Mexico City – Neither the Mayans' texts nor their calendar contain predictions of an apocalypse later this year, but regrettably "pseudoscientific media outlets are talking about the end of the world, based on supposed prophecies and the Mayan calendar," Mexican astronomer Marte Trejo Sandoval said.
The Mayans, who lived in what are now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador between 800 B.C. and A.D. 900, did not leave behind any texts that contain prophecies about the end of the world on Dec. 21, the astronomer and historian said during a workshop Wednesday in the southeastern Mexican state of Yucatán.
"Astronomy played a fundamental role in knowing when it was time to plant and in following the cycles of the planets, but there are no records that the Mayans saw the end of the world coming. An apocalyptic concept did not exist in that civilization," Trejo told the Mexico City daily El Universal.
The Mayan long count calendar started 5,125 years ago and ends on Dec. 21, 2012, with a new time cycle starting, but it does not provide an end times prophecy, Trejo said.
The Mayans considered astronomy extremely important, with their cities "laid out in relation to the movement of the sky, their buildings pointing to the sun or the stars that moved," Trejo said.
"In some codexes, there are images of people with nets, and in the beginning they were interpreted to be about the Mayans' dedication to weaving, while the truth was that the nets were the equivalent of the reticles used by astronomers today to get the exact positions of the stars and the planets," Trejo said.
Mayans living in several states in southeastern Mexico marked Dec. 21, 2011, as the start of the last year of the current calendar.
"The days of prayer for the Mayan people" have arrived and "it is time to prepare for a new era," Mayan chief Santiago Cruz told Efe last year.
"Human beings have to be reborn in these days. We do not believe in disasters, in earthquakes, and that is why whenever we pray, we pray for humanity, we ask that there will be more awareness of the need to protect our land," the chief said.
The Mayan predictions for December 2012 were about the return of the god Bolon Yokte and not about the end of the world, experts say.
The Dec. 21, 2012, date found on Mayan glyphs led to speculation about Maya prophecies of the end of the world, prompting archaeologists and epigraphists to deny them.
The Mayans created a calendar based on 400-year periods, known as "baktuns," with each era made up of 13 cycles of 400 years that added up to 5,125 years.
The current era, according to their calculations, would end in December 2012, experts say.
In the Mayan cosmology, a cycle of creation was completed at the end of each era and another began.
Bolon Yokote is a god associated with creation and war that participated in the start of the current era, which began on Aug. 13 of 3114 B.C.
The idea that the pre-Hispanic civilization predicted the end of the world in 2012 has been popular in some New Age circles since the 1970s.