Six Points Essential to a Fair Critique of the 2012 Topic


After communicating with many scholars over the years on the 2012 question, I’ve developed a strategy of approach to the 2012 topic, which should be considered a useful guideline for any pro-active critique.

I hope scholars can orient their comments to these essential points. Also, it is important to consider the recent findings of MacLeod and Grofe on the accuracy of Classic Period precessional calculations. A rational approach to 2012 must address several inter-related topics. In a nutshell, these are:


1) The calendar correlation


2) The likelihood of intent suggested by the solstice placement of the 13-baktun cycle ending date in 2012


3) The place and time of the Long Count’s origins


4) The relevance of Izapa and the “Izapan civilization” to the Long Count’s origins


5) The galactic alignment theory with respect to 2012 and the significance of the archaeoastronomical symbolism in the Izapan ballcourt


6) The question of ancient knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes and its accurate calculation.


For critics to spend all their time responding to the much overblown media hype that falls under the erroneous assumption that “the Maya predicted the world will end in 2012” is by now just passé, a boring cliché. We should be addressing our questions to 2012 as an intentional artifact of the ancient calendar, and explore how this date and ideologies possibly connected with it manifested in Maya cosmology.

I assume that the relevance of the six points listed above can be agreed upon, or can be dismissed upon a rational basis, with non-opinionated and objective reasons given. If one believes any of those points are irrelevant, one should explain why. See my elaborations below on the relevance of the six points listed above. (The above was sent to Anthony Aveni on January 19, 2009John Major Jenkins.)   


My elaboration of the points listed above, and why they are essential for a meaningful approach to the 2012 topic:


1) The calendar correlation

Unless the facts of the correlation question are addressed clearly the 2012 discussion encounters a fundamental problem. For some scholars aver that the end date is December 23, 2012 (not the solstice). Even if scholars allow for either date being viable, the facts of the matter definitively point to December 21, 2012. One needs to assess Floyd Lounsbury’s argument for December 23, which few have done. My own critique of Lounsbury’s work goes back to 1992, and have been available free online since 1995 (see links below). The modern placement of the 260-day calendar, surviving in the Guatemalan Highlands, correlates the important Creation Day, 4 Ahau, with December 21, 2012 — not December 23. This is the key piece of evidence that is rarely factored into contemporary opinions about which day is more accurate. In order to account for a needed two-day shift, Lounsbury himself hypothesized a very unlikely 2-day shift in the tzolkin placement sometime just prior to the conquest.  


2) The question of intent suggested by the solstice placement of the 13-baktun cycle ending date in 2012.

Given the clarification of the correct end date, December 21, 2012, this consideration of intent becomes a looming reality that can only be explained away by asserting that the solstice placement of the cycle ending must be a coincidence. Unfortunately, “coincidence” has been the default position of most scholars I have talked with for many years, until just recently. Yet the initial suspicion that the solstice placement most likely proves intent was put forth by Munro Edmonson in his 1988 book The Book of the Year. He mentioned that the Brickers were also of the opinion that this fact strongly suggested that the creators of the Long Count must have had a precise estimate of the solar year. To hit a solstice date some 2,300 years into the future, the accuracy would have to be on the order of modern calculations – 365.242 days. If one looks at the process by which the Greek astronomer Hipparchus discovered and calculated precession, in the late 2nd century BC, one observes that an accurate solar year estimate is the indispensable precursor for precessional calculation. Said another way, for a culture that has the required astronomical sophistication, once an accurate solar year is in place the consequent recognition of precession is practically a given. So, given this basic fact of the solstice placement of the 13-baktun cycle, we quickly arrive at the likelihood of a precessional awareness which, for all practical purposes, occupies the same level of astronomical ability.    


3) The place and time of the Long Count’s origins;4) The relevance of Izapa to the Long Count’s origins. Izapa’s Group B monuments encode non-date containing monuments (three pillar-and-ball gnomons) that have been interpreted (by Schele, Taube, Kappelman, Rice) as reference points for the three-hearthstone Creation imagery associated with the current 13-baktun cycle’s inauguration (in 3114 BC). This highlights Izapa as a place that is to be logically associated with the Long Count. (Not only the Long Count per se, but the 13-Baktun creation cycle within the Long Count.) That Izapa is to be connected to the formulation and/or origins of the Long Count was testified to long ago by Michael Coe. Aveni claims to “see nothing of significance in the material record at Izapa to accord it any special status vis-a-vis Maya calendrical origins” (in email exchange, link below).  That the pre-Classic Isthmian culture (practically co-spatial and co-temporal with what Coe refers to as “the Izapan civilization”) is the region in which the Long Count arose is elaborated by Prudence Rice in her recent book Maya Calendar Origins. My own work emphasizes a relationship between the Maya Hero Twin myth and the Long Count’s 13-Baktun cycle, as both draw from an underlying World Age doctrine. One tradition (the Creation Myth) is thus a mythological expression of the World Age doctrine, whereas the other (the Long Count’s 13-Baktun era cycle) is a calendrical (and, as it turns out, an astronomical) expression of the World Age doctrine. My identification of the Izapan ballcourt’s alignment with the December solstice sunrise azimuth is a key to interpreting the astronomical symbolism of the monuments in the ballcourt – as ciphers for a World Age rebirth (solar rebirth) that was projected to occur when the December solstice sun would align with the dark rift in the Milky Way (in era-2012).

5) The ga
lactic alignment theory (accurately defined and assessed according to the writings of its originator, John Major Jenkins, rather than indirect and inaccurate paraphrasings which mislead).

My initial presentation and inquiry into this phenomenon, and its possible connection with the 2012 date, was published in 1994. I have carefully defined and studied the nature of this alignment, how it could have been projected by ancient naked-eye skywatchers, and have noted that the astronomical features involved in the alignment are significant players in the Maya Creation Mythology. My 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 lays out the argument and evidence in a cogent way, offering an interdisciplinary synthesis of prior work done by Maya scholars, which is attested by the bibliography to that book: A large problem in the academic criticism of my galactic alignment / 2012 theory involves drawing from secondary sources that paraphrase my work inaccurately. There are two criticisms by Aveni which I’ve responded to, directly to him by email as well as on Aztlan and in the pages of the Institute of Maya Studies newsletter. These are 1) “The ancient Maya didn’t have a concept that modern science calls the galactic equator.” The flaw in this criticism is the assumption of modern scientific terminology (which is useful in defining the galactic alignment) and projecting the precision of such terminology back onto ancient naked-eye skywatchers, as if they are required to define concepts in precisely that same way that modern science does. The alternative location relevant to ancient naked-eye skywatchers, which is basically co-spatial with the galactic equator and shares its trajectory, is the dark rift in the Milky Way, an important mytho-astronomical concept found in the Maya Creation Myth. 2) Aveni’s second critique is that “there is no evidence for a precise calculation of precession among the ancient Maya.” Although I’ve pointed out that my argument does not rely on the kind of precision Aveni assumes to be required, but rests upon the Creation Myth’s iconography and symbolism that implicates the galactic alignment, we can now point to the work of MacLeod and Grofe for the kind of precise precessional calculation that Aveni requires. Since mid-2007 Aveni has been apprised of this new research, by respectable scholars that he should consider to be his colleagues. It remains to be seen whether Aveni will mention or discuss this breakthrough work, which mitigates one of his main critiques of the galactic alignment theory.


6) The question of ancient knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes.

For sources of contextual understandings, including the relationship between astronomical knowledge and mytho-calendrical complexes that encode that knowledge, see Eva Hunt and Gordon Brotherston. For archaeoastronomical evidence for star alignments built into temple structures which implicate precessional knowledge, going back to La Venta, Monte Alban, and Abaj Takalik (all pre-Classic), see Marion Popenoe Hatch’s work and Anthony Aveni’s study of the Capella alignment at Monte Alban. For statements that aver that the three hearthstone mytho-astronomical complex connected with the 3114 BC Creation Myth symbolism at Quirigua, Copan, Izapa, and elsewhere defines a precession-specific era, see Looper, Rice, Schele, Taube, and Grofe. For evidence that the Classic Maya texts contain a precession-drift mechanism connected to powerful temporal “stations” of a king’s reign, known as the 3-11 Pik formula, see the recent findings of Barbara MacLeod. For evidence that extremely precise long-term precessional calculations were being made, as evidenced in the Serpent Series of the Dresden Codex, see the work of Michael Grofe and Barbara MacLeod. For evidence that the archaeoastronomy and iconography at Izapa encodes precessional alignments, see the work of John Major Jenkins (      


And one additional point:


7) Tortuguero’s Monument 6, dated, 4 Ahau 3 Kankin (December 21, 2012).

The Tortuguero discussions have proceeded in a curious way. Scholars and epigraphers working on the text have asserted that the text reference to the 2012 cycle ending is meaningless, boring, and “doesn’t tell us much.” Yet their own observations reveal that cycle endings, specifically the own in 2012, were used as reference points for building dedications. The implication is that cycle endings such as the one in 2012 have a special function, that the ancient Maya thought about them in specific ways, and that they were part of what we might call “Maya calendrical eschatology.” Resources include the translation by David Stuart on Aztlan, Houston’s blog, my Bolon Yokte article, Geoff Stray’s observations, Robert Sitler’s update 2012 page, and Sven Gronemeyer’s monograph (in German). 


List of resources and information:


Since there are so many misapprehensions about my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, I posted (in 2002) a chapter by chapter summary of the books contents:

Clarifying the correlation debates:

Definition, distinctions, clarifications of the galactic alignment (it’s real astronomy!):
On the “alignment zone” (June 1999): 

Analysis of Lounsbury’s flawed Dec. 23 argument:

Analysis of Schele’s 20-Baktun cycle preference:

Bibliography of academic sources used in my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012:

Exchange with Anthony Aveni in 2008: 

Exchange with David Stuart:

Comments on Houston’s blog on the Tortuguero 2012 date:

Comments on new monument discovered at Takalik Abaj:

Recent exchanges on the Tribe 2012 exchange moderator by Dr. John Hoopes:

Response to astronomers on the galactic alignment:

Izapa research:

Rational Approach to 2012:

Comments to Aztlan regarding Mark Van Stone’s FAMSI essay, with links:

Open Letter to Mayanists and Astronomers (June, 1999):

Guide to the contemporary Maya calendar in the Guatemalan Highlands (a book I wrote in 1993):

Recent thread on Tribe 2012:

Bolon Yok’te and the Tortuguero 2012 date:

Maya Cosmology and Calendrics:

Debates with Dr. Hoopes in Lawrence newspaper:

My response to the critiques of Susan Milbrath and Anthony Aveni, in the pages of the Institute of Maya Studies newsletter, early 2008: and


In order to keep this brief, and in consideration of constant ongoing updates,
 for more links and info please access my resource webpage:

Open Letter to Mayanists and Astronomers / John Major Jenkins / June 1999
Did the Maya know where the Galactic Center is located? Yes. Now, brace yourself, because I’m going to show you how and why without resorting to speculation or guesswork. The question to ask is this: Did the Maya understand the region of the sky occupied by the Galactic Center in a way that is metaphorically and conceptually equivalent to what the Galactic Center is? In this way we can answer the related question of “did the Maya know where the Galactic Center is located?” First, what is the Galactic Center? In most basic terms, the Galactic Center is: 1)  A source-point, or “creation place.” 2) A center.
     The first thing to recognize is that the region of the Ga
lactic Center contains several features—all visible to the naked eye—that call attention to it as a unique place along the Milky Way. These are:

·  The Milky Way is filled with brighter stars and is wider in the region of the Galactic Center

·  The dark-rift, or Great Cleft, of the Milky Way extends to the north of the Galactic Center

·  The cross formed by the Milky Way and the ecliptic is near the Galactic Center

Now we can assess established, academic identifications in Mayan ethnoastronomy and starlore. Two factual indicators:

1. Among the modern-day Quiché Maya, the dark-rift is called the xibalba be. This means “road to the underworld.” In the ancient Maya Creation text, the Popol Vuh, this same feature serves as a road to the underworld and is also called the Black Road. Associated iconography with the “underworld portal” concept includes caves, monster mouths, and birthing portals. In general, the Milky Way was conceived as a Great Goddess and the dark-rift was her birth canal. This demonstrates that the Maya understood the region of the Galactic Center as a source-point or birth place.

2. The cross formed by the Milky Way with the ecliptic near Sagittarius has been identified at Palenque, among the Quiché and Chorti Maya, and elsewhere as the Mayan Sacred Tree. In the Popol Vuh, it is the Crossroads. The cross symbol, according to accepted epigraphic and iconographic interpretation (e.g., on thrones), denotes the concept of “center” and usually contextually implies a “cosmic” or “celestial” center. The concept of “cosmic center” and the principle of  world-centering was important to Mesoamerican astronomers, city planners, and Maya kings — kings who symbolically occupied and ruled from the “cosmic center.” Thus, the Maya, via the Sacred Tree/Cosmic Cross symbology, understood the region of the Galactic Center to be a center.

Center and birthplace — understandings that are true to the Galactic Center’s nature. This is not speculation, but an  assemblage of academic evidence. I repeat here the evidence available in my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, which contains 24 pages of bibliography and 20 pages of academic documentation in end notes.
     I speak of “region” in referring to the
Galactic Center because the visible “nuclear bulge” of the Galactic Center is not an abstract, invisible point, is not limited to the high frequency radio spectrum, but rather covers a large area or “region” in the visible night sky. Now, my book argues, as its primary thesis, that the Maya intended 2012 to mark the rare alignment of the solstice sun with the band of the Milky Way. In astronomical terms, this is the alignment of the solstice meridian with the Galactic equator—an astronomical fact. Notice that my thesis, in this sense, does not even require knowledge of the Galactic Center in order for it to be valid. Nevertheless, knowledge among the ancient Maya of the Galactic Center as a “creation place” and “cosmic center” is strongly implied, indeed demonstrated, by established Maya concepts, as outlined above. Important points that are demonstrated here, which will help us understand how and why the Maya knew where the Galactic Center is located:

·  We need to recognize that naked eye observation alone can identify the uniqueness of the Galactic Center region.

·  We need to compare ancient Mayan terms and metaphors with modern scientific terms and metaphors to determine if the ancient Maya had an accurate understanding and conception of the Galactic Center region. Clearly, without even using speculation but rather by assessing the available and accepted academic data, they did.

I am trying to establish here a foundation for astronomers to approach my material without judgment before the evidence I’ve assembled is assessed. I anxiously await further dialog, comments, and feedback.

John Major Jenkins:     Website: