I know a little about the Mayan “calendar round,” and have an amateur-archeologist interest in Pre-Colombian cultures. I’ve had conversations with people who actually believe the movie and book hype, promulgated by people who’ve taken a distorted view of Mayan texts in order to sell more books or movie tickets.
The Mayans believed that time was organized like a set of nested, revolving rings; they were trying to keep both lunar and solar time, and they were such keen astronomers that they worked out the cyclic nature of how the two sets of rings synced up in 52-year “short count” rounds. Various “long count” rounds can take thousands of years to re-sync. The end and beginning of a new cycle, short or long count, is significant.
December 21, 2012, according to some (but not all) translations of Maya date glyphs, marks the end and beginning of a particularly significant “long count” cycle. Mayan scholars are trying to educate people away from the simplistic, Apocalyptic “end of the world!!1!” view of this date, made popular in various recent movies and book.
It’s an uphill battle. People WANT to believe old Mayan predictions of the return of a creator god, because they want to think it reinforces the concept of the Apocalypse and the Second Coming of Jesus.
This image shows my mom’s birthdate in Mayan glyphs, probably in short count notation. I bought it many years ago on a trip to Mexico, as a souvenir of a day spent at Chichen Itza.
PALENQUE, Mexico (Reuters) – If you are worried the world will end next year based on the Mayan calendar, relax: the end of time is still far off.
So say Mayan experts who want to dispel any belief that the ancient Mayans predicted a world apocalypse next year.
The Mayan calendar marks the end of a 5,126 year old cycle around December 12, 2012 which should bring the return of Bolon Yokte, a Mayan god associated with war and creation.
Author Jose Arguelles called the date “the ending of time as we know it” in a 1987 book that spawned an army of Mayan theorists, whose speculations on a cataclysmic end abound online. But specialists meeting at this ancient Mayan city in southern Mexico say it merely marks the termination of one period of creation and the beginning of another.
“We have to be clear about this. There is no prophecy for 2012,” said Erik Velasquez, an etchings specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). “It’s a marketing fallacy.”
The National Institute of Anthropological History in Mexico has been trying to quell the barrage of forecasters predicting the apocalypse. “The West’s messianic thinking has distorted the world view of ancient civilizations like the Mayans,” the institute said in a statement.