Hello fellow UGC classmates! In past lessons, we discussed about the beginning of civilisations but for today’s blog post, we will be talking about the supposed end of the world, Doomsday. Doomsday, as we are sure all of you have heard, was predicted to arrive in December 2012. The myths of Doomsday was so widespread that Hollywood decided that they wanted a slice of the pie and made films about it.
All the conspiracy theories about the end of the world stemmed from the ending of the Mayan calendar on December 21st 2012. The Maya people may not have had the technology that we now possess, but they certainly came up with many ingenious ways to help them get about their daily lives. Our post will discuss perhaps their most well-known invention, the complex Mayan calendar which they used for timekeeping.
Ancient Mayan Calendar
Unlike the Gregorian calendar which is used now, the Maya people had their own calendar which was based on the lunar and solar cycles, eclipses and movements of planets and they used different calendars for various purposes. Here is a brief summary for each of them.
The haab, which used solar cycles, consisted of 365 days. Since it did not take into account a leap year, this calendar system is known as a “vague” year.
The basic unit in the Mayan calendar was one day (k’in), twenty days (wianl) and a 360-day year was called a tun. A Tun has 18 months of 20 days, and at the last five days is added as Wayeb.
Wayeb is believed as unlucky period since the five days do not have “souls.” During the Weyab, the Maya people spent their days praying. In addition, the use of fire during that period is avoided and they abstained from eating hot food. Those born in that period were believed to be destined to live a wretched life.
The Tzolk’in (260 days) was the oldest calendar in Mesoamerica and combined numbers and days. It consisted of 13 numbers and 20 day names which resulted in each of the 260 days having a exclusive name-day. The Tzolk’in was mainly used for religious rituals.
The Maya people used a Calendar Round which were able to give both the haab (360 days) and Tzolk’in (260 days). A Calendar Round consisted of 18,980 days, which was the lowest common dominator of the 2 variations.
In order to specify dates more than 18,980 days or roughly 52 solar years, the Maya people used a Long Count. The Long Count is represented by a five place notation system of ascending cycles which is illustrated below. Hence for example, the Long Count 0.0.1.0.0 represents 360 days.
Now let us go back to the myths regarding the end of the world and understand how the misinterpretation that the world was ending in December 2012 came about. The belief that the world was ending was simply due to the Long Count entering into the next b’aktun, at Long Count 188.8.131.52.0. As explained in this NASA video, the misinterpretation is quite simply similar to an odometer going back to 0000 to start a new cycle.
So as the supposed Doomsday came and went, we’ve come to conclude that all the “end of the world” talk was basically us having a wrong interpretation of a normal jump in the Maya calendar. Imagine all the worry we could have saved and all the potential suicide cases we could have prevented if we had managed to figure this out earlier. But alas, what is done cannot be undone and we cannot change History. What is left is only for us to learn from it!
We hope that this blog post has helped pique your interest in and cleared up any doubts you may have over the Maya calendar. And just for some added fun, we have included a link here that allows you to represent any date on the Gregorian calendar in Maya calendar terms for anyone who is interested in finding out what your birthdays or any special dates may be according to the Maya timeline. Who knows, maybe one day the Maya calendars will be back in fashion again. Until then, keep learning about History because as Theodore Roosevelt once said: “ The more you learn about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”