We began our research for The Edge of Forever by studying the calendars of the ancient Maya. Their extremely sophisticated calendric system, based mostly in mathematical operations of 13 and 20, and astronomy, were the central organizing component for all secular and religious life. Here is a brief overview of the Mayan Calendars and how they functioned together.
- Haab’, 365-day solar calendar (C)
- Tzolk’in, 60-day ceremonial calendar, which had 20 periods of 13 days (A&B)
- Long Count Calendar, a non-repeating vigesimal (based on 20 unit measurements) calendar. It only uses three symbols, alone or combined, to write any number. These are: the dot, 1 unit; the bar, 5 units; the zero symbolized by a shell.
The Haab’ and the Tzolk’in calendars identified and named the days, but not the years. They are represented by two wheels rotating in different directions, called the Calendar Round. The smallest wheel consists of 260 teeth with each one having the name of the days of the Tzolk’in. The larger wheel consists of 365 teeth and has the name of each of the positions of the Haab’ year. The Calendar round cycle takes approximately 52 years to complete. Time is cyclical in the calendars and a set number of days must occur before a new cycle can begin.
To measure dates over periods longer than 52 years, they devised the Long Count Calendar, used to compute large cosmic and historical cycles. All Long Count dates contain the following elements, written in this order: the bak’tun, the k’atun, the tun, the winal or 20-day period, and the k’in or day. The date is identified by counting the number of days from the creation date on August 11, 3114 BC.
- Kin = 1 Day
- Uinal = 20 kin = 20 days.
- Tun = 18 uinal = 360 days
- K’atun = 20 tun = 360 uinal = 7,200 days.
- Bak’tun = 20 katun = 400 tun = 7,200 uinal = 144,000 days.
13 bak’tuns made up a Great Cycle, which adds up to 5,200 tuns and 260 k’atuns. The final day of this Great Cycle and the end of the Long Count is recorded as 188.8.131.52.0 (December 21, 2012).