By Mark Stevenson
Or is it?
Definitely not, the Mayan Indian elder insists. "I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff."
One of them is Monument Six.
Found at an obscure ruin in southern Mexico during highway construction in the 1960s, the stone tablet almost didn't survive; the site was largely paved over and parts of the tablet were looted.
It's unique in that the remaining parts contain the equivalent of the date 2012. The inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.
However--shades of Indiana Jones--erosion and a crack in the stone make the end of the passage almost illegible.
Archaeologist Guillermo Bernal of Mexico's National Autonomous University interprets the last eroded glyphs as maybe saying, "He will descend from the sky."
Spooky, perhaps, but Bernal notes there are other inscriptions at Mayan sites for dates far beyond 2012--including one that roughly translates into the year 4772.
"It's a special anniversary of creation," said David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Maya never said the world is going to end, they never said anything bad would happen necessarily, they're just recording this future anniversary on Monument Six."
Bernal suggests that apocalypse is "a very Western, Christian" concept projected onto the Maya, perhaps because Western myths are "exhausted."
Below: "Guatemalan Mayan Indian elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun pays his respects at an altar within the Iximche ceremonial site in Tecpan, Guatemala, on Saturday."
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