A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings; the term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya—ts'onot—to refer to any location with accessible groundwater. Cenotes are common geological forms in low latitude regions on islands and platforms with young post-Paleozoic limestones that have little soil development. Cenotes are surface connections to subterranean water bodies. While the best-known cenotes are large open water pools measuring tens of meters in diameter, such as those at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the greatest number of cenotes are smaller sheltered sites and do not have any surface exposed water. There are over 6000 different cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico alone; the term cenote has been used to describe similar karst features in other countries such as Cuba and Australia, in addition to the more generic term of sinkholes.
Cenote water is very clear, as the water comes from rain water filtering through the ground, therefore contains little suspended particulate matter. The groundwater flow rate within a cenote may be slow. In many cases, cenotes are areas where sections of cave roof have collapsed revealing an underlying cave system, the water flow rates may be much faster: up to 10 kilometers per day. Cenotes around the world attract cavern and cave divers who have documented extensive flooded cave systems through them, some of which have been explored for lengths of 340 km or more. Cenotes are formed by dissolution of rock and the resulting subsurface void, which may or may not be linked to an active cave system, the subsequent structural collapse. Rock that falls into the water below is removed by further dissolution, creating space for more collapse blocks; the rate of collapse increases during periods when the water table is below the ceiling of the void, since the rock ceiling is no longer buoyantly supported by the water in the void.
Cenotes may be collapsed creating an open water pool, or collapsed with some portion of a rock overhanging above the water. The stereotypical cenotes resemble small circular ponds, measuring some tens of meters in diameter with sheer drops at the edges. Most cenotes, require some degree of stooping or crawling to access the water. In the north and northwest of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, the cenotes overlie vertically extensive voids penetrating 50 to 100 m below the modern water table; however few of these cenotes appear to be connected with horizontally extensive underground river systems, with water flow through them being more dominated by aquifer matrix and fracture flows. In contrast, the cenotes along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula provide access to extensive underwater cave systems, such as Sistema Ox Bel Ha, Sistema Sac Actun/Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich and Sistema Dos Ojos; the Yucatán Peninsula contains a vast coastal aquifer system, density-stratified. The infiltrating meteoric water floats on top of higher-density saline water intruding from the coastal margins.
The whole aquifer is therefore an anchialine system. Where a cenote, or the flooded cave to which it is an opening, provides deep enough access into the aquifer, the interface between the fresh and saline water may be reached; the density interface between the fresh and saline waters is a halocline, which means a sharp change in salt concentration over a small change in depth. Mixing of the fresh and saline water results in a blurry swirling effect caused by refraction between the different densities of fresh and saline waters; the depth of the halocline is a function of several factors: climate and how much meteoric water recharges the aquifer, hydraulic conductivity of the host rock and connectivity of existing cave systems and how effective these are at draining water to the coast, the distance from the coast. In general, the halocline is deeper further from the coast, in the Yucatán Peninsula this depth is 10 to 20 m below the water table at the coast, 50 to 100 m below the water table in the middle of the peninsula, with saline water underlying the whole of the peninsula.
In 1936, a simple morphometry-based classification system for cenotes was presented. Cenotes-cántaro are those with a surface connection narrower than the diameter of the water body; the classification scheme was based on morphometric observations above the water table, therefore incompletely reflects the processes by which the cenotes formed and the inherent hydrogeochemical relationship with the underlying flooded cave networks, which were only discovered in the 1980s and with the initiation of cave diving exploration. Flora and fauna are scarcer than in the open ocean, however marine animals do thrive in caves. In caverns, one can spot mojarras, guppies, cat-fish, small eels and frogs. In the most secluded and darker cenotes, the fauna has evolved special features to live in an environment deprived of natural light. For example, many animals don't have pigmentation and they are blind, so they are equipped with long feelers so that they can find food and make
Maya society concerns the social organization of the Pre-Hispanic Mayas, its political structures and social classes. A Classic period Maya polity was a small kingdom headed by a hereditary ruler – ajaw kʼuhul ajaw. Both terms appear in early Colonial texts including Papeles de Paxbolón where they are used as synonyms for Aztec and Spanish terms for rulers and their domains; these are tlatoani and tlahtocayotl in Nahuatl, the Spanish words rey and reino and señor for ruler/leader/lord and señorío or dominio of realm. Such kingdoms were no more than a capital city with its neighborhood and several dependent towns. There were larger polities that controlled larger territories and subjugated smaller polities; each kingdom had its name that did not correspond to any locality within its territory. Its identity was that of a political unit associated with a particular ruling dynasty. For instance, the archaeological site of Naranjo was the capital of the kingdom of Saal; the land of the kingdom and its capital were called Wakabʼnal or Maxam and were part of a larger geographical entity known as Huk Tsuk.
Despite constant warfare and eventual shifts in regional power, most kingdoms never disappeared from the political landscape until the collapse of the whole system in the 9th century. In this respect, Classic Maya kingdoms were similar to late Postclassic polities encountered by the Spanish in Yucatán and Central Mexico: some polities were subordinate to hegemonic centers or rulers through conquest and/or dynastic unions and yet then they persisted as distinct entities. Mayanists have been accepting the "court paradigm" of Classic Maya societies that puts the emphasis on the centrality of the royal household and the person of the king; this approach focuses on the totality of Maya monumental spaces as the embodiment of the diverse activities of the royal household. It considers the role of places and spaces in establishing and negotiating power and social hierarchy, but in producing and projecting aesthetic and moral values that define the order of a wider social realm. Spanish sources invariably describe the largest Maya settlements of Yucatán and Guatemala as dispersed agglomerations of dwellings grouped around the temples and palaces of the ruling dynasty and lesser nobles.
Though there was economic specialization among Classic period Maya centers, it was not conducted at a scale similar to that of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Some argue that Maya cities were not urban centers but were, structured according to and conceptualized as enormous royal households, the locales of the administrative and ritual activities of the royal court. Within the theoretical framework of this model, they were the places where privileged nobles could approach the holy ruler, where aesthetical values of the high culture were formulated and disseminated, where aesthetic items were consumed, they were the self-proclaimed centers and the sources of social and cosmic, order. The fall of a royal court as in the well-documented cases of Piedras Negras or Copán would cause the inevitable'death' of the associated settlement. Ancient Maya kinship and descent have alternatively been described as patrilineal and bilateral. Maya political organization has been centralized. Scribes had their own patron deities.
They are to have come from aristocratic families. It appears that some scribes were attached to the royal house, while others were serving at temples and were counted among the priests, it seems that they were organized hierarchically. Maya art depicts rulers with trappings indicating they were scribes or at least able to write, such as having pen bundles in their headdresses. Additionally, many rulers have been found in conjunction with writing tools such as shell or clay ink pots. To the ancient Maya, body modification was a reflection of a cultural, individual identity. Through different modifications, the body could be experienced individually, used as a symbol, or as a political statement. Beauty was used to outwardly show and perform social and moral values. Physical remains of the Maya help piece together the motivation and significance for enduring vast amounts of pain, using great amounts of their wealth to make themselves beautiful. Ancient Maya placed a high value on certain extreme body modifications undergoing tedious and painful procedures as a rite of passage, an homage to their gods, as a permanently visible status symbol of their place in society that would last a lifetime, into their afterlife.
Therefore, there was aesthetic and social reasoning behind the modification. The origin of cranial modification among the Maya is unknown, but it was inherited from the Olmecs, predecessors of the Maya, who were located near the Tuxtla Mountains. Cranial modification was one of the most important practices of the Olmec culture. Individuals enduring cranial modification could be of any status, but many more elite individuals were depicted with cranial modifications. Intentional deformation practices were used as a way to differentiate between members of the society. All members of an elite family were expected to go through cranial modification, starting shortly after birth; the procedure occurred while the skull of the child was not grow
Maya stelae are monuments that were fashioned by the Maya civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. They consist of tall, sculpted stone shafts and are associated with low circular stones referred to as altars, although their actual function is uncertain. Many stelae were sculpted in low relief, although plain monuments are found throughout the Maya region; the sculpting of these monuments spread throughout the Maya area during the Classic Period, these pairings of sculpted stelae and circular altars are considered a hallmark of Classic Maya civilization. The earliest dated stela to have been found in situ in the Maya lowlands was recovered from the great city of Tikal in Guatemala. During the Classic Period every Maya kingdom in the southern lowlands raised stelae in its ceremonial centre. Stelae became associated with the concept of divine kingship and declined at the same time as this institution; the production of stelae by the Maya had its origin around 400 BC and continued through to the end of the Classic Period, around 900, although some monuments were reused in the Postclassic.
The major city of Calakmul in Mexico raised the greatest number of stelae known from any Maya city, at least 166, although they are poorly preserved. Hundreds of stelae have been recorded in the Maya region. Many are upright slabs of limestone sculpted on one or more faces, with available surfaces sculpted with figures carved in relief and with hieroglyphic text. Stelae in a few sites display a much more three-dimensional appearance where locally available stone permits, such as at Copán and Toniná. Plain stelae do not appear to have been painted nor overlaid with stucco decoration, but most Maya stelae were brightly painted in red, black and other colours. Stelae were stone banners raised to glorify the king and record his deeds, although the earliest examples depict mythological scenes. Imagery developed throughout the Classic Period, with Early Classic stelae displaying non-Maya characteristics from the 4th century onwards, with the introduction of imagery linked to the central Mexican metropolis of Teotihuacan.
This influence receded in the 5th century although some minor Teotihuacan references continued to be used. In the late 5th century, Maya kings began to use stelae to mark the end of calendrical cycles. In the Late Classic, imagery linked to the Mesoamerican ballgame was introduced, once again displaying influence from central Mexico. By the Terminal Classic, the institution of divine kingship declined, Maya kings began to be depicted with their subordinate lords; as the Classic Period came to an end, stelae ceased to be erected, with the last known examples being raised in 909–910. The function of the Maya stela was central to the ideology of Maya kingship from the beginning of the Classic Period through to the end of the Terminal Classic; the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the stelae of the Classic period site of Piedras Negras played a key part in the decipherment of the script, with stelae being grouped around seven different structures and each group appearing to chart the life of a particular individual, with key dates being celebrated, such as birth and military victories.
From these stelae, epigrapher Tatiana Proskouriakoff was able to identify that they contained details of royal rulers and their associates, rather than priests and gods as had been theorised. Epigrapher David Stuart first proposed that the Maya regarded their stelae as te tun, "stone trees", although he revised his reading to lakamtun, meaning "banner stone", from lakam meaning "banner" in several Mayan languages and tun meaning "stone". According to Stuart this may refer to the stelae as stone versions of vertical standards that once stood in prominent places in Maya city centres, as depicted in ancient Maya graffiti; the name of the modern Lacandon Maya is to be a Colonial corruption of this word. Maya stelae were arranged to impress the viewer, forming lines or other arrangements within the ceremonial centre of the city. Maya cities with a history of stonecarving that extended back into the Early Classic preferred to pair their stelae with a circular altar, which may have represented a cut tree trunk and have been used to perform human sacrifice, given the prevalence of sacrificial imagery on such monuments.
An alternative interpretation of these "altars" is that they were in fact thrones that were used by rulers during ceremonial events. Archaeologists believe that they also served as ritual pedestals for incense burners, ceremonial fires and other offerings; the core purpose of a stela was to glorify the king. Many Maya stelae depict only the king of the city, describe his actions with hieroglyphic script; when the individual depicted is not the king himself, the text or scene relates the subject to the king. Declaring the importance and power of the king to the community, the stela portrayed his wealth and ancestry, depicted him wielding the symbols of military and divine power. Stelae were raised to commemorate important events at the end of a kʼatun 20-year cycle of the Maya calendar, or to mark a quarter or a half kʼatun; the stela did not just mark off a period of time. The hieroglyphic texts on the stelae describe how some of the calendrical ceremonies required the king to perform ritual dance and bloodletting.
At Tikal, the twin pyramid groups were built to celebrate the kʼatun ending and reflected Maya cosmology. These groups possessed pyramids on the east and west sides that represented the birth and death of the sun. On the south side, a nine-doored building
Mesoamerican chronology divides the history of prehispanic Mesoamerica into several periods: the Paleo-Indian, the Archaic, the Preclassic or Formative, the Classic, the Postclassic and Postcolonial. The periodization of Mesoamerica is based on archaeological and modern cultural anthropology research; the endeavor to create cultural histories of Mesoamerica dates to the early twentieth century, with ongoing work by archeologists, ethnohistorians and cultural anthropologists. 10,000–3500 BCE The Paleo-Indian period or era is that which spans from the first signs of human presence in the region, to the establishment of agriculture and other practices and subsistence techniques characteristic of proto-civilizations. In Mesoamerica, the termination of this phase and its transition into the succeeding Archaic period may be reckoned at between 10,000 and 8000 BCE, although this dating is approximate only and different timescales may be used between fields and sub-regions. Before 2600 BCEDuring the Archaic Era agriculture was developed in the region and permanent villages were established.
Late in this era, use of pottery and loom weaving became common, class divisions began to appear. Many of the basic technologies of Mesoamerica in terms of stone-grinding, pottery etc. were established during this period. 2000 BCE–250 CEDuring the Preclassic Era, or Formative Period, large-scale ceremonial architecture, writing and states developed. Many of the distinctive elements of Mesoamerican civilization can be traced back to this period, including the dominance of corn, the building of pyramids, human sacrifice, jaguar-worship, the complex calendar, many of the gods; the Olmec civilization developed and flourished at such sites as La Venta and San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán succeeded by the Epi-Olmec culture between 300–250 BCE. The Zapotec civilization arose in the Valley of Oaxaca, the Teotihuacan civilization arose in the Valley of Mexico, the Maya civilization began to develop in the Mirador Basin and the Epi-Olmec culture in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec expanding into Guatemala and the Yucatán Peninsula.
250–900 CEThe Classic Period was dominated by numerous independent city-states in the Maya region and featured the beginnings of political unity in central Mexico and the Yucatán. Regional differences between cultures grew more manifest; the city-state of Teotihuacan dominated the Valley of Mexico until the early 8th century, but we know little of the political structure of the region because the Teotihuacanos left no written records. The city-state of Monte Albán dominated the Valley of Oaxaca until the late Classic, leaving limited records in their undeciphered script. Sophisticated arts such as stuccowork, sculptural reliefs, mural painting and lapidary developed and spread during the Classic era. In the Maya region, under considerable military influence by Teotihuacan after the "arrival" of Siyaj K'ak' in 378 CE, numerous city states such as Tikal, Calakmul, Copán, Palenque, Cobá, Caracol reached their zeniths; each of these polities was independent, although they formed alliances and sometimes became vassal states of each other.
The main conflict during this period was between Tikal and Calakmul, who fought a series of wars over the course of more than half a millennium. Each of these states declined during the Terminal Classic and were abandoned. 900–1521 CEIn the Postclassic Period many of the great nations and cities of the Classic Era collapsed, although some continued, such as in Oaxaca and the Maya of Yucatán, such as at Chichen Itza and Uxmal. This is sometimes seen as a period of increased warfare; the Postclassic is viewed as a period of cultural decline. However, it was a time of technological advancement in architecture and weaponry. Metallurgy came into use for jewelry and some tools, with new alloys and techniques being developed in a few centuries; the Postclassic was a period of rapid movement and population growth—especially in Central Mexico post-1200—and of experimentation in governance. For instance, in Yucatán,'dual rulership' replaced the more theocratic governments of Classic times, whilst oligarchic councils operated in much of Central Mexico.
It appears that the wealthy pochteca and military orders became more powerful than was the case in Classic times. This afforded some Mesoamericans a degree of social mobility; the Toltec for a time dominated central Mexico in the 9th–10th century collapsed. The northern Maya were for a time united under Mayapan, Oaxaca was united by Mixtec rulers in the 11th–12th centuries; the Aztec Empire arose in the early 15th century and appeared to be on a path to asserting dominance over the Valley of Mexico region not seen since Teotihuacan. Spain was the first European power to contact Mesoamerica and its conquistadores and a large number of native allies conquered the Aztecs. By the 15th century, the Mayan'revival' in Yucatán and southern Guatemala and the flourishing of Aztec imperialism evidently enabled a renaissance of fine arts and science. Examples include the'Pueblan-Mexica' style in pottery, codex illumination, goldwork, the flourishing of Nahua poetry, the botanical institutes established by the Aztec elite.
1521-1821 CEThe Colonial Period was initiated with Spanish conquest, which ended the hegemony of the Aztec Empire. It was accomplished with
Spanish conquest of Chiapas
The Spanish conquest of Chiapas was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Mesoamerican polities in the territory, now incorporated into the modern Mexican state of Chiapas. The region is physically diverse, featuring a number of highland areas, including the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and the Montañas Centrales, a southern littoral plain known as Soconusco and a central depression formed by the drainage of the Grijalva River. Before the Spanish conquest, Chiapas was inhabited by a variety of indigenous peoples, including the Zoques, various Maya peoples, such as the Lakandon Chʼol and the Tzotzil, an unidentified group referred to as the Chiapanecas. Soconusco had been incorporated into the Aztec Empire, centred in Valley of Mexico, paid the Aztecs tribute. News of strangers first arrived in the region as the Spanish penetrated and overthrew the Aztec Empire. In the early 1520s, several Spanish expeditions crossed Chiapas by land, Spanish ships scouted the Pacific coast.
The first highland colonial town in Chiapas, San Cristóbal de los Llanos, was established by Pedro de Portocarrero in 1527. Within a year, Spanish dominion extended over the upper drainage basin of the Grijalva River, Comitán, the Ocosingo valley. Encomienda rights were established, although in the earlier stages of conquest these amounted to little more than slave-raiding rights; the colonial province of Chiapa was established by Diego Mazariegos in 1528, with the reorganisation of existing encomiendas and colonial jurisdictions, the renaming of San Cristóbal as Villa Real, its relocation to Jovel. Excessive Spanish demands for tribute and labour caused a rebellion by the indigenous inhabitants, who attempted to starve out the Spanish; the conquistadores launched punitive raids, but the natives abandoned their towns and fled to inaccessible regions. Internal divisions among the Spanish led to a general instability in the province; the Mexican state of Chiapas occupies the extreme southeast of Mexico, covering an area of 74,415 square kilometres.
To the west, it borders with the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Veracruz, to the north with Tabasco. It borders on the east with Guatemala. Chiapas is culturally diverse, it features two principal highland regions: to the south is the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and in central Chiapas are the Montañas Centrales. They are separated by the Depresión Central, containing the drainage basin of the Grijalva River; the Sierra Madre highlands gain altitude from west to east, with the highest mountains near the Guatemalan border. The littoral zone of Soconusco lies to the south of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, consists of a narrow coastal plain and the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Although the entire coastal strip is referred to as Soconusco, Soconusco proper is the southeastern portion characterised by a humid tropical climate and rich agricultural lands; the northwestern portion of the coastal strip featuring a drier climate was referred to as El Despoblado. The Depresión Central consists of a drainage basin some 200 kilometres long and varying in width from 30 to 60 kilometres.
The Grijalva River is fed by drainage from the Cuchumatanes mountains of Guatemala and from both of the Chiapas highland regions, particlularly the Sierra Madre. The wide plains feature a hot climate with moderate rainfall; the Depresión Central is itself divided into two zones, the eastern is the Grijalva Valley stretching from the Guatemalan border to the Sumidero Canyon. This region of high plains blocks the passage of the Grijalva River, which has cut its way through towards Tabasco by means of the Sumidero Canyon. Los Chimalapas is another highland region at the northern extreme of the Meseta Central and bordering with Oaxaca; the Central Highlands rise to the north of the Grijalva, to a maximum altitude of 2,400 metres descend towards the Yucatán Peninsula. They are cut by deep valleys running parallel to the Pacific coast, feature a complex drainage system that feeds both the Grijalva and the Lacantún River, which feeds into the Usumacinta River; the Central Highlands feature high rainfall and diverse vegetation dependent upon altitude, from high-altitude pine forests to lowland tropical forest further north and east towards the plains of Tabasco and Petén.
At the eastern end of the Central Highlands is the Lacandon Forest, mountainous with lowland tropical plains at its easternmost extreme. The earliest human inhabitants of Chiapas were foragers living in the northern highlands and along the coastal strip from 6000 BC until about 2000 BC. For the last two millennia BC, the majority of the territory, now covered by the state of Chiapas was occupied by Zoque-speaking peoples. Mayan-speakers began to make inroads from the east and, from about 200 AD, Chiapas was divided equally between the Zoques in the western half and Maya in the eastern half. A broad swathe of western Chiapas was held by the Zoques, covering the Depresión Central, the mid
Maya cities were the centres of population of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica. They served the specialised roles of administration, commerce and religion that characterised ancient cities worldwide. Maya cities tended to be more dispersed than cities in other societies within Mesoamerica, as a result of adaptation to a lowland tropical environment that allowed food production amidst areas dedicated to other activities, they lacked the grid plans of the highland cities of central Mexico, such as Teotihuacán and Tenochtitlan. Maya kings ruled their kingdoms from palaces. Cities tended to be located in places that controlled trade routes or that could supply essential products; this allowed the elites that controlled trade to increase their status. Such cities were able to construct temples for public ceremonies, thus attracting further inhabitants to the city; those cities that had favourable conditions for food production, combined with access to trade routes, were to develop into the capital cities of early Maya states.
The political relationship between Classic Maya city-states has been likened to the relationships between city-states in Classical Greece and Renaissance Italy. Some cities were linked to each other by straight limestone causeways, known as sacbeob, although whether the exact function of these roads was commercial, political or religious has not been determined. Maya cities were not formally planned like the cities of highland Mexico and were subject to irregular expansion, with the haphazard addition to all of the palaces and other buildings. Most Maya cities tended to grow outwards from the core, upwards as new structures were superimposed upon preceding architecture. Maya cities had a ceremonial and administrative centre surrounded by a vast irregular sprawl of residential complexes; the centres of all Maya cities featured sacred precincts, sometimes separated from nearby residential areas by walls. These precincts contained pyramid temples and other monumental architecture dedicated to elite activities, such as basal platforms that supported administrative or elite residential complexes.
Sculpted monuments were raised to record the deeds of the ruling dynasty. City centres featured plazas, sacred ballcourts and buildings used for marketplaces and schools. Causeways linked the centre to outlying areas of the city; some of these classes of architecture formed lesser groups in the outlying areas of the city, which served as sacred centres for non-royal lineages. The areas adjacent to these sacred compounds included residential complexes housing wealthy lineages. Art excavated from these elite residential complexes varies in quality according to the rank and prestige of the lineage that it housed; the largest and richest of these elite compounds sometimes possessed sculpture and art of craftsmanship equal to that of royal art. The ceremonial centre of the Maya city was where the ruling elite lived, where the administrative functions of the city were performed, together with religious ceremonies, it was where the inhabitants of the city gathered for public activities. Elite residential complexes occupied the best land around the city centre, while commoners had their residences dispersed further away from the ceremonial centre.
Residential units were built on top of stone platforms to raise them above the level of the rain season floodwaters. Until the 1960s, scholarly opinion was that the ruins of Maya centres were not true cities but were rather empty ceremonial centres where the priesthood performed religious rituals for the peasant farmers, who lived dispersed in the middle of the jungle. Since the 1960s, formal archaeological mapping projects have revealed that the ceremonial centres in fact formed the centres of dispersed cities that possessed populations that at some sites could reach tens of thousands. During the Middle Preclassic Period, small villages began to grow to form cities. By 500 BC these cities possessed large temple structures decorated with stucco masks representing gods. Nakbe in the Petén Department of Guatemala is the earliest well-documented city in the Maya lowlands, where large structures have been dated to around 750 BC. Nakbe featured the monumental masonry architecture, sculpted monuments and causeways that characterised cities in the Maya lowlands.
In the Late Preclassic Period, the enormous city of El Mirador grew to cover 16 square kilometres. It possessed paved avenues, massive triadic pyramid complexes dated to around 150 BC, stelae and altars that were erected in its plazas. El Mirador is considered to be one of the first capital cities of the Maya civilization; the swamps of the Mirador Basin appear to have been the primary attraction for the first inhabitants of the area as evidenced by the unusual cluster of large cities around them. The city of Tikal to be one of the most important of the Classic Period Maya cities, was a significant city by around 350 BC, although it did not match El Mirador; the Late Preclassic cultural florescence collapsed in the 1st century AD and many of the great Maya cities of the epoch were abandoned. In the highlands, Kaminaljuyu in the Valley of Guatemala was a sprawling city by AD 300. During the Classic Period, the Maya civilization achieved its greatest florescence. During the Early Classic, cities throughout the Maya region were influenced by the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico.
At its height during the Late Classic, Tikal had expanded to have a population of well over 100,000. Tikal's great rival was Calakmul, another powerful city in the Petén Basin
Maya astronomy is the study of the Moon, Milky Way and other astronomical occurrences by the Precolumbian Maya Civilization of Mesoamerica. The Classic Maya in particular developed some of the most accurate pre-telescope astronomy in the world, aided by their developed writing system and their positional numeral system, both of which are indigenous to Mesoamerica; the Classic Maya understood many astronomical phenomena: for example, their estimate of the length of the synodic month was more accurate than Ptolemy's, their calculation of the length of the tropical solar year was more accurate than that of the Spanish when the latter first arrived. In 46 BC Julius Caesar decreed that the year would be made up of twelve months of 30 days each to make a year of 365 days and a leap year of 366 days; the civil year had 365.25 days. This is the Julian calendar; the solar year has 365.2422 days and by 1582 there was an appreciable discrepancy between the winter solstice and Christmas and the Vernal equinox and Easter.
Pope Gregory XIII, with the help of Italian astronomer Aloysius Lilius, reformed this system by abolishing the days October 5 through October 14, 1582. This brought the tropical years back into line, he missed three days every four centuries by decreeing that centuries are only leap years if they are evenly divisible by 400. So for example 1700, 1800, 1900 are not leap years but 1600 and 2000 are; this is the Gregorian calendar. Astronomers use the Julian/Gregorian calendar. Dates before 46 BC are converted to the Julian calendar; this is the proleptic Julian calendar. Astronomical calculations return a year zero and years; this is astronomical dating. There is no year zero in historical dating. In historical dating the year 1 BC is followed by the year 1 so for example, the year -3113 is the same as 3114 BC. Many mayanists convert Maya calendar dates into the proleptic Gregorian calendar. In this calendar, Julian calendar dates are revised as if the Gregorian calendar had been in use before October 15, 1582.
These dates must be converted to astronomical dates before they can be used to study Maya astronomy because astronomers use the Julian/Gregorian calendar. Proleptic Gregorian dates vary from astronomical dates. For example, the mythical creation date in the Maya calendar is August 11, 3114 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar and September 6, -3113 astronomical. Astronomers describe time as a number of days and a fraction of a day since noon January 1, -4712 Greenwich Mean Time; the Julian day starts at noon. The number of days and fraction of a day elapsed since this time is a Julian day; the whole number of days elapsed since this time is a Julian day number. There are three main Maya calendars: The Long Count is a count of days. There are examples of Long Counts with many places but most of them give five places since the mythical creation date - 184.108.40.206.0. The Tzolk ` in is a 260-day calendar made up of a day from 20 day names; the Haab' is a 365-day year made up of a day of zero to 19 and 18 months with five unlucky days at the end of the year.
When the Tzolk'in and Haab' are both given, the date is called a calendar round. The same calendar round repeats every 18,980 days - 52 years; the calendar round on the mythical starting date of this creation was 4 Ahau 8 Kumk'u. When this date occurs again it is called a calendar round completion. A Year Bearer is a Tzolk'in day name that occurs on the first day of the Haab'. A number of different year bearer systems were in use in Mesoamerica; the Maya and European calendars are correlated by using the Julian day number of the starting date of the current creation — 220.127.116.11.0, 4 Ajaw, 8 Kumk'u. The Julian day number of noon on this day was 584,283; this is the GMT correlation. At the time of the Spanish conquest the Maya had many books; these were painted on folding bark cloth. The Spanish conquistadors and Catholic priests destroyed them; the most infamous example of this was the burning of a large number of these in Maní, Yucatán by Bishop Diego de Landa in July 1562. Only four of these codices exist today.
These are the Dresden, Madrid and Grolier codices. The Dresden Codex is an astronomical Almanac; the Madrid Codex consists of almanacs and horoscopes that were used to help Maya priests in the performance of their ceremonies and divinatory rituals. It contains astronomical tables, although less than are found in the other three surviving Maya codices; the Paris Codex contains prophecies for tuns and katuns, a Maya zodiac. The Grolier Codex is a Venus almanac. Ernst Förstemann, a librarian at the Royal Public Library of Dresden, recognized that the Dresden Codex is an astronomical almanac and was able to decipher much of it in the early 20th century; the Maya erected a large number of stelae. These had a Long Count date, they included a supplementary series. The supplementary series included lunar data - the number of days elapsed in the current lunation, the length of the lunation and the number of the lunation in a series of six; some of them included an 819-day count which may be a count of the days in a cycle associated with Jupiter.
See Jupiter and Saturn below. Some other astronomical events were recorded, for example the eclipse warning on Quirigua Stela E - 18.104.22.168.0. A partial solar eclipse was visible in Mesoamerica two days on 22.214.171.124.2 - Friday January 18, 771. Many Mayan temples were inscribed with hieroglyphic texts; these contain both astronomical content. Maya astronomy was naked-eye astronomy based on the observations of the azimuths of the