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Classic Maya Prediction of Solar Eclipses [and Comments and Reply]

Harvey M. Bricker, Victoria R. Bricker, Anthony F. Aveni, Michael P. Closs, Munro S. Edmonson, Floyd G. Lounsbury and Eric Taladoire
Current Anthropology
Vol. 24, No. 1 (Feb., 1983), pp. 1-23
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2742481
Page Count: 23
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Classic Maya Prediction of Solar Eclipses [and Comments and Reply]
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Abstract

Work by earlier scholars has shown that the Dresden Codex contains a table of temporal intervals appropriate to the cyclic occurrence of solar eclipses. This paper demonstrates that if the Maya calendrical dates in the table are converted to the Gregorian calendar by using the so-called Modified Thompson 2 correlation constant, the table gives very accurate warnings of solar eclipses for the late-8th-century A.D. span to which it refers. During the approximately 33 years between November 10,755, and September 6, 788, all of teh 77 solar eclipses affecting the planet occurred within three days of dates appearing in the table. Although most of these eclipses did not affect the Maya area, the table itself provides a mechanism for recognizing and discounting irrelevant predictions. No visible solar eclipse of the late 8th century could have occurred without a very precise warning if the table were used in the fashion suggested here. It has often been assumed that the table was intended to be recycled or reused, but scholars have differed on how this might have been done. This paper suggests that the information necessary to an accurate recycling is given in the table's own introduction. Using this information, a model for recycling and periodically correcting the table over a span of approximately 1,400 years is presented and tested against the data of Western astronomy. The efficacy of the recycled tables as solar eclipse warning devices proves as high as that of the original.

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