Monday, March 1, 2010

Mayan Calendar & December 21, 2012

Mayan Calendar & December 21, 2012

By George O'Kelly

A long forgotten method of counting the days and seasons in ancient times, the Mayan Calendar has recently re-emerged as a source of fascination, curiosity, controversy and even fear. The primary reason for its re-appearance in the public consciousness is the apparent significance of the impending date of December 21st 2012, seen by many as the day foretold by the Mayans to be Judgement Day, or the day on which the world will end.

The Mayans are an indigenous people of Central America, residing mainly around the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. They were a leading race of people in the early part of this millennium and architectural discoveries show them to be an advanced, cultured and creative people. Their pictorial alphabet and other drawings that survive have been interpreted and much about the Mayans is known prior to the Spanish conquest of Central America.

Among the systems that we now understand from the Mayans was their calendar, which was very advanced and shows an excellent understanding of the movements of the sun, moon and changes in the seasons. It is incredibly accurate, in certain cases even more so that calendar systems that emerged centuries later.

The Mayan Calendar consists of three time periods that could be viewed almost as three dials on the same watch, each relating to a longer time scale. Specifically, the Long Count relates to very long periods of time, covering thousands of years. The Haab covers a period very similar to a standard 365 day year. And the Tzolkin covers approximately a fortnight. Each of these are finite counting systems so at certain times arrive at starting/ finishing points, similar to our New Year's Day or the first day of a new century or millennium.

The Mayans were a superstitious people and the end of one of these cycles, called a Calendar Round, which is approximately every 52 years, was seen as an unlucky time and one during which the Mayans sought to avoid doing anything that might bring disaster or tragedy upon them. It was considered a very unlucky time to be born.

Why December 21st 2012 is now so much in the news and popular discussion is that it represents the starting/ finishing point of an even greater cycle, the Long Count (see above). It is the first time in the history of a calendar system dating back over 5,000 recorded years when the Long Count will return to zero. Some have suggested on this basis that the Mayans are thus forecasting the end of time, or of life as we know it. Can this be true? Only time will tell..

If any of the points raised in this article are of any interest please go to to find out more on the subject.

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