Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar
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Basic Information

The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar was used by several Mesoamerican cultures, most notably the Maya. The Long Count calendar identifies any given day by counting the number of days that have passed since August 11, 3114 BC .

It splits time into units as follows.

  • A day is known a K'in.
  • 20 K'in are a Winal.
  • 18 Winal (360 days) are a Tun.
  • 20 Tun (7,200 days, about 19.7 years) makes a K'atun
  • 20 K'atun (144,000 days, about 394 years) is a B'ak'tun.

Dates are recorded in a format that assigns a digit to each of the above units, so a day's date might be something like (that's the date of April 16th, 2009).

The Long Count Calendar was mostly used to measure dates greater than 52 years, as the Mayans had two other calendars (the Haab calendar and the Tzolk'in calendar) which named the days, but not the years. (Those two calendars would repeat themselves every 52 years.)

2012, and the end of the Fourth World:

According to the Popol Vuh, a book compiling details of creation accounts known to the Maya, we are living in the fourth world. Three failed worlds had preceeded it. In the Maya Long Count, the previous creation ended at the start of a 13th b'ak'tun, on a long count of Another will occur on December 20, 2012, followed by the start of the fourteenth b'ak'tun,, on December 21, 2012.

Numerous predictions have been made concerning what will happen on the 20th and 21st of December, 2012. It could be:



Game and Story Use

  • A Twenty Minutes Into The Future (or, now, Several Years Into The Past) game could deal with the approach of December 20, 2012, and all sorts of Y2K-esque fear. (And perhaps a little zeerust or nostalgia thrown in, given that 2012 feels like forever ago.)
    • The Players won't know for certain if it's all going to prove to be just superstition, or if the setting will take a hard left into After The End territory mid-campaign.
      • Hurry up and run this campaign, you've only got a few years before this opportunity loses all it's mystery! (Woops! I guess you'll have to do an Alternate History game now.)
  • The Long Count Calendar, and the way it's used on monuments, can be a fun background detail for campaigns set in the Mayan era. Utilizing it accurately could provide extra verisimilitude to distinguish your game from some inaccurate Mayincatec melange.
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