2012 Doomsday/Mayanism

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The 2012 phenomenon was a widespread popular interest in eschatological speculation with nearly all theories having minimal influence from Ancient Maya culture[1], specifically the ending of a calendar cycle. The theories included: collision with a rogue planet[2], significant magnetic pole reversal[3], severe solar maximum outbursts [4], and even a “radical shift in human consciousness” [1]. However, scholars and skeptics have published articles debunking these theories[5][6][7].

Ancient Maya

The Maya are indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America, specifically in modern-day Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chaipas in Mexico and extending southward in modern-day Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras[8].


The area Mesoamerica encompasses areas of northern Mexico and southern Guatemala and Honduras[9]. Mesoamerica and those who inhabited it contributed mightly to the advancement of agricultural economies[10]. The history of Mesoamerica is expansive and is usually divided into specific periods: Archaic Period (7000-2000 BCE), Olmec Period (1500-200 BCE), Zapotec Period (600 BCE-800 CE), Teotihuacan Period (200-900 CE), El Tajin Period (250-900 CE), Classic Maya Period (250-950 CE), and Post-Classic Period (950-1524 CE)[8].

Classic Maya

Strong archaeological and epigraphic evidence suggests only two basic institutions: kingship and the household[10].

Maya Calendar System

The Maya developed, both from previous civilizations and from their own research, a calendar system consisting of four calendars each with their own designation of telling time[11]. The Long Count, Tzolkin, and Haab calendars work together as a series of interlocking wheels of different sizes[12]. All these calendars used a system of vigesimal arithmetical notation and allowed the Maya to track long astronomical cycles, particularly the Sun and the planet Venus[10].

Long Count Calendar

The Long Count calendar was added as early as 300 B.C. to the Calendar Round and identifies the years[12]. It measures cycles of 400 years[13] with each universal cycle lasting 2,880,000 days[12].

The Long Count calendar was determined to begin on August 11, 3114 B.C. of the Gregorian calendar and marks the creation of human beings in Maya culture[12].

Tzolkin Calendar

The Tzolkin calendar (sometimes written Tzolk’in) is a 260-day calendar with days numbering 1-13 in 20 continuous cycles throughout the year with the cycles marking religious or ceremonial events[12]. The length of the Tzolkin matches nine cycles of the Moon as well as the gestational period of humans and related to the movements of the zenith Sun in addition to the growing cycle of corn[11].

Haab Calendar

The Haab calendar is a 365-day calendar comprised of 18 months of 20 days each and one month of five days[12]. The one month of five days was called “Wayeb” and approximated the solar year[11].

Calendar Round

The Calendar Round consists of the combination of the Tzolkin and Haab calendars, with the Long Count calendar being added later[12]. Any given combination of a Tzolkin day with a Haab day will not repeat itself until 52 periods of 365 days have passed[11]. With the addition of the Long Count calendar, the Maya were able to count 5 cycles of time[11].


As John Hoopes, an archaeologist from the University of Kentucky, claims, the movement is “largely the product of pseudoscience and pseudoarchaeology”[1].

December 21, 2012

The ending of the 13th baktun (sometimes written bak’tun[13]) coincided with the winter solstice and ended the Long Count calendar cycle of 5,126 solar years[12].


Popular American writers Frank Waters and Terence McKenna took up the idea of 2012 having significance popularized the idea to the public. Waters suggested the Long Count calendar closing date would lead to an era of heightened human consciousness while McKenna proposed a “singularity” and implied worldwide radicalization[1].

Galactic alignments

One proposed theory is the Earth and Sun will align with the “Dark Rift” near the Galactic Center, which occurred about 25,800 years ago[14]. According to NASA, any such planetary alignments would have negligible effects on Earth[6]. The solstice itself doesn’t correlate to any movements of the stars, the Earth isn’t in range of strong gravitational effects from the black hole at the enter of the galaxy, and the Sun enters the “Dark Rift” every year at the same time with no effects[15].

Polar shift or reversal

This theory assumes a pole reversal would momentarily leave Earth without the magnetic field of protection from solar flares[16] with the effects of such exposure unknown[14]. In short, a reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible[6].

Solar maximum

The prediction of an usually powerful “Solar maximum” for 2012, however it occurs every 11 years[14]. However, NASA states that even the biggest solar flares aren’t powerful enough to physically destroy Earth[17].



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Robert K. Sitler. (2012). The 2012 Phenomenon Comes of Age. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 16(1), 61–87. https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2012.16.1.61
  2. Morrison, D. (2008). The myth of Nibiru and the end of the world in 2012. Skeptical Inquirer, 32.5. https://web.archive.org/web/20150924035216/http://www.csicop.org/si/show/myth_of_nibiru_and_the_end_of_the_world_in_2012
  3. NASA. (2011, November 30). 2012: Magnetic pole reversal happens all the (geologic) time. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-poleReversal.html
  4. Poladian, C. (2013, October 26). Solar maximum: Three solar flares and a coronal mass ejection as the sun reaches peak solar activity. Internation Business Times. https://www.ibtimes.com/solar-maximum-three-solar-flares-coronal-mass-ejection-sun-reaches-peak-solar-1442608
  5. Bowditch, P. (2012, December 12). The end of the world. Really?. ABC Science. https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/12/12/3652956.htm
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 NASA. (2012, December 22).Beyond 2012: Why the world didn’t end. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html
  7. University of Kansas. (2011, November 3).11/11/11: Anthropologist debunks doomsday myths. Phys.org. https://phys.org/news/2011-11-anthropologist-debunks-doomsday-myths.html
  8. 8.0 8.1 Mark, J. J. (2012, July 6). Maya Civilization. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/Maya_Civilization/#citation_info
  9. Arizona Museum of Natural History. (n.d.). Mesoamerica. https://www.arizonamuseumofnaturalhistory.org/explore-the-museum/exhibitions/cultures-of-the-ancient-americas/mesoamerica
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Webster, D. (n.d.).The uses and abuses of the ancient maya. The Emergence of the Modern World. https://anth.la.psu.edu/documents/Webster_GermanyMaya.pdf
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. (n.d.). The Calendar System. https://maya.nmai.si.edu/calendar/calendar-system
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 Borowski, S. (n.d.). Myths of the Mayan long count calendar. American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]. https://www.aaas.org/myths-mayan-long-count-calendar
  13. 13.0 13.1 Earth Sky. (2012, November 23). David Stewart on the Mayan calendar and 2012 doomsday predictions. https://earthsky.org/human-world/david-stuart-on-the-mayan-calendar-and-2012-doomsday-predictions/
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Van Stone, M. (n.d.). It’s not the end of the world: what the ancient Maya tell us about 2012 [PDF document]. Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.. http://www.famsi.org/research/vanstone/2012/2012Part1.pdf
  15. NASA. (2011, December 21). 2012: Shadow of the Dark Rift. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-alignment.html
  16. NASA. (2011, November 30). 2012: magnetic pole reversal happens all the (geologic) time. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-poleReversal.html
  17. NASA. (2011, November 10). 2012: Killer solar flares are a physical impossibility. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-superFlares.html