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Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, by Diego de Landa, tr. William Gates, [1937], at


They count by fives up to twenty, by twenties to a hundred and by hundreds to four hundred; then by 400's up to 8000. This count is much used in merchandising the cacao. They have other very long counts, extended to infinity, counting twenty times 8000, or 160,000; then they multiply this 160,000 again by twenty, and so on until they reach an uncountable figure. They do all their counting on the ground or a flat surface. *

They make much of knowing the origin of their lineages, especially if they come from one of the houses of Mayapán; this they learn from their priests, it being one of their sciences, and they boast much about one of their lineage who has distinguished himself. The name of the father is transmitted to his sons, but not to his daughters. Both sons and daughters received the name of their father and their mother, the father's as the proper name, and the mother's as the given one; thus the son of Chel and Chan was called Na-Chan Chel, meaning the son of so and so. For this the Indians consider all of the same name as related, and treat them accordingly; and thus when they go to a part of the country where they are unknown, and are in need, they make known their names, and if there are any of the same they are received and treated with good will and affection. Thus also no man or woman marries another of the same name, because this was for them a great infamy. Today they use their baptismal names.

Daughters did not inherit equally with their brothers, except as a matter of favor or good will, in which case a part of the whole was given them. The rest was divided equally, except where one had helped more in the accumulation of the property, in which case he received an equivalent before

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the division. If the children were all daughters, then the cousins or other nearest kin inherited. Where the heir was not of sufficient age to receive the property, they entrusted it to the nearest relative as guardian or tutor, who supplied the mother with what she needed for his bringing up; for it was not their custom to place the property in the mother's control; or they even took the children from her care where the tutors were the brothers of the deceased. When the heirs reached their majority, the guardians rendered them the property; if this was not done it was held as in great dishonor, and became the cause of violent quarrels. The transfer was made in the presence of the chiefs and leading men, deducting what had been spent for their care; the heirs received nothing of the harvests, or the products of the hives or cacao trees, because of the labor involved in keeping them up.

When the chief died, if he left no sons to succeed him, but left brothers, the eldest or most capable became the ruler; meanwhile the heir was instructed in the customs, the ceremonies and everything he would need to know when he became of age. These brothers, even when the heir came to his position, still controlled affairs through their lives. In the case of there being no brothers of a deceased chief, the priests and leading men chose a man fitted for this position.


40:* Maya numeration went on to the 6th power of 20, with terms for each period, as we have for our decimal progression, ten, hundred, thousand, million. But whereas we had to adopt the Latin mil, or 1000, to get a term for the fourth place, the Mayas had a separate and distinct term for each multiple up to the sixth: kal, bak, pic, kinchil, calab, alau, the highest calendrical term being an alau of years, or 64,000,000.

Next: XXV. Divorces Frequent Among the Yucatecans. Nuptial Customs