Posted by: Johan Normark | October 25, 2012

2012: The contemporary Maya and the “end date”

A couple of my contacts have posted this link on facebook today. The link mentions Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlaljuj Ajpop. He accuses the Guatemalan government and tour groups for perpetuating the myth that “their calendar foresees the imminent end of the world for monetary gain”. Unfortunately the situation is not as simple as that. There are some “Maya Elders” involved in the 2012-circus as well and these people are often used by non-Maya 2012ers to legitimize their own prophecies (although the Maya 2012ers seldom claim the world will end). The influence of Western ideas among the contemporary Maya runs deeper than the past decades of New Age. This can be seen in the statement made by Gomez’s group. They say that the new Maya time cycle simply “means there will be big changes on the personal, family and community level, so that there is harmony and balance between mankind and nature.” The artificial division between mankind and nature reflects modernist ideas rather than unaffected indigenous ideas. Neither do we know if the ancient Maya Long Count was cyclical. It is true that the tzolkin, which is used among some contemporary highland Maya in Guatemala, is cyclical but that does not mean that the Long Count was cyclical. The author of the article that I link to also writes as if the 365 days long haab was part of the Long Count, which is wrong. Neither is baktun the largest unit.

Do not get me wrong. The contemporary Maya are absolutely right that their ancient and modern calendar(s) are being misinterpreted and appropriated for bogus ideas. However, 1100 years have passed since the Maya Long Count ceased to be used on monuments in the lowlands. That calendar and the ones being used today among some highland people are not exactly the same. Changes have occurred and it is important to emphasize that the Maya abandoned the use of the Long Count during the Terminal Classic. Hence, as it turns out, not even the Postclassic Maya thought the future “2012” date was the most intriguing date in history as a well known New Age myth maker claims. The Long Count has become important for the contemporary Maya again, as a heritage of their ancestors, an ethnic marker if you want.

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  1. [...] scholars, such as Johan Normark, echo this.  Such claims about non-believing Maya have also appeared in newspaper accounts (see examples in [...]


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