Mayan Astronomy

Mayan Astronomy

In America, during the pre-Columbian era, a fairly extensive astronomical study was developed. Some Mayan observations are well known, such as the lunar eclipse of February 15, 3379 BC.

The Mayas had their own solar calendar and knew the periodicity of the eclipses. Formulas to predict solar eclipses and the heliaca exit of Venus inscribed on stone monuments.

The Mayan civilization developed in the region known as Mesoamerica, from the current territories of southern Mexico to El Salvador. If the different peoples of ancient Mexico reached the hieroglyphic phase, the Maya achieved the syllabic-alphabetic phase in their writing. The numbering initiated by the Olmecs with vigesimal base, is perfected by the Maya, in the third and fourth centuries BC. C.

The Maya knew from the third millennium a. C. at least a very multifaceted astronomical development. Many of his observations have come to this day. They knew with great accuracy the synodic revolutions of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars Jupiter and Saturn. They calculated the periods of the Moon, the Sun and stars like the Pleiades, which marked the beginning of some religious festivities.

His Cosmology was based on the Milky Way, which they called Wakah Chan and related to Xibalbá, the road to the underworld. They had a Zodiac, based on the Ecliptic. Only priests had access to astronomical knowledge, but people respected them and organized their lives according to their predictions.

The studies on the stars performed by the Maya continue to surprise scientists. Their obsession with the movement of the celestial bodies was based on the cyclical conception of history, and astronomy was the tool they used to know the influence of the stars on the world.

The calendar begins on a zero date that is possibly June 8, 8498 a. C. in our computation of time, although it is not entirely certain. The Maya also had a year of 365 days (with 18 months of 20 days and an interleaved month of 5 days). The 260-day Tzol'kin is one of the most enigmatic calendars in terms of its origin, some postulate that it is based on an approach to human gestation.

The Mayan solar calendar was as accurate as the one we use today. In addition, all the cities of the classical period are oriented with respect to the movement of the celestial vault.

Many buildings were built with the purpose of staging celestial phenomena on Earth, such as Chichén Itzá Castle, where the descent of Kukulkán is observed, a snake formed by the shadows that are created in the vertices of the building during the solstices.

The four stairs of the building add 365 steps, the days of the year. In the Dresden Codex and in numerous stelae are the calculations of the lunar, solar, Venusian cycles and the periodicity tables of the eclipses.

A good part of the knowledge that the Mayans had lasted even after the conquest. At first it was practiced clandestinely; later it was mixed with the customs of daily life, many of which are still valid today.

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