Lecture 3. Counting Time/Space to Create Place: The Mesoamerican Calendar

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Carolyn Tate

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Shaping Place in Mesoamerica

One of the unique features of Mesoamerica was its overlapping calendar systems. To grasp the essence of Mesoamerican thought, one must have a decent sense of the calendar. It regulated everything – from a person’s name and fate, to the unfolding of ritual processions, to the scale of buildings and design of cities. Learning the Mesoamerican calendar can be challenging for several reasons. First, it consisted of multiple cycles. Second, not all of these were related to the “year” or the number of days it takes the earth to revolve around the sun. Third, one cycle is totally unlike anything we encounter in Western calendars. It is based on a specifically human number, the days that a human gestates in the womb. And fourth, time and space shared characteristics of color, direction, and significance. Moreover, although the basic calendar cycles were shared by most civilizations, the days and cycles had different names in different cultures. So, get ready to have your mind twisted a bit. Units of Lecture 3: 1. Numerals. 2. The 260-day divinatory cycle, 3. The 365-day vague year, 4. The Calendar Round, a 52-year cycle that meshes the 260 and the 365, 5. Maya Long Count. 6. Part 2 enhancement: Trecenas in the 260.

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