Mayan doomsday: Preparations for the 21st December 2012 apocalypse

The Mayan temple of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza, Mexico
The Mayan temple of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza, Mexico Photo: Reuters

Friday 21st December is a date that some say the ancient Mayan civilisation predicted the world would end. It has even been the subject of Hollywood apocalyptic film "2012".

The date marks the end of an era that lasted over 5000 years, according to the Mayan "Long Count" calendar.

Some believe the date, which coincides with the December solstice, is foretold as the end of the world by Mayan hieroglyphs.

Tourists visit the Mayan pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico
Tourists visit the Mayan pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico Credit: Reuters

But scholars have ridiculed the idea, and say the date simply marks the end of the old Mayan calendar - and the beginning of a new one.

However the central American region where the Mayans lived is experiencing a tourism bonanza ahead of the fateful day.

The Maya Civilisation (AD 300-900) was one of the most sophisticated in the pre-Columbian Americas.

It extended from southeastern Mexico across modern-day Guatemala, Belize and the western parts of Honduras and El Salvador.

By about AD 800 Maya civilization was in decline. Building and monument-making stopped and in some places there is evidence of violence and destruction.

The problems may have been caused by warfare and agricultural crisis. Despite this 'collapse', the Maya survived in reduced numbers.

There are about six million Maya alive today.