End of the world prophecies on or about 2012-DEC-21
The latest archeological findings about the
Mayan calendar and the date 2012-DEC-21.
The Mayan "Long Count" calendar:
Many books have been written for popular consumption that predict momentous events for the winter solstice on 2012-DEC-21. This is when a Mayan calendar reaches its end date.
J. Eric Thompson determined that the first day of the classic Mayan
"Long Count" calendar occurred on 3114-AUG-11 BCE according to
our Gregorian calendar. 1 This was the date "0.0.0.0.0" according to their notation. Their calendar runs for exactly 13 Baktun, where each Baktun is 144,000 days in duration. It ends a little under 5,129 years later, on the Winter Solstice of 2012-DEC-21. This is 188.8.131.52.0 according to their notation.
The big question is: what happens on that date or on DEC-22? The answers range from nothing much to massive devastation. There is a growing consensus among scientists that the former is true. But there are hundreds of books in circulation that predict the latter.
Why is there no consensus?:
There is a profound division among the religions of the world:
The Abrahamic religions -- Judaism, Christianity, Islam -- are faiths that recognize and share reverence for the patriarch Abraham. (Sometimes, theologians include the Baha'i faith as well.) One feature that these religions share is the concept of creation when the universe began and some sort of momentous events in our future. They view the history of life as we know it in a linear fashion with a beginning and an end.
Scientists have reached a consensus that the "Big Bang" marks the start of our universe some 13.7 billion years ago. They also predict the end of the world circa 4.5 billion years in the future when the sun will evolve into a red giant star and burn the Earth to a crisp. That assumes that the countries on Earth learn to tolerate each other's religions, and don't annihilate each other later this century with a nuclear war.
A conflict can occur when authors, scientists. or theologians, etc. trained in an Abrahamic religion or in science view time as linear. When they study a faith like that of the Mayan who view time as cyclical misunderstandings can occur. Mayans seem to have interpreted the numerical end of their Long Count calendar as marking the start of a brand new 13 Baktun (about 5 millennia) cycle. Followers of an Abrahamic religion may view the end of the Mayan calendar as predicting the end of all life on Earth or, at least, the end of an era and the start of a massive, gut wrenching, spiritual change.
Many Christians have been taught about the return of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) in our near future with hosts of angels who will commit the greatest mass crime against humanity and genocide in history. The Bible predicts that if the end comes soon, 2.5 billion humans will be slaughtered. Some authors saw the opportunity to make a lot of money by capitalizing on widespread religiously-based fears of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It). The result is many books that predict that the end will come on the Winter Solstice of 2012. A search of the Amazon.com website using the string 2012 Mayan found 1561 hits including 918 books as of 2012-MAY-11.
What do the Mayan records really imply?
There are thousands of surviving Maya glyphs. These are inscriptions, which were typically:
"... painted on ceramics, walls or bark-paper codices, carved in wood or stone, or molded in stucco. Carved and molded glyphs were painted, but the paint has rarely survived. About 90% of Maya writing can now be read with varying degrees of certainty" 2
However, only two of them bear a reference to the date 2012-DEC-21. They discuss the return of a Mayan god-man to Earth, much like Christianity's anticipated second coming of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ).
One glyph, a stone panel at the Mayan site of Tortguero was interpreted by David Stuart, a Mayan expert at the University of Texas. He comments:
"A few years ago I put forward a very tentative and incomplete reading of these damaged glyphs ... including a possible use of a verb meaning 'descend' and a name of a god, 'Bolon Yokte'. Much of it was iffy and remains so; Iím not sure I believe much of what I wrote back then."
"More recently my colleague (Brown University professor) Steve Houston has pointed out the glyphs may not even pertain to that date anyway. So thereís considerable ambiguity just in the reading of the glyphs and the rhetorical structure of the Tortuguero passage."
"What we can say with confidence is that the ancient Maya left no clear or definite record about 2012 and its significance. There is certainly no ancient claim that the world or any part of it will come to an end."
Stuart has written a book: "The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth about 2012." 8
Meanwhile, dozens or hundreds of glyphs have been found referring to dates after 2012. This is an excellent indication that the ancient Mayans anticipated that the solar system, the Earth, and their culture would continue beyond that date.
An interesting development was reported by the media on 2012-MAY-11. Archeologists working at Xultun in northeast Guatemala discovered a small room within some Mayan ruins. It is slightly larger than 6 feet (2 meters) square.Here, royal scribes back about 800 CE used walls like a blackboard to record astronomical records using the Mayan Long Count calendar. Some of the calculations extended well beyond 2012 CE, the end of the 13th Baktun, as far as the 17th Baktun sometime in the 35th century CE. Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, an expert on Mayan astronomy, comments:
"Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year? You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on." 5
He speculates that the scribes were:
"... geeks ... who just got carried away with doing these kinds of computations and calculations, and probably did them far beyond the needs of ordinary society." 5
Thus, one can safely conclude that the Mayan did not expect the world to end in 2012 as has been suggested in numerous books.
If it did, prophecies later than this date would not make a great deal of sense. If this news is widely disseminated then there will be far fewer individuals in late 2012 with suicidal ideation triggered by fear of an apocalypse on the Winter Solstice. However, I think that we can expect a few suicides will be completed by those who distrust the scientists and who trust the apocalyptic books. The blood will be on the authors of books, web sites, movies, etc. that have promoted belief in Armageddon in 2012.
The Penn Museum -- a.k.a. the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology -- opened an exhibition about the ancient Mayans, called: "The Lords of Time" on 2012-MAY-05.