When Europeans first arrived in Yucatan, the Maya had hundreds of books written in hieroglyphics on a paper made from tree bark. Tragically, the Spanish priests collected and burned most of them. The Madrid Codex is one of only four that remain. In large part, is composed of a collection of “Almanacs” that record celestial phenomena together with abbreviated divinatory texts.
According to Dr. Gabrielle Vail of UNC, Chapel Hill (our speaker in May), scribes in the Maya area and elsewhere in Mesoamerica observed and recorded celestial phenomena that helped them divine the proper actions and activities for different periods of time. By reading the passage of the divinities in the sky and comparing this to centuries of written records, they could predict and prepare for periods of danger.
In 2013, Dr. Patrick-Encina proposed a new interpretation of the Mayan calendar. In this lecture, she used the Madrid Almanac pages related to deer hunting to support this new interpretation. The months Keh and Sip are crucial to her argument--if Keh always begins on March 21st and Sip always begins on September 22nd, only the starting moment of the day changes, depending on the year bearer.
Dr. Geraldine Patrick Encina is a Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. She received her doctorate in Ethnoecology and Social Sciences from El Colegio Mexiquense, A. C. and did two years of postdoctoral research on Mesoamerican Conceptions of Time (2010-2012). She has held her current position at the Union Theological Seminary since 2015, .
She is a member of the Archaeoastronomy Seminar in ENAH-UNAM (Mexico), the Interamerican Society of Cultural Astronomy (SIAC), of the Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C., of the Pre-Columbian Society of New York City and of the Pre-Columbian Society of Philadelphia at UPenn Museum.
Dr. Patrick Encina is founder of Earth
Timekeepers, an educational non-for profit organization
dedicated to coordinating local efforts in Mexico,
Guatemala and Belize to recover ancestral original
calendars and timekeeping systems by applying an
ethnoecological and ethnoastronomic approach.