Highly concentrated amalgamation of doomsday-theory debunking and Mayan ethos.
A leading Mayanist scholar and Mesoamerican art professor (Univ. of Texas), Stuart began appreciating Maya culture at an early age during trips to jungle ruins with his parents, lifelong experts. Staunchly dedicated, the author has collected field research and documented the evolution of native kingdoms predating the Mesoamerican civilization—present-day southern Mexico and northern Central America—and the classic eras that established it, along with deciphering much of the coded Maya hieroglyphic script. He expounds on this research in dense, informative chapters about how the Maya society developed into a deeply mystical, animistic collective, invoking their notions of timekeeping and day-naming, cosmology and science. Also relevant to the author’s research was how their 260-day calendar was intricately designed and calculated and what the Maya people considered cosmic “deep time.” Stuart adroitly dispels common misconceptions that put the Mayan culture in an “exotic”, “alien” light to outsiders, which, to him, constitutes a “major cultural misunderstanding.” Though he appreciates the enthusiasm of the “guru” mentality, the author openly dismisses the recent ominous hype cultivated by New Age writers like John Major Jenkins and others who’ve analyzed the Maya calendar and its perceived dire consequences for the world at large. This is “complete nonsense,” the author writes, and he goes on to dispense a vast and illuminating chronicle of the Maya people and their fascinating cultural significance. While much of Stuart’s scholarly interpretation borders on textbook analysis, even he confesses that a healthy amount of his personalized conjecture might be viewed as “half-baked” at its early developmental stage. The author deeply examines the core beliefs and the intricate written languages of the Maya civilization and seeks to convey a better understanding of not only its culture and history, but how it correlates to the overblown media buzz about the Earth’s hypothesized demise in 2012.
Chockablock with facts, graphs and illustrations—supreme fodder for specialists but somewhat impenetrable for the casual reader.