My position derives from a logical understanding of the relative merit of two possible scenarios. I invite readers to choose which one of the following scenarios seems most likely — or provide some other scenario or argument. As previously discussed, MacLeod & Van Stone (2012:9, 45) allude to both a desire for “proof” vs. an allowance that likelihood is the best that can be expected. So, let’s have parity on both sides of the equation and reframe the question: “Given that it’s likely that the Tortuguero astronomers could calculate and knew about the future galactic alignment of era-2012, what is the likelihood that the more ancient creators of the Long Count also were aware of it, and fixed the 13-Baktun cycle ending in the Long Count to it?” A logical consideration of the “likely” position held by MacLeod & Grofe (MacLeod & Van Stone 2012:45), which resulted from the evidence at Tortuguero, generates two scenarios. Let’s take a look from the reasonable vantage of which one would be the most likely scenario:
Scenario 1. The astronomers of Tortuguero were not basing their knowledge or calculations on an older knowledge embedded into the Long Count tradition. They accidentally “discovered” the fortuitous and accidental placement of 13-Baktun cycle end-date and exploited the coincidence that it falls on accurate astronomical alignments within both the Tropical Year and the Sidereal Year. That the solar position of this two-part (tropical and sidereal) alignment coincides also with the Dark Rift feature and the Crossroads of the Milky Way and the ecliptic — two powerful concepts within Maya Creation Myth symbolism — is also a total coincidence. Or the Tortuguero scribes must have invented the idea that it would be meaningful to associate Bahlam Ajaw’s birthday with such celestial features. If there was no prior tradition that these celestial concepts were important, then it originates with the Tortuguero scribes and we’d expect traceable dispersion emanating from Tortuguero. All of this requires one to accept extreme unlikely convergences of multiple coincidences, for the Tortuguero astronomers to have only “locally” discovered and established the future galactic alignment as being important.
Scenario 2. The creators of the Long Count, around 50 BC or perhaps even earlier, established the 13-Baktun cycle ending to fall on their calculation of a future solstice date positioned reasonably well at the Dark Rift/Crossroads. This scenario is not without support from a variety of evidence-based positions, and in fact the first part of it (the solstice criterion) was briefly entertained by Edmonson (1988) and the Brickers. The full scenario requires an awareness of the precession of the solstices (and equinoxes), which can be addressed with three points: 1) archaeologist Marion Popenoe Hatch argued that the Olmecs became aware of precession around 1200 BC, based on archaeological evidence at La Venta. 2) Hatch cites archaeological evidence that the pre-Classic people of Takalik Abaj (a sister city to Izapa during the pre-Classic period) were adjusting stone pointers to account for precession. 3) Hipparchus did not require telescopes or advanced equipment to notice and calculate precession around 128 BC; he was using star position data recorded over a 140-year period and the data itself, as Neugebauer showed, supported a quite accurate value for precession (although Hipparchus loosely stated his results, probably to conform to the general Greek notion of a “Great Year” lasting 36,000 years).
In addition to these factors, I’ve pointed out that, at Izapa, the Group B gnomons and Izapa’s latitude point to solar zenith-passage dates, thus to August 12, and the Group F ballcourt points to the December solstice sunrise azimuth (December 21). These two dates, evident in the cosmological tradition at Izapa, are the bookends of the 13-Baktun cycle — its first and last days within the Tropical Year.
I’m not arguing proof here; these items are suggestive pieces of evidence, showing that we do have some evidence to support the greater likelihood of one of the scenarios. In addition, a supportive attitude toward Scenario 1 unreasonably assumes that extremely unlikely coincidence should be the safe default position of the skeptic. The definite “No” and the objection via “hindsight does not prove original intent” would have merit if this were a simpler scenario, but when the two actual scenarios are laid out, as I have done above, the choices become much more stark and reason favors the more likely scenario that the creators of the Long Count embedded their knowledge of a future galactic alignment into the structure of the Long Count, such that the 13-Baktun cycle end-date would position the solstice sun (meaningfully symbolic of a “First Father / Solar Lord” concept) at the Crossroads (meaningfully symbolic of a “cosmic center / throne” concept) and the Dark Rift (meaningfully symbolic of a “birthplace, mouth, portal” and, in the ballcourt symbolism at Izapa, of the “goal-ring” concept).
That’s a pretty rich stew of accidentally meaningful symbolic and positional correspondences, where the alignment happens. All of this would have to be extraordinarily coincidental, not to mention fortuitous for the rhetorical fortunes of Bahlam Ajaw seven centuries later, if it was not intentionally targeted by the originators of the Long Count. The situation strongly suggests that Bahlam Ajaw did employ hindsight, of a sort — recollecting or possibly even reviving a half-forgotten ancient knowledge — to exploit an already existing, long established, tradition. I’m open to the conversation that can unfold from my simple observation, and am also open to hearing viable alternative scenarios (if there are any) that embrace all the contexts and facts. The only coincidence in Scenario 2 is that Bahlam Ajaw was born near a direct Sidereal Year parallel to the 2012 period-ending date. Or, possibly, his birthday was manipulated for the purpose of highlighting the sidereal parallel to 2012.
John Major Jenkins. August 27, 2014