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To paraphrase the great Mark Twain*, “Everybody talks about the end of the world, but nobody does anything about it.”
The Internet these days is filled with a lot of chatter regarding the end of the Maya Long Count calendar on Dec. 21, 2012; one man has come to Mexico to sort truth from fiction.
Andrew Evans, a blogger on National Geographic’s website, is touring the Maya world and tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, Google Mapping about what he finds.
Evans is chasing the end of the world; that is, his itinerary is loosely based on ancient Maya sites relevant in some way to the end of the Maya Long Count calendar, an ancient clock of more than 5,000 years that ticks off its last second on Dec. 21, 2012. “Now, at a time when the world (and the internet) is so focused on the darker predictions of an ancient civilization, I intend to seek out my own answers to the mysteries of the Maya,” Evans writes in his introductory blog post. “Not only because I am a highly curious person, but because chasing a mystery is probably the greatest reason ever to travel.”
As of this writing, Evans has visited the Maya sites of Palenque, where he viewed the lid to Pakal’s tomb made famous by Erich von Däniken (who suggested the carvings represented an “ancient astronaut” flying a spacecraft); Tortuguero, which has the only Maya carving carrying the date of 188.8.131.52.0.0 (the end of the Maya Long Count); and Comalcalco, which recently became notorious for supposedly having another carving with the infamous end date (but, in fact, doesn’t have the date at all).
According to Evans, he is only using National Geographic from 1888 to today as his guide through the Maya world. But based on his reports so far, the Internet and its vast web of 2012 doomsday and New Age consciousness-raising prophecies are mostly what is pulling him along. It makes for enjoyable reading and a fun ride, although if you are looking for the real answers to mysteries surrounding the end of the Maya calendar or even “just the facts, ma’am,” that’s secondary to creating an entertaining travelogue.
I wish Evans would crack open those musty old issues of National Geographic (and maybe he will in future columns), because some of the best and most balanced writing about the ancient Maya world has appeared in that magazine.
Evans is now in Campeche and will visit the ancient Maya cities of Edzna and Calakmul, before pressing on to Yucatan state and touring Uxmal and Chichen Itza. He’ll finish in Quintana Roo, visiting Tulum, Coba, and the Sian Ka’an reserve. He’s snapping photos along the way, and making delightful observations of the daily life of the people who inhabit the Maya region, many of them descendants of the people who built these magnificent cities.
* Regarding the quotation, “Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it,” it is frequently attributed to Mark Twain, but according to a wonderful blog called the Quote Investigator, it probably originated with Twain’s friend, the writer Charles Dudley Warner.