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— Ceremonial fires burned and conches sounded off as dawn broke over the steps of the main pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza on Friday, making what many believe is the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar.

Some have interpreted the prophetic moment as the end of the world. The hundreds gathered in the ancient Mayan city, however, said they believed it marked the birth of a new and better age.

Genaro Hernandez stood with his arms outstretched to the morning light, all clad in white, facing the pyramids’ grey stone, to welcome the new era.

“This world is being reborn as a better world,” said Hernandez, a 55-year old accountant who wore an expression of bliss.

No one was quite sure at what time the Mayas’ 13th Baktun would officially end on this Dec. 21. Some think it already ended at midnight.

Others looked to Friday’s dawn here in the Maya heartland. Some had later times in mind. One thing became clear to many on the site by Friday morning: The world had not ended.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History even suggested that historical calculations to synchronize the Mayan and Western calendars might be off a few days. It said the Mayan Long Count calendar cycle might not really end until Sunday.

Whatever the details, the chance to mark epochal change seemed to be the main concern among celebrants drawn to the Yucatan peninsula.

Hundreds of people were scattered around the vast central plaza of Chichen Itza, some kneeling in attitudes of prayer, some seated with arms outstretched in positions of meditation, all facing El Castillo, the massive main pyramid.

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