Did the Maya really predict that the world would end in December of 2012? If not, how and why has 2012 millenarianism gained such popular appeal? In this deeply knowledgeable book, two leading historians of the Maya answer these questions in a succinct, readable, and accessible style. Matthew Restall and Amara Solari introduce, explain, and ultimately demystify the 2012 phenomenon. They begin by briefly examining the evidence for the prediction of the world's end in ancient Maya texts and images, analyzing precisely what Maya priests did and did not prophesize. The authors then convincingly show how 2012 millenarianism has roots far in time and place from Maya cultural traditions, but in those of medieval and Early Modern Western Europe. Revelatory any myth-busting, while remaining firmly grounded in historical fact, this fascinating book will be essential reading as the countdown to December 21, 2012, begins.
Restall, Matthew. 2012 and the end of the world: the Western roots of the Maya apocalypse, by Matthew Restall and Amara Solari. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. 147p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781442206090; ISBN 9781442206113 e-book, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in 2011nov CHOICE.
This title has been reviewed jointly with "The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth about 2012," by David Stuart.
The end of the world will come on or around December 21, 2012. A still growing deluge of articles, books, TV programs, and even Hollywood films herald this event. Ancient Mayas held that the current world began in the year we call 3114 BCE. They reckoned that 13 baktuns later (13 periods of approximately 400 years), their calendar would arrive at an important anniversary day of the beginning of this creation. For several decades, Westerners pinned to that date all kinds of alleged prophecies of world doom, cosmic realignment, galactic homecomings, spiritual awakening, and more. Noted archeologist and epigrapher Stuart (Univ. of Texas) demonstrates that none of these speculations has anything to do with actual Maya beliefs. His engaging book explains at length what scholars know about ancient Mayan thought concerning creation, time, fate, and human action. Stuart delves deeply into the workings of the Maya calendar and articulates a new understanding of the Maya "long count" of days, from which the contemporary 2012 mania partly derives. Although he vitally debunks 2012 nonsense, Stuart also claims Mayas never prophesied the end of the world. That's wrong, as 2012 and the End of the World attests.
In their highly readable volume, Mayan scholars Restall and Solari (both, Penn State) cover some of the same ground as Stuart concerning evidence about ancient Maya belief in a distant apocalypse, but acknowledge that strains of European apocalypticism entered Maya thinking after the conquest. The authors show through discussion of missionary art and Maya colonial writings the likely influences of European thought about the end of the world on the changing Maya conceptions of themselves and their world. They agree, however, that such hybrid strains of the apocalypse in the New World have nothing to do with the current hype about 2012.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.
-- P. R. Sullivan, independent scholar
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