Mayan Sacred Numbers: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Ancient Civilization

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Mayan Sacred Numbers: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Ancient Civilization

When we think of ancient civilizations, the Mayans stand out due to their advancements in architecture, art, and astronomy. Among their many achievements, the Mayans had a deep understanding and reverence for numbers. In fact, numbers played a central role in Mayan culture and religion. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of Mayan sacred numbers, exploring their significance and unraveling some of the mystical meanings behind them.

The Mayan Number System

The Mayans developed an intricate number system that was remarkably advanced for its time. Unlike many other civilizations, the Mayan number system was based on the concept of vigesimal, meaning it was a base-20 system rather than the base-10 systems we use today. This enabled them to work with large numbers more easily.

At the core of the Mayan number system were three basic symbols:

  1. A dot (•) represented the number 1
  2. A horizontal line (_) represented the number 5
  3. A shell-like glyph (or zero) represented the number 0

By combining these symbols, the Mayans were able to represent any number using a place value system. For instance, a vertical bar (|) indicated a placeholder for zero. In this way, they were able to represent numbers as high as the millions.

The Importance of Mayan Sacred Numbers

Numbers held immense significance in Mayan culture, playing essential roles in various aspects of their lives including religion, astronomy, and architecture. The Mayans believed that numbers were powerful living entities capable of influencing events and shaping the world around them.

Sacred Numbers in Mayan Religion

In Mayan religion, numbers were deeply intertwined with their cosmological beliefs. Each number was associated with a particular deity or force of nature. These sacred numbers were believed to have unique qualities and held the key to understanding the universe and its workings.

One of the most significant sacred numbers in Mayan religion was the number 13. The Mayans believed that there were thirteen layers of heaven and thirteen levels of the underworld. They also believed that humans went through thirteen stages of reincarnation before reaching spiritual enlightenment.

The number 20 was also considered sacred due to the Mayan’s base-20 number system. They believed that this number represented completeness and balance, as it was the highest number they could count to using their number system.

Sacred Numbers in Mayan Astronomy

The Mayans were incredibly skilled astronomers, and their understanding of celestial bodies had a profound influence on their number system and calendar. They observed the movement of the stars, planets, and the sun to determine various astronomical phenomena, including solstices and equinoxes.

The Mayan calendar, known as the Tzolk’in, consisted of a cyclical sequence of 260 days. This calendar was tied to their religious and agricultural practices. It consisted of twenty named days (with numbers 0 to 19) combined with thirteen numbers named after deities. Together, these sacred numbers created a complex interplay of time and spirituality.

Exploring Mayan Sacred Numbers

Now let’s delve into some of the prominent sacred numbers in Mayan culture, uncovering their meanings and significance:

Number Mayan Name Meaning
3 Ox Symbolized completion and wholeness
4 Jaguar Represented the four cardinal directions and stability
7 Skull Linked to death and the underworld
9 Snake Associated with transformation and healing
13 Sky Represented the thirteen layers of heaven

These are just a few examples of the many sacred numbers in the Mayan civilization. Each number had a specific meaning and often held connections to the natural world, astrology, and their religious beliefs. The way these numbers were combined and used in Mayan culture provided insight into their cosmological understanding and worldview.

Mayan Sacred Numbers in Modern Times

While the Mayan civilization declined many centuries ago, the influence of their sacred numbers still lingers in modern times. Mayan numerology, for example, has gained popularity as a system for divination and personal insight.

Mayan sacred numbers have also found their way into popular culture and entertainment. Films, books, and games often incorporate Mayan themes and symbols associated with their numbers. This serves as a testament to the enduring fascination and intrigue surrounding the Mayan civilization.


The Mayans possessed a deep understanding and reverence for numbers, which played a significant role in their culture, religion, and astronomy. The intricate Mayan number system, based on vigesimal, allowed them to work with large numbers and paved the way for their complex calendars and cosmic insights.

Mayan sacred numbers held mystical and symbolic meanings, representing elements of the natural world, forces of nature, and stages of cosmic existence. Even today, the influence of these sacred numbers can be seen in various fields and continue to captivate our imaginations.

Studying Mayan sacred numbers provides us with a glimpse into the sophisticated and awe-inspiring civilization that once thrived in Mesoamerica. It reminds us of the enduring power of numbers and their ability to unlock ancient mysteries.



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Mayan Sacred Numbers: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Ancient Civilization