The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 14, 2012

Professors: Mayan culture cause for celebration, not end-of-world anxiety

JOPLIN, Mo. — The end of the world as we know it is not drawing nigh, at least according to two Missouri Southern State University professors who are focusing on the hubbub surrounding the 2012 Mayan calendar.

Conrad Gubera, professor of sociology, and Sam Claussen, retired theater faculty member at Southern, are teaching a class this semester titled “Maya Civilization and End Times.” The two hope to deconstruct some of the hype that has led to speculation that the ancient Mayans knew that the world would come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012.

Gubera said the class also deals with the development of the Mayan culture during its golden age and how it was able to integrate “horizon astronomy” into several aspects of the culture.

“This class shows the development of the Maya culture and how they came to flourish,” Gubera said. “I’ve got books on my shelf dealing with the calendar and how people have become obsessed with the psychology of this year, but what we are showing in this class is what the Mayans used to develop and how they were truly rich in ritual. We should be celebrating their culture beyond the calendar, and that’s what we have concentrated on during the first part of the semester.”

Claussen’s brother, Mark Claussen, will be a guest speaker this afternoon, discussing his expertise on astronomy and planetary movement, which Sam Claussen will relate to the Mayan society.

Both Mark and Sam Claussen are graduates of Carl Junction High School and MSSU.

Mark Claussen is an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, near Socorro, N.M.

“The cool thing about their civilization is how accurate their measurements and tracking were over such a long period of time,” Mark Claussen said. “Their culture had startling accuracy over such a period of time, and they did it with their eyes.”

Mark Claussen acknowledges that his expertise is in astronomy and not the Mayan culture, but he admires what the Mayans were able to accomplish by just using the naked eye.

“They were tracking the five brightest objects in the sky with relationship to their horizon, and they were actively engaged in letting that guide a big part of their culture, and all without the aid of telescopes or technology,” he said. “Their measurements and records of their observations is what we do. Sam will tie that in with what they did with it in their architecture and their growing seasons.”

Gubera hopes the presentation will help the class approach December with a levelheaded view on what will happen.

“It’s the end of the 20th cycle of the Maya Long Count Calendar, and it’s the solstice,” Gubera said. “The Mayans only mentioned that once. All of this speculation on what will actually happen from the day comes from everyone else but them.”

Time, place

MARK CLAUSSEN’S PRESENTATION will start at 1 p.m. today in Room 207 in Webster Hall at MSSU. The presentation is open to the public.

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