Dresden Codex Serpent Numbers

Table 12.16 shows the Dresden codex Serpent Numbers and accompanying short texts. They are transcribed following the work of Satterthwaite (1964) and of Schulz (1961). These numbers count from an era base 9 Kan 12 Kayab, and the interval from that base to the earliest date in the series is 12,381,728 days. The dates include the calendar round date 13 Akbal 1 Kankin at from the base. Because this calendar round date occurs elsewhere in the Dresden codex at the Long Count (or Initial Series) date, Satterthwaite and Schulz assumed that the LC and the Serpent number date referred to the same day, which led to the LC dates shown in column 1 of Table 12.16. However, evidence of the tropical year, to be considered later in this section, strongly suggests a placement 104 My earlier, as shown in column 2. The analysis by Satterthwaite suggested one error in the Mayan scribe's recording (or calculating) of the month, one error in the month coefficient, and two errors each in two of the period notations. These are all marked in the table but not otherwise considered, as all of Satterthwaite's corrections seem certain.

To the best of our knowledge, there has been no serious scholarly consideration of what the long parameters mark. The days that appear here also appear in tables of 91 days and 117 days, and a Ring Number base at 13 Akbal 11 Kayab, 17 days before the normal Maya era base, seems to be tied in to these calculations. Deity and animal references and associated day names give us some help in interpretation, but details still largely elude us. Although the long parameters were presumably of most importance to the Mayas, the intervals between the resultant dates and their relationship to other dates in the codex can also aid in interpretation.

The evidence in favor of a revised placement comes particularly from the tropical year. The earliest date of the series would become 4 Eb 5 Ch'en. The long count is 1,376,232 days, which is exactly 3768 tropical years, so that 4 Eb 5 Ch'en would have the same position in the tropical year as the 4 Ahau 8 Cumku era base. The number seems to be composed of three additive components.16 The first is 182 days, which goes almost halfway around the Mesoamerican year. The second is 275,210 days, which is exactly half of 29 calendar rounds (each CR being 52 My

16 Of course, there are a large number of sets of three additive components that sum to this large number. The plausibility of this particular set, in context, is what is being argued here.

Table 12.15. Astronomically important dates from the Nuttall and Tulane codices.

Nuttall codex pp. 3-5

Day (Mixtec) Maya month Year and J.D.N. equivalent

Julian date

Astronomical phenomena

Tulane codex

Vienna codex

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