Mystery of the Maya

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简介

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Among their other accomplishments, the ancient Mayas invented a calendar of remarkable accuracy and complexity. At right is the ancient Mayan Pyramid Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico. The Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichén Itzá, constructed circa 1050 was built during the late Mayan period, when Toltecs from Tula became politically powerful. The pyramid was used as a calendar: four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform at the top, making a total of 365, equivalent to the number of days in a calendar year.

The Maya calendar was adopted by the other Mesoamerican nations, such as the Aztecs and the Toltec, which adopted the mechanics of the calendar unaltered but changed the names of the days of the week and the months. An Aztec calendar stoneis shown above right.

The Maya calendar uses three different dating systems in parallel, the Long Count, the Tzolkin (divine calendar), and theHaab (civil calendar). Of these, only the Haab has a direct relationship to the length of the year.

El Castillo. Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

This Mesoamerican step pyramid’s platform, along with its four stairways of 91 steps, totals 365, or the number of days in a calendar year.

 

 

Aztec Calendar.

The Aztec calendar was an adaptation of the Mayan calendar. It consisted of a 365-day agricultural calendar, as well as a 260-day sacred calendar. (This is a digital composite. Color added for visibility.)

 

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.E. 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?)

In ancient times, the Mayans had a tradition of a 360-day year. But by the 4th century B.C.E. they took a different approach than either Europeans or Asians. They maintained three different calendars at the same time. In one of them, they divided a 365-day year into eighteen 20-day months followed by a five-day period that was part of no month. The five-day period was considered to be unlucky.

 

Additional info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_civilization

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