One of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known once centered in what is now Guatemala, and Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras a region known as Mesoamerica. The area is 325,000 square kilometers.
The Mayan Empire developed about 350BC in the tropical lowlands of northern Guatemala and adjacent Belize reached its peak from about 250AD to 900 A.D. However Spanish conquests in the 16th century spelled the final ending of the Maya culture, which had already faded with many of its great cities and monuments deserted.
In the 8th and 9th centuries AD Classic Maya culture began to decline, with most of the cities of the central lowlands abandoned. Warfare, ecological depletion of croplands, and drought are suspected reasons for the decline. There is archaeological evidence of warfare, famine, and revolt against the elite at some of the lowlands sites.
The Maya cities of the northern lowlands in Yucatan continued to flourish for centuries more; some of the important sites like Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Coba, and Calakmul. Chichen Itza went into decline as ruler over Yucatán shifted to Mayapan. Mayapan was the political capital of the Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula from about the late 1220AD until 1440AD after the decline of the ruling dynasties of Chichen and Uxmal. Mayapan ruled all of Yucatan until a revolt in 1450, when many began to city states until the Spanish Conquest.
Post-Classic Maya states also continued to thrive in the southern highlands of what is now Guatemala. One of the Maya kingdoms in this area, los K'iche' and others are responsible for the most of Maya work Popol Vuh and other history and mythology.
The Spanish started their conquest of the Maya lands in the 1520s. A few Maya states offered long fierce resistance; Spanish authorities did not subdue the last Maya city-state until 1697.
The Spanish American Colonies were largely cut off from the outside world, and the ruins of the great ancient cities were little known except to locals. In 1839 however, American explorer, John Lloyd Stephens, hearing reports of lost ruins in the jungle, visited Copan, Palenque, and other sites with English architect & draftsman Frederick Catherwood. Their illustrated accounts of the ruins sparked strong interest in the region and the people, and they have once again regained their position as a vital link in Mesoamerican heritage.
In some rural areas of Guatemala and small parts of Belize, the population is Maya by descent and Maya dialects remain their primary language. Also Maya culture still exists in areas in rural Yucatan and Chiapas, Mexico.
The Maya occupied the Central American continent, including the south parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. In general, researchers tend to split the Maya into the Highland Maya and Lowland Maya.
Early Periods [2500-1000 BC] - Beans and maize as part of generalized hunting and natural goods gathering.
Middle Periods [1000-400 BC] - Full-fledged farming, trading of goods such as obsidian, jade, and exotic feathers, Olmec contacts, between 600-400 BC.
Late Periods [400 BC - 250 AD] - Construction of the first massive palaces at Nakbe and El Mirador, in what is now Northern Guatemala. Large stone sculptures and fancy burials started to appear. Cities engage in widespread warfare.
Classic Period [AD 250-900] - A writing system developed. Calendars and royal lineages at Copan and Tikal. Connections with Teotihuacan and Kaminaljuyu. Populations believed to peak at almost 100 per square kilometer. Paramount kings and polities at Tikal, Calakmul, Caracol and Dos Pilas.
Post-Classic [AD 900-1500] - Some centers abandoned, written records dercease, Puuc hill country flourishes, Some rural towns continue to prosper until the Spanish arrive in 1517.
2012 & The Maya
Throughout the jungles of Guatemala, Yucatán Mexico, Belize and some of Honduras, are the remains of the Maya Civilization. Their mysterious temples, calendars, stone carvings, hieroglyphs, etc. are scattered almost everywhere.
Reading what the anthropologists, astrologers or astronomers say about The Maya and the approaching Winter Solstice on the 21st of December 2012 is interesting. This is the so-called End Date that comes from the most accepted Maya Calendar. The vast majority of writing found on this subject is written in words aimed at specialists and or written in language that is hard to read.
A great deal of scientific and visionary research work has been done about the Maya. The Maya tracked cycles within cycles and also within cycles of time. Their calendar seems to link and coordinate the lunar, earth, solar and galactic seasons in a simple but elegant manner.
So why is there so much talk about the 'end of the Maya calendar' and what does it mean? Is there something especially significant we should know about the Winter Solstice on 21st day of December 2012? Why should anyone care about the Maya today? Is there anything that can be learned from them? How did the Maya track such long periods of time with such accuracy?
Some answers are found in the book 'The Mayan Factor' by Jose Arguelles. His book explains the 20 Maya day signs and the thirteen Maya numbers in the mysterious 260 day Maya ceremonial calendar, called the Tzolkin. Other books also offer numerous and varied explanations of the Maya calendars.
On the Winter Solstice of 21 December 2012 there is something we should all know about. On this day a rare astronomical and Maya mythical event occurs.
Using astronomer's terms on that date, the Sun conjuncts at a point in the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic East to West track on which the Sun, Moon, the planets and stars appear to travel in the universe. The Milky Way extends in a general North to South direction. The East to West plane of the ecliptic track intersects the Milky Way at an approximate 60 degree angle near the constellation Sagittarius.
A cosmic cross is formed by the intersecting Milky Way and plane of the ecliptic. The Maya called this cross the Sacred Tree (Today known as the Ceiba Tree). The trunk of the tree is the Milky Way or the axis, and the main branch intersecting the tree is the plane of the ecliptic track. Mythically, at sunrise on 21st December 2012, the Sun (The Maya Father) rises to conjoin with the center of the Sacred Tree, sometimes called The World Tree, or the Tree of Life. The Maya believed that the tree meant survival of humanity and that 'if the last tree dies, soon after the human race will also die. Today the giant Ceiba tree is believed to be the Sacred Tree of The Maya. The Ceiba is also Guatemala's National Tree.
This rare astronomical event that was foreseen in the Maya story of the Hero Twins, and calculated by them, will happen for many of us in our lifetime. The Sun has not conjoined the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic since some 25,800 years ago, long before the Maya arrived on the scene and long before their predecessors arrived.
Meaning that due to a phenomenon of the equinoxes, caused by the Earth's wobble that lasts almost 26,000 years, the apparent location of the Winter Solstice sunrise has been ever so slowly moving toward the galactic center. The Maya noticed the change of the positions of stars in the night sky over long periods of observation, they noticed the earth rise and dip on its axis and foresaw this coming event. Using Long Count, the Maya forwarded the count to 21 December 2012, the end of their Great Cycle, and then they likely counted backwards to decide where the calendar would begin. Meaning the Great Cycle (we are currently in) began on August 11, 3114 BCE (Before the Christian Era).
Many believe The Maya calendar does not actually end in 2012, but more likely, all the cycles turn over and start again, going into to a new era. It is believed The Maya writings describe the large and fast growing Ceiba trees as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds, and believed them to be absolutely essential to life. They also seemed to believe that without the trees man could not survive and that with the death of the last tree, the human race will also perish.
The many ancient carved stone and wood figures in addition to the stars themselves possibly just tell us we are on the brink of a new world age. Man can only imagine what may be in store in the year 2012.
Will the world end in 2012?
No, not in terms of complete destruction or annihilation of the earth.
Most people contemplate the expression 'end of the world' as the end of everything, but maybe we should think of the phrase as the end of a period of time, a cycle or era. In that sense, 2012 could signify the end of a world cycle. The earth and its inhabitants could enter into a new age, with new way of thinking, goals and beliefs.
The new world to follow could be founded on different values in which the belief of the inter-dependence of all life is emphasized, unlike the world we are in today which is dominated by materialism and ego-consciousness.
Some Maya enthusiasts assert that 2012 brings the 'end of the world as we know it', which may be linked to the 'end of linear time'. True or not, it is hard to predict the longevity of our modern world, based on the complex situation that we are in as a planet, humanity's dependence on technology and unsustainable customs.
Almost all of us can agree that we are living in times of uncertainty and imbalance, but it's important to realize that frightening ourselves by believing in doomsday theories doesn't really help in rising up to face the great challenges before us today. We must understand that if we believe these fearful thoughts, one can easily shut down, which will lead us further into darkness. When thinking about what the world might be like beyond 2012, it should be clear that no one knows or can really predict how things may be as we enter this new world cycle.
We need to move from fear to awareness. The population of the world must open their hearts and follow their inspirations. The changes to come may start gradually or swiftly, it all depends on how conscious we become, and how we all participate in this process of awakening our human potential.
As far as the specific date of December 21, 2012; most of the present day Maya people of Guatemala want it to be known that their ancient prophecies have been distorted. Most do not support the hysteria that is being raised by different 2012 theories. They want the world to understand that much of the 2012 information being put out is not truly sourced from the Maya or their calendars.