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End of the Earth Postponed...I might have to rethink my NYE 2012 plans

End of the Earth Postponed
Stephanie Pappas
LiveScience Senior Writer

It's a good news/bad news situation for believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. The good news is that the Mayan "Long Count" calendar may not end on Dec. 21, 2012 (and, by extension, the world may not end along with it). The bad news for prophecy believers? If the calendar doesn't end in December 2012, no one knows when it actually will - or if it has already.

A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook "Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World" (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries are based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.)

The Mayan calendar was converted to today's Gregorian calendar using a calculation called the GMT constant, named for the last initials of three early Mayanist researchers. Much of the work emphasized dates recovered from colonial documents that were written in the Mayan language in the Latin alphabet, according to the chapter's author, Gerardo Aldana, University of California, Santa Barbara professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies.

Later, the GMT constant was bolstered by American linguist and anthropologist Floyd Lounsbury, who used data in the Dresden Codex Venus Table, a Mayan calendar and almanac that charts dates relative to the movements of Venus.

"He took the position that his work removed the last obstacle to fully accepting the GMT constant," Aldana said in a statement. "Others took his work even further, suggesting that he had proven the GMT constant to be correct."

But according to Aldana, Lounsbury's evidence is far from irrefutable.

"If the Venus Table cannot be used to prove the FMT as Lounsbury suggests, its acceptance depends on the reliability of the corroborating data," he said. That historical data, he said, is less reliable than the Table itself, causing the argument for the GMT constant to fall "like a stack of cards."

Aldana doesn't have any answers as to what the correct calendar conversion might be, preferring to focus on why the current interpretation may be wrong. Looks like end-of-the-world theorists may need to find another ancient calendar on which to pin their apocalyptic hopes.



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Earliest Mayan calendar shows no hint of 'world end'

The earliest known Mayan calendar has been found in an ancient house in Guatemala and it offers no hint that the world's end is imminent, researchers said Thursday.

Rather, the painted room in the residential complex at Xultun was likely the place where the town scribe kept records, scrawling computations on the walls in an effort to find "harmony between sky events and sacred rituals," said the study in the journal Science.

The hieroglyphs date back to the ninth century, making them hundreds of years older than the calendars in the Maya Codices, which were recorded in bark-paper books from 1300 to 1521.

Some appear to be the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of the planet Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars, said archaeologist William Saturno of Boston University, who led the exploration and excavation.

According to Saturno, the writing looks like someone's attempt to sort out a very long math problem, as if on a blackboard.

"For the first time we get to see what may be actual records kept by a scribe, whose job was to be official record keeper of a Maya community," Saturno said.

"The ancient Maya predicted the world would continue, that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this," he added.

"We keep looking for endings. The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It's an entirely different mindset."

Furthermore, there is no sign that the much-hyped myth that the Mayan calendar would end in 2012, and with it the world, has any bearing in reality.

All that ended in 2012 was one of its calendar cycles, said co-author Anthony Aveni, professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University.

"It's like the odometer of a car, with the Maya calendar rolling over from the 120,000s to 130,000," said Aveni.

"The car gets a step closer to the junkyard as the numbers turn over; the Maya just start over," he added.

"The most exciting point is that we now see that the Maya were making such computations hundreds of years -- and in places other than books -- before they recorded them in the Codices."

Even though the 12-square mile (31-square kilometer) site of Xultun, deep in a rainforest where tens of thousands of people once lived, was first discovered about 100 years ago, the house structure where the calendar is drawn on the walls was spotted in 2010.

Researchers say careful excavations have revealed that the paintings inside -- including some of human figures wearing feather head-dresses -- show the first examples of Mayan art on a house interior.

"It's weird that the Xultun finds exist at all," Saturno said. "Such writings and artwork on walls don't preserve well in the Maya lowlands, especially in a house buried only a meter (three feet) below the surface."

http://news.yahoo.com/earliest-mayan-calendar-shows-no-hint-world-end-185153809.html



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