There has been a lot of hoopla in the past few years revolving around the fact that the Maya Long Count calendar runs out on December 21, 2012, the supposed Maya end of the world. According to experts on the Maya, a civilization that peaked in Mesoamerica between the years 300 and 900 C.E., that may not be the case.
First, a little bit about the calendar. The Maya Long Count calendar is broken up into 394-year periods called baktuns. It’s estimated that the system started counting at the year 3114 B.C.E.; therefore, December 21, 2012 marks 13 baktuns or 5,125 years. The number 13 was significant to the Mayans as it was to a lot of ancient people.
Doomsayers will tell you that the Maya were privy to astronomical or other disasters that will befall us on December 21. They point to possible explosive storms on the sun and/or galactic alignments that would wreak havoc upon the earth as we know it.
So at the end of 13 baktuns comes the end of the world, right? Not so fast. The Maya were a prophetic people, but not necessarily about the end of the world. Alfredo Barrera, a Mexican archaeologist, feels that the Maya tried to predict events, but more likely about droughts and disease than world-ending catastrophes.
“The Mayas did make prophecies, but not in a fatalistic sense, but rather about events that, in their cyclical conception of history, could be repeated in the future,” said Barrera, of the National Institute of Anthropology and History.
The end of the 13th baktun could very well mean a specific event or other milestone, but not necessarily the end of the world. Other experts tell us that the Maya were interested in a future far beyond December 21, 2012.
“There are many ancient Maya monuments that discuss events far into the future from now,” wrote Geoffrey Braswell, an anthropologist at the University of California at San Diego. “The ancient Maya clearly believed things would happen far into the future from now.”
In fact, only a few references to the December 21, 2012 date have ever been found in carvings at any of the major Maya sites, none of which refer to any type of apocalyptic event.
“The Maya long count system is like a car odometer,” Braswell wrote. “My first car (odometer) only had six wheels so it went up to 99,999.9 miles. That didn’t mean the car would explode after reaching 100,000 miles.”
Additionally, in 2010, an even older Maya Long Count calendar was found using even older astronomical indices which predicts our world will go on for billions of years and more, numbers most of us can’t even imagine.
So which version is true? Will the world end on December 21, 2012 or will we be around for a long, long time to come? Given how prophecies have been going of late, don’t give up on holiday shopping just yet; you’ll need those gifts. And there’s a very good chance you’ll be ringing in the new year on January 1, 2013.