Comments on: The End is Nigh. Start blogging. Notes and Queries in Anthropology Tue, 30 Jun 2015 00:09:05 +0000 hourly 1 By: Lords of Time: The Maya, Doctor Who, and temporal fascinations of the west | Savage Minds Wed, 19 Dec 2012 22:24:44 +0000 […] series about the “Mayan Apocalypse” predicted for Dec. 21, 2012.  The first three posts are here, here, and […]

By: Debunking yet another apocalypse prophecy « The Geek Anthropologist Wed, 19 Dec 2012 15:01:17 +0000 […] The End Is Nigh. Start Blogging. […]

By: The Opportunistic Apocalypse | Savage Minds Fri, 14 Dec 2012 19:00:56 +0000 […] about the “Mayan Apocalypse” predicted for Dec. 21, 2012.  The first two posts are here and […]

By: Irene Wed, 12 Dec 2012 19:51:23 +0000 I should point out that most preppers featured on the show aren’t talking about the Mayan prediction. I’m not sure if any of them are, but I’ve only watched a handful of episodes. So, including the prepper movement (in the comment, not in Clare’s original post) doesn’t really apply. There are plenty of disasters that could happen without the world ending! (And if the world does end, a stockpile of food won’t help!)

By: 2012, the movie we love to hate | Savage Minds Tue, 11 Dec 2012 16:06:46 +0000 […] The second in a series about the “Mayan Apocalypse” predicted for Dec. 21, 2012.  The first post is here. […]

By: Al West Wed, 05 Dec 2012 13:21:32 +0000 I’d be willing to call his ideas ‘crackpot’. His claim that Tiwanaku sites are dateable to c. 12,000 BCE or so on the basis of solar alignments has, as I’m sure you know, caught on among the very same people claiming that the world will end in a couple of weeks’ time. ‘Pumapunku’ is now a central part of the ancient-alien-conspiracy-theory-2012-er lexicon. I had no idea there were any genuine alignments, though.

I found a cool tool for converting Gregorian dates into the Mayan Long Count and vice versa on the ancientscripts page on Mayan writing. Pretty neat. Of course, it gives no indication whatsoever that anything will happen on the 21st, other than the beginning of a new baktun.

By: Clare Sammells Wed, 05 Dec 2012 13:04:00 +0000 Al — I address your question more completely in my article that I linked to, but in short: I have yet to see any compelling evidence of something we might call “written calendars” in the Tiwanaku site. That’s not to say it’s impossible, just that I’m not convinced. That’s why this wide-spread idea among tour guides and local residents caught my attention as it did.

The ancient Tiwanakota certainly did have sophisticated ways of marking and understanding time, and parts of the archaeological site do appear to mark solar phenomena (equinoxes, solstices, and possibly stellar alignments), but to my mind those are different, if related, issues.

Posnansky (a self-trained archaeologist working at Tiwanaku in the early 20th century) had many theories which today would be seen as “unconventional” at best (and at worst, crackpot or racist), but this particular idea has had staying power for reasons that I suspect Posnansky himself could not have foreseen, and have little to do with him.

By: jay sosa Wed, 05 Dec 2012 12:18:31 +0000 raises a whole different doomsday scenario: scaring the population about the war on terror, the methods for which come straight from Cold War nuclear fear mongering. So apocalypse, economic collapse, mushroom cloud–no wonder people are tense.

By: Al West Wed, 05 Dec 2012 10:16:23 +0000 Is there any actual evidence that anything in the Tiwanaku civilisation functioned as a calendar, beyond Posnansky’s speculations? I’m just curious. Posnansky did, after all, claim that the Tiwanaku sites were from the Pleistocene.

By: Clare Sammells Wed, 05 Dec 2012 08:36:38 +0000 Jay, I totally agree. It would be fascinating to do a more complete study of this industry of survivalism and “preppers” that you and Paul have brought up – what exactly are they selling/buying? How much money is in this business? It is suggestive that in the survey I mentioned, almost 47% of people asked thought a bunker would be a better investment than a 401K. Certainly in our moment of financial uncertainty, “traditional” investments look less appealing and other ways of meeting crisis become more so.

Also interesting is the use of government warnings by this industry. For example, one website selling survival gear has embedded a video from So while governmental officials (NASA, etc) are trying to convince people that nothing will happen, they are using government materials to add legitimacy to their claims that one should be ready for 2012. Luckily, they sell everything we need…

By: John McCreery Wed, 05 Dec 2012 01:21:53 +0000 Your post also made me think about the relation between apocalyptic fantasies and the quotidian anxiety of economic crisis. Apocalypse is (figuratively) the crisis of crises.

It is also, of course, a marvelous distraction, making it possible to ignore lesser but potentially solvable problems. It’s right up there with war, pestilence, evil others and gladiatorial games as a proven way to keep the masses from paying attention to the nitty gritty of political and economic transactions.

By: jay sosa Wed, 05 Dec 2012 00:53:30 +0000 Thanks, Clare. This was great.

I agree largely with your response to Paul. It seems to me that, in addition to the Mayan prophesies resonating with a cultural zeitgeist or being spread by new technologies, your post and Paul’s comments points to ways apocalypse fears and apocalypse parodies are easily turned into commodities. Movies, reality shows about preppers, and who knows what arrays of products sold to preppers. A good part of the hub bub could be the generative effect of entertainment products that both satisfy and produce consumer demand for apocalypse.

Your post also made me think about the relation between apocalyptic fantasies and the quotidian anxiety of economic crisis. Apocalypse is (figuratively) the crisis of crises.

Can’t wait for the next post.

By: Bill Hudson Wed, 05 Dec 2012 00:11:15 +0000 Hi Clare;

Just a note to say ‘thank you’ for including in your excellent article.

– Bill

By: Clare Sammells Tue, 04 Dec 2012 23:17:43 +0000 Ryan – Thank you for the link! I’ll update the post to include it.

Paul – thank you for the information about the Dresden Codex and the beautiful image. I agree there is a general fascination in the United States, and especially in the media, with end-of-world scenarios, survivalism, etc. Another example of this is zombie fiction, which is also a fascination of mine.

I think you’ve brought up some important points, and I want to push these further. The first is about the internet. Millennial and apocalyptic movements appeared in various historical moments before the internet, of course, but I agree that there is something different about how this is playing out now given this technology. The internet does allow ideas to potentially move quickly and between larger and wider audiences. At the same time, there is a lot of material on the web that goes almost completely ignored, or only circulates within very limited circles. So while the internet is a condition of possibility for the Mayan Apocalypse phenomenon in its current form, we are still left with the question of why this idea, rather than some other alternative idea, has gained so much attention.

The second is about gullibility. I don’t like that term for this context, to be honest. But leaving semantics aside, the argument I really want to make is that even “gullibility” is culturally specific. Those who fear a potential upcoming apocalypse are not necessarily easy to convince that, say, the earth is flat. But the idea of the Mayan apocalypse clearly appeals to many, either because they believe it or because they want to discredit it, and I think one of the questions we should ask is why.

By: Paul Moore Tue, 04 Dec 2012 16:39:20 +0000 Personally, I do not think that it is especially odd that so many people around the world are obsessed with the so-called Mayan Prophecy. After all, this is the age of the Internet. Word travels very fast these days. Add to this the fact that the media (especially, in my opinion, the US media) loves to scare the living daylights out of people, and it is no wonder that so many (gullible) people are convinced that the world is going to end on 21 December.

Just look at the recent increase in the number of so-called ‘preppers’ (especially in the USA). There is even a TV series devoted to their efforts while, a few clicks of the remote control away, you will find programmes dedicated to the Mayan Doomsday Prophecies, the ‘imminent’ eruption of Yellowstone Park (any time between right now and the next 10,000 years), and the apparent mysterious goings-on at Area 51 (to name but a few). These have been broadcast repeatedly (on a daily basis) for many months (possibly years).

I recently read an article by the American consumer reporter and investigative journalist John Stossel, author of “Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel — Why Everything You Know is Wrong”. The article is entitled “The Media Likes Scaring Us, and We Like It”. His opening lines are as follows: “I’m embarrassed by my profession. We consumer reporters should warn you about life’s important risks, but instead, we mislead you about dubious risks”.

As we all know, although Wikipedia contains a wealth of information, it should never be cited as an academic source. In this one case, however, I am going to include a Wikipedia link because the photo – part of the Dresden Codex – is genuine:

For those of you who do not know, the Dresden Codex is an 11th or 12th century pre-Columbian Maya book that is thought to be a copy of a much older text (probably about four hundred years older). The book consists of 39 sheets (or pages) which are inscribed on both sides and have an overall length of just over 3.50 metres.

One of the pages depicts a crocodile with a torrent of water flowing out of its mouth. In fact, torrential water seems to play a major role in the picture (( This one piece of art work – which is open to many interpretations – is apparently the main reason (besides the actual calender itself) why so many people are convinced that the world is going to end on 21 December!

Creationists contend that both the earth and humans came into existence during the same week and that there is ample evidence in the Bible to prove that humans have been in existence only several thousand years (and not millions, as evolutionists claim).

Is it any wonder, therefore, that an ancient painting of a crocodile spewing water could make many thousands (if not millions) of people believe that the end is nigh – even in this day and age?

Let’s hope that the ‘preppers’ don’t have the last laugh in three weeks’ time … even if one day they actually will!