2012: the end of the world and “proof” that the Maya were guided by extraterrestrials

Bad Archaeology logo

Götterdämmerung! Even Erich von Däniken can’t resist the lure of 2012

While browsing Real Ufos (“Amazing! – the Best Real UFO videos & news posted from around the world”) yesterday, I came across what promises to be a huge story, if true: New Mayan film claims proof of aliens with government support? It’s a difficult phrase to parse, unfortunately. Is it a “Mayan film” (i.e. one made by Maya people) or a film dealing with the Maya? Are the aliens being supported by the government, or is the proof something that derives from government sources? I suspect the latter options in both cases.

The editor of Real Ufos has the grace to make it a question and the first sentence of the post reads “Is this all Public relations hype or can the movie makers back up their claims?”. Indeed. It’s clear that the editor (who posts weekly updates about the execrable Ancient Aliens series with a much less sceptical tone) has doubts about the item. It’s claimed to come from “a Mexican government official and the film’s producer”. The film in question, which is apparently currently in production, will be called Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and beyond. Unfortunately, the links on Real Ufos don’t work, but it’s easy to search for the film on Google, with about 21,700 results on 1 October 2011.

It turns out that the original press release was published by Reuters and its partner The Wrap on 17 August, although almost nobody seems to have paid it much attention. Undeterred, the film makers issued an updated press release on 26 September, and it is this one that has garnered the most attention. According to the original release, the film will disclose “state-held secretsprotected for 80 years” about Maya predictions of future disasters. It includes statements by Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado, currently Secretario de Turismo (Secretary of Tourism) in the state government of Campeche, who apparently “was quoted in a press release talking about contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials. That statement has been recalled, and Rosado now paints this as a simpler, more archaeological-oriented documentary”.

Maya Cosmogenesis 2012
Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 by John Major Jenkins. No, I have no idea, either

So, is the film really going to reveal anything about ancient aliens? According to one of the producers, Raul Julia-Levy, “I’m not allowed to speak about that. Everything is going to come out in time, but I can’t comment on aliens or on 2012. I can just say that the Mexican government is preparing to tell humanity and the world things that are critical for us, for the way we live, for the way we’ve been handling the planet”. Still no aliens.

By 26 September, though, Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado was saying that new evidence has emerged “of contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials, supported by translations of certain codices, which the government has kept secure in underground vaults for some time…” and mentioned “landing pads in the jungle that are 3,000 years old”. Are those involved in the film allowed to talk or not?

The updated version of the press release also quotes Guillermo Novielli Quezada, said to be the Guatemalan Minister of Tourism who, curiously, isn’t mentioned anywhere on the Guatemalan government’s own website. Hmm… Perhaps Google will enlighten us. Of 1010 hits on 1 October, the first takes us to a deleted Wikipedia page, while all the others take us to versions of the 26 September press release, mostly cut-and-pasted in typical churnalist fashion, even in supposedly respectable news sources (such as The Guardian of 29 September 2011). Guillermo Novielli is a real person, though; he replaced the previous “Minister” of Tourism (actually the Director of Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo, the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (Inguat)) Dr Jorge Federico Samayoa Prado in July 2011.

Calakmul, Campeche (Mexico)

One archaeological site that is to feature in the film is Calakmul, in the Petén Basin area of… Campeche State. Wait, isn’t that where the Tourism Minister works? And rather than a government secret, kept hidden from the rest of us for eighty years, Calakmul has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2002. The city is known to have been founded toward the end of the Middle Pre-Classic Period (c 900-300 BCE) and developed into an important centre similar in status to the better known sites at Tikal or Palenque.

According to the first press release, “the filmmakers are talking to investors and waiting for the government to give them their first look at the material and the site”. So they haven’t even seen the site yet. The discovery of “rooms inside the pyramid that have never been seen or explored before” was apparently made by staff of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History), and although no mention of work at Calakmul appears on its website, it’s entirely conceivable that this is a genuine discovery.

The Dresden Codex
A page from the Dresden Codex, one of only four Maya books to survive

The film is being produced by Raul Julia-Levy, Ed Elbert and Sheila M McCarthy, with Eduardo Vertiz as executive producer. Its director is Juan Carlos Rulfo. None of them is particularly known for documentary work, although it is evident that Sheila McCarthy has an interest in UFOs. That doesn’t disqualify them from making a documentary film, of course.

The question that has to be asked is why this information, supposedly “very important for humanity, not just for Mexico”, is being released through the medium of film. Pitching extraordinary claims straight to the media is often an indication of pseudoscience in action: there is no peer review, no critique of the interpretations on offer, no rival viewpoint. That is what worries me.

Coming from a completely different perspective, UFOHunterVlog has a rather foul-mouthed bilingual rant about the fact that it’s not being released as a news item, but as a documentary film (I like the way that certain English profanities seem to turn up in the Spanish version: what a wonderful cultural export!). But he has a point. If this material is genuine, then why is it first being promoted through cinemas?

And, even if the whole alien angle turns out to be a false lead, what are we to make of Raul Julia-Levy’s claim that he has proof that the Maya wanted to lead the planet for thousands of years? How could a society consisting of warring city states, which rarely achieved any kind of political unity over large areas, lead the planet? Did they even conceive of a world extending beyond Mesoamerica? And what of their escape from “men of dark intentions”? There are still Maya people in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, some of whom continue to fight the governments of these nations, refusing to submit to the European invaders of five centuries ago.

And the 2012 connection? The film makers say that they want their documentary to be released before 21 December 2012, the end of a Long Count Cycle. It’s a cynical ploy to engage with the conspiracy theorists who are deluded that the world will come to an end on that day.

Once again, we have over-hyped press releases, claims, counter claims and retractions. Is this really going to be a documentary, or it is hype for a forthcoming work of fiction? It wouldn’t be the first time that a “documentary” has turned out to be something quite different.


  1. If it true that the tourist department is involved in this I believe that there are two options. 1. They wish to attract more tourists since the war on the drug cartels have decreased tourism to Mexico: http://haecceities.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/2012-aliens-at-calakmul/

    2. They want to draw the attention of the whole 2012 nonsense to a fairly remote site far from the main tourist attractions:


    1. Absolutely. The whole story smells of promoting tourism. What I dislike is the willingness of public servants to make completely outrageous and untrue statements about the places for which they are responsible. They should be saying loudly and clearly that the whole 2012 nonsense is a fraud; they should be saying it now, not waiting for the film to be released!


      1. Maybe the reason is that some (or many) of those public servants really believe in this nonsense; it wouldn’t be the first time “economy” and “religion” go hand in hand.


      2. “What I dislike is the willingness of public servants to make completely outrageous and untrue statements about the places for which they are responsible.”
        That’s the job of many tourist promoters! ;)


  2. Calakmul is one of the largest Maya sites but its remoteness has kept the large crowds away. I suspect Campeche wishes to attract more people to this site and apparently they are willing to twist and bend archaeological data to a fit a non-event next year (the correlation between the Long Count and our calendar is not fool proof). An interesting combination of names showed up in the search terms used for finding my blog posts: Raul Julia-Levy and Richard Hansen. Hansen is working across the border in Guatemala at the largest known Maya site, El Mirador (which is connected to Calakmul by a causeway). The plan is also to open up the Mirador basin for large scale tourism and it would not surprise me if Calakmul can become the gateway from the north). Hansen was also the primary archaeological advisor for Mel Gibson’s movie Apocalypto. It will not surprise me if we’ll see some of the Mirador basin’s giant temple masks as evidence for aliens and the large scale causeway system (which Hansen unfortunaetly calls the world’s first freeway system: http://haecceities.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/smithsonian-on-el-mirador-and-the-vocabulary-of-exaggeration/).


  3. I have to disagree with the statement that none of the filmmakers implicated in the production of this false documentary are particularly known for this occupation. Juan Carlos Rulfo is a well known documentary maker, to see his filmography:


    In my point of view he has an beautiful sense of graphically document lives and their circumstances. I would definitely be disappointed if he´s involved in such matters, either if it´s really about mayan prophecies non-sense or if it is some tourism marketing gibberish taking advantage of the sensationalist misinformation.


  4. For F**** sake – the whole thing is a scam from beginning to end – the film maker is not real, isn’t who he says he is, and hasn’t MADE A MOVIE OR PRODUCED ONE —like EVER….there is not one jot of supporting comment (with regards to “Julia-Levy”) from ANYONE in Mexican government etc etc etc etc etc

    good idea for a movie tho’ — mexican Gov releases secret lost Alien Maya in 2012 and announces “They’re coming back”…


  5. I love how they want to release the film on the date the world is supposed to end. I know that’s what I want to do when the world ends – see a film about the end of the world.


  6. Open your minds.. It’s perfectly logical that Mexico, a state in tourist turmoil, would use old artifacts and codices to boost tourism. It’s a well played move. Financially they are helping fund the documentary project which if advertised correctly will bring in big money. Think about all the people that tune into ancient aliens, then factor in the 2012 conspiracy people and you have a fairly huge audience. That’s not including the 75% of people that believe that there might be life on other planets. Long rant short I’ve seen the pictures of some of the artifacts on YouTube and if legit are very daming to popular belief…


  7. For a little update:

    The documentary “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond” has descended into disarray, with its executive producer accused of fleeing with two dozen hard drives and 10 computer towers containing the film’s footage, according to documents obtained by TheWrap.

    The documents allege that San Francisco-based philanthropist and author Elisabeth Thieriot (below) filmed without a valid permit on federal ground in Mexico and fled with the footage.

    but that seems the least of the problems:

    But the true identity of Julia-Levy has been in dispute for years. He claims to be the son of Raul Julia and a woman named Margaret Levy. Raul Julia died in 1994; his widow, Merel Julia, who married the actor several years after Raul Julia-Levy’s birth, has called Julia-Levy an impostor whose real name is Salvador Fuentes.

    So seems this there could be a good story behind, that has little to do with mayas and extraterrestials…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.