Muisca calendar

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),[1] holy years (Duquesne, Spanish: acrótomo),[2] and common years (Duquesne, Chibcha: zocam).[3] 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[4] 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.[5] 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),[6] 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.[5][7][8][9] At the end of the 19th century, Vicente Restrepo wrote a critical review of the work of Duquesne.[10]

21st century researchers are Javier Ocampo López[11] and Manuel Arturo Izquierdo Peña, anthropologist who published his PhD thesis on the Muisca calendar.[12]

Numeral system

Main article: Muisca numerals

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).[5] The Muisca script consisted of hieroglyphs, only used for numerals.[13]

Numbers 1 to 10 and 20

Number Humboldt, 1807[5] De Lugo, 1619[6] Muisca hieroglyphs
1 ata
2 bozha / bosa boʒha
3 mica
4 mhuyca / muyhica mhuɣcâ
5 hicsca / hisca hɣcſcâ
6 ta
7 qhupqa / cuhupqua qhûpqâ
8 shuzha / suhuza shûʒhâ
9 aca
10 hubchibica / ubchihica hubchìhicâ
20 quihicha ubchihica
qhicħâ hubchìhicâ

Higher numbers

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.

Time calculation

Sketch of the complex Muisca calendar by Alexander von Humboldt

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.[14]


The Muisca called "day" sua (the word for "Sun") and "night" za. The priests had divided a day in four parts:[15] 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.[16]

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,[17] Pedro Simón stated the Muisca had a month composed of two weeks of 15 days[18] and José Domingo Duquesne and Javier Ocampo López wrote the Muisca week had just three days, with ten weeks in a month.[18][19]

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.[20]

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.[21]


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.[8][22]

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.[22][23] The same scholar referred to a "common century" (siglo vulgar) comprising 20 times 20 months.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] 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.[8] The meaning of each month has been described by Duquesne in 1795 and summarized by Izquierdo Peña in 2009.[27]

Gregorian year
12 months
30 days
Rural year
12 or 13 months
Common year
20 months
Holy year
37 months
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"
11 Ata
12 Bosa
2 13 Bosa Mica
14 Muyhica
15 Hisca
16 Ta
17 Cuhupqua
18 Suhuza harvest
19 Aca
20 Gueta Lying or stretched toad; "sowing field", "to touch"
21 Bosa Ata
22 Bosa
23 Mica
24 Muyhica
3 25 Mica Hisca
26 Ta
27 Cuhupqua
28 Suhuza
29 Aca
30 Ubchihica harvest
31 Ata
32 Bosa
33 Mica
34 Muyhica
35 Hisca
36 Ta Embolismic month
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.[28]

Archeological evidences

The archeological evidence for the Muisca calendar and its use is found in ceramics, textiles, spindles, petroglyphs, sites and stones.[29]

Important findings are:

See also

Maya calendar
Aztec calendar
Inca calendar
Muisca astronomy, agriculture, numerals


  1. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 11:48
  2. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 13:25
  3. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 12:40
  4. Ocampo López, 2007, Ch.V, p.188
  5. 1 2 3 4 Humboldt, 1807, Part 1
  6. 1 2 (Spanish) 1619 - Muisca numbers according to Bernardo de Lugo - accessed 29-04-2016
  7. Humboldt, 1807, Part 2
  8. 1 2 3 Humboldt, 1807, Part 3
  9. Duquesne, 1795
  10. Restrepo, 1892
  11. Ocampo López, 2007, Ch. V, p.228-229
  12. Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.1-170
  13. Izquierdo Peña, 2009
  14. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 45:00
  15. (Spanish) Calendario lunar de los muiscas - accessed 28-04-2016
  16. (Spanish) Calendario muisca - Pueblos Originarios - accessed 28-04-2016
  17. Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.32
  18. 1 2 Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.33
  19. Ocampo López, 2007, Ch.V, p.228
  20. Duquesne, 1795, p.4
  21. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 56:35
  22. 1 2 Duquesne, 1795, p.3
  23. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 20:35
  24. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 22:05
  25. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 40:45
  26. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 50:25
  27. Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.30
  28. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 18:00
  29. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:17:25
  30. Izquierdo Peña, 2009, p.86
  31. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:09:00
  32. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:09:55
  33. Izquierdo Peña, 2014, 1:13:00
  34. Santos, 2015
  35. Jaboque Petroform Menhirs - accessed 05-05-2016


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