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Armageddon – Episode 7

September 18, 2012 2 comments

Over Sunday roast this weekend it was bought to my attention by a friend and fellow blogger Slyph, that at no point during my Armageddon “feature” had I pointed out that the “belief” that the Mayan calendar in some way indicated the end of the world was incorrect, and another friend and new blogger posted his own Armageddon themed post so I thought I better get to it and get a very late Episode 7 done.

So as I am running pretty short on ideas as to how or why the world could end in December I thought I would use this late episode 7  to take a look at the Calendar and where all the hype has come from.  My recent visit to visit to Mexico and specifically Chichén Itzá obviously makes me an expert!

The basis for the entire “end of the world in 2012” theory, or at least the one based on the Mayans is the end of their calendar on the 21st December 201, this however is not actually true.

What the calendar actually shows is the end of the current b’ak’tun. A period of time that the Mayans used that is equal to 144,000 days or 394(ish) years. The fact that we are in fact currently in the 13th b’ak’tun, in itself implies that one ending is not the end of the world.

Saying that, there is at least some “reasoning” behind this idea, some scholars believe that that when the Mayan Long Count reaches 13 b’ak’tun’s it resets itself like below.

12.19.19.17.19 3 Kawak 7 Kumku August 10, 3114 BC
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahau 8 Kumku August 11, 3114 BC
0.0.0.0.1 5 Imix 9 Kumku August 12, 3114 BC

Which in relation to the current cycle would lead to the below.

12.19.19.17.19 3 Kawak 2 Kankin December 20, 2012 AD
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahau 3 Kankin December 21, 2012 AD
0.0.0.0.1 5 Imix 4 Kankin December 22, 2012 AD

This is however only one scenario, there are others who believe that the count would rather continue with 13 as the b’ak’tuns, being 13.0.0.0.1, and then 13.0.0.0.2, and so on up until the 14th bak’tuns, being represented as 1.0.0.0.0. (Source: http://mayan-calendar.com/ancient_longcount.html) and others that believe that like the other place values in the count, they are a cycle of 20, meaning that even in the event that the calendar was some kind of doomsday clock its end is a long way off.

There are in fact cycles that are higher than the b’ak’tun, which can be found on inscriptions in Palenqu, Copán and Coba among others.

 

Table of Long Count units Days

Long Count period

Long Count unit

Approximate solar years

1   1 Kin  
20 20 Kin 1 Uinal  
360 18 Uinal 1 Tun ~ 1
7200 20 Tun 1 Ka’tun

19.7

144000 20 Ka’tun 1 Bak’tun

394.3

2880000 20 Bak’tun 1 Pictun

7885

57600000 20 Pictun 1 Kalabtun

157808

1152000000 20 Kalabtun 1 K’inchiltun

3156164

23040000000 20 K’inchiltun 1 Alautun

63123288

 

To me at least it seems odd that they would have a measurement of time for something that theoretically shouldn’t happen.

More to the point at various sites across Mesoamerica there are references to dates beyond December 12th 2012, at Palenque for example where a text in the Temple of the Inscriptions talks about the anniversary of its Ruler K’inich Janaab’ Pakal on October 21st 4772. Planning a party for almost 3000 years after the end of the world seems more than a little redundant.

On a side note you should check K’inich Janaab’ Pakal out, he is the guy famously shown in Erich von Däniken’s “Chariots of the Gods” as proof of the supposed extraterrestrial influence on the Maya.

 “In the center of that frame is a man sitting, bending forward. He has a mask on his nose, he uses his two hands to manipulate some controls, and the heel of his left foot is on a kind of pedal with different adjustments. The rear portion is separated from him; he is sitting on a complicated chair, and outside of this whole frame, you see a little flame like an exhaust.

Anyways let’s say that the theories were correct, that December the 21st was indeed the end of the current era/cycle what should we expect? Well we don’t know, Mayan text offer no insight as to what the end of the 13th b’ak’tun might hold, although we do know that the end of each one was considered a time of great change.

The end of the 8th, 9th, 10th 11th and 12th did indeed bring some pretty big changes for those concerned.

The beginning of the 8th bak’tun (41 AD)
The last of the Olmec cities, some surviving for almost 1000 years, were abandoned and never reinhabited.

The beginning of the 9th bak’tun (435 AD)
Teotihuacan’s influence began in the Maya world, resulting new cities, a flurry of new dynasties, and warfare.

The beginning of the 10th bak’tun (830 AD)
The end of the Classic period and the still unexplained abandonment of 100’s of cities.

The beginning of the 11th bak’tun (1224 AD)
The abandonment of Chichen Itza in Yucatan and the rise of Mayapan.
The beginning of the 12th bak’tun (1618 AD)
The last great Maya empire, the Itza of Lake Peten, sent emissaries to the Spanish announcing they are ready to embrace the change the turn of cycles will bring.

Although it’s fair to say that many of these changes could have been driven by the Mayans belief in the change that the end of a b’ak’tun would bring as opposed to any event caused by its ending.

To finish ill give the views of somepeople who despite my visit to Mexico this year are even more knowledgeable on the subject than myself.

Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that “We have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end” in 2012.

“For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle,” says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday event or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”

“There will be another cycle,” says E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute (MARI). “We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.”

Just Visiting

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with Southern and Central America and the cultures surrounding it, so my trip to Mexico recently was especially awesome for this reason as well as the Sun and relaxation that it provided.

I’m not 100% sure where this interest in the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, Olmecs etc came from but I have a feeling it may have been in some way inspired by my childhood love of “Mysterious Cities of Gold.”

 

 

Whilst in Mexico we went on a trip to Coba, a lesser known Mayan site than Chichén Itza but equally impressive, and in some ways more so, in that it is still located in the middle of the jungle and unlike Chichén Itza has not been cleared away. As it stands you are also still allowed to climb to the top of the Pyramid at least until the end of this year, which you cannot do at Chichén Itza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second part of this trip was visiting a traditional Mayan community, Mayans who still live the life that their ancestors lived, in the jungle living off the land.

This was a part of the trip that when I read about it I was particularly looking forward to, with my interest in the Mayan culture I was really excited to see people still holding on to the “old ways.”

Unfortunately this part of the trip turned out to be equal parts disappointing and awkward.

As we drove towards the community I was surprised by the number of modern concrete buildings that surround it, at this point it looked pretty much like any other Mexican town that we had passed on our journey, and the guide explained that these areas were where the School, college and doctors surgery where located and that these along with other amenities had been provided by the government as well concrete houses for the Mayans to live in, (which she told us none of them did as they prefer their own made houses.   She explained some of the cultural differences such as how a Mayan man would choose a wife and the process that the two families would then go through to organise a wedding, explained that having children was a large part of any marriage, the two women who we were going to meet at the community where both mid 30’s and had 10 children each!

Eventually we turned off down a dirt track and heading a little more into the jungle and came to a stop and got out for a brief walk to the actual village itself.

This is where I found the disappointing part of my experience, whilst the community did still live in the traditional houses that they had built themselves, signs of “modern life” where abundant, the concrete houses that the government had provided as well as other modern conveniences. Now first off don’t think that I have any problem with this, I was just disappointed that the community we were visiting wasn’t as it had been sold, I did however find it frustrating that a majority of this modern influence had never been asked for, but instead been forced on them by the modern world, it felt a little bit like it was a case of “taming the savages.”

Anyways I could deal with disappointment, however the uneasy and uncomfortable feeling that I had for the remainder of the trip was not so easy to shake.

Their was about 40 of us and to start with it wasn’t to bad, we walked up through the “garden” and the guide pointed out some of the plants and herbs that the Mayans used for both cooking and medicinal purposes, showed us the well they used to get water etc and taught us the Mayan for both hello and thank you. Whilst she was speaking the various children of the village where running around, playing and generally having a good time, this is where the unease started to creep in.

It wasn’t the children that caused it, but the actions of my fellow tourists. I started to literally feel like I was visiting a Zoo, cameras’ where clicking all over the place, not of the surroundings, the village or the houses but of the children, like they where some kind of cute monkey, based on people’s behaviour and the comments made both by the guide and the other tourists, you wouldn’t for a minute have believed that these where other human beings and their homes that we where seeing.

Already feeling uncomfortable we where then led into and through the house of the particular family that we had come to see, 40 people trampling through this poor woman’s house and into her Kitchen, where she was making Tortillas for her kids, something that our guide informed us was how she spent a large part of her day, not surprising with 10 kids to feed!

This poor women was then surrounded by 40 strangers watching her make dinner, she understandably didn’t speak English and only a word or two of Spanish, obviously her first language was Mayan, to add insult to what was most likely injury the guide then invited one of the guests to “have a go” at making some Tortillas.

From here we where then taken to another families house, where a lady was making Hammocks, which she then sold at the local craft shop for tourists at a local Cenote.  I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t really notice, but Wife pointed out that as soon as we entered the house the lady stopped what she was doing, sat down and pointedly gazed out the door avoiding eye contact, clearly uncomfortable and wanting us to leave.

We were then taken to see a Shaman who performed a traditional blessing, interesting as the combination of the Mayan and Catholic Religions where, my unease increased. As Wife put it, “first we have invaded these people’s homes and now we have turned their religion into a parlour trick.”

I think the saddest thing for me was that the guide told us that it is believed that even these modern influenced “traditional” communities will all be gone within the next 20 years or so, as the kids are seeing the Mobiles, Cameras’ and designer clothes etc that are out there and are wondering why they can’t have those things.  It seemed lost on her that trips such as this are probably the number one reason for the children being exposed to these modern trappings.

All in all it was an experience that I would rather forget and to be honest has put me off visiting any other traditional communities in what ever countries I visit in the future, it’s easy to forget when visiting such places that interesting and unique as they are, they are also homes, communities and populated by real people.

Welcome Home

September 3, 2012 1 comment

After a weekend recovering from Jet lag and my first day back at work I’m finally ready to try and write something again.

I’m still very much in recovery mode, my 6:30am wakeup call this morning felt much more like getting up at the 1am it would have been for me this time last week, and with that in mind I am not by any means at my best and so am struggling to string a sentence together let alone create something interesting, thought provoking or fun to read.

However after a disappointing few months on the blogging front I felt the best thing to do was at least get a few words on the page, say Hi and get myself started again.

I was ecstatic a few months ago when Ryan managed to save our Holiday and having actually spent the two weeks at El Dorado Seaside Suites in the Mayan Rivera I’m even happier, missing out on what is without doubt the best holiday I have ever been on really would have sucked.

I had originally planned to Blog at least once (from Chichén Itzá) whilst I was away, but unfortunately my Phone has some weird aversion to foreign Phone companies and refuses to connect to a network whenever I go away, meaning I had no internet access, I could have paid for some of course but at $50 for 3 days it seemed a little much for the one or two hours worth of usage I would get out of it. This does mean that I’m an episode behind on “Armageddon”  but I will try and fit 2 separate ones in this month, or alternatively sweep Augusts under the carpet and swiftly move on to episode 7, after all I have been struggling for material to fill this feature.

Mexico is an awesome country and I saw some amazing places and sights whilst there, Chichén Itzá as mentioned above, as well as Coba, visiting a Mayan Community  and getting to swim in a Cenote, it’s likely that at least some of my Blogs over the next few days/weeks will focus on some of these places and I might even share some holiday snaps.

Well there you are, a not very coherent, and probably less than interesting first post of September, buts it’s got the ball rolling and in the end turned out to be considerably more words that I thought I would be able to get down, hopefully I’ll build up some momentum over the rest of this month and eventually get myself back into the writing habit.

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