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Mayan Calendar May Show 2020 as the End of the World, Not 2012

NOTE: After this article was originally published, the person who wrote the tweet informed Mysterious Universe that his tweet was made in jest and has been removed. He is not a scientist but is studying for his master’s degree in Plant Biology and that the actual number of days lost is 11, not 2,948. The author has removed his name and twitter link from the article.

“You know what was supposed to happen in 2012? Yes, the end of the world. 2020 suddenly makes more sense.”

Are you looking for some good news? Well, you’ve come to the wrong place, Bucko. That comment was made in response to a recent tweet:

Following the Julian Calendar, we are technically in 2012.

The number of days lost in a year due to the shift into Gregorian Calendar is 11 days. For 268 years using the Gregorian Calendar (1752-2020) times 11 days = 2,948 days. 2,948 days / 365 days (per year) = 8 years.

A number of media outlets, starting with the Daily Express, did the math and came to the same conclusion that this difference in calendars must also apply to the Mayan calendar (more properly known as the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar) which had an end date of December 21, 2012. Many people were concerned (to put it mildly) that the world would end on that date, and relieved/puzzled when it didn’t. What happened? Well, many scholars suggested the prediction was based on a misinterpretation of the calendar and its ending did not mean and end to the world or to “creation” but merely a start of a new cycle of humanity, something which Mayan lore says had happened before with no dire consequences.

However, this eight-year-difference thing seems to throw the Mayan end-of-the-world smack dab into 2020. Even those living in caves are aware of the coronavirus, economic and political turmoil engulfing the world these days. Could this be the real reason for the chaos of 2020?

Mayan scholars have long used the proleptic Gregorian calendar (which calculates dates backwards from its official acceptance in 1582) to determine corresponding dates on the Mayan calendar. However, they also used the proleptic Julian calendar (for dates before it began in 8 CE) and took into account the discrepancies caused by the change between them in 1752. Finally, the units of the Mayan calendar (20 days made a uinal, 18 uinals (360 days) made a tun, 20 tuns made a kʼatun, and 20 kʼatuns made up a bʼakʼtun) are based on best estimates from interpretations of Mayan writings.

Uinals? Tuns? Bʼakʼtuns?

The belief that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012 (or now 2020) began in 1957 with a statement by Mayanist and astronomer Maud Worcester Makemson whos said “the completion of a Great Period of 13 bʼakʼtuns would have been of the utmost significance to the Maya” and accelerated in 1966 when Mayanist archeologist Michael D. Coe said “Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [bʼakʼtun]. Thus … our present universe [would] be annihilated … when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.” Both of these are interpretations based on estimates, but that didn’t prevent them from getting picked up by many searching for an Apocalypse … any Apocalypse.

The fact that this tweet generated so much media attention is perhaps a much better predictor of how close we are to an apocalypse than the Julian/Gregorian/Mayan flap.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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