It’s nice when Hollywood blockbusters make some attempt to get people excited about ancient civilizations or science, but couldn’t they avoid getting it all utterly wrong at least some of the time? I won’t dwell on it in this post but “Knowing” with Nicholas Cage is one good example where they first tease you with references to quantum mechanics and MIT, only to end with the message that faith in the hereafter – and not scientific inquiry in this life – has any lasting meaning.
Now take this new end of the world film 2012 staring John Cusack. The promoters are busy exciting people for the movie through the slogan
Mankind’s earliest civilization warned us this day would come…
The Mayans were NOT the first civilization. In fact, they weren’t even close. The first clearly Mayan settlements go back to 1800 BC. The first Mayan hieroglyphs didn’t appear until 250 BC. The peak of their large scale architectural programs occurred in the Classical period 250AD – 900 AD.
The 5.9 million tonne Pyramids at Giza are some 800 years older than the oldest Mayan pottery shards. Not to mention the Harappan civilization along the Indus valley (6000BCE), the Sumerian civilization (~400BCE), Minoan (2700BCE) and – oh yes – one of the earliest settled villages in the world at Jericho near the Dead Sea (inhabited since 9,000 BCE). The Mayan might not even be the earliest civilization in the Americas. The Olmecs go back about as far and certainly reached their zenith earlier (around 1200-400BCE).
The film also boasts :
Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments.
I love this response I came across on a random forum :
Actually, Astronomers and scientists don’t say the world will end in 2012. Religious cults and stupid people predicted this. The world isn’t going to end in 2012. Why? The theory of the world ending in 2012 isn’t true, it’s just a silly hoax. The world isn’t going to end on December 21, 2012, just the Mayan Calendar ends. One of several Mayan calendars is the Long Count calendar, which is reset to day 0 every 1,872,000 days or 7057.5 years. The next reset date, by some calculations, is December 21, 2012. This is not a prediction of the end of the world. The Mayan Calendar has to end sometime.
Somewhat more eloquently phrased and with a greater degree of authority is a short clip from an interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson who directs the Haydon Planetarium in NYC (the video is below).
Turns out if you go to December 21 and look at the star charts, its true, the centre of the galaxy, the sun and the earth come into perfect alignment. They will, its true, its true. What the site does not tell you is that that happens every year on December 21st. They left that out of the account
I’m not even sure what they mean by “governments” finding the date important, except maybe if they’re concerned about civil unrest caused by exaggerations and lies like the ones being marketed to advance the film. As to religions, I know little about whether the world’s major faiths have much if anything to say about 2012 but I know there are some who are re-interpreting Hindu sacred texts to find significance for that year. Numerology experts will tell you if you take a large enough body of writing you’ll find just about any number or phrase you care to search for.
This analysis of 2012 in Hinduism included the following, which was interesting:
Now those who are stating that Kali Yuga will end after 5000 years are indicating the beginning of Golden Age in 2012. They are scrupulously using a mix of solar and lunar calendars used by Hindus to suggest that Kali Yuga will end in 2012. [emphasis mine]
Finally, I checked the interfaith calendar for 2012. Among all the usual celebrations and festivals, I didn’t see “End of the World” anywhere. Did I miss it?