My rather lengthy coverage of Gerardo Aldana’s essay on the correlation problem between the Maya calendar(s) and the Christian calendars has shown that Eric Thompson still has a tremendous impact on contemporary Mayanist studies. Lounsbury’s proof forced scholars into accepting the GMT (or the GMT+2 correlation proposed by Lounsbury). The popular hieroglyphic writing workshops organized by Linda Schele (the Texas meetings) canonized the GMT. Aldana argues that “the GMT was accepted because it was accepted by well respected authorities in the field-not because it had been uncontrovertibly proven” (p 46).
Aldana asks some critical questions in his conclusion, such as “if there is insufficient data to provide a unique solution-is there any reason not to find a consensus on a ‘best’ solution and utilize it as a working hypothesis?” (p 46) The Star War idea is a good example of how Mayanists can make erroneous interpretations of historical events and practices based on incorrect correlations. Discussions of when “ordinary” warfare (not just the proposed Star War) was conducted has relied on the idea that warfare was something practiced during the agricultural off-season. However, that is an interpretation completely dependent on the GMT.
Contrary to the 2012ers belief the Maya seldom performed rituals around the solstices (according to the GMT). However, another correlation may eventually set several of the recorded ritual events on solstices but the irony is that the 13 Baktun date cannot fall on the winter solstice if the calendar has another correlation with the Christian calendar.
The crucial problem with correlating the Long Count and the Julian calendar is that of continuity. The Long Count was used to produce a linear chronological record but “once a given community has deviated from that construct, what evidence is there that subsequent calendric constructs were intended to function in similar ways?” (p 47) More specifically “why would a katun count in Postclassic Yucatan be a representation or philosophically dependent upon the Long Count of the Classic Peten?” (p 47) I believe most Mayanists acknowledges the difference between these calendric constructs and few of them have therefore accepted Prudence Rice’s may-cycle model which demands continuity. However, there is still a common belief that the tzolkin has remained intact. I doubt it has remained intact.
Aldana’s critique is reminiscent of Nielsen and Reunert’s critique of the multilayered universe in Mesoamerican cosmology. They show that the scholarly belief that the Maya had 13 layers in heaven and 9 levels in the underworld is the result of Thompson’s interpretations of early Colonial writers who imposed Dante’s view of cosmos on Maya cosmology. Not only is Thompson a central figure here as well, but the idea of a multilayered cosmos has been black boxed. Later scholars have taken Thompson’s interpretations of these documents for granted. I am currently writing up articles on similar black boxing in Mayanist cave studies and climate change studies.
The calendar correlation solution is convenient for many Mayanist researchers but Aldana suggests that “the more intellectually conservative approach is the research that proceeds without assuming a calendar correlation” (p 47).