|William Saturno/David Stuart NGS|
As Stephanie Pappas reports in her article:
"The Mayan calendar is going to keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future," said archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas, who worked to decipher the glyphs. "Numbers we can't even wrap our heads around."
You can read the article at msnbc.com here.
Without going into all the scientific and mathematical details of the Mayan calendar cycles - you can read an overview of it, here - suffice it to say the stone calendar indicates 13 of the great cycle called a "baktun."
The one recently discovered and announced today, found painted on a wall of a small 6'x6' room, didn't have the limitations of a carved stone wheel and shows that there are at least 17 of these baktuns.
This means we have at least another 6,702.42 years left before that calendar runs out.
Does that mean the world will now end sometime in 8714?
If someone from the 88th Century finds that copy of the 2012 calendar hanging on your fridge, would they automatically assume the world ended on December 31st because there's nothing on the next page?
Looking at the National Geographic's photograph (above), the first column apparently tabulates 1,195,740 days or about 3,276 years; the second, 341,640 days or about 936 years; the third, 2,448,420 days or about 6,708 years; and the fourth, 1,765,140 days or about 4,836 years. This would seem to indicate this small patch of calendar measures roughly 15,756 years.
Besides, the Mayans had no sense of apocalypse. To them, the old cycle would just flip over into the next one.
The Aztecs had a series of apocalyptic cycles in which the world was destroyed to be remade - and improved - in the next cycle. So though it might end the world as you knew it, it would be the start of a new one, whether you're a part of it or not.
Somehow, our own sense of an impending Apocalypse combined with the Aztecs' to equate Aztecs with Mayans and presume - whammo - the sky is falling! the sky is falling!
Still, it's too enticing to pass up the whole idea that, on the morning of the Winter Solstice this year, you might realize you didn't have to wait to do your Christmas shopping till the last minute.
- Dick Strawser