The end? Professor: Maya calendar fears are all misplacedIf the song by REM is any guide, today might start with an earthquake, birds, snakes and airplanes and Lenny Bruce would not be afraid. But experts in Valley City urge that today is not the end of the world as we know it, but more of an ancient calendar reset.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
If the song by REM is any guide, today might start with an earthquake, birds, snakes and airplanes and Lenny Bruce would not be afraid.
But experts in Valley City urge that today is not the end of the world as we know it, but more of an ancient calendar reset.
“This isn’t the end of the world, it is the end of this cycle,” said Wes Anderson, curator of the Barnes County Historical Society. “It’s the odometer in your car rolling over.”
The ancient Maya long count calendar calls for the end of this cycle — today will mark the end of a calendar that started 5,126 years ago.
It’s no coincidence that the Maya calendar ends on the winter solstice, the one day with the shortest amount of daylight.
“In a way calendar making was the science of any early culture that made their mark on this earth,” said Joe Stickler, chair of the division of mathematics, science, health and physical education at Valley City State University.
An organic chemist by trade, Stickler has toured ancient Mayan and Incan ruins and recreated an ancient calendar on the North Dakota prairie. He has found that ancient societies kept calendars to remember days of importance, usually by using the sun and stars.
Created with Native American traditions, Medicine Wheel Park in Valley City counts time by each solstice and equinox, not each month.
At 4:30 p.m. today observers are welcome at the park on Winter Show Road to celebrate the solstice or the end of the world, whichever they prefer.
“Really it’s an observance of this nice structure that connects the landscape with the skyscape,” Stickler said.
A rock alignment at the park points directly south where the sun will set. The angle between the sunset today and where it will be after the first day of summer is 72 degrees.
“In a sense that’s what I’m trying to do is recreate the ruins,” Stickler said. “There are medicine wheels in the U.S. that were part of Indian tribes west of here.”
The professor, who will retire at the end of spring semester, created the park with the help of his students in 1994.
The observance will be marked with music and ice luminaries. Those predicting the end of the world will also be able to share their thoughts and concerns. The fall equinox at the park has drawn nearly 300 people in years past.
If the world doesn’t come to an end people are invited to meet at 8 a.m. Saturday to watch the sunrise at Medicine Wheel Park.
Stickler has fielded some concerns about the Maya calendar and he has refuted them. But seeing people concerned about their world is refreshing for the professor.
“I think that humans should always be cautious of the future and possible catastrophes, some that they can’t control, such as an asteroid banging into the earth, which nearly happened twice this year, and some that the can control such as environmental catastrophes,” Stickler said.
He said it’s typical human nature to believe doomsday prophesies, like the Maya calendar. He also said people perceive individual existence becomes more important when the world is ending.
Stickler said there is no evidence the Mayans thought this would be the end of the world. But people are welcome to observe the solstice or the end of days at the park Friday.
“To be on the earth and seeing it like that of course is being more connected to nature,” he said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
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