Almanac: An almanac includes dates in the 260-day ritual calendar (the tzolk'in), as well as pictures and hieroglyphic texts. Most almanacs are divided into a series of frames which consist of a hieroglyphic caption, two bar-and-dot numbers (the first in black and the second in red, or outlined in black-and-white drawings of the Maya codices), and frequently a picture.
Coefficient: A coefficient is a number that is represented in the codices by bar-and-dot notation. Each bar represents 5 and each dot 1. Day glyphs are paired with coefficients ranging from 1 to 13 and month glyphs with coefficients ranging from 0 (represented by a glyph for “seating”) to 19.
Day name: The Maya tzolk'in, or 260-day calendar, combines a coefficient ranging from 1 to 13 with a glyph representing the name of the day. There are 20 day names, including: Imix, Ik’, Ak’b’al, K’an, Chikchan, Kimi, Manik’, Lamat, Muluk, Ok, Chuwen, Eb’, B’en, Ix, Men, Kib’, Kab’an, Etz’nab’, Kawak, and Ahaw.
Deities: Most of the human-looking figures in the Maya codices are deities. Before their name glyphs (or appellatives) could be read, they were given a series of letter designations by Paul Schellhas (in 1904); these were later modified by David Kelley (in 1976) and Karl Taube (in 1992). Most of the letter designations have since been replaced by the names recorded in the hieroglyphic captions, although a few appellative glyphs still cannot be read. Many of these deities are described in Spanish Colonial accounts, so we know a fair amount about them.
|Letter Designation||Glyphic Name||English Name||Associations|
|God A||Kimil||death (god)|
|God A'||Kam?||death (god)||secondary death god|
|God B||Chaak||rain (god)|
|God C||K’uh||god||embodies concept of holiness or divinity; can substitute for any of the other gods|
|God CH||Yax B’alam||First Jaguar||corresponds to Xbalanque in the Popol Vuh|
|God D||Itzamna||creator god|
|God E||Nal||maize (god)|
|God G||K’inich Ahaw||Lord Sun|
|God H||Nik||flower (god)|
|Goddess I||Ix? Kab’||Lady Earth|
|God K||K’awil||lord of sustenance|
|God L||??||one of a series of black deities; may have associations with Venus|
|God M||??||merchant and warrior god; one of a series of black deities|
|God N||Pawahtun||series of quadripartite deities responsible for holding up the world|
|Goddess O||Chak Chel||Red/Great Rainbow||has both creative and destructive aspects; associated with life-giving waters (creative aspect) and flooding (destructive aspect)|
|God P||Pawahtun||variant of God N|
|God Q||Kisin||"demon"||underworld god|
|God R||Kab’||earth (god)|
|God S||Hun Ahaw||01 Lord||corresponds to Hunahpu in the Popol Vuh|
|God Y||??||one of a series of black deities; associated with deer hunting|
|God Z||??||one of a series of black deities; may have associations with Venus. Variant of God L.|
Distance number: The Maya used distance numbers (x number of days) to count from one date to another in their calendar. In Maya almanacs, distance numbers are represented by bar-and-dot numbers (with each bar equal to 5 and each dot to 1), or by the “moon” glyph, which represents 20.
Frame: Maya almanacs consist of one or a series of frames. In standard almanacs, a frame contains a hieroglyphic caption (generally consisting of four glyph blocks that are read in pairs from left to right and top to bottom); a black followed by a red (or outlined) bar-and-dot number; and a picture. Frames in circular and crossover almanacs are associated with multiple bar-and-dot numbers (distance number and coefficient pairs).
Glyph: The Maya developed a highly sophisticated written language that was capable of representing the nuances of their spoken language. Rather than using letters to form words, they used signs or symbols called glyphs (a shortened form of the word hieroglyph). Glyphs can have either a phonetic value, meaning that they represent a syllable consisting of a consonant followed by a vowel (for example /pa/), or they can have a logographic value. Logographs are glyphs that represent words (such as “sun” or “god”) or parts of speech (such as prepositions or endings on verbs).
Haab': The haab' is a 365-day calendar that approximates the length of the seasonal year (which is 365.2422 days in length). Dates in the haab' consist of a coefficient (or number) ranging from 0 to 19 or from 1 to 20 and a glyph referring to one of the 18 months of the haab'. Each of the months was 20 days in length, with a final 5-day period at the end of the year called Wayeb’.
Iconography: The pictures associated with almanacs in the Maya codices are referred to as its iconography. Some terms used in the database that may not be familiar include:
The Long Count is based on units of 20, rather than 10 as we use, and is organized as follows:
Month name: The Maya haab', or 365-day calendar, combines a coefficient ranging from 0 to 19 (or from 1 to 20 at later times) with a glyph representing the name of the month. There are 18 months of 20 days and a final 5-day period known as Wayeb’. The months are Pop, Wo, Sip, Sotz’, Tzek, Xul, Yaxk’in, Mol, Ch’en, Yax, Sak, Keh, Mak, K’ank’in, Muwan, Pax, K’ayab’, and Kumk’u.
T numbers: T (or Thompson) numbers are used throughout the database to refer to glyphic elements. Eric Thompson developed this system in the 1960s as a means of cataloging glyphs and labeling them without assigning a value. Examples of glyphs referenced by T number in the database include:
Term: For standard Maya almanacs, term is synonymous with frame; in other words, if there are 5 frames (numbered from 1 to 5), there are also 5 terms (labeled A through E). In circular and crossover almanacs, each distance number represents a separate term. Terms are labeled in the illustrations accompanying the database for circular almanacs only.
Tzolk'in: The tzolk'in is a 260-day calendar used by the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures for divination and prophecy. Tzolk'in dates consist of a number (or coefficient) ranging from 1 to 13 and a glyph referring to one of the 20 days of the tzolk'in. The starting point involves pairing the first number (1) with the first day name (Imix). One then moves forward by one day name and one coefficient for each of the 260 days in the cycle. The cycle ends on 13 Ahaw (day 260) and begins again on 1 Imix on the following day.
Copyright (c) 2002-2005 by Gabrielle Vail. All Rights Reserved