News / USA

Archeologist: Mayans Did Not Predict Apocalypse

The Internet has been abuzz with rumors that the world will end - or at least be transformed - on Friday, December 21, when a 5,125-year-old Mayan calendar comes to a close. But archeologists say the rumors are wrong: the ancient Mayans did not predict an apocalypse. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky went to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology in Philadelphia, which decided to have a little fun with the rumors.
 
The Maya 2012 exhibit greets you with fictionalized images of the apocalypse. 
 
"So many of the objects in this gallery came from excavations carried out by our museum," said Loa Traxler, the exhibit's curator and an authority on Mayan civilization. 
 
She says earthquakes, floods and other cataclysmic events can and do happen, but ...
 
"None of those things were predicted by the ancient Maya as pre-ordained occurrences for December 21," she said. 
 
Traxler says the predictions are really the product of a modern-day preoccupation with the end times.
 
"Authors and bloggers today want to assert that there was ancient wisdom and ancient prophesies coming from the Maya people before the [Spanish] conquest, that tells us the end is nigh, that these dramatic and disastrous things are right on our doorstep. The Maya associated none of those things with these calendar cycles," she said. 
 
She says they simply loved to assign meaning to numbers. "They developed a very sophisticated calendar system very much focused on giving context to their histories and biographies and their contemporary day events," she said. 
 
Time was measured in bak'tuns, or cycles of about 400 years. The last bak'tun is now ending. But Traxler says the calendar simply starts anew.
 
"It's like the odometer in your car. The drums will all turn over one more time," she said. 
 
The exhibit showcases more than 150 artifacts including a replica of a stela or pillar that recalls the last time the calendar turned over.
 
The correlation between the Mayan and Gregorian calendars can be seen on this display. 
 
So do museum visitors believe the world will end? 
 
"I think it's a possibility. I hope it's not going to come true," said one visitor. 
 
But another said, "No. The calendar ends. This period ends. But the world is not going to end."
 
A recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service, found that two percent of Americans are dreading the Mayan apocalypse. The rest of us have until January 13th to see the exhibit.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jon Danzig from: London, UK
December 20, 2012 2:37 AM
The predicted world’s end tomorrow is irrational irresponsible scare-mongering nonsense – but the ‘Millennium Bug’ 12 years ago was a real problem that was fixed in time. It’s important that we understand the difference between evidence-based threats and fears, and those that have no basis in fact. See my blog: ‘Mayan Catastrophe versus Millennium Bug’:

http://jondanzig.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/mayan-catastrophe-versus-millennium-bug.html

Short link: goo.gl/nok1y

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs