It's not the end of the world, just a bit of abnormal solar activity

Prophecies, myths and facts about the origin of ancient civilisation are discussed by experts in an annual Dubai conference.

DUBAI // Prophecies, myths and facts about the origin of ancient civilisation were discussed by experts in an annual conference that concluded yesterday. The International Conference on Ancient Studies was held at Zayed University over the weekend. Twelve leading archaeologists, historians and experts on ancient civilisation spoke about their discoveries.

The much talked about Mayan prophecy - that the world will end in 2012 - was one of the most keenly awaited presentations. John Major Jenkins, a researcher and the author of The 2012 Story, the latest among his series of books about Mayan civilisation, maintained that the prophecy was vastly misunderstood. "One of the things I realised very early in my research is that the Mayans did not have a doomsday concept for 2012," said Mr Jenkins.

He said that the doomsday date of December 21, 2012, was a solstice. "The Mayans intended 2012 to represent a rare astronomical alignment," he said. "They think of the alignment as a time of maximised opportunity for awakening or renewal. A kind of transformation." The Mayans and the doomsday prophecy inspired several Hollywood movies including the recent blockbuster 2012. Mr Jenkins said that misinterpretation in popular cinema and books was disheartening.

"Its disappointing and frustrating. However, I am not surprised, because Hollywood and the marketplace would tend to do that kind of thing with profound ideas," said Mr Jenkins. Robert Bauval, the author of The Orion Mystery and one of the key organisers of the event, said the conference saw the grouping of many prominent researchers who had challenged the status quo on archaeology and civilisation.

Summing up the conference, he said arguments put forth "indicate that the hypothesis that was raised 30 years ago that there might be a preface to this civilisation, which was not well received in established circles of archaeology, is now receiving lot of support from the evidence that is coming out." The researcher, who has spent more than 20 years in the field, said recent discoveries in the Middle East and Levant pointed to the existence of a civilisation long before it was thought.

Speaking about the Mayan prophecy, he said: "2012 raises huge questions, not so much what it means as a date, but the Mayans' awareness of astronomic phenomena that historians claimed were discovered by the Greeks." However, he agreed that scientists had spoken of a natural phenomenon which may occur in 2012. "Scientists, not us, have identified the possibility of an unusual solar activity around 2012.

"Depending on its magnitude, this may cause disturbance in the magnetic activity of Earth which is a very worrying thing. If it does happen, computers may knock off and other such consequences are possible. This is the only indication of a doomsday and nothing else." Mr Bauval's presentation was about The Lost Symbol, the latest book by Dan Brown, which explores the influence of Freemasons.