Review of Grofe’s piece (Oxford presentation and IAU
chapter, July 2011).
John Major Jenkins
Your piece is well written and I believe will be the anchor-point of an entire revolution. In your expansion of this for Archaeoastronomy journal, I note some briefly treated areas that I anticipate could be the focal points of more carefully elaborated treatment. These relate to comments about the origins of the Long Count system, likely intention present at that time, Edmonson’s contribution and so on. Of course I feel I’ve been writing about these things for a long time and have provided well considered and argument and documented observations. I wonder if I should actually go through my previous books and highlight my comments. I suppose MC2012 can and will be eliminated as a reference point for original ideas as other scholars start repeating various observations I made earlier, giving the appearance of a coherent reconstruction within academic publishing. If my Gelfer & Benfer & SAA pieces are legitimate reference points, then it will be interesting to see if/how my work gets referenced by scholars in the future. Some of my words in these pieces comprise a defense of the critiques, and therefore it is fair to reference my responses to critics of those critics are going to be mentioned at all. In fact, my responses to critics in The 2012 Story r any number of my essays on Update2012.com could be cited as clear and coherent responses to the almost always flawed critiques of scholars (Aveni, Van Stone, Krupp, Freidel, Guenter). Similarly, I would expect that any scholar who mentions Aveni’s (flawed) critique of your ideas would immediately cite your Cambridge piece as the corrective response made by you. Anyway, my comments focus on the section in your Cambridge essay that treats the current Baktun ending in 2012. I excerpt your words and comments in bold:
Both Teeple and Thompson concluded that different cities developed their own calculations of the tropical year, with some values surpassing the Gregorian measurement by the Late Classic.
The Gregorian measurement loses 1 day every approx 3700 years. Thus, December 21, 2012 (G) compared to August 11, 3114 BC (G) is going to have a fudge factor in one direction by more than one day. Also, if August 11 is 22.214.171.124.0/0.0.0.0.0 then August 12 is THE FIRST day of the current cycle of 13 Bak’tuns. We can’t be sure how they were conceiving these things, and the exact Z-pass argument for the 283 at the exact latitude of Izapa is on very shaky grounds. It has a certain veracity from the perspective of modern scientific values of precision, but those values are very probably irrelevant, a form of misplaced concretism, in consideration of my two points mentioned above. This, like many things in the academic treatment of 2012, is a lot of time-wasting hand-waving over red herrings.
Particularly in Quirigua, Thompson (1932:389) believed that this site had gradually developed a high level of accuracy.
Interestingly, Quirigua contains some of the longest deep time calculations into the past, including an interval found on Stela F that Thompson (1950:315) calculates as 91,683,930 x 360 days. Barbara MacLeod (pc. 2008) has recently determined that this interval is exactly equivalent to 90,368,021 tropical years of 365.2422 days. But we bear the burden of having to test such a result to draw any conclusions.
Do we? We might want to run a test on how many other “whole number of tuns” will result in a precise commensuration of Tropical Years (of 365.2422 days). We could generate a statistical likelihood from this. This ALONE should provide logical/statistical traction for accepting that the commensuration between Tun and Tropical Year was intentional. (Said another way, we should expect that the Maya would have been alert to these kinds of calendrical/mathematical commensurations – ANYTHING we stumble across was probably well known to them.) However, that argument only applies to reasonable people. Your critics, if they come to hate you as much as they hate me, will always have the benefit of dismissing your work because the evidence is not direct or is non-explicit. So, keep liberally applying the diplomacy. Sadly, appealing to this kind of cudgeling of fragile and neurotic personalities would not be necessary if scholars were able to practice what they are supposedly trained to practice --- unbiased rational judgment of good evidence and argument.
If the Maya were capable of calculating the tropical year with great accuracy, we would expect to find evidence for this and other astronomical measurements within some of the other deep time intervals found throughout the inscriptions. Several of these intervals reach back to target specific dates millions of years
earlier than the Long Count Era base itself. Other intervals span shorter periods of hundreds or thousands of years. All of these deep time intervals require further analysis using an adequate methodological approach. While we may be able to test large intervals for suspected astronomical constants that can be compared with other texts, shorter intervals are more likely to provide reliable results, since there is less chance for vast, accumulated errors based on slight differences in the values chosen. Excellent framing of the problem and approach
The Completion of the Thirteenth Bak’tun
Munro Edmonson (1988:120) first suggested that the Long Count was devised to intentionally place the completion of the Great Cycle of 13 bak’tuns on the winter solstice, which falls on December 21, 2012 AD. Using the 584283 Julian Day GMT correlation with the Era base, Edmonson concluded that the placement of the Era base was a mere consequence of this predictive, future date. Yet, the evidence would seem to weigh more heavily in favor of an intentional back-calculation of the August 13 zenith on the Era base, using the alternate 584285 GMT correlation,
What is “the evidence” that weighs more heavily in favor of the 3114 BC date being the anchor point? Is it the preponderance of 3114 BC Creation Dates in the middle Classic Period? Why is the 584285 suggested as the better match here? (because of the z-pass criterion, correct?; see above). If the Long Count was inaugurated circa the 1st century BC, that was long after the 260-day count was implemented. As a result, the decision as to when to precisely place the zero date, even assuming that a zenith passage was being targeted, would have to adapt to a consideration of which tzolkin day would be best to initiate the cycle. As with the Ajaw placement of the 2012 period ending, the zenith passage of the 3114 BC zero date would have had to have adapted to this consideration. It may be the case that both a relevant 13-baktun ending in the future and a 13-baktun zero date in the past were sought, within a range of years near 3114 BC and 2012 AD. That an Ajaw day occurred CLOSE to the z-pass on 126.96.36.199.0 in 3114 BC, in the 283, and thus resulted in an EXACT solstice match to an Ajaw day on 188.8.131.52.0 in 2012, might have been close enough, all things considered. Or, conceivably, vice versa for the 285. Except the 285 fails the ethnography test.
though one must consider the possibility of a two-day error in either calculation. The majority of mythological texts describe events on the Era base as a completion of a previous Great Cycle of 13 bak’tuns, while only one surviving text from Tortuguero Monument 6 mentions the future completion of this cycle. Chronologically, there is simply no evidence that the originators of the Long Count were even interested in any cycle of 13 bak’tuns, since the very first historical reference to the Era base as a completion of 13 bak’tuns appeared on the now destroyed Stela 23 in Copán, with the Late Classic date of 184.108.40.206.08, in 650 AD. It appears that this novel idea diffused from Copán, and the commemoration of Tortuguero Monument 6 follows shortly after this.
And yet we have three-hearthstone imagery in Izapa Group B, and the three temples at Cerros (Taube 1996), both of which are considered to be very early references to the 3114 BC Creation imagery. Taking this striking Izapa context into consideration, and my thesis of three cosmic centers at Izapa (Jenkins 1998), we must also then take note of the solstice alignment in the Group F ball court. (The third “center” component is the polar center referenced by iconography and orientation in Izapa Group A). The polar orientation aside, this bracketing of two different solar alignments to “cosmic centers” (zenith and Crossroads/galactic) in the symbolism at Izapa --- leaving aside many contextually supportive areas of Izapan iconography and archaeoastronomy --- DOES imply a 13-Baktun cycle recognition at Izapa. The solar zenith-passage date highlighting the hearthstones in the zenith at dawn (in 3114 BC) and the solar rebirth at solstice within the Crossroads in 2012 AD --- these two solar alignments to their respective “cosmic centers” are separated by 13 Baktuns. And they utilize two “cosmic centers” conceptually associated with “north” and “south” --- thus the Izapan dialactic I have postulated. (Note: Norman, Guernsey, Rice, and Malmstrom appear to me to be grappling with small parts of the Izapa picture, which explains why they can’t or don’t entertain my ideas. You’d think the integrative picture I’ve offered would be welcome, and it’s all there in MC2012.) The iconography, orientations, and archaeoastronomy at Izapa provides evidece for this scenario. We will dismiss this reasonable argument if we succumb to the stripped down “scientific method” of only allowing explicit “a = b” evidence. The resulting picture of ancient Maya astronomy is pathetic, truncated, and emaciated, but suitable to the horror-show mentality of the Guenterites, who I suspect revel in the gruesome and macabre elements of ancient Maya civilization.
Given the evidence, it is far likelier that the originators of the Long Count first back-calculated the tropical year position of the Era base to target the August 13 solar zenith9, while the next 13 bak’tun completion follows as a consequence of this choice—perhaps simply as the next 4 Ajaw date to close a bak’tun.
Did Edmonson actually say this? He did, but he loosely said a few different things. I had detailed notes to Edmonson’s Book of the Year from back around 1990-1992, and cited him in my 1992 book Tzolkin.
However, if Mesoamerican astronomers were capable of back-calculating the position of the tropical year with great accuracy, they would conceivably have been able to notice that the future completion of 13 bak’tuns will occur either on or very close to a winter solstice.10
And it is interesting that the site of Izapa provides references to both a solar zenith-passage day orientation (gnomons in Group B; 15 N latitude of site – see Taube 1996) and a December solstice orientation and solar rebirth symbolism in a World Age context (Group F ballcourt – see Jenkins 1998, Aveni & Hartung 2000). These are two of the three main monument groups at Izapa. The third group, Group A, is oriented to Tacana volcano in the north and polar symbolism represented by the Big Dipper constellation. It is thus interesting that the site (Izapa) that is the main site of the culture (the Izapan) that was in its heyday during the time and place of the Long Count’s first appearance in the archaeological record preserves references to not only the zenith-hearthstone 3114 BC complex, but also to the solstice-Crossroads-dark-rift 2012 complex (for evidence and arguments see Jenkins 1995; 1996; 1998; 2002; 2007a; 2007b; 2007c; 2008; 2009, online essays at Alignment2012.com)
It is possible that such a fortuitous coincidence led to a localized interest both in this future date, and in the idea of a Great Cycle of 13 bak’tuns itself.
While the question of the significance of the tropical year within the Long Count has received wider acceptance, John Major Jenkins’ (1998) popularized proposal that the Great Cycle completion in 2012 intentionally predicts the sidereal position of the winter solstice sun in conjunction with the Milky Way [galactic equator / Crossroads] (see Aveni 2009; Van Stone 2010).
It’s unfortunate that the introduction of my “proposal” must be paired, in the same sentence, with the misrepresentation of it by my critics (Aveni and Van Stone). It’s unclear why these two critics are granted any kind of validity or credence, because in fact Aveni incorrectly references Stela 25 as my proof of the galactic alignment (a situation just as egregious as his flawed critique of your work) and Van Stone does not in fact actually quote or cite of even mention my work in his flawed critique of what the galactic alignment is. This would be like me citing Aveni 2009 as a valid or worthy critique of your precessional work. Sometimes diplomacy should be trumped by truth. My responses to Aveni and comments on Van Stone’s loaded approach were published in The 2012 Story (2009) and in the 2009 monthly updates at Update2012.com. Perhaps my responses could be included in your expanded treatment; I’d be happy to isolate them for you.
Whereas the sensationalized interpretations of what is expected to occur on this date warrant their own socio-cultural analyses [one that I have offered in numerous publications going back to 1989], the question of whether Mesoamericans were capable of calculating the sidereal year and precession remains a legitimate one [one that Jenkins has addressed in numerous publications, including a summary of the then-current academic perspectives on ancient Mesoamerican precessional knowledge in an appendix to Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998) and a correction of inaccurate critiques by Aveni 2009 on the precession question in his 2009 book The 2012 Story and in Jenkins (2011; Gelfer ed.)], as do questions regarding how these phenomena may have been variously interpreted. [And one way that a proposed consciously intended precessional alignment in era-2012 was “interpreted” or used by the Maya is found in Jenkins 2010a, defended in Jenkins 2010b, and expanded in Jenkins 2011 and Jenkins 2012)] (Note: I’m sorry to give the appearance of biblio-narcissism here, but must emphasize my contributions even though it may be politically imprudent to include them – again, your call and I’m aware of the ne’er-do-well status I’ve reinforced by not letting critics like Stuart get away with lame and opinionated mudslinging.
The text on Tortuguero Monument 6 text is bracketed by the birth date of the ruler Bahlam Ajaw on the missing left flange, and by the future date of the 13-bak’tun completion on the right flange. Elsewhere (Grofe 2010), I have noted that these two dates place the sun within at least three days of the same sidereal position, regardless of what correlation is used. [Jenkins (2011) visited the Carlos Pellicer Museum, analyzed the DN involved in generating Lord Jaguar’s birth date, and concluded that the birth date is very probably either Nov 28 or Nov 30, which places the birth date within ONE day of an exact sidereal parallel to the position of the sun on Dec 21, 2012. Barb MacLeod (in Jenkins 2010b) pointed out that the Nov 30 date (1 Ik), compared to the 2012 period-ending date (a Ajaw), provides a Sidereal Year constant equivalent to the SY generated by the 510 and 647 date-interval on TRT Mon 6] Such a sidereal parallel suggests an astronomical motivation for the localized association between the birth of a ruler and this future date in deep time. [The striking location of the sun in a sidereal position on Dec 21, 2012 that has great relevance in the Creation Mythology (the Crossroads of the Milky Way and the ecliptic) forces a consideration that the 2012 alignment was not merely of localized interest, but was embedded into the structure of the Long Count at its very origins. If this consideration is not taken seriously, we are then left with accepting an absurdly striking astronomical coincidence occurring on 220.127.116.11.0 in 2012 that Lord Jaguar stumbled upon and exploited in his own time, for “localized” purposes, without any historical precedent --- an extremely far-fetched circumstance. If the alignment was not intended to coordinate with the end of a 13th-Bak’tun in 2012 by the originators of the Long Count, how is that only Lord Jaguar noticed it, 360 years into the Classic Period? (The reason why it seems that only Lord Jaguar utilized it can be explained by his happenstantial birthday - real or contrived - as well as a possible loosening of strictures in manipulated sacred Creation Myth themes for secular/political purposes). Nevertheless, it seems that the 2012 alignment is referenced in numerous secondary ways, as an important image-complex --- for example Copan Stela C and the birth of GI on the Temple of the Cross tablet] But is this sidereal parallel a mere post-hoc coincidence, enhanced by our easy access to visual astronomy programs? How might we determine if such a parallel was intentional? As we shall see, there are additional examples of these types of date pairs and distance numbers that incorporate whole multiples of the sidereal year in deep time calculations.
Michael, It is good to show these kinds of parallels existing in the corpus – your forté! It’s also good to entertain why they were interested in certain sidereal locations – e.g., a discussion of the crossroads as a symbol of the cosmic center, the king’s occupancy of “the cosmic center”, the entrance to the Underworld and the “Black Hole” place-name at a “cosmic center”/Crossroads associated with the bestowal of kingship, the sun’s positioning at this “celestial” (i.e., astronomical) location being reflective of a Creation Myth prototype, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc .
A brief philosophical aside here. I believe that you and I and few other Maya enthusiasts understand these associations because they are basically analogical and Platonic in nature. When we kowtow to the more limited complaints of the Aristotelian mind-frame, we will lose the accurate picture of Maya cosmology which was, in itself, basically more Platonic (analogy-based) than Aristotelian (linear; a + b = c). I suspect this is basically a losing battle, in the same way that the American dream (based upon a constantly increasing GNP) is a flawed model and a losing, unsustainable approach to reality. Your diplomacy seeks a compromise with stupidity. So, at best, we will arrive at a consensus agreement of ancient Maya thought that is half-stupid. That said, we have no other course so I applaud your approach and your unique place in pulling things over to the side of the real picture; the alternative is a totally stupid picture.
Elsewhere (Grofe 2007:91–92) I discuss the possible sidereal reasons for the choice of the Long Count Era base year as 3114 BC, when the Pleiades would have heliacally risen on the day of the vernal equinox, due east on the celestial equator. This parallels their later heliacal rise on the April 30 zenith at 14.8º N latitude, where they precisely cross the zenith in the Second Century BC, at the time and place where the Long Count is thought to have originated. Beginning a count of one k’atun on the August 13 zenith ends precisely on the April 30 zenith.
In his recent critique of the 2012 meme, Aveni (2009:81) concedes that, “It is conceivable, then, that the two creation events are keyed to important positions of the sun cycle.” However, he maintains that the accuracy of such calculations is difficult to determine.
The evidence within this paper strongly supports the proposal that deep time intervals contain precise calculations of the sidereal and tropical years. While partially validating the GMT, many of these results remain significant independent of any correlation, and further research is required to identify any similar
patterns in other deep time intervals. The sidereal parallel found on Tortuguero Monument 6, which references the completion of the thirteenth bak’tun, must be seen within the context of numerous, similar deep time intervals that appear to link historical sidereal positions of the sun with like-in-kind mythological events. While the present study contends with the astronomical evidence, the political,
astrological, and cosmological purpose of these measurements remains to be explored. [Okay, my apologies, I see you’re presenting a circumscribed, long-term strategy and approach. In the interest of expanding the treatment for Archaeoastronomy journal, here are my thoughts:
Political. Lord Jaguar’s strategy of relating himself to the Creation Mythos, as other Maya kings were wont to do, which I suggested in my 2009 book The 2012 Story, in my 2010 SAA paper, in the MEC debate (Jenkins 2010b), in the Gelfer anthology (forthcoming 2011) and in the Benfer anthology (forthcoming 2012).
Astrological. This would hinge on the house/constellation/sidereal position of the sun on the date pairs. We have 5 alignments on TRT Mon 6 (3 solar, 1 lunar eclipse, and 1 Jupiter) that are in parallel to the 2012 sidereal position. Astrology is a loaded term /concept.
Astrological / cosmological. I’m not sure of the distinction or the meaning here. I’m not sure that the Maya had a deterministic/causal “fated” astrological concept as currently pedaled by the neo-Saganite Freidelians. These are very problematic concepts. When scholars stretch themselves to acknowledge “reciprocity,” they are basically acknowledging a kind of non-dual orientation to reality, although to say it in such terms (although completely justifiable), irks the scholastic type who prefer clinical terms stripped of religiosity. As far as the domain of the “cosmological,” precessional and accurate tropical & sidereal year calculations are probably in part in service to calculating deep time solar alignments to specific and meaningful sidereal positions. Given the sun’s sidereal position on 18.104.22.168.0 in 2012, we have to entertain that the Milky Way/ecliptic crossroads is one of these meaningful sidereal positions. Or, it’s just a huge and troublesome coincidence, one that Guenter’s null-set hypothesis is full of and can easily dispense with. Because gruesomeness is cool.
With any luck, and further collaboration, interest in this project will continue far beyond the passing of the upcoming thirteenth bak’tun. If nothing else, it is my hope that the arrival of this auspicious date will give us pause
to celebrate and learn from the millennia of intellectual and cultural achievements developed by the people of Mesoamerica.
Note. A method for identifying the position of the lunar node, and estimating times of eclipses.
Every so often the moon swings wide of the precise mid-line of the ecliptic and occults the Pleiades. When this occurs, the lunar node is located at X. If this occulting of the Pleiades occurs on a Full Moon, the position of the lunar node can be calculated by subtracted x days from the current day in the solar year (this is because the sun will be opposite the Full Moon / Pleiades). If it was a quarter moon or half-moon, adjustments to the formula are easy. In fact, adjustments for any phase can be made so that the lunar node’s position in relation to the sun’s current sidereal position can be calculated. The relationships could be formulated, fine tuned through observational experience, such that the Moon’s occultation of the Pleiades basically will predict when the next eclipse is likely to occur, X number of days later. (X varying depending on whether the moon was full, half, or quarter, waxing or waning.)