Significance within the New Age movement
Two figures within the New Age, the artist and theorist José Argüelles and the late ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna, have publicized theories concerning the significance of the end of the cycle. (They arrived at their conclusions separately from one another. They have joinly inspired a number of articles and books that this will be the end of this creation, the next pole shift or, as McKenna speculated in his theories, the end of history and events as "novel" as the origin of life on Earth, which we could not possibly imagine. Other, more mundane speculations involve a worldwide catastrophe, such as a pole shift. The idea of the significance of the date has also increasingly passed into popular culture.
In this age we are approaching the same count again, only there is a common misconception of the Maya's practice of abbreviating their dates to five vigesimal places. According to the Maya there will be a baktun ending in 2012, a significant event being the end of the 13th 394 year period, but not the end of the world.
Inscriptions beyond 2012.
Maya stela occasionally show dates beyond 2012. Most of these are in the form of "distance dates", where a Long Count date is given with a distance date to be added. For example, on Tablet of Inscriptions from Palenque were found the following Long Count date: 18.104.22.168.0 8 Ahau 13 Pop (24 March 603 Gregorian) with a distance date of 10.11.10.5.8. The resulting date is given as 22.214.171.124.0.8 5 Lamat 1 Mol, or 21 October 4772 – almost 3,000 years into the future. The king Pacal of Palenque predicted that on this date the eightieth Calendar Round anniversary of his accession will be celebrated, suggesting he did not believe the world would end in 2012.
Despite the publicity generated by the 2012 date, Susan Milbraath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that "We [the archaeological community] have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end" in 2012.
"For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Fla. To render Dec. 21, 2012, as a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."
The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is a non-repeating, vigesimal (base-20) calendar used by several Mesoamerican cultures, most notably the Maya. For this reason, it is sometimes known as the Maya (or Mayan) Long Count calendar. Using a modified vigesimal tally, the Long Count calendar identifies a day by counting the number of days passed since August 11, 3114 BCE (Gregorian).
 Because the Long Count calendar is non-repeating, it was widely used on monuments.
* 1 Background
* 2 Long Count periods
* 3 Calculating Long Count dates
o 3.1 Mesoamerican numerals
o 3.2 Syntax
* 4 Origin of the Long Count calendar
* 5 Correlations between Western calendars and the Long Count calendar
* 6 2012 and the Long Count
o 6.1 Significance within the New Age movement
o 6.2 Refutation
+ 6.2.1 Inscriptions beyond 2012
+ 6.2.2 Summary
* 7 Calculating a full Long Count date
o 7.1 Calculating the Tzolk'in date portion
o 7.2 Calculating the Haab' date portion
* 8 Piktuns and higher orders
* 9 See also
* 10 Notes
* 11 References
* 12 External links
Among other calendars devised in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, two of the most widely used were the 365-day solar calendar (Haab' in Mayan) and the 260-day ceremonial calendar, which had 20 periods of 13 days. This 260-day calendar was known as the Tzolk'in to the Maya and tonalpohualli to the Aztecs.
The Haab' and the Tzolk'in calendars identified and named the days, but not the years. The combination of a Haab' date and a Tzolk'in date was enough to identify a specific date to most people's satisfaction, as such a combination did not occur again for another 52 years, above general life expectancy.
Because the two calendars were based on 365 days and 260 days respectively, the whole cycle would repeat itself every 52 Haab' years exactly. This period was known as a Calendar Round.
To measure dates over periods longer than 52 years, the Mesoamericans devised the Long Count calendar.
Long Count periods
The Long Count calendar identifies a date by counting the number of days from August 11, 3114 BCE. Rather than using a base-10 scheme, like Western numbering, the Long Count days were tallied in a base-20 scheme. Thus 0.0.0.1.5 is equal to 25, and 0.0.0.2.0 is equal to 40.
The Long Count is not consistently base-20, however, since the second digit from the right only counts to 18 before resetting to zero. Thus 0.0.1.0.0 does not represent 400 days, but rather only 360 days.
The Mayan name for a day was k'in. Twenty of these k'ins are known as a winal (or uinal). Eighteen winals or 360 k'in make one tun. Twenty tuns are known as a k'atun. Twenty k'atuns make a b'ak'tun. There are also four rarely-used higher-order periods: piktun, kalabtun, k'inchiltun, and alautun.
Calculating Long Count dates
Long Count dates are written with Mesoamerican numerals, as shown on this table. A dot represents one while a bar equals 5. The shell glyph was used to represent the zero concept. The Long Count calendar required the use of zero as a place-holder, and presents one of the earliest uses of the zero concept in history.
See also History of zero
The back of Stela C from Tres Zapotes, an Olmec archaeological site.This is the second oldest Long Count date yet discovered. The numerals 126.96.36.199.18 translate to September 1, 32 BCE (Gregorian). The glyphs surrounding the date are what is thought to be one of the few surviving examples of Epi-Olmec script.
The back of Stela C from Tres Zapotes, an Olmec archaeological site.
This is the second oldest Long Count date yet discovered. The numerals 188.8.131.52.18 translate to September 1, 32 BCE (Gregorian). The glyphs surrounding the date are what is thought to be one of the few surviving examples of Epi-Olmec script.
The Long Count dates are written vertically, with the higher periods (i.e. b'ak'tun) on the top and then the number of each successively smaller order periods until the number of days (k'in) are listed. As can be seen at left, the Long Count date shown on Stela C at Tres Zapotes is 184.108.40.206.18.
7 × 144000 = 1,008,000 days (k'in)
16 × 7200 = 115,200 days (k'in)
6 × 360 = 2,160 days (k'in)
16 × 20 = 320 days (k'in)
18 × 1 = 18 days (k'in)
Total days = 1,125,698 days (k'in)