The Pre-Columbian people of Mesoamerica kept track of time with a variety of calendars tracking lunar cycles, years, and continuous day counts of 365 and 360 days. All of the Mesoamerican cultures shared a 260-day ritual calendar, the Tzolk'in of the Maya civilization. In many Mesoamerican cultures people were given the name of the day in this cycle on which they were born (sometimes in addition to another name). The 260 day cycle ran concurrently with a 365 day vague solar year. These two calendars intercalate to produce a unique name for each day during each 52 years cycle. Calendar Round rituals would be held at the end of each 52 year round, with all fires extinguished, old pots broken, and a new fire ceremony symbolizing a fresh start.
The Calendar Round 52 year cycle was by far the most important for most Mesoamericans, with the apparent exception of the Maya elite until the end of the Classic Era, who gave equal importance to the Maya Long Count Calendar. Other calendar cycles were also recorded, such as a lunar calendar, as well as the cycles of other astronomical] objects, most importanly Venus.
The Julian calendar was introduced in the region after conquest by Spain in the 16th century. While the Gregorian calendar is now in general use, in some communities indigenous people still use the ancient count of days.
- Balkansky (2002), p.904
- Stockton, William (March 25, 1986). "Ancient Astronomy Points to New Views of Mayan Life" (in English). The New York Times.
- Balkansky, op. cit.
- See Coe (1987) p.47; Miller and Taube (1993) p.48
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