With eye on Mayan calendar, 2012 doomsayers are stepping into high gear
If some explanations of the Mayan calendar are correct, we’ll all be gone at the end of this year.
While every other doomsday forecast has (apparently) come and gone, some people are of the opinion that the Maya knew something extraordinary that others didn’t and that the world will certainly come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012.
Speculators already are trying to make money with 2012 survival kits, T-shirts printing “Doomsday 2012” and a “Complete Idiots Guide to 2012.”
December212012.com, faithful to the forecast, says, “Although this date may not necessarily mark the end of the world, it is widely believed that it may indeed mark the end of the world as we know it. … . The signs and indicators of dramatic and possibly devastating change seem to be all around us. Both ancient and modern-day observers alike have foretold the possibilities of this date, and the coming events of our solar system seem to support their theories.”
The site talks about the worldwide social and political unrest, new and inoperable deadly diseases, extraordinary and changeable weather patterns, shocking natural disasters in unlikely places and man-made destruction leading up to this date.
“We can expect to see a number of dramatic events guiding us to our ultimate destiny in 2012.”
But the site also says it is not advocating that calamity is completely certain, but “conditions are right, and you should have worry for your own safety and for the safety of your family.”
Guesswork about the world ending in 2012 has a long pop-culture history, including the movie “2012,” in which the character played by John Cusack tries to escape with his family from calamities that look as if to signal the end of the world.
The concept that the Mayan calendar forecasts the end of the world is complex, say many scholars.
First, the Maya, who resided in southern Mexico and Central America, were highly experts in mathematics and astronomy. The Mayan calendar occupies a cycle of about 5,000 years, and on Dec. 21, 2012, it starts again at zero.
“Megacycles can be recorded with the ‘Long Count calendar,’ ” said Susan Milbrath, guardian of Latin American art and archaeology at the Florida Museum of National History, University of Florida.
The calendar records mythological occasions in Mayan history, “many dating to before the current cycle of the calendar,” Milbrath added.
“As to future dates, there were few, but one of interest is the Tortuguero Monument 6 date that does fall on the end of the current baktun cycle on Dec. 21, 2012, when the Maya calendaric ‘odometer’ literally flips over.”
The baktun is one of the cycles of the Long Count calendar. It is a unit of 144,000 days.
Anthony Aveni, professor of astronomy, anthropology and Native American studies at Colgate University, explained the Long Count as an accretion of various smaller time cycles that will slip back to zero, and a new cycle of 1,872,000 days (5,125.37 years) will start.
He said the Long Count is an secretarial system “consisting of 13 cycles corresponding to the levels of Maya heaven that make up a creation period of 5,127.37 seasonal years. At the end of one creation cycle, the count rolls over to the first day of the new cycle.”
Milbrath and other Maya specialists say the present concept of the world coming to an end developed around New Age literature, generally dating after John Major Jenkins published a book in 1989 — and several afterward — suggesting the date ”coincided with a specific astronomical position wherein the sun was going to be seen centered in the galactic equator.
“In so doing, he suggested the Maya understood the concept of precession of the equinox and were aware of this future alignment when they developed the calendar somewhere between 100 B.C. and A.D. 200.”
Milbrath said many books “written by self-appointed shamans/scholars” exist about how this cosmic alignment will lead to a new age or the end of the world as it is considered now.
In a paper Milbrath wrote in 2007, she said the Maya deliberately set the calendric odometer to overturn at the end of the baktun cycle on the winter solstice in 2012.
“The Maya must have set the baktun ‘end’ at the same time they back-calculated a starting point to the baktun around 3000 B.C.,” she said. “We can admire the Maya for their highly developed astronomy and mathematics, but we should not attribute to them impossible feats and thereby diminish their true accomplishments.”
Aveni wrote that the Maya were “obsessed with sophisticated timekeeping systems” and that “their astronomers had the capacity to predict celestial events, such as eclipses, accurately, all without telescopes or any technical devices.
“So it is no surprise that mystically minded people feel free to attribute to the ancient Maya the power to see far into the future.”
In a paper published this year, John Hoopes, a Maya specialist in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kansas, wrote there are more than a thousand books about the 2012 occurrence. Some studies have resulted in throwing away the 2012 end of the world theory long ago, and some have not.
Aveni said the Maya are getting their turn on the stage because of strong interest in Mayan culture in the last 30 years.
“Visiting the Mayan ruins has become popular with American tourists, so many are becoming acquainted with this ancient culture,” he said. “They lived in the jungle, but were mathematicians and astronomers. Therefore, many people are inclined to conclude that they possessed some superior knowledge.
“But what the 2012ers are saying is that there will not be any more time,” Aveni added. “They are taking the idea of linear time, which is a Christian idea. For the Maya it is the end of one cycle and the beginning of another cycle. Maya time is renewed.
“The Dec.21, 2012, date is based on a lack of knowledge of Mayan history.”
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