Mayan sites see increase in visitor numbers
Tabasco, Mexico (AP) – This is modern day Mexico – but it could just as easily be a scene from the ancient Mayan civilization.
Mayan people have lived here for over 3,000 years.
These dancers and musicians are re-enacting the traditional ceremonies of the central American society.
But is there a more prophetic reason for this gathering here at the ancient city of Coba.
The Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world on December 21, 2012 and as the date approaches more people are beginning to wonder if the prophecy could come true.
With just over a year and a half to go, more and more tourists are coming from all over the world to visit the remains of this ancient civilization.
Tourists like Alan Cheung, who has made the long trip from Hong Kong to visit the Nohoch Mul pyramids at Coba, 172 kilometres (106 miles) from the tourist resort of Cancun and less than than 50 (35) from Tulum Mayan Riviera.
The Mayans measured time using their knowledge of mathematics and astronomy. They had two calendars, one for astronomy that lasted 365 days. The other calendar is for agriculture, called Tzolkin, with 260 days.
To read a date, the Mayans used a complex system where both calendars were combined to reach a final result.
But the apocalyptic date of 2012 is present on the Steles, a standing stone carved with hieroglyphs – found in Quirigua in Guatemala and Tabasco in Mexico.
Although archaeologists cannot agree the precise significance of this date, some people believe it signifies the end of the world.
It’s a theory that’s gained momentum thanks to major Hollywood blockbusters, such as director Roland Emmerich’s recent film ‘2012’.
The most compelling evidence that the date signifies the Apocalypse is here at Stele number one in Coba.
Here, the date is followed by the Mayan word for “ends”.
But many of the tourists who come here especially to see the stone can’t be dissuaded from notions of Doomsday.
Mexican tourist Victor Orta y Graciela Jimenez says: “We have over-exploited the planet, exhausting its resources. Day after day we are contaminating the ozone, burning up oxygen. Day after day we use petroleum and now the planet is saying “enough”. This has to do with the level of destruction that humans have caused on the planet, causing all these changes that even the ancient Mayans warned us about.”
Stele number one is almost three metres high and has suffered from weathering making further interpretation of the hieroglyphs difficult. Some archaeologists have tried to reconstruct the stone based on older photographs.
Sculptor Don Alfredo Gonzalez has dedicated his life to the study of ancestral cultures of Mexico.
Here in his workshop he shows copies of Mayan hieroglyphs and sculptures.
He believes that we are concluding the fifth period of the Mayas and that could coincide with an alienation of the planets – but he stresses that in no way does all of this signify the end of the world.
Traditional Mayan culture and civilisation has mostly disappeared and much of that knowledge is now lost.
However, one surviving representation of their culture is the Mayan Ball Game – it is now making a comeback.
In this cave near Coba a group of Mayan youths prepare to recreate the ancient game.
They believe that the date of December 21, 2012 will herald a new period and feel compelled to play their game of their ancestors once again.
Ball Game player Fidencio Tzel of the pre-hispanic dance group, Naui-Olli says: “The Mayans knew that this was gong to happen and each period is marked with catastrophe and climate changes. So the Mayans prophesied about 2012 because they knew that at the end of that period the playing of the Ball Game will begin again. Many people who follow the tradition feel the call and begin to play the Mayan Ball Game again”.
As 2012 approaches, with natural disasters around the globe and global warming now recognised as a significant threat to mankind, the Mayan prophecy is continuing to attract believers.