Where time began, according to the Mayas. Izapa Photo: A. Evans (2012) © National Geographic. Reproduced with kind permission.
With fears that the Mayan Long Count Calendar will count down to the end of the world this year, one travel writer, Andrew Evans of National Geographic, is currently taking the trouble to find out where the Mayans thought time began. Yesterday, he visited the ruins of Izapa in Mexico. His remarks clarify the Mayan prophecies, briefly explain the Mayan calendars, and allow us for just a moment to step into the shoes of the Mayans and their predecessors. Below are some selected comments he made, but make sure you read his whole post here:
Today, he is at the Mayan jungle city of Palenque, tracing the Mayan past, which at this site dates back to 100 BCE. He has walked the equivalent of 10 New York City blocks of cleared ruins. More areas of the city lie still buried beneath the jungle, which gives you an idea of how huge this city was. You can follow Andrew on Twitter as he continues his trip through the Mayan empire, here.I began my investigation of the Mayan calendar by traveling back to the ancient site of Izapa—a place “where time began” ...
Izapa is where the Maya started counting—at least this is what the current theories say. They also say that it wasn’t the Maya who started counting, but rather their predecessors, the Olmec. Either way, so much of Mayan numerology originates right here in Izapa.
The Tzolk’in calendar comprises twenty different days in a cycle of thirteen (tercena), resulting in 260 unique days, each with religious meaning. For example, today’s Tzolk’in date is 1 Chicchan, which means the serpent day of the first day in the current tercena.
The Haab calendar comprises eighteen months of twenty days each, totaling in 360 unique days (the extra five days were an ill-omened “free space” occurring once a year). Today’s Haab date is 13 Pax, which signifies the thirteenth day of the “planting time”. ...
Time begins only when we begin to measure it. The sun may rise and fall, the earth can spin round that same sun, and babies may be born, but until humans can count these moments, they become almost impossible to define. ...
Today’s doomsday theorists are focused on the final number: The End. But that number originated here — the ancient Maya started counting right here at Izapa due to the very specific latitude and the sun’s positions over time. They made sense of their world from this very particular point on the planet and thousands of years later, I had traveled to this same point to make sense of the world today.
Temple XII, Temple of the Skull at Palenque. Image: A. Evans (12 Feb. 2012) © National Geographic. Reproduced with kind permission.
Face sculpture, Palace of Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. Image: A. Evans (12 Feb. 2012) © National Geographic. Reproduced with kind permission.