The End of the World…According to the Mayans

It’s coming in less than 11 months…if you believe the 2012 movie and a lot of conspiracy theorists and Mayan enthusiasts, and apparently a lot of people do. Come Dec. 21, 2012, we’ll all be finished. Gone. Done. Finito.

Chichen Itza, one of the more famous Mayan sites in Mexico and one of the new seven wonders of the world.

In fact, apocalypse hype is becoming a whole microtourism industry, according to Fox News‘ Blane Bachelor in “Cashing in on the ‘end of the world’ tourism.” You’ll be able to watch a re-enactment of an ancient Mayan ball game that ended…badly…for the winner in Mexico’s Rivera Maya, and join the Mayan Marriage of Many in Belize. Or, you could just spend the at the Mayan site of Caracol to see the winter solstice and greet doomsday.

Relief on Chichen Itza's Great Ballcourt. The game's winner was usually sacrificed to the gods.

Did I mention that I don’t believe the world will end in approximately 321 days? Most historians and archaeologists will tell you that Dec. 21, 2012 simply marks the end of one calendar and the beginning of another. It basically resets. The Mayans may even have seen it as a time for great celebration.

Excavations at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico. Archaeologists have found no evidence that the end of the world will come Dec. 21, 2012.

I have, however, been to one of the major Mayan sites: Chichen Itza, which has been named one of the new wonders of the world…with good reason. My girlfriend Sarah and I were on a girl’s trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, about a year and a half ago and signed up for a tour, not realizing that the ruins weren’t actually around the corner from our resort. They were more like a three, three-and-a-half hour bus ride through the jungle away.

It was so worth it, though.

Don’t get me wrong, the site is heavily commercialized, with gift shops and many local Mexican Indians (who are actually descendants of the Mayans, according to our tour guide) hawking trinkets and souvenirs among the ruins. It’s also in the jungle and there are bugs. Lots of bugs.

Yours truly standing in front of the Kukulkan Pyramid's famous serpent at Chichen Itza. During the spring and fall equinoxes, shifting light makes the serpent appear to move.

Still, there’s something about it, a quiet hush despite the crowd of hundreds of tourists. The Kukulkan Pyramid is massive up close, making it seem as though you are in the presence of giants, of the gods.

How did they build it? I wondered. How did they align it so perfectly with the spring and fall equinoxes that the serpent on its corner seems to move two days a year? How did they design the adjacent Great Ballcourt so a whisper could be heard 500 feet away?

The Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza. You can hear whispers from 500 feet away.

Perhaps it was because I went knowing all about the 2012 prophecy, and subconsciously bought into it, but I left expecting something to happen. It was as though Chichen Itza was just sitting there, waiting for something, something big.

Mysterious doughnut on the Great Ball Court. The winner of the little-understood ball game was usually sacrificed to the gods.

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2 Responses to The End of the World…According to the Mayans

  1. mrsbr says:

    Let’s hope it’s not the end of the world so I can go visit next year!

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