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December 21, 2012
Mexico's Maya heartland greets dawn of new era

MERIDA, Mexico (AP) -- Dec. 21 started out as the prophetic day some had believed would usher in the fiery end of the world. By Friday afternoon, it had become the punch line of countless Facebook posts and at least several dozen T-shirts.

At the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, thousands chanted, danced and otherwise frolicked around ceremonial fires and pyramids to mark the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar.

The doomsayers who had predicted apocalypse were nowhere to be seen. Instead, people showed up in T-shirts reading "The End of the World: I Was There."

For the masses in the ruins, Dec. 21 sparked celebration of what they saw as the birth of a new and better age. It was also inspiration for massive clouds of patchouli and marijuana smoke and a chorus of conch calls at the break of dawn.

(23 images)




People gather around a sacred fire during a ceremony at the Iximche archeological site to mark the end of the 13th Oxlajuj B'aktun in Tecpan, Guatemala, early Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. The end of the 13th Oxlajuj B'aktun marks a new period in the Mayan calendar, an event only comparable in recent times with the new millennium in 2000. While the Mayan calendar cycle has prompted a wave of doomsday speculation across the globe, few in the Mayan heartland believe the world will end on Friday. AP / Moises Castillo
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People gather around a sacred fire at the Mayan archeological site of Iximche during a ceremony marking the end of the 13th Oxlajuj B'aktun in Tecpan, Guatemala, early Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Moises Castillo
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Indians gather for a ceremony at the Iximche archeological site in Tecpan, Guatemala, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. AP / Moises Castillo
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People gather at Iximche archeological site in Tecpan, Guatemala, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. AP / Moises Castillo
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People watch in a ceremony at the Iximche archeological site to mark the end of the 13th Oxlajuj B'aktun in Tecpan, Guatemala, as the sun rises on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Moises Castillo
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A chicken's head lays on an altar of offerings during a private ceremony at the Iximche archeological site in preparation for the Oxlajuj B'aktun in Tecpan, Guatemala Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. AP / Moises Castillo
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People gesture toward the the Kukulkan temple in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Ceremonial fires burned and conches sounded off as dawn broke over the steps of the main pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza Friday, making what many believe is the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar. AP / Israel Leal
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People gather in front of the Kukulkan temple in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Israel Leal
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People gather in front of the Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. American seer Star Johnsen-Moser led a whooping, dancing, drum-beating ceremony Thursday in the heart of Mayan territory to consult several of the life-sized crystal skulls, which adherents claim were passed down by the ancient Maya. AP / Israel Leal
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People gather in front of "Templo de los Guerreros," or "Temple of the Warriors," in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. AP / Israel Leal
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Peruvian shamans perform a ritual against the alleged 2012 apocalyptic Mayan prediction in Lima, Peru, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. The supposed 5 a.m. Friday doomsday hour had already arrived in several parts of the world with no sign of the apocalypse. AP / Martin Mejia
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A Peruvian shaman perform a ritual against the alleged 2012 apocalyptic Mayan prediction in Lima, Peru, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. AP / Martin Mejia
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People are silhouetted as the sun rises above the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England, as access to the site is given to druids, New Age followers and members of the public on the annual Winter Solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Doomsday hour is here and so still are we. According to legend, the ancient Mayans' long-count calendar ended at midnight Thursday, ushering in the end of the world. Didn't happen. AP / Matt Dunham
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Druid leader Arthur Uther Pendragon, right, looks up as people face east to watch the sunrise by the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England on the annual Winter Solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Matt Dunham
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A druid watches the sunrise by the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England, on the annual Winter Solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Matt Dunham
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A person wears a unicorn mask after sunrise at the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England, as access to the site is given to druids, New Age followers and members of the public on the annual Winter Solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Matt Dunham
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A woman poses for a picture after sunrise by the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England, as access to the site is given to druids, New Age followers and members of the public on the annual Winter Solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Matt Dunham
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People embrace by the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England, on the annual Winter Solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Matt Dunham
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People in alien costumes stand on a street in the town of Bugarach, France, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Although the long expected end of the Mayan calendar has come, the New Age enthusiasts have steered clear from the sleepy French town of Bugarach, which gave some locals a chance to joke about the UFO legends that surround the area. AP / Marko Drobnjakovic
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A woman dressed in an alien costume attends a small party in the town of Bugarach, France, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Although the long expected end of the Mayan calendar has come, the New Age enthusiasts have steered clear from the sleepy French town of Bugarach, which gave some locals a chance to joke about the UFO legends that surround the area. AP / Marko Drobnjakovic
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People dressed in alien costumes hold a chicken before cooking it during a small party in the town of Bugarach, France, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Marko Drobnjakovic
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People dressed in alien costumes attend a small party in the town of Bugarach, France, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. AP / Marko Drobnjakovic
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People seen at the Serbian mountain of Rtanj, some 220km (140 miles) southeast of Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Though the Mayans never predicted outright that the world would end Friday, some New Agers are convinced that the apocalypse is indeed coming Dec. 21, 2012, the supposed end of a 5,125-year Mayan calendar. While descendants of the ancient Mayans in Mexico are facing the date with a calm conviction that life will go on, a frenzy has gripped others across the world, drawing them to several spots said to promise survival. Mayan doomsday cultists are flocking to Mount Rtanj, a pyramidal peak in Serbia, which they believe may have the power to save them on December 21. AP / Darko Vojinovic

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