HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD
We’ve heard lots of talk and seen lots of stories about how today will be the end of the world. As popularized in the John Cusack movie 2012, the story goes that on December 21, 2012 — 12/21/12 in the US or 21/12/12 for those in other parts of the world — the world will come to an end. Stone inscriptions found in a ruin called Tortuguero, Mexico — that has since been destroyed — describe a dedication carved around the 7th century A.D. about a Mayan tomb or shrine. In the Mayan “long count” calendar the world calendar turns over about every 5,125 years for a new “millennium.”
While the Mayans have built monuments as early as the 10th century B.C., throughout parts of Central America, their civilization was winding down by the mid-9th century A.D, except in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. However, the Aztecs picked up the Mayan Calendar and read the calendar date not as a cyclical turnover, but as an apocalyptic end of the world.
If we compare the Mayans to the earlier Greek civilization and the Aztecs to the subsequent empire-spanning Roman world we can get an idea of how the Aztecs borrowed Mayan concepts and used them for their own purposes. Some scholars believe that the later Aztecs misapplied the Mayan calendar and that the whole idea of the world ending today is a complete misinterpretation. However, others take the view that the world will indubitab…