Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian


The Maya of Mesoamerica are renowned for their precise calendars and their knowledge of astronomy.

Through systematic observations conducted over thousands of years, Maya skywatchers developed complex and accurate calendars that continue to mark agricultural and ceremonial cycles today. Join us in an exploration of the Maya Calendar system and its intricate cycles. Hear the voices of contemporary Maya people as they weave their past and present together, and share with us their living traditions of Maya time.

The Maya

Today, more than seven million Maya live in their original homelands of Mesoamerica and in countries all over the world.  Their culture is vibrant and strong, continually evolving from its illustrious past. Learn More »


The ancient Maya developed a complex calendar system based on various astronomical and human cycles. The calendars serve a variety of purposes, both practical and ceremonial. Learn More »

Cultural icons, like the feathered serpent, link the Maya to their ancient past. As a symbol of strength and renewal, the feathered serpent connects the land and the sky, and brings the energy of the Sun to the Earth for planting.

Maya Sun

The Maya, accomplished astronomers and mathematicians, invented the concept of zero and recorded mathematical tables to predict solar and lunar eclipses. Learn More »

Corn and Maya Time

In Maya tradition, time is related to natural cycles of the Earth and the sky. From the Maya perspective, the Sun, corn, and the Maya calendar system are all interconnected. Learn More »

2012: Resetting the Count

Much of the information available about the Maya calendar and the year 2012 is fraught with misconceptions and speculations about doomsday prophecies. Learn more about whether these prophecies have a scientific basis and hear Maya people’s opinions on 2012. Learn More »