December 21, 2012 concludes the 5,125-year-long Mayan Long Count Calendar. Some believe the conclusion of this calendar will cause extreme environmental changes, while others contend it will trigger a global apocalypse. Although mainstream scholarship, in fields from anthropology to astronomy, has largely debunked world-changing and world-ending prognostications, speculation continues to intensify as the date nears.
Long Count Calendars were used in Central America by indigenous people groups, including the Mayans, before European explorers imposed their dating system in the region. The Long Count Calendar tracks time linearly (as opposed to cyclically) and when it concludes, it purportedly marks the close of one age and the opening of another.
The Mayan Long Count Calendar employs the following method for counting days:
1 uinal = 20 days 18 uinals (or 360 days) = 1 tun 20 tuns = 1 k’atun 20 k’atuns (or 144,000 days) = 1 b’ka’tun
The Long Count Calendar began on the mythical date of Mayan creation, which was August 11, 3114 B.C. on the Gregorian calendar. After 13 b’ka’tuns – or 5,125 years – some Mayan inscriptions say that time will graduate to a higher order. The most widely accepted correlation of the end of the 13th b’ak’tun with the Western calendar is December 21, 2012.
Modern discussion about an apocalyptic event accompanying the completion of the Long Count Calendar started in the 1950’s and 1960’s with astronomer Maud Worcester Makemson and anthropologist Munro S. Edmonson. Author Michael Coe fueled the fire in 1966, referring to the end-date of the Mayan Long Count Calendar as “Armageddon” in his book, The Maya.
The majority of Mayan scholars argue against apocalyptic predictions, positing that all the 2012 Doom’s Day scenarios are contemporary inventions and that such forecasting misrepresents Mayan history. Moreover, not only do modern Mayans not attach significance to the date, but some ancient Mayans didn't either. Ancient Mayan cities used the Long Count Calendar in different ways and some even believed the calendar would end after 20 b’ak’tuns, not 13.
There are many contemproary interpretations on what the end of the Long Count Calendar means and what will happen on December 21, 2012. Although many of these teachers are on the fringe of the religion or group to which they profess allegiance, their theories are receiving a lot of attention.