Learn to Crack the Maya Code [Watch]

As darkness fell over Antigua, Guatemala, UT Maya expert David Stuart (“Secrets of the Maya,” July|August 2012) and I sat in rocking chairs at UT’s Casa Herrera, talking about the apocalypse.

“There’s only one reference to 2012 anywhere in any Maya writing, and it says nothing about the world ending,” Stuart said. He repeated the sentence to make sure it sunk in. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to make his point unequivocally clear: Stuart has spent the last two years trying to throw water on the unstoppable pop-culture belief that the ancient Maya predicted the world’s end on Dec. 21, 2012.

The Maya did no such thing—to the contrary, they conceived of time on a million-year scale—and researchers are scratching their heads, wondering where the doomsday theory came from. Only one stone tablet mentions the date, Stuart and his colleagues have pointed out over and over again.

A few weeks later, I was on the phone with Stuart. “Just a second,” he said. “I have to close my office door.” Then, in hushed tones, he told me something shocking: his team in Guatemala had just discovered a second 2012 reference. “Of course, the New-Age folks will run with this,” he said wearily.

Like the first 2012 inscription, this one is not prophetic and in no way suggests the Maya believed the world would end. The 1,300-year-old inscription is one of the most significant hieroglyphic discoveries in decades—and that’s a fact Stuart finds more astounding than any crackpot theory. But the news, announced this week by the Guatemalan government, will undoubtedly add fuel to the doomsday fire.

Get to know Stuart—and find out why he’s counting down to 2013, not 2012—in this video (top) from the Longhorn Network‘s new Alcalde show.

Stuart also invited The Alcalde to his Austin home for a crash course in decoding Maya hieroglyphs. Learn the basics here.

Deciphering with David Stuart

Top video by Longhorn Network; bottom video by John Fitch.


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