We’ve heard quite a bit of talk about the Mayan calendar and the supposed end of the world, but what does Dec. 21, 2012 really mean?

Much like we have ways to group time, such as seven days marks a week and 52 weeks make a year, the Mayans grouped time similarly albeit with a different number-base system. Today, the world uses a base-10 system, computers use a base-2 system (binary) and the Mayans used a base-20 system.

Just one of many Mayan calendars, the long count calendar comes to an end Dec. 21 and will “click over” to read “” This will mark the end of the 13th baktun (properly b’ak’tun) and the beginning of the 14th baktun. Each baktun is 144,000 days or 394.25 years in the long count calendar.


The Mayans used three different calendars at a time. The first was the sacred calendar used for scheduling religious ceremonies (Tzolk’in) which lasted 260 days and naturally started over again. This is similar to our 365-day calendar that begins again after Dec 31. The second calendar was the Haab, or secular calendar, which lasted 365 days but did not account for leap years. The final calendar was the long count calendar which covers longer periods of time.

Though the beginning and end of calendar mile-markers were considered very important to the Mayans, they did not make any doomsday predictions about the date. Simply put, the Mayan calendar ends Dec. 21, 2012 and thus begins the 14th baktun.

Bookmark and Share

777 E. Princeton Street • Orlando, Florida 32803 • Phone: 407.514.2000 • TTY: 407.514.2005 • Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN • Email: gservices@osc.org
  Orlando Science Center is supported by United Arts of Central Florida, host of power2give.org/centralflorida and the collaborative Campaign for the Arts.
This project is funded in part by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program. Privacy Policy • Accessibility