Posted by: Johan Normark | May 11, 2012

2012: The Xultun discovery in Swedish news

I had planned something else for this post, since it is #666, but I changed my mind this morning when I saw a 56 seconds long clip on the Rapport news on SVT (Swedish television) concerning the discovery of the astronomical tables at Xultun that I mentioned in my previous post. Vetenskapsradion, on the Swedish Radio, wanted me to check the Science article a couple of days ago before they reported on it today. I wish SVT had done the same thing because this short clip is full of disinformation. It is in Swedish (apart from some snapshots of William Saturno) so I will just mention the faults and correct them for any Swedish reader (you may not be able to see the clip abroad as well). For a more correct view of the contents, check this video on National Geographic.

The reporter claims the astronomical tables and their associated calendar information is/are similar to the “one that some people interpret as saying that the world will end in December this year”. Well, this is the main reason why there is a media hype surrounding this discovery. People make a connection to 2012 even if there is none. The columns relating to the moon do include the three lowest periods of the Long Count but these are not related to the “end” in 2012. The only “similarity” is that the periods of “moons” being referred to here is around 13 years long and number 13 is important in the Maya Long Count (the supposed “end” date is 13 Baktun). The other columns that begin with a tzolkin date are followed by Distance Numbers that in at least one case is longer than the assumed 13 Baktun “cycle”. This is why there is evidence that the Classic period Maya did not see any end in 2012, but that is only an indirect piece of information.

The reporter says that this discovery (at Xultun) is a proof that the Maya astronomers “prophesized” that 2012 would be the beginning of a new cycle. No, this contradicts what Saturno says. He says that the Maya believed in an infinity that they were tracking with the movements of the planets and stars. Sure, infinity may be cyclical but the Distance Numbers found at Xultun (and other sites) suggests there is no cyclical repetition of the Long Count.

How the Maya could be so good astronomers back then remains a secret according to the reporter. No, it is no secret at all. They simply used naked-eye astronomy but observed the sky for long periods. This is no mystery at all.

At the end of the clip the reporter says that the Maya “kingdom” (there were dozens of kingdoms) mysteriously went extinct 1000 years ago. How come the last independent Maya kingdom was conquered in 1697 then?

When there are so many major misunderstandings in less than one minute one wonders how good background check the same reporter(s) do with issues that I know nothing about…

And here it is, my celebration of reaching 666 blog posts:



  1. This new Maya calender discovery at Xultun will prove to all the 2012-ers, that nothing will happen on Dec 21. 2012.
    Dr David Stuart, an expert on Maya hieroglyphs, at the University of Taxes, said, that on the new calender the count continues into the 14 Baktun, and 15 Baktun , and beyond.
    There are 2 articles on the new discoveries beneath the Xultun Mound on

  2. No, it does not prove anything to 2012ers (not to Jenkins anyway). It is media that make the 2012 connection, not Stuart, Saturno or Aveni. They just have to put up with these questions.

  3. While trying to track down an email address for Peter F. Jimenez Betts, I came across your blog and was interested to learn that you too are tangling with JMJ over the end of the world. I was more distressed, however, to learn that the debate over the GMT correlation is still going on; I thought I had put an end to that 15 years ago with my “Astronomical Footnotes to the Mesoamerican Calendar” on my web site,, even though it also contains some contentious issues dealing with Swedish archaeology as well. It obviously does not have as many readers as does your more elaborate and sophisticated blog — which I promise to read more extensively myself, now that I have discovered it. Best regards, Vincent H. Malmström, Professor Emeritus of Geography, Dartmouth College.

  4. It’s a pleasure to hear from Vincent Malmström himself!
    In a discussion about a month ago here:
    I linked his website in relation to the evidence from Poco Uinic Stela 3 for the 584285 value of the GMT correlation constant. He is indeed the one who solved the apparent discrepancy with the date of this spectacular 790 AD solar eclipse, in noting that the Julian calendar changes at noon Greenwich time. Therefore the return of the Long Count position falls on December 23 of this year, and not only that: as Malmström states, we can put to rest any remaining debate about the GMT.

    As for the Xultun discovery in the popular press, it demonstrates again the shamelessness of the media. If their audience has grown tired of hearing reiterations of the end of the world, then they hawk the alternative: the “Mayans” said it won’t end!!

    I do have thoughts to share –likely on Dave Stuart’s blog in more detail–on the Xultun Numbers A through D, and have posted my solution for Number A (spurred by an observation of Hutch Kinsman) on the aztlan list. I saw Dave two nights ago and he agrees with this analysis. In sum, Number A integrates the 819-Day Count with 63 Calendar Rounds and places the the pre-era base date of that count ( 1 Kaban (5 Kumk’u) at the top. Number B integrates 18 Calendar Rounds with not only Venus (as the authors note), but also the Moon, employing a lunar cycle value of 29.530642), and places at the top what may be the 9 K’an (12 K’ayab) base date of the Serpent Series of the Dresden Codex. Number C, in addition to representing 129 Calendar Rounds, is a multiple of a commensuration of the solar tropical year with the lunar cycle, and I suggest that Number D–apart from being 93 Calendar Rounds–integrates rather precise synodic cycles of Jupiter and Saturn.

    Naked-eye astronomy, observations over long periods, plus many observers and a means of accurate notation and transmission: remarkable, worthy of great praise, but as you say, not a mystery.


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