Today, I spent roughly five hours with my wife and children discussing the hype and potential accuracy of the Mayan calendar as a harbinger to the end of future existence. I/we have done no exhaustive research on the Mayans, their calendar or the congruency of 12-21-2012, but we haven't been living in a cave either.
My primary and salient bullet of our discussion's agenda was not so much concerned about whether 2012 will be the last year of the Gregorian calendar nor was it concerned about the harmony of the respective calendars. No, my interest was in "why" the Mayan calendar ended? Given, AFAIK there are no Mayans left today that can offer an authoritative explanation on this conundrum, we are left to our own devices. As I pondered and we discussed this, three possibilities emerged. The Mayan author(s) of their calendar...
- ...chose an arbitrary date, say 5,000 "years" and set it at the end of the calendar, perhaps just for the aesthetics of symmetry. Who knows?
- ...created some arbitrary and inconceivable date "out there" and then set all the particulars at various intervals to fit within that framework.
- ...really *knew* something of a cause-and-effect sequence of events now lost to obscurity.
Since the first two bullets are arbitrary, seemingly unconcerned with the cessation of existence, we can focus on the final point. Maybe the present and highly publicized time chart for the Maya was not their first calendar? Perhaps the Maya have had numerous calendars over the millenia and it will be time to make the next one commencing on the now infamous date? Occam's Razor would certainly support this supposition, but let's go to the playground of our minds and examine other possibilities. Shall we?
Assuming the Gregorian reference of December 21st of Two-Thousand-Twelve does; indeed, equate to the last day of the Mayan calendar, was there a concrete requirement to end their calendar? Was it motivated by the Maya institutions of religion, science or just their commerce? Considering the Maya existed in latitudes significantly south of the known world of scientific authority in Europe and the UK, is it possible Mayan astronomers knew something the "white men" did not?
Let's consider these items... the elevation of Mayan "observatories," clear mountain air and the lack of industrialism would have offered the pre-historic and mid-historic indian stargazers a view of the heavens Spaniards, Portuguese, Europeans, Brits, Scots and Irish astronomers would have coveted, if known. Now couple the advantages of Mayan vistas with the permanence of their culture. Add to this the fact the Maya had written records and you have a potent mix for assimilating and dispensing cumulative astronomical, et.al., knowledge for thousands upon thousands of generations. Is it possible the Maya calendar-makers were given the "heads-up" by these early astronomers?
At this point, I would like to offer this... technological advancement does not necessarily equate to intelligence. Just because the Maya may not have had the "benefits" of industrial technological "progress" does not mean they were morons. To the contrary, their culture did have technological "progress," but not the same as those aforementioned.
Given the previous commentary, I would like to offer a "possibility" for discussion. Actually, this is only one scenario. I suppose there are countless other possibilities, but I will prime the pump with this particular sequence which does not violate any of the above facts and suppositions. For lack of a better moniker, let's call it the "Dark Planet."
Since almost all of scientific "advancement" was ensconced in the northern hemisphere, observations of the night sky was biased north of the celestial equator
. Simply put, not many eyes observed the Crux
or any other southern constellation except inhabitants in the southern latitudes. It should also be noted that even over the course of the year the telescopes in the north would never have witnessed southern occurrences. What if the Mayan astronomers witnessed the rapid passing of the "Dark Planet" only in the night sky on a certain date at a certain time of the year, say every 327 years (yes, this is arbitrary, but stay with me). Further, what if the Mayan architects and engineers interpolated certain triangulations and realized that in every cycle of passing the "Dark Planet" was getting closer and closer to a collision with our own Terra Firma? Could it be the Mayan calendar ends because it coincides with the last day of the last 327 year cycle of the "Dark Planet's" orbit?
If this was/is true, no astronomer in the north would have witnessed the singular night's apparition swiftly emerging and then disappearing into unknown realms of blackness. If this was the last cycle (for the sake of argument), it was the last appearance and would have occurred on Saturday, December 21, 1685. Aside from some early and crude telescopes, there was no
technology in the seventeenth century that would have been capable of disclosing this "Dark Planet" to the scrutiny of "modern" scientists. Given, these telescopes would have been in the north, the chance of discovery was basically null.
I admit this is somewhat whimsical (fun) and a touch macabre, but can anyone disprove my "theory" of the "Dark Planet?" No, no one can or could. If I was to offer this hypothesis to the readers of American Scientific it could not be discounted or disproved. They might attack the "messenger" to discredit the author and discount the report, but it would be impossible to attack the "message." That's the funny thing about reality... you can only prove what you do
, in fact, know. You can never disprove what you don't
know. You can make some reasonably educated guesses about the unknown based on the known, but you will never be able to invalidate any scenario embedded in the unknown.
In closing, the above made for a lively debate in our home and I saw a lot of "light bulbs" turn on above some wee heads. In truth, I do not know if the "Dark Planet" is relentlessly pursuing its malevolent errand. What I do know from scientific report is the Mayan calendar ends
and there is a reason
! What I don't know is "why?"