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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The annotated apocalypse: Anthropologists tackle 2012 – Boing Boing


Excerpt from a long, great interview!

"...MKB: Tell me a little bit about the real science that forms the backbone of this 2012 mythology. When people talk about this stuff, what artifacts and research are they building off of?

JH:The real stuff behind it, it comes in several flavors. The main real stuff are prophecies in The Books of Chilam Balam, the Books of the Jaguar Priest. That's really a set of different manuscripts from colonial Yucatan and it was published in the 1700s. But they recount stories that were collected much earlier, including ones from the time of Spanish arrival. Chilam Balam is a legendary prophet who made various pronouncements that are collected in these books. That's what's referred to as "Mayan prophecies." The scholarly discussion of them goes back to the 1930s.

Then, beginning in the 1970s you also have discussion of a monument called Tortuguero Monument #6. It appears in Linda Schele's work in 1982 [Schele was one of the key researchers in the story of how modern scientists learned to decipher ancient Maya hieroglyphics—MKB] and discussed at the Maya Workshops in late 1990s. As we got closer to 2012, David Stuart published the new translation. [Stuart is a student of Schele's and another key figure in the translation of Mayan writing.—MKB]

It's the only monument known to have the date—the Mayan date that corresponds to December 21, 2012—on it. The monument is damaged. So it's hard to read and it takes a lot of cleverness to decipher what the text actually says. The preliminary translation came out in the late 1990s. However, the inscription isn't at all clear. There's some discussion about whether it's even a prophecy, but I think it is. It refers to celebration of a god called Bolon Yok'te K'uh. This deity seems to be associated with warfare and with the king of Tortuguero. The most recent translation suggests that whatever they said would happen then was really just the dressing and honoring of this deity, nothing more.

The date is a logical extrapolation of how the Mayan Long Count Calendar works. The first published mention of that date was in the 1800s, came from the work of Joseph Goodman. But it wasn't actually written anywhere other than the Tortuguero monument, which was discovered in the 1970s.

MKB: When did you start noticing the 2012 movement as a phenomenon? Did it grow out of something else that you were already following, or kind of appear on its own?

JH: It had been something on the edge of my consciousness for a while. The Mayan Factor by Jose Arguelles is a book was part of the New Age Harmonic Convergence of 1987. That came out right as I finished my dissertation. I didn’t pay much attention at the time because everybody had just written it off. By that point, people were joking about New Age and not taking it seriously. But at that time, Arquelles was writing about December 21, 2012. And it just grew from there. I didn’t pay much attention until 1995, which is when I noticed two things.

First, that was the year that the first interactive, graphic Maya calendar orientation program came out on the web and it gave December 21, 2012 as the date that corresponded to the Mayan date of Then I got an email from Daniel Pinchbeck. We had a common interest in Burning Man and he contacted me saying that he was writing about Jose Arquelles and 2012 for Rolling Stone. That’s when I realized that this had taken on a life of its own. But I hadn’t really realized until early 2003 that it was something people were still paying any attention to...."

Posted via email from Siobhan O'Flynn's 1001 Tales

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