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Deep inside a secret room buried for eons within an ancient stone temple in Mexico, something dark and terrible has finally stirred. Or so the doomsayers, with their vivid imaginations, would have you believe. The sands of time are running out for the world and not even Indiana Jones can save us now.
The astrological alignments and numerological formulae cannot be wrong: on December 21 this year, the apocalypse foretold 5,125 years ago by the ancient Mayans will come to pass and the world will end.
But the ‘2012 phenomenon’ — as it is commonly known to its legions of internet followers — is different. For the Mayans, a famously wise and advanced civilisation which was at its height between 250 and 900AD in the present-day Mexican state of Yucatan and Guatemala, have grabbed everyone’s attention. The evidence boils down to one simple fact: their 5,125-year calendar — the one used across Central America before the arrival of Europeans — runs out on December 21 this year. The point is that the Mayans were noted for their extraordinary astronomical observations and mathematical powers. And if they didn’t think it worth taking their calendar beyond December 2012, they must have had a reason.
Archaeologists who have studied the Mayans have been downplaying the apocalypse theories, insisting that the only surviving Mayan reference to any dreadful significance attached to December 21, 2012, was contained on a single ancient stone tablet found at ruins in Tortuguero, southern Mexico, in the 1960s.
Scientists insist there is no dire threat on the horizon, while Mayan experts stress that the ancient civilisation’s legacy has simply been misinterpreted. ‘Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012,’ says NASA on its website in the reassuring tones of a parent dealing with a frightened toddler. ‘Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.’
Steve Cramer, one man who has reserved his place, insists: ‘We’re not crazy people: these are fearful times. My family wants to survive. You have to be prepared.’ Jason Hodge, a father-of-four who also counts himself a ‘future survivor’, to use the jargon of the apocalypse industry, adds: ‘It’s an investment in life.
Many of their 2012 doomsday scenarios involve astronomical phenomena — a rogue planet hitting Earth, fierce solar storms, a galactic alignment in which the Sun’s gravitational effect combines with that of a huge black hole to create havoc. The gloomiest think we may get all three. A particularly popular theory is that a rogue planet called Nibiru is lurking behind the Sun and will collide with the Earth next December, destroying it. Some believe this rogue body is Eris, a dwarf planet orbiting beyond Neptune.