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posted by janrinok on Friday March 17, @07:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the using-tech-as-old-as-the-hills dept.

Aztec farming calendar accurately tracked seasons, leap years:

Without clocks or modern tools, ancient Mexicans watched the sun to maintain a farming calendar that precisely tracked seasons and even adjusted for leap years.

Before the Spanish arrival in 1519, the Basin of Mexico's agricultural system fed a population that was extraordinarily large for the time. Whereas Seville, the largest urban center in Spain, had a population of fewer than 50,000, the Basin, now known as Mexico City, was home to as many as 3 million people.

To feed so many people in a region with a dry spring and summer monsoons required advanced understanding of when seasonal variations in weather would arrive. Planting too early, or too late, could have proved disastrous. The failure of any calendar to adjust for leap-year fluctuations could also have led to crop failure.

Though colonial chroniclers documented the use of a calendar, it was not previously understood how the Mexica, or Aztecs, were able to achieve such accuracy. New UC Riverside research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates how they did it. They used the mountains of the Basin as a solar observatory, keeping track of the sunrise against the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

"We concluded they must have stood at a single spot, looking eastwards from one day to another, to tell the time of year by watching the rising sun," said Exequiel Ezcurra, distinguished UCR professor of ecology who led the research.

To find that spot, the researchers studied Mexica manuscripts. These ancient texts referred to Mount Tlaloc, which lies east of the Basin. The research team explored the high mountains around the Basin and a temple at the mountain's summit. Using astronomical computer models, they confirmed that a long causeway structure at the temple aligns with the rising sun on Feb. 24, the first day of the Aztec new year.

Journal Reference:
Exequiel Ezcurra, Paula Ezcurra, and Ben Meissner, Ancient inhabitants of the Basin of Mexico kept an accurate agricultural calendar using sunrise observatories and mountain alignments [open], PNAS, 2022. DOI:

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Friday March 17, @08:19PM (3 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 17, @08:19PM (#1296739) Journal

    The Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012. That is exactly when the Mayan calendar ran out, exactly when we ran out of unused IPv4 addresses. Now those addresses have value and are a commodity to be traded.

    No wonder they were able to get the calendar right. They had to plan for both planting and harvesting as well as the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses.

    Can't large language models be put in charge of resolving ethical issues related to the use of AI?
    • (Score: 2) by looorg on Friday March 17, @08:25PM (1 child)

      by looorg (578) on Friday March 17, @08:25PM (#1296741)

      It doesn't really run out. It's not the end of time, it's just the end of an era or cycle of time. Once one long calendar ends a new one begins.

      ... it was not previously understood how the Mexica, or Aztecs, were able to achieve such accuracy.

      Have we explored the idea of more human sacrifices? It could solve the worlds over-population to. Blood and soil and all that. It feeds nutrients into the ground and apparently makes the various Gods happy, that said they apparently also like BBQ so we might have to step it up a notch and torch the sacrifices afterwards.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Tork on Friday March 17, @11:51PM

        by Tork (3914) on Friday March 17, @11:51PM (#1296774)

        Have we explored the idea of more human sacrifices? It could solve the worlds over-population to.

        Yes! We had a successful trial-run recently, picking the sacrifices was as easy as suggesting people wear a mask during an airborne-pandemic!

        Slashdolt Logic: "25 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @09:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @09:01PM (#1296745)

      We have an Aztec calendar hanging on the wall, purchased on a family vacation in Mexico c.1970. It's brightly colored pottery--have to be careful not to drop it, I'm sure it would break like a dinner plate.

      Funny thing, it didn't change at all in 2012, even if that was the end of the world.

      This has a table that identifies the images used, []

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, @08:30PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, @08:30PM (#1296946)

    With the new James Hubble Endoscope we should be able to feed billions AMIRITE???