On December 21, 2012, the Mayan Long Count calendar will reach the end of a 5,126 year cycle. Is this the 2012 doomsday? Or just another day?
The 2012 Doomsday Phenomenon
The 2012 Doomsday phenomenon has reached almost epic proportions. It’s been featured in numerous documentaries on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. It was even made into a movie, the aptly named 2012.
So, what are the facts? According to the Maya codice Popol Vuh, we’re currently living in the fourth world of creation. In the first world, the Maya gods Kukulkán and Tepeu created man out of mud. The mud crumbled and so in the second world, the gods switched to wood. However, this version of mankind lacked souls and rebelled against the gods. The gods destroyed them with rain and then created a third world. This time, they constructed man out of maize. When this failed, the Maya gods created the current version of mankind.
Now, the Classic Maya civilization used something called the Long Count Calendar. As best as we can determine, each date was described using five separate numbers. The largest number they used was a b’ak’tun, which was equivalent to 144,000 days, or roughly 394 years.
Each of the above-mentioned worlds supposedly lasted 13 b’ak’tuns, or a grand total of about 5,126 years. Some scholars have attempted to match up the Gregorian calendar with the Long Count calendar. They think the current world of creation started on August 11, 3114 BC. The end of the 13th b’ak’tun will thus take place on December 21, 2012.
Did the Ancient Mayas Believe in a 2012 Doomsday?
So, that’s the background. But did the Mayas see this as doomsday? Well, it’s difficult to determine exactly what they thought about it. The Mayas were fascinated with the concept of time. They seemed to view it as a never-ending cycle of ends and new beginnings. So, it’s possible they would’ve viewed December 21, 2012 as a doomsday of sorts. However, there’s really no evidence to suggest they saw it as anything more than the completion of one cycle and the beginning of another. Indeed, many modern scholars think the ancient Maya would’ve seen December 21 as a major celebration.
One thing is clear. The Maya didn’t appear to view the end of the cycle as the ultimate doomsday. Researchers have discovered references to post-2012 dates on several ancient Maya ruins.
“At Palenque, for instance, they predicted that people in the year 4772 AD would be celebrating the anniversary of the coronation of their great king Pakal.” ~ Mark Van Stone, 2012 FAQ
Recently, archaeologists discovered some very old Mayan astronomical tables at the Xultun ruins (well, they actually stumbled on them while chasing off treasure hunters). They discovered four long numbers on a wall which appear to reference a date 7,000 years past 813 AD.
Overall, it would appear the Classic Maya expected the Earth to keep spinning well past December 21, 2012. Not that it really matters. There’s no reason to believe the Mayas possessed any prophetic skills whatsoever. After all, if they were such great prophets, then how come they never saw the ending of their own civilization?
“And maybe the most important question to ask was voiced to me by Bill Saturno, discoverer of the San Bartolo murals. If the Maya were such skilled prophets, how could they have missed the Conquest? “Didn’t see that one coming, did they?” The single most devastating disaster to befall the peoples of the Americas of all time, and not a word about it in the entire corpus of Mayan prophetic literature.” ~ Mark Van Stone, 2012 FAQ