The Haab' and the Tzolk'in calendars identified and named the days, but not the years. The combination of a Haab' date and a Tzolk'in date was enough to identify a specific date to most people's satisfaction, as such a combination did not occur again for another 52 years, above general life expectancy.
Because the two calendars were based on 365 days and 260 days respectively, the whole cycle would repeat itself every 52 Haab' years exactly. This period is generally known as the Calendar Round.
To measure dates over periods longer than 52 years, the Mesoamericans devised the Long Count calendar.
The Long Count is not consistently base-20, however, since the second digit rolls over to zero when it reaches 18. Thus 0.0.1.0.0 does not represent 400 days, but rather only 360 days.
The following table shows the period equivalents as well as Maya names for these periods:
|Representation||Long Count subdivisions||Days||~ solar years|
|0.0.0.1.0||1 Winal = 20 K'in||20||1/18|
|0.0.1.0.0||1 Tun = 18 Winal||360||1|
|0.1.0.0.0||1 K'atun = 20 Tun||7,200||19.7|
|126.96.36.199.0||1 B'ak'tun = 20 K'atun||144,000||394|
|7||× 144000||= 1,008,000 days (k'in)|
|16||× 7200||= 115,200 days (k'in)|
|6||× 360||= 2,160 days (k'in)|
|16||× 20||= 320 days (k'in)|
|18||× 1||= 18 days (k'in)|
|Total days||= 1,125,698 days (k'in)|
On Maya monuments, the Long Count syntax is more complex. The date sequence is given once, at the beginning of the inscription, and opens with the so-called ISIG (Introductory Series Initial Glyph) which reads tzik-a(h) hab’ [patron of Haab' month] ("revered was the year-count with the patron [of the month]"). Next come the 5 digits of the Long Count, followed by the tzolk'in date written as single glyph, and then by supplementary information. Most of this supplementary series is optional and has been shown to be related to lunar data, for example, the age of the moon on the day and the calculated length of current lunation. The date is concluded by a glyph stating the day and month of the Haab year. The text then continues with whatever activity occurred on that date.
A drawing of a full Maya Long Count inscription is shown below (click here).
|Archaeological site||Name||Gregorian Date (based on August 11)||Long Count digits||Location|
|Chiapa de Corzo||Stela 2||December 10, 36 BCE||188.8.131.52.13||Chiapas, Mexico|
|Tres Zapotes||Stela C||September 3, 32 BCE||184.108.40.206.18||Veracruz, Mexico|
|El Baúl||Stela 1||March 6, 37 CE||220.127.116.11.12||Guatemala|
|Abaj Takalik||Stela 5||May 20, 103 CE||18.104.22.168.15||Guatemala|
|' '||' '||June 6, 126 CE||22.214.171.124.11||' '|
|La Mojarra||Stela 1||July 14, 156 CE||126.96.36.199.7||Veracruz, Mexico|
|' '||' '||May 22, 143 CE||188.8.131.52.5||' '|
|Near La Mojarra||Tuxtla Statuette||March 15, 162 CE||184.108.40.206.17||Veracruz, Mexico|
Of the 6 sites, three are on the western edge of the Maya homeland and three are several hundred kilometers further west, leading most researchers to believe that the Long Count calendar predates the Maya. La Mojarra Stela 1, the Tuxtla Statuette, Tres Zapotes Stela C, and Chiapa Stela 2 are all inscribed in an Epi-Olmec, not Maya, style. El Baúl Stela 2, on the other hand, was created in the Izapan style. The first unequivocally Maya artifact is Stela 29 from Tikal, with the Long Count date of 292 CE (220.127.116.11.15), more than 300 years after Stela 2 from Chiapa de Corzo.
|Long Count|| Gregorian Calendar Date|
|0.0.0.0.0||August 11, 3114 BCE|
|18.104.22.168.0||November 13, 2720 BCE|
|22.214.171.124.0||February 16, 2325 BCE|
|126.96.36.199.0||May 21, 1931 BCE|
|188.8.131.52.0||August 23, 1537 BCE|
|184.108.40.206.0||November 26, 1143 BCE|
|220.127.116.11.0||February 28, 748 BCE|
|18.104.22.168.0||June 3, 354 BCE|
|22.214.171.124.0||September 5, 41 CE|
|126.96.36.199.0||December 9, 435|
|10.0.0.0.0||March 13, 830|
|188.8.131.52.0||June 15, 1224|
|184.108.40.206.0||September 18, 1618|
|220.127.116.11.0||December 21, 2012|
There have been various methods proposed to allow us to convert from a Long Count date to a Western calendar date. These methods, or correlations, are generally based on dates from the Spanish conquest, where both Long Count and Western dates are known with some accuracy.
The commonly-established way of expressing the correlation between the Maya calendar and the Gregorian or Julian calendars is to provide number of days from the start of the Julian Period (Monday, January 1, 4713 BCE) to the start of creation on 0.0.0.0.0 (4 Ajaw, 8 Kumk'u).
The most commonly accepted correlation is the "Goodman, Martinez, Thompson" correlation (GMT correlation). The GMT correlation establishes that the 0.0.0.0.0 creation date occurred on 3114 BCE September 6 (Julian) or 3114 BCE August 11 (Gregorian), Julian day number (JDN) 584283. This correlation fits the astronomical, ethnographic, carbon dating, and historical sources. However, there have been other correlations that have been proposed at various times, most of which are merely of historical interest, except that by Floyd Lounsbury, two days after the GMT correlation, which is in use by some Maya scholars, such as Linda Schele.
Today, , in the Long Count is (GMT correlation).
According to the Popol Vuh, a book compiling details of creation accounts known to the K'iche' Maya of the Colonial-era highlands, we are living in the fourth world. The Popol Vuh describes the first three creations that the gods failed in making and the creation of the successful fourth world where men were placed. In the Maya Long Count, the previous creation ended at the start of a 13th b'ak'tun.
The previous creation ended on a long count of 18.104.22.168.19. Another 22.214.171.124.19 will occur on December 20 2012, followed by the start of the fourteenth b'ak'tun, 126.96.36.199.0, on December 21, 2012.
Three figures within the New Age, the artist and theorist José Argüelles, John Major Jenkins, Daniel Pinchbeck and the late ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna, have publicized theories concerning the significance of the end of the cycle. (They arrived at their conclusions separately from one another). They have jointly inspired a number of articles and books that this will be the end of this creation, the next pole shift or, as McKenna speculated in his theories, the end of history and events as "novel" as the origin of life on Earth, which we could not possibly imagine. Jenkins has focused on the occurance of a Galactic Alignment in the "era of 2012". Other, more mundane speculations involve a worldwide catastrophe, such as a pole shift. The idea of the significance of the date has also increasingly passed into popular culture.
"For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.
"There will be another cycle," says E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute (MARI). "We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this."
Taking as an example a Calendar Round date of 188.8.131.52.16 (Long Count) 5 Kib' (Tzolk'in) 14 Yaxk'in (Haab'). One can check whether this date is correct by the following calculation.
It is perhaps easier to find out how many days there are since 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk'u, and show how the date 5 Kib' 14 Yaxk'in is derived.
|9||× 144000||= 1296000|
|12||× 7200||= 86400|
|2||× 360||= 720|
|0||× 20||= 0|
|16||× 1||= 16|
|Total days||= 1383136 k'in|
This means that 106395 whole 13 day cycles have been completed, and the numerical portion of the Tzolk'in date is 5.
To calculate the day, we divide the total number of days in the long count by 20 since there are twenty day names.
This means 16 day names must be counted from Ajaw. This gives Kib'. Therefore, the Tzolk'in date is 5 Kib'.
If we subtract 16 days from the total, we can then find how many complete Haab' years are contained.
Dividing by 365, we have
Therefore, 3789 complete Haab' have passed, with 135 days into the new Haab'.
We then find which month the day is in. Dividing the remainder 135 days by 20, we have six complete months, plus 15 remainder days. So, the date in the Haab' lies in the seventh month, which is Yaxk'in. The fifteenth day of Yaxk'in is 14, thus the Haab' date is 14 Yaxk'in.
So the date of the long count date 184.108.40.206.16 5 Kib' 14 Yaxk'in is confirmed.
It is a matter of dispute whether the first piktun occurs after 13 or after 20 b'ak'tun. Most Mayanists think that in the majority of inscriptions, where only the last five Long Count positions are used, the count recycles at 13 b'ak'tuns, whereas, if longer cycles are used, the count continues to the end of the 20th b'ak'tun (b'ak'tun 19) before a piktun is registered. In the same way, the fact that a 13-katun cycle was used, didn't negate the fact that there are 20 katuns in a b'ak'tun.
The inscription on Quirigua stela F, or 6, shows a Long Count date of 220.127.116.11.0 1 Ahau 3 Zip (15 March 761 Gregorian). The huge distance date of 18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.0 is subtracted and the resulting date is given as (18.)126.96.36.199.0.0.0.0 1 Ahau 13 Yaxkin, which is equivalent to a day over 90 million years in the past. However, there is another distance date on Quirigua Stela D or 4, that gives a date of 188.8.131.52.0 7 Ahau 18 Pop (17 February 766 Gregorian), to which is added 184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.0, to give a date of (13.)18.104.22.168.0.0.0.0. This is over 400 million years after the date the stela was erected! It was by calculating a number of these distance dates that Eric Thompson was able to determine that the date of creation in 3114 BCE – 22.214.171.124.0 was actually 0.1.13.0.0.0.0.0.0 in the extended version.
At Yaxchilan, on a temple stairway, there is an inscription that includes four levels above the alautuns. The inscription reads: 126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.9 3 Muluc 17 Mac. This is equivalent to 19 October 744, but the higher cycles do not conform to Thompson’s calculation. The same applies to a Late Classic monument from Coba, Stela 1. The date of creation is expressed as 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.0.0.0.0, where the units are 13s in the nineteen places larger than the b'ak'tun.