An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs/Chapter 4

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[ 87 ]

Chapter IV

MAYA ARITHMETIC

The present chapter will be devoted to the consideration of Maya arithmetic in its relation to the calendar. It will be shown how the Maya expressed their numbers and how they used their several time periods. In short, their arithmetical processes will be explained, and the calculations resulting from their application to the calendar will be set forth.

The Maya had two different ways of writing their numerals,[1] namely: (1) With normal forms, and (2) with head variants; that is, each of the numerals up to and including 19 had two distinct characters which stood for it, just as in the case of the time periods and more rarely, the days and months. The normal forms of the numerals may be compared to our Roman figures, since they are built up by the combination of certain elements which had a fixed numerical value, like the letters I, V, X, L, C, D, and M, which in Roman notation stand for the values 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000, respectively. The head-variant numerals, on the other hand, more closely resemble our Arabic figures, since there was a special head form for each number up to and including 13, just as there are special characters for the first nine figures and zero in Arabic notation. Moreover, this parallel between our Arabic figures and the Maya head-variant numerals extends to the formation of the higher numbers. Thus, the Maya formed the head-variant numerals for 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 by applying the essential characteristic of the head variant for 10 to the head variants for 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, respectively, just as the sign for 10—that is, one in the tens place and zero in the units place—is used in connection with the signs for the first nine figures in Arabic notation to form the numbers 11 to 19, inclusive. Both of these notations occur in the inscriptions, but with very few exceptions[2] no head-variant numerals have yet been found in the codices.

Bar and Dot Numerals

The Maya "Roman numerals"—that is, the normal-form numerals, up to and including 19—were expressed by varying combinations of two elements, the dot (Disc Plain black.svg) which represented the numeral, or numerical value, 1, and the bar, or line (Dash.svg) which represented the numeral, or numerical value, 5. By various combinations of these two [ 88 ] elements alone the Maya expressed all the numerals from 1 to 19, inclusive. The normal forms of the numerals in the codices are shown in figure 39, in which one dot stands for 1, two dots for 2, three dots for 3, four dots for 4, one bar for 5, one bar and one dot for 6, one bar and two dots for 7, one bar and three dots for 8, one bar and four dots for 9, two bars for 10, and so on up to three bars and four dots for 19. The normal forms of the numerals, in the inscriptions (see fig. 40) are identical with those in the codices, excepting that they are more elaborate, the dots and bars both taking on various decorations. Some of the former contain a concentric circle (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 88a-c.jpg
*) or cross-hatching (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 88d-f.jpg
**); some appear as crescents (†) or curls (††), more rarely as (‡) or (‡‡). The bars show even a greater variety of treatment (see fig. 41). All these decorations, however, in no way affect the numerical value of the bar and the dot, which remain 5 and 1, respectively, throughout the Maya writing. Such embellishments as those just described are found only in the inscriptions, and their use was probably due to the desire to make the bar and dot serve a decorative as well as a numerical function.

Fig. 39. Normal forms of numerals 1 to 19, inclusive, in the codices.

Fig. 39. Normal forms of numerals 1 to 19, inclusive, in the codices.

Fig. 40. Normal forms of numerals 1 to 19, inclusive, in the inscriptions.

Fig. 40. Normal forms of numerals 1 to 19, inclusive, in the inscriptions.

Fig. 41. Examples of bar and dot numeral 5, showing the ornamentation which the bar underwent without affecting its numerical value.

Fig. 41. Examples of bar and dot numeral 5, showing the ornamentation which the bar underwent without affecting its numerical value.

An important exception to this statement should be noted here in connection with the normal forms for the numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17, that is, all which involve the use of one or two dots in their composition.[3] In the inscriptions, as we have seen in Chapter II, every glyph was a balanced picture, exactly fitting its allotted space, even at the cost of occasionally losing some of its elements. To have expressed the numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17 as in the codices, with just the proper number of bars and dots in each case, would have left unsightly gaps in the outlines of the glyph blocks (see fig. 42, a-h, where these numbers are shown as the coefficients of the katun sign). In a, c, e, and g of the same figure (the numbers 1, 6, 11, and 16, respectively) the single dot does not fill the space on the left-hand[4] side of the bar, or bars, as the case may be, and consequently [ 89 ] the left-hand edge of the glyph block in each case is ragged. Similarly in b, d, f, and h, the numbers 2, 7, 12, and 17, respectively, the two dots at the left of the bar or bars are too far apart to fill in the left-hand edge of the glyph blocks neatly, and consequently in these cases also the left edge is ragged. The Maya were quick to note this discordant note in glyph design, and in the great majority of the places where these numbers (1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17) had to be recorded, other elements of a purely ornamental character were introduced to fill the empty spaces. In figure 43, a, c, e, g, the spaces on each side of the single dot have been filled with ornamental [ 90 ] crescents about the size of the dot, and these give the glyph in each case a final touch of balance and harmony, which is lacking without them. In b, d, f, and h of the same figure a single crescent stands between the two numerical dots, and this again harmoniously fills in the glyph block. While the crescent (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 90a-b.jpg
*) is the usual form taken by this purely decorative element, crossed lines (**) are found in places, as in (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 90c-e.jpg
†); or, again, a pair of dotted elements (††), as in (‡). These variants, however, are of rare occurrence, the common form being the crescent shown in figure 43.

Fig. 42. Examples showing the way in which the numerals 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17 are not used with period, day, or month signs.

Fig. 42. Examples showing the way in which the numerals 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17 are not used with period, day, or month signs.

Fig. 43. Examples showing the way in which the numerals 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17 are used with period, day, or month signs. Note the filling of the otherwise vacant spaces with ornamental elements.

Fig. 43. Examples showing the way in which the numerals 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17 are used with period, day, or month signs. Note the filling of the otherwise vacant spaces with ornamental elements.

Fig. 44. Normal forms of numerals 1 to 13, inclusive, in the Books of Chilan Balam.

Fig. 44. Normal forms of numerals 1 to 13, inclusive, in the Books of Chilan Balam.

The use of these purely ornamental elements, to fill the empty spaces in the normal forms of the numerals 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, and 17, is a fruitful source of error to the student of the inscriptions. Slight weathering of an inscription is often sufficient to make ornamental crescents look exactly like numerical dots, and consequently the numerals 1, 2, 3 are frequently mistaken for one another, as are also 6, 7, and 8; 11, 12, and 13; and 16, 17, and 18. The student must exercise the greatest caution at all times in identifying these [ 91 ] numerals in the inscriptions, or otherwise he will quickly find himself involved in a tangle from which there seems to be no egress. Probably more errors in reading the inscriptions have been made through the incorrect identification of these numerals than through any other one cause, and the student is urged to be continually on his guard if he would avoid making this capital blunder.

Although the early Spanish authorities make no mention of the fact that the Maya expressed their numbers by bars and dots, native testimony is not lacking on this point. Doctor Brinton (1882 b: p. 48) gives this extract, accompanied by the drawing shown in figure 44, from a native writer of the eighteenth century who clearly describes this system of writing numbers:

They [our ancestors] used [for numerals in their calendars] dots and lines [i. e., bars] back of them; one dot for one year, two dots for two years, three dots for three years, four dots for four, and so on; in addition to these they used a line; one line meant five years, two lines meant ten years; if one line and above it one dot, six years; if two dots above the line, seven years; if three dots above, eight years; if four dots above the line, nine; a dot above two lines, eleven; if two dots, twelve; if three dots, thirteen.

This description is so clear, and the values therein assigned to the several combinations of bars and dots have been verified so extensively throughout both the inscriptions and the codices, that we are justified in identifying the bar and dot as the signs for five and one, respectively, wherever they occur, whether they are found by themselves or in varying combinations.

In the codices, as will appear in Chapter VI, the bar and dot numerals were painted in two colors, black and red. These colors were used to distinguish one set of numerals from another, each of which has a different use. In such cases, however, bars of one color are never used with dots of the other color, each number being either all red or all black (see p. 93, footnote 1, for the single exception to this rule).

By the development of a special character to represent the number 5 the Maya had far surpassed the Aztec in the science of mathematics; indeed, the latter seem to have had but one numerical sign, the dot, and they were obliged to resort to the clumsy makeshift of repeating this in order to represent all numbers above 1. It is clearly seen that such a system of notation has very definite limitations, which must have seriously retarded mathematical progress among the Aztec.

In the Maya system of numeration, which was vigesimal, there was no need for a special character to represent the number 20,[5] because [ 92 ] (1) as we have seen in Table VIII, 20 units of any order (except the 2d, in which only 18 were required) were equal to 1 unit of the order next higher, and consequently 20 could not be attached to any period-glyph, since this number of periods (with the above exception) was always recorded as 1 period of the order next higher; and (2) although there were 20 positions in each period except the uinal, as 20 kins in each uinal, 20 tuns in each katun, 20 katuns in each cycle, these positions were numbered not from 1 to 20, but on the contrary from 0 to 19, a system which eliminated the need for a character expressing 20.

Fig. 45. Sign for 20 in the codices.

Fig. 45. Sign for 20 in the codices.

In spite of the foregoing fact, however, the number 20 has been found in the codices (see fig. 45). A peculiar condition there, however, accounts satisfactorily for its presence. In the codices the sign for 20 occurs only in connection with tonalamatls, which, as we shall see later, were usually portrayed in such a manner that the numbers of which they were composed could not be presented from bottom to top in the usual way, but had to be written horizontally from left to right. This destroyed the possibility of numeration by position,[6] according to the Maya point of view, and consequently some sign was necessary which should stand for 20 regardless of its position or relation to others. The sign shown in figure 45 was used for this purpose. It has not yet been found in the inscriptions, perhaps because, as was pointed out in Chapter II, the inscriptions generally do not appear to treat of tonalamatls.

Fig. 46. Sign for 0 in the codices.

Fig. 46. Sign for 0 in the codices.

If the Maya numerical system had no vital need for a character to express the number 20, a sign to represent zero was absolutely [ 93 ] indispensable. Indeed, any numerical system which rises to a second order of units requires a character which will signify, when the need arises, that no units of a certain order are involved; as zero units and zero tens, for example, in writing 100 in our own Arabic notation.

The character zero seems to have played an important part in Maya calculations, and signs for it have been found in both the codices and the inscriptions. The form found in the codices (fig. 46) is lenticular; it presents an interior decoration which does not follow any fixed scheme.[7] Only a very few variants occur. The last one in figure 46 has clearly as one of its elements the normal form (lenticular). The remaining two are different. It is noteworthy, however, that these last three forms all stand in the 2d, or uinal, place in the texts in which they occur, though whether this fact has influenced their variation is unknown.

Fig. 47. Sign for 0 in the inscriptions.

Fig. 47. Sign for 0 in the inscriptions.

Fig. 48. Figure showing possible derivation of the sign for 0 in the inscriptions: a, Outline of the days of the tonalamatl as represented graphically in the Codex Tro-Cortesiano; b, half of same outline, which is also sign for 0 shown in fig. 47.

Fig. 48. Figure showing possible derivation of the sign for 0 in the inscriptions: a, Outline of the days of the tonalamatl as represented graphically in the Codex Tro-Cortesiano; b, half of same outline, which is also sign for 0 shown in fig. 47.

Both normal forms and head variants for zero, as indeed for all the numbers, have been found in the inscriptions. The normal forms for zero are shown in figure 47. They are common and are unmistakable. An interesting origin for this sign has been suggested by Mr. A. P. Maudslay. On pages 75 and 76 of the Codex Tro-Cortesiano[8] the 260 days of a tonalamatl are graphically represented as forming the outline shown in figure 48, a. Half of this (see fig. 48, b) is the sign which stands for zero (compare with fig. 47). The train of association by which half of the graphic representation of a tonalamatl could come to stand for zero is not clear. Perhaps a of figure 48 may have signified that a complete tonalamatl had passed with no additional days. From this the sign may have come to represent the idea of completeness as apart from the tonalamatl, and finally the general idea of completeness [ 94 ] applicable to any period; for no period could be exactly complete without a fractional remainder unless all the lower periods were wanting; that is, represented by zero. Whether this explains the connection between the outline of the tonalamatl and the zero sign, or whether indeed there be any connection between the two, is of course a matter of conjecture.

There is still one more normal form for zero not included in the examples given above, which must be described. This form (fig. 49), which occurs throughout the inscriptions and in the Dresden Codex,[9] is chiefly interesting because of its highly specialized function. Indeed, it was used for one purpose only, namely, to express the first, or zero, position in each of the 19 divisions of the haab, or year, and for no other. In other words, it denotes the positions 0 Pop, 0 Uo, 0 Zip, etc., which, as we have seen (pp. 47, 48), corresponded with our first days of the months. The forms shown in figure 49, a-e, are from the inscriptions and those in f-h from the Dresden Codex. They are all similar. The general outline of the sign has suggested the name "the spectacle" glyph. Its essential characteristic seems to be the division into two roughly circular parts, one above the other, best seen in the Dresden Codex forms (fig. 49, f-h) and a roughly circular infix in each. The lower infix is quite regular in all of the forms, being a circle or ring. The upper infix, however, varies considerably. In figure 49, a, b, this ring has degenerated into a loop. In c and d of the same figure it has become elaborated into a head. A simpler form is that in f and g. Although comparatively rare, this glyph is so unusual in form that it can be readily recognized. Moreover, if the student will bear in mind the two following points concerning its use, he will never fail to identify it in the inscriptions: The "spectacle" sign (1) can be attached only to the glyphs for the 19 divisions of the haab, or year, that is, the 18 uinals and the xma kaba kin; in other words, it is found only with the glyphs shown in figures 19 and 20, the signs for the months in the inscriptions and codices, respectively.

Fig. 49. Special sign for 0 used exclusively as a month coefficient.

Fig. 49. Special sign for 0 used exclusively as a month coefficient.

(2) It can occur only in connection with one of the four day-signs, Ik, Manik, Eb, and Caban (see figs. 16, c, j, s, t, u, a', b', and 17, c, d, k, r, x, y, respectively), since these four alone, as appears in Table VII, can occupy the 0 (zero) positions in the several divisions of the haab. [ 95 ]

Fig. 50. Examples of the use of bar and dot numerals with period, day, or month signs. The translation of each glyph appears below it.

Fig. 50. Examples of the use of bar and dot numerals with period, day, or month signs. The translation of each glyph appears below it.

Examples of the normal-form numerals as used with the day, month, and period glyphs in both the inscriptions and the codices are shown in figure 50. Under each is given its meaning in English.[10] The student is advised to familiarize himself with these forms, since on his ability to recognize them will largely depend his progress in reading the inscriptions. This figure illustrates the use of all the foregoing forms except the sign for 20 in figure 45 and the sign for zero in figure 46. As these two forms never occur with day, month, or period glyphs, and as they have been found only in the codices, examples showing their use will not be given until Chapter VI is reached, which treats of the codices exclusively. [ 96 ]

Head-variant Numerals

Let us next turn to the consideration of the Maya "Arabic notation," that is, the head-variant numerals, which, like all other known head variants, are practically restricted to the inscriptions.[11] It should be noted here before proceeding further that the full-figure numerals found in connection with full-figure period, day, and month glyphs in a few inscriptions, have been classified with the head-variant numerals. As explained on page 67, the body-parts of such glyphs have no function in determining their meanings, and it is only the head-parts which present in each case the determining characteristics of the form intended.

In the "head" notation each of the numerals, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13[12] is expressed by a distinctive type of head; each type has its own essential characteristic, by means of which it can be distinguished from all of the others. Above 13 and up to but not including 20, the head numerals are expressed by the application of the essential characteristic of the head for 10 to the heads for 3 to 9, inclusive. No head forms for the numeral 20 have yet been discovered.

The identification of these head-variant numerals in some cases is not an easy matter, since their determining characteristics are not always presented clearly. Moreover, in the case of a few numerals, notably the heads for 2, 11, and 12, the essential elements have not yet been determined. Head forms for these numerals occur so rarely in the inscriptions that the comparative data are insufficient to enable us to fix on any particular element as the essential one. Another difficulty encountered in the identification of head-variant numerals is the apparent irregularity of the forms in the earlier inscriptions. The essential elements of these early head numerals in some cases seem to differ widely from those of the later forms, and consequently it is sometimes difficult, indeed even impossible, to determine their corresponding numerical values. [ 97 ]

Fig. 51. Head-variant numerals 1 to 7, inclusive.

Fig. 51. Head-variant numerals 1 to 7, inclusive.

The head-variant numerals are shown in figures 51-53. Taking these up in their numerical order, let us commence with the head signifying 1; see figure 51, a-e. The essential element of this head is its forehead ornament, which, to signify the number 1, must be composed of more than one part (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 97a.jpg
*), in order to distinguish it from the forehead ornament (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 97b.jpg
**), which, as we shall see presently, is the essential element of the head for 8 (fig. 52, a-f). Except for their forehead ornaments the heads for 1 and 8 are almost identical, and great care must be exercised in order to avoid mistaking one for the other. [ 98 ]

The head for 2 (fig. 51, f, g) has been found only twice in the inscriptions—on Lintel 2 at Piedras Negras and on the tablet in the Temple of the Initial Series at Holactun. The oval at the top of the head seems to be the only element these two forms have in common, and the writer therefore accepts this element as the essential characteristic of the head for 2, admitting at the same time that the evidence is insufficient.

Fig. 52. Head-variant numerals 8 to 13, inclusive.

Fig. 52. Head-variant numerals 8 to 13, inclusive.

The head for 3 is shown in figure 51, h, i. Its determining characteristic is the fillet, or headdress.

The head for 4 is shown in figure 51, j-m. It is to be distinguished by its large prominent eye and square irid (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 98a.jpg
*). (probably eroded in l), the snaglike front tooth, and the curling fang protruding from the back part of the mouth (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 98b.jpg
**) (wanting in l and m). [ 99 ] The head for 5 (fig. 51, n-s) is always to be identified by its peculiar headdress (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 99a.jpg
†), which is the normal form of the tun sign. Compare figure 29, a, b. The same element appears also in the head for 15 (see fig. 53, b-e). The head for 5 is one of the most constant of all the head numerals.

Fig. 53. Head-variant numerals 14 to 19, inclusive, and 0.

Fig. 53. Head-variant numerals 14 to 19, inclusive, and 0.

The head for 6 (fig. 51, t-v) is similarly unmistakable. It is always characterized by the so-called hatchet eye (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 99b.jpg
††), which appears also in the head for 16 (fig. 53, f-i). The head for 7 (fig. 51, w) is found only once in the inscriptions—on the east side of Stela D at Quirigua. Its essential characteristic, [ 100 ] the large ornamental scroll passing under the eye and curling up in front of the forehead (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 100a.jpg
‡), is better seen in the head for 17 (fig. 53, j-m). The head for 8 is shown in figure 52, a-f. It is very similar to the head for 1, as previously explained (compare figs. 51, a-e and 52, a-f), and is to be distinguished from it only by the character of the forehead ornament, which is composed of but a single element (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 100b.jpg
‡‡). In figure 52, a, b, this takes the form of a large curl. In c of the same figure a flaring element is added above the curl and in d and e this element replaces the curl. In f the tongue or tooth of a grotesque animal head forms the forehead ornament. The heads for 18 (fig. 53, n-q) follow the first variants (fig. 51, a, b), having the large curl, except q, which is similar to d in having a flaring element instead. The head for 9 occurs more frequently than all of the others with the exception of the zero head, because the great majority of all Initial Series record dates which fell after the completion of Cycle 9, but before the completion of Cycle 10. Consequently, 9 is the coefficient attached to the cycle glyph in almost all Initial Series.[13] The head for 9 is shown in figure 52, g-l. It has for its essential characteristic the dots on the lower cheek or around the mouth (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 100c.jpg
*). Sometimes these occur in a circle or again irregularly. Occasionally, as in j-l, the 9 head has a beard, though this is not a constant element as are the dots, which appear also in the head for 19. Compare figure 53, r. The head for 10 (fig. 52, m-r) is extremely important since its essential element, the fleshless lower jaw (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 100d.jpg
*), stands for the numerical value 10, in composition with the heads for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, to form the heads for 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19, respectively. The 10 head is clearly the fleshless skull, having the truncated nose and fleshless jaws (see fig. 52, m-p). The fleshless lower jaw is shown in profile in all cases but one—Zoömorph B at Quirigua (see r of the same figure). Here a full front view of a 10 head is shown in which the fleshless jaw extends clear across the lower part of the head, an interesting confirmation of the fact that this characteristic is the essential element of the head for 10.

The head for 11 (fig. 52, s) has been found only once in the inscriptions, namely, on Lintel 2 at Piedras Negras; hence comparative data are lacking for the determination of its essential element. This head has no fleshless lower jaw and consequently would seem, therefore, not to be built up of the heads for 1 and 10.

Similarly, the head for 12 (fig. 52, t-v) has no fleshless lower jaw, and consequently can not be composed of the heads for 10 and 2. It is to be noted, however, that all three of the faces are of the same type, even though their essential characteristic has not yet been determined. [ 101 ]

The head for 13 is shown in figure 52, w-b'. Only the first of these forms, w, however, is built on the 10 + 3 basis. Here we see the characteristic 3 head with its banded headdress or fillet (compare h and i, fig. 51), to which has been added the essential element of the 10 head, the fleshless lower jaw, the combination of the two giving the head for 13. The other form for 13 seems to be a special character, and not a composition of the essential elements of the heads for 3 and 10, as in the preceding example. This form of the 13 head (fig. 52, x-b') is grotesque. It seems to be characterized by its long pendulous nose surmounted by a curl (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 101a-b.jpg
*), its large bulging eye (**), and a curl (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 101c-d.jpg
†) or fang (††) protruding from the back part of the mouth. Occurrences of the first type—the composite head—are very rare, there being only two examples of this kind known in all the inscriptions. The form given in w is from the Temple of the Cross at Palenque, and the other is on the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan. The individual type, having the pendulous nose, bulging eye, and mouth curl is by far the more frequent.

The head for 14 (fig. 53, a) is found but once—in the inscriptions on the west side of Stela F at Quirigua. It has the fleshless lower jaw denoting 10, while the rest of the head shows the characteristics of 4—the bulging eye and snaglike tooth (compare fig. 51, j-m). The curl protruding from the back part of the mouth is wanting because the whole lower part of the 4 head has been replaced by the fleshless lower jaw.

The head for 15 (fig. 53, b-e) is composed of the essential element of the 5 head (the tun sign; see fig. 51, n-s) and the fleshless lower jaw of the head for 10.

The head for 16 (fig. 53, f-i) is characterized by the fleshless lower jaw and the hatchet eye of the 6 head. Compare figures 51, t-v, and 52, m-r, which together form 16 (10 + 6).

The head for 17 (fig. 53, j-m) is composed of the essential element of the 7 head (the scroll projecting above the nose; see fig. 51, w) and the fleshless lower jaw of the head for 10.

The head for 18 (fig. 53, n-q) has the characteristic forehead ornament of the 8 head (compare fig. 52, a-f) and the fleshless lower jaw denoting 10.

Only one example (fig. 53, r) of the 19 head has been found in the inscriptions. This occurs on the Temple of the Cross at Palenque and seems to be formed regularly, both the dots of the 9 head and the fleshless lower jaw of the 10 head appearing.

The head for 0 (zero), figure 53, s-w, is always to be distinguished by the hand clasping the lower part of the face (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 101e.jpg
*). In this sign for zero, the hand probably represents the idea "ending" or "closing," just as it seems to have done in the ending signs used with [ 102 ] Period-ending dates. According to the Maya conception of time, when a period had ended or closed it was at zero, or at least no new period had commenced. Indeed, the normal form for zero in figure 47, the head variant for zero in figure 53, s-w, and the form for zero shown in figure 54 are used interchangeably in the same inscription to express the same idea—namely, that no periods thus modified are involved in the calculations and that consequently the end of some higher period is recorded; that is, no fractional parts of it are present.

That the hand in "ending signs" had exactly the same meaning as the hand in the head variants for zero (fig. 53, s-w) receives striking corroboration from the rather unusual sign for zero shown in figure 54, to which attention was called above. The essential elements of this sign are[14] (1) the clasped hand, identical with the hand in the head-variant forms for zero, and (2) the large element above it, containing a curling infix. This latter element also occurs though below the clasped hand, in the "ending signs" shown in figure 37, l, m, n, the first two of which accompany the closing date of Katun 14, and the last the closing date of Cycle 13. The resemblance of these three "ending signs" to the last three forms in figure 54 is so close that the conclusion is well-nigh inevitable that they represented one and the same idea. The writer is of the opinion that this meaning of the hand (ending or completion) will be found to explain its use throughout the inscriptions.

Fig. 54. A sign for 0, used also to express the idea "ending" or "end of" in Period-ending dates. (See figs. 47 and 53 s-w, for forms used interchangeably in the inscriptions to express the idea of 0 or of completion.)

Fig. 54. A sign for 0, used also to express the idea "ending" or "end of" in Period-ending dates. (See figs. 47 and 53 s-w, for forms used interchangeably in the inscriptions to express the idea of 0 or of completion.)

In order to familiarize the student with the head-variant numerals, their several essential characteristics have been gathered together in Table X, where they may be readily consulted. Examples covering their use with period, day, and month glyphs are given in figure 55 with the corresponding English translations below.

Head-variant numerals do not occur as frequently as the bar and dot forms, and they seem to have been developed at a much later period. At least, the earliest Initial Series recorded with bar and dot numerals antedates by nearly two hundred years the earliest Initial Series the numbers of which are expressed by head variants. This long priority in the use of the former would doubtless be considerably diminished if it were possible to read the earliest Initial Series which [ 103 ] have head-variant numerals; but that the earliest of these latter antedate the earnest bar and dot Initial Series may well be doubted.

Table X. CHARACTERISTICS OF HEAD-VARIANT NUMERALS 0 TO 19, INCLUSIVE

Forms Characteristics
Head for 0 Clasped hand across lower part of face.
Head for 1 Forehead ornament composed of more than one part.
Head for 2 Oval in upper part of head. (?)
Head for 3 Banded headdress or fillet.
Head for 4 Bulging eye with square irid, snaglike front tooth, curling fang from back of mouth.
Head for 5 Normal form of tun sign as headdress.
Head for 6 "Hatchet eye."
Head for 7 Large scroll passing under eye and curling up in front of forehead.
Head for 8 Forehead ornament composed of one part.
Head for 9 Dots on lower cheek or around mouth and in some cases beard.
Head for 10 Fleshless lower jaw and in some cases other death's-head characteristics, truncated nose, etc.
Head for 11 Undetermined.
Head for 12 Undetermined; type of head known, however.
Head for 13 (a) Long pendulous nose, bulging eye, and curling fang from back of mouth.
(b) Head for 3 with fleshless lower jaw of head for 10.
Head for 14 (b)Head for 4 with fleshless lower jaw of head for 10.
Head for 15 (b)Head for 5 with fleshless lower jaw of head for 10.
Head for 16 (b)Head for 6 with fleshless lower jaw of head for 10.
Head for 17 (b)Head for 7 with fleshless lower jaw of head for 10.
Head for 18 (b)Head for 8 with fleshless lower jaw of head for 10.
Head for 19 (b)Head for 9 with fleshless lower jaw of head for 10.
Mention should be made here of a numerical form which can not be classified either as a bar and dot numeral or a head variant. This is the thumb (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 103.jpg
*), which has a numerical value of one.

We have seen in the foregoing pages the different characters which stood for the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive. The next point claiming our attention is, how were the higher numbers written, numbers which in the codices are in excess of 12,000,000, and in the inscriptions, in excess of 1,400,000? In short, how were numbers so large expressed by the foregoing twenty (0 to 19, inclusive) characters?

The Maya expressed their higher numbers in two ways, in both of which the numbers rise by successive terms of the same vigesimal system:

1. By using the numbers 0 to 19, inclusive, as multipliers with the several periods of Table VIII (reduced in each case to units of the lowest order) as the multiplicands, and—

2. By using the same numbers[15] in certain relative positions, each of which had a fixed numerical value of its own, like the positions to the right and left of the decimal point in our own numerical notation. [ 104 ]

The first of these methods is rarely found outside of the inscriptions, while the second is confined exclusively to the codices. Moreover, although the first made use of both normal-form and head-variant numerals, the second could be expressed by normal forms only, that is, bar and dot numerals. This enables us to draw a comparison between these two forms of Maya numerals:

Fig. 55. Examples of the use of head-variant numerals with period, day, or month signs. The translation of each glyph appears below it.

Fig. 55. Examples of the use of head-variant numerals with period, day, or month signs. The translation of each glyph appears below it.

Head-variant numerals never occur independently, but are always prefixed to some period, day, or month sign. Bar and dot numerals, on the other hand, frequently stand by themselves in the codices unattached to other signs. In such cases, however, some sign was to be supplied mentally with the bar and dot numeral. [ 105 ]

First Method of Numeration

Fig. 56. Examples of the first method of numeration, used almost exclusively in the inscriptions.

Fig. 56. Examples of the first method of numeration, used almost exclusively in the inscriptions.

In the first of the above methods the numbers 0 to 19, inclusive, were expressed by multiplying the kin sign by the numerals[16] 0 to 19 in turn. Thus, for example, 6 days was written as shown in figure 56, a, 12 days as shown in b, and 17 days as shown in c of the same [ 106 ] figure. In other words, up to and including 19 the numbers were expressed by prefixing the sign for the number desired to the kin sign, that is, the sign for 1 day.[17]

The numbers 20 to 359, inclusive, were expressed by multiplying both the kin and uinal signs by the numerical forms 0 to 19, and adding together the resulting products. For example, the number 257 was written as shown in figure 56, d. We have seen in Table VIII that 1 uinal = 20 kins, consequently 12 uinals (the 12 being indicated by 2 bars and 2 dots) = 240 kins. However, as this number falls short of 257 by 17 kins, it is necessary to express these by 17 kins, which are written immediately below the 12 uinals. The sum of these two products = 257. Again, the number 300 is written as in figure 56, e. The 15 uinals (three bars attached to the uinal sign) = 15 × 20 = 300 kins, exactly the number expressed. However, since no kins are required to complete the number, it is necessary to show that none were involved, and consequently 0 kins, or "no kins" is written immediately below the 15 uinals, and 300 + 0 = 300. One more example will suffice to show how the numbers 20 to 359 were expressed. In figure 56, f, the number 198 is shown. The 9 uinals = 9 × 20 = 180 kins. But this number falls short of 198 by 18, which is therefore expressed by 18 kins written immediately below the 9 uinals: and the sum of these two products is 198, the number to be recorded.

The numbers 360 to 7,199, inclusive, are indicated by multiplying the kin, uinal, and tun signs by the numerals 0 to 19, and adding together the resulting products. For example, the number 360 is shown in figure 56, g. We have seen in Table VIII that 1 tun = 18 uinals; but 18 uinals = 360 kins (18 × 20 = 360); therefore 1 tun also = 360 kins. However, in order to show that no uinals and kins are involved in forming this number, it is necessary to record this fact, which was done by writing 0 uinals immediately below the 1 tun, and 0 kins immediately below the 0 uinals. The sum of these three products equals 360 (360 + 0 + 0 = 360). Again, the number 3,602 is shown in figure 56, h. The 10 tuns = 10 × 360 = 3,600 kins. This falls short of 3,602 by only 2 units of the first order (2 kins), therefore no uinals are involved in forming this number, a fact which is shown by the use of 0 uinals between the 10 tuns and 2 kins. The sum of these three products = 3,602 (3,600 + 0 + 2). Again, in figure 56, i, the number 7,100 is recorded. The 19 tuns = 19 × 360 = 6,840 kins, which falls short of 7,100 kins by 7,100 - 6,840 = 260 kins. But 260 kins = 13 uinals with no kins [ 107 ] remaining. Consequently, the sum of these products equals 7,100 (6,840 + 260 + 0).

The numbers 7,200 to 143,999 were expressed by multiplying the kin, uinal, tun, and katun signs by the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive, and adding together the resulting products. For example, figure 56, j, shows the number 7,204. We have seen in Table VIII that 1 katun = 20 tuns, and we have seen that 20 tuns = 7,200 kins (20 × 360); therefore 1 katun = 7,200 kins. This number falls short of the number recorded by exactly 4 kins, or in other words, no tuns or uinals are involved in its composition, a fact shown by the 0 tuns and 0 uinals between the 1 katun and the 4 kins. The sum of these four products = 7,204 (7,200 + 0 + 0 + 4). The number 75,550 is shown in figure 56, k. The 10 katuns = 72,000; the 9 tuns, 3,240; the 15 uinals, 300; and the 10 kins, 10. The sum of these four products = 75,550 (72,000 + 3,240 + 300 + 10). Again, the number 143,567 is shown in figure 56, l. The 19 katuns = 136,800; the 18 tuns, 6,480; the 14 uinals, 280; and the 7 kins, 7. The sum of these four products = 143,567 (136,800 + 6,480 + 280 + 7).

The numbers 144,000 to 1,872,000 (the highest number, according to some authorities, which has been found[18] in the inscriptions) were expressed by multiplying the kin, uinal, tun, katun, and cycle signs by the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive, and adding together the resulting products. For example, the number 987,322 is shown in figure 56, m. We have seen in Table VIII that 1 cycle = 20 katuns, but 20 katuns = 144,000 kins; therefore 6 cycles = 864,000 kins; and 17 katuns = 122,400 kins; and 2 tuns, 720 kins; and 10 uinals, 200 kins; and the 2 kins, 2 kins. The sum of these five products equals the number recorded, 987,322 (864,000 + 122,400 + 720 + 200 + 2). The highest number in the inscriptions upon which all are agreed is 1,872,000, as shown in figure 56, n. It equals 13 cycles (13 × 144,000), and consequently all the periods below—the katun, tun, uinal, and kin—are indicated as being used 0 times.

Number of Cycles in a Great Cycle

This brings us to the consideration of an extremely important point concerning which Maya students entertain two widely different opinions; and although its presentation will entail a somewhat lengthy digression from the subject under consideration it is so pertinent to the general question of the higher numbers and their formation, that the writer has thought best to discuss it at this point.

In a vigesimal system of numeration the unit of increase is 20, and so far as the codices are concerned, as we shall presently see, this [ 108 ] number was in fact the only unit of progression used, except in the 2d order, in which 18 instead of 20 units were required to make 1 unit of the 3d order. In other words, in the codices the Maya carried out their vigesimal system to six places without a break other than the one in the 2d place, just noted. See Table VIII.

In the inscriptions, however, there is some ground for believing that only 13 units of the 5th order (cycles), not 20, were required to make 1 unit of the 6th order, or 1 great cycle. Both Mr. Bowditch (1910: App. IX, 319-321) and Mr. Goodman (1897: p. 25) incline to this opinion, and the former, in Appendix IX of his book, presents the evidence at some length for and against this hypothesis.

This hypothesis rests mainly on the two following points:

1. That the cycles in the inscriptions are numbered from 1 to 13, inclusive, and not from 0 to 19, inclusive, as in the case of all the other periods except the uinal, which is numbered from 0 to 17, inclusive.

2. That the only two Initial Series which are not counted from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the starting point of Maya chronology, are counted from a date 4 Ahau 8 Zotz, which is exactly 13 cycles in advance of the former date.

Let us examine the passages in the inscriptions upon which these points rest. In three places[19] in the inscriptions the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu is declared to have occurred at the end of a Cycle 13; that is, in these three places this date is accompanied by an "ending sign" and a Cycle 13. In another place in the inscriptions, although the starting point 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu is not itself expressed, the second cycle thereafter is declared to have been a Cycle 2, not a Cycle 15, as it would have been had the cycles been numbered from 0 to 19, inclusive, like all the other periods.[20] In still another place the ninth cycle after the starting point (that is, the end of a Cycle 13) is not a Cycle 2 in the following great cycle, as would be the case if the cycles were numbered from 0 to 19, inclusive, but a Cycle 9, as if the cycles were numbered from 1 to 13. Again, the end of the tenth cycle after the starting point is recorded in several places, but not as Cycle 3 of the following great cycle, as if the cycles were numbered from 0 to 19, inclusive, but as Cycle 10, as would be the case if the cycles were numbered from 1 to 13. The above examples leave little doubt that the cycles were numbered from 1 to 13, inclusive, and not from 0 to 19, as in the case of the other periods. Thus, there can be no question concerning the truth of the first of the two above points on which this hypothesis rests. [ 109 ]

But because this is true it does not necessarily follow that 13 cycles made 1 great cycle. Before deciding this point let us examine the two Initial Series mentioned above, as not proceeding from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, but from a date 4 Ahau 8 Zotz, exactly 13 cycles in advance of the former date.

These are in the Temple of the Cross at Palenque and on the east side of Stela C at Quirigua. In these two cases, if the long numbers expressed in terms of cycles, katuns, tuns, uinals, and kins are reduced to kins, and counted forward from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the starting point of Maya chronology, in neither case will the recorded terminal day of the Initial Series be reached; hence these two Initial Series could not have had the day 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu as their starting point. It may be noted here that these two Initial Series are the only ones throughout the inscriptions known at the present time which are not counted from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu.[21] However, by counting backward each of these long numbers from their respective terminal days, 8 Ahau 18 Tzec, in the case of the Palenque Initial Series, and 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, in the case of the Quirigua Initial Series, it will be found that both of them proceed from the same starting point, a date 4 Ahau 8 Zotz, exactly 13 cycles in advance of the starting point of Maya chronology. Or, in other words, the starting point of all Maya Initial Series save two, was exactly 13 cycles later than the starting point of these two. Because of this fact and the fact that the cycles were numbered from 1 to 13, inclusive, as shown above, Mr. Bowditch and Mr. Goodman have reached the conclusion that in the inscriptions only 13 cycles were required to make 1 great cycle.

It remains to present the points against this hypothesis, which seem to indicate that the great cycle in the inscriptions contained the same number of cycles (20) as in the codices:

1. In the codices where six orders (great cycles) are recorded it takes 20 of the 5th order (cycles) to make 1 of the 6th order. This absolute uniformity in a strict vigesimal progression in the codices, so similar in other respects to the inscriptions, gives presumptive support at least to the hypothesis that the 6th order in the inscriptions was formed in the same way.

2. The numerical system in both the codices and inscriptions is identical even to the slight irregularity in the second place, where only 18 instead of 20 units were required to make 1 of the third place. It would seem probable, therefore, that had there been any irregularity in the 5th place in the inscriptions (for such the use of 13 in a vigesimal system must be called), it would have been found also in the codices. [ 110 ]

3. Moreover, in the inscriptions themselves the cycle glyph occurs at least twice (see fig. 57, a, b) with a coefficient greater than 13, which would seem to imply that more than 13 cycles could be recorded, and consequently that it required more than 13 to make 1 of the period next higher. The writer knows of no place in the inscriptions where 20 kins, 18 uinals, 20 tuns, or 20 katuns are recorded, each of these being expressed as 1 uinal, 1 tun, 1 katun, and 1 cycle, respectively.[22] Therefore, if 13 cycles had made 1 great cycle, 14 cycles would not have been recorded, as in figure 57, a, but as 1 great cycle and 1 cycle; and 17 cycles would not have been recorded, as in b of the same figure, but as 1 great cycle and 4 cycles. The fact that they were not recorded in this latter manner would seem to indicate, therefore, that more than 13 cycles were required to make a great cycle, or unit of the 6th place, in the inscriptions as well as in the codices.

Fig. 57. Signs for the cycle showing coefficients above 13: a, From the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque; b, from Stela N, Copan.

Fig. 57. Signs for the cycle showing coefficients above 13: a, From the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque; b, from Stela N, Copan.

The above points are simply positive evidence in support of this hypothesis, however, and in no way attempt to explain or otherwise account for the undoubtedly contradictory points given in the discussion of (1) on pages 108-109. Furthermore, not until these contradictions have been cleared away can it be established that the great cycle in the inscriptions was of the same length as the great cycle in the codices. The writer believes the following explanation will satisfactorily dispose of these contradictions and make possible at the same time the acceptance of the theory that the great cycle in the inscriptions and in the codices was of equal length, being composed in each case of 20 cycles.

Assuming for the moment that there were 13 cycles in a great cycle; it is clear that if this were the case 13 cycles could never be recorded in the inscriptions, for the reason that, being equal to 1 great cycle, they would have to be recorded in terms of a great cycle. This is true because no period in the inscriptions is ever expressed, so far as now known, as the full number of the periods of which it was composed. For example, 1 uinal never appears as 20 kins; 1 tun is never written as its equivalent, 18 uinals; 1 katun is never recorded as 20 tuns, etc. Consequently, if a great cycle composed of 13 cycles had come to its end with the end of a Cycle 13, which fell on a day 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, such a Cycle 13 could never have been expressed, since in its place would have been recorded the end of the great cycle which fell on the same day. In other words, if there had been 13 cycles in a great cycle, the cycles would have been numbered from 0 to 12, inclusive, and the last, Cycle 13, would have been recorded instead as completing some great cycle. It is necessary to [ 111 ] admit this point or repudiate the numeration of all the other periods in the inscriptions. The writer believes, therefore, that, when the starting point of Maya chronology is declared to be a date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, which an "ending sign" and a Cycle 13 further declare fell at the close of a Cycle 13, this does not indicate that there were 13 cycles in a great cycle, but that it is to be interpreted as a Period-ending date, pure and simple. Indeed, where this date is found in the inscriptions it occurs with a Cycle 13, and an "ending sign" which is practically identical with other undoubted "ending signs." Moreover, if we interpret these places as indicating that there were only 13 cycles in a great cycle, we have equal grounds for saying that the great cycle contained only 10 cycles. For example, on Zoömorph G at Quirigua the date 7 Ahau 18 Zip is accompanied by an "ending sign" and Cycle 10, which on this basis of interpretation would signify that a great cycle had only 10 cycles. Similarly, it could be shown by such an interpretation that in some cases a cycle had 14 katuns, that is, where the end of a Katun 14 was recorded, or 17 katuns, where the end of a Katun 17 was recorded. All such places, including the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, which closed a Cycle 13 at the starting point of Maya chronology, are only Period-ending dates, the writer believes, and have no reference to the number of periods which any higher period contains whatsoever. They record merely the end of a particular period in the Long Count as the end of a certain Cycle 13, or a certain Cycle 10, or a certain Katun 14, or a certain Katun 17, as the case may be, and contain no reference to the beginning or the end of the period next higher.

There can be no doubt, however, as stated above, that the cycles were numbered from 1 to 13, inclusive, and then began again with 1. This sequence strikingly recalls that of the numerical coefficients of the days, and in the parallel which this latter sequence affords, the writer believes, lies the true explanation of the misconception concerning the length of the great cycle in the inscriptions.

Table XI. SEQUENCE OF TWENTY CONSECUTIVE DATES IN THE MONTH POP

01 Ik 0 Pop 11 Eb 10 Pop
02 Akbal 1 Pop 12 Ben 11 Pop
03 Kan 2 Pop 13 Ix 12 Pop
04 Chicchan 3 Pop 01 Men 13 Pop
05 Cimi 4 Pop 02 Cib 14 Pop
06 Manik 5 Pop 03 Caban 15 Pop
07 Lamat 6 Pop 04 Eznab 16 Pop
08 Muluc 7 Pop 05 Cauac 17 Pop
09 Oc 8 Pop 06 Ahau 18 Pop
10 Chuen 9 Pop 07 Imix 19 Pop

The numerical coefficients of the days, as we have seen, were numbered from 1 to 13, inclusive, and then began again with 1. See [ 112 ] Table XI, in which the 20 days of the month Pop are enumerated. Now it is evident from this table that, although the coefficients of the days themselves do not rise above 13, the numbers showing the positions of these days in the month continue up through 19. In other words, two different sets of numerals were used in describing the Maya days: (1) The numerals 1 to 13, inclusive, the coefficients of the days, and an integral part of their names; and (2) The numerals 0 to 19, inclusive, showing the positions of these days in the divisions of the year—the uinals, and the xma kaba kin. It is clear from the foregoing, moreover, that the number of possible day coefficients (13) has nothing whatever to do in determining the number of days in the period next higher. That is, although the coefficients of the days are numbered from 1 to 13, inclusive, it does not necessarily follow that the next higher period (the uinal) contained only 13 days. Similarly, the writer believes that while the cycles were undoubtedly numbered—that is, named—from 1 to 13, inclusive, like the coefficients of the days, it took 20 of them to make a great cycle, just as it took 20 kins to make a uinal. The two cases appear to be parallel. Confusion seems to have arisen through mistaking the name of the period for its position in the period next higher—two entirely different things, as we have seen.

A somewhat similar case is that of the katuns in the u kahlay katunob in Table IX. Assuming that a cycle commenced with the first katun there given, the name of this katun is Katun 2 Ahau, although it occupied the first position in the cycle. Again, the name of the second katun in the sequence is Katun 13 Ahau, although it occupied the second position in the cycle. In other words, the katuns of the u kahlay katunob were named quite independently of their position in the period next higher (the cycle), and their names do not indicate the corresponding positions of the katun in the period next higher.

Applying the foregoing explanation to those passages in the inscriptions which show that the enumeration of the cycles was from 1 to 13, inclusive, we may interpret them as follows: When we find the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu in the inscriptions, accompanied by an "ending sign" and a Cycle 13, that "Cycle 13," even granting that it stands at the end of some great cycle, does not signify that there were only 13 cycles in the great cycle of which it was a part. On the contrary, it records only the end of a particular Cycle 13, being a Period-ending date pure and simple. Such passages no more fix the length of the great cycle as containing 13 cycles than does the coefficient 13 of the day name 13 Ix in Table XI limit the number of days in a uinal to 13, or, again, the 13 of the katun name 13 Ahau in Table IX limit the number of katuns in a cycle to 13. This explanation not only accounts for the use of the 14 cycles or 17 cycles, as [ 113 ] shown in figure 57, a, b, but also satisfactorily provides for the enumeration of the cycles from 1 to 13, inclusive.

If the date "4 Ahau 8 Cumhu ending Cycle 13" be regarded as a Period-ending date, not as indicating that the number of cycles in a great cycle was restricted to 13, the next question is—Did a great cycle also come to an end on the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu—the starting point of Maya chronology and the closing date of a Cycle 13? That it did the writer is firmly convinced, although final proof of the point can not be presented until numerical series containing more than 5 terms shall have been considered. (See pp. 114-127 for this discussion.) The following points, however, which may be introduced here, tend to prove this condition:

1. In the natural course of affairs the Maya would have commenced their chronology with the beginning of some great cycle, and to have done this in the Maya system of counting time—that is, by elapsed periods—it was necessary to reckon from the end of the preceding great cycle as the starting point.

2. Moreover, it would seem as though the natural cycle with which to commence counting time would be a Cycle 1, and if this were done time would have to be counted from a Cycle 13, since a Cycle 1 could follow only a Cycle 13.

On these two probabilities, together with the discussion on pages 114-127, the writer is inclined to believe that the Maya commenced their chronology with the beginning of a great cycle, whose first cycle was named Cycle 1, which was reckoned from the close of a great cycle whose ending cycle was a Cycle 13 and whose ending day fell on the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu.

The second point (see p. 108) on which rests the hypothesis of "13 cycles to a great cycle" in the inscriptions admits of no such plausible explanation as the first point. Indeed, it will probably never be known why in two inscriptions the Maya reckoned time from a starting point different from that used in all the others, one, moreover, which was 13 cycles in advance of the other, or more than 5,000 years earlier than the beginning of their chronology, and more than 8,000 years earlier than the beginning of their historic period. That this remoter starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Zotz, from which proceed so far as known only two inscriptions throughout the whole Maya area, stood at the end of a great cycle the writer does not believe, in view of the evidence presented on pages 114-127. On the contrary, the material given there tends to show that although the cycle which ended on the day 4 Ahau 8 Zotz was also named Cycle 13,[23] it was the 8th division of the grand cycle which ended on the day 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, [ 114 ] the starting point of Maya chronology, and not the closing division of the preceding grand cycle. However, without attempting to settle this question at this time, the writer inclines to the belief, on the basis of the evidence at hand, that the great cycle in the inscriptions was of the same length as in the codices, where it is known to have contained 20 cycles.

 

Let us return to the discussion interrupted on page 107, where the first method of expressing the higher numbers was being explained. We saw there how the higher numbers up to and including 1,872,000 were written, and the digression just concluded had for its purpose ascertaining how the numbers above this were expressed; that is, whether 13 or 20 units of the 5th order were equal to 1 unit of the 6th order. It was explained also that this number, 1,872,000, was perhaps the highest which has been found in the inscriptions. Three possible exceptions, however, to this statement should be noted here: (1) On the east side of Stela N at Copan six periods are recorded (see fig. 58); (2) on the west panel from the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque six and probably seven periods occur (see fig. 59); and (3) on Stela 10 at Tikal eight and perhaps nine periods are found (see fig. 60). If in any of these cases all of the periods belong to one and the same numerical series, the resulting numbers would be far higher than 1,872,000. Indeed, such numbers would exceed by many millions all others throughout the range of Maya writings, in either the codices or the inscriptions.

Before presenting these three numbers, however, a distinction should be drawn between them. The first and second (figs. 58, 59) are clearly not Initial Series. Probably they are Secondary Series, although this point can not be established with certainty, since they can not be connected with any known date the position of which is definitely fixed. The third number (fig. 60), on the other hand, is an Initial Series, and the eight or nine periods of which it is composed may fix the initial date of Maya chronology (4 Ahau 8 Cumhu) in a much grander chronological scheme, as will appear presently.

Fig. 58. Part of the inscription on Stela N, Copan, showing a number composed of six periods.

Fig. 58. Part of the inscription on Stela N, Copan, showing a number composed of six periods.

Fig. 59. Part of the inscription in the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, showing a number composed of seven periods.

Fig. 59. Part of the inscription in the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, showing a number composed of seven periods.

Fig. 60. Part of the inscription on Stela 10, Tikal (probably an Initial Series), showing a number composed of eight periods.

Fig. 60. Part of the inscription on Stela 10, Tikal (probably an Initial Series), showing a number composed of eight periods.

The first of these three numbers (see fig. 58), if all its six periods belong to the same series, equals 42,908,400. Although the order of the several periods is just the reverse of that in the numbers in figure 56, this difference is unessential, as will shortly be explained, and in no way affects the value of the number recorded. Commencing at the bottom of figure 58 with the highest period involved and reading up, A6,[24] the 14 great cycles = 40,320,000 kins (see Table VIII, in which 1 great cycle = 2,880,000, and consequently 14 = 14 × 2,880,000 = [ 115 ] 40,320,000); A5, the 17 cycles = 2,448,000 kins (17 × 144,000); A4, the 19 katuns = 136,800 kins (19 × 7,200); A3, the 10 tuns = 3,600 kins (10 × 360); A2, the 0 uinals, 0 kins; and the 0 kins, 0 kins. The sum of these products = 40,320,000 + 2,448,000 + 136,800 + 3,600 + 0 + 0 = 42,908,400.

The second of these three numbers (see fig. 59), if all of its seven terms belong to one and the same number, equals 455,393,401. Commencing at the bottom as in figure 58, the first term A4, has the coefficient 7. Since this is the term following the sixth, or great cycle, we may call it the great-great cycle. But we have seen that the [ 116 ] great cycle = 2,880,000; therefore the great-great cycle = twenty times this number, or 57,600,000. Our text shows, however, that seven of these great-great cycles are used in the number in question, therefore our first term = 403,200,000. The rest may be reduced by means of Table VIII as follows: B3, 18 great cycles = 51,840,000; A3, 2 cycles = 288,000; B2, 9 katuns = 64,800; A2, 1 tun = 360; B1, 12 uinals = 240; B1, 1 kin = 1. The sum of these (403,200,000 + 51,840,000 + 288,000 + 64,800 + 360 + 240 +1) = 455,393,401.

The third of these numbers (see fig. 60), if all of its terms belong to one and the same number, equals 1,841,639,800. Commencing with A2, this has a coefficient of 1. Since it immediately follows the great-great cycle, which we found above consisted of 57,600,000, we may assume that it is the great-great-great cycle, and that it consisted of 20 great-great cycles, or 1,152,000,000. Since its coefficient is only 1, this large number itself will be the first term in our series. The rest may readily be reduced as follows: A3, 11 great-great cycles = 633,600,000; A4, 19 great cycles = 54,720,000; A5, 9 cycles = 1,296,000; A6, 3 katuns = 21,600; A7, 6 tuns = 2,160; A8, 2 uinals = 40; A9, 0 kins = 0.[25] The sum of these (1,152,000,000 + 633,600,000 + 54,720,000 + 1,296,000 + 21,600 + 2,160 + 40 + 0) = 1,841,639,800, the highest number found anywhere in the Maya writings, equivalent to about 5,000,000 years.

Whether these three numbers are actually recorded in the inscriptions under discussion depends solely on the question whether or not the terms above the cycle in each belong to one and the same series. If it could be determined with certainty that these higher periods in each text were all parts of the same number, there would be no further doubt as to the accuracy of the figures given above; and more important still, the 17 cycles of the first number (see A5, fig. 58) would then prove conclusively that more than 13 cycles were required to make a great cycle in the inscriptions as well as in the codices. And furthermore, the 14 great cycles in A6, figure 58, the 18 in B3, figure 59, and the 19 in A4, figure 60, would also prove that more than 13 great cycles were required to make one of the period next higher—that is, the great-great cycle. It is needless to say that this point has not been universally admitted. Mr. Goodman (1897: p. 132) has suggested in the case of the Copan inscription (fig. 58) that only the lowest four periods—the 19 katuns, the 10 tuns, the 0 uinals, and the 0 kins—A2, A3, and A4,[26] here form the number; and that if this number is counted backward from the Initial Series of the inscription, it will reach a Katun 17 of the preceding cycle. Finally, Mr. Goodman [ 117 ] believes this Katun 17 is declared in the glyph following the 19 katuns (A5), which the writer identifies as 17 cycles, and consequently according to the Goodman interpretation the whole passage is a Period-ending date. Mr. Bowditch (1910: p. 321) also offers the same interpretation as a possible reading of this passage. Even granting the truth of the above, this interpretation still leaves unexplained the lowest glyph of the number, which has a coefficient of 14 (A6).

The strongest proof that this passage will not bear the construction placed on it by Mr. Goodman is afforded by the very glyph upon which his reading depends for its verification, namely, the glyph which he interprets Katun 17. This glyph (A5) bears no resemblance to the katun sign standing immediately above it, but on the contrary has for its lower jaw the clasping hand (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 117.jpg
*), which, as we have seen, is the determining characteristic of the cycle head. Indeed, this element is so clearly portrayed in the glyph in question that its identification as a head variant for the cycle follows almost of necessity. A comparison of this glyph with the head variant of the cycle given in figure 25, d-f, shows that the two forms are practically identical. This correction deprives Mr. Goodman's reading of its chief support, and at the same time increases the probability that all the 6 terms here recorded belong to one and the same number. That is, since the first five are the kin, uinal, tun, katun, and cycle, respectively, it is probable that the sixth and last, which follows immediately the fifth, without a break or interruption of any kind, belongs to the same series also, in which event this glyph would be most likely to represent the units of the sixth order, or the so-called great cycles.

The passages in the Palenque and Tikal texts (figs. 59 and 60, respectively) have never been satisfactorily explained. In default of calendric checks, as the known distance between two dates, for example, which may be applied to these three numbers to test their accuracy, the writer knows of no better check than to study the characteristics of this possible great-cycle glyph in all three, and of the possible great-great-cycle glyph in the last two.

Passing over the kins, the normal form of the uinal glyph appears in figures 58, A2, and 59, B1 (see fig. 31, a, b), and the head variant in figure 60, A8. (See fig. 31, d-f.) Below the uinal sign in A3, figure 58, and A2, figure 59, and above A7, in figure 60 the tuns are recorded as head variants, in all three of which the fleshless lower jaw, the determining characteristic of the tun head, appears. Compare these three head variants with the head variant for the tun in figure 29, d-g. In the Copan inscription (fig. 58) the katun glyph, A4, appears as a head variant, the essential elements of which seem to be the oval in the top part of the head and the curling fang protruding from the back part of the mouth. Compare this head with the head variant for the katun in figure 27, e-h. In the Palenque and Tikal texts (see [ 118 ] figs. 59, B2, and 60, A6, respectively), on the other hand, the katun is expressed by its normal form, which is identical with the normal form shown in figure 27, a, b. In figures 58, A5, and 59, A3, the cycle is expressed by its head variant, and the determining characteristic, the clasped hand, appears in both. Compare the cycle signs in figures 58, A5, and 59, A3, with the head variant for the cycle shown in figure 25; d-f. The cycle glyph in the Tikal text (fig. 60, A5) is clearly the normal form. (See fig. 25, a-c.) The glyph following the cycle sign in these three texts (standing above the cycle sign in figure 60 at A4) probably stands for the period of the sixth order, the so-called great cycle. These three glyphs are redrawn in figure 61, a-c, respectively. In the Copan inscription this glyph (fig. 61, a) is a head variant, while in the Palenque and Tikal texts (a and b of the same figure, respectively) it is a normal form.

Inasmuch as these three inscriptions are the only ones in which numerical series composed of 6 or more consecutive terms are recorded, it is unfortunate that the sixth term in all three should not have been expressed by the same form, since this would have facilitated their comparison. Notwithstanding this handicap, however, the writer believes it will be possible to show clearly that the head variant in figure 61, a, and the normal forms in b and c are only variants of one and the same sign, and that all three stand for one and the same thing, namely, the great cycle, or unit of the sixth order.

Fig. 61. Signs for the great cycle (a-c), and the great-great cycle (d, e): a, Stela N, Copan; b, d, Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque; c, e, Stela 10, Tikal.

Fig. 61. Signs for the great cycle (a-c), and the great-great cycle (d, e): a, Stela N, Copan; b, d, Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque; c, e, Stela 10, Tikal.

In the first place, it will be noted that each of the three glyphs just mentioned is composed in part of the cycle sign. For example, in figure 61, a, the head variant has the same clasped hand as the head-variant cycle sign in the same text (see fig. 58, A5), which, as we have seen elsewhere, is the determining characteristic of the head variant for the cycle. In figure 61, b, c, the normal forms there presented contain the entire normal form for the cycle sign; compare figure 25, a, c. Indeed, except for its superfix, the glyphs in figure 61, b, c, are normal forms of the cycle sign; and the glyph in a of the same figure, except for its superfixial element, is similarly the head variant for the cycle. It would seem, therefore, that the determining characteristics of these three glyphs must be their superfixial elements. In the normal form in figure 61, b, the superfix is very clear. Just inside the outline and parallel to it there is a line of smaller circles, [ 119 ] and in the middle there are two infixes like shepherds' crooks facing away from the center (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 119.jpg
*). In c of the last-mentioned figure the superfix is of the same size and shape, and although it is partially destroyed the left-hand "shepherd's crook" can still be distinguished. A faint dot treatment around the edge can also still be traced. Although the superfix of the head variant in a is somewhat weathered, enough remains to show that it was similar to, if indeed not identical with, the superfixes of the normal forms in b and c. The line of circles defining the left side of this superfix, as well as traces of the lower ends of the two "shepherd's crook" infixes, appears very clearly in the lower part of the superfix. Moreover, in general shape and proportions this element is so similar to the corresponding elements in figure 61, b, c, that, taken together with the similarity of the other details pointed out above, it seems more than likely that all three of these superfixes are one and the same element. The points which have led the writer to identify glyphs a, b, and c in figure 61 as forms for the great cycle, or period of the sixth order, may be summarized as follows:

1. All three of these glyphs, head-variant as well as normal forms, are made up of the corresponding forms of the cycle sign plus another element, a superfix, which is probably the determining characteristic in each case.

2. All three of these superfixes are probably identical, thus showing that the three glyphs in which they occur are probably variants of the same sign.

3. All three of these glyphs occur in numerical series, the preceding term of which in each case is a cycle sign, thus showing that by position they are the logical "next" term (the sixth) of the series.

Let us next examine the two texts in which great-great-cycle glyphs may occur. (See figs. 59, 60.) The two glyphs which may possibly be identified as the sign for this period are shown in figure 61, d, e.

A comparison of these two forms shows that both are composed of the same elements: (1) The cycle sign; (2) a superfix in which the hand is the principal element.

The superfix in figure 61, d, consists of a hand and a tassel-like postfix, not unlike the upper half of the ending signs in figure 37, l-q. However, in the present case, if we accept the hypothesis that d of figure 61 is the sign for the great-great cycle, we are obliged to see in its superfix alone the essential element of the great-great-cycle sign, since the rest of this glyph (the lower part) is quite clearly the normal form for the cycle.

The superfix in figure 61, e, consists of the same two elements as the above, with the slight difference that the hand in e holds a rod. Indeed, the similarity of the two forms is so close that in default of [ 120 ] any evidence to the contrary the writer believes they may be accepted as signs for one and the same period, namely, the great-great cycle.

The points on which this conclusion is based may be summarized as follows:

1. Both glyphs are made up of the same elements—(a) The normal form of the cycle sign; (b) a superfix composed of a hand with a tassel-like postfix.

2. Both glyphs occur in numerical series the next term but one of which is the cycle, showing that by position they are the logical next term but one, the seventh or great-great cycle, of the series.

3. Both of these glyphs stand next to glyphs which have been identified as great-cycle signs, that is, the sixth terms of the series in which they occur.

By this same line of reasoning it seems probable that A2 in figure 60 is the sign for the great-great-great cycle, although this fact can not be definitely established because of the lack of comparative evidence.

This possible sign for the great-great-great cycle, or period of the 8th order, is composed of two parts, just like the signs for the great cycle and the great-great cycle already described. These are: (1) The cycle sign; (2) a superfix composed of a hand and a semicircular postfix, quite distinct from the superfixes of the great cycle and great-great cycle signs.

However, since there is no other inscription known which presents a number composed of eight terms, we must lay aside this line of investigation and turn to another for further light on this point.

An examination of figure 60 shows that the glyphs which we have identified as the signs for the higher periods (A2, A3, A4, and A5,) contain one element common to all—the sign for the cycle, or period of 144,000 days. Indeed, A5 is composed of this sign alone with its usual coefficient of 9. Moreover, the next glyphs (A6, A7, A8, and A9[27]) are the signs for the katun, tun, uinal, and kin, respectively, and, together with A5, form a regular descending series of 5 terms, all of which are of known value.

The next question is, How is this glyph in the sixth place formed? We have seen that in the only three texts in which more than five periods are recorded this sign for the sixth period is composed of the same elements in each: (1) The cycle sign; (2) a superfix containing two "shepherd's crook" infixes and surrounded by dots.

Further, we have seen that in two cases in the inscriptions the cycle sign has a coefficient greater than 13, thus showing that in all probability 20, not 13, cycles made 1 great cycle.

Therefore, since the great-cycle signs in figure 61, a-c, are composed of the cycle sign plus a superfix (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 120.jpg
*), this superfix must have the value of 20 in order to make the whole glyph have the value of [ 121 ] 20 cycles, or 1 great cycle (that is, 20 × 144,000 = 2,880,000). In other words, it may be accepted (1) that the glyphs in figure 61, a-c, are signs for the great cycle, or period of the sixth place; and (2) that the great cycle was composed of 20 cycles shown graphically by two elements, one being the cycle sign itself and the other a superfix having the value of 20.

It has been shown that the last six glyphs in figure 60 (A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, and A9) all belong to the same series. Let us next examine the seventh glyph or term from the bottom (A3) and see how it is formed. We have seen that in the only two texts in which more than six periods are recorded the signs for the seventh period (see fig. 61, d, e) are composed of the same elements in each: (1) The cycle sign; (2) a superfix having the hand as its principal element. We have seen, further, that in the only three places in which great cycles are recorded in the Maya writing (fig. 61, a-c) the coefficient in every case is greater than 13, thus showing that in all probability 20, not 13, great cycles made 1 great-great cycle.

Therefore, since the great-great cycle signs in figure 61, d, e, are composed of the cycle sign plus a superfix (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 121.jpg
*), this superfix must have the value of 400 (20 × 20) in order to make the whole glyph have the value of 20 great cycles, or 1 great-great cycle (20 × 2,880,000 = 57,600,000). In other words, it seems highly probable (1) that the glyphs in figure 61, d, e, are signs for the great-great cycle or period of the seventh place, and (2) that the great-great cycle was composed of 20 great cycles, shown graphically by two elements, one being the cycle sign itself and the other a hand having the value of 400.

It has been shown that the first seven glyphs (A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, and A9) probably all belong to the same series. Let us next examine the eighth term (A2) and see how it is formed.

As stated above, comparative evidence can help us no further, since the text under discussion is the only one which presents a number composed of more than seven terms. Nevertheless, the writer believes it will be possible to show by the morphology of this, the only glyph which occupies the position of an eighth term, that it is 20 times the glyph in the seventh position, and consequently that the vigesimal system was perfect to the highest known unit found in the Maya writing.

We have seen (1) that the sixth term was composed of the fifth term plus a superfix which increased the fifth 20 times, and (2) that the seventh term was composed of the fifth term plus a superfix which increased the fifth 400 times, or the sixth 20 times.

Now let us examine the only known example of a sign for the eighth term (A2, fig. 60). This glyph is composed of (1) the cycle sign; (2) a superfix of two elements, (a) the hand, and (b) a semicircular element in which dots appear. [ 122 ]

But this same hand in the super-fix of the great-great cycle increased the cycle sign 400 times (20 × 20; see A3, fig. 60). Therefore we must assume the same condition obtains here. And finally, since the eighth term = 20 × 20 × 20 × cycle, we must recognize in the second element of the superfix (
Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 122.jpg
*) a sign which means 20.

A close study of this element shows that it has two important points of resemblance to the superfix of the great-cycle glyph (see A4, fig. 60), which was shown to have the value 20: (1) Both elements have the same outline, roughly semicircular; (2) both elements have the same chain of dots around their edges.

Compare this element in A2, figure 60, with the superfixes in figure 61, a, b, bearing in mind that there is more than 275 years' difference in time between the carving of A2, figure 60, and a, figure 61, and more than 200 years between the former and figure 61, b. The writer believes both are variants of the same element, and consequently A2, figure 60, is probably composed of elements which signify 20 × 400 (20 × 20) × the cycle, which equals one great-great-great cycle, or term of the eighth place.

Thus on the basis of the glyphs themselves it seems possible to show that all belong to one and the same numerical series, which progresses according to the terms of a vigesimal system of numeration.

The several points supporting this conclusion may be summarized as follows:

1. The eight periods[28] in figure 60 are consecutive, their sequence being uninterrupted throughout. Consequently it seems probable that all belong to one and the same number.

2. It has been shown that the highest three period glyphs are composed of elements which multiply the cycle sign by 20, 400, and 8,000, respectively, which has to be the case if they are the sixth, seventh, and eighth terms, respectively, of the Maya vigesimal system of numeration.

3. The highest three glyphs have numerical coefficients, just like the five lower ones; this tends to show that all eight are terms of the same numerical series.

4. In the two texts which alone can furnish comparative data for this sixth term, the sixth-period glyph in each is identical with A4, figure 60, thus showing the existence of a sixth period in the inscriptions and a generally[29] accepted sign for it.

5. In the only other text which can furnish comparative data for the seventh term, the period glyph in its seventh place is identical [ 123 ] with A3, figure 60; thus showing the existence of a seventh period in the inscriptions and a generally accepted sign for it.

6. The one term higher than the cycle in the Copan text, the two terms higher in the Palenque text, and the three terms higher in this text, are all built on the same basic element, the cycle, thus showing that in each case the higher term or terms is a continuation of the same number, not a Period-ending date, as suggested by Mr. Goodman for the Copan text.

7. The other two texts, showing series composed of more than five terms, have all their period glyphs in an unbroken sequence in each, like the text under discussion, thus showing that in each of these other two texts all the terms present probably belong to one and the same number.

8. Finally, the two occurrences of the cycle sign with a coefficient above 13, and the three occurrences of the great-cycle sign with a coefficient above 13, indicate that 20, not 13, was the unit of progression in the higher numbers in the inscriptions just as it was in the codices.

Before closing the discussion of this unique inscription, there is one other important point in connection with it which must be considered, because of its possible bearing on the meaning of the Initial-series introducing glyph.

The first five glyphs on the east side of Stela 10 at Tikal are not illustrated in figure 60. The sixth glyph is A1 in figure 60, and the remaining glyphs in this figure carry the text to the bottom of this side of the monument. The first of these five unfigured glyphs is very clearly an Initial-series introducing glyph. Of this there can be no doubt. The second resembles the day 8 Manik, though it is somewhat effaced. The remaining three are unknown. The next glyph, A1, figure 60, is very clearly another Initial-series introducing glyph, having all of the five elements common to that sign. Compare A1 with the forms for the Initial series introducing glyph in figure 24. This certainly would seem to indicate that an Initial Series is to follow. Moreover, the fourth glyph of the eight-term number following in A2-A9, inclusive (that is, A5), records "Cycle 9," the cycle in which practically all Initial-series dates fall. Indeed, if A2, A3, and A4 were omitted and A5, A6, A7, A8, and A9 were recorded immediately after A1, the record would be that of a regular Initial-series number (9.3.6.2.0). Can this be a matter of chance? If not, what effect can A2, A3, and A4 have on the Initial-series date in A1, A5-A9?

The writer believes that the only possible effect they could have would be to fix Cycle 9 of Maya chronology in a far more comprehensive and elaborate chronological conception, a conception which [ 124 ] indeed staggers the imagination, dealing as it does with more than five million years.

If these eight terms all belong to one and the same numerical series, a fact the writer believes he has established in the foregoing pages, it means that Cycle 9, the first historic period of the Maya civilization, was Cycle 9 of Great Cycle 19 of Great-great Cycle 11 of Great-great-great Cycle 1. In other words, the starting point of Maya chronology, which we have seen was the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, 9 cycles before the close of a Cycle 9, was in reality 1. 11. 19. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, or simply a fixed point in a far vaster chronological conception.

Furthermore, it proves, as contended by the writer on page 113, that a great cycle came to an end on this date, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu. This is true because on the above date (1. 11. 19. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu) all the five periods lower than the great cycle are at 0. It proves, furthermore, as the writer also contended, that the date 4 Ahau 8 Zotz, 13 cycles in advance of the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, did not end a great cycle—

1. 11. 19. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu
13. 0. 0. 0. 0.
1. 11. 18. 7. 0. 0. 0. 0. 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu

but, on the contrary, was a Cycle 7 of Great Cycle 18, the end of which (19. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu) was the starting point of Maya chronology.

It seems to the writer that the above construction is the only one that can be put on this text if we admit that the eight periods in A2-A9, figure 60, all belong to one and the same numerical series.

Furthermore, it would show that the great cycle in which fell the first historic period of the Maya civilization (Cycle 9) was itself the closing great cycle of a great-great cycle, namely, Great-great Cycle 11:

1. 11. 19. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0.
1. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0.
1. 12. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0.

That is to say, that when Great Cycle 19 had completed itself, Great-great Cycle 12 would be ushered in.

We have seen on pages 108-113 that the names of the cycles followed one another in this sequence: Cycle 1, Cycle 2, Cycle 3, etc., to Cycle 13, which was followed by Cycle 1, and the sequence repeated itself. We saw, however, that these names probably had nothing to do with the positions of the cycles in the great cycle; that on the contrary these numbers were names and not positions in a higher term.

Now we have seen that Maya chronology began with a Cycle 1; that is, it was counted from the end of a Cycle 13. Therefore, the [ 125 ] closing cycle of Great Cycle 19 of Great-great Cycle 11 of Great-great-great Cycle 1 was a Cycle 13, that is to say, 1. 11. 19. 0. 0. 0. 0. 0. 4 Ahau 13 Cumhu concluded a great cycle, the closing cycle of which was named Cycle 13. This large number, composed of one great-great-great cycle, eleven great-great cycles, and nineteen great cycles, contains exactly 12,780 cycles, as below:

1 great-great-great cycle = 1 × 20 × 20 × 20 cycles = 8,000 cycles
11 great-great cycles = 11 × 20 × 20 cycles = 4,400 cycles
19 great cycles = 19 × 20 cycles = 380 cycles
———
12,780 cycles

But the closing cycle of this number was named Cycle 13, and by deducting all the multiples of 13 possible (983) we can find the name of the first cycle of Great-great-great Cycle 1, the highest Maya time period of which we have any knowledge: 983 × 13 = 12,779. And deducting this from the number of cycles involved (12,780), we have—

12,780
12,779
———
1

This counted backward from Cycle 1, brings us again to a Cycle 13 as the name of the first cycle in the Maya conception of time. In other words, the Maya conceived time to have commenced, in so far as we can judge from the single record available, with a Cycle 13, not with the beginning of a Cycle 1, as they did their chronology.

We have still to explain A1, figure 60. This glyph is quite clearly a form of the Initial-series introducing glyph, as already explained, in which the five components of that glyph are present in usual form: (1) Trinal superfix; (2) pair of comb-like lateral appendages; (3) the tun sign; (4) the trinal subfix; (5) the variable central element, here represented by a grotesque head.

Of these, the first only claims our attention here. The trinal superfix in A1 (fig. 60), as its name signifies, is composed of three parts, but, unlike other forms of this element, the middle part seems to be nothing more nor less than a numerical dot or 1. The question at once arises, can the two flanking parts be merely ornamental and the whole element stand for the number 1? The introducing glyph at the beginning of this text (not figured here), so far as it can be made out, has a trinal superfix of exactly the same character—a dot with an ornamental scroll on each side. What can be the explanation of this element, and indeed of the whole glyph? Is it one great-great-great-great cycle—a period twenty times as great as the one recorded in A2, or is it not a term of the series in glyphs A2-A9? [ 126 ] The writer believes that whatever it may be, it is at least not a member of this series, and in support of his belief he suggests that if it were, why should it alone be retained in recording all Initial-series dates, whereas the other three—the great-great-great cycle, the great-great cycle, and the great-cycle signs—have disappeared.

The following explanation, the writer believes, satisfactorily accounts for all of these points, though it is advanced here only by way of suggestion as a possible solution of the meaning of the Initial-series introducing glyph. It is suggested that in A1 we may have a sign representing "eternity," "this world," "time"; that is to say, a sign denoting the duration of the present world-epoch, the epoch of which the Maya civilization occupied only a small part. The middle dot of the upper element, being 1, denotes that this world-epoch is the first, or present, one, and the whole glyph itself might mean "the present world." The appropriateness of such a glyph ushering in every Initial-series date is apparent. It signified time in general, while the succeeding 7 glyphs denoted what particular day of time was designated in the inscription.

But why, even admitting the correctness of this interpretation of A1, should the great-great-great cycle, the great-great cycle, and the great cycle of their chronological scheme be omitted, and Initial-series dates always open with this glyph, which signifies time in general, followed by the current cycle? The answer to this question, the writer believes, is that the cycle was the greatest period with which the Maya could have had actual experience. It will be shown in Chapter V that there are a few Cycle-8 dates actually recorded, as well as a half a dozen Cycle-10 dates. That is, the cycle, which changed its coefficient every 400 years, was a period which they could not regard as never changing within the range of human experience. On the other hand, it was the shortest period of which they were uncertain, since the great cycle could change its coefficient only every 8,000 years—practically eternity so far as the Maya were concerned. Therefore it could be omitted as well as the two higher periods in a date without giving rise to confusion as to which great cycle was the current one. The cycle, on the contrary, had to be given, as its coefficient changed every 400 years, and the Maya are known to have recorded dates in at least three cycles—Nos. 8, 9, and 10. Hence, it was Great Cycle 19 for 8,000 years, Great-great Cycle 11 for 160,000, and Great-great-great Cycle 1 for 3,200,000 years, whereas it was Cycle 9 for only 400 years. This, not the fact that the Maya never had a period higher than the cycle, the writer believes was the reason why the three higher periods were omitted from Initial-series dates—they were unnecessary so far as accuracy was concerned, since there could never be any doubt concerning them. [ 127 ]

It is not necessary to press this point further, though it is believed the foregoing conception of time had actually been worked out by the Maya. The archaic date recorded by Stela 10 at Tikal (9.3.6.2.0) makes this monument one of the very oldest in the Maya territory; indeed, there is only one other stela which has an earlier Initial Series, Stela 3 at Tikal. In the archaic period from which this monument dates the middle dot of the trinal superfix in the Initial-series introducing glyph may still have retained its numerical value, 1, but in later times this middle dot lost its numerical characteristics and frequently appears as a scroll itself.

The early date of Stela 10 makes it not unlikely that this process of glyph elaboration may not have set in at the time it was erected, and consequently that we have in this simplified trinal element the genesis of the later elaborated form; and, finally, that A1, figure 60, may have meant "the present world-epoch" or something similar.

In concluding the presentation of these three numbers the writer may express the opinion that a careful study of the period glyphs in figures 58-60 will lead to the following conclusions: (1) That the six periods recorded in the first, the seven in the second, and the eight or nine in the third, all belong to the same series in each case; and (2) that throughout the six terms of the first, the seven of the second, and the eight of the third, the series in each case conforms strictly to the vigesimal system of numeration given in Table VIII.

As mentioned on page 116 (footnote 2), in this method of recording the higher numbers the kin sign may sometimes be omitted without affecting the numerical value of the series wherein the omission occurs. In such cases the coefficient of the kin sign is usually prefixed to the uinal sign, the coefficient of the uinal itself standing above the uinal sign. In figure 58, for example, the uinal and the kin coefficients are both 0. In this case, however, the 0 on the left of the uinal sign is to be understood as belonging to the kin sign, which is omitted, while the 0 above the uinal sign is the uinal's own coefficient 0. Again in figure 59, the kin sign is omitted and the kin coefficient 1 is prefixed to the uinal sign, while the uinal's own coefficient 12 stands above the uinal sign. Similarly, the 12 uinals and 17 kins recorded in figure 56, d, might as well have been written as in o of the same figure, that is, with the kin sign omitted and its coefficient 17 prefixed to the uinal sign, while the uinal's own coefficient 12 appears above. Or again, the 9 uinals and 18 kins recorded in f also might have been written as in p, that is, with the kin sign omitted and the kin coefficient 18 prefixed to the uinal sign while the uinal's own coefficient 9 appears above.

In all the above examples the coefficients of the omitted kin signs are on the left of the uinal signs, while the uinal coefficients are above the uinal signs. Sometimes, however, these positions are reversed, [ 128 ] and the uinal coefficient stands on the left of the uinal sign, while the kin coefficient stands above. This interchange in certain cases probably resulted from the needs of glyphic balance and symmetry. For example, in figure 62, a, had the kin coefficient 19 been placed on the left of the uinal sign, the uinal coefficient 4 would have been insufficient to fill the space above the period glyph, and consequently the corner of the glyph block would have appeared ragged. The use of the 19 above and the 4 to the left, on the other hand, properly fills this space, making a symmetrical glyph. Such cases, however, are unusual, and the customary position of the kin coefficient, when the kin sign is omitted, is on the left of the uinal sign, not above it. This practice, namely, omitting the kin sign in numerical series, seems to have prevailed extensively in connection with both Initial Series and Secondary Series; indeed, in the latter it is the rule to which there are but few exceptions.

Fig. 62. Glyphs showing misplacement of the kin coefficient (a) or elimination of a period glyph (b, c): a, Stela E, Quirigua; b, Altar U, Copan; c, Stela J, Copan.

Fig. 62. Glyphs showing misplacement of the kin coefficient (a) or elimination of a period glyph (b, c): a, Stela E, Quirigua; b, Altar U, Copan; c, Stela J, Copan.

The omission of the kin sign, while by far the most common, is not the only example of glyph omission found in numerical series in the inscriptions. Sometimes, though very rarely, numbers occur in which periods other than the kin are wanting. A case in point is figure 62, b. Here a tun sign appears with the coefficient 13 above and 3 to the left. Since there are only two coefficients (13 and 3) and three time periods (tun, uinal, and kin), it is clear that the signs of both the lower periods have been omitted as well as the coefficient of one of them. In c of the last-mentioned figure a somewhat different practice was followed. Here, although three time periods are recorded—tuns, uinals and kins—one period (the uinal) and its coefficient have been omitted, and there is nothing between the 0 kins and 10 tuns. Such cases are exceedingly rare, however, and may be disregarded by the beginner.

We have seen that the order of the periods in the numbers in figure 56 was just the reverse of that in the numbers shown in figures 58 and 59; that in one place the kins stand at the top and in the other at the bottom; and finally, that this difference was not a vital one, since it had no effect on the values of the numbers. This is true, because in the first method of expressing the higher numbers, it matters not which end of the number comes first, the highest or the [ 129 ] lowest period, so long as its several periods always stand in the same relation to each other. For example, in figure 56, q, 6 cycles, 17 katuns, 2 tuns, 10 uinals, and 0 kins represent exactly the same number as 0 kins, 10 uinals, 2 tuns, 17 katuns, and 6 cycles; that is, with the lowest term first.

It was explained on page 23 that the order in which the glyphs are to be read is from top to bottom and from left to right. Applying this rule to the inscriptions, the student will find that all Initial Series are descending series; that in reading from top to bottom and left to right, the cycles will be encountered first, the katuns next, the tuns next, the uinals, and the kins last. Moreover, it will be found also that the great majority of Secondary Series are ascending series, that is, in reading from top to bottom and left to right, the kins will be encountered first, the uinals next, the tuns next, the katuns next, and the cycles last. The reason why Initial Series always should be presented as descending series, and Secondary Series usually as ascending series is unknown; though as stated above, the order in either case might have been reversed without affecting in any way the numerical value of either series.

This concludes the discussion of the first method of expressing the higher numbers, the only method which has been found in the inscriptions.

Second Method of Numeration

The other method by means of which the Maya expressed their higher numbers (the second method given on p. 103) may be called "numeration by position," since in this method the numerical value of the symbols depended solely on position, just as in our own decimal system, in which the value of a figure depends on its distance from the decimal point, whole numbers being written to the left and fractions to the right. The ratio of increase, as the word "decimal" implies, is 10 throughout, and the numerical values of the consecutive positions increase as they recede from the decimal point in each direction, according to the terms of a geometrical progression. For example, in the number 8888.0, the second 8 from the decimal point, counting from right to left, has a value ten times greater than the first 8, since it stands for 8 tens (80); the third 8 from the decimal point similarly has a value ten times greater than the second 8, since it stands for 8 hundreds (800); finally, the fourth 8 has a value ten times greater than the third 8, since it stands for 8 thousands (8,000). Hence, although the figures used are the same in each case, each has a different numerical value, depending solely upon its position with reference to the decimal point.

In the second method of writing their numbers the Maya had devised a somewhat similar notation. Their ratio of increase was 20 in all positions except the third. The value of these positions increased [ 130 ] with their distance from the bottom, according to the terms of the vigesimal system shown in Table VIII. This second method, or "numeration by position," as it may be called, was a distinct advance over the first, since it required for its expression only the signs for the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive, and did not involve the use of any period glyphs, as did the first method. To its greater brevity, no doubt, may be ascribed its use in the codices, where numerical calculations running into numbers of 5 and 6 terms form a large part of the subject matter. It should be remembered that in numeration by position only the normal forms of the numbers—bar and dot numerals—are used. This probably results from the fact that head-variant numerals never occur independently, but are always prefixed to some other glyph, as period, day, or month signs (see p. 104). Since no period glyphs are used in numeration by position, only normal-form numerals, that is, bar and dot numerals, can appear.

The numbers from 1 to 19, inclusive, are expressed in this method, as shown in figure 39, and the number 0 as shown in figure 46. As all of these numbers are below 20, they are expressed as units of the first place or order, and consequently each should be regarded as having been multiplied by 1, the numerical value of the first or lowest position.

The number 20 was expressed in two different ways: (1) By the sign shown in figure 45; and (2) by the numeral 0 in the bottom place and the numeral 1 in the next place above it, as in figure 63, a. The first of these had only a very restricted use in connection with the tonalamatl, wherein numeration by position was impossible, and therefore a special character for 20 (see fig. 45) was necessary. See Chapter VI.

The numbers from 21 to 359, inclusive, involved the use of two places—the kin place and the uinal place—which, according to Table VIII, we saw had numerical values of 1 and 20, respectively. For example, the number 37 was expressed as shown in figure 63, b. The 17 in the kin place has a value of 17 (17 × 1) and the 1 in the uinal, or second, place a value of 20 (1 (the numeral) × 20 (the fixed numerical value of the second place)). The sum of these two products equals 37. Again, 300 was written as in figure 63, c. The 0 in the kin place has the value 0 (0 × 1), and the 15 in the second place has the value of 300 (15 × 20), and the sum of these products equals 300.

To express the numbers 360 to 7,199, inclusive, three places or terms were necessary—kins, uinals, and tuns—of which the last had a numerical value of 360. (See Table VIII.) For example, the number 360 is shown in figure 63, d. The 0 in the lowest place indicates that 0 kins are involved, the 0 in the second place indicates that 0 uinals or 20's are involved, while the 1 in the third place shows that there is 1 tun, or 360, kins recorded (1 (the numeral) × 360 (the fixed numerical value of the third position)); the sum of these three products equals 360. Again, the number 7,113 is expressed as shown in figure 63, e. [ 131 ] The 13 in the lowest place equals 13 (13 × 1); the 13 in the second place, 260 (13 × 20); and the 19 in the third place, 6,840 (19 × 360). The sum of these three products equals 7,113 (13 + 260 + 6,840),

Fig. 63. Examples of the second method of numeration, used exclusively in the codices.

Fig. 63. Examples of the second method of numeration, used exclusively in the codices.

The numbers from 7,200 to 143,999, inclusive, involved the use of four places or terms—kins, uinals, tuns, and katuns—the last of which (the fourth place) had a numerical value of 7,200. (See Table VIII.) For example, the number 7,202 is recorded in figure 63, f. [ 132 ] The 2 in the first place equals 2 (2×1); the 0 in the second place, 0 (0×20); the 0 in the third place, 0 (0×360); and the 1 in the fourth place, 7,200 (1×7,200). The sum of these four products equals 7,202 (2+0+0+7,200). Again, the number 100,932 is recorded in figure 63, g. Here the 12 in the first place equals 12 (12×1); the 6 in the second place, 120 (6×20); the 0 in the third place, 0 (0×360); and the 14 in the fourth place, 100,800 (14×7,200). The sum of these four products equals 100,932 (12+120+0+100,800).

The numbers from 144,000 to 2,879,999, inclusive, involved the use of five places or terms—kins, uinals, tuns, katuns, and cycles. The last of these (the fifth place) had a numerical value of 144,000. (See Table VIII.) For example, the number 169,200 is recorded in figure 63, h. The 0 in the first place equals 0 (0×1); the 0 in the second place, 0 (0×20); the 10 in the third place, 3,600 (10×360); the 3 in the fourth place, 21,600 (3×7,200); and the 1 in the fifth place, 144,000 (1×144,000). The sum of these five products equals 169,200 (0+0+3,600+21,600+144,000). Again, the number 2,577,301 is recorded in figure 63, i. The 1 in the first place equals 1 (1×1); the 3 in the second place, 60 (3×20); the 19 in the third place, 6,840 (19×360); the 17 in the fourth place, 122,400 (17×7,200); and the 17 in the fifth place, 2,448,000 (17x144,000). The sum of these five products equals 2,577,301 (1+60+6,480+122,400+2,448,000).

The writing of numbers above 2,880,000 up to and including 12,489,781 (the highest number found in the codices) involves the use of six places, or terms—kins, uinals, tuns, katuns, cycles, and great cycles—the last of which (the sixth place) has the numerical value 2,880,000. It will be remembered that some have held that the sixth place in the inscriptions contained only 13 units of the fifth place, or 1,872,000 units of the first place. In the codices, however, there are numerous calendric checks which prove conclusively that in so far as the codices are concerned the sixth place was composed of 20 units of the fifth place. For example, the number 5,832,060 is expressed as in figure 63, j. The 0 in the first place equals 0 (0×1); the 3 in the second place, 60 (3×20); the 0 in the third place, 0 (0×360); the 10 in the fourth place, 72,000 (10×7,200); the 0 in the fifth place, 0 (0×144,000); and the 2 in the sixth place, 5,760,000 (2×2,880,000). The sum of these six terms equals 5,832,060 (0+60+0+72,000+0+5,760,000). The highest number in the codices, as explained above, is 12,489,781, which is recorded on page 61 of the Dresden Codex. This number is expressed as in figure 63, k. The 1 in the first place equals 1 (1×1); the 15 in the second place, 300 (15×20); the 13 in the third place, 4,680 (13×360); the 14 in the fourth place, 100,800 (14×7,200); the 6 in the fifth place, 864,000 (6×144,000); and the 4 in the sixth place, 11,520,000 (4×2,880,000). The sum of these six products equals 12,489,781 (1+300+4,680+100,800+864,000+11,520,000). [ 133 ]

It is clear that in numeration by position the order of the units could not be reversed as in the first method without seriously affecting their numerical values. This must be true, since in the second method the numerical values of the numerals depend entirely on their position—that is, on their distance above the bottom or first term. In the first method, the multiplicands—the period glyphs, each of which had a fixed numerical value—are always expressed[30] with their corresponding multipliers—the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive; in other words, the period glyphs themselves show whether the series is an ascending or a descending one. But in the second method the multiplicands are not expressed. Consequently, since there is nothing about a column of bar and dot numerals which in itself indicates whether the series is an ascending or a descending one, and since in numeration by position a fixed starting point is absolutely essential, in their second method the Maya were obliged not only to fix arbitrarily the direction of reading, as from bottom to top, but also to confine themselves exclusively to the presentation of one kind of series only—that is, ascending series. Only by means of these two arbitrary rules was confusion obviated in numeration by position.

However dissimilar these two methods of representing the numbers may appear at first sight, fundamentally they are the same, since both have as their basis the same vigesimal system of numeration. Indeed, it can not be too strongly emphasized that throughout the range of the Maya writings, codices, inscriptions, or Books of Chilam Balam[31] the several methods of counting time and recording events found in each are all derived from the same source, and all are expressions of the same numerical system.

That the student may better grasp the points of difference between the two methods they are here contrasted:

Table XII. COMPARISON OF THE TWO METHODS OF NUMERATION

FIRST METHOD SECOND METHOD
1. Use confined almost exclusively to the inscriptions. 1. Use confined exclusively to the codices.
2. Numerals represented by both normal forms and head variants. 2. Numerals represented by normal forms exclusively.
3. Numbers expressed by using the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive, as multipliers with the period glyphs as multiplicands. 3. Numbers expressed by using the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive, as multipliers in certain positions the fixed numerical values of which served as multiplicands.
4. Numbers presented as ascending or descending series. 4. Numbers presented as ascending series exclusively.
5. Direction of reading either from bottom to top, or vice versa. 5. Direction of reading from bottom to top exclusively.

We have seen in the foregoing pages (1) how the Maya wrote their 20 [ 134 ] numerals, and (2) how these numerals were used to express the higher numbers. The next question which concerns us is, How did they use these numbers in their calculations; or in other words, how was their arithmetic applied to their calendar? It may be said at the very outset in answer to this question, that in so far as known, numbers appear to have had but one use throughout the Maya texts, namely, to express the time elapsing between dates.[32] In the codices and the inscriptions alike all the numbers whose use is understood have been found to deal exclusively with the counting of time.

This highly specialized use of the numbers in Maya texts has determined the first step to be taken in the process of deciphering them. Since the primary unit of the calendar was the day, all numbers should be reduced to terms of this unit, or in other words, to units of the first order, or place.[33] Hence, we may accept the following as the first step in ascertaining the meaning of any number:

First Step in Solving Maya Numbers

Reduce all the units of the higher orders to units of its first, or lowest, order, and then add the resulting quantities together.

The application of this rule to any Maya number, no matter of how many terms, will always give the actual number of primary units which it contains, and in this form it can be more conveniently utilized in connection with the calendar than if it were left as recorded, that is, in terms of its higher orders.

The reduction of units of the higher orders to units of the first order has been explained on pages 105-133, but in order to provide the student with this same information in a more condensed and accessible form, it is presented in the following tables, of which Table XIII is to be used for reducing numbers to their primary units in the inscriptions, and Table XIV for the same purpose in the codices. [ 135 ]

Table XIII. VALUES OF HIGHER PERIODS IN TERMS OF LOWEST, IN INSCRIPTIONS

1 great cycle = [34]2,880,000
1 cycle 144,000
1 katun 7,200
1 tun 360
1 uinal 20
1 kin 1

Table XIV. VALUES OF HIGHER PERIODS IN TERMS OF LOWEST, IN CODICES

1 unit of the 6th place = 2,880,000
1 unit of the 5th place 144,000
1 unit of the 4th place 7,200
1 unit of the 3d place 360
1 unit of the 2d place 20
1 unit of the 1st place 1

It should be remembered, in using these tables, that each of the signs for the periods therein given has its own particular numerical value, and that this value in each case is a multiplicand which is to be multiplied by the numeral attached to it (not shown in Table XIII). For example, a 3 attached to the katun sign reduces to 21,600 units of the first order (3×7,200). Again, 5 attached to the uinal sign reduces to 100 units of the first order (5×20). In using Table XIV, however, it should be remembered that the position of a numeral multiplier determines at the same time that multiplier's multiplicand. Thus a 5 in the third place indicates that the 5's multiplicand is 360, the numerical value of the third place, and such a term reduces to 1,800 units of the first place (5×360=1,800). Again, a 10 in the fourth place indicates that the 10's multiplicand is 7,200, the numerical value corresponding to the fourth place, and such a term reduces to 72,000 units of the first place.

Having reduced all the terms of a number to units of the 1st order, the next step in finding out its meaning is to discover the date from which it is counted. This operation gives rise to the second step.

Second Step in Solving Maya Numbers

Find the date from which the number is counted:

This is not always an easy matter, since the dates from which Maya numbers are counted are frequently not expressed in the texts; consequently, it is clear that no single rule can be formulated which will cover all cases. There are, however, two general rules which will be found to apply to the great majority of numbers in the texts:

Rule 1. When the starting point or date is expressed, usually, though not invariably, it precedes[35] the number counted from it.

It should be noted, however, in connection with this rule, that the starting date hardly ever immediately precedes the number from which it is counted, but that several glyphs nearly always stand [ 136 ] between.[36] Certain exceptions to the above rule are by no means rare, and the student must be continually on the lookout for such reversals of the regular order. These exceptions are cases in which the starting date (1) follows the number counted from it, and (2) stands elsewhere in the text, entirely disassociated from, and unattached to, the number counted from it.

The second of the above-mentioned general rules, covering the majority of cases, follows:

Rule 2. When the starting point or date is not expressed, if the number is an Initial Series the date from which it should be counted will be found to be 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu.[37]

This rule is particularly useful in deciphering numbers in the inscriptions. For example, when the student finds a number which he can identify as an Initial Series,[38] he may assume at once that such a number in all probability is counted from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, and proceed on this assumption. The exceptions to this rule, that is, cases in which the starting point is not expressed and the number is not an Initial Series, are not numerous. No rule can be given covering all such cases, and the starting points of such numbers can be determined only by means of the calculations given under the third and fourth steps, below.

Having determined the starting point or date from which a given number is to be counted (if this is possible), the next step is to find out which way the count runs; that is, whether it is forward from the starting point to some later date, or whether it is backward from the starting point to some earlier date. This process may be called the third step.

Third Step in Solving Maya Numbers

Ascertain whether the number is to be counted forward or backward from its starting point.

It may be said at the very outset in this connection that the overwhelming majority of Maya numbers are counted forward from their starting points and not backward. In other words, they proceed from earlier to later dates and not vice versa. Indeed, the preponderance of the former is so great, and the exceptions are so rare, that the student should always proceed on the postulate that the count is forward until proved definitely to be otherwise. [ 137 ]

Fig. 64. Figure showing the use of the "minus" or "backward" sign in the codices.

Fig. 64. Figure showing the use of the "minus" or "backward" sign in the codices.

In the codices, moreover, when the count is backward, or contrary to the general practice, the fact is clearly indicated[39] by a special character. This character, although attached only to the lowest term[40] of the number which is to be counted backward, is to be interpreted as applying to all the other terms as well, its effect extending to the number as a whole. This "backward sign" (shown in fig. 64) is a circle drawn in red around the lowest term of the number which it affects, and is surmounted by a knot of the same color. An example covering the use of this sign is given in figure 64. Although the "backward sign" in this figure surrounds only the numeral in the first place, 0, it is to be interpreted, as we have seen, as applying to the 2 in the second place and the 6 in the third place. This number, expressed as 6 tuns, 2 uinals, and 0 kins, reduces to 2,200 units of the first place, and in this form may be more readily handled (first step). Since the starting point usually precedes the number counted from it and since in figure 64 the number is expressed by the second method, its starting point will be found standing below it. This follows from the fact that in numeration by position the order is from bottom to top. Therefore the starting point from which the 2,200 recorded in figure 64 is counted will be found to be below it, that is, the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu[41] (second step). Finally, the red circle and knot surrounding the lowest (0) term of this 2,200 indicates that this number is to be counted backward from its starting point, not forward (third step).

On the other hand, in the inscriptions no special character seems to have been used with a number to indicate that it was to be counted backward; at least no such sign has yet been discovered. In the inscriptions, therefore, with the single exception[42] mentioned below, the student can only apply the general rule given on page 136, that in the great majority of cases the count is forward. This rule will be found to apply to at least nine out of every ten numbers. The exception above noted, that is, where the practice is so uniform as to render possible the formulation of an unfailing rule, has to do with Initial Series. This rule, to which there are no known exceptions, may be stated as follows:

Rule 1. In Initial Series the count is always forward, and, in general throughout the inscriptions. The very few cases in which the count is backward, are confined chiefly to Secondary Series, and it is in [ 138 ] dealing with this kind of series that the student will find the greatest number of exceptions to the general rule.

Having determined the direction of the count, whether it is forward or backward, the next (fourth) step may be given.

Fourth Step in Solving Maya Numbers

To count the number from its starting point.

We have come now to a step that involves the consideration of actual arithmetical processes, which it is thought can be set forth much more clearly by the use of specific examples than by the statement of general rules. Hence, we will formulate our rules after the processes which they govern have been fully explained.

In counting any number, as 31,741, or 4.8.3.1 as it would be expressed in Maya notation,[43] from any date, as 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, there are four unknown elements which have to be determined before we can write the date which the count reaches. These are:

1. The day coefficient, which must be one of the numerals 1 to 13, inclusive.

2. The day name, which must be one of the twenty given in Table I.

3. The position of the day in some division of the year, which must be one of the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive.

4. The name of the division of the year, which must be one of the nineteen given in Table III.

These four unknown elements all have to be determined from (1) the starting date, and (2) the number which is to be counted from it.

If the student will constantly bear in mind that all Maya sequences, whether the day coefficients, day signs, positions in the divisions of the year, or what not, are absolutely continuous, repeating themselves without any break or interruption whatsoever, he will better understand the calculations which follow.

It was explained in the text (see pp. 41-44) and also shown graphically in the tonalamatl wheel (pl. 5) that after the day coefficients had reached the number 13 they returned to 1, following each other indefinitely in this order without interruption. It is clear, therefore, that the highest multiple of 13 which the given number contains may be subtracted from it without affecting in any way the value of the day coefficient of the date which the number will reach when counted from the starting point. This is true, because no matter what the day coefficient of the starting point may be, any multiple of 13 will always bring the count back to the same day coefficient. [ 139 ]

Taking up the number, 31,741, which we have chosen for our first example, let us deduct from it the highest multiple of 13 which it contains. This will be found by dividing the number by 13, and multiplying the whole-number part of the resulting quotient by 13: 31,741 ÷ 13 = 2,441813. Multiplying 2,441 by 13, we have 31,733, which is the highest multiple of 13 that 31,741 contains; consequently it may be deducted from 31,741 without affecting the value of the resulting day coefficient: 31,741 - 31,733 = 8. In the example under consideration, therefore, 8 is the number which, if counted from the day coefficient of the starting point, will give the day coefficient of the resulting date. In other words, after dividing by 13 the only part of the resulting quotient which is used in determining the new day coefficient is the numerator of the fractional part.[44] Hence the following rule for determining the first unknown on page 138 (the day coefficient):

Rule 1. To find the new day coefficient divide the given number by 13, and count forward the numerator of the fractional part of the resulting quotient from the starting point if the count is forward, and backward if the count is backward, deducting 13 in either case from the resulting number if it should exceed 13.

Applying this rule to 31,741, we have seen above that its division by 13 gives as the fractional part of the quotient 813. Assuming that the count is forward from the starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, if 8 (the numerator of the fractional part of the quotient) be counted forward from 4, the day coefficient of the starting point (4 Ahau 8 Cumhu), the day coefficient of the resulting date will be 12 (4 + 8). Since this number is below 13, the last sentence of the above rule has no application in this case. In counting forward 31,741 from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, therefore, the day coefficient of the resulting date will be 12; thus we have determined our first unknown. Let us next find the second unknown, the day sign to which this 12 is prefixed.

It was explained on page 37 that the twenty day signs given in Table I succeed one another in endless rotation, the first following immediately the twentieth no matter which one of the twenty was chosen as the first. Consequently, it is clear that the highest multiple of 20 which the given number contains may be deducted from it without affecting in any way the name of the day sign of the date which the number will reach when counted from the starting point. This is true because, no matter what the day sign of the starting point may be, any multiple of 20 will always bring the count back to the same day sign. [ 140 ]

Returning to the number 31,741, let us deduct from it the highest multiple of 20 which it contains, found by dividing the number by 20 and multiplying the whole number part of the resulting quotient by 20; 31,741 ÷ 20 = 1,587120. Multiplying 1,587 by 20, we have 31,740, which is the highest multiple of 20 that 31,741 contains, and which may be deducted from 31,741 without affecting the resulting day sign; 31,741 - 31,740 = 1. Therefore in the present example 1 is the number which, if counted forward from the day sign of the starting point in the sequence of the 20 day signs given in Table I, will reach the day sign of the resulting date. In other words, after dividing by 20 the only part of the resulting quotient which is used in determining the new day sign is the numerator of the fractional part. Thus we may formulate the rule for determining the second unknown on page 138 (the day sign):

Rule 2. To find the new day sign, divide the given number by 20, and count forward the numerator of the fractional part of the resulting quotient from the starting point in the sequence of the twenty day signs given in Table I, if the count is forward, and backward if the count is backward, and the sign reached will be the new day sign.

Applying this rule to 31,741, we have seen above that its division by 20 gives us as the fractional part of the quotient, 120. Since the count was forward from the starting point, if 1 (the numerator of the fractional part of the quotient) be counted forward in the sequence of the 20 day signs in Table I from the day sign of the starting point, Ahau (4 Ahau 8 Cumhu), the day sign reached will be the day sign of the resulting date. Counting forward 1 from Ahau in Table I, the day sign Imix is reached, and Imix, therefore, will be the new day sign. Thus our second unknown is determined.

By combining the above two values, the 12 for the first unknown and Imix for the second, we can now say that in counting forward 31,741 from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the day reached will be 12 Imix. It remains to find what position this particular day occupied in the 365-day year, or haab, and thus to determine the third and fourth unknowns on page 138. Both of these may be found at one time by the same operation.

It was explained on pages 44-51 that the Maya year, at least in so far as the calendar was concerned, contained only 365 days, divided into 18 uinals of 20 days each, and the xma kaba kin of 5 days; and further, that when the last position in the last division of the year (4 Uayeb) was reached, it was followed without interruption by the first position of the first division of the next year (0 Pop); and, finally, that this sequence was continued indefinitely. Consequently it is clear that the highest multiple of 365 which the given number contains may be subtracted from it without affecting in any way the position in the year of the day which the number will reach when [ 141 ] counted from the starting point. This is true, because no matter what position in the year the day of the starting point may occupy, any multiple of 365 will bring the count back again to the same position in the year.

Returning again to the number 31,741, let us deduct from it the highest multiple of 365 which it contains. This will be found by dividing the number by 365 and multiplying the whole number part of the resulting quotient by 365: 31,741 ÷ 365 = 86351365. Multiplying 86 by 365, we have 31,390, which is the highest multiple that 31,741 contains. Hence it may be deducted from 31,741 without affecting the position in the year of the resulting day; 31,741 - 31,390 = 351. Therefore, in the present example, 351 is the number which, if counted forward from the year position of the starting date in the sequence of the 365 positions in the year, given in Table XV, will reach the position in the year of the day of the resulting date. This enables us to formulate the rule for determining the third and fourth unknowns on page 138 (the position in the year of the day of the resulting date):

Rule 3. To find the position in the year of the new day, divide the given number by 365 and count forward the numerator of the fractional part of the resulting quotient from the year position of the starting point in the sequence of the 365 positions of the year shown in Table XV, if the count is forward; and backward if the count is backward, and the position reached will be the position in the year which the day of the resulting date will occupy.

Table XV. THE 365 POSITIONS IN THE MAYA YEAR

Month P
o
p
U
o
Z
i
p
Z
o
t
z
T
z
e
c
X
u
l
Y
a
x
k
i
n
M
o
l
C
h
e
n
Y
a
x
Z
a
c
C
e
h
M
a
c
K
a
n
k
i
n
M
u
a
n
P
a
x
K
a
y
a
b
C
u
m
h
u
U
a
y
e
b
Position 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Do 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Do 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Do 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Do 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Do 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Do 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6
Do 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Do 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
Do 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
Do 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
Do 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11
Do 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12
Do 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13
Do 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14
Do 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
Do 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16
Do 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17 17
Do 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18
Do 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19

[ 142 ]

Applying this rule to the number 31,741, we have seen above that its division by 365 gives 351 as the numerator of the fractional part of its quotient. Assuming that the count is forward from the starting point, it will be necessary, therefore, to count 351 forward in Table XV from the position 8 Cumhu, the position of the day of the starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu.

A glance at the month of Cumhu in Table XV shows that after the position 8 Cumhu there are 11 positions in that month; adding to these the 5 in Uayeb, the last division of the year, there will be in all 16 more positions before the first of the next year. Subtracting these from 351, the total number to be counted forward, there remains the number 335 (351-16), which must be counted forward in Table XV from the beginning of the year. Since each of the months has 20 positions, it is clear that 16 months will be used before the month is reached in which will fall the 335th position from the beginning of the year. In other words, 320 positions of our 335 will exactly use up all the positions of the first 16 months, namely, Pop, Uo, Zip, Zotz, Tzec, Xul, Yaxkin, Mol, Chen, Yax, Zac, Ceh, Mac, Kankin, Muan, Pax, and will bring us to the beginning of the 17th month (Kayab) with still 15 more positions to count forward. If the student will refer to this month in Table XV he will see that 15 positions counted forward in this month will reach the position 14 Kayab, which is also the position reached by counting forward 31,741 positions from the starting position 8 Cumhu.

Having determined values for all of the unknowns on page 138, we can now say that if the number 31,741 be counted forward from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the date 12 Imix 14 Kayab will be reached. To this latter date, i. e., the date reached by any count, the name "terminal date" has been given. The rules indicating the processes by means of which this terminal date is reached apply also to examples where the count is backward, not forward, from the starting point. In such cases, as the rules say, the only difference is that the numerators of the fractional parts of the quotients resulting from the different divisions are to be counted backward from the starting points, instead of forward as in the example above given.

Before proceeding to apply the rules by means of which our fourth step or process (see p. 138) may be carried out, a modification may sometimes be introduced which will considerably decrease the size of the number to be counted without affecting the values of the several parts of its resulting terminal date.

We have seen on pages 51-60 that in Maya chronology there were possible only 18,980 different dates—that is, combinations of the 260 days and the 365 positions of the year—and further, that any given day of the 260 could return to any given position of the 365 only after the lapse of 18,980 days, or 52 years. [ 143 ]

Since the foregoing is true, it follows, that this number 18,980 or any multiple thereof, may be deducted from the number which is to be counted without affecting in any way the terminal date which the number will reach when counted from the starting point. It is obvious that this modification applies only to numbers which are above 18,980, all others being divided by 13, 20, and 365 directly, as indicated in rules 1, 2, and 3, respectively. This enables us to formulate another rule, which should be applied to the number to be counted before proceeding with rules 1, 2, and 3 above, if that number is above 18,980.

Rule. If the number to be counted is above 18,980, first deduct from it the highest multiple of 18,980 which it contains.

This rule should be applied whenever possible, since it reduces the size of the number to be handled, and consequently involves fewer calculations.

In Table XVI are given 80 Calendar Rounds, that is, 80 multiples of 18,980, in terms of both the Maya notation and our own. These will be found sufficient to cover most numbers.

Applying the above rule to the number 31,741, which was selected for our first example, it is seen by Table XVI that 1 Calendar Round, or 18,980 days, may be deducted from it; 31,741 - 18,980 = 12,761. In other words, we can count the number 12,761 forward (or backward had the count been backward in our example) from the starting point 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, and reach exactly the same terminal date as though we had counted forward 31,741, as in the first case.

Mathematical proof of this point follows:

12,761 ÷ 13 = 98181312,761 ÷ 20 = 638-1/2012,761 ÷ 365 = 34351365

The numerators of the fractions in these three quotients are 8, 1, and 351; these are identical with the numerators of the fractions in the quotients obtained by dividing 31,741 by the same divisors, those indicated in rules 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Consequently, if these three numerators be counted forward from the corresponding parts of the starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the resulting terms together will form the corresponding parts of the same terminal date, 12 Imix 14 Kayab.

Similarly it could be shown that 50,721 or 69,701 counted forward or backward from any starting point would both reach this same terminal date, since subtracting 2 Calendar Rounds, 37,960 (see Table XVI), from the first, and 3 Calendar Rounds, 56,940 (see Table XVI), from the second, there would remain in each case 12,761. The student will find his calculations greatly facilitated if he will apply this rule whenever possible. To familiarize the student with the working of these rules, it is thought best to give several additional examples involving their use. [ 144 ]

Table XVI. 80 CALENDAR ROUNDS EXPRESSED IN ARABIC AND MAYA NOTATION

Calendar
Rounds
Days Cycles, Etc. Calendar
Rounds
Days Cycles, Etc.
1 18,980 2. 12. 13. 0 41 778,180 5. 8. 1. 11. 0
2 37,960 5. 5. 8. 0 42 797,160 5. 10. 14. 6. 0
3 56,940 7. 18. 3. 0 43 816,140 5. 13. 7. 1. 0
4 75,920 10. 10. 16. 0 44 835,120 5. 15. 19. 14. 0
5 94,900 13. 3. 11. 0 45 854,100 5. 18. 12. 9. 0
6 113,880 15. 16. 6. 0 46 873,080 6. 1. 5. 4. 0
7 132,860 18. 9. 1. 0 47 892,060 6. 3. 17. 17. 0
8 151,840 1. 1. 1. 14. 0 48 911,040 6. 6. 10. 12. 0
9 170,820 1. 3. 14. 9. 0 49 930,020 6. 9. 3. 7. 0
10 189,800 1. 6. 7. 4. 0 50 949,000 6. 11. 16. 2. 0
11 208,780 1. 8. 19. 17. 0 51 967,980 6. 14. 8. 15. 0
12 227,760 1. 11. 12. 12. 0 52 986,960 6. 17. 1. 10. 0
13 246,740 1. 14. 5. 7. 0 53 1,005,940 6. 19. 14. 5. 0
14 265,720 1. 16. 18. 2. 0 54 1,024,920 7. 2. 7. 0. 0
15 284,700 1. 19. 10. 15. 0 55 1,043,900 7. 4. 19. 13. 0
16 303,680 2. 2. 3. 10. 0 56 1,062,880 7. 7. 12. 8. 0
17 322,660 2. 4. 16. 5. 0 57 1,081,860 7. 10. 5. 3. 0
18 341,640 2. 7. 9. 0. 0 58 1,100,840 7. 12. 17. 16. 0
19 360,620 2. 10. 1. 13. 0 59 1,119,820 7. 15. 10. 11. 0
20 379,600 2. 12. 14. 8. 0 60 1,138,800 7. 18. 3. 6. 0
21 398,580 2. 15. 7. 3. 0 61 1,157,780 8. 0. 16. 1. 0
22 417,560 2. 17. 19. 16. 0 62 1,176,760 8. 3. 8. 14. 0
23 436,540 3. 0. 12. 11. 0 63 1,195,740 8. 6. 1. 9. 0
24 455,520 3. 3. 5. 6. 0 64 1,214,720 8. 8. 14. 4. 0
25 474,500 3. 5. 18. 1. 0 65 1,233,700 8. 11. 6. 17. 0
26 493,480 3. 8. 10. 14. 0 66 1,252,680 8. 13. 19. 12. 0
27 512,460 3. 11. 3. 9. 0 67 1,271,660 8. 16. 12. 7. 0
28 531,440 3. 13. 16. 4. 0 68 1,290,640 8. 19. 5. 2. 0
29 550,420 3. 16. 8. 17. 0 69 1,309,620 9. 1. 17. 15. 0
30 569,400 3. 19. 1. 12. 0 70 1,328,600 9. 4. 10. 10. 0
31 588,380 4. 1. 14. 7. 0 71 1,347,580 9. 7. 3. 5. 0
32 607,360 4. 4. 7. 2. 0 72 1,366,560 9. 9. 16. 0. 0
33 626,340 4. 6. 19. 15. 0 73 1,385,540 9. 12. 8. 13. 0
34 645,320 4. 9. 12. 10. 0 74 1,404,520 9. 15. 1. 8. 0
35 664,300 4. 12. 5. 5. 0 75 1,423,500 9. 17. 14. 3. 0
36 683,280 4. 14. 18. 0. 0 76 1,442,480 10. 0. 6. 16. 0
37 702,260 4. 17. 10. 13. 0 77 1,461,460 10. 2. 19. 11. 0
38 721,240 5. 0. 3. 8. 0 78 1,480,440 10. 5. 12. 6. 0
39 740,220 5. 2. 16. 3. 0 79 1,499,420 10. 8. 5. 1. 0
40 759,200 5. 5. 8. 16. 0 80 1,518,400 10. 10. 17. 14. 0

[ 145 ]

Let us count forward the number 5,799 from the starting point 2 Kan 7 Tzec. It is apparent at the outset that, since this number is less than 18,980, or 1 Calendar Round, the preliminary rule given on page 143 does not apply in this case. Therefore we may proceed with the first rule given on page 139, by means of which the new day coefficient may be determined. Dividing the given number by 13 we have: 5,799 ÷ 13 = 446113. Counting forward the numerator of the fractional part of the resulting quotient (1) from the day coefficient of the starting point (2), we reach 3 as the day coefficient of the terminal date.

The second rule given on page 140 tells how to find the day sign of the terminal date. Dividing the given number by 20, we have: 5,799 ÷ 20 = 2891920. Counting forward the numerator of the fractional part of the resulting quotient (19) from the day sign of the starting point, Kan, in the sequence of the twenty-day signs given in Table I, the day sign Akbal will be reached, which will be the day sign of the terminal date. Therefore the day of the terminal date will be 3 Akbal.

The third rule, given on page 141, tells how to find the position which the day of the terminal date occupied in the 365-day year. Dividing the given number by 365, we have: 5,799 ÷ 365 = 15324365. Counting forward the numerator of the fractional part of the resulting quotient, 324, from the year position of the starting date, 7 Tzec, in the sequence of the 365 year positions given in Table XV, the position 6 Zip will be reached as the position in the year of the day of the terminal date. The count by means of which the position 6 Zip is determined is given in detail. After the year position of the starting point, 7 Tzec, it requires 12 more positions (Nos. 8-19, inclusive) before the close of that month (see Table XV) will be reached. And after the close of Tzec, 13 uinals and the xma kaba kin must pass before the end of the year; 13 × 20 + 5 = 265, and 265 + 12 = 277. This latter number subtracted from 324, the total number of positions to be counted forward, will give the number of positions which remain to be counted in the next year following: 324 - 277 = 47. Counting forward 47 in the new year, we find that it will use up the months Pop and Uo (20 + 20 = 40) and extend 7 positions into the month Zip, or to 6 Zip. Therefore, gathering together the values determined for the several parts of the terminal date, we may say that in counting forward 5,799 from the starting point 2 Kan 7 Tzec, the terminal date reached will be 3 Akbal 6 Zip.

For the next example let us select a much higher number, say 322,920, which we will assume is to be counted forward from the starting point 13 Ik 0 Zip. Since this number is above 18,980, we may apply our preliminary rule (p. 143) and deduct all the Calendar [ 146 ] Rounds possible. By turning to Table XVI we see that 17 Calendar Rounds, or 322,660, may be deducted from our number: 322,920 - 322,660 = 260. In other words, we can use 260 exactly as though it were 322,920. Dividing by 13, we have 260 ÷ 13 = 20. Since there is no fraction in the quotient, the numerator of the fraction will be 0, and counting 0 forward from the day coefficient of the starting point, 13, we have 13 as the day coefficient of the terminal date (rule 1, p. 139). Dividing by 20 we have 260 ÷ 20 = 13. Since there is no fraction in the quotient, the numerator of the fraction will be 0, and counting forward 0 from the day sign of the starting point, Ik in Table I, the day sign Ik will remain the day sign of the terminal date (rule 2, p. 140). Combining the two values just determined, we see that the day of the terminal date will be 13 Ik, or a day of the same name as the day of the starting point. This follows also from the fact that there are only 260 differently named days (see pp. 41-44) and any given day will have to recur, therefore, after the lapse of 260 days.[45] Dividing by 365 we have: 260 ÷ 365 = 260365. Counting forward the numerator of the fraction, 260, from the year position of the starting point, 0 Zip, in Table XV, the position in the year of the day of the terminal date will be found to be 0 Pax. Since 260 days equal just 13 uinals, we have only to count forward from 0 Zip 13 uinals in order to reach the year position; that is, 0 Zotz is 1 uinal; to 0 Tzec 2 uinals, to 0 Xul 3 uinals, and so on in Table XV to 0 Pax, which will complete the last of the 13 uinals (rule 3, p. 141).

Combining the above values, we find that in counting forward 322,920 (or 260) from the starting point 13 Ik 0 Zip, the terminal date reached is 13 Ik 0 Pax.

In order to illustrate the method of procedure when the count is backward, let us assume an example of this kind. Suppose we count backward the number 9,663 from the starting point 3 Imix 4 Uayeb. Since this number is below 18,980, no Calendar Round can be deducted from it. Dividing the given number by 13, we have: 9,663 ÷ 13 =743413. Counting the numerator of the fractional part of this quotient, 4, backward from the day coefficient of the starting point, 3, we reach 12 as the day coefficient of the terminal date, that is, 2, 1, 13, 12 (rule 1, p. 139). Dividing the given number by 20, we have: 9,663 ÷ 20 = 483320. Counting the numerator of the fractional part of this quotient, 3, backward from the day sign of the starting point, Imix, in Table I, we reach Eznab as the day sign of the terminal date (Ahau, Cauac, Eznab); consequently the day reached in the count will be 12 Eznab. Dividing the given number by 365, we have [ 147 ] 9,663 ÷ 365 = 26173365. Counting backward the numerator of the fractional part of this quotient, 173, from the year position of the starting point, 4 Uayeb, the year position of the terminal date will be found to be 11 Yax. Before position 4 Uayeb (see Table XV) there are 4 positions in that division of the year (3, 2, 1, 0). Counting these backward to the end of the month Cumhu (see Table XV), we have left 169 positions (173 - 4 = 169); this equals 8 uinals and 9 days extra. Therefore, beginning with the end of Cumhu, we may count backward 8 whole uinals, namely: Cumhu, Kayab, Pax, Muan, Kankin, Mac, Ceh, and Zac, which will bring us to the end of Yax (since we are counting backward). As we have left still 9 days out of our original 173, these must be counted backward from position 0 Zac, that is, beginning with position 19 Yax: 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11; so 11 Yax is the position in the year of the day of the terminal date. Assembling the above values, we find that in counting the number 9,663 backward from the starting point, 2 Imix 4 Uayeb, the terminal date is 12 Eznab 11 Yax. Whether the count be forward or backward, the method is the same, the only difference being in the direction of the counting.

This concludes the discussion of the actual arithmetical processes involved in counting forward or backward any given number from any given date; however, before explaining the fifth and final step in deciphering the Maya numbers, it is first necessary to show how this method of counting was applied to the Long Count.

The numbers used above in connection with dates merely express the difference in time between starting points and terminal dates, without assigning either set of dates to their proper positions in Maya chronology; that is, in the Long Count. Consequently, since any Maya date recurred at successive intervals of 52 years, by the time their historic period had been reached, more than 3,000 years after the starting point of their chronology, the Maya had upward of 70 distinct dates of exactly the same name to distinguish from one another.

It was stated on page 61 that the 0, or starting point of Maya chronology, was the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, from which all subsequent dates were reckoned; and further, on page 63, that by recording the number of cycles, katuns, tuns, uinals, and kins which had elapsed in each case between this date and any subsequent dates in the Long Count, subsequent dates of the same name could be readily distinguished from one another and assigned at the same time to their proper positions in Maya chronology. This method of fixing a date in the Long Count has been designated Initial-series dating.

The generally accepted method of writing Initial Series is as follows:

9.0.0.0.0.8 Ahau 13 Ceh


The particular Initial-Series written here is to be interpreted thus: "Counting forward 9 cycles, 0 katuns, 0 tuns, 0 uinals, and 0 kins [ 148 ] from 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the starting point of Maya chronology (always unexpressed in Initial Series), the terminal date reached will be 8 Ahau 13 Ceh."[46] Or again:

9.14.13.4.17.12 Caban 5 Kayab


This Inital Series reads thus: "Counting forward 9 cycles, 14 katuns, 13 tuns, 4 uinals, and 17 kins from 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the starting point of Maya chronology (unexpressed), the terminal date reached will be 12 Caban 5 Kayab."

The time which separates any date from 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu may be called that date's Initial-series value. For example, in the first of the above cases the number 9.0.0.0.0 is the Initial-series value of the date 8 Ahau 13 Ceh, and in the second the number 9.14.13.4.17 is the Initial-series value of the date 12 Caban 5 Kayab. It is clear from the foregoing that although the date 8 Ahau 13 Ceh, for example, had recurred upward of 70 times since the beginning of their chronology, the Maya were able to distinguish any particular 8 Ahau 13 Ceh from all the others merely by recording its distance from the starting point; in other words, giving thereto its particular Initial-series value, as 9.0.0.0.0. in the present case. Similarly, any particular 12 Caban 5 Kayab, by the addition of its corresponding Initial-series value, as 9.14.13.4.17 in the case above cited, was absolutely fixed in the Long Count—that is, in a period of 374,400 years.

Returning now to the question of how the counting of numbers was applied to the Long Count, it is evident that every date in Maya chronology, starting points as well as terminal dates, had its own particular Initial-series value, though in many cases these values are not recorded. However, in most of the cases in which the Initial-series values of dates are not recorded, they may be calculated by means of their distances from other dates, whose Initial-series values are known. This adding and subtracting of numbers to and from Initial Series[47] constitutes the application of the above-described arithmetical processes to the Long Count. Several examples of this use are given below.

Let us assume for the first case that the number 2.5.6.1 is to be counted forward from the Initial Series 9.0.0.0.0 8 Ahau 13 Ceh. By multiplying the values of the katuns, tuns, uinals, and kins given in Table XIII by their corresponding coefficients, in this case 2, 5, 6, and 1, respectively, and adding the resulting products together, we find that 2.5.6.1 reduces to 16,321 units of the first order.

Counting this forward from 8 Ahau 13 Ceh as indicated by the rules on pages 138-143, the terminal date 1 Imix 9 Yaxkin will be reached. [ 149 ] Moreover, since the Initial-series value of the starting point 8 Ahau 13 Ceh was 9.0.0.0.0, the Initial-series value of 1 Imix 9 Yaxkin, the terminal date, may be calculated by adding its distance from 8 Ahau 13 Ceh to the Initial-series value of that date:

9.0.0.0.0 (Initial-series value of starting point) 8 Ahau 13 Ceh
9.2.5.6.1 (distance from 8 Ahau 13 Ceh to 1 Imix 9 Yaxkin)
9.2.5.6.1 (Initial-series value of terminal date) 1 Imix 9 Yaxkin


That is, by calculation we have determined the Initial-series value of the particular 1 Imix 9 Yaxkin, which was distant 2.5.6.1 from 9.0.0.0.0 8 Ahau 13 Ceh, to be 9.2.5.6.1, notwithstanding that this fact was not recorded.

The student may prove the accuracy of this calculation by treating 9.2.5.6.1 1 Imix 9 Yaxkin as a new Initial Series and counting forward 9.2.5.6.1 from 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the starting point of all Initial Series known except two. If our calculations are correct, the former date will be reached just as if we had counted forward only 2.5.6.1 from 9.0.0.0.0 8 Ahau 13 Ceh.

In the above example the distance number 2.5.6.1 and the date 1 Imix 9 Yaxkin to which it reaches, together are called a Secondary Series. This method of dating already described (see pp. 74-76 et seq.) seems to have been used to avoid the repetition of the Initial-series values for all the dates in an inscription. For example, in the accompanying text—

9. 12. 2. 0. 16] 5 Cib 14 Yaxkin
12. 9. 15]
[9. 12. 14. 10. 11] [48]
[9. 12. 14. 10. 16] 1 Cib 14 Kankin
1. 0. 2. 5]
[9. 13. 14. 13. 1] 9 Chuen 9 Kankin

the only parts actually recorded are the Initial Series 9.12.2.0.16 [ 150 ] 5 Cib 14 Yaxkin, and the Secondary Series 12.9.15 leading to 9 Chuen 9 Kankin; the Secondary Series 5 leading to 1 Cib 14 Kankin; and the Secondary Series 1.0.2.5 leading to 5 Imix 19 Zac. The Initial-series values: 9.12.14.10.11; 9.12.14.10.16; and 9.13.14.13.1, belonging to the three dates of the Secondary Series, respectively, do not appear in the text at all (a fact indicated by the brackets), but are found only by calculation. Moreover, the student should note that in a succession of interdependent series like the ones just given the terminal date reached by one number, as 9 Chuen 9 Kankin, becomes the starting point for the next number, 5. Again, the terminal date reached by counting 5 from 9 Chuen 9 Kankin, that is, 1 Cib 14 Kankin, becomes the starting point from which the next number, 1.0.2.5, is counted. In other words, these terms are only relative, since the terminal date of one number will be the starting point of the next.

Let us assume for the next example, that the number 3.2 is to be counted forward from the Initial Series 9.12.3.14.0 5 Ahau 8 Uo. Reducing 3 uinals and 2 kins to kins, we have 62 units of the first order. Counting forward 62 from 5 Ahau 8 Uo, as indicated by the rules on pages 138-143, it is found that the terminal date will be 2 Ik 10 Tzec. Since the Initial-series value of the starting point 5 Ahau 8 Uo is known, namely, 9.12.3.14.0, the Initial Series corresponding to the terminal date may be calculated from it as before:

9. 12. 3. 14. 0] (Initial-series value of the starting point) 5 Ahau 8 Uo
3. 2] (distance from 5 Ahau 8 Uo forward to 2 Ik 10 Tzec)
[9. 12. 3. 17. 2] (Initial-series value of the terminal date) 2 Ik 10 Tzec

The bracketed 9.12.3.17.2 in the Initial-series value corresponding to the date 2 Ik 10 Tzec does not appear in the record but was reached by calculation. The student may prove the accuracy of this result by treating 9.12.3.17.2 2 Ik 10 Tzec as a new Initial Series, and counting forward 9.12.3.17.2 from 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu (the starting point of Maya chronology, unexpressed in Initial Series). If our calculations are correct, the same date, 2 Ik 10 Tzec, will be reached, as though we had counted only 3.2 forward from the Initial Series 9.12.3.14.0 5 Ahau 8 Uo.

One more example presenting a "backward count" will suffice to illustrate this method. Let us count the number 14.13.4.17 backward from the Initial Series 9.14.13.4.17 12 Caban 5 Kayab. Reducing 14.13.4.17 to units of the 1st order, we have 105,577. Counting this number backward from 12 Caban 5 Kayab, as indicated in the rules on pages 138-143, we find that the terminal date will be 8 Ahau 13 Ceh. Moreover, since the Initial-series value of the starting point 12 Caban 5 Kayab is known, namely, 9.14.13.4.17, the Initial-series value of [ 151 ] the terminal date may be calculated by subtracting the distance number 14.13.4.17 from the Initial Series of the starting point:

9. 14. 13. 4. 17] (Initial-series value of the starting point) 12 Caban 5 Kayab
14. 13. 4. 17] (distance from 12 Caban 5 Kayab backward to 8 Ahau 13 Ceh)
[9. 0. 0. 0. 0] (Initial-series value of the terminal date) 8 Ahau 13 Ceh

The bracketed parts are not expressed. We have seen elsewhere that the Initial Series 9.0.0.0.0 has for its terminal date 8 Ahau 13 Ceh; therefore our calculation proves itself.

The foregoing examples make it sufficiently clear that the distance numbers of Secondary Series may be used to determine the Initial-series values of Secondary-series dates, either by their addition to or subtraction from known Initial-series dates.

We have come now to the final step in the consideration of Maya numbers, namely, the identification of the terminal dates determined by the calculations given under the fourth step, pages 138-143. This step may be summed up as follows:

Fifth Step in Solving Maya Numbers

Find the terminal date to which the number leads.

As explained under the fourth step (pp. 138-143), the terminal date may be found by calculation. The above direction, however, refers to the actual finding of the terminal dates in the texts; that is, where to look for them. It may be said at the outset in this connection that terminal dates in the great majority of cases follow immediately the numbers which lead to them. Indeed, the connection between distance numbers and their corresponding terminal dates is far closer than between distance numbers and their corresponding starting points. This probably results from the fact that the closing dates of Maya periods were of far more importance than their opening dates. Time was measured by elapsed periods and recorded in terms of the ending days of such periods. The great emphasis on the closing date of a period in comparison with its opening date probably caused the suppression and omission of the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, the starting point of Maya chronology, in all Initial Series. To the same cause also may probably be attributed the great uniformity in the positions of almost all terminal dates, i.e., immediately after the numbers leading to them.

We may formulate, therefore, the following general rule, which the student will do well to apply in every case, since exceptions to it are very rare:

Rule. The terminal date reached by a number or series almost invariably follows immediately the last term of the number or series leading to it. [ 152 ]

This applies equally to all terminal dates, whether in Initial Series, Secondary Series, Calendar-round dating or Period-ending dating, though in the case of Initial Series a peculiar division or partition of the terminal date is to be noted.

Throughout the inscriptions, excepting in the case of Initial Series, the month parts of the dates almost invariably follow immediately the days whose positions in the year they designate, without any other glyphs standing between; as, for example, 8 Ahau 13 Ceh, 12 Caban 5 Kayab, etc. In Initial Series, on the other hand, the day parts of the dates, as 8 Ahau and 12 Caban, in the above examples, are almost invariably separated from their corresponding month parts, 13 Ceh or 5 Kayab, by several intervening glyphs. The positions of the day parts in Initial-series terminal dates are quite regular according to the terms of the above rule; that is, they follow immediately the lowest period of the number which in each case shows their distance from the unexpressed starting point, 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu. The positions of the corresponding month parts are, on the other hand, irregular. These, instead of standing immediately after the days whose positions in the year they designate, follow at the close of some six or seven intervening glyphs. These intervening glyphs have been called the Supplementary Series, though the count which they record has not as yet been deciphered.[49] The month glyph in the great majority of cases follows immediately the closing[50] glyph of the Supplementary Series. The form of this latter sign is always unmistakable (see fig. 65), and it is further characterized by its numerical coefficient, which can never be anything but 9 or 10.[51] See examples of this sign in the figure just mentioned, where both normal forms a, c, e, g, and h and head variants b, d, and f are included.

The student will find this glyph exceedingly helpful in locating the month parts of Initial-series terminal dates in the inscriptions. For example, let us suppose in deciphering the Initial Series 9.16.5.0.0 8 Ahau 8 Zotz that the number 9.16.5.0.0 has been counted forward [ 153 ] from 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu (the unexpressed starting point), and has been found by calculation to reach the terminal date 8 Ahau 8 Zotz; and further, let us suppose that on inspecting the text the day part of this date (8 Ahau) has been found to be recorded immediately after the 0 kins of the number 9.16.5.0.0. Now, if the student will follow the next six or seven glyphs until he finds one like any of the forms in figure 65, the glyph immediately following the latter sign will be in all probability the month part, 8 Zotz in the above example, of an Initial-series' terminal date. In other words, although the meaning of the glyph shown in the last-mentioned figure is unknown, it is important for the student to recognize its form, since it is almost invariably the "indicator" of the month sign in Initial Series.

Fig. 65. Sign for the "month indicator": a, c, e, g, h, Normal forms; b, d, f, head variants.

Fig. 65. Sign for the "month indicator": a, c, e, g, h, Normal forms; b, d, f, head variants.

In all other cases in the inscriptions, including also the exceptions to the above rule, that is, where the month parts of Initial-series terminal dates do not immediately follow the closing glyph of the Supplementary Series, the month signs follow immediately the day signs whose positions in the year they severally designate.

In the codices the month signs when recorded[52] usually follow immediately the days signs to which they belong. The most notable exception[53] to this general rule occurs in connection with the Venus-solar periods represented on pages 46-50 of the Dresden Codex, where one set of day signs is used with three different sets of month signs to form three different sets of dates. For example, in one place the day 2 Ahau stands above three different month signs—3 Cumhu, 3 Zotz, and 13 Yax—with each of which it is used to form a [ 154 ] different date—2 Ahau 3 Cumhu, 2 Ahau 3 Zotz, and 2 Ahau 13 Yax. In these pages the month signs, with a few exceptions, do not follow immediately the days to which they belong, but on the contrary they are separated from them by several intervening glyphs. This abbreviation in the record of these dates was doubtless prompted by the desire or necessity for economizing space. In the above example, instead of repeating the 2 Ahau with each of the two lower month signs, 3 Zotz and 13 Yax, by writing it once above the upper month sign, 3 Cumhu, the scribe intended that it should be used in turn with each one of the three month signs standing below it, to form three different dates, saving by this abbreviation the space of two glyphs, that is, double the space occupied by 2 Ahau.

With the exception of the Initial-series dates in the inscriptions and the Venus-Solar dates on pages 46-50 of the Dresden Codex, we may say that the regular position of the month glyphs in Maya writing was immediately following the day glyphs whose positions in the year they severally designated.

In closing the presentation of this last step in the process of deciphering numbers in the texts, the great value of the terminal date as a final check for all the calculations involved under steps 1-4 (pp. 134-151) should be pointed out. If after having worked out the terminal date of a given number according to these rules the terminal date thus found should differ from that actually recorded under step 5, we must accept one of the following alternatives:

1. There is an error in our own calculations; or

2. There is an error in the original text; or

3. The case in point lies without the operation of our rules.


It is always safe for the beginner to proceed on the assumption that the first of the above alternatives is the cause of the error; in other words, that his own calculations are at fault. If the terminal date as calculated does not agree with the terminal-date as recorded, the student should repeat his calculations several times, checking up each operation in order to eliminate the possibility of a purely arithmetical error, as a mistake in multiplication. After all attempts to reach the recorded terminal date by counting the given number from the starting point have failed, the process should be reversed and the attempt made to reach the starting point by counting backward the given number from its recorded terminal date. Sometimes this reverse process will work out correctly, showing that there must be some arithmetical error in our original calculations which we have failed to detect. However, when both processes have failed several times to connect the starting point with the recorded terminal date by use of the given number, there remains the possibility that either the starting point or the terminal date, or perhaps both, do not belong to the given number. The rules for determining this fact [ 155 ] have been given under step 2, page 135, and step 4, page 138. If after applying these to the case in point it seems certain that the starting point and terminal date used in the calculations both belong to the given number, we have to fall back on the second of the above alternatives, that is, that there is an error in the original text.

Although very unusual, particularly in the inscriptions, errors in the original texts are by no means entirely unknown. These seem to be restricted chiefly to errors in numerals, as the record of 7 for 8, or 7 for 12 or 17, that is, the omission or insertion of one or more bars or dots. In a very few instances there seem to be errors in the month glyph. Such errors usually are obvious, as will be pointed out in connection with the texts in which they are found (see Chapters V and VI).

If both of the above alternatives are found not to apply, that is, if both our calculations and the original texts are free from error, we are obliged to accept the third alternative as the source of trouble, namely, that the case in point lies without the operation of our rules. In such cases it is obviously impossible to go further in the present state of our knowledge. Special conditions presented by glyphs whose meanings are unknown may govern such cases. At all events, the failure of the rules under 1-4 to reach the terminal dates recorded as under 5 introduces a new phase of glyph study—the meaning of unknown forms with which the beginner has no concern. Consequently, when a text falls without the operation of the rules given in this chapter—a very rare contingency—the beginner should turn his attention elsewhere.


  1. The word "numeral," as used here, has been restricted to the first twenty numbers, 0 to 19, inclusive.
  2. See p. 96, footnote 1.
  3. In one case, on the west side of Stela E at Quirigua, the number 14 is also shown with an ornamental element (
    Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 88g.jpg
    *). This is very unusual and, so far as the writer knows, is the only example of its kind. The four dots in the numbers 4, 9, 14, and 19 never appear thus separated in any other text known.
  4. In the examples given the numerical coefficients are attached as prefixes to the katun sign. Frequently, however, they occur as superfixes. In such cases, however, the above observations apply equally well.
  5. Care should be taken to distinguish the number or figure 20 from any period which contained 20 periods of the order next below it; otherwise the uinal, katun, and cycle glyphs could all be construed as signs for 20, since each of these periods contains 20 units of the period next lower.
  6. The Maya numbered by relative position from bottom to top, as will be presently explained.
  7. This form of zero is always red and is used with black bar and dot numerals as well as with red in the codices.
  8. It is interesting to note in this connection that the Zapotec made use of the same outline in graphic representations of the tonalamatl. On page 1 of the Zapotec Codex Féjerváry-Mayer an outline formed by the 260 days of the tonalamatl exactly like the one in fig. 48, a, is shown.
  9. This form of zero has been found only in the Dresden Codex. Its absence from the other two codices is doubtless due to the fact that the month glyphs are recorded only a very few times in them—but once in the Codex Tro-Cortesiano and three times in the Codex Peresianus.
  10. The forms shown attached to these numerals are those of the day and month signs (see figs. 16, 17, and 19, 20, respectively), and of the period glyphs (see figs. 25-35, inclusive). Reference to these figures will explain the English translation in the case of any form which the student may not remember.
  11. The following possible exceptions, however, should be noted: In the Codex Peresianus the normal form of the tun sign sometimes occurs attached to varying heads, as (
    Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 96a.jpg
    *). Whether these heads denote numerals is unknown, but the construction of this glyph in such cases (a head attached to the sign of a time period) absolutely parallels the use of head-variant numerals with time-period glyphs in the inscriptions. A much stronger example of the possible use of head numerals with period glyphs in the codices, however, is found in the Dresden Codex. Here the accompanying head (
    Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 96b.jpg
    †) is almost surely that for the number 16, the hatchet eye denoting 6 and the fleshless lower jaw 10. Compare (†) with fig. 53, f-i, where the head for 16 is shown. The glyph (
    Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 96c.jpg
    ‡) here shown is the normal form for the kin sign. Compare fig. 34, b. The meaning of these two forms would thus seem to be 16 kins. In the passage in which these glyphs occur the glyph next preceding the head for 16 is "8 tuns," the numerical coefficient 8 being expressed by one bar and three dots. It seems reasonably clear here, therefore, that the form in question is a head numeral. However, these cases are so very rare and the context where they occur is so little understood, that they have been excluded in the general consideration of head-variant numerals presented above.
  12. It will appear presently that the number 13 could be expressed in two different ways: (1) by a special head meaning 13, and (2) by the essential characteristic of the head for 10 applied to the head for 3 (i. e., 10 + 3 = 13).
  13. For the discussion of Initial Series in cycles other than Cycle 9, see pp. 194-207.
  14. The subfixial element in the first three forms of fig. 54 does not seem to be essential, since it is wanting in the last.
  15. As previously explained, the number 20 is used only in the codices and there only in connection with tonalamatls.
  16. Whether the Maya used their numerical system in the inscriptions and codices for counting anything besides time is not known. As used in the texts, the numbers occur only in connection with calendric matters, at least in so far as they have been deciphered. It is true many numbers are found in both the inscriptions and codices which are attached to signs of unknown meaning, and it is possible that these may have nothing to do with the calendar. An enumeration of cities or towns, or of tribute rolls, for example, may be recorded in some of these places. Both of these subjects are treated of in the Aztec manuscripts and may well be present in Maya texts.
  17. The numerals and periods given in fig. 56 are expressed by their normal forms in every case, since these may be more readily recognized than the corresponding head variants, and consequently entail less work for the student. It should be borne in mind, however, that any bar and dot numeral or any period in fig. 56 could be expressed equally well by its corresponding head form without affecting in the least the values of the resulting numbers.
  18. There may be three other numbers in the inscriptions which are considerably higher (see pp. 114-127).
  19. These are: (1) The tablet from the Temple of the Cross at Palenque; (2) Altar 1 at Piedras Negras; and (3) The east side of Stela C at Quirigua.
  20. This case occurs on the tablet from the Temple of the Foliated Cross at Palenque.
  21. It seems probable that the number on the north side of Stela C at Copan was not counted from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu. The writer has not been able to satisfy himself, however, that this number is an Initial Series.
  22. Mr. Bowditch (1910: pp. 41-42) notes a seeming exception to this, not in the inscription, however, but in the Dresden Codex, in which, in a series of numbers on pp. 71-73, the number 390 is written 19 uinals and 10 kins, instead of 1 tun, 1 uinal, and 10 kins.
  23. That it was a Cycle 13 is shown from the fact that it was just 13 cycles in advance of Cycle 13 ending on the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu.
  24. See p. 156 and fig. 66 for method of designating the individual glyphs in a text.
  25. The kins are missing from this number (see A9, fig. 60). At the maximum, however, they could increase this large number only by 19. They have been used here as at 0.
  26. As will be explained presently, the kin sign is frequently omitted and its coefficient attached to the uinal glyph. See p. 127.
  27. Glyph A9 is missing but undoubtedly was the kin sign and coefficient.
  28. The lowest period, the kin, is missing. See A9, fig. 60.
  29. The use of the word "generally" seems reasonable here; these three texts come from widely separated centers—Copan in the extreme southeast, Palenque in the extreme west, and Tikal in the central part of the area.
  30. A few exceptions to this have been noted on pp. 127, 128.
  31. The Books of Chilan Balam have been included here as they are also expressions of the native Maya mind.
  32. This excludes, of course, the use of the numerals 1 to 13, inclusive, in the day names, and in the numeration of the cycles; also the numerals 0 to 19, inclusive, when used to denote the positions of the days in the divisions of the year, and the position of any period in the division next higher.
  33. Various methods and tables have been devised to avoid the necessity of reducing the higher terms of Maya numbers to units of the first order. Of the former, that suggested by Mr. Bowditch (1910: pp. 302-309) is probably the most serviceable. Of the tables Mr. Goodman's Archæic Annual Calendar and Archæic Chronological Calendar (1897) are by far the best. By using either of the above the necessity of reducing the higher terms to units of the first order is obviated. On the other hand, the processes by means of which this is achieved in each case are far more complicated and less easy of comprehension than those of the method followed in this book, a method which from its simplicity might be termed perhaps the logical way, since it reduces all quantities to a primary unit, which is the same as the primary unit of the Maya calendar. This method was first devised by Prof. Ernst Förstemann, and has the advantage of being the most readily understood by the beginner, sufficient reason for its use in this book.
  34. This number is formed on the basis of 20 cycles to a great cycle (20×144,000=2,880,000). The writer assumes that he has established the fact that 20 cycles were required to make 1 great cycle, in the inscriptions as well as in the codices.
  35. This is true in spite of the fact that in the codices the starting points frequently appear to follow—that is, they stand below—the numbers which are counted from them. In reality such cases are perfectly regular and conform to this rule, because there the order is not from top to bottom but from bottom to top, and, therefore, when read in this direction the dates come first.
  36. These intervening glyphs the writer believes, as stated in Chapter II, are those which tell the real story of the inscriptions.
  37. Only two exceptions to this rule have been noted throughout the Maya territory: (1) The Initial Series on the east side of Stela C at Quirigua, and (2) the tablet from the Temple of the Cross at Palenque. It has been explained that both of these Initial Series are counted from the date 4 Ahau 8 Zotz.
  38. In the inscriptions an Initial Series may always be identified by the so-called introducing glyph (see fig. 24) which invariably precedes it.
  39. Professor Förstemann has pointed out a few cases in the Dresden Codex in which, although the count is backward, the special character indicating the fact is wanting (fig. 64). (See Bulletin 28, p. 401.)
  40. There are a few cases in which the "backward sign" includes also the numeral in the second position.
  41. In the text wherein this number is found the date 4 Ahau 8 Camhu stands below the lowest term.
  42. It should be noted here that in the u kahlay katunob also, from the Books of Chilan Balam, the count is always forward.
  43. For transcribing the Maya numerical notation into the characters of our own Arabic notation Maya students have adopted the practice of writing the various terms from left to right in a descending series, as the units of our decimal system are written. For example, 4 katuns, 8 tuns, 3 uinals, and 1 kin are written 4.8.3.1; and 9 cycles, 16 katuns, 1 tun, 0 uinal, and 0 kins are written 9.16.1.0.0. According to this method, the highest term in each number is written on the left, the next lower on its right, the next lower on the right of that, and so on down through the units of the first, or lowest, order. This notation is very convenient for transcribing the Maya numbers and will be followed hereafter.
  44. The reason for rejecting all parts of the quotient except the numerator of the fractional part is that this part alone shows the actual number of units which have to be counted either forward or backward, as the count may be, in order to reach the number which exactly uses up or finishes the dividend—the last unit of the number which has to be counted.
  45. The student can prove this point for himself by turning to the tonalamatl wheel in pl. 5; after selecting any particular day, as 1 Ik for example, proceed to count 260 days from this day as a starting point, in either direction around the wheel. No matter in which direction he has counted, whether beginning with 13 Imix or 2 Akbal, the 260th day will be 1 Ik again.
  46. The student may prove this for himself by reducing 9.0.0.0.0 to days (1,296,000), and counting forward this number from the date 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu, as described in the rules on pages 138-143. The terminal date reached will be 8 Ahau 13 Ceh, as given above.
  47. Numbers may also be added to or subtracted from Period-ending dates, since the positions of such dates are also fixed in the Long Count, and consequently may be used as bases of reference for dates whose positions in the Long Count are not recorded.
  48. In adding two Maya numbers, for example 9.12.2.0.16 and 12.9.5, care should be taken first to arrange like units under like, as:
    9. 12. 2. 0. 16
    12. 9. 5
    ———————
    9. 12. 14. 10. 1

    Next, beginning at the right, the kins or units of the 1st place are added together, and after all the 20s (here 1) have been deducted from this sum, place the remainder (here 1) in the kin place. Next add the uinals, or units of the 2d place, adding to them 1 for each 20 which was carried forward from the 1st place. After all the 18s possible have been deducted from this sum (here 0) place the remainder (here 10) in the uinal place. Next add the tuns, or units of the 3d place, adding to them 1 for each 18 which was carried forward from the 2d place, and after deducting all the 20s possible (here 0) place the remainder (here 14) in the tun place. Proceed in this manner until the highest units present have been added and written below.

    Subtraction is just the reverse of the preceding. Using the same numbers:

    9. 12. 2. 0. 16
    12. 9. 5
    ———————
    9. 11. 9. 9. 11

    5 kins from 16 = 11; 9 uinals from 18 uinals (1 tun has to be borrowed) = 9; 12 tuns from 21 tuns (1 katun has to be borrowed, which, added to the 1 tun left in the minuend, makes 21 tuns) = 9 tuns; 0 katuns from 11 katuns (1 katun having been borrowed) = 11 katuns; and 0 cycles from 9 cycles = 9 cycles.

  49. The Supplementary Series present perhaps the most promising field for future study and investigation in the Maya texts. They clearly have to do with a numerical count of some kind, which of itself should greatly facilitate progress in their interpretation. Mr. Goodman (1897: p. 118) has suggested that in some way the Supplementary Series record the dates of the Initial Series they accompany according to some other and unknown method, though he offers no proof in support of this hypothesis. Mr. Bowditch (1910: p. 244) believes they probably relate to time, because the glyphs of which they are composed have numbers attached to them. He has suggested the name Supplementary Series by which they are known, implying in the designation that these Series in some way supplement or complete the meaning of the Initial Series with which they are so closely connected. The writer believes that they treat of some lunar count. It seems almost certain that the moon glyph occurs repeatedly in the Supplementary Series (see fig. 65).
  50. The word "closing" as used here means only that in reading from left to right and from top to bottom—that is, in the normal order—the sign shown in fig. 65 is always the last one in the Supplementary Series, usually standing immediately before the month glyph of the Initial-series terminal date. It does not signify, however, that the Supplementary Series were to be read in this direction, and, indeed, there are strong indications that they followed the reverse order, from right to left and bottom to top.
  51. In a few cases the sign shown in fig. 65 occurs elsewhere in the Supplementary Series than as its "closing" glyph. In such cases its coefficient is not restricted to the number 9 or 10.
  52. In the codices frequently the month parts of dates are omitted and starting points and terminal dates alike are expressed as days only; thus, 2 Ahau, 5 Imix, 7 Kan, etc. This is nearly always the case in tonalamatls and in certain series of numbers in the Dresden Codex.
  53. Only a very few month signs seem to be recorded in the Codex Tro-Cortesiano and the Codex Peresianus. The Tro-Cortesiano has only one (p. 73b), in which the date 13 Ahau 13 Cumhu is recorded thus (
    Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 153a-c.jpg
    *). Compare the month form in this date with fig. 20, z-b'. Mr. Gates (1910: p. 21) finds three month signs in the Codex Peresianus, on pp. 4, 7, and 18 at 4c7, 7c2, and 18b4, respectively. The first of these is 16 Zac (
    Maya Hieroglyphs Sidenote 153d.jpg
    **). Compare this form with fig. 20, o. The second is 1 Yaxkin (†). Compare this form with fig. 20, i-j. The third is 12 Cumhu (††); see fig. 20, z-b'.