The apocalyptic question
BY: BETTY VILLALOBOS
The earth begins to break and crumble beneath our feet. Yellowstone becomes an erupting volcano. California disappears into the Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon of impending apocalypse is sweeping the world by storm. According to readings of the Mayan calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012. The classic Mayan civilization flourished between 1000 BC to about the 1530s AD, when the Spanish arrived in Mexico. Mayan culture developed many calendars, dominantly the religious calendar (Tzolkin), the civil calendar (Haab), and the Long Count Calendar, around which today’s obsession with the end of the world revolves.
So how was it determined that doomsday would be just a few days before Christmas? It’s all in the logistics. The Mayan Long Count Calendar measures time by baktuns (144,000 days), katuns (7,200 days), tuns (360 days), uinals (20 days), and kins (one day or “one sun”). The Mayan calendar consists of 13 baktuns, measuring over 5,000 years of time.
“According to the accepted correlation between Maya and Christian calendars, this has come to mean the end of the world,” said Dr. Hector Neff, an anthropology professor at CSULB of Mesoamerica archaeology.
On December 21, 2012, the final katun cycle ends and the Mayan calendar resets at zero. The resetting of the calendar is what many scholars have speculated as an indicator of humanity’s end and the literal resetting of life.
Because the Maya created their calendar by observing the alignment of the planets and the stars, some have speculated that even if the world does not end, there will be a shift in the earth’s alignment.
Naturally, some are skeptical of this prediction.
“It’s just nonsense,” said CSULB astronomy professor Paul Hintzen.
From a scientific standpoint, there is conflicting data regarding the suggestion of a major adjustment in the stars. Even if there was change, it is difficult to conclude the change will trigger natural disasters.
“It would literally take thousands of years to notice any changes, and there’s nothing expected to happen in December that will trigger a change in the stars or constellations,” said Hintzen. “[The Mayans] just got tired of counting and ended it randomly.”
In contrast, looking at the calendar from a cultural point of view could suggest the Maya did not intend to mark judgment day.
Namika Raby, a cultural anthropologist and professor at CSULB, suggests that the Mayan culture valued time differently than most modern western societies, which leads to misinterpretation of the calendar.
“In cultures like Maya, they don’t value the time but more of what can be done in that time,” Raby said. “People and human relationships are more important.”
Raby also said that it is important to remember what the calendar meant to the Mayan people and that the Mayan cyclical calendar could simply mean the beginning of a new cycle.
“If you value people and relationships and then it’s not there, then the culture ends and stops,” Raby said.
No matter the reasoning, the notorious date has attracted immense attention and has been the basis of many books and films. Films such as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and The Book of Eli have all depicted the destruction of modern society and a rebirth of humanity.
“[Hollywood] just made a movie and then people started buying tickets to leave the earth because they think the world is going to end,” said geology major Georgie Aronson.
There is still time left before the world witnesses the last sunrise on December 21, so make the most of what is left, just as the Mayans did.