Books, movies and the internet all tell us that the ancient Maya foresaw the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, when the sun will align with the center of the Milky Way galaxy and the globe will be rocked by earthquakes and other catastrophes. Is this true? Maybe the recent tunnel that’s been discovered will give us some answers about that apocalyptic prediction (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show).

In the May 21-22 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Gerard Helferich explains why this isn’t a true reading of Mayan prophecy, by reviewing "The Order of Days," a new book by David Stuart. Helferich quotes Stuart as saying, "It’s "all complete nonsense," perpetrated by "gurus and spiritualists who wouldn’t know a Maya glyph if one hit them on the nose."

Lasting from A.D. 250 to 900, Maya civilization extended from the Yucatan peninsula as far south as present-day Honduras. The Maya were such excellent calendar-makers that our own, modern calendar is partially based on theirs. They saw time as an endless series of repeating cycles. They followed not one calendar but two, a 365-day civic one they called the ha’b and a 260-day religious almanac known as the tzolk’in. The two calendars only synchronized every 52 years. The Maya also had the so-called Long Count calendar, an unbroken tally of days stretching back to (in our calendar) Aug. 11, 3114 B.C., a day that was thought to mark the day of creation, just as our own calendar begins with the birth of Christ. For the Maya, Dec. 21, 2012, would have been a special date because it was the completion of a 144,000-day (or nearly 400-year) period called a bak’tun, and it would have been marked with ceremonies presided over by their kings.

But it would not have signaled the end of the world–instead, it would have been the beginning of a new bak’tun, something like the New Year we celebrate on January 1st every year. The 2012 frenzy tells us more about ourselves than about the Maya–about our attitude toward supposedly mystical cultures, our quest for spiritual meaning and the anxieties provoked by modern life. Helferich quotes Stuart as saying, "The Maya calendar was inseparable from the ancient world that created it: a lost worldview of kings, gods, and ancestors. By wrenching this special vision of time and cosmology away from that particular cultural and historical milieu, we do nothing more than manipulate the past for our purposes and messages."

Stuart thinks that the Maya deserve better, due to their genuine accomplishments in astronomy, mathematics, architecture, art and writing. Helferich quotes him his saying that the Maya are "worthy of study and admiration not because they were strange, but because they were altogether human." Here at, we think that WE deserve better: Only about 1% of our readers and listeners support us, but if we could raise that total to 3%, we’d be out of the woods! Won’t you support us? You get so much from it–Subscribe today!

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