Of the known Maya archaeological sites in the Maya world, only a handful give direct clues as to the Long Count ending in 2012. Of these, only a single stela bears the actual date December 21, 2012 (or 13 b’aktun, or 188.8.131.52.0). It is written on a damaged stone slab called Tortuguero Monument 6, which resides in a museum basement in Villahermosa, Mexico , off-limits to the public.
There are dozens of inscriptions you can seek out that refer to the Long Count start date of 3114 B.C. and scores more that suggest the importance of the endings of large cycles (k’atuns and b’aktuns), perhaps providing clues as to what the Maya foresaw at the end of 13 b’aktuns.
In addition to messages in hieroglyphics and writing, the physical orientation of structures at archaeological sites (e.g., lining up temples and statues to the solstice sunrise and other celestial events) can have relevance to 2012.
The best example is found at Izapa , where building orientation and inscribed imagery both may point directly to what the Maya calculated would appear in the night sky in December 2012.
Maya hieroglyphics speak of stories, myths, events—and dates. The Maya shared a unique view of time, which they saw as a kind of infinite spiral staircase, as opposed to a simple linear notion. The celestial cycles they observed inspired a system of interlocking calendars of various lengths. Maya daykeepers, as their priests are known, built these cycles within a Long Count, or 5,125-year period of time, which began on August 11, 3114 B.C. The Long Count will end on December 21, 2012.
Within this span of time, any single day exists in the Long Count as a series of five numerical places:
For example, 184.108.40.206.15 (written on Stela 29 in Tikal ) is represented in two columns of glyphs and numbers, accompanied by cues that describe the date’s significance. This numerical set translates as:
These numbers give an exact measure of days after the start of the Long Count, correlating to July 8, A.D. 292, which is considered the beginning of the Classic Period. Entire books are dedicated to explaining the unique and complex base-20 Maya calendar system—Barbara Tedlock’s Time and the Highland Maya is a standard on the subject.
Some believe that another cycle of 13 b’aktuns will begin when the old one ends and that the Long Count, much like a car odometer, will click over to 220.127.116.11.0 on December 21, 2012. Others consider this idea pure conjecture, and argue for an even longer count than five thousand years.
But if the purpose of the Long Count was not to pinpoint a transition at its end, then what was it? Dr. Edwin Barnhart writes about the Maya’s “love of calculating the lowest common multiples and highest common divisors between the celestial cycles they were tracking.” He says, “I believe the Long Count allowed them to tease those temporal conjunctions out and that they viewed them as the hidden synchronicities of the cosmos.”