Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Living on a Belizean Island

Greetings Morton Belizean!

Welcome to the middle of the week.  I’m sure everyone is counting down the days until summer.  Kadie told me you only have 10 days remaining!  Summer is close, but keep working hard until the end. 

We had another eventful day working with town officials in Dangriga.  After a very hot day, we caught a boat for a 45-minute ride to South Water Caye.  I am including a picture for you to see how rough we have it here.  We will be staying two nights before returning back to the mainland.

Again, good questions today.  I’ll do the best I can with them: 

Question 1:  How did the tzolkin or sacred round calendar work that only had 260 days? 
There were 20 names for days in ancient Maya (we only have 7, Monday through Sunday).  There were also 13 numbers associated with these names (example:  Tuesday the 7th).   Many believe that the sacred cycle of the Tzolk’in (which means “division of days”)calendar was based on the combination of these days and numbers (20x13=260).   Others suggest that it was based on the time from pregnancy to birth for a human.  Regardless, this calendar was used as a way to maintain specific rituals throughout the 260 days of the sacred year. 

Question 2:  The daily calendar shows 360 days and based on the sun with 5 "unlucky" days.  What were the unlucky days?
The calendar we use today is based on the sun’s cycle around the Earth, and has 365.25 days.  Every four years, we add up that ¼ of a day and have a full day.  This is February 29th, or leap day.  This is similar to the Mayan calendar in that their calendar was based on 360 days.  But the sun required 365.25 days to completely orbit the Earth.  They believed that these five extra days were therefore “unlucky”.  Additionally, there is no evidence that they observed the “leap day”, so if you think about it, they were losing more than just five days each year.

Most believe that the five unlucky days show up at the end of each year, but since we do not know when the year officially started, we cannot know for sure.  Remembering that the Mayans were extremely spiritual, and wanted to keep their Gods happy, each of the 360 days were dedicated to a certain God.  These last five days were seen as 'useless days' or the days that were dedicated to no Gods, and anything that happened during these days were used to forecast the events of the coming year. Therefore the Mayan people tried to do as little as possible on these days, to not have anything bad happen to them and cause their upcoming year to be full of bad luck.  Any person who was born during this time was considered unlucky. 

Question 3:  How did they shrink heads?  Whose and  heads were they? 
From what I understand, many Central and South American civilizations would decapitate the head of enemies in battle, perhaps the leaders.  Then, during spiritual ceremonies, enemies’ heads were carefully reduced through boiling and heating.  Since the Mayan people believed that life was continuous after death, this was an the attempt to lock the enemy’s spirit and protect the people from spiritual revenge.

I’m going to try sending this email now, and hope for the best.  The internet hasn’t been treating me too well the past couple of days. 

I’m looking forward to seeing you all on June 3rd! 

Dr. Atchison

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