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Since the world won’t end, learn about the Mayans

By Nicole Hennessy

Westshore

Everyone loves a good doomsday prophecy. Logical thinkers realize the world won’t end on Dec. 21, 2012, but there is a certain novelty that comes along with indulging in an incredibly advanced ancient population with a calendar capable of telling the future.

Susannah Hamm, science and technology specialist at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Parma South branch, will be giving a lecture called “Mayan Calendar in the Sky” at the Bay Village Branch Library Nov. 28.

Hamm has always been interested in astronomy and began researching the Mayans – in particular, how they were able to make their calendar.

“Because of this looming December 21st date,” she said, emphasizing the word “looming,” “I thought people would be as interested in it as I was.”

Without telescopes or even binoculars, all Mayan astronomy was done with just their eyes. For hundreds of years, they’d track planets, noting when Venus rose and set or tracking Mars, creating extremely accurate calendars that pinpoint where in the galaxy the earth was or will be.

Hamm finds every aspect of Mayan culture interesting – their elaborate cities and the pyramids they were able to construct, as well as their hieroglyphic writing and, of course, their calendar.

There are references in their writings to a god getting dressed on Dec. 21. “I don’t think that’s that ominous,” Hamm laughed. She also said that a lot of people feel that the calendar will reset.

She said it’s “really a system of numbering things. We think of a calendar as something we hang on a wall and mark off dates.”

She’s also incorporated into her research a recent interview she saw in which a Mayan shaman talked about how he felt during this time the Earth would be cut off from the center of the galaxy and we would be cut off from our past, and it would be a time of great growth, change and betterment.

She says there’s no indication of any sort of cataclysmic planetary event next month, but she likes to talk about this stuff because it is an interesting way to talk to people about history and science.

The only thing that will happen on Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day of every year.

“Some people find these days kind of spiritual,” said Hamm. Some people enjoy observing and honoring the heavens.

At her lecture, she hopes attendees learn more about who the Mayans were and who they are today.  She said people are always surprised to find out they didn’t completely die off. Also, she talks about their mathematical techniques and how they used the planets to predict cosmic events.

“It captures people’s imaginations,” she said of Mayan culture and its predictions. “It’s very interesting to think about these people who were very colorful, advanced, artistic, creative people.”

She added that many cultures and people have predicted the end of the world or rebirths, and there’s never been one, “so it’s curious to think about why particularly this date and particularly these people are what people are catching on to.”

SIDE BAR: Nov. 28 from 7 to 9 p.m., Susannah Hamm, science and technology specialist at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Parma South branch, will give a lecture called “Mayan Calendar in the Sky” at the Bay Village Branch Library. Registration is encouraged. The library’s phone number is 440-871-6392.

 

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