Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Open letter to everyone in the world:

Hai. As you're probably aware, this week is the turn of the 13th baktun in the Maya calendar. This date has been the subject of much excitement and unfortunately many errors about the Maya civilization have been propagated. Which is sad because Maya civilization was totally wicked and cool as it is and needs about as much help as Psycho needed to be remade.

As most of us know, the Maya had a pretty accurate set of calendars. The long count is one of these. It contains measurements roughly analogous to our day, decade, century etc.  A baktun is a kind of like a millennium and lasts about 400 years. There are 13 of them (or sometimes 20) in Maya calculations.

At some point someone decided the Maya just stopped counting time when the 13th baktun occurred because they thought it was the end of the world. Except some calendar dates actually contain higher units of measurement than a baktun (the next unit is called a piktun). That means it doesn't end on the 21st, rather the date rolls into the piktun. Even if there weren't higher numbers, there is no evidence baktuns aren't cyclical.

Some people think that because the Popul Vuh contains a number of creations that they were expecting the destruction of this creation and the next creation to occur. That however is conjecture, and there isn't any solid evidence that the Maya actually believed this.

The turn of the 13th baktun was seen as a time of great change and the end of an era (possibly the Maya era)--it is a very significant date in the Maya culture, kind of like y2k was for us.  Maybe even a time when gods came to earth and made things happen. But not necessarily the end of the world.  Sure there were probably a few nutters planning to skulk around in the jungle and live off the ceremonial grid, but those people are everywhere.
Many people also like to post the Aztec calender stone when they are making these assertions about the Maya long count calendar.  Now the Aztec calendar stone does look really cool and stuff. Only problem is it's not the calendar in question. This is what the Maya long count date for the 21st of December basically looks like (with roman transliteration beside):

I drew that cause I'm awesome at being a nerd. But notice how it looks NOTHING like the one everyone is posting? Yeah. The stone is actually a representation of the Aztec version of the 52 year cyclical calendar. NOT the long count. Besides Maya and Aztecs aren't the same people. They have many aspects in common but still are distinct cultures. It's like posting a picture of the Canadian flag every time you talk about USians. Weird and makes you look dumb.

Also "Mayan" refers to the languages of these cultures. The people are known as Maya.

I could go on (for HOURS) but I'll cut you all a deal: I submit that we place a limit of one glaring error per reference to the Maya, their calendar and what it looked like (I would prefer none, but I'm willing to compromise because I'm benevolent like that). That way you're only making ONE mistake to make my head pulsate. In return I'll try to resist forcing you all to play a round of cosmic ball game.

 By the way the loser gets killed in that. And you would lose.

your friendly nerd.

EDIT: saw a new one that said something to the effect of "if the Mayans could predict the future there would still be Mayans"Three strikes, DEFINITELY A BALL COURT OFFENSE. I'm wondering who the hell these people think LIVE in the Yucatan region these days, fricking Egyptians???


James said...

K, so, you know I love you, sister. And I mean that. But if a baktun is 400 years, how can it be a kind of like a millennium? A millennium is 1000 years. 400 years is nothing like 1000 years, except that they’re both made out of years. You’re making no sense. Again.

Char said...

It's the largest unit of measurement used in most dates. Duh.

mem said...

The word thingie is ublentia, which sounds like of like meal made of oobleck. Which is utterly foul.

Also you are a nerd.

Char said...

Dork calling the geek nerd there mem.

James said...

Just re-read this. It’s funny. And I mean that. Nothin’ but love, sister.

Char said...

Is this your way of saying I need to post something new, James? Alas, work.