Ancient Mesoamerican calendar use far older than previously thought – study

Scientists have found new evidence of early use of the Mesoamerican calendar hundreds of years before written evidence suggests, shedding new light on the astronomical studies and practices of the ancient Olmecs and Mayans, a new study shows.

The findings of this study were published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Science Advances.

The study itself further sheds light on Mesoamerican history and shows that not only did these ancient cultures use a calendar long before written evidence existed, but it goes back even farther than previously believed.

The cultures in the Formative period of ancient Mesoamerica (1100 BCE to 250 CE) stretched out throughout Central America, with advanced cultures like the Olmecs and the Mayans creating their own civilizations, cultures and architecture.

One thing to note about Mesoamerican culture, however, was the existence of their calendar.

While there were a few kinds of calendars in use, the most famous kind is the 260-day calendar. This was widespread throughout Mesoamerica and did not exist outside it. 

This calendar played extremely important roles in Mesoamerican society, being associated with important rituals and religious cosmology and giving names, among other things.

Historically, it was unclear why the calendar was specifically given 260 days, though theories existed, like how the numbers 13 and 20 were important to the Mayans. But either way, the calendar is also unique for just how different it is from calendars in antiquity in other parts of the world.

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