An Intellectual History of Mayan Astronomy at Chich’en Itza
Near the structure known today as the Great Ball Court and within the interior of the Lower Temple of the Jaguar, a mural depicts a female Mayan astronomer called Ilaj K’uk’il Ek’. Weaving together archaeology, mathematics, history, and astronomy, Calculating Brilliance brings to light the discovery by this Mayan astronomer, which is recorded in the Venus Table of the Dresden Codex. As the book demonstrates, this brilliant discovery reverberated throughout Mayan science. But it has remained obscured to modern eyes.
Jumping from the vital contributions of Ilaj K’uk’il Ek’, Gerardo Aldana y Villalobos critically reframes science in the pre-Columbian world. He reexamines the historiography of the Dresden Codex and contextualizes the Venus Table relative to other Indigenous literature. From a perspective anchored to Indigenous cosmologies and religions, Aldana y Villalobos delves into how we may understand Indigenous science and discovery—both its parallels and divergences from modern globalized perspectives of science.
Calculating Brilliance brings different intellectual threads together across time and space, from the Classic to the Postclassic, the colonial period to the twenty-first century to offer a new vision for understanding Mayan astronomy.
“This is an ambitious book. It ties different intellectual threads together across time and space, from the Classic to the Postclassic, the colonial period to the twenty-first century, and creates a new vision for Mayan astronomy. In so doing, this book explores the nature of science in the pre-Columbian world and questions modern views of the ancient Maya.”—James L. Fitzsimmons, author of The Archaeology of Death in Ancient Mesoamerica