13 numbers to any one of the 20 names, the number next in order is given to the name next in order, and the sequence continues indefinitely in this manner.
It is a simple question of arithmetic to determine the number of days which must elapse before a day bearing the same designation as a previous one in the sequence can reappear. Since there are 13 numbers and 20 names, and since each of the 13 numbers must be attached in turn to each one of the 20 names before a given number can return to a given name, we must find the least common multiple of 13 and 20. As these two numbers, contain no common factor, their least common multiple is their product (260), which is the number sought. Therefore, any given day can not reappear in the sequence until after the 259 days immediately following it shall have elapsed. Or, in other words, the 261st day will have the same designation as the 1st, the 262d the same as the 2d, and so on.
This is graphically shown in the wheel figured in plate 5, where the sequence of the days, commencing with 1 Imix, which is indicated by a star, is represented as extending around the rim of the wheel. After the name of each day, its number in the sequence beginning with the starting point 1 Imix, is shown in parenthesis. Now, if the star opposite the day 1 Imix be conceived to be stationary and the wheel to revolve in a sinistral circuit, that is contra-clockwise, the days will pass the star in the order which they occupy in the 260-day sequence. It appears from this diagram also that the day 1 Imix can not recur until after 260 days shall have passed, and that it always follows the day 13 Ahau. This must be true since Ahau is the name immediately preceding Imix in the sequence of the day names and 13 is the number immediately preceding 1. After the day 13 Ahau (the 260th from the starting point) is reached, the day 1 Imix, the 261st, recurs and the sequence, having entered into itself again, begins anew as before.
This round of the 260 differently named days was called by the Aztec the tonalamatl, or "book of days." The Maya name for this period is unknown and students have accepted the Aztec name for it. The tonalamatl is frequently represented in the Maya codices, there being more than 200 examples in the Codex Tro-Cortesiano alone. It was a very useful period for the calculations of the priests because of the different sets of factors into which it can be resolved, namely, 4×65, 5×52, 10×26, 13×20, and 2×130. Tonalamatls divided into 4, 5, and 10 equal parts of 65, 52, and 26 days, respectively, occur repeatedly throughout the codices.
It is all the more curious, therefore, that this period is rarely represented in the inscriptions. The writer recalls but one city (Copan) in which this period is recorded to any considerable extent. It might almost be inferred from this fact alone that the inscriptions do not treat of prophecy, divinations, or ritualistic and ceremonial matters, since these subjects in the codices are always found in connection with tonalamatls. If true this considerably restricts the field of which the inscriptions may treat.
Mr. Goodman has identified the glyph shown in figure 18 as the sign for the 260-day period, but on wholly insufficient evidence the writer believes. On the other hand, so important a period as the tonalamatl undoubtedly had its own particular glyph, but up to the present time all efforts to identify this sign have proved unsuccessful.
The Haab, or Year of 365 Days
Having explained the composition and nature of the tonalamatl, or so-called Sacred Year, let us turn to the consideration of the Solar Year, which was known as haab in the Maya language.
The Maya used in their calendar system a 365-day year, though they doubtless knew that the true length of the year exceeds this by 6 hours. Indeed, Bishop Landa very explicitly states that such knowledge was current among them. "They had," he says, "their perfect year, like ours, of 365 days and 6 hours;" and again, "The entire year had 18 of these [20-day periods] and besides 5 days and 6 hours." In spite of Landa's statements, however, it is equally clear that had the Maya attempted to take note of these 6 additional hours by inserting an extra day in their calendar every fourth year, their day sequence would have been disturbed at once. An examination of the tonalamatl, or round of days (see pl. 5), shows also that the interpolation of a single day at any point would have thrown into confusion the whole Maya calendar, not only interfering with the sequence but also destroying its power of reentering itself at the end of 260 days. The explanation of this statement is found in the fact that the Maya calendar had no elastic period corresponding to our month of February, which is increased in length whenever the accumulation of fractional days necessitates the addition of an extra day, in order to keep the calendar year from gaining on the true year.
If the student can be made to realize that all Maya periods, from the lowest to the highest known, are always in a continuous sequence, each returning into itself and beginning anew after completion, he will have grasped the most fundamental principle of Maya chronology—its absolute continuity throughout.
It may be taken for granted, therefore, in the discussion to follow that no interpolation of intercalary days was actually made. It is equally probable, however, that the priests, in whose hands such matters rested, corrected the calendar by additional calculations which showed just how many days the recorded year was ahead of the true year at any given time. Mr. Bowditch (1910: Chap. XI) has cited several cases in which such additional calculations exactly correct the inscriptions on the monument upon which they appear and bring their dates into harmony with the true solar year.
So far as the calendar is concerned, then, the year consisted of but 365 days. It was divided into 18 periods of 20 days each, designated in Maya uinal, and a closing period of 5 days known as the xma kaba kin, or "days without name." The sum of these (18×20+5) exactly made up the calendar year.
Table III. THE DIVISIONS OP THE MAYA YEAR
The names of these 19 divisions of the year are given in Table III in the order in which they follow one another; the twentieth day of one month was succeeded by the first day of the next month.
The first day of the Maya year was the first day of the month Pop, which, according to the early Spanish authorities, Bishop Landa (1864: p. 276) included, always fell on the 16th of July. Uayeb, the last division of the year, contained only 5 days, the last day of Uayeb being at the same time the 365th day of the year. Consequently, when this day was completed, the next in order was the Maya New Year's Day, the first day of the month Pop, after which the sequence repeated itself as before.
The xma kaba kin, or "days without name," were regarded as especially unlucky and ill-omened. Says Pio Perez (see Landa, 1864: p. 384) in speaking of these closing days of the year: "Some call them u yail kin or u yail haab, which may be translated, the sorrowful and laborious days or part of the year; for they [the Maya] believed that in them occurred sudden deaths and pestilences, and that they were diseased by poisonous animals, or devoured by wild beasts, fearing that if they went out to the field to their labors, some tree would pierce them or some other kind of misfortune happen to them." The Aztec held the five closing days of the year in the same superstitious dread. Persons born in this unlucky period were held to be destined by this fact to wretchedness and poverty for life. These days were, moreover, prophetic in character; what occurred during them continued to happen ever afterward. Hence, quarreling was avoided during this period lest it should never cease.
Having learned the number, length, and names of the several periods into which the Maya divided their year, and the sequence in which these followed one another, the next subject which claims attention is the positions of the several days in these periods. In order properly to present this important subject, it is first necessary to consider briefly how we count and number our own units of time, since through an understanding of these practices we shall better comprehend those of the ancient Maya.
It is well known that our methods of counting time are inconsistent with each other. For example, in describing the time of day, that is, in counting hours, minutes, and seconds, we speak in terms of elapsed time. When we say it is 1 o'clock, in reality the first hour after noon, that is, the hour between 12 noon and 1 p. m., has passed and the second hour after noon is about to commence. When we say it is 2 o'clock, in reality the second hour after noon is finished and the third hour about to commence. In other words, we count the time of day by referring to passed periods and not current periods. This is the method used in reckoning astronomical time. During the passage of the first hour after midnight the hours are said to be zero, the time being counted by the number of minutes and seconds elapsed. Thus, half past 12 is written: 0hr. 30min. 0sec., and quarter of 1, 0hr. 45min. 0sec.. Indeed one hour can not be written until the first hour after midnight is completed, or until it is 1 o'clock, namely, 1hr. 0min. 0sec..
We use an entirely different method, however, in counting our days, years, and centuries, which are referred to as current periods of time. It is the 1st day of January immediately after midnight December 31. It was the first year of the Eleventh Century immediately after midnight December 31, 1000 A. D. And finally, it was the Twentieth Century immediately after midnight December 31, 1900 A. D. In this category should be included also the days of the week and the months, since the names of these periods also refer to present time. In other words when we speak of our days, months, years, and centuries, we do not have in mind, and do not refer to completed periods of time, but on the contrary to current periods.
It will be seen that in the first method of counting time, in speaking of 1 o'clock, 1 hour, 30 minutes, we use only the cardinal forms of our numbers; but in the second method we say the 1st of January, the Twentieth Century, using the ordinal forms, though even here we permit ourselves one inconsistency. In speaking of our years, which are reckoned by the second method, we say "nineteen hundred and twelve," when, to be consistent, we should say "nineteen hundred and twelfth," using the ordinal "twelfth" instead of the cardinal "twelve."
We may then summarize our methods of counting time as follows: (1) All periods less than the day, as hours, minutes, and seconds, are referred to in terms of past time; and (2) the day and all greater periods are referred to in terms of current time.
The Maya seem to have used only the former of these two methods in counting time; that is, all the different periods recorded in the codices and the inscriptions seemingly refer to elapsed time rather than to current time, to a day passed, rather than to a day present. Strange as this may appear to us, who speak of our calendar as current time, it is probably true nevertheless that the Maya, in so far as their writing is concerned, never designated a present day but always treated of a day gone by. The day recorded is yesterday because to-day can not be considered an entity until, like the hour of astronomical time, it completes itself and becomes a unit, that is, a yesterday.
This is well illustrated by the Maya method of numbering the positions of the days in the months, which, as we shall see, was identical with our own method of counting astronomical time. For example, the first day of the Maya month Pop was written Zero Pop, (0 Pop) for not until one whole day of Pop had passed could the day 1 Pop be written; by that time, however, the first day of the month had passed and the second day commenced. In other words, the second day of Pop was written 1 Pop; the third day, 2 Pop; the fourth day, 3 Pop; and so on through the 20 days of the Maya month. This method of numbering the positions of the days in the month led to calling the last day of a month 19 instead of 20. This appears in Table IV, in which the last 6 days of one year and the first 22 of the next year are referred to their corresponding positions in the divisions of the Maya year. It must be remembered in using this Table that the closing period of the Maya year, the xma kaba kin, or Uayeb, contained only 5 days, whereas all the other periods (the 18 uinals) had 20 days each.
Curiously enough no glyph for the haab, or year, has been identified as yet, in spite of the apparent importance of this period. The glyphs which represent the 18 different uinals and the xma kaba kin, however, are shown in figures 19 and 20. The forms in figure 19 are taken from the inscriptions and those in figure 20 from the codices.
Table IV. POSITIONS OF DAYS AT THE END OF A YEAR
|360th day of the year||19 Cumhu||last day of the month Cumhu.|
|361st day of the year||0 Uayeb||first day of Uayeb.|
|362dday of the year||1 Uayeb|
|363dday of the year||2 Uayeb|
|364th day of the year||3 Uayeb|
|365th day of the year||4 Uayeb||last day of Uayeb and of the year.|
|1st day of next year||0 Pop||first day of the month Pop, and of the next year.|
|2d day of next year||1 Pop|
|3d day of next year||2 Pop|
|4th day of next year||3 Pop|
|5th day of next year||4 Pop|
|6th day of next year||5 Pop|
|7th day of next year||6 Pop|
|8th day of next year||7 Pop|
|9th day of next year||8 Pop|
|10th day of next year||9 Pop|
|11th day of next year||10 Pop|
|12th day of next year||11 Pop|
|13th day of next year||12 Pop|
|14th day of next year||13 Pop|
|15th day of next year||14 Pop|
|16th day of next year||15 Pop|
|17th day of next year||16 Pop|
|18th day of next year||17 Pop|
|19th day of next year||18 Pop|
|20th day of next year||19 Pop||last day of the month Pop.|
|21st day of next year||0 Uo||first day of the month Uo.|
|22dday of next year||1 Uo|
The signs for the first four months, Pop, Uo, Zip, and Zotz, show a convincing similarity in both the inscriptions and the codices. The essential elements of Pop (figs. 19, a, and 20, a) are the crossed bands and the kin sign. The latter is found in both the forms figured, though only a part of the former appears in figure 20, a. Uo has two forms in the inscriptions (see fig. 19, b, c), which are, however, very similar to each other as well as to the corresponding forms in the codices (fig. 20, b, c). The glyphs for the month Zip are identical in both figures 19, d, and 20, d. The grotesque heads for Zotz in figures 19, e, f, and 20, e, are also similar to each other. The essential characteristic seems to be the prominent upturned and flaring nose. The forms for Tzec (figs. 19, g, h, and 20, f) show only a very general similarity, and those for Xul, the next month, are even more unlike. The only sign for Xul in the inscriptions (fig. 19, i, j) bears very little resemblance to the common form for this month in the codices (fig. 20, g), though it is not unlike the variant in h, figure 20. The essential characteristic seems to be the familiar ear and the small mouth, shown in the inscription as an oval and in the codices as a hook surrounded with dots.
Fig. 19. The month signs in the inscriptions.
Fig. 20. The month signs in the codices.
The sign for the month Yaxkin is identical in both figures 19, k, l, and 20, i, j. The sign for the month Mol in figures 19, m, n, and 20, k exhibits the same close similarity. The forms for the month Chen in figures 19, o, p, and 20, l, m, on the other hand, bear only a slight resemblance to each other. The forms for the months Yax (figs. 19, q, r, and 20, n), Zac (figs. 19, s, t, and 20, o), and Ceh (figs. 19, u, v, and 20, p) are again identical in each case. The signs for the next month, Mac, however, are entirely dissimilar, the form commonly found in the inscriptions (fig. 19, w) bearing absolutely no resemblance to that shown in figure 20, q, r, the only form for this month in the codices. The very unusual variant (fig. 19, x), from Stela 25 at Piedras Negras is perhaps a trifle nearer the form found in the codices. The flattened oval in the main part of the variant is somewhat like the upper part of the glyph in figure 20, q. The essential element of the glyph for the month Mac, so far as the inscriptions are concerned, is the element (
*) found as the superfix in both w and x, figure 19. The sign for the month Kankin (figs. 19, y, z, and 20, s, t) and the signs for the month Muan (figs. 19, a', b', and 20, u, v) show only a general similarity. The signs for the last three months of the year, Pax (figs. 19, c', and 20, w), Kayab (figs. 19, d'-f', and 20, x, y), and Cumhu (figs. 19, g', h', and 20, z, a', b') in the inscriptions and codices, respectively, are practically identical. The closing division of the year, the five days of the xma kaba kin, called Uayeb, is represented by essentially the same glyph in both the inscriptions and the codices. Compare figure 19, i', with figure 20, c'.
It will be seen from the foregoing comparison that on the whole the glyphs for the months in the inscriptions are similar to the corresponding forms in the codices, and that such variations as are found may readily be accounted for by the fact that the codices and the inscriptions probably not only emanate from different parts of the Maya territory but also date from different periods.
The student who wishes to decipher Maya writing is strongly urged to memorize the signs for the days and months given in figures 16, 17, 19, and 20, since his progress will depend largely on his ability to recognize these glyphs when he encounters them in the texts.
The Calendar Round, or 18980-day Period
Before taking up the study of the Calendar Round let us briefly summarize the principal points ascertained in the preceding pages concerning the Maya method of counting time. In the first place we learned from the tonalamatl (pl. 5) three things: (1) The number of differently named days; (2) the names of these days; (3) the order in which they invariably followed one another. And in the second place we learned in the discussion of the Maya year, or haab, just concluded, four other things: (1) The length of the year; (2) the number, length, and names of the several periods into which it was divided; (3) the order in which these periods invariably followed one another; (4) the positions of the days in these periods.
The proper combination of these two, the tonalamatl, or "round of days," and the haab, or year of uinals, and the xma kaba kin, formed the Calendar Round, to which the tonalamatl contributed the names of the days and the haab the positions of these days in the divisions of the year. The Calendar Round was the most important period in Maya chronology, and a comprehension of its nature and of the principles which governed its composition is therefore absolutely essential to the understanding of the Maya system of counting time.
It has been explained (see p. 41) that the complete designation or name of any day in the tonalamatl consisted of two equally essential parts: (1) The name glyph, and (2) the numerical coefficient. Disregarding the latter for the present, let us first see which of the twenty names in Table I, that is, the name parts of the days, can stand at the beginning of the Maya year.
In applying any sequence of names or numbers to another there are only three possibilities concerning the names or numbers which can stand at the head of the resulting sequence:
1. When the sums of the units in each of the two sequences contain no common factor, each one of the units in turn will stand at the head of the resulting sequence.
2. When the sum of the units in one of the two sequences is a multiple of the sum of the units in the other, only the first unit can stand at the head of the resulting sequence.
3. When the sums of the units in the two sequences contain a common factor (except in those cases which fall under (2), that is, in which one is a multiple of the other) only certain units can stand at the head of the sequence.
Now, since our two numbers (the 20 names in Table I and the 365 days of the year) contain a common factor, and since neither is a multiple of the other, it is clear that only the last of the three contingencies just mentioned concerns us here; and we may therefore dismiss the first two from further consideration.
The Maya year, then, could begin only with certain of the days in Table I, and the next task is to find out which of these twenty names invariably stood at the beginnings of the years.
When there is a sequence of 20 names in endless repetition, it is evident that the 361st will be the same as the 1st, since 360 = 20 × 18. Therefore the 362d will be the same as the 2d, the 363d as the 3d, the 364th as the 4th, and the 365 as the 5th. But the 365th, or 5th, name is the name of the last day of the year, consequently the 1st day of the following year (the 366th from the beginning) will have the 6th name in the sequence. Following out this same idea, it appears that the 361st day of the second year will have the same name as that with which it began, that is, the 6th name in the sequence, the 362d day the 7th name, the 363d the 8th, the 364th the 9th, and the 365th, or last day of the second year, the 10th name. Therefore the 1st day of the third year (the 731st from the beginning) will have the 11th name in the sequence. Similarly it could be shown that the third year, beginning with the 11th name, would necessarily end with the 15th name; and the fourth year, beginning with the 16th name (the 1096th from the beginning) would necessarily end with the 20th, or last name, in the sequence. It results, therefore, from the foregoing progression that the fifth year will have to begin with the 1st name (the 1461st from the beginning), or the same name with which the first year also began.
This is capable of mathematical proof, since the 1st day of the fifth year has the 1461st name from the beginning of the sequence, for 1461 = 4×365+1 = 73×20+1. The 1 in the second term of this equation indicates that the beginning day of the fifth year has been reached; and the 1 in the third term indicates that the name-part of this day is the 1st name in the sequence of twenty. In other words, every fifth year began with a day, the name part of which was the same, and consequently only four of the names in Table I could stand at the beginnings of the Maya years.
The four names which successively occupied this, the most important position of the year, were: Ik, Manik, Eb, and Caban (see Table V, in which these four names are shown in their relation to the sequence of twenty). Beginning with any one of these, Ik for example, the next in order, Manik, is 5 days distant, the next, Eb, another five days, the next, Caban, another 5 days, and the next, Ik, the name with which the Table started, another 5 days.
Table V. RELATIVE POSITIONS OF DAYS BEGINNING MAYA YEARS
Since one of the four names just given invariably began the Maya year, it follows that in any given year, all of its nineteen divisions, the 18 uinals and the xma kaba kin, also began with the same name, which was the name of the first day of the first uinal. This is necessarily true because these 19 divisions of the year, with the exception of the last, each contained 20 days, and consequently the name of the first day of the first division determined the names of the first days of all the succeeding divisions of that particular year. Furthermore, since the xma kaba kin, the closing division of the year, contained but 5 days, the name of the first day of the following year; as well as the names of the first days of all of its divisions, was shifted forward in the sequence another 5 days, as shown above.
This leads directly to another important conclusion: Since the first days of all the divisions of any given year always had the same name-part, it follows that the second days of all the divisions of that year had the same name, that is, the next succeeding in the sequence of twenty. The third days in each division of that year must have had the same name, the fourth days the same name, and so on, throughout the 20 days of the month. For example, if a year began with the day-name Ik, all of the divisions in that year also began with the same name, and the second days of all its divisions had the day-name Akbal, the third days the name Kan, the fourth days the name Chicchan, and so forth. This enables us to formulate the following—
Rule. The 20 day-names always occupy the same positions in all the divisions of any given year.
But since the year and its divisions must begin with one of four names, it is clear that the second positions also must be filled with one of another group of four names, and the third positions with one of another group of four names, and so on, through all the positions of the month. This enables us to formulate a second—
Rule. Only four of the twenty day-names can ever occupy any given position in the divisions of the years.
But since, in the years when Ik is the 1st name, Manik will be the 6th, Eb the 11th, and Caban the 16th, and in the years when Manik is the 1st, Eb will be the 6th, Caban the 11th, and Ik the 16th, and in the years when Eb is the 1st, Caban will be the 6th, Ik the 11th, and Manik the 16th, and in the years when Caban is the 1st, Ik will be the 6th, Manik the 11th, and Eb the 16th, it is clear that any one of this group which begins the year may occupy also three other positions in the divisions of the year, these positions being 5 days distant from each other. Consequently, it follows that Akbal, Lamat, Ben, and Eznab in Table V, the names which occupy the second positions in the divisions of the year, will fill the 7th, 12th, and 17th positions as well. Similarly Kan, Muluc, Ix, and Cauac will fill the 3d, 8th, 13th, and 18th positions, and so on. This enables us to formulate a third—
Rule. The 20 day-names are divided into five groups of four names each, any name in any group being five days distant from the name next preceding it in the same group, and furthermore, the names of any one group will occupy four different positions in the divisions of successive years, these positions being five days apart in each case. This is expressed in Table VI, in which these groups are shown as well as the positions in the divisions of the years which the names of each group may occupy. A comparison with Table V will demonstrate that this arrangement is inevitable.
Table VI. POSITIONS OF DAYS IN DIVISIONS OF MAYA YEAR
|Positions held by days||1st, 6th,
|Names of days in each group||Ik
But we have seen on page 47 and in Table IV that the Maya did not designate the first days of the several divisions of the years according to our system. It was shown there that the first day of Pop was not written 1 Pop, but 0 Pop, and similarly the second day of Pop was written not 2 Pop, but 1 Pop, and the last day, not 20 Pop, but 19 Pop. Consequently, before we can use the names in Table VI as the Maya used them, we must make this shift, keeping in mind, however, that Ik, Manik, Eb, and Caban (the only four of the twenty names which could begin the year and which were written 0 Pop, 5 Pop, 10 Pop, or 15 Pop) would be written in our notation 1st Pop, 6th Pop, 11th Pop, and 16th Pop, respectively. This difference, as has been previously explained, results from the Maya method of counting time by elapsed periods.
Table VII shows the positions of the days in the divisions of the year according to the Maya conception, that is, with the shift in the month coefficient made necessary by this practice of recording their days as elapsed time.
The student will find Table VII very useful in deciphering the texts, since it shows at a glance the only positions which any given day can occupy in the divisions of the year. Therefore when the sign for a day has been recognized in the texts, from Table VII can be ascertained the only four positions which this day can hold in the month, thus reducing the number of possible month coefficients for which search need be made, from twenty to four.
Table VII. POSITIONS OF DAYS IN DIVISIONS OF MAYA YEAR ACCORDING TO MAYA NOTATION
|Positions held by days
expressed in Mayan notation
|0, 5, 10, 15||1, 6, 11, 16||2, 7, 12, 17||3, 8, 13, 18||4, 9, 14, 19|
|Names of days in each group||Ik
Now let us summarize the points which we have successively established as resulting from the combination of the tonalamatl and haab, remembering always that as yet we have been dealing only with the name parts of the days and not their complete designations. Bearing this in mind, we may state the following facts concerning the 20 day-names and their positions in the divisions of the year:
1. The Maya year and its several divisions could begin only with one of these four day-names: Ik, Manik, Eb, and Caban.
2. Consequently, any particular position in the divisions of the year could be occupied only by one of four day-names.
3. Consequently, every fifth year any particular day-name returned to the same position in the divisions of the year.
4. Consequently, any particular day-name could occupy only one of four positions in the divisions of the year, each of which it held in successive years, returning to the same position every fifth year.
5. Consequently, the twenty day-names were divided into five groups of four day-names each, any day-name of any group being five days distant from the day-name of the same group next preceding it.
6. Finally, in any given year any particular day-name occupied the same relative position throughout the divisions of that year.
Up to this point, however, as above stated, we have not been dealing with the complete designations of the Maya days, but only their name parts or name glyphs, the positions of which in the several divisions of the year we have ascertained.
It now remains to join the tonalamatl, which gives the complete names of the 260 Maya days, to the haab, which gives the positions of the days in the divisions of the year, in such a way that any one of the days whose name-part is Ik, Manik, Eb, or Caban shall occupy the first position of the first division of the year; that is, 0 Pop, or, as we should write it, the first day of Pop. It matters little which one of these four name parts we choose first, since in four years each one of them in succession will have appeared in the position 0 Pop.
Perhaps the easiest way to visualize the combination of the tonalamatl and the haab is to conceive these two periods as two cogwheels revolving in contact with each other. Let us imagine that the first of these, A (fig. 21), has 260 teeth, or cogs, each one of which is named after one of the 260 days of the tonalamatl and follows the sequence shown in plate 5. The second wheel, B (fig. 21), is somewhat larger, having 365 cogs. Each of the spaces or sockets between these represents one of the 365 positions of the days in the divisions of the year, beginning with 0 Pop and ending with 4 Uayeb. See Table IV for the positions of the days at the end of one year and the commencement of the next. Finally, let us imagine that these two wheels are brought into contact with each other in such a way that the tooth or cog named 2 Ik in A shall fit into the socket named 0 Pop in B, after which both wheels start to revolve in the directions indicated by the arrows.
Fig. 21. Diagram showing engagement of tonalamatl wheel of 260 days (A), and haab wheel of 365 positions (B); the combination of the two giving the Calendar Round, or 52-year period.
The first day of the year whose beginning is shown at the point of contact of the two wheels in figure 21 is 2 Ik 0 Pop, that is, the day 2 Ik which occupies the first position in the month Pop. The next day in succession will be 3 Akbal 1 Pop, the next 4 Kan 2 Pop, the next 5 Chicchan 3 Pop, the next 6 Cimi 4 Pop, and so on. As the wheels revolve in the directions indicated, the days of the tonalamatl successively fall into their appropriate positions in the divisions of the year. Since the number of cogs in A is smaller than the number in B, it is clear that the former will have returned to its starting point, 2 Ik (that is, made one complete revolution), before the latter will have made one complete revolution; and, further, that when the latter (B) has returned to its starting point, 0 Pop, the corresponding cog in B will not be 2 Ik, but another day (3 Manik), since by that time the smaller wheel will have progressed 105 cogs, or days, farther, to the cog 3 Manik.
The question now arises, how many revolutions will each wheel have to make before the day 2 Ik will return to the position 0 Pop. The solution of this problem depends on the application of one sequence to another, and the possibilities concerning the numbers or names which stand at the head of the resulting sequence, a subject already discussed on page 52. In the present case the numbers in question, 260 and 365, contain a common factor, therefore our problem falls under the third contingency there presented. Consequently, only certain of the 260 days can occupy the position 0 Pop, or, in other words, cog 2 Ik in A will return to the position 0 Pop in B in fewer than 260 revolutions of A. The actual solution of the problem is a simple question of arithmetic. Since the day 2 Ik can not return to its original position in A until after 260 days shall have passed, and since the day 0 Pop can not return to its original position in B until after 365 days shall have passed, it is clear that the day 2 Ik 0 Pop can not recur until after a number of days shall have passed equal to the least common multiple of these numbers, which is (260/5)×(365/5)×5, or 52×73×5 = 18,980 days. But 18,980 days = 52×365 = 73×260; in other words the day 2 Ik 0 Pop can not recur until after 52 revolutions of B, or 52 years of 365 days each, and 73 revolutions of A, or 73 tonalamatls of 260 days each. The Maya name for this 52-year period is unknown; it has been called the Calendar Round by modern students because it was only after this interval of time had elapsed that any given day could return to the same position in the year. The Aztec name for this period was xiuhmolpilli or toxiuhmolpia.
The Calendar Round was the real basis of Maya chronology, since its 18,980 dates included all the possible combinations of the 260 days with the 365 positions of the year. Although the Maya developed a much more elaborate system of counting time, wherein any date of the Calendar Round could be fixed with absolute certainty within a period of 374,400 years, this truly remarkable feat was accomplished only by using a sequence of Calendar Rounds, or 52-year periods, in endless repetition from a fixed point of departure.
In the development of their chronological system the Aztec probably never progressed beyond the Calendar Round. At least no greater period of time than the round of 52 years has been found in their texts. The failure of the Aztec to develop some device which would distinguish any given day in one Calendar Round from a day of the same name in another has led to hopeless confusion in regard to various events of their history. Since the same date occurred at intervals of every 52 years, it is often difficult to determine the particular Calendar Round to which any given date with its corresponding event is to be referred; consequently, the true sequence of events in Aztec history still remains uncertain.
Professor Seler says in this connection:
- Anyone who has ever taken the trouble to collect the dates in old Mexican history from the various sources must speedily have discovered that the chronology is very much awry, that it is almost hopeless to look for an exact chronology. The date of the fall of Mexico is definitely fixed according to both the Indian and the Christian chronology ... but in regard to all that precedes this date, even to events tolerably near the time of the Spanish conquest, the statements differ widely.
Such confusion indeed is only to be expected from a system of counting time and recording events which was so loose as to permit the occurrence of the same date twice, or even thrice, within the span of a single life; and when a system so inexact was used to regulate the lapse of any considerable number of years, the possibilities for error and misunderstanding are infinite. Thus it was with Aztec chronology.
On the other hand, by conceiving the Calendar Rounds to be in endless repetition from a fixed point of departure, and measuring time by an accurate system, the Maya were able to secure precision in dating their events which is not surpassed even by our own system of counting time.
The glyph which stood for the Calendar Round has not been determined with any degree of certainty. Mr. Goodman believes the form shown in figure 22, a, to be the sign for this period, while Professor Förstemann is equally sure that the form represented by b of this figure expressed the same idea. This difference of opinion between two authorities so eminent well illustrates the prevailing doubt as to just what glyph actually represented the 52-year period among the Maya. The sign in figure 22, a, as the writer will endeavor to show later, is in all probability the sign for the great cycle.
As will be seen in the discussion of the Long Count, the Maya, although they conceived time to be an endless succession of Calendar Rounds, did not reckon its passage by the lapse of successive Calendar Rounds; consequently, the need for a distinctive glyph which should represent this period was not acute. The contribution of the Calendar Round to Maya chronology was its 18,980 dates, and the glyphs which composed these are found repeatedly in both the codices and the inscriptions (see figs. 16, 17, 19, 20). No signs have been found as yet, however, for either the haab or the tonalamatl, probably because, like the Calendar Round, these periods were not used as units in recording long stretches of time.
It will greatly aid the student in his comprehension of the discussion to follow if he will constantly bear in mind the fact that one Calendar Round followed another without interruption or the interpolation of a single day; and further, that the Calendar Round may be likened to a large cogwheel having 18,980 teeth, each one of which represented one of the dates of this period, and that this wheel revolved forever, each cog passing a fixed point once every 52 years.
The Long Count
We have seen:
1. How the Maya distinguished 1 day from the 259 others in the tonalamatl;
2. How they distinguished the position of 1 day from the 364 others in the haab, or year; and, finally,
3. How by combining (1) and (2) they distinguished 1 day from the other 18,979 of the Calendar Round.
It remains to explain how the Maya insured absolute accuracy in fixing a day within a period of 374,400 years, as stated above, or how they distinguished 1 day from 136,655,999 others.
The Calendar Round, as we have seen, determined the position of a given day within a period of only 52 years. Consequently, in order to prevent confusion of days of the same name in successive Calendar Rounds or, in other words, to secure absolute accuracy in dating events, it was necessary to use additional data in the description of any date.
In nearly all systems of chronology that presume to deal with really long periods the reckoning of years proceeds from fixed starting points. Thus in Christian chronology the starting point is the Birth of Christ, and our years are reckoned as B. C. or A. D. according as they precede or follow this event. The Greeks reckoned time from the earliest Olympic Festival of which the winner's name was known, that is, the games held in 776 B. C., which were won by a certain Coroebus. The Romans took as their starting point the supposed date of the foundation of Rome, 753 B. C. The Babylonians counted time as beginning with the Era of Nabonassar, 747 B. C. The death of Alexander the Great, in 325 B. C., ushered in the Era of Alexander. With the occupation of Babylon in 311 B. C. by Seleucus Nicator began the so-called Era of Seleucidæ. The conquest of Spain by Augustus Cæsar in 38 B. C. marked the beginning of a chronology which endured for more than fourteen centuries. The Mohammedans selected as their starting point the flight of their prophet Mohammed from Mecca in 622 A. D., and events in this chronology are described as having occurred so many years after the Hegira (The Flight). The Persian Era began with the date 632 A. D., in which year Yezdegird III ascended the throne of Persia.
It will be noted that each of the above-named systems of chronology has for its starting point some actual historic event, the occurrence, if not the date of which, is indubitable. Some chronologies, however, commence with an event of an altogether different character, the date of which from its very nature must always remain hypothetical. In this class should be mentioned such chronologies as reckon time from the Creation of the World. For example, the Era of Constantinople, the chronological system used in the Greek Church, commences with that event, supposed to have occurred in 5509 B. C. The Jews reckoned the same event as having taken place in 3761 B. C. and begin the counting of time from this point. A more familiar chronology, having for its starting point the Creation of the World, is that of Archbishop Usher, in the Old Testament, which assigns this event to the year 4004 B. C.
In common with these other civilized peoples of antiquity the ancient Maya had realized in the development of their chronological system the need for a fixed starting point, from which all subsequent events could be reckoned, and for this purpose they selected one of the dates of their Calendar Round. This was a certain date, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, that is, a day named 4 Ahau, which occupied the 9th position in the month Cumhu, the next to last division of the Maya year (see Table III).
While the nature of the event which took place on this date is unknown, its selection as the point from which time was subsequently reckoned alone indicates that it must have been of exceedingly great importance to the native mind. In attempting to approximate its real character, however, we are not without some assistance from the codices and the inscriptions. For instance, it is clear that all Maya dates which it is possible to regard as contemporaneous refer to a time fully 3,000 years later than the starting point (4 Ahau 8 Cumhu) from which each is reckoned. In other words, Maya history is a blank for more than 3,000 years after the initial date of the Maya chronological system, during which time no events were recorded.
This interesting condition strongly suggests that the starting point of Maya chronology was not an actual historical event, as the founding of Rome, the death of Alexander, the birth of Christ, or the flight of Mohammed from Mecca, but that on the contrary it was a purely hypothetical occurrence, as the Creation of the World or the birth of the gods; and further, that the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu was not chosen as the starting point until long after the time it designates. This, or some similar assumption, is necessary to account satisfactorily for the observed facts:
1. That, as stated, after the starting point of Maya chronology there is a silence of more than 3,000 years, unbroken by a single contemporaneous record, and
2. That after this long period had elapsed all the dated monuments had their origin in the comparatively short period of four centuries.
Consequently, it is safe to conclude that no matter what the Maya may have believed took place on this date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, in reality when this day was present time they had not developed their distinctive civilization or even achieved a social organization.
It is clear from the foregoing that in addition to the Calendar Round, the Maya made use of a fixed starting point in describing their dates. The next question is, Did they record the lapse of more than 3,000 years simply by using so unwieldy a unit as the 52-year period or its multiples? A numerical system based on 52 as its primary unit immediately gives rise to exceedingly awkward numbers for its higher terms; that is, 52, 104, 156, 208, 260, 312, etc. Indeed, the expression of really large numbers in terms of 52 involves the use of comparatively large multipliers and hence of more or less intricate multiplications, since the unit of progression is not decimal or even a multiple thereof. The Maya were far too clever mathematicians to have been satisfied with a numerical system which employed units so inconvenient as 52 or its multiples, and which involved processes so clumsy, and we may therefore dismiss the possibility of its use without further consideration.
In order to keep an accurate account of the large numbers used in recording dates more than 3,000 years distant from the starting point, a numerical system was necessary whose terms could be easily handled, like the units, tens, hundreds, and thousands of our own decimal system. Whether the desire to measure accurately the passage of time actually gave rise to their numerical system, or vice versa, is not known, but the fact remains that the several periods of Maya chronology (except the tonalamatl, haab, and Calendar Round, previously discussed) are the exact terms of a vigesimal system of numeration, with but a single exception. (See Table VIII.)
Table VIII. THE MAYA TIME-PERIODS
|1 kin||=||1 day|
|20 kins||=||1 uinal||=||20 days|
|18 uinals||=||1 tun||=||360 days|
|20 tuns||=||1 katun||=||7,200 days|
|20 katuns||=||1 cycle||=||144,000 days|
|20 cycles||=||1 great cycle||=||2,880,000 days|
Table VIII shows the several periods of Maya chronology by means of which the passage of time was measured. All are the exact terms of a vigesimal system of numeration, except in the 2d place (uinals), in which 18 units instead of 20 make 1 unit of the 3d place, or order next higher (tuns). The break in the regularity of the vigesimal progression in the 3d place was due probably to the desire to bring the unit of this order (the tun) into agreement with the solar year of 365 days, the number 360 being much closer to 365 than 400, the third term of a constant vigesimal progression. We have seen on page 45 that the 18 uinals of the haab were equivalent to 360 days or kins, precisely the number contained in the third term of the above table, the tun. The fact that the haab, or solar year, was composed of 5 days more than the tun, thus causing a discrepancy of 5 days as compared with the third place of the chronological system, may have given to these 5 closing days of the haab—that is, the xma kaba kin—the unlucky character they were reputed to possess.
The periods were numbered from 0 to 19, inclusive, 20 units of any order (except the 2d) always appearing as 1 unit of the order next higher. For example, a number involving the use of 20 kins was written 1 uinal instead.
We are now in possession of all the different factors which the Maya utilized in recording their dates and in counting time:
1. The names of their dates, of which there could be only 18,980 (the number of dates in the Calendar Round).
2. The date, or starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, from which time was reckoned.
3. The counters, that is, the units, used in measuring the passage of time.
It remains to explain how these factors were combined to express the various dates of Maya chronology.
The usual manner in which dates are written in both the codices and the inscriptions is as follows: First, there is set down a number composed of five periods, that is, a certain number of cycles, katuns, tuns, uinals, and kins, which generally aggregate between 1,300,000 and 1,500,000 days; and this number is followed by one of the 18,980 dates of the Calendar Round. As we shall see in the next chapter, if this large number of days expressed as above be counted forward from the fixed starting point of Maya chronology, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the date invariably reached will be found to be the date written at the end of the long number. This method of dating has been called the Initial Series, because when inscribed on a monument it invariably stands at the head of the inscription.
The student will better comprehend this Initial-series method of dating if he will imagine the Calendar Round represented by a large cogwheel A, figure 23, having 18,980 teeth, each one of which is named after one of the dates of the calendar. Furthermore, let him suppose that the arrow B in the same figure points to the tooth, or cog, named 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu; and finally that from this as its original position the wheel commences to revolve in the direction indicated by the arrow in A.
Fig. 23. Diagram showing section of Calendar-round wheel.
It is clear that after one complete revolution of A, 18,980 days will have passed the starting point B, and that after two revolutions 37,960 days will have passed, and after three, 56,940, and so on. Indeed, it is only a question of the number of revolutions of A until as many as 1,500,000, or any number of days in fact, will have passed the starting point B, or, in other words, will have elapsed since the initial date, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu. This is actually what happened according to the Maya conception of time.
For example, let us imagine that a certain Initial Series expresses in terms of cycles, katuns, tuns, uinals, and kins, the number 1,461,463, and that the date recorded by this number of days is 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu. Referring to figure 23, it is evident that 77 revolutions of the cogwheel A, that is, 77 Calendar Rounds, will use up 1,461,460 of the 1,461,463 days, since 77×18,980 = 1,461,460. Consequently, when 77 Calendar Rounds shall have passed we shall still have left 3 days (1,461,463 - 1,461,460 = 3), which must be carried forward into the next Calendar Round. The 1,461,461st day will be 5 Imix 9 Cumhu, that is, the day following 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu (see fig. 23); the 1,461,462d day will be 6 Ik 10 Cumhu, and the 1,461,463d day, the last of the days in our Initial Series, 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu, the date recorded. Examples of this method of dating (by Initial Series) will be given in Chapter V, where this subject will be considered in greater detail.
THE INTRODUCING GLYPH
In the inscriptions an Initial Series is invariably preceded by the so-called "introducing glyph," the Maya name for which is unknown. Several examples of this glyph are shown in figure 24. This sign is composed of four constant elements:
1. The trinal superfix.
2. The pair of comblike lateral appendages.
3. The tun sign (see fig. 29, a, b).
4. The trinal subfix.
Fig. 24. Initial-series "introducing glyph."
In addition to these four constant elements there is one variable element which is always found between the pair of comblike lateral appendages. In figure 24, a, b, e, this is a grotesque head; in c, a natural head; and in d, one of the 20 day-signs, Ik. This element varies greatly throughout the inscriptions, and, judging from its central position in the "introducing glyph" (itself the most prominent character in every inscription in which it occurs), it must have had an exceedingly important meaning. A variant of the comblike appendages is shown in figure 24, c, e, in which these elements are replaced by a pair of fishes. However, in such cases, all of which occur at Copan, the treatment of the fins and tail of the fish strongly suggests the elements they replace, and it is not improbable, therefore, that the comblike appendages of the "introducing glyph" are nothing more nor less than conventionalized fish fins or tails; in other words, that they are a kind of glyphic synecdoche in which a part (the fin) stands for the whole (the fish). That the original form of this element was the fish and not its conventionalized fin (
*) seems to be indicated by several facts: (1) On Stela D at Copan, where only full-figure glyphs are presented, the two comblike appendages of the "introducing glyph" appear unmistakably as two fishes. (2) In some of the earliest stelæ at Copan, as Stelæ 15 and P, while these elements are not fish forms, a head (fish?) appears with the conventionalized comb element in each case. The writer believes the interpretation of this phenomenon to be, that at the early epoch in which Stelæ 15 and P were erected the conventionalization of the element in question had not been entirely accomplished, and that the head was added to indicate the form from which the element was derived. (3) If the fish was the original form of the comblike element in the "introducing glyph," it was also the original form of the same element in the katun glyph. (Compare the comb elements (
†) in figures 27, a, b, e, and 24, a, b, d with each other.) If this is true, a natural explanation for the use of the fish in the katun sign lies near at hand. As previously explained on page 28, the comblike element stands for the sound ca (c hard); while kal in Maya means 20. Also the element (
**) stands for the sound tun. Therefore catun or katun means 20 tuns. But the Maya word for "fish," cay (c hard) is also a close phonetic approximation of the sound ca or kal. Consequently, the fish sign may have been the original element in the katun glyph, which expressed the concept 20, and which the conventionalization of glyphic forms gradually reduced to the element (
††) without destroying, however, its phonetic value.
Without pressing this point further, it seems not unlikely that the comblike elements in the katun glyph, as well as in the "introducing glyph," may well have been derived from the fish sign.
Turning to the codices, it must be admitted that in spite of the fact that many Initial Series are found therein, the "introducing glyph" has not as yet been positively identified. It is possible, however, that the sign shown in figure 24, f, may be a form of the "introducing glyph"; at least it precedes an Initial Series in four places in the Dresden Codex (see pl. 32). It is composed of the trinal superfix and a conventionalized fish (?).
Mr. Goodman calls this glyph (fig. 24, a-e) the sign for the great cycle or unit of the 6th place (see Table VIII). He bases this identification on the fact that in the codices units of the 6th place stand immediately above units of the 5th place (cycles), and consequently since this glyph stands immediately above the units of the 5th place in the inscriptions it must stand for the units of the 6th place. While admitting that the analogy here is close, the writer nevertheless is inclined to reject Mr. Goodman's identification on the following grounds: (1) This glyph never occurs with a numerical coefficient, while units of all the other orders—that is, cycles, katuns, tuns, uinals, and kins are never without them. (2) Units of the 6th order in the codices invariably have a numerical coefficient, as do all the other orders. (3) In the only three places in the inscriptions in which six periods are seemingly recorded, though not as Initial Series, the 6th period has a numerical coefficient just as have the other five, and, moreover, the glyph in the 6th position is unlike the forms in figure 24. (4) Five periods, not six, in every Initial Series express the distance from the starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, to the date recorded at the end of the long numbers.
It is probable that when the meaning of the "introducing glyph" has been determined it will be found to be quite apart from the numerical side of the Initial Series, at least in so far as the distance of the terminal date from the starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, is concerned.
While an Initial Series in the inscriptions, as has been previously explained, is invariably preceded by an "introducing glyph," the opposite does not always obtain. Some of the very earliest monuments at Copan, notably Stelæ 15, 7, and P, have "introducing glyphs" inscribed on two or three of their four sides, although but one Initial Series is recorded on each of these monuments. Examples of this use of the "introducing glyph," that is, other than as standing at the head of an Initial Series, are confined to a few of the earliest monuments at Copan, and are so rare that the beginner will do well to disregard them altogether and to follow this general rule: That in the inscriptions a glyph of the form shown in figure 24, a-e, will invariably be followed by an Initial Series.
Having reached the conclusion that the introducing glyph was not a sign for the period of the 6th order, let us next examine the signs for the remaining orders or periods of the chronological system (cycles, katuns, tuns, uinals, and kins), constantly bearing in mind that these five periods alone express the long numbers of an Initial Series.
Each of the above periods has two entirely different glyphs which may express it. These have been called (1) The normal form; (2) The head variant. In the inscriptions examples of both these classes occur side by side in the same Initial Series, seemingly according to no fixed rule, some periods being expressed by their normal forms and others by their head variants. In the codices, on the other hand, no head-variant period glyphs have yet been identified, and although the normal forms of the period glyphs have been found, they do not occur as units in Initial Series.
As head variants also should be classified the so-called "full-figure glyphs," in which the periods given in Table VIII are represented by full figures instead of by heads. In these forms, however, only the heads of the figures are essential, since they alone present the determining characteristics, by means of which in each case identification is possible. Moreover, the head part of any full-figure variant is characterized by precisely the same essential elements as the corresponding head variant for the same period, or in other words, the addition of the body parts in full-figure glyphs in no way influences or changes their meanings. For this reason head-variant and full-figure forms have been treated together. These full-figure glyphs are exceedingly rare, having been found only in five Initial Series throughout the Maya area: (1) On Stela D at Copan; (2) on Zoömorph B at Quirigua; (3) on east side Stela D at Quirigua; (4) on west side Stela D at Quirigua; (5) on Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan. A few full-figure glyphs have been found also on an oblong altar at Copan, though not as parts of an Initial Series, and on Stela 15 as a period glyph of an Initial Series.
THE CYCLE GLYPH
Fig. 25. Signs for the cycle: a-c, Normal forms; d-f, head variants.
The Maya name for the period of the 5th order in Table VIII is unknown. It has been called "the cycle," however, by Maya students, and in default of its true designation, this name has been generally adopted. The normal form of the cycle glyph is shown in figure 25, a, b, c. It is composed of an element which appears twice over a knotted support. The repeated element occurs also in the signs for the months Chen, Yax, Zac, and Ceh (see figs. 19, o-v, 20, l-p). This has been called the Cauac element because it is similar to the sign for the day Cauac in the codices (fig. 17, b'), though on rather inadequate grounds the writer is inclined to believe. The head variant of the cycle glyph is shown in figure 25, d-f. The essential characteristic of this grotesque head with its long beak is the hand element (
*), which forms the lower jaw, though in a very few instances even this is absent. In the full-figure forms this same head is joined to the body of a bird (see fig. 26). The bird intended is clearly a parrot, the feet, claws, and beak being portrayed in a very realistic manner. No glyph for the cycle has yet been found in the codices.
THE KATUN GLYPH
Fig. 27. Signs for the katun: a-d, Normal forms; e-h, head variants.
The period of the 4th place or order was called by the Maya the katun; that is to say, 20 tuns, since it contained 20 units of the 3d order (see Table VIII). The normal form of the katun glyph is shown in figure 27, a-d. It is composed of the normal form of the tun sign (fig. 29, a, b) surmounted by the pair of comblike appendages, which we have elsewhere seen meant 20, and which were probably derived from the representation of a fish. The whole glyph thus graphically portrays the concept 20 tuns, which according to Table VIII is equal to 1 katun. The normal form of the katun glyph in the codices (fig. 27, c, d) is identical with the normal form in the inscriptions (fig. 27, a, b). Several head variants are found. The most easily recognized, though not the most common, is shown in figure 27, e, in which the superfix is the same as in the normal form; that is, the element (
†), which probably signifies 20 in this connection. To be logical, therefore, the head element should be the same as the head variant of the tun glyph, but this is not the case (see fig. 29, e-h). When this superfix is present, the identification of the head variant of the katun glyph is an easy matter, but when it is absent it is difficult to fix on any essential characteristic. The general shape of the head is like the head variant of the cycle glyph. Perhaps the oval (
**) in the top of the head in figure 27, f-h, and the small curling fang (††) represented as protruding from the back part of the mouth are as constant as any of the other elements. The head of the full-figure variant in figure 28 presents the same lack of essential characteristics as the head variant, though in this form the small curling fang is also found. Again, the body attached to this head is that of a bird which has been identified as an eagle.
THE TUN GLYPH
Fig. 29. Signs for the tun: a-d, Normal forms; e-h, head variants.
The period of the 3d place or order was called by the Maya the tun, which means "stone," possibly because a stone was set up every 360 days or each tun or some multiple thereof. Compare so-called hotun or katun stones described on page 34. The normal sign for the tun in the inscriptions (see fig. 29, a, b) is identical with the form found in the codices (see fig. 29, c). The head variant, which bears a general resemblance to the head variant for the cycle and katun, has several forms. The one most readily recognized, because it has the normal sign for its superfix, is shown in figure 29, d, e. The determining characteristic of the head variant of the tun glyph, however, is the fleshless lower jaw (
‡), as shown in figure 29 f, g, though even this is lacking in some few cases. The form shown in figure 29, h, is found at Palenque, where it seems to represent the tun period in several places. The head of the full-figure form (fig. 30) has the same fleshless lower jaw for its essential characteristic as the head-variant forms in figure 29. The body joined to this head is again that of a bird the identity of which has not yet been determined.
THE UINAL GLYPH
Fig. 31. Signs for the uinal: a-c, Normal forms; d-f, head variants.
The period occupying the 2d place was called by the Maya uinal or u. This latter word means also "the moon" in Maya, and the fact that the moon is visible for just about 20 days in each lunation may account for the application of its name to the 20-day period. The normal form of the uinal glyph in the inscriptions (see fig. 31, a, b) is practically identical with the form in the codices (see fig. 31, c). Sometimes the subfixial element (
‡‡) is omitted in the inscriptions, as in figure 31, a. The head variant of the uinal glyph (fig. 31, d-f) is the most constant of all of the head forms for the various periods. Its determining characteristic is the large curl emerging from the back part of the mouth. The sharp-pointed teeth in the upper jaw are also a fairly constant feature. In very rare cases both of these elements are wanting. In such cases the glyph seems to be without determining characteristics. The animal represented in the full-figure variants of the uinal is that of a frog (fig. 32,) the head of which presents precisely the same characteristics as the head variants of the uinal, just described. That the head variant of the uinal-period glyph was originally derived from the representation of a frog can hardly be denied in the face of such striking confirmatory evidence as that afforded by the full-figure form of the uinal in figure 33. Here the spotted body, flattened head, prominent mouth, and bulging eyes of the frog are so realistically portrayed that there is no doubt as to the identity of the figure intended. Mr. Bowditch (1910: p. 257) has pointed out in this connection an interesting phonetic coincidence, which can hardly be other than intentional. The Maya word for frog is uo, which is a fairly close phonetic approximation of u, the Maya word for "moon" or "month." Consequently, the Maya may have selected the figure of the frog on phonetic grounds to represent their 20-day period. If this point could be established it would indicate an unmistakable use of the rebus form of writing employed by the Aztec. That is, the figure of a frog in the uinal-period glyph would not recall the object which it pictures, but the sound of that object's name, uo, approximating the sound of u, which in turn expressed the intended idea, namely, the 20-day period. Mr. Bowditch has suggested also that the grotesque birds which stand for the cycle, katun, and tun periods in these full-figure forms may also have been chosen because of the phonetic similarity of their names to the names of these periods.
THE KIN GLYPH
Fig. 34. Signs for the kin: a, b, Normal forms; c, d, miscellaneous; e-k, head variants.
The period of the 1st, or lowest, order was called by the Maya kin, which meant the "sun" and by association the "day." The kin, as has been explained, was the primary unit used by the Maya in counting time. The normal form of this period glyph in the inscriptions is shown in figure 34, a, which is practically identical with the form in the codices (fig. 34, b). In addition to the normal form of the kin sign, however, there are several other forms representing this period which can not be classified either as head variants or full-figure variants, as in figure 34, c, for example, which bears no resemblance whatever to the normal form of the kin sign. It is difficult to understand how two characters as dissimilar as those shown in a and c, figure 34, could ever be used to express the same idea, particularly since there seems to be no element common to both. Indeed, so dissimilar are they that one is almost forced to believe that they were derived from two entirely distinct glyphs. Still another and very unusual sign for the kin is shown in figure 34, d; indeed, the writer recalls but two places where it occurs: Stela 1 at Piedras Negras, and Stela C (north side) at Quirigua. It is composed of the normal form of the sign for the day Ahau (fig. 16, e') inverted and a subfixial element which varies in each of the two cases. These variants (fig. 34, c, d) are found only in the inscriptions. The head variants of the kin period differ from each other as much as the various normal forms above given. The form shown in figure 34, e, may be readily recognized by its subfixial element (
*) and the element (†), both of which appear in the normal form, figure 34, a. In some cases, as in figure 34, f-h, this variant also has the square irid and the crooked, snag-like teeth projecting from the front of the mouth. Again, any one of these features, or even all, may be lacking. Another and usually more grotesque type of head (fig. 34, i, j) has as its essential element the banded headdress. A very unusual head variant is that shown in figure 34, k, the essential characteristic of which seems to be the crossbones in the eye. Mr. Bowditch has included also in his list of kin signs the form shown in figure 34, l, from an inscription at Tikal. While this glyph in fact does stand between two dates which are separated by one day from each other, that is, 6 Eb 0 Pop and 7 Ben 1 Pop, the writer believes, nevertheless, that only the element (
‡)—an essential part of the normal form for the kin—here represents the period one day, and that the larger characters above and below have other meanings. In the full-figure variants of the kin sign the figure portrayed is that of a human being (fig. 35), the head of which is similar to the one in figure 34, i, j, having the same banded headdress.
This concludes the presentation of the various forms which stand for the several periods of Table VIII. After an exhaustive study of these as found in Maya texts the writer has reached the following generalizations concerning them:
1. Prevalence. The periods in Initial Series are expressed far more frequently by head variants than by normal forms. The preponderance of the former over the latter in all Initial Series known is in the proportion of about 80 per cent of the total against 12 per cent, the periods in the remaining 8 per cent being expressed by these two forms used side by side. In other words, four-fifths of all the Initial Series known have their periods expressed by head-variant glyphs.
2. Antiquity. Head-variant period glyphs seem to have been used very much earlier than the normal forms. Indeed, the first use of the former preceded the first use of the latter by about 300 years, while in Initial Series normal-form period glyphs do not occur until nearly 100 years later, or about 400 years after the first use of head variants for the same purpose.
3. Variation. Throughout the range of time covered by the Initial Series the normal forms for any given time-period differ but little from one another, all following very closely one fixed type. Although nearly 200 years apart in point of time, the early form of the tun sign in figure 36, a, closely resembles the late form shown in b of the same figure, as to its essentials. Or again, although 375 years apart, the early form of the katun sign in figure 36, c, is practically identical with the form in figure 36, d. Instances of this kind could be multiplied indefinitely, but the foregoing are sufficient to demonstrate that in so far as the normal-form period glyphs are concerned but little variation occurred from first to last. Similarly, it may be said, the head variants for any given period, while differing greatly in appearance at different epochs, retained, nevertheless, the same essential characteristic throughout. For example, although the uinal sign in figure 36, e, precedes the one in figure 36, f, by some 800 years, the same essential element—the large mouth curl—appears in both. Again, although 300 years separate the cycle signs shown in g and h, figure 36, the essential characteristic of the early form (fig. 36, g), the hand, is still retained as the essential part of the late form (h).
Fig. 36. Period glyphs, from widely separated sites and of different epochs, showing persistence of essential elements.
4. Derivation. We have seen that the full-figure glyphs probably show the original life-forms from which the head variants were developed. And since from (2), above, it seems probable that the head variants are older than the so-called normal forms, we may reasonably infer that the full-figure glyphs represent the life-forms whose names the Maya originally applied to their periods, and further that the first signs for those periods were the heads of these life-forms. This develops a contradiction in our nomenclature, for if the forms which we have called head variants are the older signs for the periods and are by far the most prevalent, they should have been called the normal forms and not variants, and vice versa. However, the use of the term "normal forms" is so general that it would be unwise at this time to attempt to introduce any change in nomenclature.
The Initial Series method of recording dates, although absolutely accurate, was nevertheless somewhat lengthy, since in order to express a single date by means of it eight distinct glyphs were required, namely: (1) The Introducing glyph; (2) the Cycle glyph; (3) the Katun glyph; (4) the Tun glyph; (5) the Uinal glyph; (6) the Kin glyph; (7) the Day glyph; (8) the Month glyph. Moreover, its use in any inscription which contained more than one date would have resulted in needless repetition. For example, if all the dates on any given monument were expressed by Initial Series, every one would show the long distance (more than 3,000 years) which separated it from the common starting point of Maya chronology. It would be just like writing the legal holidays of the current year in this way: February 22d, 1913, A. D., May 30th, 1913, A. D., July 4th, 1913, A. D., December 25th, 1913, A. D.; or in other words, repeating in each case the designation of time elapsed from the starting point of Christian chronology.
The Maya obviated this needless repetition by recording but one Initial Series date on a monument; and from this date as a new point of departure they proceeded to reckon the number of days to the next date recorded; from this date the numbers of days to the next; and so on throughout that inscription. By this device the position of any date in the Long Count (its Initial Series) could be calculated, since it could be referred back to a date, the Initial Series of which was expressed. For example, the terminal day of the Initial Series given on page 64 is 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu, and its position in the Long Count is fixed by the statement in cycles, katuns, tuns, etc., that 1,461,463 days separate it from the starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu. Now let us suppose we have the date 10 Cimi 14 Cumhu, which is recorded as being 3 days later than the day 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu, the Initial Series of which is known to be 1,461,463. It is clear that the Initial Series corresponding to the date 10 Cimi 14 Cumhu, although not actually expressed, will also be known since it must equal 1,461,463 (Initial Series of 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu) + 3 (distance from 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu to 10 Cimi 14 Cumhu), or 1,461,466. Therefore it matters not whether we count three days forward from 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu, or whether we count 1,461,466 days forward from the starting point of Maya chronology, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu since in each case the date reached will be the same, namely, 10 Cimi 14 Cumhu. The former method, however, was used more frequently than all of the other methods of recording dates combined, since it insured all the accuracy of an Initial Series without repeating for each date so great a number of days.
Thus having one date on a monument the Initial Series of which was expressed, it was possible by referring subsequent dates to it, or to other dates which in turn had been referred to it, to fix accurately the positions of any number of dates in the Long Count without the use of their corresponding Initial Series. Dates thus recorded are known as "secondary dates," and the periods which express their distances from other dates of known position in the Long Count, as "distance numbers." A secondary date with its corresponding distance number has been designated a Secondary Series. In the example above given the distance number 3 kins and the date 10 Cimi 14 Cumhu would constitute a Secondary Series.
Here, then, in addition to the Initial Series is a second method, the Secondary Series, by means of which the Maya recorded their dates. The earliest use of a Secondary Series with which the writer is familiar (that on Stela 36 at Piedras Negras) does not occur until some 280 years after the first Initial Series. It seems to have been a later development, probably owing its origin to the desire to express more than one date on a single monument. Usually Secondary Series are to be counted from the dates next preceding them in the inscriptions in which they are found, though occasionally they are counted from other dates which may not even be expressed, and which can be ascertained only by counting backward the distance number from its corresponding terminal date. The accuracy of a Secondary series date depends entirely on the fact that it has been counted from an Initial Series, or at least from another Secondary series date, which in turn has been derived from an Initial Series. If either of these contingencies applies to any Secondary series date, it is as accurate a method of fixing a day in the Long Count as though its corresponding Initial Series were expressed in full. If, on the other hand, a Secondary series date can not be referred ultimately to an Initial Series or to a date the Initial Series of which is known though it may not be expressed, such a Secondary series date becomes only one of the 18,980 dates of the Calendar Round, and will recur at intervals of every 52 years. In other words, its position in the Long Count will be unknown.
Dates of the character just described may be called Calendar-round dates, since they are accurate only within the Calendar Round, or range of 52 years. While accurate enough for the purpose of distinguishing dates in the course of a single lifetime, this method breaks down when used to express dates covering a long period. Witness the chaotic condition of Aztec chronology. The Maya seem to have realized the limitations of this method of dating and did not employ it extensively. It was used chiefly at Yaxchilan on the Usamacintla River, and for this reason the chronology of that city is very much awry, and it is difficult to assign its various dates to their proper positions in the Long Count.
The Maya made use of still another method of dating, which, although not so exact as the Initial Series or the Secondary Series, is, on the other hand, far more accurate than Calendar round dating. In this method a date was described as being at the end of some particular period in the Long Count; that is, closing a certain cycle, katun, or tun. It is clear also that in this method only the name Ahau out of the 20 given in Table I can be recorded, since it alone can stand at the end of periods higher than the kin. This is true, since:
1. The higher periods, as the uinal, tun, katun, and cycle are exactly divisible by 20 in every case (see Table VIII), and—
2. They are all counted from a day, Ahau, that is, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu. Consequently, all the periods of the Long Count, except the kin or primary unit, end with days the name parts of which are the sign Ahau.
This method of recording dates always involves the use of at least two factors, and usually three:
1. A particular period of the Long Count, as Cycle 9, or Katun 14, etc.
2. The date which ends the particular period recorded, as 8 Ahau 13 Ceh, or 6 Ahau 13 Muan, the closing dates respectively of Cycle 9 and Katun 14 of Cycle 9; and
3. A glyph or element which means "ending" or "is ended," or which indicates at least that the period to which it is attached has come to its close.
The first two of these factors are absolutely essential to this method of dating, while the third, the so-called "ending sign," is usually, though not invariably, present. The order in which these factors are usually found is first the date composed of the day glyph and month glyph, next the "ending sign," and last the glyph of the period whose closing day has just been recorded. Very rarely the period glyph and its ending sign precede the date.
The ending glyph has three distinct variants: (1) the element shown as the prefix or superfix in figure 37, a-h, t, all of which are forms of the same variant; (2) the flattened grotesque head appearing either as the prefix or superfix in i, r, u, v of the same figure; and (3) the hand, which appears as the main element in the forms shown in figure 37, j-q. The two first of these never stand by themselves but always modify some other sign. The first (fig. 37, a-h, t) is always attached to the sign of the period whose end is recorded either as a superfix (see fig. 37, a, whereby the end of Cycle 10 is indicated), or as a prefix (see t, whereby the end of Katun 14 is recorded). The second form is seen as a prefix in u, whereby the end of Katun 12 is recorded, and in i, whereby the end of Katun 11 is shown. This latter sign is found also as a superfix in r.
Fig. 37. Ending signs and elements.
The hand-ending sign rarely appears as modifying period glyphs, although a few examples of such use have been found (see fig. 37, j, k). This ending sign usually appears as the main element in a separate glyph, which precedes the sign of the period whose end is recorded (see fig. 37, l-q). In these cases the subordinate elements differ somewhat, although the element (
*) appears as the suffix in l, m, n, q, and the element (†) as a postfix therein, also in o and p. In a few cases the hand is combined with the other ending signs, sometimes with one and sometimes with the other.
The use of the hand as expressing the meaning "ending" is quite natural. The Aztec, we have seen, called their 52-year period the xiuhmolpilli, or "year bundle." This implies the concomitant idea of "tying up." As a period closed, metaphorically speaking, it was "tied up" or "bundled up." The Maya use of the hand to express the idea "ending" may be a graphic representation of the member by means of which this "tying up" was effected, the clasped hand indicating the closed period.
This method of describing a date may be called "dating by period endings." It was far less accurate than Initial-series or Secondary-series dating, since a date described as occurring at the end of a certain katun could recur after an interval of about 18,000 years in round numbers, as against 374,400 years in the other 2 methods. For all practical purposes, however, 18,000 years was as accurate as 374,400 years, since it far exceeds the range of time covered by the written records of mankind the world over.
Period-ending dates were not used much, and, as has been stated above, they are found only in connection with the larger periods—most frequently with the katun, next with the cycle, and but very rarely with the tun. Mr. Bowditch (1910: pp. 176 et seq.) has reviewed fully the use of ending signs, and students are referred to his work for further information on this subject.
U Kahlay Katunob
In addition to the foregoing methods of measuring time and recording dates, the Maya of Yucatan used still another, which, however, was probably derived directly from the application of Period-ending dating to the Long Count, and consequently introduces no new elements. This has been designated the Sequence of the Katuns, because in this method the katun, or 7,200-day period, was the unit used for measuring the passage of time. The Maya themselves called the Sequence of the Katuns u tzolan katun, "the series of the katuns"; or u kahlay uxocen katunob, "the record of the count of the katuns"; or even more simply, u kahlay katunob, "the record of the katuns." These names accurately describe this system, which is simply the record of the successive katuns, comprising in the aggregate the range of Maya chronology.
Each katun of the u kahlay katunob was named after the designation of its ending day, a practice derived no doubt from Period-ending dating, and the sequence of these ending days represented passed time, each ending day standing for the katun of which it was the close. The katun, as we have seen on page 77, always ended with some day Ahau, consequently this day-name is the only one of the twenty which appears in the u kahlay katunob. In this method the katuns were distinguished from one another, not by the positions which they occupied in the cycle, as Katun 14, for example, but by the different days Ahau with which they ended, as Katun 2 Ahau, Katun 13 Ahau, etc. See Table IX.
Table IX.—SEQUENCE OF KATUNS IN U KAHLAY KATUNOB
|Katun2 Ahau||Katun8 Ahau|
|Katun 13 Ahau||Katun6 Ahau|
|Katun 11 Ahau||Katun4 Ahau|
|Katun9 Ahau||Katun2 Ahau|
|Katun7 Ahau||Katun 13 Ahau|
|Katun5 Ahau||Katun 11 Ahau|
|Katun3 Ahau||Katun9 Ahau|
|Katun1 Ahau||Katun7 Ahau|
|Katun 12 Ahau||Katun5 Ahau|
|Katun 10 Ahau||Katun3 Ahau, etc.|
The peculiar retrograding sequence of the numerical coefficients in Table IX, decreasing by 2 from katun to katun, as 2, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, 1, 12, etc., results directly from the number of days which the katun contains. Since the 13 possible numerical coefficients, 1 to 13, inclusive, succeed each other in endless repetition, 1 following immediately after 13, it is clear that in counting forward any given number from any given numerical coefficient, the resulting numerical coefficient will not be affected if we first deduct all the 13s possible from the number to be counted forward. The mathematical demonstration of this fact follows. If we count forward 14 from any given coefficient, the same coefficient will be reached as if we had counted forward but 1. This is true because, (1) there are only 13 numerical coefficients, and (2) these follow each other without interruption, 1 following immediately after 13; hence, when 13 has been reached, the next coefficient is 1, not 14; therefore 13 or any multiple thereof may be counted forward or backward from any one of the 13 numerical coefficients without changing its value. This truth enables us to formulate the following rule for finding numerical coefficients: Deduct all the multiples of 13 possible from the number to be counted forward, and then count forward the remainder from the known coefficient, subtracting 13 if the resulting number is above 13, since 13 is the highest possible number which can be attached to a day sign. If we apply this rule to the sequence of the numerical coefficients in Table IX, we shall find that it accounts for the retrograding sequence there observed. The first katun in Table IX, Katun 2 Ahau, is named after its ending day, 2 Ahau. Now let us see whether the application of this rule will give us 13 Ahau as the ending day of the next katun. The number to be counted forward from 2 Ahau is 7,200, the number of days in one katun; therefore we must first deduct from 7,200 all the 13s possible. 7,200 ÷ 13 = 55311⁄13. In other words, after we have deducted all the 13's possible, that is, 553 of them, there is a remainder of 11. This the rule says is to be added (or counted forward) from the known coefficient (in this case 2) in order to reach the resulting coefficient. 2 + 11 = 13. Since this number is not above 13, 13 is not to be deducted from it; therefore the coefficient of the ending day of the second katun is 13, as shown in Table IX. Similarly we can prove that the coefficient of the ending day of the third katun in Table IX will be 11. Again, we have 7,200 to count forward from the known coefficient, in this case 13 (the coefficient of the ending day of the second katun). But we have seen above that if we deduct all the 13s possible from 7,200 there will be a remainder of 11; consequently this remainder 11 must be added to 13, the known coefficient. 13 + 11 = 24; but since this number is above 13, we must deduct 13 from it in order to find out the resulting coefficient. 24 - 13 = 11, and 11 is the coefficient of the ending day of the third katun in Table IX. By applying the above rule, all of the coefficients of the ending days of the katuns could be shown to follow the sequence indicated in Table IX. And since the ending days of the katuns determined their names, this same sequence is also that of the katuns themselves.
The above table enables us to establish a constant by means of which we can always find the name of the next katun. Since 7,200 is always the number of days in any katun, after deducting all the 13s possible the remainder will always be 11, which has to be added to the known coefficient to find the unknown. But since 13 has to be deducted from the resulting number when it is above 13, subtracting 2 will always give us exactly the same coefficient as adding 11; consequently we may formulate for determining the numerical coefficients of the ending days of katuns the following simple rule: Subtract 2 from the coefficient of the ending day of the preceding katun in every case. A glance at Table IX will demonstrate the truth of this rule.
In the names of the katuns given in Table IX it is noteworthy that the positions which the ending days occupied in the divisions of the haab, or 365-day year, are not mentioned. For example, the first katun was not called Katun 2 Ahau 8 Zac, but simply Katun 2 Ahau, the month part of the day, that is, its position in the year, was omitted. This omission of the month parts of the ending days of the katuns in the u kahlay katunob has rendered this method of dating far less accurate than any of the others previously described except Calendar-round Dating. For example, when a date was recorded as falling within a certain katun, as Katun 2 Ahau, it might occur anywhere within a period of 7,200 days, or nearly 20 years, and yet fulfill the given conditions. In other words, no matter how accurately this Katun 2 Ahau itself might be fixed in a long stretch of time, there was always the possibility of a maximum error of about 20 years in such dating, since the statement of the katun did not fix a date any closer than as occurring somewhere within a certain 20-year period. When greater accuracy was desired the particular tun in which the date occurred was also given, as Tun 13 of Katun 2 Ahau. This fixed a date as falling somewhere within a certain 360 days, which was accurately fixed in a much longer period of time. Very rarely, in the case of an extremely important event, the Calendar-round date was also given as 9 Imix 19 Zip of Tun 9 of Katun 13 Ahau. A date thus described satisfying all the given conditions could not recur until after the lapse of at least 7,000 years. The great majority of events, however, recorded by this method are described only as occurring in some particular katun, as Katun 2 Ahau, for example, no attempt being made to refer them to any particular division (tun) of this period. Such accuracy doubtless was sufficient for recording the events of tribal history, since in no case could an event be more than 20 years out of the way.
Aside from this initial error, the accuracy of this method of dating has been challenged on the ground that since there were only thirteen possible numerical coefficients, any given katun, as Katun 2 Ahau, for example, in Table IX would recur in the sequence after the lapse of thirteen katuns, or about 256 years, thus paving the way for much confusion. While admitting that every thirteenth katun in the sequence had the same name (see Table IX), the writer believes, nevertheless, that when the sequence of the katuns was carefully kept, and the record of each entered immediately after its completion, so that there could be no chance of confusing it with an earlier katun of the same name in the sequence, accuracy in dating could be secured for as long a period as the sequence remained unbroken. Indeed, the u kahlay katunob from which the synopsis of Maya history given in Chapter I was compiled, accurately fixes the date of events, ignoring the possible initial inaccuracy of 20 years, within a period of more than 1,100 years, a remarkable feat for any primitive chronology.
How early this method of recording dates was developed is uncertain. It has not yet been found (surely) in the inscriptions in either the south or the north; on the other hand, it is so closely connected with the Long Count and Period-ending dating, which occurs repeatedly throughout the inscriptions, that it seems as though the u kahlay katunob must have been developed while this system was still in use.
There should be noted here a possible exception to the above statement, namely, that the u kahlay katunob has not been found in the inscriptions. Mr. Bowditch (1910: pp. 192 et seq.) has pointed out what seem to be traces of another method of dating. This consists of some day Ahau modified by one of the two elements shown in figure 38 (a-d and e-h, respectively). In such cases the month part is sometimes recorded, though as frequently the day Ahau stands by itself. It is to be noted that in the great majority of these cases the days Ahau thus modified are the ending days of katuns, which are either expressed or at least indicated in adjacent glyphs. In other words, the day Ahau thus modified is usually the ending day of the next even katun after the last date recorded. The writer believes that this modification of certain days Ahau by either of the two elements shown in figure 38 may indicate that such days were the katun ending days nearest to the time when the inscriptions presenting them were engraved. The snake variants shown in figure 38, a-d, are all from Palenque; the knot variants (e-h of the same figure) are found at both Copan and Quirigua.
Fig. 38. "Snake" or "knot" element as used with day sign Ahau, possibly indicating presence of the u kahlay katunob in the inscriptions.
It may be objected that one katun ending day in each inscription is far different from a sequence of katun ending days as shown in Table IX, and that one katun ending day by itself can not be construed as an u kahlay katunob, or sequence of katuns. The difference here, however, is apparent rather than real, and results from the different character of the monuments and the native chronicles. The u kahlay katunob in Table IX is but a part of a much longer sequence of katuns, which is shown in a number of native chronicles written shortly after the Spanish Conquest, and which record the events of Maya history for more than 1,100 years. They are in fact chronological synopses of Maya history, and from their very nature they have to do with long periods. This is not true of the monuments, which, as we have seen, were probably set up to mark the passage of certain periods, not exceeding a katun in length in any case. Consequently, each monument would have inscribed upon it only one or two katun ending days and the events which were connected more or less closely with it. In other words, the monuments were erected at short intervals and probably recorded events contemporaneous with their erection, while the u kahlay katunob, on the other hand, were historical summaries reaching back to a remote time. The former were the periodicals of current events, the latter histories of the past. The former in the great majority of cases had no concern with the lapse of more than one or two katuns, while the latter measured centuries by the repetition of the same unit. The writer believes that from the very nature of the monuments—markers of current time—no u kahlay katunob will be found on them, but that the presence of the katun ending days above described indicates that the u kahlay katunob had been developed while the other system was still in use. If the foregoing be true, the signs in figure 38, a-h, would have this meaning: "On this day came to an end the katun in which fall the accompanying dates," or some similar significance.
If we exclude the foregoing as indicating the u kahlay katunob, we have but one aboriginal source, that is one antedating the Spanish Conquest, which probably records a count of this kind. It has been stated (p. 33) that the Codex Peresianus probably treats in part at least of historical matter. The basis for this assertion is that in this particular manuscript an u kahlay katunob is seemingly recorded; at least there is a sequence of the ending days of katuns shown, exactly like the one in Table IX, that is, 13 Ahau, 11 Ahau, 9 Ahau, etc.
At the time of the Spanish Conquest the Long Count seems to have been recorded entirely by the ending days of its katuns, that is, by the u kahlay katunob, and the use of Initial-series dating seems to have been discontinued, and perhaps even forgotten. Native as well as Spanish authorities state that at the time of the Conquest the Maya measured time by the passage of the katuns, and no mention is made of any system of dating which resembles in the least the Initial Series so prevalent in the southern and older cities. While the Spanish authorities do not mention the u kahlay katunob as do the native writers, they state very clearly that this was the system used in counting time. Says Bishop Landa (1864: p. 312) in this connection: "The Indians not only had a count by years and days ... but they had a certain method of counting time and their affairs by ages, which they made from twenty to twenty years ... these they call katunes." Cogolludo (1688: lib. iv, cap. v, p. 186) makes a similar statement: "They count their eras and ages, which they put in their books from twenty to twenty years ... [these] they call katun." Indeed, there can be but little doubt that the u kahlay katunob had entirely replaced the Initial Series in recording the Long Count centuries before the Spanish Conquest; and if the latter method of dating were known at all, the knowledge of it came only from half-forgotten records the understanding of which was gradually passing from the minds of men.
It is clear from the foregoing that an important change in recording the passage of time took place sometime between the epoch of the great southern cities and the much later period when the northern cities flourished. In the former, time was reckoned and dates were recorded by Initial Series; in the latter, in so far as we can judge from post-Conquest sources, the u kahlay katunob and Calendar-round dating were the only systems used. As to when this change took place, we are not entirely in the dark. It is certain that the use of the Initial Series extended to Yucatan, since monuments presenting this method of dating have been found at a few of the northern cities, namely, at Chichen Itza, Holactun, and Tuluum. On the other hand, it is equally certain that Initial Series could not have been used very extensively in the north, since they have been discovered in only these three cities in Yucatan up to the present time. Moreover, the latest, that is, the most recent of these three, was probably contemporaneous with the rise of the Triple Alliance, a fairly early event of Northern Maya history. Taking these two points into consideration, the limited use of Initial Series in the north and the early dates recorded in the few Initial Series known, it seems likely that Initial-series dating did not long survive the transplanting of the Maya civilization in Yucatan.
Why this change came about is uncertain. It could hardly have been due to the desire for greater accuracy, since the u kahlay katunob was far less exact than Initial-series dating; not only could dates satisfying all given conditions recur much more frequently in the u kahlay katunob, but, as generally used, this method fixed a date merely as occurring somewhere within a period of about 20 years.
The writer believes the change under consideration arose from a very different cause; that it was in fact the result of a tendency toward greater brevity, which was present in the glyphic writing from the very earliest times, and which is to be noted on some of the earliest monuments that have survived the ravages of the passing centuries. At first, when but a single date was recorded on a monument, an Initial Series was used. Later, however, when the need or desire had arisen to inscribe more than one date on the same monument, additional dates were not expressed as Initial Series, each of which, as we have seen, involves the use of 8 glyphs, but as a Secondary Series, which for the record of short periods necessitated the use of fewer glyphs than were employed in Initial Series. It would seem almost as though Secondary Series had been invented to avoid the use of Initial Series when more than one date had to be recorded on the same monument. But this tendency toward brevity in dating did not cease with the invention of Secondary Series. Somewhat later, dating by period-endings was introduced, obviating the necessity for the use of even one Initial Series on every monument, in order that one date might be fixed in the Long Count to which the others (Secondary Series) could be referred. For all practical purposes, as we have seen, Period-ending dating was as accurate as Initial-series dating for fixing dates in the Long Count, and its substitution for Initial-series dating resulted in a further saving of glyphs and a corresponding economy of space. Still later, probably after the Maya had colonized Yucatan, the u kahlay katunob, which was a direct application of Period-ending dating to the Long Count, came into general use. At this time a rich history lay behind the Maya people, and to have recorded all of its events by their corresponding Initial Series would have been far too cumbersome a practice. The u kahlay katunob offered a convenient and facile method by means of which long stretches of time could be recorded and events approximately dated; that is, within 20 years. This, together with the fact that the practice of setting up dated period-markers seems to have languished in the north, thus eliminating the greatest medium of all for the presentation of Initial Series, probably gave rise to the change from the one method of recording time to the other.
This concludes the discussion of the five methods by means of which the Maya reckoned time and recorded dates: (1) Initial-series dating; (2) Secondary-series dating; (3) Calendar-round dating; (4) Period-ending dating; (5) Katun-ending dating, or the u kahlay katunob. While apparently differing considerably from one another, in reality all are expressions of the same fundamental idea, the combination of the numbers 13 and 20 (that is, 260) with the solar year conceived as containing 365 days, and all were recorded by the same vigesimal system of numeration; that is:
1. All used precisely the same dates, the 18,980 dates of the Calendar Round;
2. All may be reduced to the same fundamental unit, the day; and
3. All used the same time counters, those shown in Table VIII.
In conclusion, the student is strongly urged constantly to bear in mind two vital characteristics of Maya chronology:
1. The absolute continuity of all sequences which had to do with the counting of time: The 13 numerical coefficients of the day names, the 20 day names, the 260 days of the tonalamatl, the 365 positions of the haab, the 18,980 dates of the Calendar Round, and the kins, uinals, tuns, katuns, and cycles of the vigesimal system of numeration. When the conclusion of any one of these sequences had been reached, the sequence began anew without the interruption or omission of a single unit and continued repeating itself for all time.
2. All Maya periods expressed not current time, but passed time, as in the case of our hours, minutes, and seconds.
On these two facts rests the whole Maya conception of time.
- Since the sequence of the twenty day names was continuous, it is obvious that it had no beginning or ending, like the rim of a wheel; consequently any day name may be chosen arbitrarily as the starting point. In the accompanying
- Professor Seler says the Maya of Guatemala called this period the kin katun, or "order of the days." He fails to give his authority for this statement, however, and, as will appear later, these terms have entirely different meanings. (See Bulletin 28, p. 14.)
- As Bishop Landa wrote not later than 1579, this is Old Style. The corresponding day in the Gregorian Calendar would be July 27.
- This is probably to be accounted for by the fact that in the Maya system of chronology, as we shall see later, the 365-day year was not used in recording time. But that so fundamental a period had therefore no special glyph does not necessarily follow, and the writer believes the sign for the haab will yet be discovered.
- Later researches of the writer (1914) have convinced him that figure 19, c, is not a sign for Uo, but a very unusual variant of the sign for Zip, found only at Copan, and there only on monuments belonging to the final period.
- The writer was able to prove during his last trip to the Maya field that figure 19, f, is not a sign for the month Zotz, as suggested by Mr. Bowditch, but a very unusual form representing Kankin. This identification is supported by a number of examples at Piedras Negras.
- The meanings of these words in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztec, are "year bundle" and "our years will be bound," respectively. These doubtless refer to the fact that at the expiration of this period the Aztec calendar had made one complete round; that is, the years were bound up and commenced anew.
- Bulletin 28, p. 330.
- All Initial Series now known, with the exception of two, have the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu as their common point of departure. The two exceptions, the Initial Series on the east side of Stela C at Quirigua and the one on the tablet in the Temple of the Cross at Palenque, proceed from the date 4 Ahau 8 Zotz—more than 5,000 years in advance of the starting point just named. The writer has no suggestions to offer in explanation of these two dates other than that he believes they refer to some mythological event. For instance, in the belief of the Maya the gods may have been born on the day 4 Ahau 8 Zotz, and 5,000 years later approximately on 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu the world, including mankind, may have been created.
- Some writers have called the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the normal date, probably because it is the standard date from which practically all Maya calculations proceed. The writer has not followed this practice, however.
- That is, dates which signified present time when they were recorded.
- This statement does not take account of the Tuxtla Statuette and the Holactun Initial Series, which extend the range of the dated monuments to ten centuries.
- For the discussion of the number of cycles in a great cycle, a question concerning which there are two different opinions, see pp. 107 et seq.
- There are only two known exceptions to this statement, namely, the Initial Series on the Temple of the Cross at Palenque and that on the east side of Stela C at Quirigua, already noted.
- Mr. Bowditch (1910: App. VIII, 310-18) discusses the possible meanings of this element.
- For explanation of the term "full-figure glyphs," see p. 67.
- See the discussion of Serpent numbers in Chapter VI.
- These three inscriptions are found on Stela N, west side, at Copan, the tablet of the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, and Stela 10 at Tikal. For the discussion of these inscriptions, see pp. 114-127.
- The discussion of glyphs which may represent the great cycle or period of the 6th order will be presented on pp. 114-127 in connection with the discussion of numbers having six or more orders of units.
- The figure on Zoömorph B at Quirigua, however, has a normal human head without grotesque characteristics.
- The full-figure glyphs are included with the head variants in this proportion.
- Any system of counting time which describes a date in such a manner that it can not recur, satisfying all the necessary conditions, for 374,400 years, must be regarded as absolutely accurate in so far as the range of human life on this planet is concerned.
- There are a very few monuments which have two Initial Series instead of one. So far as the writer knows, only six monuments in the entire Maya area present this feature, namely, Stelæ F, D, E, and A at Quirigua, Stela 17 at Tikal, and Stela 11 at Yaxchilan.
- Refer to p. 64 and figure 23. It will be noted that the third tooth (i. e. day) after the one named 7 Akbal 11 Cumhu is 10 Cimi 14 Cumhu.
- This method of dating does not seem to have been used with either uinal or kin period endings, probably because of the comparative frequency with which any given date might occur at the end of either of these two periods.
- In Chapter IV it will be shown that two bars stand for the number 10. It will be necessary to anticipate the discussion of Maya numerals there presented to the extent of stating that a bar represented 5 and a dot or ball, 1. The varying combinations of these two elements gave the values up to 20.
- The u kahlay katunob on which the historical summary given in Chapter I is based shows an absolutely uninterrupted sequence of katuns for more than 1,100 years. See Brinton (1882 b: pp. 152-164). It is necessary to note here a correction on p. 153 of that work. Doctor Brinton has omitted a Katun 8 Ahau from this u kahlay katunob, which is present in the Berendt copy, and he has incorrectly assigned the abandonment of Chichen Itza to the preceding katun, Katun 10 Ahau, whereas the Berendt copy shows this event took place during the katun omitted, Katun 8 Ahau.
- There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule—that is, there are some monuments which indicate an interval of more than 3,000 years between the extreme dates. In such cases, however, this interval is not divided into katuns, nor in fact into any regularly recurring smaller unit, with the single exception mentioned in footnote 1, p. 84.
- On one monument, the tablet from the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, there seems to be recorded a kind of u kahlay katunob; at least, there is a sequence of ten consecutive katuns.