"When you look at the inscriptions next to those dates, they're talking about contemporaneous kings," he said.
"In our society, there is a certain fraction of people who are doomsayers who will take their own belief that the end of the world is at hand and hang it on any convenient hook," Mr. Witschey said. "For the Maya calendar, the rollover of this cycle is a neat hook. We also have the connection with Dec. 21, which is also the winter solstice. They've also conjured up an imaginary planet that is going to strike the Earth. NASA assures us that this is not going to happen."