Posted by: Johan Normark | May 23, 2011

2012: The order of days

The fourth book by a scholar that in one way or another deals with the 2012 phenomenon is now out. The other two are books by Anthony Aveni, Marc Van Stone, and Matthew Restall and Amara Solari (I am hesitant to include Robert Sitler’s book into this category). David Stuart’s The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth About 2012 has just been reviewed in Wall Street Journal. The product description at Amazon has this to say about the book:

The world’s foremost expert on Maya culture looks at 2012 hysteria and explains the truth about what the Maya meant and what we want to believe.

Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into Civilizations End. The World Cataclysm in 2012. 2012: The return of Quetzalcoatl. According to many of these alarmingly titled books, the ancient Maya not only had a keen insight into the mystical workings of our planet and the cosmos, but they were also able to predict that the world will end in the year 2012.

David Stuart, the foremost scholar of the Maya and recipient of numerous awards for his work, takes a hard look at the frenzy over 2012 and offers a fascination (and accurate) trip through Mayan culture and belief. Stuart shows how the idea that the “end of the Mayan calendar,” which supposedly heralds the end of our own existence, says far more about our culture than about the ancient Maya. The Order of Days explores how the real intellectual achievement of ancient Maya timekeeping and worldview is far more impressive and remarkable than any of the popular, and often outrageous, claims about this advanced civilization.

As someone who has studied the Maya for nearly all of his life and who specializes in reading their ancient texts, Stuart sees the 2012 hubbub as the most recent in a long chain of related ideas about Mesoamericans, the Maya in particular, that depicts them as somehow oddball, not “of this world,” or as having some strong mystical link to other realms.

Because the year 2012 has no prominent role in anything the ancient Maya ever actually wrote, Stuart takes a wider look at the Maya concepts of time and their underlying philosophy as we can best understand them. The ancient Maya, Stuart contends, were worthy of study and admiration not because they were strange but because they were altogether human, and they developed a compelling vision of time unlike any other civilization before or since.



  1. I am highly against a comment like the one that Stuart supposedly wrote here, and for the record I don’t really find the guy very impressive anyway. Stuart inadvertently already took a hit from me personally on UTMesoamerica; one that he’ll probably never forget. His buddy Michael Carrasco had to come to his rescue.

    Anyway my comment: You cant say general things like

    “they developed a compelling vision of time unlike any other civilization before or since.”

    Because that would be implying that somehow HE knows what that vision is, and that no one else does – not even say the Aztecs. He’s a generalist, and he leaves no room for others to explore, because only he and his Academic Maya Family have the God given ability to do so. He’s a very condescending gentlemen, and it’s not hard to see it in his presentation where ever, and when ever he is putting it on. I don’t need to read Stuarts book just so he can inform me how its all supposed to be done. Not only is Stuart not Mayan, or even Mesoamerican, he’s not even ancient…he’s just a modern academic who thinks that no one else has the brains to think for themselves. A very common trait among condescending academics. Yes, there are some pretty stupid people out there with some pretty stupid ideas…but not everyone is stupid.

  2. I am also against generalizations and I have to agree that the quote you refer to is a bit exaggerated. I am fairly well aquinted with “Western” time philosophy and there are some pretty compelling vision(s) of time there as well.

    That said I have to disagree with the rest of your comment. Another common trait is that academics are blamed for being condescending or that they are thinking inside the box, etc. I have heard the same thing about me. Ïn my view, Stuart rightly leaves out the astronomical focus of the calendar in his book (well, not completely). After all, most of the inscriptions do not deal with the sky at all. The majority of buildings and artifacts at a Maya site have nothing to do with alignments, etc. Caves were far more important for Maya cosmovision than the Milky Way, etc. Stuart, and most Mayanists, have a much broader perspective of the Maya than those focusing on a single aspect of the Maya (such as the galactic alignment). In any case, I am not that interested in cosmology in any form. It is always a viewpoint from an anthropocentric perspective and never gets the whole picture.


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