Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i -v

CONTENTS

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pp. vi-viii

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-11

Astronomy in ancient Mesoamerica was not an abstract science; indeed, it was an integral part of daily life, and so it remains today in the more traditional Maya communities. In Precolumbian times, astronomy played a central role in calendars and religious imagery. Art images and companion texts provide keys to understanding the thought processes of the ancient Maya. Rather than focusing on scientific accuracy,...

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1. CONTEMPORARY MAYA IMAGES OF THE HEAVENS

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pp. 12-43

Study of Precolumbian Maya astronomical imagery must begin with an understanding of the contemporary Maya worldview, because we cannot hope to penetrate the ancient beliefs without an understanding of what the Maya say about the heavens today. We are fortunate that many Maya groups remained isolated from the European colonists and still retain a measure of isolation today. They are able to pass down their...

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2. NAKED-EYE ASTRONOMY

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pp. 44-57

The motions of the heavens can be mystifying to those not trained in astronomy. To understand Precolumbian astronomical imagery, we have to see the heavens from the perspective of naked-eye astronomy, quite unlike the view through a telescope. Here I describe the events from a dual perspective, both what you see from Earth and what actually happens in the sky in a Sun-centered solar system. A glossary at the end...

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3. PRECOLUMBIAN AND COLONIAL PERIOD MAYA SOLAR IMAGES

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pp. 58-104

The importance of the sun in contemporary Maya religion is a reflection of its prominent role in Precolumbian and Colonial times. Maya solar imagery features the sun as a ruler of time and space. Ancient cosmic diagrams and solar calendars evoke a direct connection with concepts that survive today. Solar orientations in Precolumbian architecture show how the Maya integrated time and space in their solar...

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4. PRECOLUMBIAN AND COLONIAL LUNAR IMAGES AND DEITIES

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pp. 105-156

There are countless different images of the moon because the moon is constantly changing. Many of these images are expressed in a metaphorical context. The importance of metaphor in recording observations of natural history in Mesoamerica has been noted by a number of scholars. This chapter explores images of the moon that may be based on observations of the lunar season and the moon’s phases, position, and...

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5. VENUS AND MERCURY: THE BODY DOUBLES

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pp. 157-217

Of all the planets, Venus is clearly the most important in Maya art, cosmology, and calendrics. Like the Moon, Venus has multiple personalities. Different Venus gods embody various phases and seasonal aspects. Some manifestations of Venus seem to be connected with the rainy season and agricultural fertility; others reflect warfare and the dry season. A Venus cult linked with central Mexico emphasizes the feathered...

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6. THE CELESTIAL WANDERERS

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pp. 218-248

To the Chortí, the planets are ‘‘stars that travel,’’ evoking a connection with the ‘‘wanderers,’’ a name that can be traced back to a Babylonian image of the planets as sheep who had escaped from the fold, which presumably refers to the rest of the stars (Aveni 1997: 37). Like players on a stage performing in front of different sets, the planets move through the changing background of stars in different sections of the sky. Given...

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7. STARS, THE MILKY WAY, COMETS, AND METEORS

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pp. 249-293

This chapter explores Precolumbian Maya imagery of temporary celestial phenomena, stars, constellations, and the Milky Way. We have surprisingly little information on comets, meteors, and supernovas. Comets and meteors seem to be of secondary importance, appearing not as gods themselves, but as their cigars. Metaphorical images allude to the multitude of stars as jaguar spots, flowers, fireflies, and the...

APPENDIX 1. GUIDE TO ASTRONOMICAL IDENTITIES

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p. 295

APPENDIX 2. TABLE OF CLASSIC PERIOD DATES, MONUMENTS, AND ASSOCIATED ASTRONOMICAL EVENTS

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pp. 296-305

APPENDIX 3. TABLE FOR CALCULATING THE TZOLKIN INTERVALS

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pp. 306-307

GLOSSARY

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pp. 309-311

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 313-337

INDEX

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pp. 339-348

IMAGE PLATES

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