Mayan Astronomy

The history of the Mayans is one of the most captivating studies of civilization to date. People are still enthralled with this mysterious race that died out over a thousand years ago. The calendar year we use today is based on that of the Mayans. These were a remarkably advanced people about which we are still learning to this day. Among the many marvels of this civilization that enraptures us; Mayan astronomy is perhaps one of the more enduring subjects that capture our imagination.

Mayan Astronomy is far more advanced than most of the prevailing astronomical mindsets that were contemporaries of this civilization. Our idea of a summer and winter "solstice" is actually derived from Mayan astronomy. The scientists of the Mayan era understood the relationship between the Sun and latitudes. They built their villages in locations beneath a preset latitude in order to make the most use of the Sun and its patterns.

Venus played a large part in Mayan astronomy as well. Entire almanacs were created in order to document Venus in every moment of its cycle. Wars and battles were timed in order to take advantage of Venus' distance from Earth. For reasons not completely known, this planet seemed to be, to the Mayans, the most important figure in the sky. More important even, than the Sun, according to Mayan astronomy.

Perhaps the best example of just how advanced and intelligent these people were is evident in their studies of the moon. The Mayans understood the pattern of the lunar cycle and in fact used it as a timekeeping device. Since the lunar cycle is about twenty-nine and a half days, the Mayans are responsible for creating the semi-concrete structure of time known to us as "a month". The lunar studies conducted in Mayan astronomy were so in depth, in fact, that accurate predictions for lunar eclipses were made with consistent success. This is even more remarkable considering that civilizations even centuries later were still filled with awe and confusion over something these Mayans considered business as usual.

It is easy to imagine an ancient culture as 'barbaric' or 'primitive', but even the most discriminating critic would have a hard time insulting the Mayans. The fact that we still use their lunar cycle and calendar year as our method of time-keeping shows us something important. It takes more than technology and less than science to truly understand the world and achieve what is known as 'wisdom'.