Essay on Mesoamerican Astronomy

2289 Words 10 Pages
For centuries, people from all latitudes have been fascinated by the night sky. The unreachable stars, the Moon, the comets and all the events happening in the sky, fired up imaginations and became symbols of life and death, of war, peace and the passing of time and the seasons. The movement of the stars was used to establish the time for planting and harvesting, to prepare for the long winters and to try to discover the future and destiny, the eternal unknown destiny of the human race. Three large human groups, the Mayans, the Aztecs and the Zapotecs populated the Central and Southeastern regions of Mexico long before the discovery of the continent by Columbus. These ancient cultures developed a very complex knowledge of
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They produced a very accurate 360 day long calendar they used to measure long periods of time. Developing an extended astronomical knowledge was not very easy because their astronomers did all their observations with the naked eye. However, they were able to do all kinds of incredibly precise astronomical measurements and calculate the seasons, the solstices and eclipses. They did all this by following the patterns of the movements of planets and stars, observing the shadows cast by the Sun, and using some rudimentary instruments. The practice of astronomy was relegated to the ilhuica tlamatilizmatini, or "wise man who studies heaven". These priest-astronomers had a great amount of power, given the fact that they could essentially 'predict' the future. (Welser-Sherrill)
II - Planets, Stars, the Moon and the Sun.
Venus. The Mayans gave great importance to the planet Venus; they recorded its transit across the sky and used this information to create the Dresden Codex which contains the data for the full circle of this planet. The Mayans counted five repetitions of the cycle of Venus, each one with a length of 584 days, which correspond to approximately 8 years. In the Mayan mythology, Venus is the companion of the sun. The observed that Venus is always close to the sun in the sky, rising before sunrise as morning star or after sunset as evening star. Venus was so important to the Mayans that they decided some of their wars based some positions of Venus and

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