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Izapa Sacred Space: Sculpture Calendar Codex - Chapter 1 by V. Garth Norman

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Templum -Latin for Temple: A place set apart where the heavens can be observed
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   Izapa Sacred Space Chapter 1: Discovering Izapa 9 Izapa Sacred Space: Sculpture Calendar Codex  by V. Garth Norman (2015).   © September 21, 2019  –   Chapter 1 September 21  —  Autumn Equinox: Izapa Stela 12  is astronomically oriented to Izapa’s western horizon on  the Autumn Equinox New Year Sunset (1 st  month). (Norman: 2015: 23, 98) Templum  –   Latin for Temple: A place set apart where the heavens can be observed.   Izapa Sacred Space Chapter 1: Discovering Izapa 10 Mesoamerica Izapa Culture Map (from Norman 1976: Fig, 1.1). The secret to Izapa’s   preservation and far-reaching influence is its location dedicated to the sun zenith passage at 14.8º north latitude (arrow on map) on August 13 and April 30 that measures 260 days for the Mesoamerican Sacred Round, which dictated temple center orientations to the horizon sun on the same date across Mesoamerica, and to the far distant American Southwest and Nazca, Peru.   Izapa Sacred Space Chapter 1: Discovering Izapa 11 This entire book is an exploration of Izapa as the birthplace of the Maya sacred calendar due to its selected latitude that measures the 260-day zenith passage. Izapa, in the southern tip of Mexico, has become a serious contender as the place where the ancient Maya calendar was created. More important, the critical role the calendar played at Izapa in the rise of Late Formative civilization has come to light. This book explores these subjects for the first time with substantial calendar data compiled at Izapa over the past four decades since I completed the Izapa Sculpture book in 1976 with the New World Archaeological Foundation’s Izapa Project (Lowe, et al. 1982). This calendar prospect started when geographer Vincent Malmström in 1973 observed the sun zenith day at Izapa’s 14.8° north l atitude for August 13  —  which is the Maya Long Count creation base date in 3114 BC that started the Maya five World Ages (Chapters 8-9). The two sun zenith dates of August 13 and April 30 at Izapa measure the 260-day count  between these two dates for the ritual cycle (Chapter 8). Also, there are 73 of these 260-day cycles in the ancient 52-year Calendar Round (365 day haab year) that predated the creation of the Maya Long Count calendar (360-day tun year). Another condition of interest is that December 21 is mid-way in the 260-day count and ended the Maya Long Count five World Ages in 2012 AD. These relations have put Izapa in the front rank for Maya calendar srcins research (Chapters 9-11). Malmström’s Izapa latitude location thesis expanded into a Universi ty of Texas Press  book in 1998 and eventually received the attention it deserved. Michael Coe later referred to it at a UC Riverside symposium as possibly the most important Mesoamerican book of the century. To be able to discover the place, time, and development srcin of the Maya calendar has significant consequences for opening the door to the early srcins and rise of Mesoamerican civilization that has been shrouded in mystery. Izapa’s location, with abundant rich sculptures still in situ after two millennia tells an intriguing story that helps solve this mystery (Chapters 1-4). Malmström’s theory is fundamental to the concrete archaeological and iconographic data at Izapa published in my 1980  Astronomical Orientations of Izapa Sculptures  thesis that identified zenith horizon alignment dates of the three pillar-ball monuments in Plaza B. In addition, the zenith passage is marked on Throne 1 (Chapter 8), and Stela 4 (Chapter 6), and the entire temple center is aligned to the zenith passage events centered on Mound 60’s observatory sighting to the August 13 zenith sunrise (Chapter 3, Fig. 3-5; see astronomical maps pp. 32-33). A powerful witness of the sacred 260- day discoveries at Izapa is the “day count” dramatized in the creation ritual ceremony of toda y’s highland Maya of Guatemala, preserved for over 2,000 years at Izapa (Chapter 13 “Maya Today - Izapa Yesterday”). After Maya Day Keeper  priests create an “earth - circle” for their Batz Fire Ceremony (Fig. 13 -3, p. 206), symbolic objects are put onto the circle representing the creation of light (candle light), water, plants and animals. Following this, four Maya priests, standing at the four cardinal directions around the circle, count 65 days each (using Maya Day Names). This count of 4 x 65 equals 260 days which is equivalent to nine months that symbolizes the gestation-creation-birth of a human infant, the  summum bonum   supreme creation of all earth’s creations as expressed in the Popol Vuh and Bible creation accounts, and illustrated on Stela 10 (p. 90) o f Izapa’s creation calendar cycle.   Izapa Sacred Space Chapter 1: Discovering Izapa 12 PART ONE: ARCHAEOASTRONOMY 1.   Discovering Izapa   “THIS ITS ROOT ANCIENT WORD,  Here Quiché its name. HERE we shall write, We shall plant ancient word, Its planting, Its root-beginning as well, Everything done in citadel Quiché Its nation Quiché people. This therefore we shall gather.”  (Popol Vuh: Christenson 2004: 13) My relationship with Izapa began nearly half a century ago. While I was in college, I read monographs about the ancient archaeological site in southern Mexico. (Stirling 1943; Jakeman 1958). This ancient temple center reportedly dated from the Late Preclassic era, but back then we did not know the true archaeological dating. The National Geographic-Smithsonian Institute expedition headed by Matthew Stirling first excavated the Izapa monuments in April 1941. Excavators numbered the monuments in the order they were exposed, starting with Stela 1. Therefore, the sequence of these numbers has no bearing on the relationship between the different stelae. The New World Archaeological Foundation's (NWAF) Izapa project would  begin two decades later in 1962. The strange narrative content of these monuments intrigued me, so I made my first solstice trip to Izapa in 1961 by bus to photograph and study the monuments on site. My next trip in 1962, no less memorable, was with a college roommate. We traveled by bus and train. Riding the speeding, rickety rural bus from Oaxaca down the mountains at night to Tehuantepec, with Zapotec Indians hauling their pigs and chickens to market, was an experience never to be forgotten. Anxiety struck. I was grateful when the bus driver stopped at a steep mountain roadside shrine and made a prayer offering with candles for a safe journey down the ensuing long, winding mountain road. When we reached Izapa, I again spent several days photographing and inspecting the monuments. This time, I experimented with different lighting effects throughout the day to get numerous photos that highlight details on different monuments not clear on any single photo. My third trip in 1963, with a student archaeology expedition also proved memorable. I traveled with my archaeology student friends Tim, Rick, Ron, and Lewis. After exploring the Isthmus of Tehuantepec along the Rio Coatzacoalcos in a dugout canoe, we headed by car to the Pacific coast of Chiapas where the Pan American highway was still being built. Midway, we hit a roadblock. The road was under construction and closed for the day. Already behind schedule and not wanting to face another day’s delay, we turned off a side dirt road toward the coast and found a parallel route that would hopefully bypass the construction zone. But we came to a swollen river spanned only by a pole bridge. Adjusting the loose slab-board walkway to the car wheels, we slowly entered to test its strength and gingerly started across, uncertain if the planks would hold up. Fortunately, they did, and we completed our journey.   Izapa Sacred Space Chapter 1: Discovering Izapa 13 Once I arrived at Izapa, with the help of my traveling companions, I was able to get the quality photos I wanted for more exact illustrations and study. Still trying to achieve more accurate photos, I checked carved details from my prior photo studies and experimented with other photo techniques. I used double exposure side-flash lighting that reduced the possibility of shadows obscuring weathered details. I was determined to get better quality photos on each of my trips to Izapa. I needed them to produce more precise drawings of the carvings on the stone monuments. My college research into Mesoamerican hieroglyphics helped me later to produce correct line tracings over my enlarged Izapa photos of the amazing Izapa stelae. Some of those early  photos would make it into my final NWAF Izapa Sculpture album 10 years later. In the summer of 1965, I traveled to Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas, Mexico, to assist with  NWAF’s excavation of Mound 5 at Chiapa de Corzo. By this time I had produced several drawings of Izapa stelae by laying clear acetate over the photos and tracing the carved details. I traveled to Izapa on a weekend to again check my line-tracings against the monuments and make corrections. At the NWAF lab, I inspected artists’ renderings of each monument made in the field. The drawings were attractively done, but contained errors. I pointed this out to Gareth Lowe, Field Director, and showed him my photo drawings, explaining my procedures to optimize  precision. He offered me a part-time contract to work on the sculpture project, and I joined the  NWAF Izapa project staff. I hired a professional freelance photographer and, with a Graphics 4 x 5”camera, obtained quality, undistorted photographs using night photography with controlled lighting. We made large prints to make it easier to see the details and trace them. I carefully measured the tree trunk sections on Stela 5 to the millimeter against the monument. From my work as a finish carpenter for eight high school and college years, I instinctively began to measure the details of the Izapa scul  ptured monuments to make sure my photographs were as accurate “to the millimeter” as possible. Checking the Stela 5 photo drawing against the actual monument, I found a little angular distortion, so I started over. After four tries, I ended up using an enlarged two-foot square photo print on plastic to avoid shrinkage. Once again, I laid a sheet of clear acetate over the photo print to trace the features (Figs 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4).   I had puzzled over the strange gnarled tree-trunk features on the elaborately carved Stela 5 with its distinct lines and jogs. I suspected it had a story to tell in the history of the Mesoamerican World Tree. There was a lot of pressure on me to get it right for the NWAF’s Izapa project. My goal was accuracy when I started measuring matching figures on Stela 5 as a way to confirm their relationships. The sculptured figures had every appearance of being freehand impressionistic art, but the measurements refuted that. At the outset, it didn’t occur to me that there might be a geometric design structure with standard measurements. I found clues to measuring that correlated Stela 5 with a Maya creation story recorded in The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel  : “ Here  are footprints. Measure it off with your foot . . . Then our Lord, God the Father, measured his footstep. This was the count, after it had been created by the day 13 Oc, after his feet were joined evenly, after they had departed there in the east . . . The uinal   [calendar count of 20] was created, the day, as it was called, was created, heaven and earth were created, the stairway of water, the earth, rocks and trees; the things of the sea and the things of the land were created.” (Roys 1967: 116 -117, Notes 10 & 11)
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