Did End-of-World Prophesiers have too much Time on their Hands?

Posted: February 1, 2012 - 12:57 , by admin

Submitted by Conrad Biernacki, ROM Programs Manager 

Last Friday, a keen and curious crowd of 75 people attended the ROM’s monthly Connecting: Mix Mingle Think event for a talk by the Museum’s ancient world expert Gayle Gibson called The Long Goodbye: Apocalypse 2012?

Six facts you may not know about the Apocalypse:

1. Apocalypse is a Greek term that means “lifting the veil.” The usual English term, “Revelation,” comes from Latin.

2. The Aztec calendar stone has nothing at all to do with the Maya, with 2012, or with prophecy of any kind.

3. The basis for the “Maya prophecy” about 2012 is a piece of an inscription called Tortuguero Stone Six. It’s probably really part of a building inscription.  Mayanists differ somewhat in their translations, but none believes it is a prophecy.

4. The Tortuguero Stone does mention the end of the current Bak’tun, a period of 400 years. It ends on December 21 or 23, 2012.  It’s similar to the end of a century or a decade—time for a party, not a cause for alarm.

5. There are Maya books from the post-contact period that do contain descriptions of the end of the world. These books are the books of Chilam Bahlam, which means “Jaguar Translator.” Though containing authentic ancient Maya materials, they were influenced by Christianity. Their apocalyptic visions probably come from familiarity with the images of the Book of Revelations, aka the Apocalypse of John of Patmos.

The audio podcast of Gibson’s talk will be posted on the ROM website soon.

After the talk, participants guess the identity of artifacts from the ROM's collections. ROM assistant curator Brian Musselwhite shows a 17th-century dagger. Was it is a personal eating utensil specifically designed for a woman's use? Or a probing instrument to determine if someone was really a witch?

Connecting events offer a complimentary drink and a variety of hors d'oeuvres.

The fun repeats on February 24 with author Carol Off talking about her new book Bitter Sweet. You guessed it—the topic is the incredibly interesting history of chocolate.