Thirteen was sacred as the number of original Maya gods. Another sacred number was 52 , representing the number of years in a “bundle”, a unit similar in concept to our century. Another number, 400 , had sacred meaning as the number of Maya gods of the night. The Maya also used head glyphs as number signs.
Mayan time is marked in days (one day is called a kin), periods of 20 days (a uinal, or 20 kin), 360 days (a tun, or 18 uinal), 7,200 days (a katun, or 20 tun) and 144,000 days (a baktun, or 20 katun).
The current practice of referring to the current baktun as ” baktun 13” or “thirteenth baktun ” may stand, even though it is properly the fourteenth baktun .
The Mayan calendar is an ancient system of three interlacing calendars : the Long Count, the Tzolkin and the Haab. The Long Count is an astronomical calendar . Each cycle is 2,880,000 days long. The Tzolkin is a 260-day calendar used for religious events, and the Haab is a 365-day solar calendar .
There are 13 lunar months in the year (with a small error), which led the Maya and the Hebrews to consider 13 as auspicious. In medieval theology 13 = 10 + 3 (Commandments plus Trinity), and therefore the number had some positive aspects.
The first recorded zero appeared in Mesopotamia around 3 B.C. The Mayans invented it independently circa 4 A.D. It was later devised in India in the mid-fifth century, spread to Cambodia near the end of the seventh century, and into China and the Islamic countries at the end of the eighth.
Allen Christenson, professor of comparative arts and letters and an expert on Mayan society, explained that although the Maya couldn’t predict the exact day of an eclipse , they could predict eclipse seasons by noting when Venus rose above the horizon just before sunrise.
It is extremely accurate, and the calculations of Maya priests were so precise that their calendar correction is 10,000th of a day more exact than the standard calendar the world uses today .
Mysterious Decline of the Maya From the late eighth through the end of the ninth century, something unknown happened to shake the Maya civilization to its foundations. One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in that region had collapsed.
Scholars have suggested a number of potential reasons for the downfall of Maya civilization in the southern lowlands, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, warfare, shifting trade routes and extended drought. It’s likely that a complex combination of factors was behind the collapse.
The 260-day count is known to scholars as the Tzolkin, or Tzolkʼin. The Tzolkin was combined with a 365-day vague solar year known as the Haabʼ to form a synchronized cycle lasting for 52 Haabʼ, called the Calendar Round.
The designation Maya comes from the ancient Yucatan city of Mayapan, the last capital of a Mayan Kingdom in the Post-Classic Period. The Maya people refer to themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche in the south or Yucatec in the north (though there are many others).
In the Maya Long Count, the previous world ended after 13 bʼakʼtuns, or roughly 5,125 years. The Long Count’s “zero date” was set at a point in the past marking the end of the third world and the beginning of the current one, which corresponds to 11 August 3114 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.