Arth 324 Final Study Guide
Describe the dual calendar systems and the long count:
All Mesoamerican calendar systems have their roots in the Late Formative era.
the “dual calendar” refers to the 365/260 day calendars, which were formed at
the beginning of the period and generally used simultaneously. The regular calendar
dates are short, like “July 24” –
The 365 day calendar was divided into 18 months of 20 days each, plus
five nameless days at the end of the year, to equate to the solar year. Each year
took a name, usually the day name and number of the 260 day calendar, but
because of the calculation only 4 days can be year bearers, paired with a
coefficient from 1 to 13, this created the 52 year cycle, called the ‘calendar
round’, like our century.
The 260 day calendar is roughly the gestation of a person. It is the oldest
calendar, used as early as the 6
century BC when the Zapotecs began to mark
events publicly. Mesoamerican people were named for their birthday in this
calendar. It is subdivided into 20 day rounds, which had 13 day numbers, giving
260 possible combinations. The 260 day system was the ‘almanac’ of the
the long count was developed later and used in conjunction with the dual
calendars. It was a series of numbers on top of each other in a column, showing the
exact number of days since 3114 BCE.
The year 0 was the start of this cycle, and the
end of the previous cycle. These dates can be easily read and were important to artists
who wrote them beautifully. This was important partially to:
establish lineage (these are my ancestors going back, so I am imbued
with their power)
the date they were born on gives them a certain name and also
they needed to know exactly when the apocalypse was coming
The counting system was bar and dots (bar = 5), based on the # 20.
Who was Jaguar to the Olmecs? How was it similar and different than the
The jaguar of the Olmecs:
The Olmec jaguar was shown with a cleft in the head, rounded baby-like
head, and the tears of the crying baby.
Jaguar to the Olmecs represented a powerful hunter and differed from the
Andean Jaguar because it was not seen as a mythical creature, probably due to
the frequency in which real jaguars could be seen. The jaguar itself hunted at
night and usually along streams, ate people.
The Andean jaguar was metaphorical, not part of day-to-day existence.
Why were Mesoamerican effigies often ritually “killed”?
They gain power by being worn and used in ritual, eventually have too much
power of its own for a mortal to wear it and need to have that power released, usually by
drilling a hole at the side of it’s mouth or in its cheek – most Mesoamerican cultures
believed power or mythic beings come from a cleft in the head so the effigy would not be
killed that way.