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The Haab' is part of the Maya calendric system used by peoples of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It was the Maya version of the 365-day calendar known to many of the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica, which approximated the solar year.
The Haab' comprises eighteen "months" of twenty days each, plus an additional period of five days ("nameless days") at the end of the year known as Wayeb' (or Uayeb in 16th C. orthography).
Bricker (1982) estimates that the Haab' was first used around 550 BCE with the starting point of the December winter solstice. The Haab' was the foundation of the agrarian calendar and the month names are based on the seasons and agricultural events. For example the thirteenth month, Mak, may refer to the end of the rainy season and the fourteenth month, K'ank'in, may refer to ripe crops in the fall.
Each day in the Haab' calendar was identified by a day number within the month followed by the name of the month. Day numbers began with a glyph translated as the "seating of" a named month, which is usually regarded as day 0 of that month, although a minority treat it as day 20 of the month preceding the named month. In the latter case, the seating of Pop is day 5 of Wayeb'. For the majority, the first day of the year was 0 Pop (the seating of Pop). This was followed by 1 Pop, 2 Pop ... 19 Pop, 0 Wo, 1 Wo and so on.
As a calendar for keeping track of the seasons, the Haab' was crude and inaccurate, since it treated the year as having 365 days, and ignored the extra quarter day (approximately) in the actual tropical year. This meant that the seasons moved with respect to the calendar year by a quarter day each year, so that the calendar months named after particular seasons no longer corresponded to these seasons after a few centuries. The Haab' is equivalent to the wandering 365-day year of the ancient Egyptians. Some argue that the Maya knew about and compensated for the quarter day error, even though their calendar did not include anything comparable to a leap year, a method first implemented by the Romans.
The five nameless days at the end of the calendar called Wayeb' were thought to be a dangerous time. Foster (2002) writes "During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters." To ward off these evil spirits, the Maya had customs and rituals they practiced during Wayeb'. For example, people avoided leaving their houses or washing or combing their hair.
- ↑ Again, per Kettunen and Helmke (2005)
- Bricker, Victoria (1982). "The Origin of the Maya Solar Calendar". Current Anthropology 23 (1): pp.101-103.
- Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05061-9.
- Foster, Lynn V. (2002). Handbook to Life in the Ancient Mayan World. New York: Facts on File.
- Kettunen, Harri; and Christophe Helmke (2005) (pdf). Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs: 10th European Maya Conference Workshop Handbook. Leiden: Wayeb and Leiden University. http://www.mesoweb.com/resources/handbook/. Retrieved 2006-06-08.