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Deciphering the Handwriting on the Wall: Some Astronomical Interpretations of the Recent Discoveries at Xultun, Guatemala

  • Victoria R. Bricker (a1), Anthony F. Aveni (a2) and Harvey M. Bricker (a1)

Abstract

This study places the recently excavated ninth-century A.D. four-part calendrical notations at Xultun (Lunar Table, Ring Number, Long Count, and Multiplication Table) in the context of both Classic monumental inscriptions and astronomical knowledge in the Postclassic Dresden Codex. We demonstrate that the Lunar Table employed a formula attributed to Palenque and that it could have been used as a device to determine precisely where to break the sequence of alternating 29- and 30-day months one finds on dated monuments. All four categories found at Xultun appear in the Dresden Codex. The Ring Number, which bridges a date in the deep past with one in the recently completed era, is a perfect fit with one of the most fundamental Dresden eclipse cycles. Our analysis of glyphs accompanying the Long Count date enables us to place candidate eclipses, especially one that corresponds with a conjunction of Mars, in real time. We argue that the large multiples were extracted from, or prepared for, warning tables like the Dresden eclipse table, and we demonstrate why such tables must have existed well before the Xultun inscriptions. Thus, while the writings in the Dresden manuscript constitute a finished product, the writing on the wall of residential Structure 10K-2 is more akin to what one might find in an astronomer's notebook.

Resumen

Sobre las murallas de la recién excavada estructura residencial denominada 10K-2 en Xultún, Guatemala (fechada para el siglo nueve d.C), aparecen cuatro notaciones calendáricas (una tabla lunar, un Número de Anillo, una fecha de la Cuenta Larga, y una tabla de múltiplos). Este estudio sitúa estas notaciones en el contexto de las inscripciones clásicas monumentales y el conocimiento astronómico del Códice de Dresde del período posclásico. Mostramos que la tabla lunar emplea una fórmula posiblemente desarrollada en Palenque con la intención de determinar precisamente en dónde interrumpir la alternación de los meses de 29 y 30 días que se encuentren en monumentos fechados del período clásico. Las cuatro categorias encontradas en Xultún se manifiestan en el Códice de Dresde. El Número de Anillo, que conecta unafecha en el pasado remoto con una en la era actual, se ajusta precisamente con uno de los más fundamentales ciclos de eclipses. Nuestro análisis de los glifos ubicados al la derecha de lafecha de la Cuenta Larga facilita la colocación de eclipses posibles en el tiempo histórico, especialmente un eclipse quefue en conjunción con elplaneta Marte. Mostramos que los múltiplos grandes fueron extraídos de o preparados para tablas de advertencia en la misma forma que la tabla de eclipses en el Códice de Dresde, y que tales tablas existían mucho antes que las inscripciones sobre las murallas de la estructura en Xultún. Por lo tanto, aunque las escrituras en el manuscrito de Dresde representan un producto final, la escritura sobre las murallas de la estructura 10K-2 se parece más a la que se encontraría en el cuaderno perteneciente a un astrónomo.

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References

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Deciphering the Handwriting on the Wall: Some Astronomical Interpretations of the Recent Discoveries at Xultun, Guatemala

  • Victoria R. Bricker (a1), Anthony F. Aveni (a2) and Harvey M. Bricker (a1)

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