Posted by: Johan Normark | November 12, 2010

2012: The Maya calendar correlation problem pt 5 – The Katun Count

John Goodman (the G in GMT) argued that the ruling houses of the Postclassic and Early Colonial Yucatan had different chronologies. Events could have been assigned to different katuns. Goodman argued that the conflicting records found in the various Books of Chilam Balam (BCB) were the result of different counts held by different groups rather being computational errors or the result of poor copying. Similar ideas were held by Kelley and Kirchoff. However, it is the idea of a continuous and area wide calendar that has “won the correlation battle.”

Sylvanus Morley saw a potential for a link between the Katun Count in the BCB and the Long Count dates. He argued that there was a textual continuity between Chichen Itza’s hieroglyphic records and the references to Chichen Itza’s history in the BCB. A lintel at the Temple of the Initial Series contains the date 9 Muluk 7 Sak. Morley assigned this to the katun beginning on 3 Ajaw 3 Keh. The equivalent in the BCB would have been a Katun 3 Ajaw. He then attempted to find a Katun 3 Ajaw when Chichen Itza was occupied. With his correlation constant of 489,385 the date occurred in AD 597. This correlation dominated the first part of the 20th century. Thompson questioned the reliability of the BCB in 1927 and he rather emphasized Landa and the Chronicle of Oxkutzcab as described in the two previous posts. Thompson was originally only interested in a double date found in the BCB of Tizimin (11 Chuwen 18 or 19 Sak on February 25, 1544). Goodman and Thompson used this as a corroboration of their correlation (which differed two days).

However, Maud Makemson pointed out that “this double date does not fit into any kind of continuous relationship with the Katun Count records in the same manuscript” (p 33). Thompson later conceded the Tizimin double date.

Thompson also focused on Katun Counts at Tayasal since they are believed to be in agreement with the one in Yucatan. Katuns were usually labeled after their end dates although some Mayanists (such as Prudence Rice) argue that different groups may have emphasized the beginning of a Katun (such as the Kowoj). If October 31, 1618 was the last day of Katun 3 Ajaw, then this means that Katun 13 Ajaw ended on April 8, 1520. This is not consistent with Thompson’s Landa equation that suggests a Katun 13 Ajaw ended in the autumn of 1539. However, if October 31, 1618 was the first day of Katun 3 Ajaw, then Katun 13 Ajaw would have begun on April 8, 1520 and ended on December 24, 1539. With this scenario Thompson finds continuity with Landa, by changing the workings of the calendar without any supporting evidence that actually support the change from end to beginning. The only reason appears to be that it fits his correlation constant. Thompson also turned to the highlands of Guatemala in his search for supporting his correlation. To be continued…



  1. Very interesting read again Johan. Will you possibly incorporate any of Aldana’s work into that 2012 book you were working on?

  2. Yes, that is why I try to cover the whole essay in detail (it will be shortened in the book). I will primarily use Aldana’s text as a critique of the “end date” in 2012 which depends on the GMT correlation.

    I have recently read Anthony Aveni’s 2012 book and he does not even mention the problems concerning the correlation. I will review that book after I am done with Aldana’s essay and the second blog post on Monument 6 at Tortuguero.


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