The Mayan Long Count Calendar: The Evidence Linking it to the 2012 Galactic Alignment

Keith M. Hunter

The Long Count Calendar, Contemporary Mayan Elders & Scholars:

In the previous essay that described the 2012 Galactic Alignment it was revealed that the astronomical pattern of the Galactic Alignment as identified by present day scholars was adopted as a 'solution' to the Mayan Long Count calendar to explain just why it was created, the essential position being that the ancient Maya deliberately attempted to synchronise the completion of 13 Baktuns with the noted Galactic Alignment pattern in a far off future age, which to them signified an important time of world renewal.

Moreover, it has also been noted that John Major Jenkins in particular seems to be the most prominent author and modern scholar forwarding the association between the 'end-date' of the Mayan Long Count calendar and the Galactic Alignment pattern, which under the GMT correlation occurs on the 21 December 2012 Solstice. Now interestingly enough, upon his own website, Alignment 2012, Jenkins suggests that the modern day Maya, as descended from the ancient Maya of the first millennium BC, have not themselves maintained any tradition from their ancestors that the Long Count was deliberately created to target the 2012 Alignment. And that the idea that the celestial pattern of the Galactic Alignment of this present era is linked to the Long Count calendar is a modern day theoretical reconstruction; essentially a theory developed by present day scholars outside of the Mayan community. It is not therefore a linkage that the present day Maya themselves have revealed to Western scholars from any awareness of it from their past ancestors.

In explaining this point one may cite a very specific article upon his Alignment 2012 website: The Long Count, Mayan Elders & 2012 (see references below*) wherein Jenkins states that some of the most prominent modern day Mayan Elders appear to have adopted his very own theory regarding the completion of the Long Count coinciding with the Galactic Alignment event. And that prior to their contact with the work of outside scholars of this present age, such as that of Jenkins himself, they themselves had no knowledge or idea that the Long Count calendar was in any way developed to synchronise with such a celestial pattern. They possessed no ancient traditions from their ancestors that had successfully survived to this present age of such a connection. And that by speaking of the Galactic Alignment publicly, referencing the work of 'outsiders', the modern day Maya wittingly or unwittingly are giving off the impression that they are revealing knowledge of the 2012 Alignment based upon preserved ancient knowledge, when this is not the case. And this indeed is exactly what Jenkins implies in his article.

The Mayan Long Count Calendar / 2012 Galactic Alignment Association: Overview

In light of the above point, that the Long Count association to the 2012 Galactic Alignment is not revealed knowledge from ancient Mayan traditions, but a modern day theory, one is bound to wonder at just how strong the linkage is. Now indeed, and as noted above, the most prominent researcher to forward the deliberate connection between the Long Count and the Galactic Alignment is John Major Jenkins. Upon his website, Alignment 2012, Jenkins himself states:

"Now, my book [Maya Cosmogenesis 2012] argues, as its primary thesis, that the Maya intended 2012 to mark the rare alignment of the solstice sun [with the Long Count] with the band of the Milky Way." [1]

Now indeed, the particular book as noted here, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, is in fact owned by this present researcher. But for those who do not own a copy, there is a great deal of information upon his website in support of his theories regarding the Long Count and other aspects of Mayan culture and civilisation. If one indeed examines Jenkins' site and his books, especially with regard to the Long Count, one can glean a general picture as to what supporting facts appear to lend weight to his central theory that the Long Count was established to target the specific future conjunction of the Earth at winter solstice, the Sun, and the equator of the Milky Way.

If this present author may briefly summarise the facts; in laying the foundation for his work, Jenkins does readily point out that his own original insights are based strongly upon the work of other scholars who have examined the Mayan culture over a great many decades. Firstly, Jenkins would seem to have studied greatly the 'Correlation Question' of just how the Long Count is mapped onto the Western Gregorian Calendar. And in this he satisfies himself that the GMT Correlation as places the 'end date' upon the 21 December 2012 AD winter solstice is correct. Indeed, in the introduction to his book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, the Forward, as written by one Terence McKenna, contains the following remarks:

"In 1975, as Jenkins generously recalls, I was the first person to realise and to suggest in print (The Invisible Landscape) 'that in our time, the winter solstice is placed in the constellation Sagittarius, only about 3 degrees from the Galactic Centre which, also coincidentally, is within 2 degrees of the ecliptic.'" (page XXV)

"In the early 1990s, while in correspondence with John Jenkins, we discussed the possibility that the end-date of the 13-baktun Great Cycle was intentionally chosen by the Maya because of the conjunction of the sun with the intersection of the ecliptic and the plane of the Milky Way on December 21, 2012 - the of the Long Count calendar." (page XXVI)

From this one can gather then that Jenkins did come across the work of certain other researchers who appeared to have identified a celestial event as would - within this present era - coincide with the completion of the 13 Baktuns of the Long Count (under the GMT correlation). Now, in suspecting that such a celestial pattern was deliberately targeted by the ancient Maya, Jenkins then went on to study the Mayan and Aztec civilisations from the Central American region to see if there was any evidence to support this essential idea.

Once more, it is important to note that Jenkins builds upon the work of a great many other scholars, extending it further and going off in new directions. One may cite such as Linda Schele and Dennis Tedlock, or Michael Coe for example. In focusing specifically upon the Long Count itself Jenkins states that the city of Izapa was involved in its formulation [2], a city whose heyday was about 300 BC to 50AD [3]. Now, Izapa indeed would appear to be quite central to the arguments as developed by Jenkins to support the notion that the Long Count was deliberately created to target the 2012 winter solstice. To cite a few lines, here are some of Jenkins' own words on the matter, directly quoted from a brief summary he wrote, "A Guide to 2012" [4].

1) A primary archaeoastronomical reference point at Izapa is found in the alignment of the ballcourt to the December solstice sunrise.

2) Twelve surviving carved monuments in the ballcourt can be interpreted meaningfully as encoding an awareness of the future galactic alignment in era-2012.

3) At Izapa, the ballgame is symbolic of the future galactic alignment in era-2012.

4) The iconographic statements in the Izapan ballcourt suggest that the future galactic alignment in era-2012 was conceived as the rebirth of the sun.

In a careful examination of these points - quoted exactly - it would be well to focus upon the following words: "can be interpreted", "is symbolic of", "the iconographic statements." What one should understand in view of these points is that there is certainly no explicit statement or statements by the Maya that the Long Count calendar system was established to directly target the 2012 winter solstice. The idea that this is so, is based upon the way in which various monuments and stele (i.e. stone carvings) and artwork, have each been interpreted, combined with various surviving mythological stories passed down from the Maya to the present day, such as indeed are contained in the Popol Vuh for example.

Interpretation is Everything

It would be well then to at least give the reader here an example of a particular stele from the Mayan city of Izapa; one that is quite central to the 2012 Galactic Alignment - Long Count association hypothesis: Stele 11 (left). Now indeed, just what exactly does Stele 11 depict?

For a comprehensive explanation by John Major Jenkins himself as to what he believes it depicts, one may consult his book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. But to briefly summarise, Jenkins notes that the carving has many levels to it.

To begin, the central figure as given holding his arms out is that of First Father, "performing the primal measuring act." Moreover, that the small circular symbol on the nose of the First Father is that of a star (p123). Further to this, Jenkins says that the figure of the First Father is emerging out of the mouth of what is the Jaguar Toad Deity (p.123) that Jenkins states is representative of the Milky Way, with the upturned mouth of the figure being the 'dark rift' pattern of the Milky Way (p.281) - an area that is approximate to the equator of the Milky Way galaxy itself.

Now, according to Jenkins, in Stele 11 the dark rift 'mouth' of the Milky Way signifies a birthplace (p283). Moreover, to the Maya, the dark rift area, called the xibalba be in their own language, is a Road to the Underworld; an underworld portal. Jenkins notes that such portals are often visualised as caves (p284), and, that to the Tzotzil Maya the word for cave means also vagina. Hence, the 'birthplace' connection. Now, according to Jenkins, in Stele 11 the dark rift 'mouth' of the Milky Way signifies a birthplace (p283).

Moreover, to the Maya, the dark rift area, called the xibalba be in their own language, is a Road to the Underworld; an underworld portal. Jenkins notes that such portals are often visualised as caves (p284), and, that to the Tzotzil Maya the word for cave means also vagina. Hence, the 'birthplace' connection.

In addition to the actual interpretation of the stone carving itself, Jenkins also looks at the orientation of the stone. And here he notes that it is one of a group of stele at Izapa that faces the December solstice sunrise (p281).

Taking all of the above points together, Jenkins interprets stele 11 at Izapa such that the First Father with his arms outstretched denotes the end or completion of a cycle, that the star symbol is the sun, and that it is rising in the dark rift of the Milky Way, symbolising a rebirth of the world. And that this is directly to be associated with the end of the Long Count calendar, which under the GMT correlation ends on a December solstice.

Now of course, this is only a brief summary of just one stele at the site of Izapa, and the interpretation that Jenkins gives. For a more in-depth analysis with more stele considered one should of course consult his book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. But as a general point, the evaluation as given by Jenkins is typical of the rest. And that critically, the interpretation of such stele in the manner described is what constitutes the sole evidence of a link between the Long Count calendar system and the Galactic Alignment pattern as is present in the current era; an 'explicit statement' of the Mayan intention behind the establishment of the Long Count. And this indeed is as explicit as it gets.

In Summary - The Key Assumptions:

1) The ancient Maya knew of precession and had a fairly accurate value of its rate. (For their knowledge of precession one may indeed cite the work of the Mayan scholars Gordon Brotherston and Eva Hunt).

2) The GMT Correlation is correct, as fixes the end of the current round of 13 Baktuns upon 21 December 2012 on the winter solstice.

3) The modern Maya cannot 'internally' account for why their ancestors established the Long Count, due to a broken tradition. And thus they are not a 'threat' to the theory in that they are able to offer a counter explanation for the reason for the creation of the Long Count.

Accepting the evidence as compiled by many researchers over the decades that the above statements are true, the theory by Jenkins that the Long Count was established to deliberately target the noted Galactic Alignment pattern, was thus born out of the study of various ancient (now archaeological) sites of Mayan settlements; most notably Izapa. Including mythological stories such as contained within the Popol Vuh.

In Conclusion

In view of the facts it is fair to conclude that the overall 2012 Galactic Alignment - Long Count Ending Theory is weak, and likely in error. It is a 'low level' theory in the mind of this present author, lacking any strong and decisive evidence as to its truth. It is composed of lots of little bits of theories tied together to form a larger whole, but one that does not have overwhelming strength to go beyond reasonable doubt. In general, the main difficulties associated with an acceptance of the theory as developed by John Major Jenkins can be summed up as follows:

1) There is no masterful evaluation and breakthrough in accounting for the time cycles as compose the Long Count, in explaining their basis and how they 'build up' or culminate in a galactic alignment conjunction. Jenkins appears not to have any real explanation for just what was the basis of the Baktuns, Katuns, etc. He does not appear to believe that they are in any way based upon 'real' celestial cycles, such as those of the planets of this solar system. It is a fixed abstract system in his mind it would seem. All that he does, in developing his Galactic Alignment Theory is to accept the GMT correlation, which, falling upon a winter solstice is favourable to his theory, in allowing him to note the Milky Way Equator 'solstice sun crossover' as being associated with the 13 Baktun calendar ending. And thus, there is no real evidence presented by Jenkins in an evaluation of the calendar cycles to back up the 2012 Conjunction connection.

2) An overreliance upon myth interpretation. In order to get a connection between the 2012 alignment event and the Long Count calendar 'end-date', Jenkins relies too much, at least to the mind of this present author, upon interpretation of Mayan myths, without any solid calendrical supporting evidence. Jenkins appears to have developed a very intricate understanding of the meanings of icons and emblems on various Mayan stele, which he claims support his theory. However, not all scholars share his views. A very interesting exchange involving John Major Jenkins and certain other Mayan scholars a few years ago attests to this fact. One may visit the following link to see the exchange: Mayan Calendar Myth Interpretation. Upon viewing, it can be seen that not all scholars accept the 'birthing portals, dark rift mouth, cave symbolism' etc. There is a very real disagreement. And thus, one has to accept, as already alluded to, that the foundation of the 2012 Alignment - Long Count End-date Theory is far from strong.

In Sum

The Long Count Calendar System may well have absolutely NOTHING to do with the celestial pattern of an Earth - Solstice Sun - Milky Way Equator conjunction, as found to be manifest in this current age circa 2012 AD.

If one were able to demonstrate that the cycles of the Long Count were tied in to the very real cycles of the celestial bodies of this solar system, and in such a decisive and accurate manner, then this would destroy Jenkins' theory at a stroke.

Proceed to Part 7:

Mayan Calendar Long Count Accuracy in Targeting the Galactic Alignment

Ancient World Mysteries Home


*John Major Jenkins' Website Article:
The Long Count, Mayan Elders & 2012