December 21, 2012, marks a rather important day in the ancient Maya calendar.
Some doomsayers say it will mark the end of time. Others say the day merely signifies the start of a new calendar cycle.
Anthony Aveni, professor of archaeology and astronomy at Colgate University, and author of "The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012," told Here & Now's Robin Young these five things to know about the so-called Mayan apocalypse.
____1. The Maya Calendar Was Built On Cycles
"They started out with units based on 20, the number of fingers and toes on the human body, built it up to 260, the number of days in the human gestation period, and then built and built and built until they created a long count. It’s all going to close and re-open... it’s not the end of time, it’s rather the beginning of a new cycle. On the 21st of December in the year 2012."
____2. The Mayan "Dresden Codex" Depicts A Great Flood
"Dresden 74, as we call it, is certainly destruction by deluge, it does appear on the last page, so that’s fitting, and it shows deities and serpents in the sky gushing water from heaven. I think most people who’ve studied that document read it as metaphor. These are, if you will, symbolic warnings given to us about how we ought to try to reconceive and redirect our lives. They are not absolute predictions that transcend time. To put it simply, the Maya message is not intended for us, it’s intended for the Maya and if a Maya priest could rise from his grave he might say to us, 'Go get your own zero point, don’t bother with ours.'"
____3. Some Predict A "Cosmic Awakening" Instead
"It’s either a blow-up or a bliss-out. There never seems to be any in-between for us. Well, if it’s not going to be the end of the world then maybe there’ll be a cosmic convergence. A coming together of celestial bodies that will somehow propel us to a new age of awareness. This is a very common idea and you can at least trace it back to 1987. And I think you and I are old enough to remember the cosmic convergence proposed by Jose Arguelles, when one of the cycles of the Aztec calendar would come together."
____4. The Mayans Are Still Around
"There are some two million of them alive and well in Yucatan, speaking 29 different dialects of Maya language. What happened to the Maya is that they just got out of building big buildings and having a long calendar and a sophisticated system of hieroglyphic writing, and I think that’s why we romance them. We look at them and we see this science and mathematics and precision and we say, “Why, they’re like us.” So, we admire them. But then I think sometimes we read too much into that."
____5. The Mayans Themselves Aren't Too Worried
"I asked one of our guides down there. I take Colgate students down to this area every year and we do off-campus studying, and I asked what’s going to happen. And he gave me the response I actually anticipated, and it fits with what you see in the documents. He said, 'Well, hopefully a new era of peace in the world will happen and we’ll have a better world.' And this is what we always look forward to at the end of any cycle, whether it be a millennium or a century or New Year’s or even Sunday night when we have to dread Monday morning but we want to make it a better week than it was last week."
- NPR: In A French Village, Protection From The Apocalypse
- China Central TV: Video: Doomsday Complex
- Archaeology: What the Maya calendar really tells us about 2012 and the end of time
This segment originally aired on June 13th, 2012.
- Anthony Aveni, professor of archaeology and astronomy at Colgate University and author of The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012.
This segment aired on December 20, 2012.