The latest interpretation of Monument 6 at Tortuguero has recently been published by Sven Gronemeyer and Barbara MacLeod. It is a rather long and detailed account of the inscription and its greater context. I shall write about their study in two posts. This one deals with their nice outlining of the calendrical framework, which is poorly understood by most 2012ers. The next post will be about the actual inscription itself and what the authors believe it meant.
There are huge notations beyond the traditional 126.96.36.199.0 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u creation date, such as on Stela 1 at Coba and on page 52 of the Dresden Codex (where the five final positions of the Long Count (LC) actually are 188.8.131.52.13). However, on all occasions it is always the same Calendar Round (CR) date accompanying the LC (4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u). The authors suggest that these extreme cases are means to convey the extensiveness of time rather than being arithmetical dates. The period ending on 13 Baktun mentioned at Tortuguero “shares the same notation as the creation event. Nevertheless, it is not a repetition of the creation and certainly not the end of the Maya calendar” (p. 5). The CR on the future 13 Baktun (in 2012) is instead 4 Ajaw 3 K’ank’in. The Haab date is different and hence it is not the same date.
It is not always the actual date is given in an inscription. Sometimes it is the X number of days before or after a base date recorded in the inscription. These are called Distance Numbers. For instance, on Stela N at Copan we find the DN 184.108.40.206.0.0. This number is counted backwards from the base date 220.127.116.11.0 and gives us the date -18.104.22.168.0.0 (116,719 BC).
There are several things we can learn from this and similar pre-era dates. First, it was possible to count in periods longer than 13 Baktuns. Second, there is no indication that this ancient date was located in an even earlier creation. It is just a date preceding our current creation. Some 2012ers suggests there were four earlier creations by mixing Aztec or Postclassic Maya beliefs with the Late Formative origin of the calendar. Known dates preceding the creation date only indicates one continuous era before this one. Third, the Maya did not use negative numbers so in order for them to describe something occurring way before this creation they used DN rather than giving a date. Exceptions are some inscriptions at Palenque. On Temple XIX we find the date 22.214.171.124.2 (3309 BC) which would then be based on 0.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Suutz’ back in 8239 BC. However, this is not an absolute zero as the inscription from Stela N at Copan indicates. Fourth, “mythological Calendar Rounds pre-dating the current era either fail to fit among themselves […] or they do not correspond to the Long Count position. In fact, the number 20 (as the basis of the period units) seems only to have been formed during the creation…” (p. 5).
Gronemeyer and MacLeod also argue that the 13 Baktun (2012) date is not the end date. The following date will be 126.96.36.199.1 4 Imix 4 K’ank’in, rather than a new cycle. The reason is simple: “it will not be possible for the Bak’tun position to return arithmetically to zero (as it did on the creation date), as this contradicts the infinite enumeration of days on the narrative line” (p. 6). The proof is found in the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque. The base date is given in CR (5 Lamat 1 Mol) and this equals the LC date of 188.8.131.52.8 which is the accession date of Janaab Pakal, who was buried in the building. There are two DN here, one counting 1,246,826 years into the past (again, there are no indications of earlier multiple creations). The second DN (10.11.10.5.8) counts from Pakal’s birth date. There are no indications that this DN lands in another era. It is the same era as this one and the DN ends up at 184.108.40.206.0.8 5 Lamat 1 Mol which is 21st October 4772 AD.
In short, there is no end of the LC calendar in 2012 and there were no multiple creations preceding this one, as I have argued before. People claiming that the “Maya calendar” was cyclical miss the whole point that the LC was just what the name implies, it was an endless non-repeating long count. The CR, on the other hand, repeated. However, these different aspects of the calendar system should not be confused. Our week days and months will continue to repeat but our own LC from the birth of Christ is an endless non-repeating long count. We surely do not confuse them.
Gronemeyer, Sven and MacLeod, Barbara (2010). What could happen in 2012: A re-analysis of the 13-Bak’tun prophecy on Tortuguero Monument 6. Wayeb Notes 34.
Update: Here is the second part (of three) of their analysis.