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Excerpt from Maya Script
The moon glyph recurs frequently in the inscriptions and codices, the moon cycle being central to calendar reckoning. The moon was associated with several divine figures, and it iconography very probably changed over the course of centuries.
In the complex astronomical studies the Maya performed, the most trying calculations were probably those that traced the movement of the moon, which is irregular. In the inscriptions, the dates of the Initial Series were followed by the dates of the Lunar Series, which sometimes included eight glyphs about the satellite’s cycle. One of these pointed out the length of the month, whether it was twentynine or thirty days, while another glyph gave the age of the moon at the precise historical moment to which the inscription referred.
The Maya were faced every day with the inevitable necessity of relating the solar calendar to the lunar calendar. To solve this problem, as we can infer from passages of the so-called Prayer Book, they probably used criteria similar to the Metonic nineteen-year cycle.
In any case, archaeology has shown that, starting from the middle of the fourth Century A.D., every astronomical center in the various cities adopted corrections to make the two calendars coincide. In A.D. 649, for their calculations Copán’s scientists began to use a formula that consisted in dividing 4,400 days by 149 moons. This method was probably effective since it was later adopted by all the centers. Thus, these ancient astronomers were able to establish an average length of 29.53050 days for each lunar cycle. Here too the level of precision they reached in their calculations is extraordinary, since we know that the lunar phase consists of exactly 29.53050 days. Seven pages of the Dresden Codex illustrate 405 consecutive lunar phases, which extend over a period of approximately thirty-two years and nine months, arranged in sixty-nine groups, during which the lunar cycles corresponded to the sacred ritual periods.
According to what we mentioned earlier, the moon, like other heavenly bodies, was considered a manifold female goddess, associated above all with fertility. According to both the Maya and the Aztec, the surface of the Moon contained the shape of a rabbit.