You may have been following the news that a second ancient Maya reference to 2012 had been discovered in Mexico, one which is currently making the rounds on the internet as more proof that December 21 2012 will mark the end of the world.
And you may, like us, be wondering what the real significance of this find is. Especially as it relates to 2012. [pullquote]The third glyph on the brick seems to read as the verb huli, ‘he/she/it arrives’. There’s no future tense marking (unlike the Tortuguero phrase), which in my mind points more to the Comalcalco date being more historical than prophetic.[/pullquote]
We discovered that the so-called Comalcalco brick is indeed a fascinating find, and one of potentially huge significance. But not for any supposed connection to 2012.
To give a bit of background, much has been made of the fact that for all of the 2012 doomsday hoopla, the ancient Maya themselves never made reference to that year as the end of the world or anything other than the end of a calendar cycle. As we’ve mentioned before, given the importance that the end of the world would have for most cultures, one would think that the ancient Maya would have given a bit more inscription space to it in the many stelae they left behind.
To be fair to the 2012 apocalypse crowd, the Spanish Conquistadors torched the huge Maya libraries and otherwise destroyed every piece of recorded history, philosophy, religious tracts, scientific records or anything else they could get their hands on, so not a whole lot of what the ancient Maya were thinking or predicting actually exists.
But nothing exists to suggest they prophesised the end of the world. Not a thing.
The “clue” most often cited by doomsday aficionados is the now almost infamous Tortuguero stela number 6 which does make reference to 2012, but as the glyphs surrounding the date have been damaged, their meaning is open to wide speculation. There has been conjecture that the glyphs say that Bolon Yookte, a Maya deity associated with war and creation, will descend from the sky on December 21 2012, but such an interpretation is widely dismissed in academic circles. The damage to the stela rendered the glyphs so indecipherable that it is impossible to translate the passage with any degree of certainty.
As smoking guns go, it’s pretty low calibre.
So when the Seattle Times ran a story in November 2011 that another 2012 reference had been found it was exciting news indeed. The fact that this new find is sanctioned by Mexico’s respected National Institute of Anthropology and History give it even more credence.
The nature of the find and some rather startling things about the inscriptions themselves only add to the mystery.
However, don’t start packing your apocalypse survival kits just yet – the Institute also downplayed any connection to a doomsday scenario and again characterised the whole apocalypse industry as misguided, repeating recently that, “Western messianic thought has twisted the cosmovision of ancient civilizations like the Maya.”
Arturo Mendez, an Institute spokesperson where the Comalcalco Brick is in storage after being discovered years ago, said it has been thoroughly studied.
Apparently, what we do know is that the date on the brick does coincide with the end of the 13th Bak’tun, around 21 December 2012 in the Maya Long Count calendar, which started at 3114 BC.
But then again, the inscriptions could represent a Calendar Round date – a combination of a day and month position that repeats every 52 years.
David Stuart, a specialist in Maya epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that, “Some have proposed it as another reference to 2012, but I remain rather unconvinced.”
Stuart is one of many academics who believe that the date on the Comalcalco brick could point to historical dates in the past rather than future events.
“The third glyph on the brick seems to read as the verb huli, ‘he/she/it arrives’. There’s no future tense marking (unlike the Tortuguero phrase), which in my mind points more to the Comalcalco date being more historical than prophetic,” he said.
In addition, the Mexican Institute joins other scholars and groups in stressing that Armageddon is a western concept that has no bearing on Maya cosmology or thought. For the Maya, time is a series of regular, continuous cycles.
In short, there is nothing that the ancient Maya said to suggest they believed December 21 2012 marked the apocalypse. The very significant end of the 13th bak’tun, certainly, but not the end of the world.
The Mexican institute stressed that nothing apocalyptic should be associated with the ending of a particular cycle, no matter how long it may be.
So while the Comalcalco brick is interesting, we have to say sorry, it’s far from being a tangible piece of evidence that the world will end next year.
However – there’s a real story here, and it’s as interesting and mysterious as even the most far-out theory.
Check this out:
Comalcalco, situated in Tabasco, Mexico, has some 375 structures, including a large stepped pyramid, made from millions of fired bricks. Many of these bricks, coming from a sample of 4612, have carvings or inscriptions on the side facing inwards. In short they were not meant to be seen. Not in the usual way.
Even better, many bricks bear what have been called “makers marks” oddly similar, in some cases identical, to marks found on ancient Roman bricks to keep track of where the bricks were made and the brick makers’ productivity.
See for yourself:
The “makers’ marks” to the left are from Roman Bricks, while those from the Comalcalco bricks are to the right. (source http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf099/sf099a01.htm)
Neil Steede, an archaeologist working at the site who photographed inscriptions on some 1500 of them noted the correlation to the Roman marks and said, “The illustrated bricks of Comalcalco are pieces to a grand puzzle, whose completed, final image may reveal a Roman Christian presence in the Americas a thousand years before the arrival of Columbus.”
Now, that’s an exciting story, and we’ll be following and posting more about it here.
As we get closer to 2012, it just keeps getting more interesting.