# 8.4. Did the Mayas think a year was 365 days?

## Description

This article is from the Calendars FAQ, by Claus Tondering claus@tondering.dk with numerous contributions by
others.

# 8.4. Did the Mayas think a year was 365 days?

Although there were only 365 days in the Haab year, the Mayas were

aware that a year is slightly longer than 365 days, and in fact, many

of the month-names are associated with the seasons; Yaxkin, for

example, means "new or strong sun" and, at the beginning of the Long

Count, 1 Yaxkin was the day after the winter solstice, when the sun

starts to shine for a longer period of time and higher in the

sky. When the Long Count was put into motion, it was started at

7.13.0.0.0, and 0 Yaxkin corresponded with Midwinter Day, as it did at

13.0.0.0.0 back in 3114 B.C. The available evidence indicates that the

Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the seasons

twice in 7.13.0.0.0 or 1,101,600 days.

We can therefore derive a value for the Mayan estimate of the year by

dividing 1,101,600 by 365, subtracting 2, and taking that number and

dividing 1,101,600 by the result, which gives us an answer of

365.242036 days, which is slightly more accurate than the 365.2425

days of the Gregorian calendar.

(This apparent accuracy could, however, be a simple coincidence. The

Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the seasons

*twice* in 7.13.0.0.0 days. These numbers are only accurate to 2-3

digits. Suppose the 7.13.0.0.0 days had corresponded to 2.001 cycles

rather than 2 cycles of the 365-day year, would the Mayas have noticed?)

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