“And such was the instruction they gave when all the Under-worlders had been finally defeated. And then the two boys ascended this way, here into the middle of the light, and they ascended straight on into the sky, and the sun belongs to one and the moon to the other. When it became light within the sky on the face of the earth, they were there in the sky. And then the Four Hundred Boys climbed up, the ones who were killed by Zipacna. And so they came to accompany the two of them, they became the sky’s own stars.”
From the end of the Third Part of the Popol Vuh, describing the destiny of the Hero Twins.
|A double-headed jade serpent|
I should firstly say that the scientific community has been fairly sceptical of these claims. However, my vague interest in matters scientific do not qualify me to talk about this from a strong scientific perspective but if I come across any good online resources I will post links to them. I can however deal briefly with some historical aspects of this prediction.
|The Classic Mayan city of Tikal|
|A stele of a Mayan King from Copan|
One of these calendars (there were several others) involved having a 360-day year that would be counted in cycles of 20. These cycles were then also counted in cycles of 20 (usually 20, but sometimes 18 according to some scholars). This was known as a Bak’tun. When 13 Bak’tun’s had passed the cycle would repeat and the calendar would revert back to the first Bak’tun. If there are any astronomers reading they’ll be quite angry about the 360-day year but what the Mayans did was to refer to each day using a number of terms, which would cycle over and allow them to keep track of deviations from the solar calendar until the cycle was complete. It was not the first system I would have devised but it was complex enough to use “zero” as a number (i.e. better than Greek or Roman maths) and was of use in the keeping track of constellation movements as well so it’s an impressive enough piece of work.
The reader may wonder what this has to do with the end of the world. The date given in the theory for the day the world ends is simply the date that the 13th Bak’tun ends on. According to most theories the 1st cycle begins on the 11th of August, 3114 BC so we are approaching the date where the calendar rolls over so to speak. So did the Mayans feel that this was the date that the world ended on?
Well, the date picked for the beginning of the cycle appears somewhat arbitrary. It predates their civilisation and there are no known inscriptions for the first three thousand years of the system. It might have been borrowed from an earlier civilisation like the Olmecs but this is speculative. So, if we have no idea why they chose to start their calendar at one point, it makes understanding the end point difficult. Some scholars believe that there are inscriptions that deal with orders higher than the Bak’tun or even thirteen Baktun’s, which, if true, suggests that the Mayans did not view time as being contained within the cycle. Scholars also speak of Long Calendar dates being spoken of after the turning of the cycle, suggesting that the Mayans didn’t believe the world would end in 2012.
|Statues of warriors from Tula|
|Mexican City of Teotihuacan|
|Cover page of the Popol Vuh|
So will the world end in 2012? Possibly, as we can never predict the future with total accuracy, but I’m betting that it won’t (and giving good odds if anyone’s interested). I’m also betting that the Mayans had less than no intention of predicting the end of the world when some of their priests decided to use a particular method of counting that started at an arbitrary date. Roll on 2013!
|Mayan city of Chichen Itza|