>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
[ Silence ]
>> Barbara Tenenbaum: ...and welcome to this very, very important and interesting lecture that we're going to have here today about December 21, 2012, and the end of the world or maybe not. [Laugh]
I'm Barbara Tenenbaum. I'm the specialist in Mexican culture in the Hispanic division; and also I have something to do with the Kislak collection, which is the basis for the exploring the Early Americas exhibit in the Jefferson Building, which is free and open to the public from 8:30 to 4:30, Monday through Saturday. So you really if you haven't seen it, you should because you will see Professor Van Stone's book there.
After Professor Van Stone presents his lecture, he will, of course, answer questions and since we're cybercasting this, please identify yourself prior to asking your question. And if you want to give your institutional affiliation, that would be nice, too.
All right. Let me tell you, I have so many visual aids here, I mean it's just amazing. Professor Mark Van Stone began his academic career at he got his BA at Occidental College in California. He told me he was 10 years before President Obama did his two years at Occidental. He studied physics and world paleography and he became an effective professional calligrapher for 20 years, basically training calligraphers before he won his Guggenheim Fellowship to go around the world studying various alphabets.
But Professor Van Stone had a different idea about alphabets than you usually think about it because he looked at alphabets as art, rather than in terms of their intrinsic meaning, and that's very interesting in and of itself. And if you go to the exhibit, you will be able to see the beauty of the Maya alphabet and why it could be looked at from an or historical point of view.
After he came back from his Guggenheim Fellowship, about five years later he enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin to study Maya hieroglyphs and art history with the very, very well-known Linda Schele, who unfortunately passed away far too soon. And he went on to write a to illustrate a book with Michael Coe. Some of you may remember Michael Coe from the Kislak lecture that he gave here several years ago, and they produced this book, reading the Maya glyphs. And he also gave me a copy of the book in Arabic which was published by the Library of Alexandria, right in Arabic, of course.
Now, Professor Van Stone has gone on to work on this 2012 phenomenon, and if you go to the exhibit, you'll also see this book, "2012 Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya." And "2012" has also been featured in the "Journal of Astronomy in Culture," that is volume 24 of archaeoastronomy; and this issue is specifically dedicated to the Maya calendar and the 2012 phenomenon studies. So you might want to fill out an application form to get a copy of this. I'm looking forward to reading it and those of you who are interested in 2012, I'm sure you'll look forward to reading it, too.
Currently, and for the last dozen years or so, right, Professor Van Stone has been a professor of art history at Southwestern College and he tells me that he can look from his back window into Tijuana, which gives you a different sense of the border than most of us have. And we look forward to this lecture and also to the questions, so without more talking on my part, let me present to you, Professor Mark Van Stone.
[ Applause ]
>> Professor Mark Van Stone: Well, thank you very much, Barbara, and thanks to the Library of Congress for having me here, and for advertising it so well that you're here, too.
I began my studies in Maya hieroglyphs because I was interested in their calligraphy and their beautiful writing and like Barbara said, I'm interested in writing as an art. One of the most interesting things about the writing of the ancient Egyptians, and Maya, and Chinese, and several other cultures is that they use writing as a public display of power, of beauty and so forth even though the populace was nearly all illiterate. Right? Literacy has never risen above 1% in most of the world until [door closes] the 19th century, and yet Egypt is paved with hieroglyphs and so is my country. And therefore they had to make the writing something, that appealed to a person who couldn't make out the meaning, which is to say they made it beautiful and that's why the great calligraphies of the world are the cultures that have the greatest display of their writing, the Egyptians, the Maya, the Chinese.
I became interested in the Maya phenomenon of 2012 about four or five years ago when I talked to my colleagues about this 2012 prophecy and most of them said, "I want to run and hide through the whole year." They were afraid of, you know, the what should I say, the mismanagement of knowledge. There's a few things that the source of this, what should I say the source of this craziness actually started with scholars, the speculation in 1904 of a German scholar, I'm not sure it was Schelhas [assumed spelling] or Förstemann, but he was looking at the last page of the Dresden Codex which shows a snake which represents the sky. He's got sky symbols on it, pouring water out of its mouth; and the moon goddess pouring water out of a bucket. It's called page 24 74 of the Dresden Codex. I may have a slide of it in here but it's probably farther than I'll be talking today. And he said, and this is a great quotation to watch out for, "There can be no other interpretation but that this is the flood that ends the world like Noah's flood." And frankly, there is another interpretation there's always another interpretation. Watch out for that phrase.
There is an event that happens in the tropics especially tropics with Mexico called the annual rains, right, the coming of the rains is a big event. They have a dry season and a wet season. That's much more important than summer or winter.
Am I too close? Can you hear me if I stand back here?
Okay. Then I won't pop my P's so much.
The spring rains are the most important event in the farmer's life, right, because without it the crops die. And so what probably the last page of the Dresden Codex represents is the life-giving rains that come every spring time, as opposed to, the death-bringing rains of a monsoon, flood or something like that.
In the case, the Maya mentioned a couple of things that have given rise to some speculation by scholars, which one of them is probably the most important one is that the Maya calendar, how many people understand the Maya calendar here? [Laugh]
A couple of tentative hands.
The Maya calendar is not that different from our own. In fact, we should always say "calendars" with a plural because we have three calendars that we use that mix together. We have a very ancient calendar given to us by the Babylonians, which is the seven-day week; it's a cycle of days which are dedicated to different planets which were, of course, gods the sun, the moon and if you speak Spanish, you know that the rest are Mercury, Venus, Mars I'm not saying them in the right order Jupiter.
The moving things in the sky are what the days of the week are named for and these were gods to the Babylonians who invented the days of the week.
The 365-day year is our civil calendar; it tells us what time of the year to plant, what time to harvest.
And the year count that we use, this is the year 2012; its 2012 years since the presumed birth of Jesus, which, by the way, the guys that originally invented the year count got it wrong. Jesus was born 4 B.C. I think it's kind of ironic that the person would be born four years before his time. But anyway, [laugh] the calendar, it should be a warning that even in our western civilization with all of its science and the great science of Constantinople in 525, when they invented the year count, Dionysius Exiguus was the scholar who did that. He was he miscalculated. We know this because the Roman records of history show us that Herod died in 2 B.C. and that meant that he was still if he was still alive when the wise men were looking for Jesus, it must've been previous to that.
Also, I believe there's still some debate as to what that holy star was, is that right, John?
Lots of debate. We don't even know which celestial event was in the sky that started their following.
The point is this we know this much about Roman history and about Judaic history and we know this much about Maya history. And for us to presume that somebody said that, you know, that there was this prophecy, really, how shall I say? There's this there's error when we know this much, imagine how much room for error there is when we know that about much.
In any case, the reason that people say that the calendar ends in December 21, 2012 is that the Maya year count, which was comparable to our count of 2012, began on a creation day 5125 and 133 5145 years and 133 days ago pardon me it's not yet 133 days. Anyway, 5125 years some days ago the Maya calendar began, and instead of the year being 0.0.0.0.0 which counts as zero days, zero months, zero years, zero score years which is called the katun, and zero score-score years which is called a b'ak'tun. So 400 years, 20 years, years, months and days the date should be 0.0.0.0.0. But the Maya did not call it that. They called it 184.108.40.206.0. And that date also around that date they have historical events, what should I say, "mytho historical events" that were in the period before that they called 12 something, something, something 1219 and so forth. The gods that created Palenque that we know the most about, their dates were just before this 220.127.116.11. So their pre-creation, apparently there was a time of 5000 years before the creation that ended. Does that make sense? Like a clock reaching midnight and starting over again.
Now, because that clock reached midnight and started over again, many modern scholars and people that follow them that are not so scholarly have presumed that the calendar which reset to zero and then started adding up again, when it reaches 18.104.22.168.0, again, will end and there will be a new creation. And there's a bit of what shall I say, Aztec myth and lore and the Popol Vuh and the Maya history that tells us a little bit about what the Maya conceived of cycles of time.
And so I believe it was in 1965 with Michael Coe, the first publication of a scholarly popular book where he connected this long count calendar which is now, by the way, this is the year 22.214.171.124 something? It's very close to becoming 126.96.36.199.0 again. And when it does, in December of this year, there's a lot of different speculations as to what will happen, not just among the internet crazies, but among scholars. Some of my friends believe that the calendar that the Maya expected the calendar to reset again to zero, but that they didn't expect any sort of world-ending cataclysm. There's really no evidence in Maya literature for a world-ending cataclysm, but there is a lot of scholars who firmly believe that they meant for the calendar to stop.
On the other hand, when I went looking for evidence, I found that among the ancient Maya inscriptions, there are a few indications that they did not expect the calendar to stop but to keep going. And many indications shall we say, compared to the number of indications that talked about the calendar stopping and restarting, which is zero. So the Maya themselves did not yet we haven't yet found a Maya scribe who wrote down that the year after 2012 would be 0.0.0.0.1. In fact, there's evidence to the contrary.
Oh, there's the number right there.
There's also a monument, Tortuguero Monument 6 so I get that here. This is the end of Tortuguero Monument 6 and there's a date. This is a little there we go. This says the end of 13 b'ak'tuns 188.8.131.52 4 ajaw, 3 k'ank'in, which is a Maya date that represents maybe December 21, 2012. Here's something else that we disagree on. Most of my scholar friends expect that the correlation between the Christian calendar and the Maya calendar is not 184.108.40.206.0.0 is 21st, but the 23rd of December, and frankly some scholars have come up with the recalculation that it's now the 24th. So you have three opportunities for the world to end [laugh] this next month.
In any case, the 21st is the most popular date that people use because it is also an astrologically fun day. Right? It's I would say 99% of the internet speculation, I will call it generously, about the Maya calendar ending, puts the date the 21st because it makes an astrological connection, and it also makes a connection with the sky because the sun moves around the sky every year from our position. That's why we have the houses of the Zodiac and so forth. And on December 21st of this year the sun will enter I might even have a diagram of that.
I don't have it. Easy. I'll we may come across it.
The sun lines up from our point of view, the earth the sun will eclipse the center of the galaxy not quite, it misses it by about 3 degrees but the sun goes across the galactic plain on the 21st of December, and that so-called galactic alignment is something that you you google "galactic alignment" you'll get a lot of 2012 websites, because supposedly this event happens only once every 26,000 years. That's a bit of an exaggeration. It happens every December 21st. It has been the sun has been spinning around the sky and then crossing the galactic equator since the galaxy condensed out of interstellar dusts. It's not a rare event at all and that's one of the dare much I say, one of the least of your worries.
Tortuguero Monument 6 is the text that I showed you. Let's see.
We looked at here. There we go.
This text is, until this summer, was the only Maya inscription that mentioned the far future. And, by the way, what it says, we have 4 ajaw 3 k'ank'in that's the date, December-something 2012. It will happen is this glyph, and then it's broken. We call this Murphy's law of a [inaudible] [Laugh]. And then it says, Bolon Yokte, that's the name of a minor god here, is going to get dressed and it's broken. There's just enough of these glyphs surviving to actually get the general just about what it says is going to happen is that this god, Bolon Yokte, whose name means "palace." "Bolon Yokte" literally means its spelt, the number 9, a bar with four dots on it, it's the number 9. Below it is a dog's head and below that is the glyph for tree, nine-dog-tree. Now, nine-dog-tree doesn't sound like "palace" but in fact the word for "house post," the thing that holds up the roof is [inaudible], which means which is spelt with the dog which is also pronounced [inaudible].
So nine-house-posts by the way, also the number nine is kind of like kind of like our number zillions. It was the number that the Maya used to indicate a large number. So they're indicating a house that has many posts, maybe even an infinite number of posts which was represent a palace or maybe even the whole sky.
In any case, this nine-dog-tree that the the nine-house-posts god is going to put on a costume, and that's all it says. It doesn't tell us what costume he's going to put on, it doesn't tell us what ceremony he was going to do in this costume. Because that's what Maya kings did, they dressed up in a costume and performed ceremonies. And in fact anybody here been to Copan in great, the whole left side here.
All of those kings are standing there, and everyone is dressed in a different costume. And what they're doing is channeling the gods, and that was the event that was to the Maya of Copan, in particular, but also most of the Maya monuments represent a king dressing up as a god, channeling the god, bringing him to earth in this costume ceremony. So Bolon Yokte is going to do this very Mayan thing. But this is one of now we found a second inscription. This is a drawing and a photograph of the new 2012 inscription found in June by the La Corona project led by Marcello Canuto of Tulane University. They found a whole step of what had once been a large stairway of at least three, maybe four steps very, very wide; as wide as this room. Each of the stairways was carved. Each of the panels of the stairway was carved, and the top two steps were looted by great robbers in the 1960s and the pieces are scattered in museums all over the world.
And here's a cast of one these steps. We can examine this, suitable for hanging. [Laugh] Actually, I have this for sale. This is a this is a [laugh] several scholars and I, including John Carlson, invested about $8000 to buy these three things when they came up on the market two years ago, and we repatriated them to Guatemala. And now that they've found a whole new step, they have, you know, a whole lot more to go with. The context of this, basically, it's a long history of the kings of La Corona and their relationship with the kings of Calakmul, which was the greatest Maya city. And in the middle of the stairway, which by the way is mysteriously out of order, the hieroglyphs, even though they were buried in ancient times, the stones, if you put them in order, would be like 1, 6, 3, 9, 2, 4, 8; it's like they were using them as decoration when they reset the stairway. They've taken apart an inscription from somewhere else in the site and consolidated them together.
But it was not important to them that it be readable, which is to say, they probably did it very late in their culture when they were when their school system was breaking down or something. The writing still had power. There's in the Kislak collection, there are many, many beautiful vases with inscriptions and they're probably more vases with inscriptions that are not readable. They're made by somebody who's just doing squiggle, squiggle, squiggle, squiggle because writing itself had this power whether or not you could read it. Like I said, I was more interested in the visual effect and the emotional effect and religious effect of having writing on something, more than what it actually said, and this happens a lot in Maya vases in any case.
Then they found this inscription in the middle, a single stone about half of which has flaked off and it ends with a date 2012. Here's the little arrow here. This little number 4 here next to a king's head is 4 ajaw. That is actually spelled the same word as this.
This one here, the Tortuguero inscription, is what we might call miniscule letters, and this is like capital letters. They have very fancy ways of writing and very simple ways of writing.
And this here, this three with the dog, this is the simple of the dog glyph. So they actually had simple forms of the glyphs, but even the simple forms would be much harder than our letters.
So this date here is exactly the same as this date here, and then they tell us one thing. They don't tell us even the four glyphs that the Tortuguero monument says. And the one thing they tell us is 3 b'ak'tuns, which is to say, 1200 years. And what they're doing is arithmetic. They're saying that this date is 1200 years after a date that was mentioned earlier in the inscription. And they don't tell us there's no verb, there's no subject, they're just telling us the time span. And that's really most of what we call Maya prophecy is not really telling us anything important about the future. It's really telling us that, you know, 300 years from now it's going to be a Thursday. [Laugh] Its like, "Okay, that's not prophecy; that's arithmetic."
So this new inscription, as, you know as was announced when they announced this inscription, they put out, you know, many, many press releases about everybody who wanted to know about what does it say, what does it tell us, what information does it add? It adds very little of our information to us because it wasn't that important to them. I want you to notice that the king here is mentioned over the top here. See this flamy thing sticking at the bottom of this glyph? This is a jaguar paw with a flame underneath it. That's the name of the king of Calakmul, and in the year, 695, he was defeated in battle. And until this inscription was found, we thought he was killed. But here he is after the battle going around and saying, "I alive! I'm okay! I'm still defeated but I didn't die." [Laugh]
And he was crowned in the year 220.127.116.11.0, which is to say the 9 is the b'ak'tun date, the 13 is the katun date, and then three zeroes; and that's, you know, a date with three zeroes comes every 20 years and the king would celebrate a katun ending by putting up at stela or painting the buildings or even adding a whole new layer to the pyramids. Every 20 years a rich city the buildings got bigger and bigger and bigger.
It was a 20-year period of katun, it's called, was a very important ceremonial celebration, and he calls himself this is the number 13. You see that? Three dots and two bars is 13. This is the word for "lord" and this is the word for "katun," the 13 katun lord; which means that he was crowned in the 13th katun. He was like he associated himself with a time period with a 13 on it, and that is probably why he's linking himself to the next date that has a major 13 in it which is 18.104.22.168.0. Does that make sense? It doesn't make much sense to us but that was to them was like major, major juice.
So he associates himself with that date because he was crowned during the 22.214.171.124.0 and that's how it says. I likened the way that the Maya talk about the future. They also talk about the past and what they're doing is sort of throwing out guidelines to anchor themselves in time. Here in the future is a date that relates to my date, and here in the past is a date that relates to my date, and I'm right here in the middle. I'm part of the fabric of time and so forth. But anyway, that's it and we may find more. I mean, we'll certainly find more if we keep digging because one of the great things about Maya archeology is that we have 1% penetration. 99% of Maya history and archeology is still waiting to be dug up, even with the great robbers, you know, 10 times as efficient at finding treasure as the archeologist; there is so much more to be found out. So we looked at those two things.
The Chilam Balam books, the third item in my little list, is prophecy books that were written in the 1600, 1700s and even the 1800s in the highlands of Guatemala. Chilam Balam is the title; it means "interpreter jaguar" and the Chilam Balam of Chumayel, is that that's the one in Princeton, right? I think it is.
It's like, I got this off on Ohio University Ohio State University website which had which what should I say, has made a facsimile of this book. And it talks about among other things katun prophecies. Remember, a katun is a 20-year period and the two prophecies on this page on the right are the prophecies for the katun in 1740 and the katun of 1760. And this one here is the k'atun ajaw katun, which means the "4 ajaw katun" which is the katun that ends with the date for ajaw, which we're in. We're in, remember, the date is 4 ajaw three k'ank'in. The date the last day of the katun is the name of the katun.
So in the katun of the 4 ajaw do I have a description here, it says several things. It says that Quetzal will come back, "the green bird shall return." It says Quetzalcoatl will be come back for another time. It says that Ah Kantenal will come. "Ah Kantenal" means "he of the yellow tree place," and kante, "yellow tree," is a specific species of tree. I think it's medicinal. But anyway, this god is associated with medicine and it tells us that blood vomit will come, so watch out. This actually should've been happening from 1992 to 2012. 19 yeah, 1992 to 2012 is the katun that we're in. We should've been experiencing the blood vomit plague which the Maya did experience in the 4 ajaw katun before this. This book was written around 1740. They were maybe in this katun when they wrote it, but they were looking back to the previous katun 4 ajaw which happened 256 years earlier, at which time Yucatan was experiencing the plagues brought by Columbus. Those germs that those guys brought off that boat were already ravaging Yucatan even before Columbus set foot on Yucatan because they had trade back and forth to Hispaniola or wherever he did land.
The next one after it, 1760, is the 2 ajaw katun and so forth. But I want to say that there are 13 named katuns. There is a katun 1 ajaw, 2 ajaw, 3 ajaw, 4 ajaw and it goes up to 13. And they're not in that order though. The katuns are nearly all dire. I mean, having blood vomit and Quetzalcoatl is actually, what should I say, the balance is in the good for us. But nine out of the 13 prophecies of the katuns that the Maya give us are dire, you know, and I think one of them is that our rulers will be corrupt. Oh, that's [laugh] a prophecy you can count on.
Another is that, you know, there will be starvation. It's like, okay, yeah, these are safe bets.
In any case, that is the prophecy we have and that's pretty much the sum total of Maya prophecy, that arithmetic prophecy and these Chilam Balams, which were written by the way, you know, hundreds of years after the Spanish arrived. And these people were rebuilding the smidgeons of their culture that were left. You know, now that they're firmly under the heel of the Spanish.
I should also point out, this is the text that we just looked at, a drawing, and that the red glyph here, it says "the end...," that's just a verb ending, "...of the 13...," that's blue, "...b'ak'tun." Okay? And then there's the 4 ajaw 3 k'ank'in date. And it's actually the same phrase that they used in when they're talking about the creation date, the end of the 13 katun. This is in a text of 4 ajaw 8 kumk'u which is 3114 B.C. and it's the most complete text we have of the creation myth. I like to describe the you know, imagine if you had a Holy Bible and you wrapped it around a hand grenade and set it off, and then picked up, you know, the little shreds of paper that were left and you got maybe three of them. That's how much myth we have from ancient Maya, the Spanish suppressed it; they burned their books and so forth.
And this little smidgeon, you know, we have a sentence here and a fragment there, and this is actually the longest text we have on a stone monument about the creation. It says 126.96.36.199.0 4 ajaw 3 k'ank'in. It was said in order the edge of the three stones placed, it was the end of the 13 b'ak'tun. And this guy oversaw the job. His name was the Six-Sky-Lord and the job is described in those three dots which I've left out, I'm afraid, is that one god places the stone on the sky, another one places it on the earth, another one places it in the sea. And those three stones...
Let's see now, where's the three stones here. I know that I have them. There we go.
This was a Maya hearth, three stones around a little fire pit; and when you're building a house, the first thing you do is you make a place to cook so that you can feed the builders while they finish the house. And so the three stones place is making a metaphor of house building as a metaphor of universe building. Does that make sense?
And the little griddle is called a "comal" and there's a reflection of it in the sky, at least according to Linda Schele's Maya Cosmos. There's the three stars of Orion that form a really nice triangle called the "summer triangle" Alnitak, Saiph and Rigel. In the middle of those three stars is a fuzzy spot, as you can see if you're away from the city, which is the "star factory"; it's the nebulae of M42 and M43 in Orion. And the Maya apparently saw that as a smoky fire, the little three stones. So that's the try to make the stones land right on the stars.
So that metaphor for creation is what's going on with the pardon me this text, the three stones of creation. And whenever you see a stone monument with an inscription on it dated pardon me, 3114 B.C., the date of the creation, they talk about the three stones. And in fact, the stones themselves, the stone monuments, are is reflexive self-reflexive text. They're often in threes and they will call themselves, the jaguar stone, the snake stone, and the shark stone to represent the three places where the stones were placed. And the three temples at Palenque, anybody been to Palenque? Those three pyramids in the cross group are representing the three stones, as well. We often see triadic arrangements in Maya history, which is a reflection of this.
So I've already talked a little bit about this, not much data. We've got 99% of Maya culture and history still have to be found, not counting what the Spanish burned and what not counting what was destroyed when the Maya collapsed in 900 A.D. Long before the Spanish came, the Maya were, what shall I say, fallen like the Romans. And the contradictory phrase is, the Maya calendar end date, if you want to call it that, if you believe that 13.0.0 represents an end date, is coming in 2012. The Aztec date of the creation is 4-Ollin and the year 4-Ollin comes out every 52 years and the next 4-Ollin year is 2027. So, mark my words, after 2012 passes and people go, "Oh, the world didn't end," they're going to start saying, "but we've got another chance in 2027." And probably, you know, there's also the end of the nice round number in the Hebrew calendar that's coming up, and there's lots of ends of the world.
Plus, the Quetzalcoatl's return according to the Aztecs is not 2012 and is not 2027, it's 2039. So there's another end of the world you can wait for them, all based on Mesoamerican stuff.
Manipulated means that the Maya and the Aztecs and all the Mesoamerican peoples had they did not have an inerrant bible. Right? We are so drenched in Judeo-Christian tradition here in this continent, that even if you're not a Christian scholar, if you're a Jewish scholar, or a Muslim scholar, then you have the same problem. But even if you're a Buddhist scholar or an atheist scholar, you have this idea that the book [Background Sound] is solid, right? You don't change the meaning of something. The Aztecs and the Maya, they were like, "Hey, let's change things." They would mess with text.
We have the king, Kan B'alam of the Maya. "Kan" means "snake," "B'alam" means "jaguar." That's two of three throne stones and he actually has a he's one that built those step triadic arrangements in Palenque. And he portrays an altar with three heads on it, that elsewhere and that the heads are built on the ends of thrones and through these three thrones elsewhere represent three stones of creation the jaguar, the snake, and the shark. And if you look very carefully at his monument, it has a jaguar on the front and two snakes. The question is, where is the shark? Well, his name wasn't "jaguar-snake-shark"; his name was "jaguar-snake." He changed this trinity into a duality I was going to say dutily [laugh] He changed his trinity into duality because it was like, "Hey, I'm the three throne stones, only there's only two." They had no qualms about doing that. That's like changing, you know, Adam and Eve's role or, you know, any of the myths that we hold dear, just switching things around. They manipulated them entirely.
And one of my favorite Mesoamerican heroes is Tlacaelel. Tlacaelel was the he was the power behind the throne of four of the Aztec emperors. He was the Giovanni de' Medici, if you will, that controlled things. And when the Aztecs took over, Azcapotzalco in the 1420s, they went through this palace saying, "Oh wow, this place is ours now." And in the library of the palace they found books that talked about the Aztecs in the most denigrating of terms, you know, that they smelled of dog feces and they, you know, they wore skins and things like that. They said, "What are we going to do with this? What are going to do with these beautiful books but to say such terrible things about us?" Tlacaelel says, "Burn the whole all up. Rewrite it. In fact while we're at it, let's burn our own books. And this is the first time we have an opportunity to rewrite history," and so they did. Tlacaelel convinced them to take a place like the Library of Congress, burn it down and rewrite everything so that it made the Aztecs look good. [Laugh] He was an even greater book burner than Diego de Landa. It's like anyway, they would manipulate scriptures all the time. They didn't have the scripture at all. Like I said, scholars disagree.
And here's something else, the Maya never corrected errors. There are many, many inscriptions in which the Maya say things like, "It was a Tuesday, five days past and it was a Monday." You know, this doesn't take long for you to figure out that the guys miscalculated, [laugh] and when they made a mistake like that, apparently, they thought that god was speaking through the error and they would leave it. A card laid was a card played. There's no evidence in any stone inscription that the Maya ever erased and rewrote anything, including many opportunities where they could have because the way you write a number like 3, the three dots, and the way you write a number like one --
that better not be my phone. Phew!
Anyway, the way they write the [inaudible] number three is three dots, and somebody would say that, you know, three some three days, three months, something like that, later, and if they miscalculated, the way they read the number one is with a dot and two little hollow rings. And so to correct, three to one is very easy. All you do is hollow up the two things, and there's errors like that where the number I think its number 18, and its three bars and three dots, and the two months are 16 months apart. And it's very easy to fix that, but they didn't and they didn't because a card that was a card played. And so errors accumulate when you don't correct them, and there's tons of errors.
The Maya so-called prophecies never mentioned destruction. There is the Popol Vuh, which talks about the previous worlds in which the gods destroyed the people, but they never talk about the future ever having any destruction. And I'll skip life and calendar.
Solstices are not significant. Remember, people thinking about the alignment of the sun and the galaxy happens on the winter solstice so that's kind of cool. But the Mayan, they looked at solstices in an interesting way as something interesting way back early in their history, but they sort of gave that up because there are many other things that are more important like the coming of the spring rains. And like I said, 1% penetration.
And as for the life in the calendar continued with 4772, I'm now going to spend the rest of the next four hours translating this for you. [Audience laughter] Actually, we're looking only at the first four double columns. The Maya wrote in pairs of columns.
By the way, the reason that they wrote, they're the only culture that has a writing system that doesn't go either like this...
...or like this...
...or like this. Okay? They divided into pairs of columns.
I think it's because they saw their writing as grains of corn, and if you go to the store and look at one of those ears of corn they have for sale, especially the health food store, you can peel them off and look inside. You can count the rows and you'll find ears of corn that have 16 rows or 18 rows or 14 rows, never 13, never 15, never 17. And in fact, they're a little bit offset. You'll see that the grains of corn are always growing in pairs of rows. I think that the reason the glyphs are shaped this way and the reason that they're arranged this way, and some stela are even shaped like mazorcas, like ears of corn. Is because they saw themselves as, you know, the corn was the staff of life, the corn was well, we call it "maize." Corn is actually a more generic term. Maize was the staff of life and to them, maize was everything. The gods created humanity in this creation out of maize. We're all actually kind of tamale. [Laugh]
So here's the first four columns of this text and it has several interesting events in it. This is all a history of the city of Palenque up to the time of Pacal, who's buried underneath this inscription, by the way. This is his epitaph. And then it talks about his glorious reign and then it talks about the future. So here is an event that happened 137 years after his death, or shall I say, will happen. What it says actually is the date will be 10.0.0.0.0.
Can you see those numbers at all? I really should blow them up but...
This date here is the Maya date 10.0.0.0, which is 830 A.D. This was carved in 682, so it was 130 years in their future. And it's a nice round number that actually looked ahead a few years after his death and they looked at them 30 years after his death; and they predict what's going to happen on all of these future dates is that there will be a ceremony appeasing the hearts of the gods. They called it a period-ending ceremony and appeasing the hearts of the gods is what you do in a period ending, you know, "Thank you. We're so happy with you. Here's some blood and corn," you know. And the gods are usually satisfied by that.
But they're basically saying that Pacal after his death will continue to appease the gods, and just to make sure that we know that he's going to do it for a long time, they jump ahead nine years, then they jump ahead 137 years. Each of these is a period ending. And then they jump ahead oops they skip back and connect his they skip ahead to 4000 years, but let's go back.
The next event they talk about is the crowning of a god which relates to the crowning of King Pacal a million years in the past. And one of the cool things about this number is it's not just a million years ago. The Sumerians talked about things happening in 60,000, 130,000 and things like that. The Maya said it didn't just happen a million years ago, it happened 1,246,826 years and 64 days in the past. And that number of days, by the way, if you look at that number, it's usually numerologically interesting. It'll be a nice what shall I say it'll be a nice multiple of sometimes 360 days which was the link that they're calculating here, 300 it'll be a multiple of 584 days which is the cycle of Venus. It'll be a multiple of 260 days sometimes. If it's 260 days it should have the same day that we got. It'll be a multiple of the 819 days which was a cycle that was seven times, nine times, 13. They connected events that were significant by numerologically significant numbers huge numbers. And they did these calculations with these millions and millions of days because they could. They're one of the few ancient peoples that had place value system and zero, which allows you to count basically to infinity if you want. The Romans can't do that. The Romans, the Jewish number system, the Greek number system, all those are based on the alphabet. Right? Alphas, 1; betas, 2; gammas, 3; and so forth. The Romans have an I for one and L and a V [inaudible] but they don't have any way of writing 60 million. They never needed to write 60 million. They might say 60 times a million and that sort of thing, but they never had a way of writing precise numbers, in large numbers. The Maya did and this is kind of like that argument they say about nuclear proliferation "We have the bomb, we've got to use it." Right?
The Maya had place value with zero, and so it became this tenet of their religion to flaunt it. They had these in fact, if you look at a Maya inscription, usually 50% or more is just numerical measurements, dates you know, this date happened and this date happened so much longer.
And then like the Leiden Plaque, which is a celt, a piece of jade that someone wore here, had a belt with three of these things. They're called "tinklers"; they clank against each other. And the tinklers has the date, taking at the top 30 70% of the text is the date, and then it has two glyphs say he was crowned and it has the name of the king. It was like the 30% that has the name of the king is less important than the date he was crowned on. Their fixation on time is phenomenal.
In any case, so they connect him with a crowning of a god in the past who's called the "zero-square-nose-critter," that's his nickname [laugh]; it's the that's the glyph in the far right in the blue box around it not quite far, second from the right at the top. But his name actually means the "primordial sustenance god." Now, we can translate that.
And here's the event in the future that he's counting to. If you look here, this glyph is the date of his coronation.
Can you see if I use a little arrow, like that?
This is the date of the coronation of Pacal in the year 613 A.D., and here's the same date and it happens to fall eight days after a period ending that's like 188.8.131.52.0.0. This is a six-digit number and base 20. We've talked about base 20 and base 10, right? We count in tens because we've got 10 fingers. The Maya went barefoot [laugh], they counted in base 20.
So this is a date which is like an odometer going over to a million miles. It's a six-digit number, you know. And very, very close to that date, eight days after it, is an anniversary of Pacal's coronation. It's not just any anniversary, it's 52 years times 80, which is, again, numerologically significant. So they're basically saying that in the year 4772 A.D. that Pacal will still be celebrating. They're telling us the status quo is going to continue.
They're also telling us, by the way, that this date of a million here, is going beyond 184.108.40.206.0, right? Our date 13 b'ak'tuns is not going to go back to zero b'ak'tuns because this date here is 14, 15, 16, 17 on up to 20, and when you get to 20 you get to this six-digit number.
So they're telling us that the calendar doesn't end and the status quote will not end. And I take great comfort in this. Of course, they missed the conquest; I do not take comfort in that. So you can't really count in their prophecies. [Audience laughter]
To remind everyone about the, what should I say, the progress of cultures in the Americas, here's what the Olmec, the mother culture, this is where they lived about the time, basically between the time of Tutankhamun and Socrates. And the Maya lived here, completely different language. They were the heirs to the culture of the Olmecs in the same way that the French royalty is the heir to the Roman Empire, and the same way that the Roman architecture is an heir to Greek architecture. But they're thousands of years later, the Maya lived between the first and the seventh centuries A.D. They spread to this area by 900 A.D. and then they collapsed, and here's where the Aztecs lived.
Again, each of these cultures spoke a language that are as different from each other as they are from English. There's cultural manifestations which moved through the history, but they're each one is very different. There's the [inaudible], there's the stars. And, you know, when you see the Aztec calendar as a symbol of the Maya calendar, you know what I'm talking about, that down in San Diego it's on the back of every van is a kind of [audience laughter] an emblem, a big decal. This is the Maya version of that. The Aztec calendar has the head of Tonatiuh in the center, and around him is the 20 days of the Aztec week, and the four creations of the previous creations of the Aztec world. This one has this is a page of the Madrid Codex and it has the 20 days of the Maya week. By the way, they're not in order like they are on the Aztec one. And then it has 260 dots in this little zigzag path which makes it kind of a four-pedaled Maltese cross-type flower. And on the corners are the days in the Maya calendar which tell us what they are. There's usually 13 dots between these corners. That's 260 days. That's the cycle of the Maya sacred calendar. So this really is a calendar page, and this is what should be on the back of a what should I say? This is what should be on the cover of all of those books about 2012, instead of the Aztec calendar.
And interestingly, this is the Maya version of it, each of the four directions that says south, north, west, east. We have gods doing ceremonies for five pairs of gods. Here's a version that's a Mixtec version of it. The gods who are doing ceremonies are all venerating trees, and each has a different species of tree with a different species of bird growing out of a different base. And the guy in the middle who's connected to them was connected to the corners with streams of blood. Here we have a head decapitated. Here we have an arm that's cut off. Here we have a leg that's cut off and here we have a ribcage. This is the god, Tezcatlipoca, who was a great Maya god. "Tezcatlipoca" means "smoking mirror." This is the mirror that was attached to where his foot should be, and he's cut up in the four corners of the universe in this same diagram. The Aztec version of this diagram is a bit tidier because the Aztecs were on the ascendant, and the Maya were kind of decadent, but...
Am I run out of time? I knew it. I could tell by the people streaming out.
I could go on, and on, and on, but the point is this. The Aztecs and the Maya were fabulous astronomers, fabulous calendarists, but they were not great prophets. They were certainly not prophets of something happening in 2012; and frankly, the connection between 2012, which was made up by 20th century scholars, is tenuous at best. I don't doubt because the Maya were in many city states, as different from each other as the Greek city states. They loved each other like the Athenians loved the Spartans. [Audience laughter] They probably had very different calendar priests in different cities and there may we find an inscription yet that says, "In 2012, you better watch out." We haven't found it yet though. I think that every piece of information we have says that the Maya at least told us not to worry about 2012.
[ Applause ]
And now I hope I've left enough time for a few questions.
You mean I've covered everything?
>> What did you mean when you said the Aztecs were the ascendants and the Mayas decadents?
>> Professor Mark Van Stone: This painting was made about 1500. It's in the Madrid Codex which was a book that was collected by Cortes and it was new when he had it. The Maya were already what should I say, they had been that the fall of the Maya, if you will, had happened in about 600 years earlier. So the reason that this is kind of funky looking is because it was made by artists who weren't who didn't have a lot of money. Whereas over in Aztec country this is actually south of Aztec country, in Mixtec country. Notice how neat and tidy everything is? They also are very neat and tidy in the way that they arrange the universe. There's one corner that's yellow and one that's red with green dots and one that's dark, and there's black and one that's blue with white dots. The colors of the directions, the fact that there's the same kind of arrangement it is, that it's just much tidier because the Aztecs, they loved order. And they were, shall I say, on the ascendant.
Well I've yes?
>> This is [inaudible] question. Where are you going to be in December 21...? [Laugh]
>> You remember, that cenote I showed you at the beginning? [Audience laughter] That's where I'll be. It's in the place called Ik Kil, south of Chichen Itza.
By the way, there's going to be Ed Barnhart is a runs a website called mayaexploration.org or something like that; just look for "mayaexploration" as one word. And he is going to have webcasts on December 21, 2012 from Chichen Itza, from Tikal, from Palenque and Copan, you know, all day. So you can [laugh] And Chichen Itza, you may know is like the most popular destination in Mexico, I think more tourists go there than anywhere else, and that's on an off day. Imagine what it's going to be like on the 21st of December. I'll be right there at ground zero. [Audience laughter]
So I urge you all to the reason I wrote this book, and the reason that I wrote two of them, my little I actually have a digital book, which I forgot to mention, but if you go there's a flier in the back for my book and I want to plug my digital book which is got the same title, "Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya," and you can buy it only for the iPad. And I don't have time to show it to you but it has it has more moving pictures than it has still pictures; it has interactive features which are really cool, and I'm delighted to be part of the next generation of publishing. [Audience laughter] And it has 13 scholars, including John Carlson, and 52 video interviews embedded in the book. There's two hours of video interviews in addition to the text that you read, and then there's pictures that you can manipulate, that the timeline for instance that I did is all one picture. You just scrub your finger across it and then colors change.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun to work on a digital interactive book and that's only it's only available on the iPad because nobody else has the technology to play such a thing yet, but it's coming. So thanks for oh, if you want to look at it, if you want to look for my book, you got to look at mvs2012.com.
Thank you! [Applause]
>> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.