Happy New Year! As we begin 2012, it's time to brace ourselves for a full year of hooey about how the ancient Maya supposedly predicted the end of the world for Dec. 21 of this year. As faithful readers will recall, prior to the 1980s, this alleged date was given as December 24, 2011, the day ancient astronaut theorist Alan Landsburg predicted the ancient astronauts planned to return to earth to check on their colony of alien hybrid clones in Uxmal, the Mayan city in the Yucatan.
As conspiracy theorists and ancient astronaut believers prepare for the aliens' revised return, it's fairly likely that you will see the following artifact used to illustrate the Maya calendar:
While this is a calendar, and it is from Latin America, it is not the Maya calendar. This is the similar but much younger Aztec calendar. An important difference is the presence of the hungry sun god in the center of the calendar. This sun god was an important part of Aztec cosmology since, unlike the Maya, the Aztec actually believed that the world would soon end if they did not supply the sun god with a constant supply of fresh blood through grotesque human sacrifice.
More importantly, the Aztec calendar did not contain the "long count" of the Maya, which is the cycle that produced the supposed doomsday date. Instead, the Aztec calendar used 52-year cycle of interlocking short 260-day years and solar 365-day years, a feature shared by most Mesoamerican calendars, including the Mayan.
The point, more or less, is that anyone using this stone to illustrate the Maya calendar does not know enough about the Maya to have credibility in claiming that the world is about to end.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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