Posted by: Johan Normark | September 27, 2010

2012: The Long Count is not cyclical

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 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 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 This number is counted backwards from the base date and gives us the date - (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 (3309 BC) which would then be based on 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 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 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 ( 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 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.



  1. I just think that after 2012 it will simply be 2013.

  2. Good article Johan. I’m a bit confused though. Does the LC start over at I’m reading Anthony Aveni’s book and he mentions that the calenders of the Maya are cyclical. I assumed that it included the LC though. Is this correct?

    Thanks in advance

    • I think that Aveni is wrong but he is not alone. Many other Mayanists also believes that the LC is cyclical but I see no evidence for that. It is an assumption based on the fact that the Maya recorded pre-era dates (and in Palenque they are given LC dates as if it was in an earlier 13 Baktun long era). This is simply the result of the fact that the Maya did not use negative numbers. However, this is the same as when we record the murder of Caesar in 44 BC. It is a pre-era date, but not another cycle. I am fairly convinced that the Maya never saw an end in sight with 13 Baktun. We will have 14 Baktun and as the Palenque inscription indicates we will also have 1 Piktun (20 Baktuns) in AD 4772. No inscription suggests a resetting to zero.

  3. Yes. The problem with most 2012 ideas is that they simply focus on the date as it appears in the Christian calendar. We are not sure if 13 Baktun falls on December 21 or 23 2012.

  4. Viva Le Pictun!This Focusing On 13 Baktun As An End Is Just The Endtimers Effort To Control The Masses.Omega/Alpha?

  5. 13 Baktun is the focus also for people thinking there will be a transformation of consciousness, etc.

  6. The Maya LC is not cyclical. The Maya intented to end the LC on Dec. 21, 2012 because it is the end of the true Earth, the original creation, in this universe or last day due to happen at the end of the age on the winter solstice. The end of the age occurs on Dec. 21, 2012. It is the end of a Precession and the end of the Age of Pisces. Quetzalcoatl taught the Mesoamericans that the ascension would take place on that date. The physical Earth is not the true Earth. It is the ascension of the spiritual true Earth into a higher dimension where time is measured differently therefore there is no need for the LC calendar. That was in accordance to ancient world wide belief on both sides of the continents up till the late 1800s when the knowledge was lost. However, Washington DC was laid out to reflect this end time knowledge as a reminder to visitors of that date by our Freemason founding fathers. Monuments carved in stone were left world wide as a reminder to our generation of that date. The Maya end time date or Last day is but a remnant of that ancient belief. There is much more to the story. Please read The Ark Of Millions Of Years by E. J. Clark for the details and documentation.

    • Well… maybe you should read the post again? Why not try to understand how the Long Count actually work instead of this New Age nonsense?

      • Yea, I wonder what prophet of nonsense Mary likes? I’m interested in getting your book when you get it finished Johan. When do you think it will be available?

      • No idea but hopefully before the end of 2012…

    • The Maya did not intend to end their calendar in 2012. In fact, there are, as far as I know, no LC-style calendars anywhere in the world that were designed to end on a specific date. They were all designed to start on a specific day and then lead forward to no pre-specified end date. The idea that the Maya would design their LC calendar to end on a specific date in 2012 is just New Age nonsense that ignores the reality of how calendars are developed.

      • 2012ers ignores most of reality. Just because Monument 6 mention 13 Baktun does not mean they thought the calendar should end on this date. It would be interesting, though, if an inscription with an actual LC date beyond 13 Baktun appeared (and not just a Distance Number).

  7. There is no reason why the sequence of katuns should end in 2012. However, the katun
    that begins in 2112 and ends in 2132 will correspond with the first day of the 260-day
    count, the day-sign 1-Imix. Although the 260-day calendar is thought to be a continuous
    process that can begin at any point within it, 1-Imix is considered the starting point, the
    point of initiation. Imix, the sign of creation, symbolizes the crack in the cosmic egg, the
    bursting forth of energy moving from one world to another, and the generative and
    creative forces that rule the Earth. The sign is also concerned with nourishment and
    sustanance and it suggests the need to care for our offspring and our surroundings – our
    lives depend on our relationship to our environment.

    • One of the reasons Imix is considered to be the first day in the tzolkin is because it always have the coefficient 1 in the Long Count.

  8. The Start Of My Cholqij Is Wajxaqib’ B’atz’ (8/monkey) As It Resonates More In My Heart Of Hearts.
    The Last Recorded Long Count On A Monument Was 901a.d. At Itzimte’,There Is A Later Date On Pottery.


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