|The Salt People|
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The Muisca calendar was a lunisolar calendar used by the Muisca. The calendar was composed of a complex combination of months and three types of years were used; rural years (according to Pedro Simón, Chibcha: chocan), holy years (Duquesne, Spanish: acrótomo), and common years (Duquesne, Chibcha: zocam). Each month consisted of thirty days and the common year of twenty months, as twenty was the 'perfect' number of the Muisca, representing the total of extremeties; fingers and toes. The rural year usually contained twelve months, but one leap month was added. This month (Spanish: mes sordo; "deaf month") represented a month of rest. The holy year completed the full cycle with 37 months.
The Muisca were one of the four advanced civilizations of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans inhabiting the central highlands of the Colombian Andes (Altiplano Cundiboyacense) and as the other three (Aztec, Mayas and Incas) they had their own calendar, arranged by Bochica. Important Muisca scholars who have brought the knowledge of the Muisca calendar and their counting system to Europe were Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada who encountered Muisca territory in 1537, Bernardo de Lugo (1619), Pedro Simón in the 17th century and Alexander von Humboldt and José Domingo Duquesne published their findings in the late 18th and early 19th century. At the end of the 19th century, Vicente Restrepo wrote a critical review of the work of Duquesne.
The Muisca used a decimal counting system and counted with their fingers. Their system went from 1 to 10 and for higher numerations they used the prefix quihicha or qhicha, which means "foot" in their Chibcha language Muysccubun. Eleven became thus "foot one", twelve "foot two", etc. As in the other pre-Columbian civilizations, the number 20 was special. It was the total number of all body extremities; fingers and toes. The Muisca used two forms to express twenty: "foot ten"; quihícha ubchihica or their exclusive word gueta, derived from gue, which means "house". Numbers between 20 and 30 were counted gueta asaqui ata ("twenty plus one"; 21), gueta asaqui ubchihica ("twenty plus ten"; 30). Larger numbers were counted as multiples of twenty; gue-bosa ("20 times 2"; 40), gue-hisca ("20 times 5"; 100). The Muisca script consisted of hieroglyphs, only used for numerals.
Numbers 1 to 10 and 20
|Number||Humboldt, 1807||De Lugo, 1619||Muisca hieroglyphs|
|2||bozha / bosa||boʒha|
|4||mhuyca / muyhica||mhuɣcâ|
|5||hicsca / hisca||hɣcſcâ|
|7||qhupqa / cuhupqua||qhûpqâ|
|8||shuzha / suhuza||shûʒhâ|
|10||hubchibica / ubchihica||hubchìhicâ|
|20|| quihicha ubchihica
| qhicħâ hubchìhicâ|
To name the days and months the Muisca did not use numbers higher than 10, except gueta for their perfect number of 20. Instead, they named the 11th month just like the 1st; ata. Same for the other months and days until 19. That rather confusing system made it difficult to distinguish the 21st month from the 1st or 11th, but their naming of the three different years solved this.
The calculation of time in the Muisca calendar was a complex combination of different weeks, different years and different centuries. The day was defined by the solar cycle and the month by the lunar cycle, being fixed. Different scholars have described variation of the weeks (3, 10 or 15 days), years (rural, common and holy) and centuries. In the Muisca religion the messenger god Bochica played an important role in the education of the people. It is said he arrived or had a dream a long time ago. This time has been described by Duquesne, Von Humboldt and Pedro Simón. The latter used the Chibcha word Bxogonoa for the centuries ago when Bochica had his dream.
The Muisca called "day" sua (the word for "Sun") and "night" za. The priests had divided a day in four parts: suamena (from sunrise to mid-day), suameca (from mid-day to sunset), zasca was the time from sunset to midnight and chaqüi the time from midnight to sunrise.
Weeks and months
About the configuration of the weeks in the Muisca calendar different chroniclers show various subdivisions. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada describes a month of 30 days comprising three weeks of ten days, Pedro Simón stated the Muisca had a month composed of two weeks of 15 days and José Domingo Duquesne and Javier Ocampo López wrote the Muisca week had just three days, with ten weeks in a month.
They started their month at full moon, on the tenth day (''ubchihica; "shining Moon") and counted the next stages of the Moon at cuhupqua, muyhica ("black thing"; New Moon). As the Muisca were very religious and honoured both the Sun (Sué) and the Moon (Chía) as their main gods the conjunction of the two spouses at New Moon was a sacred moment.
The Muisca, like the Incas, also took notice of the difference between the sinodic month (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes); the time between two full Moons, and the sidereal month (27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes); the time it takes for the Moon to reach the same position with respect to the stars.
Three types of years were used; common years, rural years and holy years. The years were composed of different sets of months; the rural year contained 12 or 13 months (the 13th was a leap month, called "deaf" in Spanish), the priest years were composed of 37 lunar months and the common year comprised the 'perfect' number of twenty months.
The Muisca never said "year" (zocam), yet they always used the word in combination with a number; zocam ata, "year one". The common year was divided in 20 months of 30 days each, making a full common Muisca year 600 days or 1.64 times a Gregorian year.
According to Duquesne, the Muisca used their 'perfect' number gueta; a century consisted of 20 holy years (20 times 37 months; 740) which equals almost 60 Gregorian years. The same scholar referred to a "common century" (siglo vulgar) comprising 20 times 20 months. Pedro Simón, as described by Izquierdo Peña, found two different centuries; in the northern part of the Muisca Confederation (capital Hunza) and in the south, capital Bacatá. It is hypothesized by Izquierdo Peña that this apparent difference was due to a typo in the chronicles of Simón. Combining the different analyses by the scholars over time, Izquierdo Peña found the arrival of Bochica, described by Pedro Simón to have occurred 14800 months and the dream of Bochica to supposedly have happened 20 Bxogonoa or 2000 holy years (consisting of 37 months) before the time of description. In the Gregorian calendar this equates to 6166.7 years.
To name the months, the Muisca did not use higher numbers than 10, except for the 20th month, indicated with the 'perfect' number gueta. The calendar table shows the different sets of zocam ("years") with the sets of months, as published by Alexander von Humboldt. The meaning of each month has been described by Duquesne in 1795 and summarized by Izquierdo Peña in 2009.
| Gregorian year
| Rural year
12 or 13 months
| Common year
| Holy year
|Symbols; "meanings" - activities|
|1||1||Ata||Ata||Ata||Jumping toad; "start of the year"|
|2||Bosa||Nose and nostrils|
|3||Mica||Open eyes and nose; "to look for", "to find"|
|4||Muyhica||Two closed eyes; "black thing", "to grow"|
|5||Hisca||Two fingers together; "green thing", "to enjoy"|
|6||Ta||Stick and cord; "sowing" - harvest|
|7||Cuhupqua||Two ears covered; "deaf person"|
|8||Suhuza||Tail; "to spread"|
|9||Aca||Toad with tail connected to other toad; "the goods"|
|10||Ubchihica||Ear; "shining Moon", "to paint"|
|20||Gueta||Lying or stretched toad; "sowing field", "to touch"|
|4||37||Deaf month||Chuhupqua||End of the holy year; full cycle|
The Gregorian month of December was a month of celebrations with yearly feasts, especially in Sugamuxi called huan, according to Pedro Simón.
Important findings are:
- Choachí Stone, found in the first half of the 20th century in the municipality of Choachí may represent a calculator to convert the different parts of the complex Muisca calendar
- Ceremonial flute (fotuto ceremonial), decorated flute made of a marine snail shell, found in Socorro, Santander, located in the Archeology Museum Sogamoso
- Decorated textile, found in Belén, Boyacá and located in the museum of Pasca, regarded as a "Muisca codex"
- El Infiernito, astronomical site of the Muisca near Villa de Leyva
- Jaboque, in this humedal ancient menhirs were found, indicating an astronomical knowledge of the Muisca
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 11:48
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 13:25
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 12:40
- Ocampo López, 2007, Ch.V, p.188
- Humboldt, 1807, Part 1
- (Spanish) 1619 - Muisca numbers according to Bernardo de Lugo - accessed 29-04-2016
- Humboldt, 1807, Part 2
- Humboldt, 1807, Part 3
- Duquesne, 1795
- Restrepo, 1892
- Ocampo López, 2007, Ch. V, p.228-229
- Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.1-170
- Izquierdo Peña, 2009
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 45:00
- (Spanish) Calendario lunar de los muiscas - accessed 28-04-2016
- (Spanish) Calendario muisca - Pueblos Originarios - accessed 28-04-2016
- Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.32
- Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.33
- Ocampo López, 2007, Ch.V, p.228
- Duquesne, 1795, p.4
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 56:35
- Duquesne, 1795, p.3
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 20:35
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 22:05
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 40:45
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 50:25
- Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.30
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 18:00
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:17:25
- Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.86
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:09:00
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:09:55
- Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:13:00
- Santos, 2015
- Jaboque Petroform Menhirs - accessed 05-05-2016
- Acosta, Joaquín. 1848. Compendio histórico del descubrimiento y colonización de la Nueva Granada en el siglo décimo sexto, 1-460. Beau Press. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Duquesne, José Domingo. 1795. Disertación sobre el calendario de los muyscas, indios naturales de este Nuevo Reino de Granada - Dissertation about the Muisca calendar, indigenous people of this New Kingdom of Granada, 1-17. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Humboldt, Alexander von. 1807. VI.Sitios de las Cordilleras y monumentos de los pueblos indígenas de América - Calendario de los indios muiscas - Parte 1 - Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas - Muisca calendar - Part 1. Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Humboldt, Alexander von. 1807. VI.Sitios de las Cordilleras y monumentos de los pueblos indígenas de América - Calendario de los indios muiscas - Parte 2. Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Humboldt, Alexander von. 1807. VI.Sitios de las Cordilleras y monumentos de los pueblos indígenas de América - Calendario de los indios muiscas - Parte 3. Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Izquierdo Peña, Manuel Arturo. 2014. Calendario Muisca - Muisca calendar. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Izquierdo Peña, Manuel Arturo. 2009. The Muisca Calendar: An approximation to the timekeeping system of the ancient native people of the northeastern Andes of Colombia (PhD), 1-170. Université de Montréal. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Ocampo López, Javier. 2007. Grandes culturas indígenas de América - Great indigenous cultures of the Americas, 1–238. Plaza & Janes Editores Colombia S.A..
- Restrepo, Vicente. 1892. Crítica de los trabajos arqueológicos del Dr. José Domingo Duquesne - Review of the archeological works of Dr. José Domingo Duquesne, 1–44. Accessed 2016-07-08.
- Santos, Gisele. 2015. El Infiernito: sacred site of the Muisca civilization of Colombia. Ancient Origins. Accessed 2016-07-08.