Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nonsense on 2012 predictions

I want to point out a prize-winning video clip about the 2012 predictions concerning the Maya calendar and the end of the world. It is on the History Channel website, called Armageddon -- 2012: The End of Time?. The prize is a new film award, created five minutes ago. I call it, "The greatest number of lunatics masquerading as experts in a 3-minute video clip." (the number is five, count 'em, five).

There is a serious point about publishing archaeology here. What are archaeologists and Maya scholars doing to counter such nonsense? I know of some serious scholarly efforts, for example:
  • Tony Aveni's new book: Aveni, Anthony F. (2009) The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012. University Press of Colorado, Boulder. Excellent book, like all of his work, with insights for both the general public and the expert.
  • Mark Van Stone's outstanding scholarly analysis of the Maya calendar and the meaning of 2012: "It's Not the End of the World: What the Ancient Maya Tell Us About 2012." This is on the FAMSI website. For students and professionals, this is a great resource (I stole some of his powerpoint slides for a public lecture I gave recently on 2012).
I am sure there are other parallel efforts within the world of scholarship. But my question relates more to the popular press. What are archaeologists doing to get through to the public, the kinds of people who might give some credence to the lunatics on the History Channel video? This audience will not be reading Aveni or Van Stone.

The 2012 phenomenon provides an excellent opportunity to teach people about the Maya calendar and Maya culture, and to dispel silly ideas about the end of the world. Are we taking up the challenge?

ps - As an Aztec specialist, I am always getting jealous about the Maya. They have more archaeologists, more sites, more romantic ruins (lost cities in the jungle and all that), a better writing system, a better calendar, much more publicity, etc. etc. etc. Maya, Maya Maya. But who actually predicted the end of the world? The Aztecs, that's who. But who gets the credit for bogus world-destruction prophecies? The Maya. Just one more thing that is terribly unfair to the Aztecs, one more slight to take offense at. Just wait until 2027! Maybe the Aztec predictions will actually come true! That will show 'em!


Tahnja said...

I love the new award! Am I detecting a little Mayan envy? I'm looking forward to hearing what true archeologists will do to combat the opportunists out for fame and fortune. :-)


Ryan Anderson said...

Wow, that video series makes some pretty bold connections.

2012--it's Y2K all over again, with some pyramids and environmental paranoia thrown in for fun.

It WOULD be great to see some prominent Maya archaeologists and anthropologists challenge some of this stuff.

The History Channel...didn't it used to be better? Or is that just my faulty memory again?

Theresa Danley said...

I find this entry of most interest to me - not for the whole 2012 fiasco that is taking hold, but for the reason that FINALLY someone is taking a piece of credit away from the overwhelmingly credited Maya!

Theresa Danley
Author of EFFIGY - Available May 2010 from Whiskey Creek Press
Meet the characters at

Anonymous said...

I have dealt with the 2012ers in two forms: on my blog and participating in two 2012 forums. Most of them do actually read but always try to circumscribe the arguments. Only a minor group reject scholarly critique completely.