Little Bits of History

August 11

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 11, 2017

3114 BC: The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar begins. It was a non-repeating base-20 and base-18 calendar used by many pre-Columbian cultures, most notable the Maya and is sometimes called the Mayan calendar. By working backwards and using our current Gregorian calendar, the beginning date has been calculated. The Long Count calendar was used on monuments in the region. Dates on these can be calculated by combining the 260-day Tzolk’in and the 365-day Haab’ calendars. This gives a total of 18,980 unique dates before repeating.

By using many of our current calculating methods, we can ascertain that the first day of the Long Count calendar was this day. Unless it was September 6 by using the Julian calendar or -3113 in astronomical year numbering. This date uses the GMT correlation which is a mathematical method for aligning ancient dates with our current method of marking time. By ancient tradition of 13 b’ak’tuns of time passing since the Creation, it was calculated the event took place on this day, according to the Maya. This is when Raised-up-Sky-Lord caused three stones to be set by three other gods at Lying-Down-Sky, First-Three-Stone-Place. At that point, the sky was still black, but the cosmos now had pillars on which to raise the sky.

Because the calendar is not pure base-20, there are convoluted methods used in numbering which causes the second digit from the right (and only that digit) to roll over when it reaches 18. It should be noted the Long Count calendar was no longer in used when Europeans first came to the New World, but k’atuns and tuns were still in use for marking time. B’ak’tun was created by modern scholars to help with the epochs. The syntax for using the Long Calendar was complex and Maya monuments where inscribed with complicated systems. The date would be given before other inscriptions were added to the stela.

There are several of these inscriptions remaining today and they have been carefully studied to ascertain their messages. The earliest one is at Takalik Abaj in present day Guatemala and dates from 236 – 19 BC. There are several more stela located at six sites with half of them on the western edge of the Mayan kingdom and the other three are found several hundred miles to the west. This has led to speculation that the Mayan calendar actually predates the Mayans. The Tuxtla Statuette found near La Mojarra in present day Veracruz, Mexico has the most recent date calculated to March 12, 162 AD. In 2012, according to some misunderstanding of the calendar, the world was supposed to come to an end. It didn’t.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. – Andy Warhol

Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years. – Ausonius

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late. – William Shakespeare

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. – Nathaniel Hawthorne