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End-of-the-world theories rejected by scholars and local folks alike

December 19, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Pastor Franke Zollman of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Williamsport holds a reproduction of a Mayan short-count calendar. He said there's no evidence that the end of the current Mayan long-count calendar fortells the end of the world.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — With the end of the current Mayan long-count calendar, the Winter Solstice, and the alignment of the Earth and the Sun near the center of the galaxy on Friday, it might be easy to see how doomsday theorists could interpret this as the end of the world. But the theory has been rejected largely by astronomers and those who study Mayan history.

“I don’t know of any respected archeologist or Mayan historian who is saying this is anything but a reset of a Mayan calendar,” said avocational archeologist Franke Zollman, who has studied Mayan history. “There’s no evidence to believe that the Mayans believed it would be anything more than that.”

Zollman, who works full-time as a pastor at Williamsport Seventh-Day Adventist Church, said that Dec. 21 marks the last day of the current Mayan long-count calendar, which began in 3114 B.C. It will be the end of the 13th Baktun, which is defined by a period of 144,000 days in the calendar.

Although the long-count calendar lasts 13 Baktun, the Mayans have a short-count calendar that lasts 52 years but resets each time. Zollman said that the Mayans had a “cyclical view of history,” which is why Dec. 21 suggests the calendar will just reset, not end.

As a date in the Gregorian calendar is marked by the day of the month, the month of the year, and the year, there are five numbers to mark the date in the Mayan calendar. They are the day, or kin, of the uinal, a period of 20 days, the uinal of the tun, which is a period of 360 days or 18 uinal, the tun of the katun, which is a period of 20 tun or 7,200 days, the katun of the baktun, which is a period of 20 katun, and the baktun itself. The numbers would be listed in reverse order, and they start at zero.

For instance, Dec. 21, 2012 will be 13.0.0.0.0.

“It is similar to Y2K the way everything ends in zero when it resets,” Zollman said. “The cycle lasts about 5,000 years, and it seems to end in order to reset.”

NASA has also debunked any 2012 doomsday theories related to astronomy on its website. Addressing all the theories of 2012, the site states that there is no alignment of planets and that the Earth, Sun and Milky Way alignment happen every year and have no effect on the Earth. Other doomsday theories, which include the existence of a Planet Nibiru that will collide with the Earth on Friday, a shift in the rotational poles of the Earth, and solar outbursts, have all been rejected on the website.

Zollman did note, however, that the Mayans were brilliant astronomers.

“They had pegged that the year was 365 days long, and they could predict eclipses, the path of the stars, and the appearance of the planets,” he said. “They were also brilliant mathematicians.”

Zollman noted that they would add five unnamed days at the end of a tun to keep track of each year, but they did ignore leap years. He also said that the starting date of the Mayan calendar is before Mayan culture as it is understood now ever existed.

Similar to many astronomers and Mayan historians, many area residents are not taking the threat seriously either, nor is the possibility of it ending altering anything they plan to do.

Boonsboro resident Donald Johnson, 65, however, said jokingly it would be convenient if the world did end Friday.

“I was in New York last week and ran up a lot of money on my VISA, so it would be really convenient if the world ended before I had to pay it off,” he said. “I’m also not getting to my Christmas cards this year, so I figure I’ll just use the end of the world as an excuse.”

Dax Zombro, 41, of Hagerstown, said he will have a celebration with friends Thursday night even though he does not believe the world will end.

“Just sort of jokingly we’re going to have a little thing,” he said. “I don’t think the Mayans really thought the world was going to end. I just think it’s misinterpreted.”

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