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




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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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