Anthony Aveni,
The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012
(University Press of Colorado, 2009)

To judge by the cover, Anthony Aveni's The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012 is another in the high stack of books suddenly warning of impending doom or possible salvation on a convenient calendar date. There's the ominous red sky around a mysterious glowing Earth, the wonderful lurid title font and, of course, the title itself. The End of Time! How portentous!

Inside, it's a very different story. Aveni writes not to add to the clamor of 2012 disaster theories, but to quiet them. An award-winning astronomer and longtime researcher of Mayan culture, Aveni confronts doomsday interpretations of the Mayan calendar with the best current research, all available original sources and an amazing fairness in his response. He examines the more popular claims as a good researcher does any competing theory and does his debunking thoroughly, point by point.

Through the sometimes willful misunderstanding that underlie the 2012 prophecies, Aveni also explores the thinking that powers doomsday prophecies in general and the shape the end of the world has taken in popular culture over the decades, from divine retribution to spiritual singularity. It's a fascinating read, even when it gets a little dry, and anyone who isn't themselves an expert on Mayan anthropology is likely to find some interesting information and a few bizarre stories to share.

It's unlikely Aveni will have much luck convincing the most visible prophets that their predictions are based off faulty data. But for anyone else who might be worrying about the end of the world as we know it, The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012is at least reassurance that the end of the world hasn't made a special date -- and an interesting look at why some people seem so eager that it should.

review by
Sarah Meador

27 March 2010

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