2012: Mayan Prophecy and the Long Count Calendar

With the year 2012 looming large in our immediate future, the words "Mayan," "Mayan Prophecy" and the "Mayan Long Count Calendar" are seemingly on the tip of every tongue.

Research into the ancient Maya reveal them to have been an enigmatic people their exact beginnings and place of origin rather vague, and although radiocarbon dating of certain artifacts at Cuello in northern Belize does indicate a possible presence as early as 2600 BCE the generaly held and probably more realistic consensus, of mainstream archaeologists, place the first clearly Mayan settlements at around 1800 BCE in the Soconusco region of Chiapas the most southerly state of Mexico.

The classic period of the Central (Lowland) Maya spanned the years between 250 CE and 900 CE, ending when cities such as Tikal and Copan were abandoned by their inhabitants for reasons still not completely understood (social and political discord, war, climate change, degradation of the agricultural landscape and disease all being possibilities).

This period (the classic
), and the post-classic period of northern cities such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Mayapan, which continued until the 16th century and the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, is the picture postcard world of pyramids and palaces with which the average person is most familiar.

Other than their architectural achievements, which were impressive to say the least, it is their calendar for which they were arguably the most famous an accurate means of measurement an obvious requirement when one’s very survival is dependent upon knowing the correct time to seed, cultivate, harvest and store crops.

To the Maya, however, there was more, time was a sacred force involving deities with the power to create and destroy and knowing which of these deities was currently controlling events was a necessity. They believed that being in possession of an extremely precise calendar was one of the means by which they could influence the gods (human sacrifice being another) and therefore their destiny.

The Mayan Long Count Calendar (for this world cycle) begins August 11, 3114, BCE (Gregorian calendar), September 6, 3114, BCE (Julian calendar), a date believed by some to be that of a distant historical event [1] while others believe the starting point to be purely mythical.  

Long Count Units are as follows:

20 days =1 winal
360 days =1 tun
7,200 days =1 katun
144,000 days =1 baktun

And presumably considering the dates in the Long Count Calendar run in cycles of thirteen baktuns, the world, at least insofar as Mayan prophecy and the Mayan calendar is concerned, will end (some say will be destroyed) on December 21, 2012, following which there will be a new dawn and the Long Count will begin again. [2]

[1] Perhaps a racial memory of some long past catastrophe handed down generation to generation.

[2] If instead we wake up safe and sound in our beds December 22* expect the excuses as to why the sky didn’t fall and we still exist to begin in earnest.

* Congratulations if your reading this you have survived the Mayan appocalypse or to put it another way sometimes a calendar is just a calendar.

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