There have been movies about it. More than one television special has been aired about it. Scholars and archeologists have written books about it. And it’s finally here. The wait is over.
December 21, 2012. The day that the world is supposed to end according to the ancient Mayan tradition. Or is it?
Who Were the Mayans?
The Mayans were a highly advanced civilization that ruled parts of modern-day Central America, including the Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and parts of Mexico. The earliest evidence of their civilization is dated to around 2,000 BC.
The Mayans were highly skilled in mathematics, architecture, and art. They built elaborate cities with large central plazas that followed the contours of their environment. They quarried limestone and mixed a cement-like mortar to bind the stones together.
Before Columbus’ arrival on the continent, the Mayans had even developed a sophisticated written language, the only one known to have existed at the time.
Yes, the Mayans, like the ancient Egyptians, were an advanced peoples. Until suddenly, during the 9th century AD, their civilization began to unravel. Scholars are largely unsure of the cause. Speculation that a 200-year long drought may have prevented the region from sustaining a population that large is one of the more commonly held notions, but there is no generally accepted theory.
The Long Count Calendar
Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of the Mayans, at least the one that has gotten the most attention of late, is their calendar. The Mayans were amazingly accurate with their observance of the night sky and they put that information to practical use in their calendar.
Beginning on August 11, 3114 BC, the calendar accurately measured the length of a solar year to a high degree of accuracy. It is considered far more accurate than the European Gregorian calendar.
The basis of the long count calendar is a series of repeating cycles of varying numbers of days. Most of the cycles are based on a count of 20, as was their mathematics. (We use a base 10 form of math using numbers 0-9 and going to the next significant digit once we’ve exhausted those numbers. There are other forms of numbering systems, though. Base 2 uses just 0 and 1. Base 16 uses 0-9 and our letters A-F. The Mayans used a base 20 numbering system.)
Once one cycle has completed, a new cycle begins.
The End of the World
One of the longer cycles of the Mayan long count calendar ends tomorrow, December 21, 2012. Some have predicted that this will be the end of a significant cycle and will usher in the end of the world as we know it.
The world’s axis will shift sideways so that the rotation is no longer east-west but north-south, a move in magnetic north to just beneath China, and mysterious and yet unseen asteroid or planet (sometimes called planet x) will either collide with the earth or pass so close to our orbit that it disrupts everything. These are just some of the predictions.
But not everyone believes that we will reach the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) tomorrow.
According the wikipedia:
Misinterpretation of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is the basis for a popular belief that a cataclysm will take place on December 21, 2012. December 21, 2012 is simply the day that the calendar will go to the next b’ak’tun, at Long Count 126.96.36.199.0. The date on which the calendar will go to the next piktun (a complete series of 20 b’ak’tuns), at Long Count 188.8.131.52.0.0, will be on October 13, 4772.
But NASA, says otherwise. According to this LA Times article, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has stated in no uncertain terms that the world will not end in 2012. Yet, it’s still receives 90 calls or emails per week for people asking for clarification or seeking reassurance.
Yet, that doesn’t convince some people who are adamant that the world will end tomorrow. And it doesn’t stop others from having a bit of fun with it as well.
So what do you think? Are you going to change your daily routine tomorrow? Or is this just another speed bump on the way to the real end of the world?