The system Maya used to calculate time periods is one of the most inspiring. Many astronomers, mathematicians and other scientists have studied it in order to understand its use and the way it affected other civilizations up to current times.
The Mayan calendar was first used during the 6th century BC. Its earlier form calculated time in periods and was only used to understand if one occasion was before or after another. This made it evident that they understood the linear conception of time as past, present, future. However, the Mayan calendar was soon evolved into one of the most complete systems for those days. The calendar used a form to calculate long periods of time known as the Long Count and another form to calculate shorter periods known as the Short Count. Both forms are based on a number of elapsed days dating from the first day they formed it. They used this date as the starting point. The date has been identified, but still remains different depending on whether you calculate it using the Gregorian or the Julian calendar.
The development of the Mayan calendar is very interesting to scientists and historians for a number of reasons. Scientists and especially astronomers have studied it many times because of the interest it shows in lunar cycles. In fact, there is a supplementary form that was used namely the Venus cycle that showed that they could calculate the Venus cycle very accurately. This accuracy in calculating the Venus cycle was based on observation from astronomers of those times and this is of course very important and exciting for today’s astronomers. This complimentary form was used in correlation with the many beliefs that they had. For example, it is said that they started all wars when Venus reached a certain point.
Historians on the other hand are interested in Mayan calendar for another reason. There is evidence that supplementary cycles that were used were associated with animals and food. This shows the importance of the whole culture. The calendar was a complete way to manifest their culture. Their life was based on issues like that.
The most important thing we understand from the Mayan calendar and its use is the fact that they had a very complete civilization. They understood the concept of time, they had a full conception of past, present and future and indeed this was the point where they initially based the earlier form of the calendar. Another thing that is very important is the fact that failing to calculate time with one form of calendar, they added supplementary forms. This shows an evolvement to make an accurate form based on sciences they had conquered like astronomy. The last thing to consider is the fact that they based their whole life in these time periods and intervals. It was used in all life phases demonstrating an advanced form of civilization. War, seasons and many other important things were decided upon it.