Subject: Jenkins responds to Vollamaere
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 11:58:48 -0600

This is John Major Jenkins's response to the post by Dr. Antoon Vollamaere a few days ago regarding the placing of on December 21, 2012 A.D.

Jenkins wrote: My recent book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 abides by the highest standards of documentation to show that the ancient creators of the Long Count calendar intended the date of December 21, 2012 A.D. to target a rare alignment in the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes, that of the December solstice sun with the Galactic equator (the Milky Way)...etc.

Vollamaere's objection:

Vollamaere: Thanks for the nice invitation. Since 1995, I followed the works of Jenkins, starting with "The how and why of the Mayan end date in 2012 A.D." (May 23rd, 1994) and later some other papers. His work is primarily based on the Thompson correlation and the supposition that the Maya calendar will end after (after 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu) on December 21st, 2012 A.D. His works are clearly and well presented, but is his double hypothesis correct?

Jenkins: It should be noted that the critique is against a working assumption rather than the hypothesis itself.

Vollamaere continues: In his Chapter 2: the correlation problem (The Maya Calendar) he states that, and I quote: "An adequate correlation number should be such as to accord with: data from the Venus table in the Dresden Codex; most of the post-Conquest survivals of the Tzolkin among the Maya peoples; Bishop Landa's 16th-Century records on the subject; the Aztec records of the arrival of Cortez; and, the lunar information found on the stelae......(etc) .....", end of quotation.

And indeed, these are some limited conditions for a correct correlation number. We must say that Thompson's correlation gives fairly good results in this regard, but that is not enough as we shall see. He seems to forget that almost the same conditions are fulfilled about every following 104 solar years (*). It is clear that he has not verified this possibilities.

But the trouble is, that Thompson (and we) have to apply even more precise conditions. In fact, Jenkins himself says in the same chapter 2, and I quote him again: "There is one way to settle the matter once and for all. This is to discover in the Mayan codices a clear reference to an eclipse (complete with long count date) which can also be determined by astronomers as having occurred on a certain date in the European calendar. Solar eclipses are promising, because they are visible only in a restricted area (unlike lunar eclipses which can be seen over most of the Earth's night hemisphere), and thus are not common in any one region such as the Mayas occupied....etc."... end of the quotation.

Jenkins: Not that it is critical to the objection or my hypothesis, but this citation is not in my book, I can't find it on my website, it doesn't some like something I ever wrote, so I suspect that it is has been wrongly attributed to me. I asked Dr. Vollamaere for the precise location, but it is not there (a page from my website which is a direct excerpt from chapter two of my book Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies, published by Borderlands in 1994).

Vollamaere continues with his argument that would support his correlation number which makes the date occur in 2594 B.C., effectively shifting all long count dates—and historical dates—forward 520 years. Vollamaere's fuller arguments can be found in his post of 6-24 and on his website:

Here is my response to Dr. Vollamaere:

There are dozens upon dozens of proposed correlations that are greatly different from the modified GMT correlation, Julian Day Number 584283.

Most of these are based upon focussing solely on data from one discipline, such as astronomy, to yield apparently viable conclusions. However, an interdisciplinary analysis is necessary to answer the correlation question.

Two important factors present a very difficult problem for alternate correlations: 1. Carbon 14 dating and 2. The surviving 260-calendar in highland Guatemala. The latter factor is extremely relevant and important, but has been dismissed as unimportant. As researchers like Edmonson and Dennis Tedlock have argued, the surviving count has an unbroken lineage back to at least the Classic period, and most likely to the origin point of the 260-day calendar among the Olmec, almost 3000 years ago. The 584283 correlation is in agreement with the surviving daycount today. This means that any proposed correlation must by different from the 584283 by a multiple of 260. Or, you must account for the how, and when, the 260-day calendar was shifted to account for your correlation. Coordinating a pan-Mesoamerican shift of this nature is almost impossible to imagine for, as Edmonson cogently argues in Book of the Year (1988), the daycount was in agreement throughout Mesoamerica at the time of the conquest, from Tenochtitlan to Kumarcaaj. Vollamaere's correlation is close (4 days), but then one must explain how the count shifted 4 days to its present placement.

One must understand that, as among the Quiché today, the continuity of the daycount means everything. Spurious shifts in the daycount correlation itself did not occur, although year-bearer systems occasionally changed, as well as New Years Day shifted. This problem of not accounting for ethnographic data is also a problem with David Kelley's proposed correlation, which results in a correlation shift equivalent to over 200 years. The problem here is that Kelley's dates would then disagree with Carbon 14 data. Kelley criticizes the accuracy of Carbon 14 testing, and expands the error range to just barely incorporate his required 200-year shift. Vollamaere's correlation requires a 520-year shift for the end-date, which greatly disagrees with Carbon 14. Regarding the Dresden Codex, I was not aware that it had been precisely dated via internal eclipse sequences. I may be wrong, but I'm unaware that Dresden contains explicit long count dates that could be tested with any correaltion? I've understood the Dresden as kind of a free-floating predictive template, adjustable by interpolating new number coefficients, for usage over many centuries. So how can we anchor to any particular eclipse era? A problem with relying heavily on astronomy is that we don't know how the Maya were charting events, and our assumption that we should look for precise eclipse dates, precise new moon dates, or precise conjunctions is a scientific bias that throws everything off. For example, eclipse tables are ideal predictive frameworks, and they don't give precise dates. They can be used with equal general predictive power at multiples of the 18.5-year lunar node cycle.

Another example; early researchers assumed that a "new moon" glyph meant the precise astronomical moment when the moon and sun aligned. However, the Quiché Maya of today recognize the new moon as the first sliver of the moon that appears in the west, which actually occurs 1 to 2 days after "moon dark." Likewise, planetary and lunar conjunctions might have put more emphasis on coordination with other nearby benchmarks, such as a nearby solstice, equinox, or zenith-passage dates. So, the problem is, basically, too great a limitation on the interdisciplinary data needed for a comprehensive appraisal, combined with an unnecessary need for scientific precision in astronomical observation. Even where the Maya were capable of scientific precision, they apparently opted for generalizing in order to conceptually commensurate smaller and larger cycles. In addition, predictive tables, as with eclipse and Venus tables, are ideal frameworks.

Most scholars are in agreement with the 584283. Some follow Lounsbury's argument for the 584285, but his argument is based upon, as Maya scholar Victoria Bricker wrote, "a misinterpretation of the astronomical data." Vollamaere was quoting from my fifth book Tzolkin, published in 1992 and again 1994. My assessment of the correlation question in that book was thorough and clarified the assumptions and biases that result in alternate possibilities for the correlation number. And of course, there's always the chance that we're all wrong. But to me - and I'm in agreement with widely accepted mainstream academic conclusions on this one - it's very clear that equals 4 Ahau, December 21, 2012.

A few other comments. The GMT was not solely the work of Thompson. It was an interdisciplinary effort agreed on by three different scholars - Joseph T. Goodman, Juan Martinez, and Thompson - in 1930. Thompson re-evaluated the GMT in 1950 and made a two-day correction, resulting in the modified GMT, J.D. # 584283. Also, if Vollamaere's correlation is correct, this means that the zero date from which Long Count dates are calculated occurred in 2594 B.C. Which means that Pacal was born in the 12th century rather than the 7th, Tikal thrived in the 13th century rather than the 8th, etc, etc. The solution offered to correct this doesn't seem likely. Question: where is that second quote from? I don't recognize having written that.

This was written without thoroughly studying the website studies Antoon mentioned, but I would guess that the general approach problems mentioned above might apply. However, basic assumptions should always be questioned. In the end we never can find and offer all the proof that, or absolutley conclusive proof, on problems as complex as the ones we find in Mesoamerican studies. But with interdisciplinary synthesis and clear-headed discernment of the issues we can get close. Close enough for acceptance. This is the case with the 584283 correlation. In my book Tzolkin I list almost 6 dozen proposed correlations, showing just how possible it is to generate valid-looking correlations by not considering the important ethnographic evidence, which is a key that will eliminate 90% of the correlations right away.

The Sky in Mayan Literature, 1993, ed. Anthony Aveni contains several excellent analyses of the Dresden eclipse pages, all supporting the GMT.

Also, I address these and other basic assumptions or potential counterarguments in Appendix 5 of my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, which is posted at here.

Many thanks for the stimulating questions

John Major Jenkins

Author of:
Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies (1992/1994)
The Center of Mayan Time (1995) Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998)

A videotape of my slideshow presentation at the Institute of Maya Studies in Miami (August, 1997) is available at