News Column

Mayan Calendar Was Misread, World Isn't Doomed After All

Dec. 6, 2012

Harry Jackson Jr.

If you've partied away your 401(k) or life savings or run up credit card debts in anticipation of the world ending on Dec. 21, a Cornell University anthropologist has a word for you:

Oops.

The Mayan message has been misunderstood because some have misread the timeline of the calendar, says John Henderson, professor of anthropology at Cornell University. The Mayan calendar maps cycles in time and not time itself, he said. This month is the end of one of those 5,000-year cycles, not the end of the world, he said.

"In fact, the Maya also tracked events and cycles ... long after 2012. Like all Maya cycles, this one is continuous: Dec. 21 marks the completion of the current cycle, but it will also be the zero day of a new cycle that will run for another 5,000-plus years," Henderson said.

Part of the problem is that the European invasion of the Mayan world in the 16th century may have upset the continuity of the calendar, destroying texts and other helpers that could have explained the timeline more efficiently, he said.

Still, "The very few ancient texts that refer to Dec. 21, 2012, treat it as a calendar milestone, but do not contain prophecies of doom," he said.

"To judge by a few ancient texts that describe events just before and after the last cycle ends in 3114 B.C., the ancient Maya probably would have advised us to be alert on the 21st to the possibility that the gods may decide to make it the occasion for another in a series of periodic improvements to their chief creations -- people and the world we inhabit."



Source: (c)2012 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Distributed by MCT Information Services


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