A friend called me last night to tell me about a newly discovered Mayan artifact which supports the 2012 Apocalypse Theory. Apparently, in addition to a 1,300-year-old inscription in Tabasco, Mexico, there is now a second Maya reference to the ending of the 13th Long Count. A brick was found -- one of thousands -- at nearby Comalcalco with an inscription -- also one of thousands -- mentioning the date December 21st. Folks who are quick to see conspiracies and prophecies jumped on the discovery, and suddenly it was all over the news: more evidence for the end of the world.
Except this isn't exactly the case.
First of all, the new Comalcalco brick does not even mention the year 2012; instead, it references only December 21st (which could be in any year, not just 2012). Secondly, respected archeologists (Linda Schele among them, who is one of my heroes) have repeatedly said there is no evidence to suggest the Maya expected anything special to happen in 2012. They referenced many events far, far into the future, and December 21st, 2012 -- although significant because it marked the end of the thirteenth bak'tun -- was just one of several dates, and not even the last one. Also, the brick in question has been kicking around for years in the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, so it's not a new discovery. And the brick and its inscription were not meant to be seen by anyone, either; the brick was designed to face inward, toward the center of the building, with its outward side covered in stucco (just like the thousands of other bricks in the construction of the building at Comalcalco).
Finally, the monument at Tortuguero -- which sports the first and only mention of the complete date of December 21st, 2012 -- was meant to commemorate a steam bath. Tortuguero's king at that time, Bahlam Ajaw, apparently had a birthday on which date the sun shone in the same position as it will on December 21st, 2012 -- hence the mention of that particular date. Nothing to do with apocalypse. No comets. No poles shifting. Just a nice monument commemorating the opening of a religious bath and the king who would probably use it.
Still, it does make me wonder. The Tortuguero inscription mentions the god Bolon Yokte, who was present at the start of the thirteenth bak'tun in 3114 BC. According to some interpretations, this god will return or "descend" from something black (a black sky?) on that date. Sounds pretty scary. I hope Bolon Yokte isn't too nasty of a guy.