You may be hearing a lot about the Mayans, their calendars, hieroglyphs and mysterious temples scattered throughout the jungles of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. Why is there so much talk about the "end of the Mayan calendar" and what does it mean? Is there something significant we should know about the Winter Solstice date of December 21, 2012? How were the Mayans able to track long periods of time and why would they want to? Why should we care about the Mayans today? Is there anything we can learn from them? I'll begin by sharing how my own interest in the subject developed and go on from there.
THE MAYAN CALENDAR
What is the Mayan Calendar 2012 connection?
In conversations I’ve had with Maya descendants living in Guatemala we often spoke of the Mayan Calendar and the year 2012.
First off I will tell you much of what was discussed revolves around a time period, not a specific date. The time period is the 6 month period between the Spring and Fall equinoxes. After that period comes the Winter Solstice on December 21 2012.
The Maya had numerous calendars with which they tracked the movements of the planets (Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter) and the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. Two of these Mayan calendars are those which draw our attention to 12/21/2012.
The Mayan calendar is not actually a single calendar that westerners are used to referencing today. It is actually a complex system of multiple calendars used in conjunction. Two calendars used in conjunction are the Tzolk’in and the Haab. The Tzolk’in calendar consists of 260 days. The Haab consists of 365 days. The combined use of these calendars creates a cycle of 52 Haabs (52 years) and is referred to as the Calendar Round. Small cycles of 13 days (Trecena) and 20 days (veintena) exist as well.
Another calendar used to track longer periods of time is referred to as the Long Count. This calendar is used to track dates relative to each other on a linear scale and utilizes a numeric decimal system to record dates. For example, the Mayan date for December 21, 2012 is 22.214.171.124.0. The long count cycle referred to as the “Great Cycle” lasts for 5,125.36 years. Correlating that to the Gregorian calendar used by most people in the world today, the starting date of the current long count cycle is August 11, 3,114 B.C.
Another interesting cycle is the precession of the equinoxes lasting approximately 26,000 years. The long count of 5,125 years is 1/5 of that cycle. December 21, 2012 marks the end of the Long Count and Precession Cycle. A fascinating astronomical occurrence will take place that day. The sun will be seen in a conjunction with the crossing point of the galactic equator and the ecliptic which is referred by the Mayans as the Sacred Tree. Since this is due to take place on the winter solstice, this should provide clear evidence that the proper end day of the Mayan calendar is December 21, 2012. Some say December 22,nd, 23rd or even other dates. However, the solstice was an important day to the Mayans and it is logical to think that they would conclude their calendar cycle on this day, coupled with the fact of the rare astronomical occurrence set to take place that day.
Overall, the Mayan calendar system is amazing and complex. It is the most accurate calendar system ever invented by anyone. The complexities go far beyond my capabilities to explain so I have listed links below to serve as excellent resources of information.
The Maya Tzolkin Calendar and the Maya Long Count Calendar both contain references many today believe point to the year 2012. The sacred Tzolkin calendar represents a 260 day period that uses 20 days rotating in conjunction with 13 tones which create the foundation of the calendar. The day 4 Ahua (aka: Ajaw - the day name can vary depending on which Mayan dialect is used) is a special day as it is always on this day during which the Baktun periods begin (the 5,124 year periods). Baktun periods however are represented in the Long Count Calendar. Baktuns are the fifth placemark in the Long Count and the upcoming date in 2012 marks the movement from 12 to 13 (126.96.36.199.0).
Tortuguero is a Maya ruin site in southern Mexico that contains a stone carving (Monument 6) with the Dec. 21, 2012 date represented in the Tzolkin calendar. The carving references 4 Ahua (the beginning date within the Tzolkin and Long Count calendars) and the remaining visible glyphs are interpreted as referecing an event occuring on the beginning date upon which the diety will descend.