Sunday, August 10, 2014

African Zodiacs and the Ancient Meso-American Calendar

Leo Wiener, in Africa and the Discovery of America also discussed the fact that the West African zodiacs are of 13 months like that of the Amerindians ( Vol.3, p.279). This information is based on the work of F.Bork, Tierkreise auf westafrikanischen Kalebassen, in Mitteilungen der vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, Vol.21, p.266.

Prudence M. Rice in Maya Calendar Origin, makes it clear that the Maya sacre calendar of 13 month 20 days include the day names: ‘rain, Lord, world, snake ,deer and rabbit (see p.34). This is interesting because the same characters are found on the 13month calabash from West Africa.

Mande calendrics are the result of a combination climatic, social andastronomical factors. The moon, seasons and stars are used for reckoning time. The major star studied by the Mande is Sirius.Mats play an important role in Mande calculations. The mat and mat motifs play an important role in Mayan society as well.


If you look at this calabash you will notice that in the center of the calabash we have a figure that resembles the Kanaga sign. It also very interesting that this Kanaga figure also includes a mat constituting the central design in the figure.The characters on this calabash are explained by Mande cosmology. We see the following charaters on this almanac.1. 2 lizards pointing out the four directions (North, South, East and West) plus the mat in the center of the four directions. These lizard figures probably represent the world.2. Antelope (deer)3. 7 circles or the Pleides4. butterfly5. bow/ double sword6. grain/tree7. 2 people representing humanity and the headrest denoting royalty in African societies8. Crescent Moon & star (Venus?)9. heart or ace of club figure10. rabbit/hare11. crocodile & snake12. Crane13. Calabash or bowlThese figures on the Calabash are ritual emblems associated with Malinke-Bambara.The Malinke-Bambara recognized the Sirius system in their cosmology. In relation to the Lizard in facing upward we see the calabash or bowl on the right hand side.

 This calabash may represent the water bowl of Faro, the leading god of the Bambara. On the left hand side of this Lizard we see the seven circles, which are believed to have represented the seven stars of the Pleides. Among the Malinke-Bambara and other West African people the Pleides was a marker of the growing season.The second Lizard is facing left. Above the right arm we see the seven stars of the Pleides. Below the right are we see the double sword which may represent Orion’s sword. Orion’s sword is that region of the sky below Orion’s belt that includes the Orion Nebula. It is interesting that in relation to the Pleides and Sword of Orion, we see the rabbit/hare. This is most interesting because Orion was said to be the hunter of the hare/rabbit.The Antelope is believed to have taught human beings to farm. It relates to the Malinke-Bambara tradition that a half-man half-antelope introduced agriculture to mankind.The Crane is also related to Malinke-Bambara tradition. Among the Bambara the Crested Crane is credited with the birth of speech.The adult figure on the calabash and the head rest make it clear that this figure represented a Lord of dignitary. Finally the heart shaped or ace of clubs figure probably represents the flani da. The flani da symbolized the One Creator.This interpretation of the calabash from the Guinea coast suggest that it records some event that involved agriculture. It also suggest that it corresponds to Malinke-Bambara calendric traditions.The Maya day signs: Lord ,World, snake, deer, and rabbit are found on the sacre calendar of the Maya.

As noted above these same signs are found on the Guinea calabash calendar (or almanac ?). We have shown how the signs on the Guinea calabash are explained by Malinke-Bamabara ideology. The similarity in Mayan and Malinke-Bambara ideology found in the calendrics can best be explained by the fact that the Maya and other Amerind groups got this calendar from the Olmecs, who I have shown spoke Malinke-Bambara. These shared ideology for the figures on the sacre Mayan calendars and the Guinea coast calabash support the view of Leo Wiener in Africa and the Discovery of America that the calendars were related. 
Wiener wrote: “In the first place, the central square contains the Mandingo tutelary god with his attributes and appurtenances. The numerical calculations based on 20 and 13, which is the essence of the American calendars, is surely built on African models. Here again we possess but the scantiest material for verification, but just enough to be startling and unique”(p.270). Coe and Stone, Reading the Maya Glyphs wrote : "The first part of a Calendar Round is the 260-day Count, often called in the literature by the ersatz Maya name "tsolk'in". This is the eternally repeating cycle , and concist of the numbers 1 through 13, permuting against a minicycle of 20 named days. Since 13 and 20 have no common denominator, a particular day name will not recur with a particular coefficient until 260 days have passed.

 No one knows exactly when this extremely sacred calendar was invented, but it was certainly already ancient by the time the Classic period began. There are still highland Maya calendar priests who can calculate the day in the 260-day Count, and it is apparent that this basic way of time-reckoning has never slipped a day since its inception" (pp.41-42).

This sacre calendar has 13 months of 20 days (13x20=260). John Montgomery, How to Read Maya Hieroglyphs, wrote "The Tzolk'in or 260 day Sacred Almanac, was widely used in ancient times for divinatory purposes. Guatemalan Maya and other cultures in Mexico still use it as a means of "day keeping". The origins of the 260-day calendar are debatable although a number of scholars have suggested it corresponds to the nine month period of human gestation" (p.74).Lets recap Wiener noted the existence of 13 month 20 day zodiacs in West Africa, and the American sacre calendar of 20 days and 13 months. Coe and Montgomery says the 13 month 260-day calendar continues to be used in Guatemala and other cultures up to today.

This proves that you are making claims without any foundation. It further supports Leo Wiener's discussion of the 13 month calendar of the Americans that you dispute. As pointed out on numerous occasions during this debate many Mayan groups record successfully time only using the 13 month 20 day calendar so there was no need for the Mande to record a date and use a system like the Haab (Tun+ Wayeb ) to determine its actual time. A similar calendar of 13 months and 20 days was recorded on West African calabashes.First of all science is based on hypotheses testing. Wiener made a number of claims:
  • 1. West Africans had a 13 month zodiac.
    2. There was a Mande origin for the Mayan notation system.
    3. Mande writing was the source of the inscriptions on the Tuxtla statuette.
These premises provides several testable hypothesis in relation to the Mande and Mayan connection:
  • There will be a relationship between Mande and Mayan languages.
    There will be a relationship between Mande and Mayan numerals and system of notation.
    There will be a relationship between Mande and Mayan calendrics.

Now that we have these hypotheses we will test them. Most of the solution for these hypotheses comes from Robert J. Sharer ,The Ancient Maya (5th Edition,1994)

The Mande use a base 20 notation syste,. The Maya did not use a base 10 system, the base number was 20 like the Mande system. Base 20 is vigesimal. Landa wrote:


Not only did the Indians have a count for the year and months, as has been said and previously set out, but they had a certain method of counting time and their affairs by their ages, which they counted by twenty year periods, counting thirteen twenties, with one of the twenty signs of their months, which they call Ahau/Ajaw

Sharer, p.572

This makes it clear that the Maya had a base 20 notation system. . The Mayan values like the Mande increased by powers of twenty (Sharer, p.558).

That they used this system to record time. Use of the term Ajaw “lord’is interesting. This term is cognate to the Mande term gyo/ jo the term used to describe the Mande rulers in Mexico, duties as both ruler and religious leaders. In addition to this term the Mayans adopted other Mande terms

  • English Mande Mayan

    Birth si sij

    God Ku Ku

    Demi-God-King Gyo/Jo Ajaw

    Day kene k’in

In relation to the Mayan zodiac Sharer wrote:” The ancient Maya may have had a zodiac, composed of thirteen houses” (months) or a 13 uinal (month) 20 k’in (day ) 13x20= 260.This agrees with the calabash calendars in West Africa.

This zodiac formed the bases of the Mayan sacre calendar which was 260 days or 13x20. The ceremonial practices of the Maya were determined by the sacre calendar.

Mats play an important role in Mande calculations. The mat and mat motifs play an important role in Mayan society as well.

In fact the ruling title on mayan emblem signs is ah po ‘lord of the mat’. In fact the symbol of Mayan rulership was pop (a woven mat).

In conclusion, Wiener’s work provides three testable hypotheses:

  • There will be a relationship between Mande and Mayan languages.
    There will be a relationship between Mande and Mayan numerals and system of notation.
    There will be a relationship between Mande and Mayan calendrics.

As illustrated above the Mande notation system of 20 and 60 is also the system of the Maya. The Mayan name for day k’in, may also be of Mande origin since it agrees with the Malinke-Bambara term kenè that means ‘day light, day’. The Mayan term for series of 360 days is tun, this corresponds to the Mande term dõ-na ‘an arrangement of dates/days’, the Mande term for calendar is dõ-gyãle-la. The Mayan speakers probably used tun, because they learned the Mande calendar in association with ritual days of the Mande.

All of these hypotheses were confirmed. The Maya and Mande share similar zodics and base 20 notation system. In addition, many of the key terms relating to Mayan ritual and religion agree with Mande terms . The evidence leads us to only one conclusion the Mande speaking Olmec introduced base 20 notation systems and calendrics to the Mayan Indians.

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