Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Calendar Stone

A chapter from The Triskelion by Edward Butts, 1925. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2014.

The great “calendar stone,” for such it is accepted, unquestionably, by the most learned writers of ancient America and, also, those of the present generation, is a mass of basaltic porphyry weighing, it is estimated, twenty-four tons; its carved circular surface is eleven feet eight inches in diameter, all, of which, are devoted, fundamentally, to utilities of an astronomical character.
This “relic of barbarism” Friar Alonso de Montufar caused to be buried some time between the years 1551 and 1559, and thus the “scandalizing thing,” practically, ceased to exist more than two hundred years. While excavating, during the year 1790, in the Plaza Mayor, the workmen unearthed this valuable historical specimen and placed it against the wall of the cathedral tower where it remained several years and, subsequently, it was placed where it is now conspicuously located, in the Mexican National Museum.
The calendar stone brings to us some valuable information relative to one particular branch of the Aztec government; otherwise, it would not come in such an elaborate form of such enormous weight, as its quarry must have been miles away.

Figure 3 is an Aztec calendar wheel after Veytia giving the names of the weeks and names of the days of the week in their sequence for all time.

In the calendar stone we have an authentic work executed by an ancient Aztec artisan, before any European set foot on the American continent, hence we must consider it as reliable as possible in what it represents.
Fig. 2 is a photographic copy of the illustration used by Doctor Valentini, in his lecture relative to the calendar stone, delivered before the Antiquarian Society of New York City in 1878.
Fig. 3. The Aztec calendar wheel, after Yeytia, giving the weeks and days of the week for each season of the year as was generally used, and in its simplest form, showing the names of the thirteen days of each week in the season, numbered with dots, according to their use, from one to thirteen, inclusive; also the names of the seven weeks in each of the four seasons of the year, numbered with dots from one to seven, inclusive, according to their use.
These twenty representations occupy the most prominent circle on the calendar stone. (Fig. 2).
The central picture, (Fig. 3), indicates to us a calendar, as a first consideration, pertaining to the sun, also, the same, as a second consideration, relating to the moon. The stars are a third consideration, giving us to understand that this form of a wheel is to be used once, complete, during each four of the annual seasons—in other words, go over the wheel four time for one year and repeat, similarly, for all succeeding years.
To use this wheel, start with the first day of the year in the compartment presenting the picture of a porcupine and one dot, in the daily sequence, this day is also the first day of the week represented by a tiger and one dot in the weekly sequence; retain this identified week till all the daily sequence is passed over from one to thirteen, inclusive; then pass to the second week which is identified by the eagle and two dots, in the weekly sequence and repeat the daily sequence of this week as used in the first instance. If something happened on the sixth day of the third week of the first season of the year, it happened on the day represented by the skeleton, in the daily sequence with six dots, in the weekly sequence, the week of the bird with three dots; this would be two whole weeks plus six days into the third week, making a total of thirty-two days from the first day or starting day, or from the first day of the year.
When all the weeks in the season are thus exhausted the count will be ninety-one days, the total number of days, by the wheel for each season of the year. This process described pertaining to the first season is repeated for the three remaining seasons of the year, and distinguished from each other by the following names:
Acatl, meaning reed
Tochtli, meaning rabbit
Calli, meaning house
Tecpatl, meaning flint knife

The reader, naturally, inquires why the two series of dots presented in figure three are not, likewise, presented on the calendar stone. These dots distinguishing the movement of time, by the earth’s rotation, being omitted on the calendar stone is responsible for many authors of Aztec history falling into the serious error that the Aztec year was composed of eighteen months, each containing twenty-days, from Humboldt down, with Gama and Prescott included. The reason for the calendar stone artist leaving dots off the stone was, the sequence of dots, as presented in figure two, is not the same as the dots in the wheels pertaining more particularly to the moon, and both these sets need separate wheels to include their utility, while the names of the seasons, weeks and days of the weeks are, it will be noted, the same in all cases.

As to a correct presentation of the days and weeks given in figures 4 and 5, after Duran, these may be verified by the calendar stone as follows.

Table No. 1. Giving the result of operating the wheel during one season, as explained relative to its simplest form, Fig. 3.

Assuming the reader’s right and left applies to the stone, the first day of the week given by figure 4 occupies the first compartment on the left of the center at the top; then proceeding from this compartment to the left, with the circle, to the thirteenth compartment we have the thirteen days of the week which are repeated seven times during each season of the year.
The remaining compartments in the circle represent the seven weeks of the season as the same is arranged in figure 5. The first week starts with the first compartment adjacent to the thirteenth compartment of the daily count as above considered, and proceeds with the circle, regularly to the seventh week located on the right of the center at the top, thus closing the whole circle containing a total of twenty compartments.

The part of the calendar stone we have utilized in this comparison measures one season of the year, the remaining three seasons of the year are treated like the first season above described and are distinguished from each other by name.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.