Mayan Calendar Hype

Photo of Mayan ziggurat site Tikal in Guatemala

Mayan ziggurat site Tikal
in Guatemala

Here are a few helpful quotes from articles about that end-of-the-world hype surrounding misunderstandings about the Mayan calendar.

Although Akron Fossils & Science Center does not share all of the views expressed by the authors in the entirety of their article’s we do believe that each author has valuable insights worth reading.

From Tim Chaffey:

December 21, 2012, has been the most popular Doomsday date since January 1, 2000, failed to fulfill catastrophic predictions. This date corresponds to the winter solstice and is the last day of the current cycle on the ancient Mayan long count calendar. Similar to the way our calendar flips from December to January, the Mayans did not see 2012 as the end of the world, but the end of a calendric cycle.1

From David Stuart:

The Maya never, ever, said anything about the world ending at any time — much less this year,” says Stuart, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “So, it’s sort of bizarre to be living through this time right now, when so many people seem to be worked up.”… Each baktun represents 144,000 days — or nearly 400 years. The 13th (and, some say, final) baktun of the Mayan calendar is slated to come to an end on the solstice marked on Dec. 21, 2012.2

From Calvin Smith:

The Maya were undoubtedly a brilliant people with advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, as well as being superb architects. For example, they built beautiful observatories, and (without computers or sophisticated measuring equipment) calculated the solar year to be 365.2420 days long (astronomers have only recently discovered it to be 365.2422 days long).3

From Marcelo Gleiser:

Their [Mayan] calendar, amazingly sophisticated, rewinds every 13 “baktuns,” each cycle containing 5,126 years. This count started on August 13, 3114 BCE, and runs out Friday [December 21, 2012]. But the end of a cycle is not the end of time or of Earth; it simply marks the beginning of a new cycle, typical of cultures that consider time to be circular, as opposed to the linear time of biblical culture. (We do that with our yearly calendar.)4

From Steve Cardno:

The Mayans worked out that 405 full moons occurred in a period of 11,960 days; modern research shows it to be 11,959.888 days. They calculated the synodic period of Venus at 584 days; current science shows it to be 583.92 days [the synodic period is the phase cycle as observed on Earth—the time between successive appearances of a given phase, e.g., crescent. The Mayans of course were not familiar with Galileo’s explanation that the phases of Venus could be explained by its orbit around the Sun (224.7 Earth days)—called the siderial period, i.e. relative to the stellar background]. These minute margins of error, confirmed only with the use of modern technology, reveal an amazing degree of accuracy on the part of these ancient cultures.
Interestingly, considering the Mayans’ obsession with accurate timekeeping, the Mayan calendar apparently began from a creation date about 3114 BC. The Mayans also excelled at mathematics, using a positional system, similar to today’s, that was less clumsy than that used by the Romans in Europe.5


Written by Josiah Detwiler



All hyperlinks were assessed on December 20, 2012.

  1. Tim Chaffey, End Of The World, Answers in Genesis website article, January 12, 2010
  2. David Stuart and Bill Chappell, Maya Expert: The ‘End Of Times’ Is Our Idea, Not The Ancients,’ National Public Radio, Morning Edition, Website article, Radio interview, December 21, 2012
  3. Calvin Smith, 2012 Mayan Doomsday Predictions: Much To Do About Nothing?, Creation Ministries International website article, January 12, 2010
  4. Marcelo Gleiser, A Guarantee: The World Will Not End On Friday, National Public Radio Website, December 19, 2012
  5. Steve Cardno, The Mystery of Ancient Man, Creation Magazine, Volume 20, Issue 2, pages 10–14, March 1998
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Akron Fossils & Science Center features hands-on tours and science activities that put knowledge directly in your hands. Our exhibits display many fossils from Ohio and around the world. In addition to our guided tours, we offer a wide variety of enriching science programs, all hands-on and designed to make science and learning fun and meaningful. We also look forward to having you enjoy our 2 1/2 acre outdoor adventure park called Truassic Park. Our park features a 9-hole mini golf course, giant slide, and 200 FT ZIP- LINE! At Akron Fossils & Science Center, participants and visitors become more than observers; they become researchers, experimenters, and even educators. Our exhibits and programs let you experience science first-hand and encourage understanding and deep, critical thought. A trip to Akron Fossils & Science Center provides more than something to do for one day; it ignites a passion for learning and exploration that lasts a lifetime.

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