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22 November 2005

Eclipse Table of Maya Dresden Codex

Click twice for larger, clearer.

Sharon Secor's essay in "Underground!" is about the Maya calendar -- not just the most remarkable calendar in the Western Hemisphere, but the equal of any pre-telescopic astronomical calendar in the ancient world.

Here, something Sharon doesn't mention -- I wouldn't wanna go mano a mano with her on Mayastuff. This is from the Dresden Codex, one of the very few surviving Maya manuscripts, and now the best deciphered and understood.

Like the amazing ancient Babylonians, the Maya could predict eclipses. This is an astonishing, seemingly impossible feat for any civilization before Kepler, Galileo and Newton. Neither the Babylonians nor the Maya had even an inkling of the structure of the solar system or any details of its mechanics. All they knew was what the heavens looked like when they gazed at the heavens from the Earth.

But both civilizations had the trick of Time -- centuries, even a millennium or two or three, of stable, uninterrupted civilization which allowed uninterrupted and accurate observations and chronicling of heavenly phenomena by their Priest-Astronomers. And eventually, clever mathematicians among them -- and the Mayas were mathematicians of incredible skill and sophistication -- noticed that certain kinds of eclipses occur in regular, predictable cycles. (The cycle the Babylonians discovered is called the Saros Cycle.)

This is the Eclipse Table of the Dresden Codex. You can learn almost everything about it at this site.


Blogger Sharon Secor said...

Oh, wow, how cool is that... thanks for the mention. I've heard rumors that there are Strike The Root readers who find your blog just as fascinating as I do.

Best Regards...


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