Mayas hope for better Baktun, complain of government banning rituals at archaeological sites

Mayan priests are starting off ceremonies designed to mark the end of the current era in the Mayan long-count calendar, but say they are barred from performing rituals at their ancestral temples.

Mayans danced, burned incense and blew on conch shells in a "new fire" ceremony held in Mexico City on Thursday.

The Mayas measure time in 394-year periods known as Baktuns. The 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, and 13 is a sacred number for the Maya.

The estimated 800,000 surviving Mayas in Mexico are hoping for a better Baktun than the one ending, which began around 1618 and included the painful aftermath of the Spanish conquest.

However, priest Jose Marquez complainedthat Mayan rituals are still banned inside archaeological sites. Authorities say that's for safety and preservation reasons.