How Does Ancient Mayan Astronomy Portray the Sun, Moon and Planets? - Deepstash
How Does Ancient Mayan Astronomy Portray the Sun, Moon and Planets?

How Does Ancient Mayan Astronomy Portray the Sun, Moon and Planets?

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The ancient Maya were devoted astronomers

The Maya believed they could use the stars, moon, and planets to know the will of the gods.

In the early 9th century CE, the Maya day keepers created astronomical tables that tracked the course of the celestial bodies. The tables are found on the walls of a unique structure at Xultun, Guatemala and in the Dresden Codex, a bark-paper book.


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Maya and the Sky

The Maya believed the Earth was fixed and central and that the sun, moon, stars and planets were gods that travelled between the Earth, the underworld and other celestial places.

They believed the gods were closely involved with humans and therefore planned their movements to coincide with certain celestial moments. The Maya were experts in predicting eclipses, solstices, and equinoxes.


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The Sun and Moon in Maya Mythology

The Mayan sun god was Kinich Ahau, one of the creator gods more powerful than the Mayan pantheon. During the day, Kinich Ahau would shine in the sky, and at night, transform himself into a jaguar and pass through the underworld.

The moon was associated with a maiden, an old woman, and a rabbit. The powerful Maya moon goddess Ix Chel fought with the sun and made him go to the underworld every night. Ix Ch’up was another moon goddess, young and beautiful.


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Venus, Planets, and Stars

  • The Maya knew about Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter and tracked their movements. They determined that a year of Venus relative to Earth was 584 days long. Modern science determined it at 583.92 days.
  • Venus was associated with war. The Maya arranged battles to coincide with the movements of Venus.
  • The stars were less significant to the Maya. They used the stars to predict when seasons would come and go.


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Astronomy, Architecture and the Calendar

Mayan buildings were often laid out in accordance with astronomy. Temples and pyramids were designed so that the sun, moon, stars, and planets would be visible from the top or through specific windows at certain times of the year.

The Mayan calendar was associated with astronomy. The Maya used two calendars: The Long Count calendar was divided into a solar year as a base, and the Calendar Round consisted of two calendars - a 365-day solar year and a 260-day Tzolkin cycle.


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