Preparations are underway in Guatemala where thousands are converging on ancient sites to celebrate the start of the new Mayan calendar on December 21.
Large scale celebrations for the new era have been planned at the archaeological site of Tikal where dancers can be seen rehearsing while tourists look on.
December 21 marks the end of an age in a 5,125 year-old Maya calendar - an event variously interpreted as the end of days, the start of a new era, or just an excuse for a party.
The Mayan civilization thrived between AD 250 and 900 and extended from modern day Honduras to central Mexico. It left behind a trove of pyramids and dozens of distinct Mayan groups who continue to endure.
When dawn breaks on Friday, according to the Maya Long Count calendar, it marks the end of the 13th bak'tun - an epoch lasting some 400 years - and the beginning of the 14th.
This fact would probably have languished in academic obscurity had not a young Maya expert named Michael Coe written in the 1960s that to the ancient Mesoamerican culture the date could herald an "Armageddon" to cleanse humanity.
Since then, the cult of 2012 has snowballed.
Mayan calendar preps underway (0:31)
Dec. 20 - Preparations are underway in Guatemala for the start of the new Mayan calendar on December 21. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). ( Transcript )