Dresden Codex Ring Numbers

Throughout the Dresden codex, we find a series of Long Count dates starting at beginning dates before Maya zero (of the usual era), marked by a knot encircling the bottom numeral of the number, which gives the days before Maya zero. These are referred to as Ring Number dates and act as bases for later calculations. Such dates appear prefaced to many of the various almanacs and multiplication tables of the codex. A number leads forward from the early bases to a later base date of the early Classic Period (see Table 12.1). Table 12.8 gives the Ring Number (hereafter, RN) bases (ff. Satterthwaite 1964) as well as the Maya era base and the base of the eclipse table, which is eight days later than the Maya era base.

The nature of the RN bases has long been a subject of dispute. Most scholars have supposed that they involved astronomical calculations of some sort, but Eric Thompson thought that the tables with which they were associated were almanacs and more or less ignored the problem of the RNs and any probable meanings. Each of the places in the codex where the RNs are found is in a structurally similar situation (with the single exception of a group of 12 RNs on pages 71-73 of the codex). The RN is counted with respect to the Maya era base at 4 Ahau 18 Cumku and is followed by a dis-

Table 12.8. Ring number bases from the Dresden codex.

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