It never ceases to amaze that a giant fabrication that is based on the tiniest sliver of truth can spread like wildfire, masquerading as fact. That many people are wondering if the world will end in December 2012 as “the Mayans predicted” is a great example of this. A lot of people think that the Mayans had predicted that the world would end in December 2012 which is why their calendar “ends” at that point. They hear something about this, then go online and look it up or see something on a sci-fi show about doomsday on the History channel that mentions some small factual detail, then they tell everyone they know about how the end is coming.
The fact is, that the Mayans never predicted that the world would end in 2012, nor did they even predict great change as some people like to “correct”. For that matter, their calendar does not actually “end” at that point either. And even if it did, so what? Do you expect them to have created an infinitely long calendar? We have to buy a new calendar every single year. Do people run around screaming that the world will end on January 1 of every year just because the calendar has run out? Of course not!
If you do a little research on the Mayan calendar, you will see that they do not use the same breakdown of time that we do. Where we use 7-day weeks, 30(-ish)-day months, 12-month years, 10-year decades, 100-year centuries, and 1,000-year millennia; the Mayans break their long period of time into smaller and smaller blocks where each block is 20 (for the most part). That is, 20 k’in in a winal, 18 winal in a tun, 20 tun in a ka’tun, 20 ka’tun in a b’ak’tun, 20 b’ak’tun in a pictun and so on (there are only 18 winal in a tun so that a year/tun is 360 days/k’in). The current date (March 24, 2012) is represented in the Mayan calendar as 0.12.19.19.4.8. On December 21, 2012, it will be 0.13.0.0.0.0. What’s so special about that? That’s like saying January 1, 2013 or 00:00am or 100,000 miles on the odometer. So the calendar rolled over; whoopdie-freakin’ doo!
Why then do people think that the world will end or pedants think that the Mayans predicted “great change”? Because there is a single, vague mention in a few surviving scraps of Mayan mythology at Tortuguero about how the current incarnation of the world was created on August 11, 3114 B.C., or 220.127.116.11.0.0. People have taken this to mean that once the clock hits 18.104.22.168.0.0 again, the world will once again be destroyed and a new one created in its place just as it was when the dinosaurs were wiped out and a new world grew from the ashes. This of course is ludicrous.
An apt analogy that most people are likely to understand would be one from the Bible. According to the Bible, God created the Earth and such, then x-number of years later (let’s say 1,000), there was a great flood which wiped out most of the world. The survivors of the flood started life over, and likely marked time relative to the flood (e.g., years BF /AF) just as Christians now mark time relative to when Jesus was (supposedly) born (BC /AD) or Muslims mark time as relative to when Muhammad went to Medina (BH / AH). Imagine how ridiculous it would be if you came along and said, hey, the flood destroyed the world and created a new one 999 years ago, so look out! because the world is going to end next year!!! The original survivors of the flood would likely roll their eyes at you.
The Mayans did not predict the end of the world on December 21, 2012, nor did they predict great change. They only thing they predicted was that they would need to turn the page on the calendar and maybe get some fireworks to celebrate their equivalent of Y2K.