Does the Mayan Calendar Predict the End of the World?

Does the Mayan Calendar Predict the End of the World?

By William Olkowski, PhD. 9.22.12

I heard the Spindrift broadcast, on Thursday 9:30 am to 10:00 on 91.9 FM, and found it lively, informative and knowledgeable.  I learned that the peak of Mayan civilization was about 910 AD, when Europe was in the midst of the dark ages.  This Mayan civilization ran from 850 BC to 1050 AD, a period of over 1000 years.  Comparatively, this was a good run by an isolated people living out of jungle ecosystems with only underground fresh water cisterns for drinking and crop irrigation.

The mythological end of the world is said to be near the end of December this year.  But as is commonly discovered with such prophecies this one is illusory.   In this case the prophecy is merely the end of their calendar records.  This so called prophecy is based on a speculative interpretation of one major surviving monument. The speculation is a an evidence stretcher due to several factors, particularly a hazy interpretation of one surviving monument.  This momument, like the whole group of structures was hidden by jungle overgrowth until the early 20th century.

The discovery of the amazing structures hidden by jungle overgrowth for a thousand years created a sensation at first and many people still are transfixed by so many great stone buildings and temples arising out of the jungle. The pyramid-like structures were rediscovered and restored by intrepid archaeologists and rugged adventurers.  New discoveries are still happening as more recovery and interpretive work is done.

Mayan monuments are called steles and were the focus of a long term decoding project by many scholars around the world. The monuments are limestone upright 4 x 6 feet structures which report on various dynasties, with records of battles, births and deaths of kings, and their families.  The glyphs displayed on these steels and buildings seemed to be Egyptian-like at first but were based on a novel language/symbol system which defied decoding for many decades.  They were finally decoded in the late 1900s. Most of the glyphs document various dynasties, roughly each about 400 years.

The written records of the civilization are largely lost due to one Spanish padre who took it upon himself to burn all 20,000 written codexes.  This is the sort of standard genocidal efforts made by the Catholic church and other conquerors on other civilizations around the world. Only three codexes survived. They were written on fig bark papers.  This catastrophe occurred during the brutal Spanish occupation in 1562.

The Mayans had two calendar systems one based on a 28 day cycle (moon), the other a 60 day cycle, the later believed is believed to  be modeled on the Venus annual circumnavigation of the sun.  An alternative explanation for the 60 day cycle is the period of maze development.

Jeanine Kitchel’s book  “Maya 2012 Revealed, Demystifying the Prophecy” promises to be a great read.  Kitchel informs us that the Mayans are still with us at 7 million strong spread out in a different Central American countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, etc).  After the civilization crashed mysteriously the people scattered into the jungles where they carried on the same rituals and customs developed during their heyday.

The end date speculation is based on rather limited evidence, mostly from a broken Steele, the pieces of which were scattered in Europe andMexico. The paper and photo recreation of this steel is interpreted as announcing an end date because is reads something like: “God will descend after 13 periods (which was interpreted to mean the end of December this year); and then, there was to be a renewal.”


I like the idea of a renewal, it’s sort of promises a bright future for a world community.  This is something vitally needed today, but I hope not maintained by force of arms and bloody wasteful wars as our history so tragically documents. The Mayans are believed to have lost their cities about 1000 AD from a 200 year drought.

We in North America are now in a severe drought year (and trend) with large scale wildfires, dropping water levels and threatened farmers.  Drought and climate change is of vital interest today. Can we learn something from the Mayans? We don’t have a jungle to retreat into, however.  Lots of questions here that a 30 minute program cannot conceivably cover. Read the book for further details and maybe some guidance on survival.

Ice core data and other collaborating evidence shows that a long term drough sometimes lasting a 1,000 years or more occurred repeatedly in human history.  One of such long term drought almost snuffed out our species as it wandered North from Southern Africa.  Such a period can be triggered by climate change in as short 3 years.

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Spindrift is hosted by Marika Davidek on 91.9 FM on the UC Santa Barbara campus (KCSB).  See the program announcement on the authors biographical notes and program description on the station website.


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