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Did Extraterrestrials Create
the Maya Calendar?
An essay by Thomas Razzeto
© Copyright 2011 by Thomas Razzeto
This essay is completely self-contained. If you have never read anything about 2012 or the astronomy of 2012, this essay might be all you need to know.
In this essay, we'll be exploring the following question:
Does the precision of the astronomical knowledge required to create the Maya calendar prove that extraterrestrials created it?
Don't worry! The astronomy is easy! During the most important part of this essay, the astronomy that we'll be talking about is simply the length of the year so that is something that you are already familiar with. But let me warn you: the precision of the astronomy is completely mind-blowing!
As many of you already know, the Maya Long Count calendar restarts on the precise day of the winter solstice of 2012. Since this calendar was put into use over two thousand years ago, our first question is this: How did they hit this exact day from such a long time ago? As we will soon see, in order to intentionally hit the winter solstice, they would have needed to know the length of the year to within 45 seconds. This is like measuring the width of the United States to within 20 feet or the distance from Los Angeles to Tokyo to within 40 feet! In terms of a percentage, this is 99.9999 percent correct! In my opinion, this is not merely remarkable; this is absolutely stunning! Is it possible that the ancient Maya did this without telescopes or sophisticated instruments?
But before we dig into that, we should back up a little bit and ask ourselves if the Maya did indeed intentionally hit the winter solstice or if this correlation is just a coincidence. In this regard, please consider this. If the Maya were Christian and the calendar restarted on Christmas day, we would know for sure that that was intentional; it would be obvious. When we consider the culture of the Maya, we learn that they considered the winter solstice to be one of the most important days of the year. It was celebrated as a rebirth of the sun since the length of the day starts to grow longer. So it seems to me that this correlation was intentional. And when we learn more about the astronomy that will unfold on this exact day, the case that this was intentional will become even stronger.
And to back up a little bit further, let me quickly address the claim that some people make that the calendar restarts on a completely different day. The academic community studied this problem in great detail from 1905 to 1950 and it is beyond a reasonable doubt that the calendar does indeed restart exactly on the winter solstice of 2012. This study is called the correlation project and John Mayor Jenkins offers plenty of information about this on his website. And again, when we learn more about the astronomy that will unfold on this exact day, the case that this is the correct day will become even stronger.
Now, given that the Maya did indeed hit this date intentionally, the next obvious question is this: Why? Why would a date over two thousand years in their future capture the attention of the Maya and inspire them to create a calendar that counts every single day, one by one, until that special day? And please note that there are over 730,000 days in that two thousand year period! That's a lot of counting! Why bother with something so far away?
The Maya Long Count Calendar Is Astronomical in Nature
That the answer to this question is primarily astronomical in nature is supported by two important clues. First, the calendar restarts on the winter solstice, an astronomical event. Second, the overall length of the calendar is related to the precession of the earth, another astronomical phenomenon. Precession is the very slow wobble of the earth. Remember, the earth is spinning on its axis and this axis of rotation is tilted. When we observe the direction that this axis is pointing, we see that the entire earth wobbles like a top that is not standing straight up. Again, this is called precession and it takes about 26,000 years for the earth to complete one wobble. By the way, this 26,000-year period is sometimes called “the great year.”
Now, the overall length of the Long Count calendar is 5,125 years and the Maya referred to this overall cycle as a “World Age.” It just so happens that five World Ages add up to the length of the precessional cycle to within an error of less than one percent and the Maya talk about all five World Ages. Their symbol for all five World Ages consists of a five-pointed star with a circle around it; the circle indicates that it is a repetitive cycle that continues forever since after the fifth World Age it just starts over again with the first cycle.
Mayan Five-Pointed Star
So now we see that the Long Count calendar clearly has some very significant astronomical aspects. It seems to me that the Maya are saying, “Yes, we understand the year and yes, we understand the great year. We have extremely precise values for both.” The next obvious question is this: Is there more astronomy that will unfold on the exact day of the winter solstice of 2012 that the Maya would have considered important? The answer is an emphatic yes! Let's take a look at it right now.
Why Did the Maya Picked 2012?
One Reason is the Triple Rebirth of the Sun
The screenshot below is from my astronomy program and it shows why I think the Maya picked the exact day of the winter solstice of 2012.
Here we see a large cross in the sky right over the Maya at high noon with the sun virtually right in the middle of this cross. The Maya called this section of the sky “the sacred tree” and it is one of the most important motifs in their folklore. When I first saw this unique configuration of the sacred tree on my computer screen, I just about fell out of my chair! This is absolutely amazing!
By the way, please note that this is not the peak of what John Mayor Jenkins calls “the galactic alignment,” which already peaked in 1998. John's a great guy and I really like some of his work but I don't think that the Maya missed what they were aiming at by 14 years. I think that they hit exactly what they wanted: the sacred tree over the Maya precisely on this special day.
This image might not mean very much to you right now, but when you understand what it meant metaphorically to the Maya, there is a good chance that you will be much more impressed. I cover this in more detail in my YouTube video titled, “Why the Maya Picked 2012,” but for right now, I will only briefly mention that the Maya considered the sun in the middle of the dark rift to be a type of solar rebirth. The large ball of stars in this region of the sky was seen as the pregnant belly of the mother of creation and the dark rift was seen as the birth canal. So when the sun was seen in the dark rift, it was considered a solar rebirth. The Maya also considered the winter solstice and the daily sunrise as two more types of solar rebirths so this means that on December 21, 2012, we will have a triple rebirth of the sun. I refer to these three rebirths as the daily rebirth, the solstice rebirth and the galactic rebirth. We have a triple rebirth of the sun when all three of these rebirths happen on the same calendar day.
The Astronomy Is Being Used To Point to a Timeless Metaphor of Rebirth
Again, I am talking about something that will be in the sky right over the Maya on this special day. It is very clear that this astronomy is being used as the foundation of the Maya's most important metaphor: the metaphor of transformation and rebirth. Indeed, it seems to me that the metaphor of transformation and rebirth is the Maya's favorite subject! And it is extremely important to note that this rebirth metaphor and the astronomy that it is based on are symbolically carved in stone in the Maya's sacred ceremonial site in Izapa, Mexico, the birthplace of their Long Count calendar. This can only mean that these things are held in the highest regard.
And yes, I cannot emphasize enough that it is my opinion that the importance of this astronomical event is as a metaphor, not as something that will cause anything unusual to happen to us, either good or bad, physical or spiritual. I know that many 2012 researchers claim that something important is going to happen to us in or near the time of 2012 but I simply don't see the calendar as pointing to something that is literally predestined, other than the astronomy. Metaphors were much more important to the Maya because metaphors, not literal stories, were used to convey spiritual beliefs. This special day contains an astronomical symbol of transformation and rebirth, yet 2012 is not the time when this rebirth will happen to us. This transformation happens for each of us individually when our personal circumstances are favorable for that awakening.
If I write a poem about enlightenment and spiritual awakening and use the sunrise as a metaphor since that is the event that fills our dark world with light and we are all awakened from our physical slumber, the poem should be taken as a reminder that spiritual awakening is possible in a general sense. It certainly should not be understood to say that we are all going to become enlightened during the next sunrise, although that might happen. If people focus on the event of the sunrise because they think that enlightenment will happen at the time of that event, they will have missed the point of the poem. The same thing is true for the sacred triple rebirth of the sun in 2012. It is a reminder that we can all awaken to a new spiritual understanding at any moment. Focus on the concept of spiritual rebirth, not the time of the astronomical event that was used as the foundation of the rebirth metaphor.
So even though I don't think that the Maya believed that the astronomy was going to cause anything unusual to happen, they still found it to be extremely important metaphorically. The core meaning of this metaphor is what captured the attention of the Maya 2,000 years ago, not merely the time of 2012 or conditions of our world at this time, which was too far away from them to be relevant or known.
To better understand the metaphor of rebirth, we need to learn about the psychedelic experiences of the Maya shamans. Since this essay is not focused on that subject, I will only quickly point out that the shamans used the psychedelic chemicals that they got from the Bufo toad and that there are stone carvings and statues of these toads in the sacred ceremonial site of Izapa. It is very important to note that this can only mean that these toads were extremely significant. I believe that these psychedelic experiences led the Maya to a mystical understanding of reality and that this is the spiritual rebirth that they held as so important. You can learn more about this by reading my book, Mystical 2012. You can read the entire book for free at mystical2012.com or buy it at Amazon.com.
Now let's get back to the focus of this essay and take a look at the precision required to intentional hit the winter solstice of 2012.
The Maya Needed to Know the Length of the Year to a Very Precise Level
As I mentioned in the very beginning, to intentionally hit the winter solstice of 2012, the Maya needed to know the length of the year to within 45 seconds. Now let's see how easy it is for us to calculate this value. First, let's look at the problem with a simple approximation.
We all know that the length of the year is about 365 and a quarter days. Let's suppose that the Maya almost knew the exact value but that they had a value that was one minute too long. And let's suppose they wanted to know how many days it would be from one winter solstice to another winter solstice ten years later. To get the answer, they would just add the length of the year together ten times and this would make their one-minute error build up to a total error of ten minutes. If they were interested in 100 years, the error would grow to 100 minutes and so forth. Since 2012 was 2,000 years away, this error would grow to 2,000 minutes. Since there are only 1,440 minutes in a day, this means that their total day count would be just over one day too long. So a one-minute error is too much, but only by a little bit.
To calculate a better value for the allowed error per year, we need to take the total allowed error of 1,440 minutes and divide it by 2,000 years. This gives us a value of just under three-quarters of a minute. This is about 45 seconds. When I first did this calculation, I again almost fell out of my chair. It was just mind-boggling to me. In fact, it continues to amaze me every time I think about it!
But knowing the length of the year is not the only challenge in creating the calendar. There are two other astronomical problems. When the Maya picked the year 2012 as the year when the sun would be in the middle of the dark rift on the same day as the winter solstice, they also showed that they knew a lot about the wobble of the earth. Let's see how it works.
The Driving Question Behind the Creation of the Calendar
Two thousand years ago, the Maya saw the sun go across the dark rift in late November. The sun travels across this section of the sky once a year, and every year it does it about 20 minutes later. This small shift is due to the wobble of the earth. This means that hundreds of years later the Maya saw the sun go through this section of the sky in early December, and hundreds of years after that, they saw it go through in mid-December and so forth. This apparent motion of the sun against the background stars is due to the orbit of the earth around the sun. Let's see how it works.
Here we see the dark rift as the “X” at the top. Imagine it to be very far away and fixed in its position. For our purposes, it is also fine to say that the sun does not move; in fact, we only need to be concerned with the motion of the earth. We see that once a year the earth orbits past the point where you can draw a line from the earth, through the sun and into the dark rift. As the earth moves to our right, the sun apprears to move to the left across the dark rift. But the sun is not moving; only the earth is moving. Nonetheless, once a year the sun will appear to be reborn as it appears to travels across the dark rift. By the way, the sun is in the dark rift for about three days and it is in the middle of the dark rift for one day.
The driving question behind the creation of the Long Count calendar was this: What year in the distant future will have the sun in the middle of the dark rift on the same day as the winter solstice. In other words: When will there be a triple rebirth of the sun? And remember, the Maya were asking this question two thousand years ago. That they were able to provide 2012 as the answer to this question is again, stunning.
In order, to do this, the Maya needed to measure the very slow shift due to precession. This is a very difficult problem for anyone to solve, but when you consider that the Maya did not have any high technology, it seems completely baffling. Could they have really done this? We'll learn the key to this in just a minute. But first, we have one more astronomical problem to consider: the special configuration of the sacred tree on December 21, 2012.
The Special Configuration of the Sacred Tree
Below is again the screenshot of the sacred tree over the Maya on the winter solstice of 2012.
Here we see that the horizontal crossbar is composed of Mars, Pluto, the Sun, Mercury and Venus with the Sun almost exactly between Mars and Venus. The symmetry and beauty are remarkable. By the way, Pluto is never visible to the naked eye and I don't think that the Maya were tracking Pluto; I just labeled it for completeness since it is actually there.
But the question for us now is this: Did the Maya know that the sacred tree was going to look like this? Out of curiosity, let's take a look at the configuration of the sacred tree over the Maya at high noon on the winter solstice of a few other years.
Here it is for 2008:
And here it is for 2009:
Here is 2010:
We have already seen 2012 so let's look at 2013:
And here is 2014:
And finally, here is 2015:
I could go on and on with other examples but the point is that the Maya picked 2012 because of the visibility, balance and beauty of the sacred tree. I know that it doesn't sound very scientific, but I think that one of the reasons that the Maya picked 2012 is because the sacred tree will be so beautiful in that year. All the examples have the sun in the Maya birth canal on the same day as the winter solstice. This is what makes the triple rebirth of the sun. In other words, the triple rebirth doesn't just happen once every 26,000 years. If the Maya were only concerned with the triple rebirth of the sun, they could have picked any of these years along with many others. But they picked 2012. In my opinion, this is like picking a rose from the garden. Some roses are just nicer than the others but they are all still roses. The Maya could have picked any of these years to convey the same message of transformation and rebirth. Was it just luck that the Maya picked a configuration that will be so beautiful? Given the amount of precision demonstrated so far by whoever created this calendar, it seems to me that they were also aware that in 2012, the sacred tree would have this beautiful configuration.
Why Did the Maya Pick 2012? Both the Triple Rebirth of the Sun and the Special Configuration of the Sacred Tree
My thesis is that the Maya picked the winter solstice of 2012 because of the triple rebirth of the sun and the special configuration of the sacred tree. Both together are important.
Although it is true that we will not be able to see the sacred tree at high noon because the brightness of the sun will obscure it, we will be able to see the Venus and Mercury rise just before dawn and we will be able to see Mars just after sunset. This means that we will know what the sacred tree will look like at high noon since it does not change very much at all throughout the day, it just changes position in the sky and appears to rotate. But its shape does not change.
Venus Leads the Parade Across the Sky on This Special Day
I also want to point out that this is like a parade with Venus leading the sun across the sky over the Maya throughout this special day. The sun is the guest of honor and the other planets are paying tribute and witnessing this important rebirth. This is a spectacular astronomical event that would have most certainly captured the attention of the Maya! Let's take a look at the parade as it unfolds throughout the day.
Here it is just after dawn:
And here it is shortly after Mars rises:
Here it is a little later in the morning:
And here is what we have seen before, the sacred tree at high noon:
Here it is in the early afternoon:
And here it is about two hours later:
And finally, here it is about a half-hour before sunset. The parade is coming to a close:
By the way, I think that what the Maya could see with their eyes without a telescope is very important with regards to 2012. The Maya often told stories about what they could see with their eyes. This is another reason why I don't think that the galactic alignment of John Major Jenkins was important to the Maya; not only did the galactic alignment already peak in 1998, it is not something that you can see with your eyes.
But let's get back to the precision of the astronomical knowledge. While I cannot prove that the Maya really knew that the planets would be so beautifully balanced on the sacred tree on this day, no one can deny that the planets will indeed be configured as such. If they did this on purpose, they would have needed to know the cycles of the planets in relation to the sun as seen from earth. And they would have needed to know those cycles with a precision that would hold up over two thousand years. It is well known that the Maya did track the planets fairly accurately. Were they doing this so that they could correctly select 2012, among other things? I think that that is a reasonable possibility.
An Example of the Maya's Precise Measurements: The Cycle of the Moon
While the cycle of the moon does not come into play for 2012, I would like to offer it as an example of the level of precision that the Maya acheived. Let's take a look at what they did.
We all know that the amount of time that it takes the moon to go from a new moon to the next new moon is about 30 days. Our modern astronomers have measured this value to be 29.5306 days. In Copan, the Maya recorded that they observed over a period of about 12 years that the moon went through 149 of these cycles. They recorded precisely 4,400 days. When you divide this by 149, you get 29.5302 days. Excellent! This is about 99.999 percent correct! In this simple example, we see that the Maya were able to do some impressive work without telescopes, clocks or computers.
It is very important to note that measuring time by just counting days worked great. The Maya were only concerned with what they could see with their eyes and they measured time by counting days. I cannot stress this enough. And of course we must not overlook the fact that the Long Count calendar itself inherently counts days!
A Quick Review
So let's review everything very quickly. It looks to me like there are three different astronomical problems that each required a fantastic level of precision. The first is the length of the year. The second is the shift due to precession and the third is the position of the other planets as seen from earth. Yes indeed, the creation of the Long Count calendar is one super-tough homework problem! I've never seen anything like it!
Could Ancient People Have Discovered Precession?
When asked if the shift due to precession could have been discovered by ancient people without high technology, John Major Jenkins pointed out that the Greek astronomer Hipparchus discovered precession just over 2,000 years ago, coincidently right at the same time that the Maya calendar was put into use. Hipparchus did not have any sophisticated instruments or telescopes but he did have some data available to him that had been gathered about 140 years earlier. Using this as a reference, he measured the small shift caused by the wobble of the earth and estimated the total precessional cycle as 36,000 years or less. So we see that his error was about 10,000 years, which is over 35 percent incorrect, but all things considered, this is actually not bad. Yet I certainly have to add that it's a good thing that he wasn't in charge of creating the Maya calendar!
In comparison, the ancient people of Mesoamerica also had plenty of time on their hands. In fact, this is the key that unlocks the puzzle. In chapter 6 of John Major Jenkins's book, The 2012 Story, we learn of the work of archaeologist Marion Hatch. While John's information about Hatch's work is very brief and a bit sketchy, Hatch tells us that about 3,000 years ago, people in La Venta, which is a town just north of Izapa, learned of precession when they built a sacred building that pointed to the exact point on the horizon where a certain star rose from. Yet after about 70 years, the people noticed that the star now rose from a slightly different location and they rebuilt the building! The earth's very slow wobble had caused this change. And any change would inspire their astronomers to watch closely and measure carefully. This would include counting days.
These astronomers may have also built sighting stones that pointed exactly to true north, which is a point in the sky that the stars seems to circle around each night. The point of true north can be called the point of stillness and the skywatchers would have been very interested in it. And again, most importantly, the study of this region of the sky for about 70 years would reveal the wobble of the earth. Given that the awareness of precession goes back that far, it seems quite reasonable that the Long Count calendar was created with the benefit of roughly 1,000 years of observational data. This is a key point! It is this data that provides the knowledge required to create the calendar!
One Thousand Years of Observational Data Is the Key!
Going back to our first astronomical problem, that of the length of the year, we see that the Maya were not trying to directly measure the length of one year to within a certain number of seconds per se, they were simply counting the number of days from one winter solstice to another winter solstice many, many years later. If they did this for a thousand years, it would be fairly easy to calculate the exact number of days until the winter solstice of 2012. This approach is extremely precise.
Our other two astronomical problems also become very manageable when we take into account the knowledge obtained from a thousand years of observation. The amount of shift due to precession required to place the sun in the middle of the dark rift on the same day as the winter solstice is just twice the amount of shift that had been observed during the previous one thousand years. And predicting the positions of the other planets as seen from earth would also be possible since their rhythms would be known to a very high degree of accuracy.
Given one thousand years of observational data, the Long Count calendar does not need extraterrestrials to explain its existence. When John Major Jenkins was asked directly about this subject during an interview on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, John stated that the ancient Mesoamericans created the calendar on their own. While I think that John has always held this view, I was a bit skeptical initially since I did not realize at that time that these people had so much data available to them. But what we have found in the archaeology is that ancient naked-eye sky watchers could have indeed created this calendar. Taking this evidence into account, it is my opinion that the calendar was created by these brilliant ancient people, not extraterrestrials.
Well, that concludes this essay. You should now have an excellent understanding of why the Maya created the calendar and how much precision was required to do so. And even more importantly, you should also understand how their long-term observational data made it possible. I hope you have found this essay informative and thought provoking. You can find more of my work at 2012essays.com.
Important End Note: At this point, you might be quite surprised to find out that I really do find the general idea that extraterrestrial visited earth long ago to be very interesting and worthy of a thorough, unbiased investigation. While I am open to this idea, I want to be clear: what I have put on the table with this essay is my opinion that extraterrestrials were not needed to create the Maya calendar even though this calendar connects to the astronomy with stunning precision. I am well aware, however, that this does not prove that ETs did not create it! While this essays presents the reasons why I hold the opinion that I have expressed, its limited scope does not allow for deeper consideration of the broader questions. Perhaps in the future we will have more information.
Written January 14, 2011
If you find these comments intriguing, perhaps you will enjoy my book, Mystical 2012: Did the Maya Shamans Discover a Mystical View of Reality? You can buy the paperback or ebook at Amazon.com. If you like my material, please spread the word! I would rather have many people enjoy my work for free than just a few who decide to purchase it.
You can also read my other 2012 essays at:
Well, thanks for reading my essay! Have a great day!
If you enjoyed this essay, then you might like some of my other work:
• All my 2012 essays are here: 2012 Essays
• All my mystical essays are here: Infinitely Mystical Essays
• Infinitely Mystical, my main website, is here: infinitelymystical.com
• My completely free ESP board game for 2 or more people of all ages is here:
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