Eclipses in the Americas

  • Hugh Thurston
Reference work entry
We have no information about eclipses observed in America before the arrival of the Spaniards. There are two descriptions by Bernard Sahagún in his General History of Things of New Spain (Book 7: 8–10). Here is a précis.

When the moon was eclipsed darkness spread. Pregnant women were afraid that their unborn children might be turned into mice. To protect themselves they put obsidian in their mouths and on their breasts.

When the sun was eclipsed it turned red, became troubled, and turned yellow. There was tumult and everyone was frightened. People of light complexion were sacrificed and captives were killed. Suitable chants were sung in the temples. People said that if the eclipse is total it will be dark for ever.

This applies to the Aztecs. The Incas in South America, according to Garsilaso de la Vega (1609), thought that when the moon eclipsed it was ill. When an eclipse began they became afraid and sounded everything that would make a noise, even beating their dogs to make them...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access


  1. Aveni, Anthony F. Skywatchers. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  2. Bricker, Victoria R. and M. Harvey Classic Predictions of Solar Eclipses. Current Anthropology 84 (1983): 1–18.Google Scholar
  3. Davoust, Michel. Nouveau Commentaire de Dresden Codex (New Commentary on the Dresden Codex). Paris: CNRS editions, 1997.Google Scholar
  4. Förstemann, E. W. Commentar zur Mayahandschrift der Königlichen öffentlichen Bibliothek zu Dresden (Commentary on the Mayan Manuscript in the Royal Public Library in Dresden). 1901, Cambridge, Massachuset: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 1906.Google Scholar
  5. Thompson, T. J. E. S. Commentary on the Dresden Codex, a Maya Hieroglyphic Book. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1972.Google Scholar
  6. Thurston, Hugh. Mayan Table of Eclipses. DIO 6 (1996): 30–8.Google Scholar
  7. Thurston, Hugh. Mayan Table of Eclipses. Griffith Observer 65 (2001): 5.Google Scholar
  8. Vega, Garsilaso de la. Royal Commentaries of the Incas, and General History of Peru. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966, 1609.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugh Thurston

There are no affiliations available