Mark Van Stone, a professor and art historian in the School of Arts & Communication, told City News Service that he received three interview requests a day last week from around the country and recently completed a college speaking tour on the East Coast that included Princeton and Johns Hopkins universities.
He’s also been a popular guest at Mayan, anthropology and astronomy conventions.
Van Stone is scheduled to make his second speaking appearance in a week at 6 p.m. Monday at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center at Balboa Park, partially to debunk theories that the world is scheduled to end on Dec. 21.
“The best thing about this 2012 nonsense is it creates interest in the Mayan people,” Van Stone said. “People can go down there and see what the Maya are really like.”
He said the real Maya are much more interesting than “prophets of doom.”
A misinterpretation of ancient Mayan text by German scientists years ago led to the idea of a calendar that expires this month, signaling some kind of apocalypse, according to the professor.
Writings in the Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, showed the Mayans believed their king would still be celebrated in 4772 AD, well after the year 2012, he said.
He said the 5,125-year Mayan calendar cycle, also called a Bak’tun cycle, “goes around and around” but doesn’t appear to end.
Still, the myth is propagated on television shows and books, leading to 12 percent of Americans and 20 percent of the Chinese population believing the world will end on Dec. 21, according to a poll conducted this spring by Ipsos Global Public Affairs.
“Americans have always had a history of crazy prophecies but we’re behind China on this one,” Van Stone said.
For those who cling to the notion, Van Stone says that the actual date of the end of the world could be Dec. 23 or 24, depending on competing interpretations of the correlation between modern and ancient Mayan calendars.
He has authored a book, “2012: Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya,” available at his website.
By James R. Riffel, City News Service