It’s a good news/bad news situation for believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. The good news is that the Mayan “Long Count” calendar does not end on Dec. 21, 2012 and the world will not end along with it. The bad news for prophecy believers? If the calendar doesn’t end in December 2012, no one knows if it will end at all, when it will end, or if it already has.
A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook “Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World” (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 to 100 years or more. That would throw the supposed and over hyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into disrepute the dates of other historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries were based on the fact that the Mayan calendar was originally thought to end in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.)
The Mayan calendar was converted to today’s Gregorian calendar using a calculation called the GMT constant, named for the last initials of three early Mayanist researchers. Much of their early work used ambiguous dates recovered from colonial documents that were written in the Mayan language in the Latin alphabet, according to the chapter’s author, Gerardo Aldana, University of California, Santa Barbara professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies.
But according to Aldana, Lounsbury’s evidence is far from irrefutable.
“If the Venus Table cannot be used to prove the FMT as Lounsbury suggests, its acceptance depends on the reliability of the corroborating data,” he said. That historical data, he said, is less reliable than the Table itself, causing the argument for the GMT constant to fall “like a stack of cards.”
No one has any answers as to what the correct calendar conversion might be, preferring to focus instead on why the current interpretation is wrong. Looks like end-of-the-world theorists may need to find another ancient calendar on which to pin their apocalyptic hopes.