My son and I recently spent an adventure-filled vacation in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. This small area has the most concentrated number of ancient Mayan ruins than any other region in South America. We couldn’t wait to visit some of them and guess what – even on vacation I learned more about numbers!
The first picture with this post is of El Caracol in Chichen Itza, which is thought to be a Mayan Observatory. It takes its name from its spiral shape, which resembles a conch (caracol) shell. The form of this observatory is very similar to our modern day observatories and is composed of three levels. The top level had a series of small openings that were used for observing both the day and night skies. Many of these “windows” were positioned to line up with the setting sun on the spring equinox, the path of Venus and certain sight lines to the Moon.
The question is – how were they able to calculate the positions of the sun, moon and Venus so accurately, when the only instruments they had were sticks, stones and shells?
We were very fortunate to have a tour guide who had incredible knowledge about the Mayan Culture. On the bus ride there, we learned about their number system, which was a base twenty. This was probably because they would count all their fingers and toes. A shell symbolized zero (0) but not within the number 10. Ten was symbolized by two horizontal sticks, much like an equal sign (=) but longer. Therefore, 1 stick was a symbol for the number five (5). One stone (•) was worth 1.
When you put sticks and stones together you can count up to 19 (3 sticks with 4 stones above) When you get to twenty and above it gets more complicated. Our guide, Victor, even showed us how they simplified the multiplication of 3 and four digit numbers. I will stop my math lesson here and go on to the history and architecture of these amazing people. Whew!
The beginning of Mayan civilization goes all the way back to about 2000 BC. The ruins that we visited in Chichen Itza and Tulum date back to the Classic Period, which spanned from 250 AD to 900 AD. It was during this time that many large cities where built in the Yucatan. At the heart of many of these cities was often a pyramid. The second picture with this post is of the head of a serpent, which sits (with its mate) at the foot of the staircase of El Castillo or Kukulcan Pyramid. The pyramid is thought to be a representation of the Mayan solar calendar, as well as having a special astronomical significance and layout.
For the Maya, the sky, their calendar and mythology were integrated into a single of belief. This fascination led to the creation of one of the most accurate calendars in history. In this year of 2012, there is much talk of the Mayan Calendar and its predictions of the end of the world on December 21, 2012. Their study of our Sun and Solar System led them to this prophecy.
The planets rotate around the Sun in cycles. It takes 25,625 years for our solar system to make one full cycle on this ellipse. There are also sub-cycles of 5,125 years when the Sun releases solar flares, which cause a displacement in the Earth’s rotation. The Mayans believed that these cycles coincided with our spiritual and collective consciousness. These universal processes are cycles that never change.
What does change is human consciousness. Based on their observations, on the 21st of December of this year, the Sun would change its polarity, which would produce a great cosmic event. This would propel humankind to be ready to cross into a new era, the Golden Age. After this, the Mayans say, we will be ready to go through the door that was left by them, transforming our civilization based on fear, to a vibration much higher in harmony.
I can’t help but wonder – who taught them all of this? Will their predictions be correct? Am I ready to move into the Golden Age? In any case, I think this is a great time to let go of money fears and live in harmony with it. What do you think?