Friday, April 28, 2006

(20) Auriga and the Dresden Codex

There seem to be two possible explanations. One is that a picture of Auriga like the one illustrated here could be a comical image of what Europeans looked like to Maya and other New World observers. Their use of domesticated animals including horses, goats, and the gratuitous oxen that the illustrator of the 1482 edition included in the picture must have seemed extremely peculiar, and vehicles with four wheels even more so. (The reason for including the oxen might have been that a star that was once listed as part of Auriga was later transferred to the constellation Taurus.)

A second explanation might be that a Maya person had talked about stars and events in the constellation Auriga relating to prognostications concerning the year 2012. A technical explanation has this to say about the "kid" stars on the charioteer's left hand:
Epsilon-Aurigae, or Almaaz, is the Kid star closest to Capella. Distance: 4600 LY. Usual magnitude: 3.0. It is an eclipsing binary, with an unseen companion that comes in front of Almaaz every 27 years. For one year Almaaz fades to 3.8 magnitude before recovering. Watch for the next fade in 2009, reaching its faintest between 2011 and 2012! (from a University of Oklahoma online exhibition which also includes images from the 1482 edition of Hyginus and many other images).

But like any speculation concerning the year 2012, the hypothesis that the artist might have heard about the "kid" stars has to be regarded with caution.


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