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Anabel Ford: How the World Failed to End on Dec. 21

Sunrise in the Maya forest on Dec. 21 included morning fog but otherwise all was right with the world.
Sunrise in the Maya forest on Dec. 21 included morning fog but otherwise all was right with the world.  (Anabel Ford photo)

By Anabel Ford Ph.D. |

THE MAYA FOREST — Equipped with headlamps for the morning trek on Dec. 21, we experienced the brightening of the morning fog at dawn near Tikal, Peten in Guatemala. The Baktun cycle had begun.

After breakfast, we commemorated the winter solstice at Plaza Copal, named the observatory for the architectural layout comparable to many Maya sites. We wandered the forest trails until dusk, when we stopped at a vista to take in the darkening sky.

We had completed our day watching for the appearance of three stars in the sky — the mark of the next 52-year cycle. We went to Yaxha and we stopped at Tikal. All seemed calm and in order.

As Narciso Torres, a master Maya forest gardener, aptly noted: “The world cannot end; it’s round!”

Anabel Ford Ph.D. is the director of UC Santa Barbara’s MesoAmerican Research Center. Ford, UCSB’s resident expert on Maya archaeology, discovered the ancient Maya city-center El Pilar, which bridges Belize and Guatemala. By decoding the ancient landscape around El Pilar, she is creating a sustainable model in conservation and agriculture that can regenerate the threatened Maya forest. With investment and support, her model can assist environmental efforts worldwide. Click here for more information on El Pilar. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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