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Countdown to the end of the world?

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Countdown to the end of the world?
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A celebration marking one year until the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar has been held in the Copan ruins in Honduras. Guests included the country’s President Porfirio Lobo.

December 21, 2012 is also believed to signal the end of the world, according to some who study Mayan theories. Other Mayan experts, however, say the date represents the end of a five-millenia cycle and that another era will follow.

Mayan religious ceremonies have also been held in Mexico, where tourism officials are hoping for a bumper year, with 52 million visitors expected to flock to the traditional Maya heartland in the belief that it may be their last chance to do so. Mexico usually attracts around 22 million tourists each year.

Mayans were particularly keen astrologers and developed a calendar that began in 3114BC and which advances in 13 cycles of 394-year periods known as “baktuns”. That calendar elapses next December.

Some have interpreted a Mayan text carved on a stone 1,300 years ago and discovered in the 1960s as a prophecy of world-ending catastrophe. But according to another theory, it will simply mean the return to Earth of a powerful god.

Either way, the tourist industry in the Mayan region is likely to cash in.