The Mayan calendar system is complex. They had two different ways of reckoning a year, and the complex interaction between those two years results in longer calendar cycles. Some historical background on the Mayan calendar. One particular long cycle supposedly began in 3113 B.C. and ends on 21 Dec 2012. But this date, if it is even correct, is simply the end of a calendar cycle.
By way of comparison, our calendar system has longer ‘cycles’ of a century (100 years) and a millennium (1000 years). Expecting the world to end on 21 Dec 2012, at the end of a Mayan calendar cycle, is essentially the same as expecting the world to end in the year 1000 or the year 2000. Some persons did have that expectation in those years, but they were mistaken. Just as mistaken as those who expect the world to end, or some other immense cataclysmic event to occur, at the end of the Mayan calendar cycle.
There is no evidence that the Mayan’s expected any event to occur at the end of this particular cycle, on 12/21/2012. In fact, a search of Google books by year shows no books mentioning 2012 and the Mayan calendar at all, prior to one author, Jose Arguelles, who published his unique theories on this topic in 1975 and again in 1987. Arguelles was not a scientist, nor an historian; he was a New Age author and an artist, with a Ph.D. in “Art History and Aesthetics” (according to Wikipedia). The source of this claim is not any of the researchers or scientists who study Mayan culture, and the idea finds no support among them.
Some years after Arguelles wrote his theories on the significance of Mayan calendar cycles, the idea began to take root among New Age authors. But it was not until the year 2000 began to approach that the idea spread to the general populace. The talk about a possible apocalypse around 1999 or 2000 led to widening speculations about the end of the world. And that is when the idea of an apocalyptic event became married to the idea of the Mayan calendar cycle ending 2012.
But as I said, the Mayan’s gave no significance to the end of that calendar cycle in 2012, nor did any researchers. It is simply the end of a calendar cycle, not unlike the end of a century or the end of a millennium in the Christian calendar.
Some persons have tried to find a reason for a cataclysmic event on that day in astronomy. NASA even has a page offering a rebuttal to these claims:
“Is there a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Eris that is approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction?”
“No: Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims, and most of them (such as that Nibiru has been hiding behind the Sun or that it will be visible to the naked eye from the southern hemisphere next year) are ludicrous. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles.”
“Is it true that the Sun will be in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy in December 2012 and that this will cause a pole shift and massive destruction.”
“No, this is an Internet hoax, with no basis in fact. There is no alignment of planets or of the Sun with the Galaxy. As far as being in the center of the Galaxy, this is impossible; we are slowly orbiting the galactic center at a distance of about 30,000 light years. The idea of a ‘pole shift’ is also unfounded. Most people seem to mean a rapid change in the rotational pole of the Earth, but this is something that has never happened and never will. Some people are confusing this with the reversal of the magnetic poles on Earth, which does take place regularly, every few hundred thousand years. But there is no evidence that this might happen soon, and even if it did, the magnetic shift would be gradual and there would probably be no consequences on the planet, certainly nothing catastrophic.”
Ask An Astrobiologist at NASA
I think it is prudent and reasonable to prepare for a wide range of possible short and long-term disasters, including some that are fairly severe. But prepping for the Mayan apocalypse has no basis in science or fact. December 21, 2012 is not the end of the world, nor is it TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it). It is a recent invention of new age authors. Of course, most prepping blogs and websites wisely have nothing to do with this idea. But it gives preppers a bad name when this type of fringe theory is taken seriously.
UPDATE: Earliest Mayan calendar found