Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon

[ Latin American Studies ]

Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon

The Calendar in Mesoamerican Civilization

By Vincent H. Malmström

A new view of the origin and diffusion of Mesoamerican calendrical systems.



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6 x 9 | 296 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-75197-2

The simple question "How did the Maya come up with a calendar that had only 260 days?" led Vincent Malmström to discover an unexpected "hearth" of Mesoamerican culture. In this boldly revisionist book, he sets forth his challenging, new view of the origin and diffusion of Mesoamerican calendrical systems—the intellectual achievement that gave rise to Mesoamerican civilization and culture.

Malmström posits that the 260-day calendar marked the interval between passages of the sun at its zenith over Izapa, an ancient ceremonial center in the Soconusco region of Mexico's Pacific coastal plain. He goes on to show how the calendar developed by the Zoque people of the region in the fourteenth century B.C. gradually diffused through Mesoamerica into the so-called "Olmec metropolitan area" of the Gulf coast and beyond to the Maya in the east and to the plateau of Mexico in the west.

These findings challenge our previous understanding of the origin and diffusion of Mesoamerican civilization. Sure to provoke lively debate in many quarters, this book will be important reading for all students of ancient Mesoamerica—anthropologists, archaeologists, archaeoastronomers, geographers, and the growing public fascinated by all things Maya.

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1. Questions, Hypotheses, and Assorted Detours
Chapter 2. Humans and Environment in the Americas
Chapter 3. Strange Attraction: The Mystery of Magnetism
Chapter 4. New Windows on the World: Working the Land and Sailing the Sea
Chapter 5. The Olmec Dawning
Chapter 6. The Long Count: Astronomical Precision
Chapter 7. Calendar Reform and Eclipses: The Place of Edzná
Chapter 8. The Golden Age
Chapter 9. The Twilight of the Gods
Chapter 10. Dawn in the Desert: The Rise of the Toltecs
Chapter 11. People of the Pleiades: The Aztec Interlude
Chapter 12. The Long Journey: A Retrospective

Vincent Malmström is Professor of Geography at Dartmouth College.

"Never have I been so impressed and excited as I was after perusing Malmström's book. It has everything . . . an exciting revisionist thesis . . . and truly important conclusions."
—Terry G. Jordan, Walter Prescott Webb Chair in Geography, University of Texas at Austin