Mayan Apocalypse or Y2K?

Mesoamerican calendar confusion causes 2012 chaos.

Credit:iStockphoto-RapidEyeCredit:iStockphoto-RapidEyeThe intricate geometric carving featured above has become a symbol of the Mayan apocalypse, projected by their calendar to arrive on December 21, 2012. In reality, the stone is (a) not Mayan, and (b) probably not even a calendar. The Aztec Sun Stone, which postdates Mayan civilization by 500 years, has absolutely nothing to say about when the world will end. 

The Maya did have some impressive, if less photogenic, calendars. Contemporary apocalyptic predictions (and terrible John Cusack movies) are inspired by a quirk of their Long Count Calendar. Starting at the beginning of creation—about August 11, 3114 B.C.—this sophisticated system is designed to help track dates for the next 13 b’ak’tuns, or a little over 5,000 years. When the calendar runs out, the doomsayers theorize, Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid called Nibiru, or possibly experience global spiritual awakening. All this, despite scant evidence that historical Maya believed any such thing. 

In fact, December 21, 2012, is likely the Mayan equivalent of Y2K. The calendar ticking over to 13.0.0.0.0 doesn’t necessarily signify the endtimes. For day-to-day use, Mayans preferred more prosaic Calendar Round dates—perhaps the source of confusion with the round Aztec stone. When that calendar’s 52-year cycle was up, the Maya simply threw a party and started a new one.  

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  • Caleb Turberville||

    John Cusack?! I only follow apocalyptic hysterias popularized by actual actors, like Nicolas Cage or Keanu Reeves!

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I feel compelled to point this out. Y2K was not some silly joke or fake, it was an actual threat and it was avoided due to a crapload of people working for about 10 years. I was at work on y2k for a major telco. after several years of updates and fixes we only had two switches go down...thats right, we had two whole switches go bye bye (roughly 200,000 people without phone service). If we had not made the effort we would have had only 2 switches make it through. There was a false alarm in a Japanese Nuclear Facility that went off. There were several banking institutions that had to revert to corrected backups as a result of losing some of their services.

    Was is an apocalypse? no, could it have been much worse if nothing had been done? yes. And there was a LOT done to prepare for it and to prevent it.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Yikes! We're all going to diet! Wait, what?

  • Rasilio||

    I always liked this version of the Myan timeline better

  • Caleb Turberville||

    What was Y2K, by the way? I was too busy being a kid, listening to Smash Mouth, eating my McDonald's Salad Shaker, and watching The Phantom Menace at the time.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    It was one of the finest opportunities to separate suckers from their money in a long time. Sales of survivalist gear were only exceeded by IT service providers (reference Office Space) and additional insurance purchases.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    If this is for reals, the supposed end of the world was going to happen because many old programs/software/computer systems had only two digits for "year" - saved a tiny bit of programing and or room that way back in the Dark Ages. So when "2000" rolled around ALL COMPUTERZ WILL FAIL!!!! We were going to have all power go out, planes fall from the sky, toilets explode as sewage ran backwards, water cut off, nukes melting down, etc. There was one particularly bad TV movie made - ABC I think? - that played it all out.

  • RBS||

    Oh man Y2K, hahaha. It did give rise to one of my favorite King of the Hill episodes though.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7rwY9cqabc

  • Hugh Akston||

    I couldn't understand a word Boomhauer said in that clip.

    My speakers must be busted.

  • alittlesense||

    You forgot about dogs and cats living together......

  • Caleb Turberville||

    We'll see this again in 2999, won't we?

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    No, they're using 4-digit year numbers now, so we won't see this again until 9999.

  • robc||

    Jan 19, 2038, when signed 32 bit unix time ends.

  • pmains||

    The end of an epoch, as it were.

  • Rasilio||

    Don't forget sometime in the next 10 years when we run out of 10 digit phone numbers and around 2050 when we run out of 9 digit Social Security Numbers

  • pmains||

    Will we have 1 billion living Americans in 2050, or 1 billion total that have been in the Social Security System? Can't we re-use old Social Security numbers after they person has been dead for, say, 20 years?

  • Rasilio||

    It is actually less than 1 Billion because certain combinations are not allowed.

    For example 123456789 is not a valid SSN, neither is any number where an entire section is 0's (eg 000123456, 123004567, 123450000), nor is any number starting in 666 allowed for "religous" reasons, and a host of other restricted combinations.

    Combine that with the fact that there are a handful of SSN's which were invalidated because they were previously valid but accidentially used in advertising or because a person was so thorough a victim of identity theft that they issued him a new one (it is rare but it happens, I also suspect that spies and those in witness protection programs get new SSN's).

    Still that would leave somewhere around 900 million valid combinations about half of which have been issued to date.

    That leaves around 450 million more available with about 5 million kids a year being born they could last as long as 90 years but in reality it will be somewhere less than half of that unless there is some major change in demographic and immigration trends.

  • CE||

    I still have some extra Y2K batteries.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    By the way, the McDonald's Salad Shaker: Best fast-food item of 1999!

  • Zeb||

    When my calendar comes to an end, I usually just buy a new calendar. Is that what has kept the world from ending so far?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Yes, so please DON'T STOP BUYING NEW CALENDARS!

  • CE||

    We're carving the next one as fast as we can.... need to finish by sundown today...

  • Suki||

    +2038

  • alittlesense||

    And couldn't the author of this peice have married some guy whose last name was Chutney?

  • ||

    It's already the 22nd in Australia, so we know the Mayans lied to us.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Millions of Aussies cried out in dismay as they soon realized that they wouldn't be reunited with the Almighty...Bon Scott!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

  • Rasilio||

    This is not quite true

    reasonably there are 3 moments that make sense for the end of time assuming there ever was anything to the whole Mayan calendar things

    1) Sunrise in Central America
    2) Sunset in Central America
    3) The exact moment of the Solstice where the Sun is directly over the Tropic and begins moving north again

    Of course the 3rd is the most likely and happened ~5 hours ago

  • ||

    It was local time they were calculating! 11 AM CST, I believe.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    And here we still are...harumph!

  • Doctor Whom||

    The Maya apocalypse is at least as credible as some things found in the scriptures of modern mainstream religions.

  • ||

    The Mayas didn't believe in the Mayan apocalypse. They just had a really long calendar.

  • Doctor Whom||

    True, but my point stands.

  • nicole||

    OT: NRA presser live. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

    Will continue reporting...

  • nicole||

    "Why is the idea of a gun good when it's used to protect the president of our country or the police, but bad when it's used to protect the children in our schools?"

  • nicole||

    "Is the press and the political class here in DC so consumed by fear of the NRA and gun owners that you're willing to live in a world where the only [something like shield] against evil monsters is a lone, unarmed principal...?"

  • nicole||

    "Can't they put a police officer in every school? Even if they did that, the govt has no right to take away our right to defend ourselves" (paraphrase that time)

  • nicole||

    He seems to be going full-on in favor of gun rights and against gun hysteria, unfortunately also to "call on congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation."

  • Caleb Turberville||

    The NRA is awfully pro-police. Didn't Heston condemn Ice-T's "Cop Killer"?

  • RBS||

    Yeah, I've heard a lot of people go with that line of argument. I do not think a larger, more heavily armed police force is the answer.

  • sarcasmic||

    I do not think a larger, more heavily armed police force is the answer.

    Depends on the question.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Alex, I'll take "How can we have more people hassled, arrested, hurt and/or killed" for $500.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Mine was a county high school, and we had a lone sheriff's deputy in the hallways throughout the day. I can't say that I minded his presence. He was good-natured, and didn't arrest anyone the whole four years I was there.

    But, my idyllic, rural hometown might not be representative of the rest of the nation.

  • nicole||

    Offering NRA security expertise to create model school security programs, talking about how every school will choose a different way to be secure.

  • nicole||

    "We can't lose precious time debating legislation that won't work. We can't allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now, for every child in America."

  • nicole||

    He's now introducing Asa Hutchinson, who apparently is in charge of this school security thing they're doing, to explain more about that.

  • nicole||

    I also missed the beginning, where apparently LaPierre was bitching about violent video games and shit like that.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    "We can't lose precious time debating legislation that won't work. We can't allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now, for every child in America."

    Isn't this how we got the Patriot Act? Not thinking, but feeling.

  • sarcasmic||

    Isn't this how we got the Patriot Act? Not thinking, but feeling.

    It is my belief that there exist stacks of legislation that could never be passed under normal circumstances, that is sitting there waiting for some incident that gets the emotions flowing.

    How else do they suddenly have thousand page bills ready for a vote within hours of something happening?

  • ||

    Never let a crisis go to waste, or something like that.

  • RBS||

    If only cognitive dissonance was terminal.

  • RBS||

    One of my progtard facebook friend's thinks gun control should be called massacre prevention.

  • sarcasmic||

    I know! I know! Massacres are prevented by not allowing people a legal means of defending themselves! Is that how it works? That makes total sense!

  • ||

    If I revoke the 2A and ban all guns, they would vanish, just like that. Poof! And we'd all be safe.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I dunno - when they round up the guns, you would have to be careful. You never know how one of them things is going to react when cornered. Saw guy all but cut in half by a trapped and frantic Barret .50 rifle. We had to euthanize the rifle, of course.

  • nicole||

    So basically this was a big infomercial for the NRA, since they train security peeps and have a whole plan to do so for like, every school or something (bonus points for having a former DEA head run that program), and they're happy to bash 1A to protect 2A, or something. Could have been SO MUCH WORSE though.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I want to hear more about LaPierre's anti-violent video game stance. I played GoldenEye 007 when I was 7 and Halo and Grand Theft Auto when I was 14. Was my mind warped beyond repair, or can I still make things right with Jaysus?

  • Jordan||

    I played those games growing up as well. Clearly, they are gateways to libertarianism. So, yes, our minds are warped beyond repair.

  • Ted S.||

    The closest thing I had to a violent video game when I was 7 was Combat for the Atari 2600. Fun shooting up your opponent's plane.

  • BuSab Agent||

    Wow, now I feel really old. There were NO video games violent or otherwise when I was growing up. I had to settle for shooting my brother with a BB gun.

  • ||

    You wouldn't have had time anyway, walking uphill both ways to school in 10 feet of snow :D

  • sarcasmic||

    I can assume that removing the "gun free zone" signs and allowing people who can legally carry a firearm anywhere else to legally carry in the schools was not suggested.

  • nicole||

    Not that I heard.

  • nicole||

    Meanwhile, on Twitter, "coastal media elite" types decry NRA's vision of a gun-ridden wasteland.

  • nicole||

    Lolz, you think?

    And yawn.

  • nicole||

    Based on that Christopher Hayes feed, the press conference was a disaster and the NRA is insane and the entire thing is so absurd it's almost not even horrifying. Or something.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Not only that, the pseudo-educated cunt doesn't know what the word "ironic" means.

  • General Butt Naked||

    It was a disaster, for the gun-grabbers.

    Not that the NRA gave some meaningful, game-changing press conference. They didn't.

    But, the only was any gun control was going to happen was if the NRA got enough prodding from its Fudd members to advocate for 'common sense' gun laws. It would signify to pro-2nd legislators that they could commence bowing to hysteria.

    I might send ol' Wayne twenty bucks just for standing firm. He's at least smart enough to know that that is all he had to do.

  • nicole||

    Right, exactly. I mean I won't say I loved it, but then I don't love the NRA by any means and I was mostly just worried that they were going to roll over, Fudd-style, and completely fuck the rest of "us."

    Why--seriously, not snark--why on earth does the anti-gun crowd think this was a PR disaster and a giant gift to them and their banning ways?

  • General Butt Naked||

    Why--seriously, not snark--why on earth does the anti-gun crowd think this was a PR disaster and a giant gift to them and their banning ways?

    What are they gonna do?

    Be honest,and say, "What we want is basically impossible without the tacit support of the NRA, an organization we hate, and they haven't given it to us. So we're basically fucked. Good play, NRA!"

    Here's the thing about the NRA, if they got a majority of members calling for the AWB, they would of given in. I imagine what actually happened was they got a big shot of money and messages saying, "Here's 50 bucks, stand firm. And if you don't..."

    Another thing to consider, is that those in the firearms community mobilize fast and efficiently. As soon as any threat to the second happens checkbooks fly open, people get on the phone with legislators, and letters are written. They're not going to try and get a fair shake in the media in an attempt to sway public opinion, that would be stupid.

    The ten years in hell of the AWB taught us a lot.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I was going to post something in response - but it is much easier to say "Um, what GBN just said!"

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    That stone used to stare (and stick out its tongue) at me from the cover of my Spanish textbook in Junior High School. The book made clear that this was an Aztec artifact, and one of Mexico's national treasures. When I saw it used as a symbol for the MAYAN end-of-the-world "prediction," I was momentarily confused. But then I realized that many people would also see William Shatner as a symbol of American television. And the world was right again.

  • TexasRasta||

    When I was down in the Riviera Maya, the Mayans there, said it is nothing but a reset of the calendar...kinda like your odometer going back to 0 after the 999,999 mile mark. It is a simple reset

  • Jordan||

    They would say that *adjusts tinfoil hat*

  • Sevo||

    *adjusts tinfoil hat*
    Remember, the shiny side goes out and the matt side in toward the head. Otherwise it won't reflect the energy!

  • Sudden||

    They only said that so you'd feel more comfortable buying that time share at the all-inclusive resort.

  • Zeb||

    Or sort of like when December 31 ends and you take down the old calendar and put up a new one.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Hey, that is just crazy enough that it might work!

  • $park¥||

    Some people just take the little things in life way too seriously. You say it's not going to happen, but the day isn't over yet by Mayan standards.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    I think the next end of the world will come when the next Pope is installed as the next Pope is prophesized as being the last one.

    It's the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Starting at the beginning of creation—about August 11, 3114 B.C

    I thought the Bible said the begining of the world to around 4000 B.C. Those Mayan heathens what do they know?

  • robc||

    The Bible makes no claim at all.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Only "In the beginning...", you are correct.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    I'm refering to the people that claim that the world is about 6000 years old which is based off of their reading of the geneology records of the Bible.

  • CE||

    So, when is the world supposed to end? Is it at noon today? Midnight last night? Midnight today? Sunrise? Sundown? And in which time zone? I assume wherever the Mayan capital was..,.

  • Russell||

    The Aztecs believed they could defer the End of Days indefinately - the heavens would continue to turn as long as the flint-knived priesthood kept laying prisoners of war on the altars to open up their hearts and let the sun shine in .

    It would be nice if the retro-Olmec nutters took over the franchise for a while.

    Instead of survivalist gear garage sales , they might leave a new crop of great stone heads in their wake.

  • Brian from Texas||

    Hey Mayans! Your calendar sucks!

  • Moogle||

    Fuck you, it rules. It uses a triple pictographic gear system.

    It's the misreresentation by modern day morons that sucks.

  • Moogle||

    The longest cycle of the Mayan Long Count system is 63 million years, so they felt the need for that much. Now that's your long term planning.

    There are seventeen Mayan calendars in all. One of them tracks the planet Venus. As usual the truth is much more interesting than the bullshit the morons of this world sling about.

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