Mayan Misunderstanding

Our New Year arrives carrying some apocalyptic baggage.  Many people have focused on the significance of 2012 under the Mayan calendar, and whether the calendar predicts that 2012 will bring the end of the world.  It’s even been the subject of a hilariously over-the-top disaster movie.

According to this BBC article, however, that apocalyptic interpretation of the Mayan calendar is in error.  The Mayan “long count” calendar, which began in 3114 BC, proceeds in 394-year periods called Baktuns.  2012 marks the end of the 13th Baktun, which is supposed to mark certain celestial alignments and herald the return to Earth of a powerful god and the start of a new era.  So, the end of the “long count” calendar just marks the end of an era, not the end of the world.

Whew!  What a relief!  I was concerned that, of all the civilizations, religions, and cults in the history of mankind that have predicted the end of the world, a civilization that engaged in ritual human sacrifice and other bloody practices and hit its high point more than 1,000 years ago might have just been the one to get it right.