By 1,800 years ago, speakers of proto-Ch'olan, the ancestor of
three present-day Maya languages, had developed a calendar of
eighteen twenty-day months plus a set of five days for a total of
365 days. This original Maya calendar, used extensively during the
Classic period (200-900 CE), recorded in hieroglyphic inscriptions
the dates of dynastic and cosmological importance. Over time, and
especially after the Mayas' contact with Europeans, the month names
that had originated with these inscriptions developed into fourteen
distinct traditions, each connected to a different ethnic group.
Today, the glyphs encompass 250 standard forms, variants, and
alternates, with about 570 meanings among all the cognates,
synonyms, and homonyms. In The Maya Calendar, Weldon Lamb collects,
defines, and correlates the month names in every recorded Maya
calendrical tradition from the first hieroglyphic inscriptions to
the present - an undertaking critical to unlocking and
understanding the iconography and cosmology of the ancient Maya
world. Mining data from astronomy, ethnography, linguistics, and
epigraphy, and working from early and modern dictionaries of the
Maya languages, Lamb pieces together accurate definitions of the
month names in order to compare them across time and tradition. His
exhaustive process reveals unsuspected parallels. Three-fourths of
the month names, he shows, still derive from those of the original
hieroglyphic inscriptions. Lamb also traces the relationship
between month names as cognates, synonyms, or homonyms, and then
reconstructs each name's history of development, connecting the
Maya month names in several calendars to ancient texts and
archaeological finds. In this landmark study, Lamb's investigations
afford new insight into the agricultural, astronomical, ritual, and
even political motivations behind names and dates in the Maya
calendar. A history of descent and diffusion, of unexpected
connectedness and longevity, The Maya Calendar offers readers a
deep understanding of a foundational aspect of Maya culture.
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