Is the world coming to an end Dec. 21, 2012? According to some, the Mayan calendar predicts such will be the case.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis anthropologist Larry Zimmerman, Ph.D., discusses end-of-the-world theories in a class at IUPUI titled "Lost Tribes, Sunken Continents, and Ancient Astronauts: Pseudoscience, Fractured Science, and the Past."
"We cover end-of-the-world predictions, because they are so common in human history," Zimmerman said.
Believers in the Mayan Doomsday claim really don't understand the Mayan calendar system, the professor said.
"The Mayan calendar was based on 394-year cycles called baktuns. The 13th baktun since the date of the Mayan creation story 5,126 years ago ends Friday. Then we just start the 14th baktun. A friend, colleague, and Mayan expert, Rosemary Joyce, likens it to a car odometer rolling over, which is a terrific analogy . . . The Mayan Doomsday got picked up by New Agers, who were very active in predicting the end in the 60s-70s. The tourism industry in Mexico liked it, and the internet helped spread it quickly to almost everywhere. Even a few Maya liked the attention it brought, but the vast majority of the 6 million Maya (yes, they have not disappeared!) have just ignored it."
End-of-the-world misinformation includes the use of the Aztec calendar stone as the Mayan calendar, Zimmerman said.
The Aztec and Maya are separated by both geography and time. The Maya live in Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and the more southern Central American countries. The Aztecs were in central Mexico and flourished from roughly 1400 to 1600 AD.
"Yes the Aztecs had a calendar, and it was similar to the much more sophisticated Mayan calendar. But what we know of the Mayan calendar doesn't come from a calendar stone," the professor said.
Larry Zimmerman, Ph.D., is professor of anthropology and museum studies and the Public Scholar of Native American Representation (a shared position with the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art) in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. His research interests include North American archaeology, indigenous and community archaeology, Native American issues, cultural and intellectual property, and archaeology of the contemporary world. Zimmerman teaches museum ethics, Indigenous People and museums, issues in cultural heritage and fantastic archaeology at IUPUI.
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