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A Revised and Updated Version of Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico

An introduction to archaeoastronomy, focusing on Mesoamerica.

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January 2001
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423 pages | 7 x 10 | 130 figures, 29 tables |

Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico helped establish the field of archaeoastronomy, and it remains the standard introduction to this subject. Combining basic astronomy with archaeological and ethnological data, it presented a readable and entertaining synthesis of all that was known of ancient astronomy in the western hemisphere as of 1980.

In this revised edition, Anthony Aveni draws on his own and others' discoveries of the past twenty years to bring the Skywatchers story up to the present. He offers new data and interpretations in many areas, including:

  • The study of Mesoamerican time and calendrical systems and their unprecedented continuity in contemporary Mesoamerican culture
  • The connections between Precolumbian religion, astrology, and scientific, quantitative astronomy
  • The relationship between Highland Mexico and the world of the Maya and the state of Pan-American scientific practices
  • The use of personal computer software for computing astronomical data

With this updated information, Skywatchers will serve a new generation of general and scholarly readers and will be useful in courses on archaeoastronomy, astronomy, history of astronomy, history of science, anthropology, archaeology, and world religions.

  • Acknowledgments
  • I. Introduction: Archaeoastronomy and Its Components
    • Archaeoastronomy: Twenty Years of Hindsight
    • Additional Selected Readings
  • II. The Historical, Ethnographic, and Ethnological Background for Native American Astronomy
    • The Civilizations of Ancient Mesoamerica
    • Chroniclers and Codices
    • Aztec Constellations
    • Astronomy and the Ethnological Record: The Importance of the Zenith Solar Passage
    • Additional Selected Readings
  • III. Astronomy with the Naked Eye
    • The Celestial Sphere: Coordinate Reference Frames
    • Charting the Sun's Movement
    • The Moon, Eclipses, and Eclipse Cycles
    • Cycles of the Planets
    • Miscellaneous Observable Sky Phenomena
    • Appendices
      • A. Glossary of Astronomical Terms of Importance in Archaeoastronomy
      • B. Factors Affecting the Precise Determination of Astronomical Orientations
      • C. Heliacal Rise and Set Phenomena
      • D. Determining the Approximate Date of Sunrise or Sunset for a Given Azimuth
      • E. Change of Direction of the Magnetic Compass with Time in Mesoamerica
      • F. Some Basic Formulas Useful for Fieldwork in Archaeoastronomy
      • G. How to Determine Alignments with the Surveyor's Transit
    • Additional Selected Readings, Electronic Resources, and Star Maps
  • IV. The Mathematical and Astronomical Content of the Mesoamerican Inscriptions
    • A Brief History of Calendrical Decipherment
    • The Mesoamerican Philosophy of Numbers
    • The Long Count
    • The Calendar Round
    • The Union of Time and Space in Mesoamerican Cosmology
    • How the Calendar Works
    • The Supplementary Series and the Lunar Synodic Month
    • Tropical Year Calculations
    • Planetary Events in the Monumental Inscriptions
    • Astronomy in the Maya Codices, I: General Content of the Codices
    • Astronomy in the Maya Codices, II: Eclipses and Eclipse Tables
    • Astronomy in the Maya Codices, III: Venus
    • Astronomy in the Maya Codices, IV: A Mars Table
    • Was There a Mesoamerican Zodiac?
    • Summary
    • Appendices
      • A. The Problem of the Correlation of Maya and Christian Dates
      • B. A Scheme for the Conversion of Maya Dates
    • Additional Selected Readings
  • V. Astronomy and Architecture in the Ancient Americas and Mediterranean Basin
    • The Orientation Motive
    • City and Cosmos: Urban Planning in Highland Mexico
    • Cosmic Order in the Aztec Capital
    • Maya Cities: Architecture and Sacred Landscape
    • Specialized Architectural Assemblages
    • North America
    • The Andean World
    • Summary: Astronomy in Ancient American Cultures
    • Circum-Mediterranean Archaeoastronomy
    • Appendix A. An Analysis of the Pecked Cross Petroglyphs
    • Additional Selected Readings
  • Postscript
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Anthony F. Aveni is the Russell B. Colgate Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology at Colgate University in New York.


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Maya astronomy is too important to be left to the astronomers.
—Sir Eric Thompson (1974, p. 97)

All developing civilizations exhibit a reverence for the sky and its contents. The cyclic movement of the sun, moon, planets, and stars represents a kind of perfection unattainable by mortals. The regular occurrence of sunrise and moonset provided the ancients with something dependable and orderly, a stable pillar to which to anchor their thoughts.

Today we no longer have need of practical astronomy in our daily lives. Unlike our ancestors, we spend most of our time in a regulated climate with controlled lighting; we are detached almost totally from the natural environment. Technology has created an artificial backdrop against which we play out our lives. Any need we once had to watch carefully for celestial events has become lost. Who knows the time the sun rose today or the current phase of the moon? The clocks by which we pace our daily activities give us a distorted view of the dependence of measured time periods on circumstances transpiring in the heavens.

Though we may try, we cannot really appreciate the degree to which the minds of the ancients were preoccupied with astronomical pursuits. Modern science and technology have robbed us of any real sensitivity to the nature of our ancestors' relation to the cosmos. The heavens touched nearly every aspect of their culture; consequently, we find ancient astronomy woven into myth, religion, and astrology. So great was the reliance of the ancients on the sun and the moon that they deified them. Representations of these luminaries adorned their temples as objects of worship, and they were symbolized in sculpture and other works of art. The ancients followed the sun god wherever he went, marking his appearance and disappearance with great care. His return to a certain place on the horizon told them when to plant the crops, when the river would overflow its banks, or when the monsoon season would arrive. The planning and harvesting of crops could be regulated by celestial events. The important days of celebration and festivity could be marked effectively using the celestial calendar. Equipped with a knowledge of mathematics and a method for keeping records, the ancients could refine and expand their knowledge of positional astronomy. After several generations, with the advantage of a written record, they could learn to predict such celestial phenomena as eclipses well in advance. What a powerful advantage the elite would have over their followers with this bit of trickery in their repertoire!

We are continually amazed at the seemingly impossible accomplishments of our ancient ancestors. How did they erect the great pyramids, the statues of Easter Island, or Mexico's huge Olmec heads? And how did they develop such a precise calendar? In disbelief, some of us turn to extraterrestrial zoo keepers for sources of ancient wisdom. According to one popular account, "the past teemed with unknown gods who visited the primeval earth in manned spaceships. Incredible technical achievements existed in the past. There is a mass of know-how which we have only partially rediscovered today" (Daniken 1971, p. vii).

Though the last part is substantially true, such statements are often uttered in total ignorance of the ways of ancient people. One of the goals of this text will be to show that sophisticated astronomical and mathematical achievements of the people of ancient Mesoamerica followed logically in the evolutionary development of a civilization which intensely worshipped the heavens and steadfastly associated the phenomena they witnessed in the celestial environment with the course of human affairs.

Since the ancients expended considerable effort paying tribute to their celestial deities, we should not be surprised to find that, in many instances, astronomical principles played a role in the design of the ceremonial centers where they worshipped their gods. Stonehenge is perhaps the most famous example of an ancient structure believed to have served an astronomical function. In 1964, astronomer Gerald Hawkins wrote Stonehenge Decoded, thus rekindling an idea made popular at the end of the nineteenth century by Sir Norman Lockyer ([1894] 1964). Hawkins hypothesized that the megaliths standing for 5,000 years on the plain of southern Great Britain constituted a calendar in stone, each component situated deliberately and precisely to align with astronomical events taking place along the local horizon. Detailed works (Alexander Thom 1967,1971) and cultural syntheses (Euan MacKie 1977, Clive Ruggles 1999, Rodney Castleden 1987, and Aveni 1997) have since helped solidify the basis of our understanding of ancient megalithic astronomy as part of an unwritten record of astronomical achievement.

The Stonehenge controversy was responsible for a resurgence of interest in the interdisciplinary field of astroarchaeology, a term first coined by Hawkins (1966) to encompass the study of astronomical principles employed in ancient works of architecture and the elaboration of a methodology for the retrieval and quantitative analysis of astronomical alignment data. The alternate term, archaeoastronomy, came to embody the study of the extent and practice of astronomy among ancient cultures. Such a definition fits the discipline scholars call the "history of astronomy," except that the latter has dealt traditionally with literate Western society and focuses largely on analyses of notational schemes in the Western style (i.e., ancient scriptures, Egyptian hieroglyphs, cuneiform tablets). Being somewhat less confined by tradition and often handicapped by the sparsity of a written record, archaeoastronomy has developed into a broader interdiscipline drawing on the written as much as the archaeological and iconographic record. Consequently, discussions of astronomical symbolism and astronomical precision often are intermixed.

Though much emphasis had been placed on the megalithic sites in Europe, an increased interest arose in the study of the role of astronomy in architectural planning in other parts of the world, particularly the Americas. In Central Mexico, the plan of the great ceremonial center of Teotihuacan seems to have been oriented to harmonize with the positions of the sun and certain fundamental stars. Astronomical orientations have also been discovered in the Maya area of the peninsula of the Yucatan. The so-called Group E structures at Uaxactun, Guatemala, represent the prototype of a series of sunwatchers'stations found in that region. The Caracol at Chichen Itza in Yucatan, an observatory in the shape of a round tower, incorporates horizontal sight tubes directed to positions of astronomical significance.

Anthropologists have become interested in studying relationships between the astronomical knowledge of civilizations of Mesoamerica and that of the native tribes of North America. Did cosmological ideas diffuse among these cultures? Which concepts were developed independently? Ceremonial mounds at Cahokia near St. Louis, Missouri, and in central Kansas probably functioned as solstice registers to mark the extreme positions of the rising sun. The Big Horn Medicine Wheel, a spoked wheel formed out of boulders in the mountains of Wyoming, also appears to have functioned as an astronomical observatory. Far to the south, the interconnected lines of the ceque system surrounding the ancient city of Cuzco in Peru may represent a calendar in the landscape, which has astronomical, religious, and even political attributes.

In the Americas, investigators from diverse fields have turned their attention to archaeoastronomical pursuits. As a result of cooperation among them, there has been added to the literature an increasing body of evidence relating to the role of astronomy in the lives of the ancient people of this hemisphere. The slow process of integration of the results of these investigations into the mainstream of human intellectual history continues.

This book focuses on the people of ancient Mexico and Central America, known as Mesoamerica, and what we know of their systems of astronomy. In studying them we have an enormous advantage over Thom, Hawkins, and their predecessors. We know from the written record, the art, and the sculpture that the civilizations which developed in the New World before the arrival of Columbus, Cortés, and Pizarro were already highly advanced by the time of their arrival. Only within the last century have we begun to gain a full appreciation of the magnitude and sophistication of ancient New World cultures. Calendrical documents reveal that mathematics and astronomy were among the intellectual hallmarks of the Maya, who emerge as a people thoroughly devoted to these disciplines. For them, time was an intricate natural system, each day being ticked off in a complex maze of endless cycles. But, quite unlike our modern astronomy, Mesoamerican, particularly Maya, astronomy was ritualistic and divinatory in nature.

To have accomplished as much as they did, the ancient Mesoamericans must have been keen observers of the heavens. Were they also brilliant theoreticians? To answer such a question we must assemble, all in one place, the material which is relevant to an objective assessment of the depth and extent of their astronomical knowledge. I have set such a goal in the production of this volume. In attempting to achieve it, I have necessarily ventured out of my own field in different directions in order to form channels between pools of material in disciplines usually regarded as unrelated. Any true interdisciplinary synthesis requires that such a course be taken. In pursuing it, I have made a special effort to proceed cautiously, accepting the generous guidance of interested colleagues in allied fields.

Because an interdisciplinary approach to archaeoastronomy has developed, the serious contributor to knowledge in this field must become acquainted with certain segments of established disciplines which border on it. Which disciplines? It seems clear that an understanding of basic positional astronomy is indispensable if one wishes to master the complexities of ancient astronomy. Maya archaeologist Sir Eric Thompson once suggested that one could understand Maya astronomy only by "getting into the skin" of the Maya priest-astronomer. In other words, a knowledge of the history and culture of the Native American people is vital to an understanding of their astronomical systems. Input from archaeology is paramount since it represents a large part of the surviving record. Pre-Columbian astronomy was strongly wedded to astrology and religion. Those of us trained in the modern sciences must be careful not to slant our view too much toward the present. We cannot assume that the Maya were always looking for the same celestial events that matter to us. Astronomers with a poor grasp of pre-Columbian lifeways have been known to make assertions about the Maya calendar which are strongly at odds with the facts gleaned from the anthropologists' studies.

Too often discussions of ancient astronomical systems have been couched in one-sided dialogue. Modern scientists have been accused of fashioning our ancient ancestors after their own image. Because they tend to frame their arguments in the scientific jargon of their specialty, the anthropologists either blindly accept their propositions out of awe and reverence for the complexity of language and scientific method or they refuse to consider an argument because they cannot comprehend the intricacies of positional astronomy delineated in tracts that were never intended for a nonscientific audience. Conversely, many outrageous astronomical assertions have been uttered by untrained anthropologists, who, with a little understanding of elementary astronomy, could have carried their theories a long way.

This volume, it is hoped, will introduce all readers to the basic components of the interdisciplinary field of archaeoastronomy. It is offered as a bridge to connect the established disciplines of astronomy, archaeology, culture history, and the histories of astronomy and religion. It is intended to serve as a platform for the exchange of ideas among students of these seemingly disparate fields. The synthesis is presented at an elementary level to benefit the interested lay person as well as the informed visitor to the ruins.

Chapter II begins by staging a background for our studies with a brief discourse on the ethnological basis for ancient American astronomy. This chapter serves to give the reader a general orientation to how ancient New World people viewed the heavens around them. Because of the wanton destruction of pre-Columbian sacred documents by the Spanish invaders, we have relatively little to work with in this area: portions of four original Maya manuscripts and a handful of others from Central Mexico; statements (some more reliable than others) in the histories of the native people written by Spanish missionaries who traveled to the Americas shortly after the conquest; and bits of data gathered by ethnographers living among the survivors and progenitors of a conquered people, some of whom still practice ancient rituals.

William Bell Dinsmoor, the Columbia University archaeologist, stated that if one were to seek an explanation for the disrepute into which the study of building orientation had fallen by the 1930's, it might be attributed to the "niceties of modern astronomical calculations. What would have been a simple process in antiquity, the mere observation of the point of rising or setting of the sun, or as some think, of a certain star, on a selected day in the then current year, must now be laboriously reconstructed" (1939, p. 102). More than one modern archaeologist has been critical of archaeoastronomical field methods on the (misunderstood) grounds that they imply the ancients must have used equipment of similar sophistication (see, e.g., Rowe 1979). These difficulties might have been remedied if the astronomical community had provided anthropologists with clear discussions of that portion of their discipline that was relevant to the orientation question, presuming that scholars involved in the study of culture history would take the trouble to read them.

Chapter III, on positional astronomy, is intended to serve as a user's guide to the sky and its contents. Different from the treatment found in standard astronomy texts, this material is especially slanted toward naked-eye astronomy, particularly as it applies in the tropical latitudes where Native American civilizations developed. Nonessentials found in most standard astronomy texts have been removed. Basically, the investigator wants to know: What are the significant astronomical events which might have been watched by the ancients? Given no technological aids, what are the possible procedures for determining the time and place of occurrence of such events, and with what accuracy can they be observed? How has the appearance of certain astronomical phenomena changed since the time ancient culture developed? How can we retrieve astronomical information from quantitative measurements obtained at the archaeological ruins? Questions of this nature are addressed in some detail, with an emphasis on cyclic phenomena, an aspect of the heavens which is most easily observed by naked-eye viewers. A background in elementary geometry is assumed. For those already possessing a knowledge of practical astronomy, this chapter may be only briefly reviewed or, perhaps, consulted as a reference appendix.

Chapter IV is devoted to a discussion of one of the best-treated, yet most thoroughly isolated, subtopics in Native American astronomy—the Mesoamerican calendar. This was one of the most sophisticated timekeeping systems ever conceived by ancient people. Though many scholars who have written about it have focused their attention on the decipherment of the hieroglyphs and the question of how to correlate Old and New World chronologies, the treatment accorded the calendar here will be weighted heavily toward practical astronomy. Serious readers will become familiar with the fundamental operation of the calendar, the decipherment of dates, and the problem of how to correlate Mesoamerican and Christian calendars. In an age dominated by computer software programs designed to provide only the final answers to problems of a quantitative nature, there is a great need for those who study Mesoamerican culture to understand exactly how calendrical calculations were actually achieved. In Chapter IV we do it the old-fashioned way by following all the assumptions and tracing all the steps in arriving at the conclusions. These who follow along may be surprised at the simplicity and elegance of the process of creating calendars. Readers will also be asked to reflect on how the elements of the calendar relate to the naked-eye astronomy to which they have already been exposed and from which the calendar was derived. How, as the inscriptions seem to imply, did the Maya predict eclipses? How did they determine the length of the Venus year and the lunar month to accuracies of less than a day in several centuries? What sort of observations were required and what was the modus operandi? When, if ever, did this astronomy become "scientific"? Such questions, all dealt with in Chapter IV, apply to the astronomy of any ancient culture.

Chapter V, on astronomical orientations, discusses the role of astronomy in the design and arrangement of ceremonial centers. Beginning with a discussion of the curious systematic orientation of the principal axes of Mesoamerican cities, the chapter includes an analysis of specialized buildings possessing peculiar shapes and orientations. Other case studies of astronomical alignments in ancient architecture in the New World and beyond are incorporated into the discussion for purposes of comparison.

The reader of Skywatchers ought to be able to draw definite conclusions about the astronomical and calendrical accomplishments of our predecessors on this continent and the ends to which they put that knowledge. Overall, this book is both a synthesis and a personal view, operating with no predisposition toward proving theories for which no evidence exists. Rather, it is intended to serve as a marketplace where the ideas and evidence on issues that demand increasing attention in the field of prescientific astronomy can be assembled. Out of such an assemblage, one hopes, will come the gradual synthesis of our renewed understanding of the cosmos and its place in Mesoamerican culture.

Archaeoastronomy: Twenty Years of Hindsight

So much has happened since publication of the original Skywatchers: more than a dozen international conferences have addressed important issues and hundreds of published scholarly reports have appeared, a significant number of them coauthored by interdisciplinary teams. For the Mesoamerican area especially, the results of many investigations are available in the journals of the established disciplines that comprise Native American studies (e.g., American Antiquity, Latin American Antiquity, and Ancient Mesoamerica), as well as in the two journals that have been devoted to archaeoastronomy for more than 25 years: Archaeoastronomy, Supplement to the lournal for the History of Astronomy (still published at Cambridge University) and Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy (now published by the University of Texas Press). Combined with its sister discipline of ethnoastronomy, which deals with living peoples, archaeoastronomy has become a part of "cultural astronomy" (see Ruggles and Saunders 1993), thus moving closer to fulfilling the desired aim of posing and responding to questions in their full cultural context.

This disciplinary mainstreaming of ancient New World astronomical studies is the result of a significant turning away from ethnocentric "celestial butterfly collecting," that is, the tendency to report precise alignments attained by naive astronomers (myself among them). Instead, interest has shifted toward framing questions about the practice of archaeoastronomy that bear on current anthropological and archaeological theory {see Kintigh 1992, Aveni 1989b, 1992c).

In the established comparative tradition that pitted "less sophisticated" New World astronomers against classical text-based astronomers of the Old World, the "how" of archaeoastronomy is what used to matter: Were their astronomers as skilled as ours? Did they too climb a ladder of progress toward great intellectual heights? Where did technology, precision, and scientific theorizing, the hallmarks of Western astronomy, fit in? These were the very questions that fueled the Stonehenge controversy. For those who investigated them, it was a simple proposition (especially with the advent of the high-speed personal computer) to acquire the tools and methodology to demonstrate just how precisely a solstice or lunar standstill could be marked out on the land- and skyscape by a careful nonliterate skywatcher. Little wonder archaeologists reacted with disinterest and boredom to the archaeoastronomers' ethnocentric romp in the jungle that led to the disclosure of "amazing facts" about mysterious Indians. Today the "why" of archaeoastronomy receives as much attention as the "how": Why the Maya preoccupation with the timings of the planet Venus? (To make war.) Why the celestial hierophany and astronomically laced inscriptions at Palenque? (To trace the lineage of the ruler to the celestial gods.) Why the odd arrangement of the Aztec Templo Mayor? (To pay the debt to the rain god. All three traditions, heavily dependent on a knowledge of the sky, have now been traced to indigenous predecessor cultures.

But this interest in why comes at a price: hard work. Today the license to practice the interdiscipline of archaeoastronomy requires demonstrated knowledge of the culture about which one is theorizing. There is less concern with disclosing "firsts," more with providing converging, missing pieces that give shape and meaning to the picture in the puzzle. Still open to new ideas, archaeoastronomy has painfully sloughed off its "fringiness" by becoming more critical of crackpot theorizing. This is as it should be in a field that has come of age.

These broad-based developments in method and theory, dramatic advances in regional Mesoamerican scholarship, and the realization that parts of the original Skywatchers were embarrassingly out of date prompted me to undertake a revision of the book, with the kind encouragement of the University of Texas Press. Readers will find much of the early portion of the new Skywatchers familiar. Chapter II on the ethnographic sources has been updated by some newly disclosed resource material, and Chapter III on sky phenomena has benefited from the incorporation of suggestions offered in the piles of commentary on the text I have collected over the years. The comments, which include corrections as well as better-ways-to-say-it, were offered by discerning colleagues and bright young students, many of them my own in the twenty or so archaeoastronomy classes I have taught using the old text. Obviously, the appendix on positional astronomy for magnetic card calculators had to be scrapped; it is replaced by a useful list of available software products and other resource material which have appeared apace with our burgeoning interdiscipline.

Big changes appear in Chapter IV on the Maya and related calendars, written when the revolution in decipherment had scarcely begun. I have winnowed out obsolete material on the calendar correlation problem and some decipherment issues that now seem less significant, and I have expanded the chapter to include many new translations of codex and monument texts that bear on astronomy. Though websites and software techniques for performing calendrical calculations have proliferated (e.g., most of the mechanical procedures discussed in Chapter 4 can be accomplished in seconds by consulting and other websites), I nonetheless have retained my original goal of introducing how the calendar works and how its component parts link together by taking the reader step by step through a number of sample calculations—the way the Maya did it.

In his Foreword to the first edition of Skywatchers, historian of science Owen Gingerich characterized it as the first full-length book coupling astronomy with archaeology and ethnology. Since its publication, astronomical developments have become important enough to take center stage in one of the Mesas Redondas de Palenque, the international conferences held at the site of the first great breakthroughs in decipherment. The late Linda Schele (foremost leader in the quest to crack the Maya code) and her collaborators made astronomy the centerpiece of one of the most important works on the Maya (Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993). I am particularly excited to add to this new edition of Skywatchers some of the new insights into "real time" astronomy now being pursued in studies of the Maya codices and to include why we think Central Mexican documents contain precise astronomical information. These developments help us to trace the common cultural roots that pervade Mesoamerica.

Chapter V on architecture and landscape also will seem vastly different. Our understanding of Aztec, Maya, Zapotec, and Teotihuacan sacred space has been enhanced not only by archaeological investigations directly linked to and often driven by questions pertaining to the indigenous understanding of the cosmos but also by new perspectives provided by archaeologists and disciplines such as the history of religion, a field which had not really entered the astronomical circle of inquiry when the old Skywatchers was published. The concept of cosmovisión, which encompasses the totality of world views connecting ancient astronomy with religion, economics, politics and sacred geography, had yet to be appreciated when the first Skywatchers appeared.

The revised Chapter V also focuses on updating the many studies reported earlier and on introducing a sampling of the more important recent investigations. I try to present site and building orientation studies as they are now embraced by archaeologist and culture historian, and, in a major reorganization of material, I attempt to contrast astronomy as practiced from hunter-gatherer to state-level civilizations with that of city and empire. Finally, I have added a section to this chapter that stresses the worldwide scope of archaeoastronomy. It consists of a summary of some of the many recent archaeoastronomical investigations that have taken place around the world, especially in the circum-Mediterranean basin. This addition, I hope, will lead to a better comparative synthesis of the role of astronomy within culture.

The goals of the new Skywatchers remain the same as those of its predecessor. It is intended both as a guidebook for the field investigator and as an information source for the teacher, student, and educated lay reader of astronomy, anthropology, archaeology, culture history, history of science, and history of religion. As before, my desire is to assemble all of the relevant material in a single place—a marketplace or forum for a continuing dialogue on a fascinating subject. (For the sake of providing simpler linkage with the published literature, I have decided to retain the original spellings of Mesoamerican terms rather than employ the current and ever-changing orthographies adopted by much of the anthropological community.) The new Skywatchers is written with the purpose of firming up connections and widening channels of communication, so that merchants and marketers who have now already traded awhile and become a bit more familiar with one another's disciplinary wares might dare to exchange even grander ideas.