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Mayan Calendar

Updated on December 15, 2011

The Mayan Calendar is, for some, causing a certain disquiet. Due to the 2012 end of the world predictions flying around the ether, many people are confused as to what an ancient calendar has to do with anything. The truth is, it has a lot to do with many things - that concern the 2012 predictions. The reason being that the Mayan calendar is the predominant source of the supposed ‘end of life as we know’ prophecies.

Or, as I prefer to call them – suppositions.

Mayan Calendar

An illustration of the Mayan calendar system - working in conjunction with each other.
An illustration of the Mayan calendar system - working in conjunction with each other.

The Mayan calendar is, in fact, not one singular tool for time measurement but several. Each separate calendar represents a cycle of time - much like we have seconds, minutes, hours … and so on. The separate calendar systems – or measurements of time - can join together, harmonizing the different time spans.

It’s a little difficult breaking all the information down but – the easiest way of taking what I know and making it read in laymens’ terms - is to try and help to you to view the Mayan calendar system as being a lot like this:

Mayan Calendar

An illustration of how the calendars worked in synch. A little difficult to grasp so it is easier to try and think along the lines of 'adding' smaller units of time in order to create larger ones.   Click on the picture to view it full-sized.
An illustration of how the calendars worked in synch. A little difficult to grasp so it is easier to try and think along the lines of 'adding' smaller units of time in order to create larger ones. Click on the picture to view it full-sized.

· Seconds

· Become minutes

· Become hours

· Become days

· Become weeks

· Become months

· Become years

· Become decades

· Become centuries

· Become millenniums

· And etc.

Mayan Calendar

The above is not how the Mayan calendars work. But that’s the general idea. The calendars (separately) are units or measurements of time. When connected together and coordinated, they calendars simply add the units of time together. Making time cycles longer.

We measure time by connecting and synchronizing smaller units of time. Thus we can live our lives day by day, or week to week. We can plan ahead. We can look back and remember a date or moment in time that’s significant to us. The Mayans were no different. They just measured time differently.

Mayan Longcount Calendar

Hopefully we’re now on the same page. Time to look at the Mayan calendar in question, the one most connected with the so called prophecies – the long count calendar.

Although the Mayan used different calendar systems, the three that are found most commonly written or talked about are:

  • Haab – this was the versions closest to ours, the Gregorian calendar and the 365 day (per year) cycle that we now live by, the civil calendar
  • Tzolk'in - the was the sacred or divine calendar and a 260 day cycle
  • Long count – this is the one that the 2012 predictions are based upon

The table below simplifies the way that a Mayan calendar measures time, in relation to our modern day calendar system.

1 Kin 
1 Day 
1 Uinal 
20 Kins 
= 20 Days 
1 Tun 
18 Uinals 
= 360 Days 
1 Katun 
20 Tuns 
= 7,200 Days 
1 Baktun
20 Katuns
= 144,000 Days

Mayan Numerical System

And how it worked in relation to the long count calendar. Click to see full size.
And how it worked in relation to the long count calendar. Click to see full size.

NB - the picture on the right is a basic version of how the Maya recorded numbers. It's only used to give you an idea of how their numerical system worked in relation to the long count calendar.


Simply put, of the three calendars I’ve brought to your attention, the long count calendar is known as the Long Cycle. And the long count time cycle lasts for 5,125.36 years

Give or take.

Dresden Codex

Page 2 of the Dresden Codex. You should, when looking at this copy, be able to imagine the difficulties that scholars have when trying to work with or work out the Mayan calendar. The Mayans didn't write, so much as draw.
Page 2 of the Dresden Codex. You should, when looking at this copy, be able to imagine the difficulties that scholars have when trying to work with or work out the Mayan calendar. The Mayans didn't write, so much as draw.

To quantify what that means in relation to 2012, we have to know the start date of the long count. A well known anthropologist, Sir Eric Thompson, thoroughly examined what is known about the Mayan calendar. Over a length of time and by using events that were recorded by both the Spanish Inquisition (via our Gregorian calendar) and the Mayan people (via the long count calendar), he was able to correlate data.

Further, the Dresden Codex [source Dresden Codex] was used – this is a book which dates back to the 11th or 12th century and stems from the Maya that were left after the original civilization was largely disbanded some centuries previous. The Dresden Codex is thought to be a copy of original Mayan text, dating back to the 8 or 9th century AD.

By having fixed calendar dates that Sir Thompson could draw a parallel between, he could accurately draw a conclusion as to the start date of the long count Mayan calendar. When all the information that had been gleaned was further compared to the Dresden Codex, a date was finally arrived at.

Of course empirical practice may have been applied – I don’t know, I wasn’t part of the study group – but I still believe that Sir Thompson is pretty bang on with his findings. The start date for the Mayan calendar is though to be August 13, 3114 B.C. [source Mayan Long Count]

That in turn puts the final year of the long count calendar as being 2012. Give or take.

End Of The World

Don't expect these guys in December 2012. They'll be wrapping Christmas presents.
Don't expect these guys in December 2012. They'll be wrapping Christmas presents.

This is a very complex calendar system and attempting to create an overview of it in less than 25 years or so is nothing short of a migraine. And if the 2012 end of the world prophecies are to be believed, I've only got three years. Apparently.

The way it works, in a sense, isn't as important as what it means - to us. The fact is, despite the Mayan calendar system being so complicated - that in itself doesn't dictate that it holds the secrets to a potential end of the world scenario.

Not as far as I'm concerned anyway.

It doesn’t matter whether you spend ten years studying the Mayan calendars in minute detail - or not. You still won’t discover a date for the end of the world.That said, you will discover something. And I'm going to make it dead easy ...

.... all you’ll find is that the long count calendar ends. What happens then? You reset the calendar. If you’re Mayan.

Not that you can reset it as such. It just starts all over again. But you get the idea.

Mayan People

2012 prophecies = money trees. Trust me on this.
2012 prophecies = money trees. Trust me on this.

As far as I’m aware, the modern Maya of today are pretty cheesed of with the folks that are bandying the Mayan calendar about in what really is a flagrant disregard for the truth.

They know, as well as I do – that such users (or abusers) of this ancient calendar system are making a lot of money. That said, they’re not denying that the long count ends. Only that its end date is being hugely misinterpretated.

Mayan Calendar - It Is Brilliant

Life is good. Spend it with family ... paddling in the sea ...
Life is good. Spend it with family ... paddling in the sea ...
We live in a beautiful world. Enjoy it.
We live in a beautiful world. Enjoy it.

The Maya didn’t even invent the long count – all they did was adapt it – in an incredibly skillful and magnificent manner. Originally it was an idea belonging to the Aztec people and, once adapted, the Mayan calendar was used - in the main - for keeping an eye on things such as:

  • Seasons – harvesting and sowing of crops
  • Cosmic movement – keeping an eye of their Gods e.g. the Sun
  • Religious observation – sacrificial events and bloodletting
  • Tracking events and happenings – much as we do today

So - what in the above leaps out at you and shouts 'run for the hills ... the end is nigh!!'? Nothing, as far as I can see. And unless you're daft enough to buy into the 2012 end of the world hoohaa - you shouldn't be reading anything into it either.

The Mayan calendar does come to an end in 2012. And maybe some funky atmospheric changes will occur. But the end of the world? Unlikely.

Now stop digging a hole in your backyard. Or stocking up on toilet roll. And go back to paying the bills, spending time with family and friends - and just enjoy life.


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    • profile image

      ego night 

      5 years ago

      The mayan calendar is good but the fact that people produces a mythical and superstitious predictions about it relating to the end of the word is bad.

      The world will not end we should depend on the Bible teachings.

    • bmcoll3278 profile image


      7 years ago from Longmont, Colorado

      Awesome hub voted up. I did one a short time ago from a little diff angel . But my was not this good. Great job

    • KenWu profile image


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      Wow, that's a great read. The Mayan Calendar is really a good and interesting subject

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Bronson - this one and the original hub (2012 End Of The World) were a pleasure to write, honest. I loved writing the pair - in fact I love writing for pleasure - history, info rich articles, that kind of thing, so thank you.

      BTW - you can never K.A. enough so far as I'm concerned ;)

    • Bronson_Hub profile image


      8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      How... You wrote such an amazing post on this and when thinking about how to reverse engineer it, I cannot fathom how much time and research you put into this, then looking at your word choice and presentation, it flowed perfectly. A very talented writer and one of the best Hubs on here. OK, that's enough ass kissing for now :P

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      I guess we will have to wait and see what happens on Dec,21st2012. I believe that the changes will occur in the spiritual realm as well as the earth realm.The New Age of Aquarius is upon us, which means that a restructuring of the current operating system will take place. In other words, lots of change.

    • mikicagle profile image


      8 years ago from Oklahoma

      super hub

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      8 years ago from UK

      Great hub. Thanks. I hope only that our sun won’t be 'eaten' by the black hole in the centum of our galaxy at 12-21-2012. :)

    • Majah profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello Frogdropping. Love your Happy New Year Froggie! Read your Hub, lots of info.very good. And it does take so many years...and never-ending study to understand the Mayan Calendar.I used to have morning predictions on my radio show regarding the theme of the day and it's Day Lord. So many Calendars, I use the T'Zolkin.

      I don't think I read any references to Galactic Time in either of your articles. This was mainly the difference between other calendars and the Mayan.

      When Jose's book came out and the 'Harmonic Convergence' happened world-wide in 1987 I was one of those plugged into waves of revelation of the Dawn of a New Day (or Age.) It's not something controlled by money-makers, it's an awakening that happens within. One of the reason's one was born in this time and place. i.e. one's purpose. It was a very exciting time and continued to be for many years while I taught on the East and in the West in America.

      Now that the Earth has actually "tipped on it's axis" with the last major earthquake (I was wondering how that was going to happen)many revelations are coming true. We will conjunct with Galactic Center in our Milky Way Galaxy which is at 26 degrees Sagittarius in Dec 2012. The Thirteenth Constellation which is Oephecius resides there as well. It is depicted as a Man holding a giant snake's head with an open mouth while the rest of the snake gently wraps around his body. This is the Mastery of Wisdom for Humankind. Or I should say, our path as a species.

      The Mayan Calendar can teach humanity to transcend our fears.

      In our currently polarized world of political consciousness (here in America) it is blatantly clear that the fear-mongering sect are desperate human beings who think their fearful stances should be validated by others. They act out in most unseemly behaviours. And we are a nation of free speech. It is the masses, humanity itself that will determine the course we take. For now it's all put out on the table and polarity is our current state until we transcend it to oneness.

      I look forward to more of your Hubs!! Happy New Year! Majah

    • moondive profile image


      9 years ago from Modena,Italy

      Exellent hub!!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Fascinating hub! I watched Charlie's video, too. Yuck!

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Clark - you're welocme :)

    • Clark Kent profile image

      Clark Kent 

      9 years ago from Europe

      Thanks, informative and fascinating hub. The Ancient civilizations have indeed much to teach.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      9 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Well written FrogD, I'm a huge fan of the Mayan calender, I know I will be coming back to reread this article. I'm also a follower of Quetzalcoatl and a strong believer in ancient astronauts, outrageous for some, scientific and historically meaningful to me. Thanks for the good word.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Dolores - it's not going to end. Stop maxing out your cards ;)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Thanks, frog. I was so worried that the world was soon going to end that I decided to stop taking care of my house, or any other upkeep. I mean, why bother? And let the credit cards max out. Who cares if the world is going to end. Same goes for those extra hunks of chocolate cake....Now you tell us that the world is not going to end in 2012. Uh-oh.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Naomi - I'm late to return your comment but thankyou for your feedback :)

      ash - cheers indeed ;)

    • ashmag profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you for that Hub!!! Yes, cheers to 2013!!!

    • NaomiR profile image


      9 years ago from New York

      Interesting hub! They're actually coming out with an action/adventure movie about this called 2012. It's by the same folks who did Day After Tomorrow. Go figure. It's interesting how much ancient art and documents are misinterpreted; it's kind of like a game of telephone.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Hey Dutch ... great to see you! You keep up the good work yourself - loved the article! And thanks for coming by :)

    • The Lost Dutchman profile image

      Patrick Bernauw 

      9 years ago from Flanders (Belgium)

      Your No Nonsense Approach was very refreshing, and your article was one of my sources for

      Keep up the good work!

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      salt - that's a fascinating tale. And I agree with what he shared with you. Here's to 2013 :)

    • salt profile image


      9 years ago from australia

      i met a south american sharman a few years ago and he drew bits of the calendar in the sand and explained that it is not the end of the calendar or the world, but a shift. A significant shift. I cannot recall the symbols, but it is nothing to be frightened of.. ((()))Love to all!!

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Appletree - thankyou :) And it will. Probs 2013 will follow as per every new years eve. Hopefully anyway!

    • Appletreedeals profile image


      10 years ago from Salisbury, Maryland USA

      a subject I've always been interested in, good information, guess 2012 will tell the tale.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Dynamic - I part researched, part knew it from ... before, reading and so on. And facts are always interesting :)

      I*n*v*i*c*t*u*s - I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the read. There is always change going on around us. 2012 will bring 2013 - however it arrives, it's coming. Personally I welcome global change, but the kind that doesn't involve less for the majority and more for the minority. I like to think that a bit of equality and fair play will be distributed, if anything. I live in hope :)

    • I*n*v*i*c*t*u*s profile image


      10 years ago

      I really enjoyed this information. The Mayan calender is intriguing to me and it will be interesting to see how things evolve. However I do not believe that 2012 is the end of the world...I do believe the world as we know it will see dramatic changes.. Thanks for the great explanation!

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 

      10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Frogdropping, some great research here. Thanks for the info. I guess I'm cynical, but if the end is imminent, there is nothing that I can do about it...

      Interesting facts though.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      askjan - thankyou :)

      pgrundy - ha lol! Let's a few of us get together, take a sabbatical from HP and collaborate on a book entitled 'All You Need To Know About The End Of The World - An Adaptable Book. According To 'Which' Prediction'

      We should make a mint :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This was really helpful, thanks! Sometimes I think the way to go is to just make up something outrageous and write a book about it. Why even bother with facts? lol! Seriously though, we've had several of these 'end of the world' predictions in recent years and at some point people just get fed up, like sure, ok, whatever... Most jobs will still count it against you if you don't show up. What? You stayed home because the WORLD ENDED? You're fired!

    • askjanbrass profile image


      10 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Good informative Hub..


    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Camping Dan - They were incredibly accurate. In truth, a very astute civilization. However, they weren't all good stuff. The sacrifice side of them was perfectly vile.

      Mike - hey :) Whatever is - or isn't - going to happen, 2012 is coming like it or not. And I for one like tracking forwards. I'm not too bothered about sticking with the here and now, and definitely don't cart my past with me. Life's good and besides, the technology side of things? That'll be the fault of that silicon chip business. Which (obviously) came to us by aliens ...

    • MikeNV profile image


      10 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Proves the Humans have had amazing intelligence long before paper and today's technology. If you think about World as we live in it now. In past 100 years so much has change. Cars, Air Travel, Computers, Cell Phones. Many in last 25 years. Technology is going so rapid now, but not sure is making things better. World is so polluted now. Maybe 2012 will be the START of new cleansing. Maybe will be good for planet. One thing for sure. We exist whether we fully understand or not.

    • Camping Dan profile image

      Camping Dan 

      10 years ago

      It was amazing just how close their time keeping was to what we know today. They did not have fancy computers to figure this out, they just did.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Pacal - if it doesn't end in 2012, I believe 2014 is the next flagged date. Or is it 2017? I forget, there's so many of them.

      Still, I'm with you ... we're already feeling the stirrings of a damn good party :)

    • profile image

      Pacal Votan 

      10 years ago

      End of the world or not, it will still be fun. There will be parties and stuff. Ralwus throws a party for one. We are having fun already. Look at this verbosity and all. :)

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      dohn - glad to hear you've a sensible take on it all :) And the predictions? Well Mr Voodoo happened along (on the other I think) and informed me that there's either 200 or more that have been given to the masses (us) in order to inform us (nicely) that our planets' demise is imminent. Or some such.

      If I find the time I may write one about sun spots and polar shifts. Or even planet x. That should put the beejeebies right up folks' asses.

      And thankyou for stopping by!

    • dohn121 profile image


      10 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Gosh, I just hope I pay back my student loans before then! I really did enjoy this hub. I knew that a bunch of people are freaking out about the end of the world and such, but I'm not afraid myself. A lot of people believed that Y2K was going to be a big deal--Armageddon if you will--and then the same people said, "Correction! The world is really going to end in the year 2001! And when it didn't happen, the same people turned to the Mayan calendar and made outlandish claims that this is the real McCoy! Hey, how many times is the world going to end anyway?

      Thanks for sharing, Frogdropping!

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Pacal - the way I write used to get me an ass-kicking at uni :)

      And you're right, this is the extension of the other one. I need to link them together. And I'm not 'into' it as such. I just read and read and read. And then I read some more.

      Jose Arguelles is a brilliant scholar but he writes like my friend does (another such scholar, though law is his expertise) and I think you have to be of a similar persuasion to fully understand what they're saying.

      And your name. I wondered about that. Arguelles announced his status and appears immensely proud of it. I understand his logic, his reasoning. But I always lose the thread a bit when folks start going all esoteric.

      If you understand :)

    • profile image

      Pacal Votan 

      10 years ago

      I know it takes time and perseverance to write a hub like this and to keep it concise. I think that's a skill a good writer must have, and it's not the easiest skill to practice. You do it well and add humor, something not all people can do easily.

      I read your other hub and I think this one is an extension and a clarification on the topic of calendars. I'm not as much into this as you might think. All I did I read a scientific paper by one of the leading researchers of the field, John Major Jenkins.

      Your other hub points at Jose Arguelles. I have one of his books, Time & The Technosphere. Honestly, in my whole life I've only had one book I couldn't finish for reasons of complexity, but this one is another. I can't read it, because I don't understand it at all. The guy is a genius, but also a bit spooky. I took this name, Pacal Votan, for fun, but Jose actually thinks he IS the reincarnation of Pacal Votan. It's stated in his book. :)

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Pacal - thankyou :) I am with you on the dates and I haven't stated that 2012 is the end of the world, just that it's the end of the long count cycle. But thankyou all the same.

      I tried (as with it's 'brother hub') to keep this as concise as possible. I didn't write it from a spurious angle. I wrote it as factually as possible. But I like that you've added in the 'why' of the long count time range.

      It's incredibly difficult writing about something as complex as the Mayan calendars. And trying not to write a book about it. I think the other one is in the 2000 word range.

      I wanted to keep things factual without folks dropping off. And as you're aware of the cycles, then you'll be aware of all the fiddly numerical values (like the way they worked to base twenty, not ten like us) and the way they used symbols and pictograms.

      Etc. See - I'm off again :)

    • profile image

      Pacal Votan 

      10 years ago

      Funny hub. :) I noticed a little a mistake.

      Here are some facts that are worth thinking about,

      We know that the Long Count was started by the pre-Maya around 355 BC. But they did not begin in the beginning. They didn't say, ok, this is the start, we are at 0, let's begin counting. :)

      Instead, they said, where the hell are we (in time)? It's clear we are not in the beginning, because there was a past.

      Ok, but how do we calculate where we are?

      And then one of them said, look, at least we know when the end is. (astronomical knowledge) Let's start from there, think up some sort of system and measure our time backwards.

      They devised the long count and determined that they were in the 6th baktun, and set the start date at 3114 BC.

      In other words, 2012 is not the end of the world because the long count ends, but the long count ends because it is the end of the world.

      Actually what they meant by the end of the world was a planetary alignment that occurs exactly in the winter solstice. The Sun will be exactly between the Earth and the dead center of the Milky Way. This has never happened before. For the Maya, the center of the Milky Way was the core from where all life energy derives. Being cut of from this stream of energy by the Sun can have consequences we can't predict.

      I'm not saying 2012 IS the end. It's just that there is a scientific explanation why the Maya chose this date to be the end. They knew exactly when this planetary alignment will happen. We wouldn't know anything about it were it not for our telescopes, (and the long count calendar to direct our attention to the phenomenon).

      Sorry for the long comment. Just to be in the clear. :)

    • thelesleyshow profile image


      10 years ago from US

      Great hub!

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      ralwus - it is a bit weird though. When you think on it. The internet just couldn't sustain itself with that type of subscription system.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      LOL@doca, hehehe Froggy, I don't know if that vid is real or not, but just the thought of it frightens the shit out me.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      doca - I'm glad to hear you sleep well. That is what you mean - right? ;)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      wth scaring the shit out of me,,,,,,,,i don't even dream of it

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      ralwus - I just watched it and I'm kinda 'wtf'? I mean - are they really going do that? All the big guys will go out of business though. Anyone that's selling online, from the little guys up to the big guns like amazon, Ebay etc - they'll sink! It's utterly preposterous. Surely it can't happen?

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      No, it is scary dear. really.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      ralwus - my you're wick lad :) I'm going to look at your video. I hope it's an amusing one now!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Well they were certainly brilliant people. Thanks for the info, good job. Frankly I find the following a scarier proposition.


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