Human Journey

A Maya Doomsday Prophecy?

Photo by Otis Imboden; close-up of Lintel 48, a Maya hieroglyphic calendar at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, Mexico


It has long been debated whether a Maya glyph found in the Mexican state of Tabasco refers to an apocalypse that will arrive in 2012, and now the Mexican Institute of Archaeology has acknowledged that there may be a second reference to the date on a brick discovered years ago at the Comalcalco ruin, according to a MSNBC report. Some believe the reference is to a date in December 2012, although the Institute and many archaeologists say the conclusion is due to a Westernized misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar. The Institute is convening a round table of 60 Maya experts this week to “dispel some of the doubts about the end of one era and the beginning of another, in the Mayan Long Count calendar.”  Still worried about the doomsday prediction? Review a Daily News article by Brian Handwerk: “2012: Six End-of-the-World Myths Debunked” (November 6, 2009), which explains why the date is important in the Maya calendar, but not apocalyptic.

With royal palaces, strategic alliances and bloodshed, the Maya civilization hardly needs doomsday prophecies to add drama, so revisit National Geographic content on the Maya and the Mayanists who study them. Then take an interactive 20-question quiz on the Maya.

The MSNBC article quotes David Stuart, a Maya expert with the University of Texas at Austin, on the Comalcalco brick: “Some have proposed it as another reference to 2012, but I remain rather unconvinced.” Stuart began his Maya fieldwork as a youngster and at only 18 received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.  He is the son of George Stuart, former National Geographic staff archaeologist and past chairman of our Research Committee, and Gene Stuart, who co-wrote a National Geographic book on the Maya. Watch an NG Live interview and lecture with slide show by George and David Stuart on “Palenque and the Ancient Maya World.”

In The Maya: Glory and Ruin (National Geographic magazine, August 2007) Guy Gugliotta charts the “[s]aga of a civilization in three parts: [t]he rise, the monumental splendor, and the collapse.” On January 8, 378, an envoy named Fire Is Born arrived in the city of Waka, in present-day Guatemala: “In the coming decades, his name would appear on monuments all across the territory of the Maya, the jungle civilization of Mesoamerica. And in his wake, the Maya reached an apogee that lasted five centuries.” Gugliotta investigates the nature of his legacy and theories on what caused the fall of a once-powerful civilization. Photos by Simon Norfolk.

  • […] Mayan Calendar has been making more and more headlines as 2012 approaches–the year some say will be our last. December 21, 2012 is the last day in […]

  • Patricia` Faber

    The Maya never really said the world would end on 12-21-12. But all their calendars end on that day, indicating the end of this, the fifth, cycle of creation and the beginning of the sixth. Many have interpreted this to mean the end of our world. A fascinating idea but the Maya left no real information about what they thought this meant. I’m intrigued. Join me on Facebook to discuss it.

  • Andrea Castillo

    according to the mayan calendar the world , the calendar has a long count and tells us the end of the 5th period and beginning of the sixth. But , everyone is focusing on translating it to the gregorian calendar , but has anyone take on account that since julius cesar there has been a leap year every 4 , that means there is one more day , the world would have ended a few years ago . SO?

  • Taylor Murphy

    The conspiracy of doomsday has been going on for years and it had been said to be “the end of the world” over a handful of time resulting with the same outcome, nothing happening. In my opinion people are so worked up over this whole doomsday thing because the extensive damage we’ve done to our planet over the years. How can they base something so significant off a tattered and faded piece of stone over hundreds of years old? The only reason the Mayan calendar wasn’t finished was because they knew they weren’t going to live that long, why make a calendar that goes so above and beyond their own life span? As it is they went way beyond their needed life and that’s another reason why I think they are so dependent upon the information this slab of stone has. Can’t the answer as to why the Mayans stopped at 2012 was because they simply got tired?

    People are always rushing to a conclusion of the theory of the end of the world and to be honest, they aren’t reliable and just create chaos amongst the people that do believe in the whole doomsday thing. One thing that is completely deplorable is that even if the “end of the world” was scientifically proven to be due to the fact of pollution because of the use of oil consumed into day’s society and the damage our generation is doing they still wouldn’t stop. They must not be too worried then, right?

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media