Mayan Constellations

Although the Mayan society and culture is over 3,000 years old, their precise and intriguing mythology, calendar, and astronomy are culturally and historically rich resources that help a reliable guide to understanding this ancient civilization that once possessed miles of southern Mexico and Central America. The Mayans were known for the innovative culture that gave great importance to rituals, ceremonies, and discoveries. The Mayans however, rarely receive enough recognition for their active and important part in providing a substantial and somewhat accurate model of astronomy. Of course these pieces of work are not necessarily 100% correct, the more important thing is that the civilization that is nearly 3,000 years old was able to document, elaborate, and draw pictures of the atmosphere and integrate it into their culture.

It has been discovered that the Mayans developed constellations that are actually paralleled with modern constellations of today. Mayans had their own names for the thirteen zodiacs identified today. The Mayans saw different shapes in these constellations that related more closely to their own belief systems and animals that were relevant to their lives. Aries was seen as Quetzal, one of their most powerful gods; Libra was identified as a shark; Taurus was an owl; Gemini was a turtle; Sagittarius was a rattlesnake; Capricorn was a jaguar; cancer was a dog; Pisces was a bat; Virgo was a peccary. One zodiac constellation however, Scorpios, is identical to today�s interpretation and was seen as a scorpion. The Mayans have also been discovered to have a great interest in the constellation we know as Orion.

The four surviving written documents that are preserved today are the Dresden, Madrid, Paris, and Grolier Codices. These documents included some impressive innovations: charts including the heliacal risings, settings in synodic cycles of Venus, and an eclipse warning table with observable lunar cycles. Astronomy was such a huge part of the Mayan culture that they actually built their buildings and locations of the buildings to correspond with some astronomical events. Some buildings were designated to watch the rising sun, while others were angled better to see a certain grouping of stars, and even more impressively somewhere constructed in correlation to the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The Mayans may not have had the most accurate or substantial information regarding astronomy, but are rather praised today because of the innovation and interest in an outer world concept.

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