Posted by: Johan Normark | November 16, 2010

2012: The Maya calendar correlation problem pt 7 – the celestial record

The lunar records have from the very beginning of the correlation problem been used to check various proposed calendar correlations. Most of the lunar records are anchored to a progression of 29.53-day cycles. However, what should be needed is an eclipse associated with a date. The Dresden Codex Eclipse Table could be important here but as mentioned before this table cannot be matched with a historical eclipse. There is, however, one Classic period inscription that probably mentions an eclipse. This is Stela 1 at Poco Winik. Thompson notes that the Martinez equation is off by five days if this inscription indeed records an eclipse. Hence, “the one record from the Classic period, then, with the potential for identifying a unique date astronomically does not conform to any version of the GMT. Rather than call into question the GMT, this has led to speculations about the authenticity of the record itself; more often than not, however, the Poco Winik data is left outside of the discussion” (p 40). This is quite remarkable although not uncommon in science. When a model is believed to be more accurate than the actual data, it should be scrutinized.

During the past century some Mayanists have argued that “planetary conjunctions, maximum elongations, heliacal rises, and more …[are]… the explicit or implicit referent behind inscriptional dates. Such events are often portrayed as evidence corroborating the validity of the GMT” (p 40). Thompson argues that the date 9.10.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 K’ayab on the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Naranjo is related to a rare astronomical event. There is a distance number (2.5.7.12) that leads up to this date. This equals 16,352 days or 28 synodical revolutions of Venus and almost 41 synodical revolutions of Jupiter. For this reason Thompson assumes that this Long Count date refers to a planetary conjunction. However, Aldana points out that the 1 Ajaw date also is a katun ending and this is what is celebrated. Thompson also believes that there was a “Venus glyph” in the inscriptions (no “Jupiter glyph” is proposed). What he believes is that the glyph for Venus actually reads EK’. Although this logographic element refers to celestial bodies (or stars), in this context it is actually part of a name of a historical person (Na Batz’ Ek’).

The interpretation of this glyph as Venus was once popular and formed part of the “Star War” interpretation when it was believed that warfare was ritually timed by various positions of Venus. However, Aldana has shown before that “the astronomically driven pattern was not corroborated by the increased contextual data made available by the hieroglyphic decipherment” (p 41). Astronomical interpretations of hieroglyphs and recorded events are difficult to accept today.

Aldana also discusses David Kelley’s 663,310 correlation that is 216 years later than Thompson’s. Apart from falling outside the range of possible C14 dating accuracy it suits some of Kelley’s own criteria, such as that astronomical data corroborated with inscriptions. Kelley never gave up the idea that the tzolkin had changed over the centuries apart from a possible calendar reform in the Mixtec codices in AD 934. However, Kelley appeals “to trans-Pacific contact for the basis of the Mayan and Aztec calendar” (p 44). This basis is found in Hindu astrology and “the extreme character of this part of his argument and the substantial deviation of his correlation from the GMT have left Kelley’s more salient criticisms to fall on mostly deaf ears” (p 44).  

Aldana discusses some more recent attempts to find a correlation. Brian Wells and Andreas Fuls returns to the Dresden Codex Venus Table and sees the 9.9.9.16.0 1 Ajaw 18 K’ayab date as Venus’s heliacal rise. Fuls also addresses Poco Winik’s eclipse record but in his correlation the Long Count date is one day before a partial eclipse that never was visible from Mesoamerica (!). However, he introduces a new data set into the correlation problem. This is Lacadena’s research on stylistic changes of glyphs that “argues that the GMT requires a break in the rate of change. This break is removed, however, with the WF [Wells-Fuls] correlation” (p 46).

We are near the end of Aldana’s essay now and I will summarize his argument and conclusions in the final post. To be continued…

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Responses

  1. Dear Johan,

    Thank you for these articles about the correlation problem.
    Do you have more information about Stela 1 at Poco Winik, because I can’t find any information about it, and I am curious about the Long Count date of the eclipse.

    Kind regards,

    Mike Geubel

  2. Unfortunately I don’t. I had never heard about the site until I read Aldana’s article. I suggest you contact him.

  3. Johan, you say: “However, what should be needed is an eclipse associated with a date. The Dresden Codex Eclipse Table could be important here but as mentioned before this table cannot be matched with a historical eclipse. There is, however, one Classic period inscription that probably mentions an eclipse. This is Stela 1 at Poco Winik. Thompson notes that the Martinez equation is off by five days if this inscription indeed records an eclipse. Hence, “the one record from the Classic period, then, with the potential for identifying a unique date astronomically does not conform to any version of the GMT. Rather than call into question the GMT, this has led to speculations about the authenticity of the record itself; more often than not, however, the Poco Winik data is left outside of the discussion” (p 40).” As I mentioned recently in the 2012 Research Discussion Group, we are now in a position to peg the Poco Uinic solar eclipse record (and there is no doubt that it is one) not only to a spectacular total eclipse in the region but to the 584285 crrelation constant, popularly termed “GMT +2”, but as Lounsbury made clear, it is the *original* GMT. What everyone has thought was a one-day deviation from the 285 (i.e. suggesting 286) has been explained by Vincent Malmstrom as the seeming discrepancy between the correlation constant and the point at which the Julian Day Number changes (at noon UT or Greemwich Mean Time). So with that in hand, we have the eclipse data you say we need. But not only that: Michael Grofe and I will in the near future be publishing evidence that T540 was used as a Distance Number to count a sum of elapsed lunations plus the coefficient of Glyph D to reach the date of a solar eclipse; we have four cases and they all work with 584285.

  4. *Greenwich*, of course…(!) that’s what I get for posting long replies. As a few readers may know, in 2006 I first made public my proposed reading K’IL for T540. I have a preponderance of evidence for the reading and the arguments will be included in the publication. Its meaning is ‘completed cycle’, and as such it is used to count elapsed lunations, but there is one case where it substitutes for the WINAL glyph in a Distance Number at Piedras Negras, so it cannot be assigned a numerical value like “20” or “29.53”. But it also operates logosyllabically to spell semantically unrelated words, such as /k’ilis/ ‘venerable, ancient’ (Naj Tunich) and /upak’il/ ‘his stucco wall’ (Palenque stucco text). So if I may be so bold, I feel that Michael Grofe and I will soon be able to “prove” the 584285 correlation constant for the Classic. Michael has been in regular dialogue with Gerardo about the correlation issue, and my take on Gerardo’s view, absent all the media hype, is that he’s been looking for definitive evidence for the GMT and that what has thus far been offered falls short ( I agree), rather than that it is wrong. I
    also hope that Michael, Carl Callaway, Peter Mathews and I will publish a short note (somewhere, this year) on the full text of the Poco Uinic stela now that we’ve managed to recover most of the
    text. cheers, Barb

  5. Thanks for clearing things up. I probably should write a short blog post about this for the 2012ers out there (they may not read the comment on this 1,5 year old blog post). Btw, is it Stela 1 or 3?

    How do all the other problems that Gerardo sees in the correlation issue relate to the GMT+2 correlation? Are they resolved by the Poco Winik data?

    I like the idea that Central Mexicans installed a new Calendar Round in the Maya highlands during the Postclassic. Would this be because of a need to have a “synchronized” New Fire ceremony? What about the Yucatec Short Count, would it still follow the GMT? If so, we would have two different calendars in work at the time of the Spanish conquest.

    • It is Poco Uinic Stela 3. By the way, I’m still stodgily using the Colonial orthography for archaeological site names.

      I have recently been rereading Barbara Tedlock’s thoughts on the uniformity of the tzolk’in in the highlands and the relative stability of Momostenango during the time of Aztec domination. This would seem compatible with the idea of a central authority (that is, Momostenango) being put in a position to dictate and synchronize the count. As for the New Fire ceremony, I don’t think she mentions it at all; it’s an interesting question. But it would have been this sort of major event requiring everyone’s participation which would obligate synchronization of the calendar.

      I have just called Michael’s attention to this thread, and since he regularly communicates with Gerardo, he would be the one to expound on whatever problems might remain with the GMT in Gerardo’s view–perhaps some issues with the Dresden Venus tables? When you write a new blog entry, we can invite Gerardo in to speak for himself. I assume that by now Michael has told him about “the Malmstrom Solution” to the Poco Uinic eclipse.

    • It is Poco Uinic Stela 3. I have been rereading Barbara Tedlock on the role of Momostenango as a central authority during the Postclassic, and while she does not mention (as I recall) the New Fire ceremony, it would have been events of this stature that would require synchronization. I also feel that it is premature to conclude that the 584285 (vs. 283) is uniformly applicable to all of the Maya area during the Classic, though it would be convenient to say so. Michael, when he has a chance, will likely chime in and explain why the 283 correlation constant is attractive at Copan. As he has just replied in an email to me: “If we can target texts that name other eclipses to the day, we will have more to work with. Otherwise, I’m content to remain in the gray area between the ’83 and ’85 without any way to prove either one. But the GMT as a whole stands strong for so many reasons.”

    • It is Poco Uinic Stela 3. Let’s see if I can post this now that I’ve created a new identity (trotted out an old one, actually) 🙂

  6. Haha! I seem to be stuck in the interdimensional gate with simultaneous multiple identities. I reposted a slightly different reply thinking the first did not go through. And for some reason, the Live Traffic Feed puts me in Fredericksburg when I am in Austin. Ah, well…good night, good morning! Barb

  7. I have to approve the comments, that is why they do not show up immediately.


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