Home | Columns, Commentary and News | Reports | Links | About/Contact

Column 121712 Wall

Monday, December 17, 2012

Maya Calendar Hysteria Builds Up To December 21st Climax

By Allan Wall

The hysteria has been building up for years, based on the belief that a Maya prophecy foretells the end of the world on December 21st, 2012.

There are books and TV shows about the date, and Hollywood made a movie about it.  People have written NASA asking the space agency if they should kill themselves and their children.

The 2012 phenomenon has its adherents in many parts of the world: the U.S., the United Kingdom, Europe, Russia, China, and in Latin America.

Even the purveyors of the hysteria, some of whom have made a lot of money, can't agree on what is actually to occur.  Some say the world will be destroyed on the 21st as a result of a collision with Planet X or Nibiru or a black hole or for some other reason.

Others predict not a destruction of the planet but the end of civilization. In a Super Bowl ad, General Motors portrayed a destruction of civilization which can, however, be survived by a man and his dog in a Chevy Silverado.  (See the commercial, on YouTube, here).

Other 2012 promoters approach it from another angle, predicting that December 21st will usher in a new "cosmic consciousness" or something like that, which is easier to climb down from than predicting something cataclysmic that doesn't occur.

The Maya were (and are) an indigenous culture dwelling in eastern Mexico and western Central America.  They flourished in pre-Hispanic times, and left many temples, pyramids and other structures, as well as a complex writing system.  The study of their ruins is fascinating.  I've been able to visit the Maya archaeological sites of Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, and El Rey in Mexico, and Lamanai in Belize.

Adept at mathematics and astronomy, the Maya managed several calendars simultaneously.  It is one of these calendars, called the "long count," that is at issue here.

Did the Maya actually predict something cataclysmic or transcendent on December 21st, 2012?

The date in the Maya calendar corresponding to December 21st, 2012 is mentioned a few times in Maya inscriptions, but so are many other dates.  The Maya worked with distant dates and big numbers, and they projected dates far into the future in order to relate them to their own times.  These are projections, not prophecies.

The most famous reference to the date was found at the Tortuguero site in Tabasco state, Mexico.  That inscription is damaged and incomplete, its meaning obscure and uncertain.  It's not much to base a theory on.

Furthermore, the "Temple of the Inscriptions" (at Palenque, in Mexico's state of Chiapas) has a projected date inscribed that corresponds to 4772 A.D., which indicates they didn't think the world was going to end in 2012.

What actually is significant about the December 21st, 2012 date in the Maya calendar is that it's the end of the 13th b'aktún.  (A b'aktún is a period of 394.3 years in the long count).

Despite all the hoopla and hysteria, there is no Maya prophecy of the end of the world.

Here are some quotes from recognized scholars in the field who study Maya archaeology:

●  Mark van Stone of FAMSI (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.):"There is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012."

●  Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History: "We have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end" in 2012.

●  David Stuart (University of Texas) calls it "complete nonsense," and says it's promoted by "gurus and spiritualists who wouldn't know a Maya glyph if one hit them on the nose."

It's neither Maya experts nor the contemporary Maya themselves, but rather "New Age" gurus who are the principal promoters of the 2012 Maya calendar hysteria.

Certainly the human race faces plenty of problems, but they're not explained by a non-existent Maya prophecy which is used by its promoters to make a lot of money.

For more information, I invite readers to peruse my previous article 2012: Prophecies of the Maya Calendar for more details.


Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at

Share/Save/Bookmark Tell a Friend New Page 1