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See This: End of Days

The MU Museum of Art and Archeology hosts an exhibit about the Mayan calendar

Photo courtesy of MU Museum of Art and Archeology

December 20, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST

As the world’s expiration date approaches, the preppers are busy prepping. But those who study Mayan culture say there’s nothing to worry about.

The Mayan people never believed the world was going to end in 2012. “In fact, there are long count dates far into the future,” says Alex Barker, the director of MU’s Museum of Art and Archeology.

End of Days: Real and Imagined Mayan Worlds

WHERE: MU Museum of Art and Archeology
WHEN: Now through March 17; Tues. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thurs., until 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., noon to 4 p.m.
COST: Free
CALL: 882-3591
ONLINE: maa.missouri.edu

In recognition of the supposed apocalypse, the museum is hosting its End of Days exhibit that addresses the real meaning of the notorious long count calendar, which was created to record the dynastic history of its rulers, not to predict the end of life on Earth.

Most of the vases and ceramics at the museum shed light on Mayan beliefs in the context of daily life. One bowl contains a toad sitting in its center. The Mayans associated the toad effigy with the human struggle to survive droughts.

Numerous other carvings and glyphs that show messages in the Mayan language prove how advanced the culture was for its time. The fact that they had a written language shows the complexity of the civilization.

Ceramic pieces document the splendor of Mayan society and paintings and carvings that show what it really would have been like at its peak. Most of the works in the exhibition are from the classic period, sometime around 300 A.D. to about 900 A.D.

The calendar itself is a series of numbers and names drawn in intricate ways, almost impossible to decipher if you’re not an expert on the topic.

“The Mayan calendar seems very complex, but if you take our own calendar and look at it, it’s every bit as complex,” says Barker, pointing out that the Gregorian calendar is composed of seven day names and 12 months with irregular lengths. “It just doesn’t seem complex to us because we use it every day.”

Barker says he hopes that by attending, people will realize that Western society came up with the idea the world would end on Friday.

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