The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for May 18th, 2012

Discovery of Earliest Mayan Calendar Throws 2012 Doomsday Claims into Doubt

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 18, 2012

No doubt, unless you’ve been living in a hole, you have heard about the supposed end-of-the-world coming this December 21st, 2012 – at least, that’s what some New Age whackadoodles and apocalyptic doomsayers would have you believe.  Why do they believe this?  Because, according to them, the Mayan calendar predicts it.

Unfortunately for the doomsday prophets, the Mayan calendar predicts nothing of the sort.  Take, for example, the fact that recently the discovery of the world’s oldest Mayan calendar seems to have thrown the whole “Mayan 2012″ prophecy of armaggedon into serious doubt:

Nevermind the Apocalypse: Earliest Mayan Calendar Found

Image source

The oldest-known version of the ancient Maya calendar has been discovered adorning a lavishly painted wall in the ruins of a city deep in the Guatemalan rainforest.

The hieroglyphs, painted in black and red, along with a colorful mural of a king and his mysterious attendants, seem to have been a sort of handy reference chart for court scribes in A.D. 800 — the astronomers and mathematicians of their day. Contrary to popular myth, this calendar isn’t a countdown to the end of the world in December 2012, the study researchers said.

“The Mayan calendar is going to keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future,” said archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas, who worked to decipher the glyphs. “Numbers we can’t even wrap our heads around.” …

Oops.  That’s embarrassing.  So the Mayan calendary doesn’t predict the apocalypse?  Why exactly is that?

… The Maya recorded time in a series of cycles, including 400-year chunks called baktuns. It’s these baktuns that have led to rumors of an end-of-the-world catastrophe on Dec. 21, 2012 — on that date, a cycle of 13 baktuns will be complete. But the idea that this means the end of the worldis a misconception, Stuart said. In fact, Maya experts have known for a long time that the calendar doesn’t end after the 13th baktun. It simply begins a new cycle. And the calendar encompasses much larger units than the baktun.

“There were 24 units of time they actually could have incorporated into their calendar,” Stuart said. “Here, we’re only seeing five units and they’re still really big.”

In one column, the ancient scribe even worked out a cycle of time recording 17 baktuns, the researchers found. In another spot, someone etched a “ring number” into the wall. These notations were used to record time in a previous cycle, thousands of years into the past. The calendar also appears to note the cycles of Mars and Venus, the researchers said. Symbols of gods head the top of each lunar cycle, suggesting that each cycle had its own patron deity.

“There was a lot more to the Maya calendar than just 13 baktuns,” Stuart said. …

Of course, another reason to doubt the claims of the doom-mongers, despite the structure of the Mayan calendar, is the fact that no matter what the source for the supposed end-of-the-world prophecy, every prophecy of this nature in the past has had one thing in common: THEY HAVE ALL FAILED SPECTACULARLY!  This includes at least one high-profile prediction from last year!

It’ll be interesting to see what the doomsaying believers have to say on December 22nd, 2012 when we’re all still here :)

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