2012 – The end of the world?

Mayan Long Count calendarSome people think the world is going to end this year. However, there’s no evidence to suggest the Earth will be destroyed. These people are right about one thing though – there’s something interesting that’s just about to happen, and it involves an ancient calendar.

For thousands of years, the Maya ruled over an area in Central America. The Maya were excellent mathematicians, and had a very intricate system of calendars. They didn’t have just one calendar – instead they had many calendars, all different to the Gregorian calendar most commonly used today.For day-to-day life the Maya used two calendars – a 365 day Haab year and a 260 day Tzolkin. However, the date given by these calendars repeated every 52 years, so the Maya needed another calendar to record historical events.

The Mayan Long Count calendar didn’t use months or years like our calendar does – instead it used its own counting system. A day was called a kin, 20 kin made a uinal and 18 uinal made a tun, which was 360 kin, close to one year. For longer periods, 20 tun made a katun and 20 katun made a baktun.

The Long Count calendar counts from the Mayan creation day, 0.0.0.0.0. Researchers are not completely sure when that is on our calendar, but think it was 11 August 3114 BCE. The next day, 12 August, was written 0.0.0.0.1. One uinal after creation day would be written 0.0.0.1.0, corresponding to 31 August 3114 BCE.

Some people think the world will end on 21 December 2012 because the Long Count calendar will run out of dates. The Mayan date on 20 December 2012 will be 12.19.19.17.19, and on 21 December 2012 it will be 13.0.0.0.0. It’s the completion of a cycle, and a reason to celebrate, similar to the change from 1999 CE to 2000 CE. It is not the end of the Mayan calendar, and even if it were, it would not cause the end of the world.

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