By Tara MacIsaac , Epoch Times
Ancient Mayan and Chinese calendar systems share so many similarities, it is unlikely they developed independently, according to the late David H. Kelley, whose paper on the subject was published posthumously in August.
Kelley was a Harvard-educated archaeologist and epigrapher at the University of Calgary in Canada. He earned fame in the 1960s for major contributions toward deciphering the Mayan script. His article, titled “Asian Components in the Invention of the Mayan Calendar,” was written 30 years ago, but was only recently unearthed and published for the first time in the journal Pre-Columbiana .
In 1980, a major science journal had solicited the article, said Pre-Columbiana’s editor Dr. Stephen Jett. But, Jett said, “the editors rejected it as being overly documented for the journal’s spare format; understandably for so revolutionary an effort, Dave did not wish to weaken the documentation, and he never published the piece elsewhere.” Jett obtained Kelley’s permission to publish it before he died.
They hypothesis Kelly presented is controversial. He said that the calendars indicate contact between Eurasia and Mesoamerica more than 1,000 years ago, contradicting mainstream archaeology’s understanding that such contact occurred for the first time only a few hundred years ago.
Kelley supported the controversial theory of early transoceanic contact in general. It is a theory that has many other academic proponents and that Pre-Columbiana specializes in exploring. The similarities in the calendar systems is only part of a growing body of evidence for early contact.
Kelley also isn’t the only one to have noticed the similarities between the calendar systems. But given his authority as an expert on Mayan history, his analysis is a pillar on which to base further study.
Another researcher, who coincidentally has the same name but with a different middle initial, David B. Kelley (his whole name will be used to avoid confusion throughout the article; “Kelley” will only be used to refer to David H. Kelley), has used a computer program to further analyze the similarities between the two calendar systems.
David B. Kelley is an East Asian linguist at Showa Women’s University in Tokyo. His paper, titled “Comparing Chinese and Mesoamerican Calendar Dates,” was also published in the recent issue of Pre-Columbiana.
In both calendar systems, the days are associated with various elements (water, fire, earth, and so on) and animals. While the various associations don’t line up perfectly between the two systems, they do frequently correspond.
Some of the differences may be accounted for by changes over time; the same root calendar system may have been tweaked by each culture in different ways.
We’ll explore only a couple of the similarities mentioned by Kelley and David B. Kelley as examples.
The Chinese zodiac calendar ( CCTV America )
The Mayan calendar ( Peta_de_Aztlan / Flickr )
The same days in the Mayan and Chinese calendars are associated with the deer, the dog, and the monkey. Other days also closely match, though the correspondence is not exact.
The same days in the Mayan and Chinese calendars are associated with the deer, the dog, and the monkey.
For example, one day is associated with the jaguar in the Mayan calendar, but with the tiger in the Chinese. Another is associated with the crocodile in the Mayan, but the dragon in the Chinese. The associations may essentially be the same, though the specific manifestations may differ based on local fauna or lore.
Old World domesticates, such as the horse, sheep, cow, and pig are also missing from the Mayan calendar.
Another example of a similarity between Mesoamerican and Chinese calendars is the combined symbolism of the rabbit and the moon.
“The Aztec day 8, Rabbit, was ruled by Mayauel, goddess of the moon and of the intoxicating cactus drink pulque,” Kelley wrote. Representations of the rabbit in the moon are first seen in Mesoamerica around the 6th century A.D. “Pictures of the rabbit in the moon pounding out the elixir of immortality are Chinese favorites, first appearing in Han China in the first century B.C. or slightly earlier.”
Aztec carving of a rabbit. Anthropological Museum of Mexico City. ( Elainn / DeviantArt )
Kelley concluded that: “The animal names in the Mayan calendar system … are clearly derived from a prototypical form of a Eurasian expanded list.”
The Chinese system also corresponds to this Eurasian list. Across the ancient Old World, calendar systems intermingled. Kelley thus looked at Greek, Indian, and other systems as examples of how the calendars in different cultures have similar roots, but take on slightly different forms.