By now, most of the world is aware of the fact that the Maya Long Count, which consists of 13 periods of 144,000 days each (for a total of one million, eight hundred seventy-two thousand days) is coming to an end.  

Even if the ancient Maya (as most conventional scholars assert) were not actually counting from that start date over 5,000 years ago, the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica began erecting monuments with carved inscriptions which dated themselves from that start date as early as 36 BC.

There is a wall panel at Chiapa de Corzo in Mexico with a Long Count date of 7.16.3.2.13, which indicates that it was commemorating a date that was (starting from the number on the right of the series above):
  • 7.16.3.2.13  this position indicates13 individual days (the furthest-right number rolls to 0 after 19, such that the second-to-the-far-right number indicates periods of 20 days), 
  • 7.16.3.2.13  this position indicates 2 periods of 20 more days (this position rolls to zero after 17, such that each tick of the  third-to-right position indicates 18 periods of 20 days, or 360 days),bringing the total so far to 53 (two periods of forty days, plus 13 individual days),
  • 7.16.3.2.13  this position indicates 3 periods of 360 days, in addition to the 53 days already indicated, bringing the total so far to 1080 days plus 53 days or 1,133 days (note that this position rolls back to zero after 19 ticks),
  • 7.16.3.2.13  this position indicates sixteen periods of 7,200 days each, and it also rolls to zero after 19 ticks, so 115,200 days are indicated by this sixteen, which add to the 1,133 indicated so far, for a total of 116,333 days from the start of the count,
  • 7.16.3.2.13  this final position indicates periods of 144,000 days each (because the previous place in the numeral system counted nineteen periods of 7,200 days each, such that the twentieth rolls the previous place to zero and moves this final far-left position up one tick, and twenty times 7,200 equals 144,000).  There are seven such periods of 144,000 days each indicated on the date at Chiapa de Corzo, which total 1,008,000 days in addition to the 116,333 indicated so far.  This brings the grand total of days from initiation on this inscription to 1,124,333 days, which Maya researchers believe indicates a date in the month we call December (in the calendar that most of us accept due to our schooling and the conventions in place in the business and political and academic worlds) in the year that we would call 36 BC.  The creation of the current age was held to have taken place when this count reached thirteen such periods of 144,000 days the previous time around.
The above date shows that this count has been observed for an enormous length of time -- at least since 36 BC and probably before.  According to most observers, we have now reached the final days that will cause the positions to roll up to 13.0.0.0.0 again.

The day that the calendars we have been taught designate as Saturday, December 15 would be designated under the above system as 12.19.19.17.15.  The final digit (the 15) is ticking upward each day, until it reaches 19, and after 19 it will roll back to 0, causing the digit to its left (already at 17) to tick upwards to indicate another 20-day period.  Since that place rolls over at 18, it will then roll to zero, causing the next place over to its left to tick upwards in turn.  Since that place is already at 19, it too will roll over to zero, causing the place to its left to tick upwards, but since that one is also at 19, it too will roll over to zero, bringing the first position from 12 up to 13, and thus the end of the count: 13.0.0.0.0.

The famous Stela C at Quirigua shows, on its eastern face, an inscription indicating the creation date of the current age, the last time the count was at 13.0.0.0.0.  You can see that numeral in the image above, reading from the top-left to the top-right, then down to the next row left-to-right, and so on.  The top-left glyph shows two bars and three dots (they look like squares), which indicates thirteen (each bar is five, and the dots go up to four before forming a bar, just like a typical tally system in which you make four vertical lines on a piece of paper and "cross" it on the fifth).  The next four glyphs show a zero.

The significance of this end of the current Long Count and initiation of the next one has been heavily debated and sensationalized, of course.  I have discussed the unfortunate media sensationalism and obsession with the "end of the world" in several previous posts, including this one, this one, and this one.

I am much more inclined to agree with the analysis and conclusions of longtime Maya researcher John Major Jenkins, who believes based upon his research and his extensive time on the site and among the Maya people themselves that:
There is ZERO evidence that the ancient Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012. The Maya calendar does not END in 2012. DOOMSDAY-2012 is a fallacious construct, a projection of exploitative and underinformed writers and Western nihilistic fantasy.
Instead, he finds that this rolling over of the count indicates a renewal and a new beginning, one long anticipated by those ancients who had been counting towards it for so long.  It was to be a renewal triggered by an alignment of the earth, the sun and the galaxy, and one that they anticipated based upon their incredible astronomical knowledge and foresight.  He writes:
Over 2,000 years ago the early Maya formulated a profound galactic cosmology. They saw that the sun, on the winter solstice, was slowly moving toward the heart of the galaxy. Naturally enough, with their uncorrupted intelligence intact, they suspected that the world would go through a transformation when the solar and the galactic planes aligned. They devised their Long Count calendar to target when the cosmic alignment would maximize, and that time is AD 2012. We are lucky that the brilliant skywatchers who devised the 2012 calendar left carved monuments for us to decode, and that they have survived the decay of centuries, so that we can know exactly what they prophesied and believed about 2012. 

Incredibly, at the early Maya site of Izapa in southern Mexico, the galactic cosmology and a profound spiritual teaching are preserved. Izapa speaks to us of the Galactic Alignment in 2012 as a transformative nexus in time, a still-point turnabout, inviting us to reconnect with our cosmic heart and eternal source.
The fact that there is so much confusion over the meaning of this incredible count, and the fact that it takes the dedicated efforts of careful thinkers such as John Major Jenkins to piece together what the ancient Maya were anticipating with their count should cause us to ask, "Why is there so much confusion about this whole subject?"   

The answer to that question is a heartbreaking answer, but it is one that should be meditated upon deeply as we approach this momentous 13.  The reason that so little is known about this ancient civilization and what they thought is that their records were cruelly and deliberately and almost utterly destroyed by violent men 

You can read the heart-rending account in the words of one of those responsible for the destruction of these records, the Franciscan friar Diego de Landa (later a Bishop), in his account Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. Translator William Gates wrote in 1937 in introduction to that account that:
It is perhaps not too strong a statement to make, that ninety-nine percent of what we today know of the Mayas, we know as the result either of what Landa has told us in the pages that follow, or have learned in the use and study of what he told. [. . .]

If ninety-nine hundredths of our present knowledge is at base derived from what he told us, it is an equally safe statement that at that Auto de fé of ‘62, he burned ninety-nine times as much knowledge of Maya history and sciences as he has given us in his book. 
By '62, Gates means 1562, four hundred fifty years ago, when Landa and his forces tortured many Maya to death as part of his efforts to subdue and convert them.  During the same year, he admits to destroying a great number of the Maya texts.

In chapter 41 of his text (the chapters were probably divided and numbered later by someone other than Landa), Diego de Landa describes some details of the Maya calendar cycles, and then adds these terrible words:
These people also used certain characters or letters, with which they wrote in their books about the antiquities and their sciences; with these, and with figures, and certain signs in the figures, they understood their matters, made them known, and taught them. We found a great number of books in these letters, and since they contained nothing but superstitions and falsehoods of the devil we burned them all, which they took most grievously, and which gave them great pain.  
In Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock writes of the above statement, "Not only the 'natives' should have felt this pain but anyone and everyone -- then and now -- who would like to know the truth about the past" (112).  On the same page, Mr. Hancock also describes similar depredations, such as those of Juan de Zumarraga, who in November of 1530 "burned a Christianized Aztec aristocrat at the stake for having allegedly reverted to worship of the 'rain-god' and later, in the market-place at Texcoco, built a vast bonfire of astronomical documents, paintings, manuscripts and hieroglyphic texts  which the consquistadores had forcibly extracted from the Aztecs during the previous eleven years."

How far could these ancient texts have gone towards shedding light upon the thinking of those who created the Long Count and who had been diligently keeping it so many centuries before the invasion of their land by these violent intruders!

How much more might the Maya themselves be able to tell us today if their ancestors had not been horribly murdered en masse and their culture forcibly erased at the point of a sword!

In chapter 15 of his text, Diego de Landa offers some samples of the atrocities that were perpetrated upon the Maya by the invading conquerors:
I, Diego de Landa, say that I saw a great tree near the village upon the branches of which a captain had hung many women, with their infant children hung from their feet. At this town, and another two leagues away called Verey, they hung two Indian women, one a maiden and the other recently married, for no other crime than their beauty, and because of fearing a disturbance among the soldiers on their account; also further to cause the Indians to believe the Spaniards indifferent to their women. The memory of these two is kept both among the Indians and Spaniards on account of their great beauty and the cruelty with which they were killed. The Indians of the provinces of Cochuah and Chetumal rose, and the Spaniards so pacified them that from being the most settled and populous it became the most wretched of the whole country. Unheard-of cruelties were inflicted, cutting off their noses, hands, arms and legs, and the breasts of their women; throwing them into deep water with gourds tied to their feet, thrusting the children with spears because they could not go as fast as their mothers. If some of those who had been put in chains fell sick or could not keep up with the rest, they would cut off their heads among the rest rather than stop to unfasten them. They also kept great numbers of women and men captive in their service, with similar treatment.   
These horrifying events are important to gravely consider as the Maya Long Count approaches 13.0.0.0.0.  It has been ticking its way towards this date for long centuries, but the culture and civilization of the people descended from those who started that count was violently interrupted along the way (four and a half centuries from the renewal point, if we count from 1562).

Now, as the count reaches its long anticipated end, it does so in the midst of an awful silence.