The burden of time
The circle of glyphs form the 19 ‘months’ of the haab’ or solar calendar of the Maya. The 18 primary months all consist of 20 days, with a short final period of just 5 (unlucky) days - making 365 in total. The last five days in the solar year - called uayeb or wayeb by the Maya and nemontemi by the Aztecs - were considered dangerous days as they didn’t fit in to the normal ‘count’ of days. Unusually the illustrator here has drawn the 18 month glyphs in a clockwise sequence, starting with Pop, the first month.
In the centre, the ‘load’ being carried is another calendar glyph, this time one of the 20 day signs - in fact, the last one, ajaw, meaning ‘lord’ or ‘ruler’. It’s hard to recognise but when viewed on its side it becomes clearer in the main illustration. Since many Maya monuments recorded the stories and achievements of rulers and their dynasties, ajaw is a common glyph in Classic Maya art generally. In this context the ‘day’ being carried implies the start of the whole calendar year so the load carrier is actually the ‘year bearer’.
Photograph courtesy Belize Yucatec Maya
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