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Fri Nov 28 07:38:34 SAST 2014

And the world just keeps on turning

Sapa-dpa | 22 December, 2012 08:40
A man dressed in an Aztec costume performs a dance during a ceremony to mark the close of the 13th bak'tun outside the Pre Columbian archeological zone of Teotihuacan December 21, 2012. Thousands of mystics, hippies and tourists celebrated in the sunshine of southeastern Mexico on Friday as the Earth survived a day billed by doomsday theorists as the end of the world and a new era began for the Maya people. New Age dreamers, alternative lifestyle gurus and curious onlookers from around the world descended on the ruins of Maya cities to mark the close of the 13th bak'tun - a period of around 400 years - and many hoped it would lead to a better era for humanity.
Image by: HENRY ROMERO / REUTERS

A new era, according to the Maya calendar, began on Friday, with Mexicans celebrating the transition at an all-night vigil in the archaeological remains of the ancient civilisation, whilst some worldwide prepared for doomsday.

According to archaeologists, the so-called Long Count of the 5 200-year Maya calendar - which started on August 11 or 13, 3 114 BC - is set to reach zero on December 21 or 23.

For the Mayans, the end of the 13th ‘baktun’ (a 400-year time period) is a time of regeneration of wisdom and other positive qualities. However, some groups have interpreted it as a warning of an imminent end of the world.

Thousands welcomed the new era at Mexico's archaeological sites. A night vigil was held in front of Chichen Itza, which was closed overnight, to greet the first sunrise of the new era following a 5 200-year period in that ancient civilization's calendar.

About 2 000 Maya spiritual leaders gathered in Ek Balam, which houses a Maya pyramid of the underworld.

In some cities, such as Merida in the state of Yucatan, people celebrated in bars or restaurants. Many restaurants offered special menus to draw tourists.

"We went Christmas shopping, but the Maya calendar does not really have much relevance for us," Merida resident Marcos Galindo said.

However, in the southern French village of Bugarach, local prefect Eric Frezsselinard banned two rave parties in the area as a precautionary measure to ward off apocalyptic party-goers.

The 1 230-metre mountain where the village is located has been identified by online doom's day theorists as a UFO landing pad from where a few chosen ones will be spirited by aliens to the safety of outer space on December 21.

Freysselinard has declared the village, the Pic de Bugarach mountain and nearby woodlands a no-go zone for non-locals though Saturday.

"We shouldn't exaggerate the situation, but at the same time (we should) take it seriously," the prefect told local media, adding that so far only a few people have tried to reach the summit of the Pic de Bugarach.

The fewer than 200 residents of Bugarach, a place dubbed "the village at the end of the world," have feared doomsdayers will show up en masse for the winter solstice armageddon on Friday.

An organisation in Russia meanwhile reported that Moscow residents are well prepared for any possible apocalypse having at their disposal 1.5 million underground bunkers.

According to Vadim Mikhailov with the excavation investigation organization Digger, dozens of these Moscow bunkers are deeper than the shafts of the city's Metro system.

Though most of these structures were built prior to the current rage for all things Mayan, new construction and renovations of older bunkers for the anticipated doom's day have earned a number of builders tidy sums, said Mikhailov.

In China, police detained more than 1 000 members of the Church of Almighty God, banned by the government as an "evil cult," after it linked its message of the imminent arrival of a female saviour to the ancient Mayan prophecy that the world would end on December 21.

Police also said the actions of Min Yongjun, a 36-year-old who stabbed 23 children in an attack at a primary school in central China's Henan province on December 14, had been influenced by doomsday rumours.

State media have called for regulatory curbs on China's heavily censored internet, saying rumours that the world would end on Friday had shown the dangers of uncontrolled access.

For Mexican writer Homero Aridjis, the most impressive aspect of the Maya era fever is "the survival of the Maya cosmology in the contemporary popular imagination."

"The end of a calendar cycle of a culture which was brutally eliminated 500 years ago has sparked a global uproar," he observed.

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