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The Maycalendar is source recent end-of-the-world talk. | Supplied photo

The Maya calendar is the source of recent end-of-the-world talk. | Supplied photo

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Updated: December 16, 2012 6:11AM



Thirty-six days from now, you’ll be relaxing in front of your fireplace with a tall glass of eggnog or screaming in terror as the planet Nibiru comes crashing into Earth.

It all depends on where you get your facts.

The Internet is rife with end-of-the-world scenarios involving black holes and solar flares. Authors and TV shows talk about alien invasions and wayward planets colliding with our own.

And there’s one thing that proponents of each of those scenarios point to as proof we’re all doomed — the end of the Maya calendar’s current cycle on Dec. 21.

“In certain quarters, folks are concerned that the end of this cycle has some kind of cosmic or more than just a time-calculating consequence,” said Will Kelley, a social science teacher at Governors State University in University Park.

“Folks have been predicting that dire things will happen when this set of cycles comes to an end.”

There’s a reason folks are listening to what the Maya had to say. After all, they were skilled mathematicians and astronomers, and they were way ahead of their time when it came to time-keeping.

But did their advanced ability to accurately measure a solar year make the Maya prophets of doom?

Joel Palka, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will try to answer this question during the South Suburban Archaeological Society’s “Maya 2012: The End of the Maya Calendar” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Irwin Community Center, 18120 S. Highland Ave., Homewood.

Palka’s research into ancient Maya social differentiation, settlement archaeology and the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization all give him insight on what the Maya actually intended when they constructed their calendar, said Kelley, who also is president of the South Suburban Archaeological Society.

“For those of you who are interested, here’s somebody who has a reality-based perspective on it,” Kelley said.

“Folks will leave with more insight into exactly what Mayas did and didn’t do and what they did and didn’t claim. They’ll come away with a clearer understanding that different ways of calculating time don’t necessarily have cataclysmic implications.”

Exactly why people buy into the Maya doomsday prophecy in the first place is uncertain, Kelley said.

“Just like the ideas about there being a (lost continent) of Mu someplace in the Pacific, or the ideas that the mounds in Ohio were built by the lost tribes of Israel, what you have are fantasies about what happens in exotic places and among exotic people,” Kelley said.

“In a lot of ways, you have to answer the question, ‘Why do people fantasize that somehow the answer to their questions is going to be found in some usual place among unusual people?’ This is what they do. Why they do it, I don’t know.”

Will the world end on Dec. 21?

Probably not, but I’m still going to call my insurance company and ask if they offer a Nibiru protection plan.

Just in case.



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