This post will be the last one on the 2012 circus for this year. In “honour” of today’s date, it is time to present the evidence that the Maya never believed that the Long Count (LC) would end and begin anew at 188.8.131.52.0 (December 21 [or 23], 2012). Many 2012ers (and plenty of Mayanists as well) falsely believe that the LC cycle spans 13 baktuns (roughly 5125 years) and that a new one will follow this one.
Some 2012ers (read Jenkins and his followers) further believe that there are five LC cycles that together form a longer cycle that is related to the precession of the equinoxes (a Platonic year of roughly 25,920 years). According to Jenkins this is also related to a Galactic alignment when the ecliptic crosses the galactic equator. However, as Mark Van Stone shows, this alignment actually occurs every year but due to the precession this event occurs on different days. As regards the 21 December date, the sun touched the galactic equator already in 1983 and will do so until 2019. Hence the 2012 date as the chosen date for this event is wrong. If we choose the December 23 correlation that crossing actually occurred during the 1870s. If you use that correlation we should already be dead or have transformed our consciousnesses. Further, solstices were unimportant to the Maya. Van Stone says that “when faced with a choice of an auspicious day on which to schedule an important event, Maya almost never chose a solstice or an equinox.” The likelihood that the winter solstice three years from now was significant is slim.
The idea of five LC cycles forming earlier and current creation is mainly based on circumstantial evidence because the Aztecs mention that they live in the fifth creation/Sun and that four earlier ones have preceded this one. It is further argued that Popol Vuh from the early Colonial period also mentions earlier creations that have been destroyed. However, Popol Vuh was written down in the highlands of Guatemala after a century of Aztec influence and several centuries of contacts with Central Mexico. Although there are earlier traces of the same mythology in much earlier lowland iconography and epigraphy one should read Popol Vuh carefully. Just remember how much the early missionaries distorted the data used by later Mesoamericanists when they created a multilayered cosmological model.
Similar processes of hybridization occurred in Prehispanic times as well. As far as I know there is no evidence of multiple creations in Classic and Late Formative iconography or epigraphy. Only one earlier creation is mentioned (particularly at Palenque). Further, the Aztec creations are multiples of Calendar Round (CR) cycles (52 year long periods). One is 7 CRs long, another is 6 CRs long and two others are 13s CR long. Following this logic the multiple LCs would also be 7 baktuns long and 6 baktuns long, etc. In Jenkins’s model all cycles are 13 baktuns long. Thus, the 2012ers pick something here and something else there and create a non-existing cycle. Further, all Aztec Suns experienced a period of limbo, the cycles did not begin immediately after one and another as is argued to have occurred with the LC cycles. Neither are the Suns completely cyclical since every new cycle is an improvement of the earlier one. Earlier creations were unstable but the current one is stable. Van Stone argues that this Sun could last for ever since it is in balance. Both Aztec and Popol Vuh says this is the final creation so even if there were multiple creations preceding this one, they apparently saw no end in sight. That is just Christian end of days talking.
However, there is evidence that the Maya knew of the precession of the equinoxes as a phenomenon and they may actually have attributed some relevance to it. But they never divided it into five parts or creations. Van Stone mentions that Barbara MacLeod has detected an interval of time that the is called 3-11-pik/baktun. If you multiply 3, 11 and 144,000 (the number of days in a baktun) you end up at 13,010.5 years which is roughly half the length of the precession cycle. The rulers celebrated a portion of this long interval. Every 8,660th day (roughly 24 years) there is an 11-Pik/Baktun station in the LC. A long-lived ruler that experienced three of these stations (71 years) would be given the title 3-11-Pik Ajaw. 71 years is also the time needed for the equinox sun to precess one day. However, the well known archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni is skeptical to MacLeod’s ideas.
As mentioned in earlier posts, the idea that the LC will end on 13 baktun is just a projection of the beginning of the current LC (which began at 184.108.40.206.0, in 3114 B.C.) to the supposed end date. Monument 6 at Tortuguero mentions this future date but there is no indication that there will be a change in cycles. However, there are at least three other monuments in the Maya area that describe future events beyond 220.127.116.11.0. These are the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Yaxchilan, the West Panel of the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, and Stela 10 at Tikal (three rather large and important sites, not an “obscure” and fairly “insignificant” site like Tortuguero).
Van Stone mentions a step from the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Yaxchilan that depicts two dwarves playing ball. There is a LC above them (18.104.22.168.9) but this also contains larger time-periods that relate to this creation, not the earlier one. These periods are all stuck at 13 and are believed to be “symbolic”. The inscriptions at Palenque mention an event in the year AD 4772, which is within the next piktun, indicating that the baktuns are 20 and not 13. The Tikal inscriptions have a date of 22.214.171.124.3.11.2.? (the k’in position is unknown). Here the higher orders are not stuck at 13, the piktun coefficient is 19 and number 13 is not given any special treatment on this monument. In short, Yaxchilan, Palenque and Tikal all had different ways to record events. In the great meta-narrative of the “ancient Maya civilization”, such differences tend to be erased by 2012ers.
As Van Stone argues: “It seems that different schools of time‐reckoning existed in different city‐states. These were proud, squabbling polities, constantly jockeying for power like Athens and Sparta. When one thinks about it, it seems much more likely that they would have competing mythologies and scientific systems, than that they would have been of one accord.”
Thus, to say that the “Maya culture” had one homogeneous system of recording dates is dead wrong and this belief relies on Westernized/Christian assumptions. But I am afraid the 2012ers will not be able to understand this, their ideas solely rest on arborescent models where everything can be traced back to a master-signifier (this one may differ depending on one’s preferences). Some of these people do not even see Aztec Suns as myths but as evidence of what really happened. There is no way one can debate with such people.