August 13, 2011

Down for the Long Count

Chichen Itza

Hola! It’s the anniversary of the first day of recorded time in the New World – according to the Lounsbury correlation, August 13 is the first day of the Mayan calendar.

Or it might have been August 11.  We’re talking more than 5,000 years ago, so it seems a llittle picky to fuss about a day or two here or there, but apparently serious Mayan scholars care very much and if you don’t believe it, check out  this entry on Wikipedia.

It – the entry – is a perfect example of the kind of expert-in-the-field contribution you come across on the Wik from time to time, the kind that makes you wish they really hadn’t bothered.  It gives new meaning to ‘in the weeds,’ describing – in excruciating detail – how to calculate the Long Count and how the GMT correlation is the only right one.

But let’s go with Floyd Lounsbury (1914-1998), just to be ornery, and also because he did the definitive study of Oneida verb morphology.

And Lounsbury seems to have been the first person to correlate the date 4 Ajaw, 8 Kumk’u to August of 3114 BCE. Subsequent dates read something like “1,324,764 days after” that 13.0 etc date – the Long Count – which was the date of the creation of the first world. We’re in the fourth world and the fifth will begin on 13.0 etc, in December of 2012.

Inscription at Chichen Itza translates to July 28, 878.

Suffice it to say, the Mesoamericans were ridiculously mathematically gifted – and we have to say Mesoamericans because there is evidence that the Mayan calendar was actually based on an Olmec calendar of some sort – and were even using zero back then as a place marker.  (Only India and China were that far along with the idea of zero, though it was India where it first became used as a number.)

The best thing about the Mayan calendar is that the symbols used for numbers were basically dots and bars, and so the very first year of recorded time in this hemisphere was the year dot.

 * * *

The first true stainless steel was produced by Harry Brearly on this date in 1913 and aren’t we all glad?  What’s interesting about Brearly is that he was taken out of school in 1883, when he was 12 years old, and sent to work in a steel mill just like his father before him.

But Harry was clearly a real go-getter – his night classes and home study got him promoted to the post of assistant in the chemical lab at the plant when he was still in his teens.  By his early 30’s he was the most experienced man around in steel production techniques and chemical analysis and he was made head of a research laboratory.  Altogether a surprising amount of upward mobility for the time.

* * *

Feliz cumpleanos a Fidel Castro and many happy returns also to Kathleen Battle.  And the incomparable Galya Tarmu celebrates today also – see her work here.

Dance class



  1. Perfect blog and a perfect painting and birthday.


    Comment by avery — August 13, 2011 @ 5:59 pm | Reply

  2. Aw how cool!! Galya יום הולדת שמח =)


    Comment by ninachat — August 14, 2011 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

  3. ╔♫╗────────╔═╦╗─♫╗╔╗─╔╗─♥──
    ஜ۩۞۩ஜ Galya ஜ۩۞۩ஜ


    Comment by ninachat — August 14, 2011 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

  4. G. Your paintings draw me in to their many stories and feelings. Keep on keepin’ on.


    Comment by Carol — August 15, 2011 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

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