Astronomy in the Maya Codices: APS Memoirs Vol. 265

August 16, 2011 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

Astronomy in the Maya Codices: APS Memoirs Vol. 265
By Harvey M. Bricker and Victoria R. Bricker
(Hardcover, 907 pages, 2011, $75.00)

Astronomy in the Maya Codices

The Precolumbian Maya were closely attuned to the movements of the Sun and the Moon, the stars and the planets. Their rituals and daily tasks were performed according to a timetable established by these celestial bodies, a timetable based on a highly complex calendar system. Agriculture provided the foundation for their civilization, and the skies served as a kind of farmer’s almanac for when to plant and when to harvest.

In this remarkable volume, noted Maya scholars Harvey Bricker and Victoria Bricker offer invaluable insight into the complex world of the Precolumbian Maya, and in particular the amazing achievements of Maya astronomy, as revealed in the Maya codices the indigenous hieroglyphic books written before the Spanish Conquest. This far-reaching study confirms that, independent of the Old World traditions that gave rise to modern Western astronomy, the Precolumbian Maya achieved a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy based on observations recorded over centuries. Illustrations.

Here is the right half of the seasonal tables of the Dresden Codex:
Astronomy in the Maya Codices

Astronomy in the Maya Codices is the first thorough treatise on the codices since Thompson’s A Commentary on the Dresden Codex four decades ago,” writes Prof. Anthony F. Aveni, the Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology and Native American Studies at Colgate University.

“The Brickers’ work is special in that it gives a complete account of the historical background of scholarly inquiries into each of the instruments they deal with. Finally, and most importantly, rather than imagining them to consist merely of endless temporal rounds, the Brickers attempt to place each cordial instrument in real time, an approach they uniquely develop and fully justify. In its depth, thoroughness, and revealed new insights, this work will remain the ‘last word’ on the role of astronomy in the codices and in Maya thought for a long time to come.”

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