Overview. The Maya calendar consists of several cycles or counts of different lengths. 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 Mayan calendar consists of three separate calendars that are used simultaneously: the Long Count , the Tzolkin (divine calendar) and the Haab (civil calendar).
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 .
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.
It was used to name individuals, predict the future, decide on auspicious dates for battles, marriages, and so on. Each single day had its omens and associations, and the inexorable march of the 20 days was like a perpetual fortune-telling machine, guiding the destinies of the Maya .
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 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).
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.
The Maya recorded time in a series of cycles, including 400-year chunks called baktuns. It’s these baktuns that have led to rumors of an end-of-the-world catastrophe on Dec . 21 , 2012 — on that date, a cycle of 13 baktuns will be complete.