Did You Know? – 2012

The Charger Bulletin

Now that 2012 is final here, there are many things to look forward to during the coming year. There will be marriages, births, birthdays, graduations, and many more pleasant things throughout the year. However, the one day during 2012 that many people seem to not be looking forward to seems to be December 21, 2012. But what could be so bad about a day that is only four days away from Christmas? There has been long speculation about this day, including the idea that the world is going to end. Stories of natural disasters, tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions are common, along with other ideas of planets colliding or black holes swallowing the Earth. So who’s to blame for this onset panic that will probably grip the world as the day gets closer? The answer to that is the Maya.

What do the Maya have to do with all of this, considering that they are just a diverse group of indigenous people who lived in parts of present-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and northwester Honduras? What makes people think that these people could predict the future and the exact date the world was going to end? The Mayan people were one of the most sophisticated and complex civilizations in the Western Hemisphere. They grew crops in places where many people would not have been able to, built cities without what we call modern machinery, and communicated using the first written languages. But none of that makes them capable of predicting “the end.” The reason this hysteria started was because the Maya also were the ones who first knew how to measure time using two complicated calendar systems. And as many have already predicted, those calendars are going to end on December 21, 2012.

The Calendar Round was the first Mayan calendar, and it was based on two overlapping annual cycles. There was a 260-day year and a 365-day year with 18 months of 20 days each. Every 52 years counted as an interval, or “Calendar Round,” and following each interval, the calendar would reset itself. The Long Count Calendar was the second calendar that measured time, but this time identified each day by counting forward from a fixed date in the distant past. Scholars found that the starting date was August 13, 3114 B.C. The dates were grouped in different cycles such as baktun, k’atun, tun, uinal, and kin. Each cycle meant a different amount of time. For example, a kin was equal to one day, while a baktum was 144,000 days. Using the system, the cycles for the Long Count Calendar were long, considering the first cycle hasn’t even ended yet. One cycle lasts 13 baktum, and officially ends on December 21, 2012.

The Maya themselves believed that the Long Count Calendar cycle would end and signal the beginning of another cycle just like the Calendar Round. This would mean that a new Grand Cycle would indeed start on December 22, 2012. However, irrationality has affected some people, who believe that the calendar will not reset itself, bringing the end of the world. This claim is “supported” by some scientific theories and other not so scientific theories. The idea of aliens also coming to take over the planet has also been suggested. So what do the Maya today have to say about this, considering there are still six million in Mexico and Central America? Very few are expecting the end in 2012. If the Maya are not worried, then maybe we should not be either.