The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Maya anthropomorphic figurine

Maya anthropomorphic figurine

According to rumor, we are not long for this world.

Unless you’re living under a rock, you may have already heard that the Mayan calendar indicates the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012 (or 13 Baktún, 0 Katún, 0 Tún, 0 Uinal, 0 Kin on the Mayan long count calendar).

Actually, if you are living under a rock, it might be because you have already heard this news.

Maya King in Litter

Maya King in Litter

Any announcement of the end of the world (and there have always been A LOT of these) is an opportunity for swindlers to make money, false priests to find followers, and club owners to throw parties. Some who feel they may only have hours left on earth might seek solace in the thumping beat of a club– but I might choose to visit the amazing Pre-Columbian collection at the UMFA.

Apples and oranges, really.

So, what’s the real deal with this end of the world thing? Well, according to NASA: “The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012 and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.”

Polychrome Maya Vase

Polychrome Maya Vase

But what’s the more interesting deal? Well, while most scholars agree with NASA that there is a sensationalist misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar, they add that the calendar still suggests an end–not of the world, but of an era or a phase. That December 21, 2012 is more a time of transition where one life, one self, one reality might end, but only as you know it, and another will come to take its place. Where some see destruction, others see a chance at rebirth, a fresh start.

Now that’s a reason to party!

And remember: you’ll have to party without us on December 24, 25 and 31, 2012 and January 1, 2013, as the UMFA will be closed for the holidays. But come in any other time to explore, and learn about our fantastic collection. Here, I’ll get you started:

The Jester Deity

The Jester Deity

Fact from a UMFA curator: The Jester Deity was one of the main symbols of rulership. This jade piece was  part of a headband worn by the halach uinic, also called  ‘Ajaw‘,   the political leader for a Mayan city-state.  It comes from the height of Mayan power in Mesoamerica when cities like Tikal had estimated populations of 50,000-70,000 people. In comparison, the city of London, England had a population under 8,000.


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