The Maya kept time with a combination of several cycles that meshed together to mark the movement of the sun, moon and Venus. Their ritual calendar, known as the Tzolkin, was composed of 260 days. It pairs the numbers from 1 through 13 with a sequence of the 20 day-names shown below. It works something like our days of the week pairing with the numbers of the month. Thus you might have 1-Imix (similar to Sunday the 1st) followed by 2-Ik (just as you would have Monday the 2nd). When you get to 13-Ben, the next day would start the numbers over again, thus 1-Ix, 2-Men etc. It will take 260 days before the cycle gets back to 1-Imix again (13 x 20).

THE 20 DAY CYCLE
The symbols shown below represent the 20 day-names and are identified with their Yucatec names, pronunciation and approximate translation. The name, meaning and symbol can vary in different Maya languages. Also, each day can be represented with more elaborate glyphs known as "Head Variants" - a formal writing system which can be loosely compared to our script alphabet versus our print alphabet.

       
 IMIX
ee mesh
waterlily, world
 IK'
eek'
wind
AK'BAL
ok bol 
night-house
K'AN
k' on 
maize
       
 CHIKCHAN
cheek chon
snake
 KIMI
kee me
death
MANIK'
ma neek'
 hand
LAMAT
la mot 
Venus
       
 MULUK'
mul ok'
water
OK
ak 
dog
 CHUEN
chew in
monkey
 EB
eb
tooth
       
BEN
ben 
reed
IX
eesh 
jaguar
MEN
men 
eagle
KIB
keeb 
soul
       
KABAN
kah bon
earth 
ETZ'NAB
ehts' nob 
flint, knife
KAWAK
kah wok 
storm
AHAW
ah how 
Lord

The Tzolkin calendar was meshed with a 365-day solar cycle called the "Haab". The calendar consisted of 18 months with 20 days (numbered 0-19) and a short "month" of only 5 days that was called the Wayeb and was considered to be a dangerous time. It took 52 years for the Tzolkin and Haab calendars to move through a complete cycle.
These are the Mayan words for periods of time:
Day = Kin (keen)
Month of 20 days = Uinal (wee nal)
Year of 360 days = Tun (toon)
20 Tuns = K'atun (k' ah toon)
20 K'atuns = Baktun (bock toon)

If you would like to convert a date to the Maya calendar, go to the Mayan Calendar Tools website at http://www.pauahtun.org/tools.html

Here is my birthday in Maya glyphs.

READ MORE ABOUT IT
Astronomy and the Maya Calendar Correlation (Mayan Studies Series , No 5)
by Paul D. Campbell
$30.80, Paperback, December 1992
Star Gods of the Maya : Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars
by Susan Milbrath
$24.95, Paperback, January 2000
E-Mail to:jeeni@criscenzo.com
©Copyright 1997-2000 Jeeni Criscenzo