2012 Apocalypse via the Maya Calendar / by Nathalie Ouellette

An engraved Mayan calendar. Image credit:  Kim Alaniz  /  CC BY .

An engraved Mayan calendar. Image credit: Kim Alaniz / CC BY.

Next up in our apocalyptic adventure is a more general overview of why people have been freaking out in the last little while. With Y2K coming and going with no end of the world insight (well, I guess all this pollution isn’t that great, but I digress), people have been seeking some other importnt and alarming transition point in some calendar. When one was not found within our own Gregorian calendar, our prayers were answered when we delved in the ancient Maya calendar! 

Whereas our calendar is split up into weeks, months, years, centuries and millennia, the Mayans – and the Olmecs before them – split their calendar into different units.

1 day is a Kin

20 Kins is a Uinal

18 Uinals is a Tun (approximately a solar year)

20 Tun is a Ka'tun

20 Ka'tun is a Bak'tun

20 Bak'tun is a Pictun


All the way to 1 Alautun, which is 23,040,000,000 days, or Kins.

We are currently at the end of the 12th bak'tun since the beginning of our current age. This December 21st 2012 will be the moment when we enter the 13th bak'tun, denoted in the Long Count calendar as There is very little evidence in the study of historic artifacts that would lead us to believe that a cataclysmic event is inevitable at this date. In fact, the Maya celebrated the end of each cycle, and welcomed the new bak'tun as a chance for renewal, much like we celebrate the end of every year by dropping giant globs of lightbulbs onto buildings, awkwardly kissing whomever happens to be closest to us at the time and counting our blessings.

The Maya have survived and celebrated previous changes of bak'tun. In their writings, they even speak of events that happen in their mythology far beyond December 21st 2012. There’s no reason to believe they knew something we don’t about some impending doom waiting for us at the end of this year. Breathe easy for now, and start saving your money for next Christmas, because it looks like we won’t be saved from the holiday gift giving season just yet!

The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is currently hosting a great temporary exhibit on The Maya Civilisation until April 9th. If you’re heading out there, you should definitely check it out! If you’d rather not leave your computer, but are still interested in learning more on the Maya calendar, read up on it right here, on my personal favourite resource: Wikipedia.