Jesse's Reviews > 2012 Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya

2012 Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya by Mark Van Stone
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it was amazing

so far this book is a phenomenal window into the maya world (factoid: the word ‘maya’ is used for everything accept languages, where the word ‘mayan’ is used – i.e. mayan languages are spoken by the maya people.). the author wanted to try and offer a more accurate view of the maya and what they thought about 2012 (or using their calendar ). from their creation myth, to the gloating of the great king, pakal (a requirement for any powerful ruler), this book offers a master class into all we know about the maya and their conception of the beginning - and end - of creation.

i'll write a little more when i finish the book, i'm about half way through now.


so this book really does fill a gap in maya studies. through all the hype and hysteria regarding 2012 - which really feels like Y2K redux - it's an intellectual comfort to know that mark van stone and colleagues are diligently working to understand the maya and their ideas about 2012 in their correct context. the most stunning thing that this book conveys is how nebulous our grasp of the maya worldview really is. and what most 2012ologists - not to mention ancient alien theorists - do is take things radically out of context and overlay their worldview on top of a radically different religious, cosmological, political, and mythological maya worldview (which is nowhere near being fully comprehended)

(tangent: this book has a wonderful section on maya symbols which touches on - and somewhat explains - what pakal’s sarcophagus is really conveying. the ancient astronaut theorist totally throw out all the symbols of the world tree, bloodletting rituals, serpents bars, (all things seen in other maya works of art that help reinforce meaning) and more, and conclude that he is in a space ship. their proof: because it looks like it – no cultural context, no reinforcement through other images, nothing even remotely approaching academic rigor. and it only kinda looks like it. yet and still, they believe. and the history channel helps present their ideas as an ‘alternative theory’ that competes with the ‘official theory’. this is like saying I compete with kobe bryant because I talk trash to the tv and yell defense during a playoff game. right, ludicrous. and tangent over)

there is an amazing footnote where a handful of scholars debate the meaning of an obscure god (bolon yokte) and his role in the events (or prophecies as some read it) of 2012. there is nothing close to consensus and understanding only comes after much debate and verification in multiple fields (linguistics, archaeology, etc.) the idea that some 2012ologist can come along and just single-handedly grasp something a whole field of scholars missed, themselves not being a scholar (the 2012ologist), or having done any real field work, or extensive linguistic, hieroglyphic, or symbolic study is just kind of unbelievable. that's not to say that a field cannot be self-blinding, but the correction almost always comes from another scholar working outside the general field - but not someone who has no training in the field of maya studies - and once the mistake is logically pointed out and 'proved' the rest of the field (sometimes begrudgingly) acknowledges it.

nonetheless, i’ve read enough about illogical belief to know that 2012ologists and ancient alien theorists won’t be persuaded by overwhelming evidence and will always hold onto their tiny ‘discrepancies’ they point out in the ‘official’ theory (ignoring the titanic size ‘discrepancies’ in their own theories). all this besides, it’s still nice to read a studied, well-informed treatise on all the current field has to offer with regard to 2012 and the maya. I gained nothing but respect for a culture that lasted over a millennium in a ruthless jungle and developed some of the most beautiful art (the san bartolo murals, bonampak, the princeton vase, etc.), a writing system whose appearance took precedence over its content (something we have abandoned somewhat in western culture), and an astronomy and timekeeping prowess that astonishes to this day.

of course, the maya were human, and contained all the genius, warmth, and evil that all humans possess. and pretending they were perfect shepherds of the land who saw the future death of civilization as we know it and wanted to warn us away from our self-induced collapse, is to simplify the maya into something different from what they are: people just like us.

If you are interested in learning more about the maya I highly recommend
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Reading Progress

October 22, 2011 – Started Reading
October 22, 2011 – Shelved
November 1, 2011 – Finished Reading

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