The Mayan calendar is a hieroglyphic laden artifact that “ends” on December 21, but experts in the ancient culture said that Mayans never meant that to mean the end of the world was coming.
Time was measured differently on the Mayan calendar than it is today, counting individual days.
“That’s somewhat different from our own calendar, which is really tied to the length of the solar year,” Walter Witschey, an archaeologist and Maya expert at Longwood University in Virginia, told LiveScience.
The Mayans actually used three different calendars. Their sacred calendar, or Tzolk’in, lasted 260 days and then started over again, sort of like the modern 365-day calendar. It was used for scheduling religious ceremonies.
Another Mayan calendar was known as the Haab’, or secular calendar. This one lasted 365 days but didn’t take into account leap years for the extra time the earth revolves around the sun, so the seasons gradually shifted under this calendar.
The Mayan calendar that’s spurred talks of an apocalypse is the Long Count Calender. This measures in major cycles, the last of which ends approximately on December 21.
The Mayans themselves didn’t believe the end of their calendar meant an apocalypse was near, LiveScience notes. In fact, the only two drawing ever found about the end of the Mayan calender showed contemporary kings being remembered far into the future. Much of the hype around the so-called Mayan apocalypse came not from a misunderstanding about the Mayan calender but the desire of conspiracy theorists and marketers to take on the popularity of end-of-the-world predictions, CBS News noted.
“All week I’ve been telling people, ‘Don’t quit your day job. For God’s sake, pay your rent and do your laundry.’ The thing is Mayans never made this prophesy,” author Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York and expert on the Mayan calendar. “This was hijacked. Hijacked by a doomsday machine that every 10 years, sells books, does TV specials propagating these things. Remember Y2K? Every 10 years … This a cash cow unfortunately.”