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Astronomy

Of every the world"s old calendar systems, the Maya and other Mesoamerican systems are the many complex, intricate and also accurate. Calculations that the congruence of the 260-day and also the 365-day Maya cycles is almost exactly same to the actual solar year in the tropics, with just a 19-minute margin that error. Maya astronomer-priests looked to the heavens for guidance. They used observatories, shadow-casting devices, and observations of the horizon to map the complicated motions the the sun, the stars and also planets in order to observe, calculate and record this information in their chronicles, or "codices". From these observations, the Maya emerged calendars to save track that celestial movements and the i of time. The Maya likewise kept comprehensive records the the moon, although these perform not seem come constitute a formal lunar calendar.

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With the aid of a forked stick, astronomer-priests used only the naked eye to take monitorings that allowed them to calculation the route of Venus and also other celestial bodies. From the documents of their monitorings they can calculate through precision events such together solar eclipses.In Maya cities, ceremonial structures were exactly aligned with compass directions. In ~ the spring and fall equinoxes, for example, the Sun can be do to actors its rays through tiny openings in a Maya observatory, lighting up the observatory"s internal walls.
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Other alignments might relate to the exteriors the temples and palaces. The most famous instance of this type of alignment can be it was observed at Chichén Itzá, the principal Maya city that the Yucatán Peninsula. World still gather there every year, together they have for centuries, to watch the sun illuminate the stairs that a pyramid specialized to Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent god. In ~ the vernal and also autumnal equinoxes, the Sun slowly illuminates the pyramid stairs and the serpent head at its base, developing the image of a line slithering under the sacred mountain to Earth.Why walk the Maya walk to such lengths to align their ceremonial plazas and temples through the Sun and stars? In part, it was to venerate the gods. Pacal"s dig in the temple of the inscriptions at Palenque, because that example, is aligned v the Sun. At winter solstice, the sunlight sets behind the high ridge past the temple, in line with the center of the temple roof. Together the sun crosses the sky, it enters a doorway in the temple, hits the back wall surface and, together it heads because that the horizon beyond the temple, appears to descend the holy place stairway into Pacal"s tomb. Pacal"s death and entry into the Underworld are thus equated with the Sun"s death and also entry right into the Underworld.
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(left) Built on the reduced foothills the the Sierra Madre, the temple of the inscriptions was named for the collection of hieroglyphics discovered on the inner walls that the temple topping the pyramid. The tomb chamber, which lies in ~ ground level, is easily accessible only indigenous a stairway beginning in the floor that the temple.(centre) Close by, the "Palace" restrict the main area the Palenque. One unusual attribute is the four-storey square tower, included around A.D. 721 by a boy of mr Pacal. The is tempting come think the tower was supplied forastronomical observations; definitely it would have afforded a spectacular see of the setup sun descending right into Pacal"s tomb.(right) The "Caracol" in ~ Chichén Itzá is also believed to have served as an observatory. Specific of that is doors and windows line up with miscellaneous planetary orbits.

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The Maya developed observatories at plenty of of their cities, and aligned essential structures with the motions of celestial bodies. Few of these room temple groupings, such as a team of 3 at Uaxactún, which marks the Sun"s rising place at summer solstice, the 2 equinoxes and winter solstice. Design such together the Caracol in ~ Chichén Itzá was additionally aligned with the figure ofcelestial bodies such as the Pleiades and also Venus. An additional temple in ~ Uxmalcontains hundreds of Venus symbols. Astronomical metaphors and also celestial events characterized the routine landscape for Maya rulers. Transfers of royal power, because that example, it seems ~ to have actually been timed by the summer solstice at particular centres. In ~ Palenque, an inscription notes the Pacal"s kid Chan-Bahlum devoted the Cross temple grouping top top July 23, 690 - timed to coincide v the connect of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and also the Moon. Come the Maya, this occasion may have represented the primordial bear of the 3 ancestor gods of the Palenque dynasty with the first Mother (the Moon), and would have actually been an suitable moment come consecrate an accession monument.Maya murals and also carvings display rulers wearing signs of the heavens, consisting of a belt or sky-band make of a chain of signs relating to the Moon, the Sun, Venus, day, night and also the sky. Rulers are also depicted transporting bars decorated as sky-bands to indicate that they had actually the mandate the heaven. Periodically they are seated, surrounded by a sky-band which provides the leader a halo of celestial authority. Rulers likewise liked to associate themselves through auspicious god of the sky such as the sunlight God, and also Maya rulers and also priests in actual life often "clothed themselves through the heavens" by dressing in the pelt of the jaguar, who spots were taken to stand for the stars.The Maya believed that the gods guided the Sun and also Moon throughout the sky. Also in the darkness that night, the Maya thought that the Sun and Moon continued to journey through the Underworld, endangered all the method by angry gods that wanted to avoid their progress. For this reason, the Maya thought that the heavenly bodies needed human being help, i beg your pardon was listed through spiritual rituals such together self-mutilation, torture, and also human sacrifice. To the Maya, giving this help was merely the price to be paid because that the continued survival the the universe. Fatality from such rituals was a privilege, and also conferred immortality ~ above those that died, or who offered themselves together victims.The repeating cycles that creation and also destruction as described in Maya mythology to be a reminder that the after-effects if people neglected their duties to the gods. Humans had an innate responsibility come the gods that made humanity"s continued existence possible. According to the Maya spiritual calendar, each 52-year duration signalled the renewed opportunity of the devastation of the world. This was seen as a frightening time when the gods and also other pressures of creation and chaos would do battle in the world of mortals, determining the fate of every earthly creatures. The world Venus was particularly far-ranging to the Maya; the vital god Quetzalcoatl, because that example, is established with Venus. The Dresden Codex, one of 4 surviving Maya chronicles, contains substantial tabulation the the appearances of Venus, and also was provided to suspect the future. The Maya likewise went to battle by the sky, again motivated by the planet Venus. Venus war regalia is seen on stelae and also other carvings, and also raids and captures to be timed through appearances of Venus, specifically as an evening "star". Warfare related to the motions of Venus was, in fact, well established throughout Mesoamerica.Maya calendars, mythology and astrology were integrated into a single system the belief. The Maya it was observed the sky and calendars come predict solar and also lunar eclipses, the cycles of the planet Venus, and the motions of the constellations. These events were far more than mere mechanical activities of the heavens, and were believed to be the tasks of god replaying mythical events from the moment of Creation. Calendar priests still exist in Maya regions today, and also keep the 260-day spiritual Round counting for divination and also other shamanistic activity. Countless of the contents of this id system source in the sky, yet were manipulated on earth by astronomer-priests who applied the spiritual structure that the cosmos toaffairs on Earth.
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