The cosmos has, since time immemorial, been a source of wonder and contemplation. Different cultures have gazed upon this vast expanse, hoping to decode its mysteries and understand its implications for human life. The Western Zodiac and the Mayan Tzolk'in are two such intricate systems that have arisen from this celestial curiosity. But how do these astrological charts from disparate worlds connect, and where do they diverge?

Old sky map

Shared Origins in Nature's Patterns:

Similarities...

1. Rooted in Observation: Both systems are primarily observational. The Western Zodiac is based on the movement of the sun through the constellations over a year, while the Tzolk'in is tied to the natural cycles, including the agricultural rhythms and lunar periods.

2. Archetypal Symbols: At their core, both the Zodiac and Tzolk'in offer archetypal symbols that aim to describe human nature and life experiences. Be it the balancing scales of Libra or the nurturing essence of the sign Aj (Reed), these systems provide frameworks to understand oneself and the world.

3. Predictive and Reflective: Both systems are utilized to forecast events, assess compatibility, and provide introspective insights, guiding individuals on their life paths.

Differences...

1. Calendar Construction: The Western Zodiac divides the year into twelve months based on the solar cycle, with each sign corresponding to a month. In contrast, the Tzolk'in operates on a 260-day calendar, representing a combination of 20 day-signs and 13 galactic numbers.

2. Cultural Significance: The Western Zodiac, with its Greco-Roman roots, is rife with myths and stories from this pantheon. The Tzolk'in, on the other hand, plays a significant role in the Mayan cosmology, deeply intertwined with their rituals, ceremonies, and understanding of time.

3. Complexity and Layers: While both systems are complex in their own right, the Mayan system layers the 20 day-signs with 13 numbers, leading to a nuanced and intricate reading. The Western Zodiac, though detailed, tends to be more linear in its approach, focusing on planetary positions within the 12 signs.

A carved Mayan calendar on textured background

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Intertwining Narratives:

Beyond the basic structural comparisons, there's a deeper narrative interplay. Both the Western Zodiac and the Mayan Tzolk'in provide not just a means of divination but also a lens through which civilizations understand the universe's structure. They both hint at an ancient belief: As above, so below.

The Western Zodiac and the Mayan Tzolk'in, though sprung from distinct roots, share the human desire to understand and connect with the cosmos. They encapsulate a civilization's efforts to explain life, destiny, and the universe's greater design. Whether one is drawing parallels between a sun sign and a day-sign or merely appreciating them as separate entities, the beauty lies in the realization that our ancestors, though miles apart, gazed at the same skies with wonder, hope, and reverence.

The ancient Mayans were a highly advanced civilization, with a rich culture that included many different aspects of art, architecture, and spirituality. One area in which the Mayans excelled was in their understanding of astronomy and mathematics. This allowed them to create a highly accurate calendars.

The Maya had many calendars, but the one that interests many people today is their spiritual calendar the Tzol’kin or Chol’qi.

The 260 day calendar is a sacred tradition that has been passed down through the generations. It is an important part of understanding who you are and where you come from. Our readings are straight from the source, so you can be sure that you’re getting the most accurate information possible.

Discovering your birthday’s meaning can be life-changing. It can help you to understand yourself better and give you direction for your future. With our authentic readings, we can help you do just that.

Go to our home page to find out your Mayan Calendar Birth Sign!

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260 Days

Maya sun

The Tzol'kin calendar is a sacred 260-day calendar that is still used by some Mayan communities today. Each day on the calendar is represented by a unique combination of a day sign and a number. The 20 day signs represent different archetypal energies, while the 13 numbers represent different numeral impulses. Together, these create a unique message or personality for each day.

If you're interested in learning more about the Tzol'kin calendar, be sure to sign up for a membership at mayanday.com. You'll have access to exclusive content where we explore the meanings of each day sign and how they can be used to guide your life path.

Nawals

The days of the Tzol’kin calendar are considered to be spirits or structures of consciousness. They are referred to by the Maya as “Nawals”. At their core they are archetypal concepts that have a multitude of meanings that coexist within the day.

The Tzol’kin is made up of two parts, the 20 nominal “Nawals” and the 13 numeral “Nawals”. The nominal “Nawals” represent archetypal nature  like the Deer, or  Road, Wind, and Knowledge. The numeral “Nawals” represent impulses or intenitions of water

The 20 Archetypal Nawls

1. Ahau/Junajpu – Sun / Ruling Energy: Leadership, abundance, vitality

2. Imix/Imox – Crocodile / Nurturing Energy: new beginnings, water, craziness

3. Ik/Iq – Wind / Spirit Energy: breath, communications, anger

4. Akbal/Aq’ab’al – Night / Mystical Energy: light, duality, dream

5. Kan/Kat – Net / Work Energy: fuel, net, debt

6. Chicchan/Kan – Serpent / Wisdom Energy: Illusion, wisdom, lightning

7. Cimi/Kame – Death / Ancestral Energy: community, oppression in the heart, Ancestors

8. Manik/Kej – Deer/ Forest Energy: Journey, strength, eating

9. Lamat/Q’anil – Rabbit / Intoxicated Energy: beauty, abundance, vice, rotting

10. Muluc/Toj – Fire / Emotional Healing Energy: cleansing emotions, forgiveness , compassion

11. Oc/Tzi – Dog / Loyalty Energy: faithfulness , protection , guard against negativity

12. Chuen/Batz – Monkey / Creative Energy : fun-loving , creative tricks , spirit guide connections

13. Eb/Ee – Road / Traveler's Energy : new horizons , change , unexpected adventures

14 . Ben/Aj - Reed / Barker's energy : prophecy , heralding messages from Spirit Guides

15 . Ix/Ix Balam - Jaguar / Shaman's energy : shape-shifting into other realms for clarity & healing

16 . Men/Tz’ikin - Eagle / Warrior's energy : clear vision , soaring above challenges , strength in adversity

17 . Cib/Ajmaq - Vulture / Courageous Energy : cycles of life & death ; Transition ; karmic balance

18 . Caban/Noj - Knowledge / Logistical Energy : grounding stability amidst change ; sense of place

19 . Eznab/Tijax - Knife / Mirror Energy: cutting through illusions to see truth sharpness; criticism with love

20 . Cauac/Kawuq - Storm / Healing Energy: the illuminated clouds that represents an inner vision.

The 13 Numeral Nawals

  1. Jun- Invitation, beginning

  2. Keb- Duality, Calculation

  3. Oxib- Action, Home

  4. Kajib- Stability, Attachment, Stagnant

  5. Job- Breakthrough, to Find

  6. Wakib- Heart, Weighing

  7. Wuqub- Reflection, Explosion

  8. Wajxaquib- Order, Return,

  9.  Belejeb- Hidden, Transformation

  10. Lajuj- Meeting, Manifestation

  11. Julajuj- Resolution, Liberation

  12. Kablajuj- Understanding, Extra

  13. Oxlajuj- Ancestral, the Biggest

Trecena

The concept of Trecena explores the idea of the matching of these two groups of “Nawals”. Trecena, which references the 13 numeral “Nawals”, is the 13 day week period that the 20 archetypal “Nawals” phase through.

This combination of “Nawals” creates 260 unique days and 20 different Trecenas. Depending on which Maya lineage, the name of the Trecena is either the first or the last day. The Yucatec Maya used the first day as the name of trecena, where as the Kiche Maya use the last day.

This concept of Trecena has been passed down through oral tradition, but never referenced in Maya stelae.

Find Out More

At Mayanday.com our new Interactive Trecena Analysis tool will help you understand the real meaning of the Mayan Calendar. This knowledge has been preserved by the K'ichi' Maya in the highlands of Guatemala and Maya of the Yucatán Peninsula.

View the Trecena in its entirety, as well as each individual day, with our new Interactive Trecena Analysis tool. You won't find anything like it anywhere else!

By signing up for a membership at mayanday.com, you'll have access to this exclusive content that explores the meanings of each day sign and how they can be used to guide your life path.

 

Map

Map of Mesoamerica

The Maya civilization was spread throughout Southern Mexico and Central America. What was once ancient Mesoamerica, is now modern day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and parts of El Salvador. In this article we will discuss the locations of the most famous Mayan pyramids.

Yucatan Peninsula (the Mayan Riviera)

Pyramids

Tulum

The area in Mexico known as the Yucatan Peninsula was once a major center for the Mayan civilization. The first Maya were here long before the Spanish came, beginning along side the Olmec, and Toltec civilization.

Overlooking the ocean cliffs, Tulum flourished in the post-classic period between the 13th and 15th century,  Tulum in Mayan means "wall", and was a major trading port for the Maya in this area.

 

How Old Mayan Pyramids Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

This is one of the most famous pyramids in the Yucatán Peninsula, Chichén Itzá. The name of the pyramid is technically Temple of Kukulkan, but has been popularly named "El Castillo".

Why is the pyramid so important?

The position of the pyramid is so precise that every equinox, the light from the sun creates a lighting effect on the pyramid. This effect creates the illusion of a serpent descending from the sky along the edge of the pyramid. The pyramid was literally a giant physical calendar for the Maya.

During the late Classic period, Chichen Itza was a key focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands. The site features a variety of structures, pyramids to ball courts. Thirteen ball courts have been discovered by archaeologists.

 

 

Chiapas, Mexico

Palenque

Palenque

The Palenque ruins lie on the edge of the jungle of Guatemala in the state of Chiapas in the south-west of Mexico. These immense pyramids are some of the most important Mayan monuments in Mexico.

Palenque is the home to some of the most important discoveries in Mayan archaeology. King Pakal, who's tomb was found inside the great Temple of the Inscriptions, ruled Palenque in the 6th century. During his reign he commissioned a massive building campaign, which has been preserved so well compared to other sites. His son Kan Balam, continued the building frenzy with the famous cross group of temples.

Tonina - Chiapas, Mexico

West of Palenque resides the site of Tonina, who were famous enemies of Palenque. Famous for it's massive terraces, stucco sculptures, and war like reputation.

Tonina is a far trek from any major city in Chiapas, sitting close to 3000 ft. above sea level in the Chiapas highlands.

Tikal - Northern Lowlands of Guatemala

Tikal

Temple of the Jaguar at Tikal

In the northern lowlands of Guatemala is the great site of Tikal.

How to Get to the Pyramids

The best way to explore Mayan sites in Mexico, is to base yourself out of one city for a few days while you explore the neighboring sites.

In Chiapas, Palenque is a great base camp to visit many sites. The city itself has the famous Palenque site, just down the road about ten minutes. From Palenque, you can book day trips to Yax Chilan, Bonampak, Tonina, and also many waterfalls like Agua Azul and Misol Ha.

In the Yucatan, you can either stay on the coast in Cancun or Inland in Merida. In-between these two major cities is Chichen Itza, which is a good day trip. There are many busses and van type tour companies you can book.

South of Merida is Uxmal, which is a very amazing Mayan site famous for the "magicians pyramid".

South of Cancun is Tulum, the Mayan pyramids overlooking the ocean.

Flores, Guatemala is another great base camp for exploring Mayan sites. The city of Flores is on Lake Peten, and has a very European vibe with its cobblestone streets and restaurants.

North of Flores is Tikal, which you can do in a day, but the bus ride is long so it is recommended to stay a night at the site in one of the hotels.

El Mirador, El Zotz, Yaxha  are some more adventures you can do out of Flores.

In this article we will discuss how the techniques and materials that the Pre-Columbian Maya of Mesoamerica used to build their pyramids and create great cities. We will also outline a few of the reasons such monumental architecture was constructed, as well as the meaning that could have been imbued in these buildings. 

What Is a Pyramid?

Tikal

Temple of the Jaguar at Tikal

The definition of a pyramid can be summed up as a structure or monument which usually has four sides and rises to a triangular point at the summit. When discussing pyramids, the first to usually enter the minds eye are those of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. After that the grand structures of the Maya may be thought of, but in truth the only similarity those buildings have with those found in Egypt is the name. And some archaeologists don’t even want to refer to the Maya structures as pyramids!

The biggest reason for this desire to change terminology is because the main use of pyramids, at least for Egypt and the popular knowledge, is as grand royal tombs. The Maya did occasionally use their pyramids as places to bury their royals, but usually that was not the original or sole use of the structure. Instead, they were most often used as temples, with rooms or buildings on the central stairway or at the summit being the place of ceremony or ritual. When the pyramids were used for burials, they became funerary temples. In Egypt, the Great Pyramids had entirely different buildings and complexes where worship would take place. 

How did the Maya build their Pyramids?

Everyone has seen drawings, cartoons, or other witty drawings showing the Egyptians pulling large sandstone blocks which they then piled together to form the Great Pyramid. Because of the prevalence of those images, it’s easy to think that that is how all ancient pyramids were built.

However, the Maya had completely different kind of construction techniques! Maya pyramids are made of a series of square or rectangular terraces that come to a flat surface or building at the summit. The terraced construction gives these pyramids a stepped look, but the top was reached from a dedicated stairway, usually found along the center of the front face. Limestone was the main construction material, as that forms the bedrock for most of the Maya world.

To build the terraces, a construction fill made of limestone (varying in sizes from small pebbles to boulder sizes), soil, plaster, and occasionally residential garbage (such as broken pottery, bones, and other refuse) was used. This would be used to create the bulk of the building, with limestone rocks would be used to create a construction-pen wall. These walls didn’t have to be completely solid, just strong enough to hold back the earth as it was layered together.

The walls that would become that faces of the structure would be more solid and even. These walls would then be covered by precisely cut limestone blocks and held together with limestone plaster. The plaster was made by burning limestone and water, creating a paste that cooled into a hard state. Plaster would hold the blocks together, as well as be used to cover them and then be decorated with paint or carved.

Mayan Pyramid

Uxmal

Uxmal

Renovating Maya Pyramids

Once a pyramid was built, it was very rarely ever left alone. Unlike the Egyptian pyramids, which were built for one ruler and then stayed that way, Maya pyramids, temples, and palaces were constantly undergoing renovations and/or remodeling. This was done for both practical and ideological purposes. 

If there were any rooms within the pyramid, they were built using a corbel vaulted arch, which isn’t a true arch. As such, it results in long narrow rooms with a more triangular shaped roof. Because of that, they are not very structurally sound. Once a new ruler was in power, they would often have those rooms filled, and new layers of construction built over top, with construction fill placed before a new face. As such, when archaeologists excavate pyramids, they can see these different layers. If there are pottery inclusions within the construction fill, these different layers can even be dated.

Along with more practical safety reasons, rulers would renovate or remodel pyramids as an expression of their authority and as a way to honor the rulers (often their ancestors) who came before them. It would keep the building looking new and an active place of activity. When the pyramids stopped being remodeled, it wouldn’t take long before they stopped being used at all. Often, when a new ruling dynasty took charge or a city, they would completely bury older pyramids and structures as a means to erase previous rulers. 

Maya Pyramids

Palenque Pyramids Cross Sun and Foliated Cross

Temple of the Sun

Maya pyramids vary greatly in design, sizes, and uses depending on location and the time when they were built. They can even vary within the same city! The Maya civilization is ancient, lasting from before 2000 BCE to 1542 CE, so it stands to reason that styles and fashion changed over time. For example, in the Preclassic Period (1000 BCE -  300 CE) it was common for pyramids to be massive mountain-looking structures. The sheer size was more important than the height. In the Classic Period (300 CE – 900 CE) height become more fashionable, at least in cities like Tikal. There would still be variation depending on the city and the time it was constructed. 

Maya pyramids, like any kind of monumental architecture, can mean many things. By building such massive structures, the rulers who ordered the work done are showing the power and authority they have. They would also be showing their wealth, as they could afford the time and labor involved. 

There is also a great deal of ideological meaning behind them as well. Archaeologists believe that the Maya viewed their pyramids as man-made mountains, and as such, were holy places that connected the three levels of the world – the heavens, the earth, the underworld. As such, they were important places for worship, ceremony, and ritual. 

But it wasn’t the pyramid alone that was important. Often a temple sat at the summit, where such activities took place, though there still needed to be people to act as witnesses. That is why the large open courtyard spaces surrounding the pyramids were equally as important as the building itself. It was from there that the cities population would gather to witness and participate in important ceremonies.

Conclusion

Maya pyramids are very different from Egyptian pyramids. They were built differently, used differently, and had a much different kind of life history. It could be argued that the only ways they are the same is how we call them both pyramids. Maybe it is time to change our terminology. 

Maya

Mayan Temple

Can a civilization like the Mayans exist for thousands of years without collapse? Could it be possible to exist for that long and not collapse? What killed off this long living and powerful people? Was it a great flood? Volcanic eruption? Climate change or something else? What caused them to mysteriously vanish?

What caused the Mayan civilization to collapse? So many mysteries come from the Mayan civilization. 

Decline

The Mayans started to slowly fade away in what we call the Post Classic period. The fall of major cities like Tikal in Mesoamerica began at the end of the 8th century A.D. 

Tikal

Temple of the Jaguar

The Mayans thankfully were obsessed with time and carved important dates in stone monuments called “Stelae”. This has helped give archeologists a rough timeline of their history. Stela 11, erected in 869 A.D is the last known dated monument in Tikal.

After the fall of Tikal, other mayan cities followed. The prominent city Tonina, who dominated a large region of Mesoamerica, eventually declined and was abandoned. 

This decline marks the end of the Classic Period of the Maya, and the beginning of what we call the Post Classic Period, lasting from 900 A.D to 1521 A.D.

In this period the Toltecs, Mixtecs, and Aztecs begin to carve out their corner in history, while one of the last cities of the Maya is founded. Mayapan was founded in the northern part of the Yucatan around 1200 A.D, this was the center of the Post Classic Maya. Eventually collapsing in the late 14th century A.D. 

The decline of the Mayans was spread out over the region and its timeline. Each city state may have had different reasons for collapse. The eventual arrival of the Spanish cemented the Maya civilization in the past, leaving many questions unanswered.  

Overpopulation

There were likely several problems at the start of their decline.

One of the major theories is that the Mayan civilization began to collapse in a series of events which came as a result of overpopulation and overconsumption of resources. 

The ruins of Tikal, one of the largest Mayan cities, are an indication that the Mayans were once very densely populated. New scans of the jungle surrounding the site have revealed tens of thousands of new structures, a massive amount of roadways, and irrigation systems. Now archaeologists are saying that this city at one time held around 10 million people. 

Tikal

Temple II at Tikal

This overpopulation in Tikal, and neighboring cities such as Palenque, and Copan, may have been the main cause of collapse for the classic period of Maya Civilization. 

The living conditions at the height of Tikal are unknown, but they were masters at agriculture and enjoyed plenty of luxuries for such an ancient civilization. 

The real reason for collapse may be more suitably linked to war, and political change. The Mayans ritually made war with each other, and the evidence of this is widely spread throughout Mesoamerican history. The Maya are known to have taken slaves and prisoners in warfare.

What We Know about the Maya

Their Civilization began in around 600 B.C. in what is now the Yucatan, and lowland jungles of Guatemala.

The Maya inhabited a large part of what is now Guatemala and Mexico, but they had also occupied present-day Belize, Honduras, El Salvador.They were the dominant culture in Mesoamerica.

Before the Spanish Conquest, the Mayans had a highly developed civilization. The Mayans had unique artworks, architecture, and pottery techniques.

The Mayans had a sophisticated calendar system, they tracked celestial events like the solstices and equinox. They had calendars that tracked the phases of the planets. 

It is known that the Maya had a widespread trade network, but the extent of this trade is not completely known.

The Maya were able to construct a vast city that covered massive areas, likely unsurpassed by any other ancient civilization.

The Maya were skilled stone workers who developed new techniques for carving. Mayan cities were built using pre-made bricks made from limestone.

The Mayan civilization went through an amazing amount of growth during its 3000 year span. However, there were also very important changes during this period.

The Classic Mayan period was the period in the history of this civilization which saw a dramatic rise in the size of its population.

the Mayans had mastered a complex calendar system and developed writing. They are also famously known for understanding the mathematical concept of zero. 

The Mayans are undoubtedly one of the world’s first great civilizations.

Descendants 

Maya

Mayan Market

The Mayan people are still alive today. So the civilization hasn’t completely collapsed or ended. They cary on ancient traditions inherited from their ancestors. They even speak the same language, their ancestors did thousands of years ago.

Archaeologists continue to unearth new discoveries, some that are now changing our whole perspective on the Maya. 

Origin of the Mayan Civilization

The Mayans were an ancient civilization which existed thousands of years ago. They populated the regions of the Yucatán Peninsula, southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and a part of El Salvador.

They dominated these regions for thousands of years, building huge cities and enormous pyramids. Experts in Math and Astronomy, they excelled in agriculture and trade, and they even developed a very unique writing and number system, not to mention their calendrical systems. 

Maya

Stone Jaguar Heads

The Mayans developed a sophisticated literary culture, and many of their monuments and religious ceremonies are of great archaeological significance.

Archaeologists are now discovering even more astonishing things about the Maya, underneath the overgrowth of the jungle. The Maya left behind quite a mystery for the future to uncover…

Timeline

There is still debate about an exact timeline for the Maya, as new discoveries keep changing the history. A general consensus is that the earliest Mayan villages in Central America and Mexico, are dated back to as early as 2500 B.C. 

Great waring city states were established, and the Maya civilization prospered for thousands of years. 

Just before the Spanish arrived in Mesoamerica, the Maya began to disperse. This is a big mystery in the history and understanding of the civilization. 

 

The Mayans became the dominant power in Mesoamerica in the second half of the first millennium A.D. But the Maya were not the first civilization to emerge in this ancient land.

Pre Maya 

Before the Mayans established their Civilization, The Olmec and Zapotec people made their mark. The Olmec famous for their enormous stone heads, lived in southeastern Mexico, what is now the modern state of Tabasco. 

Olmec

Olmec Stone Head

La Venta is one famous site left by the Olmec, dating to around 1100 B.C. they left behind many amazing giant sculptures, pyramids, and monuments. Archaeologists say that the Olmec date back to about 1500 B.C.

The Zapotec culture, dating to around 700 B.C, pre date the Maya. They ruled in the region that is now Oaxaca Mexico. One major site the Zapotec built, is a large pyramid complex called Monte Alban. 

Piecing together the chronology of the city through pottery, archaeologists have pieced together 2000 years of history for this ancient city. Divided into 5 parts of history, this one city in Oaxaca Mexico has a rich and deep past. 

Pre Classic

Generally the Pre Classic period for the Maya describes the civilizations beginning. From settlers to villages, the Maya began to establish their culture. They begin constructing their first ceremonial city’s and temples.

Around 750 B.C the Mayans establish their first city Nakbe in the northern Guatemalan lowlands. Nakbe is just a few kilometers south of the recently heralded El Miradaor, site and its massive pyramid La Danta.

One of the most famous Mayan archaeological sites, Tikal, was constructed in the Pre Classic period around the 4th century B.C. It is towards the end of the Pre Classic period the Maya start erecting massive cities all over southern Mexico and Central America. 

Classic Period

The Classic Period of the Maya is when the civilization flourished. 

In this period of Mayan history, many major city states battled with each other for power over certain regions.

King Pakal and his lineage start to build amazing temples at Palenque in the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico. Including the temple of inscriptions, the palace, and the temple of the cross group. The history of Palenque stretches from 226 B.C. to 799 A.D. 

Palenque

Palenque

Although not as big as other Mayan sites like Tikal. Palenque is known for its massive amounts of monuments, glyphs, and reliefs that were preserved so well. It’s lineages of rulers also added to the history of Palenque. Including the famous Pakal, who ruled Palenque for 68 years. 

Tikal one of the biggest Mayan sites known today, was a powerful city state in the Classic Period. Tikal reigned over a large part of the Guatemala lowlands and part of Mexico during its rule. 

Many cities all over Mesoamerica flourished in this period.

Copan in Honduras

Bonampak in southern Mexico

Chichen Itza and Uxmal in the Yucatan 

After the flowering of the Classic Period, the Maya began to gradually fall…

Post Classic Period 

Mayapan one of the last city’s of the Maya was built in the late Post Classic period around 1220 A.D. The city contains thousands of structures. Eventually abandoned in the middle of the 14th century. 

There are many theories of why the Maya abandoned their cities. Some say overpopulation, some say drought or war, but we still do not know exactly why.

Maya

Mayan Ruins

After thousands of years the Mayan civilization passed into history. The ancient settlements vanished, but traces of their existence in the form of structures are being discovered every year.

Did the ancient Mayans have a longer recorded history than previously thought? With the new discoveries, archaeologists are now claiming that the Mayans may have solidified their culture in the Pre Classic period.

New Discoveries 

Using LIDAR, a light detection and ranging technology. Archaeologists have been able to see through the jungle from above and scan the forest floor. 

This technology has changed the whole perception of the Mayan city Tikal. Archaeologists are now saying that ten to fifteen million people once lived in this region. 

LIDAR has revealed numerous previously undiscovered structures. Leading to new theories about the Maya.

The Maya People Still Live

The Ancient Mayans are gone, but the Maya people still live in modern day Central America, and Mexico. They carry on their past with oral tradition and ceremony. 

Traveling through the Yucatan and Guatemala, one can see the Maya people are still here.

Conclusion

Thankfully the Mayans were obsessed with their calendars and recording the dates of major events. They recorded astrological events, war related events, they also preserved lineages and recorded the dates kings and queens would ascend to the throne.

The history of the Mayan civilization survived on pottery locked away in secret burial chambers, hidden inside the pyramids. Survived on large carved monuments called “stela”, and the remaining codices that escaped the cultural destruction by the  Spanish.

Preserved by time and the aggressive jungle, hiding pyramids and almost the whole civilization under the trees. 

The Pre-Hispanic Mayan culture was the most advanced ancient civilization on the American continent, and existed for over 2,000 years from 800 BC to 1440 AD.

How Old Is The Mayan Calendar: Tracing Its Origins and Influence

Introduction

If you've ever dabbled in ancient history or astrology, you've probably heard of the Mayan calendar. But how old is it, really? How does it compare to the Gregorian calendar that we use today? For those familiar with the zodiac, you may find some parallels in the Mayan system as well. Let's dig into the rich history and multifaceted aspects of this remarkable timekeeping system.

Unveiling the Age

The Mayan calendar is believed to have originated around the 5th century BCE, although some scholars argue it could be even older. With its roots stretching back over 2,500 years, it is one of the oldest calendars known to humanity. The Mayan civilization reached its peak between 250 and 900 CE, but their intricate system of time measurement has survived the test of time.

The Tzolk'in and Haab'

Much like the zodiac is divided into twelve signs, the sacred Mayan calendar, known as the Tzolk'in, comprises 260 days divided into 20 day signs. Each day is associated with a unique combination of one of the 20 day signs and a number from 1 to 13, similar to how each zodiac sign is associated with specific periods and characteristics.

In addition to the Tzolk'in, the Mayans also used a solar calendar, known as the Haab', which consists of 365 days. The interlocking of these two calendars forms a Calendar Round, completing every 52 Haab' years.

Beyond Astrology: Spiritual and Practical Applications

In Mayan culture, the Tzolk'in serves both astrological and practical purposes. The day of one's birth in the Tzolk'in defines their individual strengths and weaknesses, similar to the way astrological signs are believed to influence one's personality in Western culture. Moreover, the Mayan calendar guided agricultural activities and ritual ceremonies, demonstrating its multipurpose nature.

Mayan Calendar in Modern Times

Remarkably, the Mayan calendar is not just a relic of the past; it is still used in some Mayan communities today. Its enduring influence speaks volumes about its scientific accuracy and spiritual profundity. The Mayan calendar has also captured the imagination of New Age communities, historians, and astrologers alike, drawing comparisons to zodiac-based astrology and other ancient timekeeping systems.

The Gregorian Comparison

The Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, is solar-based and aimed at civil timekeeping. While it serves primarily practical purposes, the Mayan calendar's role is both spiritual and practical. Like the zodiac, which has filtered into popular culture, the Mayan calendar transcends its original scope, providing layers of complexity and meaning that extend beyond the calculation of days.

Conclusion

The Mayan calendar's age-old wisdom and intricate structure make it a subject of continual study and fascination. Its origins may date back thousands of years, but its relevance remains intact in various contemporary circles. As we strive to understand time and our place within it, the Mayan calendar serves as a compelling guide, offering insights that are both ancient and evergreen.

Poking out of the lush green canopies of the Mayan jungles, are ancient ominous limestone structures. Rivaling the Pyramids of Egypt in size and in number, these overwhelming temples are still shrouded in mystery. These are the Mayan Pyramids. 

The Mayan pyramids are some of the largest and oldest structures in the world. Unlike the pyramids in Egypt, Mayan pyramids are ziggurat like step pyramids. With over 4,400 known mayan sites throughout Mexico and Central America, the Maya left a permanent mark in history. 

How Old Are the Mayan Pyramids?

Mayan Pyramids How Old

Tzol'kin Mayan Calendar

The Mayans civilization stretched over the span of thousands of years. Many kings and queens would go off on construction campaigns.

When the Mayan pyramids were first discovered, the pyramids had weathered severely. Some completely covered by the jungle, you would not even know you were standing on a pyramid. 

Many of the Mayan pyramids were built at different times. All over the Maya peninsula, there are cities that have still not been discovered.

Even well known Mayan archaeological sites continue to reveal more and more about the mysterious Mayans. Archaeologists are still uncovering new structures deep in the jungle, and the established knowledge and timeline is changing.

So how old are the Mayan pyramids? To answer this question, one needs to understand that the Mayan civilization was comprised of city states that were constantly at war with one another. City’s would rise and fall, change rulership, and literally be built on top of each other. 

Chichen Itza

How Old Mayan Pyramids Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

For example at Chichen Itza the famous pyramid “El Castillo” was built or enhanced onto an existing pyramid the Maya had built centuries previous. 

Archaeologists dub this former pyramid the substructure, and it is said to be built somewhere around 600 A.D. Hundreds of years later around 900 A.D the Maya complete the pyramid in honor of the god “Kukulkan”, which is the Mayan version of the Aztec god “Quetzalcoatl”. 

The Pyramid itself is a calendar. With a total number of 365 steps, representing their solar calendar “The Haab”. The temple also tracks the spring and autumn equinoxes, and is positioned so perfectly that on these two days triangles of light illuminate the staircase to form what looks like a serpent crawling down the pyramid from the sky.

Pyramids of Palenque

Ancient Palenque City

Palenque

In the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico lies one of the most beautiful mayan sites. Famous for its history of rulers, monuments and detailed inscriptions. Some of the city’s earlier structures date back to around 226 B.C. 

Temple of Inscriptions 

Palenque Pyramid

Temple of Inscriptions

Built by the infamous Lord Pakal around 675 A.D in the late Classic period, this massive 9 level pyramid gets its name from the many detailed inscriptions. At the top of the temple like platform, carved into the stone is 180 years of Palenque’s history. The pyramid houses a tomb where Pakal’s body is encased in an elaborate sarcophagus. 

Temple of the Cross, Sun, and Foliated Cross

Palenque Pyramids Cross Sun and Foliated Cross

Temple of the Sun

After Pakal’s death his son Kan Bahlam erected the three temples, to commemorate his lineage. Constructed in 692 A.D, these three pyramids all facing a central court yard are very unique.

Pyramids at Tikal

jaguar, stains, look

Jaguar

In the Guatemalan lowland jungles, the Mayans built an enormous city. Tikal was a massive city state that reigned for centuries. Flourishing in the classic period from around 200 A.D to 900A.D. 

Recent discoveries of raised highways and aqueducts, are rewriting the history books about this ancient city. Archaeologists are now saying that the area was home to close to ten million people. 

Tens of thousands of structures hidden by the jungle overgrowth still remain uncovered. 

Temple of the Jaguar

Guatemala Pyramid Jaguar Temple

Temple of the Jaguar

Tikal’s Temple of the Jaguar was constructed around 732 A.D. The temple is 180 ft tall and has 9 levels, representing the nine levels of the Mayan underworld Xibalba. 

Jasaw Chan K’awiil ruled Tikal in the Classic period, and was buried the Temple of the Jaguar’s tomb. 

The temple gets its name from a carving of a king sitting on a jaguar throne. Ironically enough this area is one of the few remaining bio reserves that is home to many wild jaguars.

El Mirador’s La Danta

 

North of Tikal, deeper into the dense jungle stands one of the largest pyramids in the world, La Danta. 

At the site of El Mirador, archaeologists have uncovered amazing carvings and reliefs that portray scenes from the Popol Vuh. Many of the structures at El Mirador are Pre Classic Maya. El Mirador lasted between 1000 B.C.- 250 A.D

La Danta is the largest Mayan pyramid at 236 feet tall, by volume La Danta is the largest in the world at 99 million cubic feet. 

Uxmal and the Magician’s Pyramid

At the Mayan site of Uxmal in the Yucatan Peninsula, is the Magicians Pyramid. A fairly large pyramid that was decorated with lattice type design. Uxmal thrived around 600 to 1000 A.D. It is said that the god Itzamna built the pyramid overnight, giving it the name “Magicians Pyramid”.

Civilization

The Mayan Civilization was a society that existed in Southern Mexico and Central America. Their existence has been uncovered through many archaeological discoveries.

The ruins of the Mayan Civilization still exist today, yet a large part of their knowledge, structures, and culture has been lost. This has created many questions about the origin of the Mayans, and how they became as advanced as they were.

Thousands of Years Ago

Pyramid

Mayan Pyramid

Before becoming the great Mayan civilization, the Maya people were hunter gatherers scattered throughout Mesoamerica. Evidence of this is found all over Central America and Southern Mexico.

In the beginning of the Pre Classic period the Maya were still farming settlements. Growing domesticated crops as early as 2500 B.C. such as vegetables and spices. Most famously corn or “maize”.

The Mayans believed that humans were created from corn and worshiped the maize god. This relationship with corn fueled their agricultural drive from the beginning, and played a major role in their development.

The question of when the Mayan civilization initially began remains up in the air and will probably remain that way for a long time. Some scholars estimate that the Maya formed as early as 2500 B.C. 

It is difficult to pinpoint an exact time for the emergence of the Mayan culture as an independent cultural identity. There are new discoveries every year that seem to change the perception of their timeline.

Around 600 B.C the Maya began creating larger settlements in the lowland jungles of Guatemala. The city Nakbe is one of the earliest known major sites for the Maya in this region. Its neighbor, El Mirador flourished around the same time as well. 

Before the Maya 

Monument

Mayan Monument

The Mayan culture arose through a series of cultures which developed around the region. Their predecessors, the Olmec and Zapotec, had been in southern Mexico long before the Maya. 

The Olmec established their culture around the 16th century B.C and were known for carving gigantic heads. 

The Zapotec civilization in the Oaxaca region began just before the Maya in 700 B.C. One of the largest cities in ancient Mesoamerica was built by the Zapotec.

The Pre Classic period is a time when the people of Central America are in their most rudimentary forms, and when the Maya civilization appears on the scene. The period is also one of cultural sharing and complex relationships between neighboring cultural groups.

Historic Influence

Aztec

Tenochtitlan

The Mayan Civilization had a great influence on the cultures of their time. Their influence and understanding of astronomy and agriculture has had major impacts on the world. 

The Mayan civilization had a surplus of knowledge, which was one of the reasons why they were able to flourish and become so impressive.

From pyramids to monuments, they constructed vast cities with architectural marvels. They built aqua ducts and raised roads. Archaeologists are now saying that at one point the city of Tikal held millions of people.

The Mayan civilization had a religious systems and a complex cosmology. Their understanding of astronomy and time was very important. 

Stelae

Stela

Tikal Stela 31

They recorded dates on stelae, which are large stone monuments that were erected throughout Mesoamerica. This is one of the main reasons archaeologists know so much about the Maya, because of their relentless obsession with recording time. 

These stone monuments depict dates associated with Mayan cosmology, and when rulers ascended to the throne or conquered other cities. 

Dresden Codex

codex

Dresden Codex

Still our understanding of the Mayan civilization is so limited because many texts were burned by the Spanish in the 15th century A.D.

Few written texts remain, such as the Dresden Codex. This is the  oldest written book found in the americas. The colored pamphlet style text, folds open Mayan history and astronomical charts. 

The dates found in the codex correlate to the planet Venus and phases of the lunar cycle. It also shows an assortment of gods and religious calendar dates.

Impact in the Region

The Mayan Civilization had an impact on the surrounding civilizations that came after, like the Aztec, Toltec, and the Mixtec.

These cultures adopted a lot of the knowledge from the Mayans. The Aztecs continued to keep the same calendars. Although they changed the names and glyphs, they continued to track and add to the same system of time. 

The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl is actually a reinvention of the previous Mayan God Kukulkan, the winged serpent. 

The Maya civilization spans over 2000 years and is the oldest civilization in the Americas.The Mayans were as mysterious as it gets. The reasons behind their downfall remains unknown…

Extra

Although the Mayans are not mentioned in the bible, there is a possibility that they were the source of the legend of the "Wandering Jew". Some dialects of mayan have distinct jewish like sounds.

The Purpose of Mayan Pyramids: what were they used for?

If you're keen on diving deeper into the intricacies of the Maya world, a visit to our homepage at MayanDay.com will give you today's Maya Calendar date—a vital part of their cosmology. But another monumental aspect of their world, both literally and metaphorically, were the pyramids.

Pakal's Tomb in Palenque

King Pakal, shown in the tomb of one of the most iconic mayan pyramids, the Temple of Inscriptions

King Pakal, shown in the tomb of one of the most iconic mayan pyramids, the Temple of Inscriptions

Nestled within the dense jungles of Chiapas, Mexico, the ancient city of Palenque serves as a testament to Mayan ingenuity and spirituality. Among its architectural wonders is the Temple of Inscriptions, a pyramid specially commissioned by King Pakal. This structure is renowned for preserving a wealth of Mayan glyphs, bas-reliefs, and carvings.

At the temple's core, archaeologist Alberto Ruz unveiled a remarkable find: the tomb of Lord Janaab K'inich Pakal, the great king of Palenque. Encased in a grand sarcophagus, Pakal's burial chamber is a treasure trove of Mayan art and glyphs. Notable among the artifacts is an intricately crafted jade mask, adding another layer of mystery and reverence to this extraordinary discovery.

Not Just Tombs

Contrary to popular belief, the Mayan pyramids were not primarily intended as burial places like their Egyptian counterparts. Although some of these structures do contain tombs, they served a more complex array of functions.

Platforms for the Gods

The most immediate purpose of these pyramids was religious. They served as platforms where priests could get closer to the gods and perform sacrifices, rituals, and other religious ceremonies. The staircases often aligned with celestial events, connecting the Earth with the cosmos in a physical and symbolic way.

Centers of Community and Governance

Beyond their religious function, the pyramids were also the centerpieces of Mayan cities and were surrounded by other important structures like ball courts, palaces, and plazas. They essentially served as the central point around which the community revolved, acting not just as places of worship but also as hubs of social, political, and economic activity.

Astronomical Significance

The Maya were keen astronomers, and many of their pyramids are designed to align with celestial bodies and events. The Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza, for instance, is renowned for the snake-like shadow it casts during the equinox, symbolizing the feathered serpent god descending from the heavens.

Calendrical Relevance

The steps and tiers of some pyramids also encoded the complex Mayan calendrical systems, like the Tzolk'in and Haab. These were not just buildings; they were stone representations of time itself.

Conclusion

The Mayan pyramids were multi-dimensional constructs that served as the physical and metaphysical centers of their cities. From facilitating spiritual communion to acting as astronomical observatories, these pyramids are a testament to the rich and complex life of the Maya civilization.

To expand your knowledge of the Mayan world and its complex calendar system, visit MayanDay.com or check out our book "The Maya Calendar: An Archetypal Structure of Reality."

This article is sponsored by MayanDay.com, where you can find resources to expand your knowledge of the Maya Calendar and the Maya world at large.

 

 

 

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