Mayan Astronomy

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Elan Footerman
Dr. Frank
SS155
4/9/13
Mayan Astronomy

One of the monumental aspects of the Mayan Civilization was their interest in astronomy and the calendar. The Mayans made predictions in starwatching that are nearly as accurate as our calculations today. They were one of the first civilizations to show major advances in the study of the stars. It is likely that the reason the Mayans wanted to study the stars and other celestial bodies was so that they would be able to predict weather conditions for farming. They were so talented that “Their solar calendar—indeed the calendar used by all Mesoamericans—was more accurate than that of the Spanish conquistadores.” (Foster) They predicted all kinds of planet and star related events such as eclipses, equinoxes, and solstices. What makes the Mayan findings and predictions even more extraordinary is that they didn’t have the technology of telescopes and other astronomy related tools. They used the technology of the “naked eye” to calculate the patterns of the heavens almost as accurately as we do today with advanced machinery. Some of the buildings were deliberately placed so that the sun, moon, or other planetary objects would be visible through windows or holes in the structures. In some cases the sun would shine in on certain illustrations or sculptures, illuminating them on sacred Mayan days. From these architectural layouts historians can deduce how involved Mayan society was in astronomy. Clearly, astronomy was an important aspect of the Mayan civilization. They used their knowledge of the stars, sun, and other heavenly bodies to their advantage such as predicting weather conditions for farming. Even the way their cities were built reflected their interest in the stars. Their predictions in astronomy were well ahead of their time.

Works Cited
Foster, Lynn V. "Maya." A Brief History of Central Ameria, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. American Indian History Online. Facts On...
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