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2012 Doomsday Scenario

Does The Mayan Calendar Predict the End of the World in 2012?

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2012 end of the world

Will the earth be destroyed in 2012?

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Updated September 24, 2009
The 2012 doomsday or "end of the world" phenomenon, as it has come to be called, is a cultural idea that has been disseminated through the Internet, books and television and suggests that disastrous and/or transformative events will happen in the year 2012.

The types of predictions for the year 2012 vary but normally include various cataclysmic events such as meteor impacts and ecological collapse, and events like sudden changes in human evolution, a spiritual transformation of the Earth, a reversal of Earth’s magnetic field which could disrupt current technologies and the beginning of a new era in history are also mentioned.

The forecast date of 2012 for these events is mainly based on the end of the Mayan or Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar. The calendar, which is said to last around 5,125 years, began on August 11, 3114 B.C.E. and ends on December 21, 2012. Today, the idea of any global event occurring in 2012 is largely rejected by the scientific community and many Mayanist scholars claim that any predictions based on the Long Count Calendar are misrepresentative of Mayan history.

The Maya and the Long Count Calendar

The Mayan people inhabited the region that included present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and western Honduras. Their civilization flourished during the 3rd and 10th centuries but by 1200 B.C.E., their society had begun to collapse. By the late 1500s, the area was under the control of the Spanish after the Spanish Conquest and subsequently, many Mayan artifacts and documents were destroyed.

Diego de Landa, one of the first Spanish priests to visit Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, is well-known for the destruction of many Mayan historical documents and artifacts after witnessing such cultural acts as human sacrifice. As a result, there are only three known surviving books. Much of the knowledge about Mayan history comes however from de Landa’s book, Relación de las cosas de Yucatan (1566), which provided observations into Mayan culture and an alphabet that has since allowed scientists to decipher various hieroglyphs.

Today it is believed that the life of the Maya revolved mainly around time. To help them understand the passage of time, Mayan priests and other high status individuals came up with different calendars. The most significant of these for this topic is the Mayan or Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar. This calendar is a non-repeating base-20 calendar that was used by several pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, hence the sometimes referred to name, Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar. The Maya however, were the most notable culture to use the calendar as it appears widely on their remaining monuments.

The Mayan Long Count Calendar begins with the identification of a day by counting the number of days since a mythical creation date. That date corresponds with August 11, 3114 B.C.E, although there is no evidence that the day corresponds with any historical event.

Because the Mayan Long Count Calendar is a base-20 calendar, it keeps time in units of 20. The smallest division on the calendar is called a k’in, which represents one day. One winal or 20 k’in represent 20 days, while one tun or 18 winal represent 360 days. The larger division of one k’atun equals 20 tuns or 7,200 days and one b’ak’tun equals 20 k’atun or 144,000 days. For example in Long Count representation, a date would look like 0.0.0.1.5, which corresponds to 25 days. 0.0.0.2.0 would represent 40 days.

This base-20 cycle is believed to continue until it reaches 13 b’ak’tuns, at which point the cycle ends and shifts to a higher order. This date appears as 13.0.0.0.0 and roughly corresponds to December 21 or 23, 2012, or approximately 5,125 years after the creation date.

Although this date is believed to be significant in Mayan history, their inscriptions are historical and do not make declarations so their ideas of what would officially happen in 2012 are unknown. In fact, 2012 is not even referenced regularly in their inscriptions. Some scholars claim that the Maya would have viewed the day as one to celebrate the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, while others say they would have been awaiting the arrival of one of their gods. Despite this confusion, many cultural groups today have given December 21, 2012 significance and are predicting several types of events that will occur on that day.

Other Theories of 2012 Events

Because of the confusion surrounding the significance of 2012 to the Maya, many cultural groups have determined that it will represent the end of life as we know it as it is the end of the Long Count Calendar. This belief stems from Mayan knowledge about events discovered after their civilization. Some of the doomsday theories include asteroid impacts, intense radiation caused by a solar storm, a religious apocalypse, problems associated with global warming and climate change and nuclear accidents.

In addition to the doomsday theories being described, there are two major events that people are predicting for December 21, 2012. The first of these is galactic alignment and the winter solstice. Some researchers claim that the Maya set their calendar to end specifically on this event. A galactic alignment occurs on the winter solstice when the Earth and the sun align with the center of the galaxy. According to the 2012 phenomenon, the Maya plotted this day on their calendar to be prepared for significant world events to occur, however there is no evidence that the Maya placed major significance on solstices. Every year for the past 1,000 years or so, the galactic alignment has taken place on the winter solstice.

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