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Almanaque

Alexandre Cherman

Still the recurrences…

I’m having trouble leaving this subject behind, n order to get back on trak of our historical tale of our calendar. But let me propose a mental exercise: imagine that we do not number our years and the only way to tell them apart is through the matching of the day of the week with the day of the month.

Instead of thinking of this year as 2015, we would think of it as “the year in which April 25th fell on a Saturday”. Not very practical, huh? But believe me, it was exactly how the Mayans did it!

The Mayans had three calendars, used simultaneously. One was the long count, a calendar that counted days starting from a remote time, which I often call “the prisoner’s calendar”, in a reference to the classical image of a prisoner counting the days in his cell, marking the wall as time goes by.

The second Mayan calendar was the civilian calendar. It observed the solar year, with 365 days divided in 19 groups: 18 groups of 20 days (similar to our months) and 1 group of 5 days (a lot like the Egyptian celestial days!). These “months” had names, and their days were numbered.

The third calendar was a religious calendar. It had a 260-day cycle, divided in 13 periods of 20 days. These periods were analog to our weeks, since they didn’t get names, but the days within each period had!

Today, April 25th, 2015, can be written in three different ways in Mayan culture. Using the long count, it is 13.0.2.6.6 (which means there has been 1,872,846 days since the beginning of this era!). In the civilian calendar, it is 14th of Pop (the “month”). And in the religious calendar, it is the day Cimi, of “week” 5. Such a combination will repeat itself in 52 years, and that was how the Mayans kept track of time! ■