The Mayans and the End of the World

Is the world going to end this week? Probably not, but just in case, here's a primer on Mayan history.

Dean Nicholas | Published in 18 Dec 2012

Presentation of captives to a Maya ruler, c. AD 785. Limestone with traces of paintIs the world going to end on Friday, December 21st? Probably not. Even NASA are telling us not to worry about it.

Still, that hasn't stopped many people, apparently convinced that, because the Mayan Long Count calendar "stops" on that day and the apocalypse is imminent, from travelling to Brazil or hiding out in the French Pyrenees in order to await the final reckoning. Why all the fuss? Mark Ronan, Honorary Professor of Mathematics at Univeristy College London, explains:

"The excitement is because the 'long count' comes to an end in December 2012, completing a 13th baktun, equivalent to 394.26 tropical years. But why is 13 important?

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