Phew! Mayan prediction of world ending in 2012 may be a 'misreading' - it's just the start of a new era, says expert
- Conspiracy theorists predict 'end of the world'
- Expert says it's a misreading - it's a symbolic date
- Refers to a new period in the religious calendar
By Rob Waugh
Last updated at 6:07 PM on 1st December 2011
An inscription found in the Mayan temple of Tortuguero make a prediction of an apocalyptic even in 2012 - with some conspiracy theorists predicting the world being swallowed by a black hole, the sun, or just clipped by a passing asteroid.
The Mayan inscriptions refer to Bolon Yokte 'descending from the sky' in 2012 - a god associated with war and the underworld.
But a German expert, Sven Gronemeyer, says that the whole thing could just be a misreading.
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The tablet on which the inscription was found has a break which makes the end nearly illegible - but even so, the legible parts don't necessarily spell oncoming doomsday.
Gronemeyer said his decoding of a Mayan artefact with a reference to a 2012 date denotes a transition to a new era in the Mayan calendar - and not a possible end of the world.
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Bolon Yokte is a figure also associated with change.
Many Mayans also dismiss the apocalyptic predictions as largely a Western idea.
Rather than the end of time itself, the inscription refers to the start of a new era.
The interpretation of the hieroglyphs by Sven Gronemeyer of La Trobe University in Australia was presented for the first time at the archaeological site of Palenque in southern Mexico.
His comments came less than a week after Mexico's archaeology institute acknowledged there was a second reference to the 2012 date in Mayan inscriptions - touching off another round of talk (and panic) about whether it predicts the end of the world.
The prophecy of a war-god 'descending from the sky' in 2012 is largely a Western idea, according to many modern-day Mayans
'The elite had to prepare the land for the return of the god Bolon Yokte - it's a symbolic date, not a great leap for humanity'
Mr Gronemeyer has been studying the stone tablet found years ago at the archaeological site of Tortuguero in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
He said the inscription describes the return of mysterious Mayan god Bolon Yokte at the end of a 13th period of 400 years, known as Baktuns, on the equivalent of December 21, 2012.
Mayans considered 13 a sacred number. There is nothing apocalyptic in the date, he said.
The text was carved about 1,300 years ago. The stone has cracked, which has made the end of the passage almost illegible.
Mr Gronemeyer said the inscription refers to the end of a cycle of 5,125 years since the beginning of the Mayan Long Count calendar in 3113 B.C.
The fragment was a prophecy of then ruler Bahlam Ajaw, who wanted to plan the passage of the god, Mr Gronemeyer said.
'For the elite of Tortuguero, it was clear they had to prepare the land for the return of the god and for Bahlam Ajaw to be the host of this initiation,' he said.
Bolon Yokte, god of creation and war, was to prevail that day in a sanctuary of Tortuguero.
'The date acquired a symbolic value because it is seen as a reflection of the day of creation,' Mr Gronemeyer said. 'It is the passage of a god and not necessarily a great leap for humanity.'
Temple of the Inscriptions Ancient Mayan Ruins: The tablet found that makes reference to the year 2012 is partially illegible - which only serves to fuel the conspiracy theories
Last week, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology said a second inscription mentioning the 2012 date is on the carved or moulded face of a brick found at the Comalcalco ruin, near the Tortuguero site. It is being kept at the institute and is not on display.
Experts doubt the second inscription is a definite reference to the date cited as the possible end of the world, saying there is no future tense marking like there is in the Tortuguero tablet.
The institute has tried to dispel talk of a 2012 apocalypse, the subject of numerous postings and stories on the internet.
Its latest step was to arrange a special round table of Mayan experts this week at Palenque, which is where Mr Gronemeyer made his comments.