Oct, Nov, Dec, 8 9 10, tenth eleventh twelfth months?

Given all the depressive stuff involving the Tallbloke raid and discovering massive amounts of TAX money being used by international forces to, basically, abuse the taxpayer and steal there liberties, maybe it’s time for a little lighter distraction. Just for a moment…

As it is Sunday (at least where I am), it’s a day of rest. It’s also a day folks think about Christ. We even base our calendar system off of the implied date of birth of Christ. (Yes, even all those neo-prudes who want to use BCE as ‘before the common era’ but keep it the same dates as BC ‘before Christ’… BTW, the present Evangelical payback for that PC stunt of redefinition is to just call BCE “before the Christian Era”… and CE becomes the “Christian Era”. Yes, lots of folks can play the ‘redefinition game’ ;-) But just WHEN was Christ born?

Turns out this is not as simple to figure out as you might imagine.

Even more surprising, the folks who most likely have it right are the Ethiopians.

What? I mean Why? Ethiopia?

So I was hunting around looking to learn how the ancient Egyptian calendar worked. Along the way discovering that there are dozens of calendar systems (you would think we could agree on what day it is, but no, that is not ‘settled science’…) That kind of “dig there” often leads to other threads… Which I pull (how can anyone NOT pull a loose thread? ;-) Which leads to scratching some other long lost itch..

Ethiopia has a fascinating and very long history. Even though it is somewhat impoverished today, it has at times been part of the Egyptian Empire. Occasionally the more important part of it. It has also had an important role in the preservation of ancient Christianity. They have one of the oldest attested Bibles and they have a mythology that The Arc Of The Covenant was sent there when the Romans were busy doing what Romans do to other cultures: destruction and mayhem until submission. (Something to keep in mind as the New Roman Empire forms in Brussels – The European Union). It was a cultural isolate of sorts when the Muslim Invasions were trying to convert Europe to Islam via the sword, and it was in a nice warm place during the Little Ice Age AND during The Dark Ages.

Nothing like being an uninteresting backwater in a place that’s too hot and dry most of the time, but just right when everyone else is collapsing in the cold, to let you hang onto your history. Or, in this case, OUR history.

In any case, I’ve now added “Learn more about Ethiopian History” to my infinite list of Things To Do, that never quite gets done…

The Ethiopians have, despite massive pressures from The West, just gone on about the job of being Ethiopians. They have seen all this before. Things get a bit warm and Yet Another Crazy Empire from up north somewhere tries to sell them a new bill of goods. Some new fangled gizmo of cultural glitz. These guys will sort of accept it for some things, but don’t really let it move in and take up residence. Rather like the USA and the metric system.. Give it a couple of thousand years and THEN, if it’s still around, we’ll consider it…

So Ethiopia has it’s own alphabet (that isn’t really an alphabet, it’s a syllabic based system called an abugida that started as an abjad, that is similar to Arabic or Hebrew in that the vowels were not written, at least at first, but are now incorporated into each syllable/letter). You can see more here:


with more detail than you would ever want including the unicode table here:


To my eye, some of the symbols have a similarity to some hieroglyphic symbols (or, more accurately, some of the demotic). Various “walking legs” and “bent arm” symbols, for instance. Other symbols look a bit more like the ancient symbols used in India. Another “dig here” to find out just when they picked up this writing thing, and from whom… or did we pick it up from them?… The writing history starts about 9th Century BC, all though in a somewhat different hand that is the ancestor of old Arabic writing systems. Do we really know which way that causality ran? From who to whom? I suspect it went more from the Old Egyptian Upper Kindgom of Kush out into the ‘provinces’…

Kushite Empire 700 BC

Kushite Empire 700 BC

Original Image

I doubt if Kush really just cut of neatly at the bottom edge of the map…


In about 300 BC the move to Meroë was made more complete when the monarchs began to be buried there, instead of at Napata. One theory is that this represents the monarchs breaking away from the power of the priests at Napata. According to Diodorus Siculus, a Kushite king, “Ergamenes”, defied the priests and had them slaughtered. This story may refer to the first ruler to be buried at Meroë with a similar name such as Arqamani, who ruled many years after the royal cemetery was opened at Meroë. During this same period, Kushite authority may have extended some 1,500 km along the Nile River valley from the Egyptian frontier in the north to areas far south of modern Khartoum and probably also substantial territories to the east and west.

Kushite civilization continued for several centuries. In the Napatan Period Egyptian hieroglyphs were used: at this time writing seems to have been restricted to the court and temples. From the 2nd century BC there was a separate Meroitic writing system. This was an alphabetic script with 23 signs used in a hieroglyphic form (mainly on monumental art) and in a cursive form. The latter was widely used; so far some 1278 texts using this version are known (Leclant 2000). The script was deciphered by Griffith, but the language behind it is still a problem, with only a few words understood by modern scholars. It is not as yet possible to connect the Meroitic language with other known languages.

I find that the weasel wording of “may have extended” leaves lots of wiggle room… It also looks like dipping a toe into Meroitic could be interesting, some other day… I wonder if anyone has tried matching it up with ancient Ethiopian?

But that digression will need to age on the shelf a while.

Ethiopia is far enough south of Sudan that it could easily be an isolate and only rarely part of Egypt or the Kush. That distance has helped it survive as a historical archive for much of history. History which it has in abundance and which it thankfully preserves.

So that is “why Ethiopia”.

This has something to do with December?

There is an ‘odd thing’ in our calendar. (Well, really, a whole boat load of odd things. It really is a crappy calendar in many ways. But one in particular.) Ever notice that the last few months sound like counting up in Latin? Sept, Oct, Nove, Decem? Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten?

So why are they the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th months?

One of those minor annoying discontinuities in life that most folks never notice, and of those that do, substantially all just ‘move on’ and let it slide. IMHO, that is how much of the “crap” in our culture and our governments collects. Folks just letting things sit and not cleaning up the ‘wrong bits’ when they first show up.

I, too, let it just slide. It was near the bottom of the ‘someday list’.

Then I ran into a somewhat delightful page, a page where another person had spent some part of their life ‘making tidy’ several odd loose ends. A page about Ethiopic and old calendars.


It is delightful mix of strange characters in a script just about everybody has never seen (unless you are an Ethiopian) mixed with technology (they are concerned about Ethiopic computers and keyboards) and mixed with a sense of dusty history (much of the page is devoted to sorting out calendars from the AD / BC horizon. It blends in a load of astrological issues to season the astronomical ones. (No, not the dodgy ‘you will see an old friend’, the original astrological as astronomy stuff). It understands the complexity of making calendars and of having both lunar and solar centric calendars.

The “fun bit” for me was pretty simple. Our “modern” calendar has had a long history of fudges, adjustments, and flat out replacements of earlier calendars since the BC times. We’ve added days and months, shifted them this way and that, and generally screwed things around trying to get it right. Sometimes we ran for centuries with a broken system such that seasons ended up arriving at the wrong time of year. It really has been a mess. Such things, and our flailing about trying to fix them, have left us with dates that do not exist (a nice trick history question) and with dislocations versus other cultures and countries (such as Russia having a different set of dates than we do for much of their history).

There ARE other calendars. Chinese. Muslim. Hebrew. Maya. etc. These come in several systems, but generally fall into either a Solar or a Lunar system. Count the lunations, you tend to a 13 month year. If you strictly follow the lunations, that year wanders versus the solar year. Jews and Muslims have to deal with this as it makes the “Holy Month” of let’s-party-now wander around during the seasons of a Solar Year. The solar year has an ‘issue’ in that it isn’t a ’round’ anything. 365 1/4 is just an approximation. And a wrong one. So we accumulate tiny errors, that become big errors if you wait long enough.

Oddly, much of this was solved several thousand years ago. The ancient Mesopotamian / Summerian system added an ‘intercalated month’. But even that was subject to different folks playing with it. The basic idea, though, is a good one. Much like we have a ‘leap year’, and now even the occasional ‘leap second’, they would gather those up and stick them in every so often. Eventually one of the ancient Summerian Kings put his foot down and said we’re all going to use the same calendar. That fixed it. At least until we all started using different calendars again.


The use of lunar reckoning began to prevail in the 21st century BC. The lunar year probably owed its success to economic progress. A barley loan could be measured out to the lender at the next year’s threshing floor. The wider use of silver as the standard of value demanded more flexible payment terms.
In the 18th century BC, the Babylonian Empire standardized the year by adopting the lunar calendar of the Sumerian sacred city of Nippur. The power and the cultural prestige of Babylon assured the success of the lunar year, which began on Nisanu 1, in the spring.
It was necessary for the lunar year of about 354 days to be brought into line with the solar (agricultural) year of approximately 365 days. This was accomplished by the use of an intercalated month. Thus, in the 21st century BC, a special name for the intercalated month iti dirig appears in the sources.

The intercalation was operated haphazardly, according to real or imagined needs, and each Sumerian city inserted months at will; e.g., 11 months in 18 years or two months in the same year. Later, the empires centralized the intercalation, and as late as 541 BC it was proclaimed by royal fiat. Improvements in astronomical knowledge eventually made possible the regularization of intercalation; and, under the Persian kings (c. 380 BC), Babylonian calendar calculators succeeded in computing an almost perfect equivalence in a lunisolar cycle of 19 years and 235 months with intercalations in the years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 of the cycle. The new year’s day (Nisanu 1) now oscillated around the spring equinox within a period of 27 days.

This same system of a lunar calendar survives today in the Muslim and Hebrew calendars, though with different starting dates and somewhat different intercalation systems.

Back at Ethiopia and December

So I knew all that, but it had never quite settled just why OCTober was the TENth month… until I ran into that Ethiopian page.

The Ethiopians have an intercalated month, too. But it’s a rather clever and very orderly system. The year has 12 months of 30 days. That’s 360 days even. Then an intercalated month of 5 or 6 days (depending on when you need a leap year) at the end. The page also describes a calender of Enoch that I rather like. 364 days in a year. From the picture it looks like 4 seasons of 3 months of 30 days, with a ‘special day’ on each of the solstices and each equinox. Nice. Just toss in a 1 or 2 day ‘yearly holiday’ and it works. I think it is what I’d do if I were running a Henge… Each season would be kept exactly in sync with the heavens, each year ‘touched up’ to the orbital imprecision. Never more than a day out of sync. Beats the Julian calendar, for sure. Or the old Roman.

All of which leaves me wondering if anybody really knows what day it is?

But the Ethiopians have been using their calendar for a long time, and seem to have picked up the roots of it from the Coptic Egyptians:

The connection between Egypt and Ethiopia from at least as early as the Twenty-second Dynasty was very intimate and occasionally the two countries were under the same ruler, so that the arts and civilization of the one naturally found their way into the other.

The Ethiopian Calendar has more in common with the Coptic Egyptian Calendar. The Ethiopic and Coptic calendars have 13 months, 12 of 30 days each and an intercalary month at the end of the year of 5 or 6 days depending whether the year is a leap year or not. The year starts on 11 September in the Gregorian Calendar (G.C.) or on the 12th in (Gregorian) Leap Years. The Coptic Leap Year follows the same rules as the Gregorian so that the extra month always has 6 days in a Gregorian Leap Year.

So, unlike the Wiki, the Ethiopians seem to remember a time of being part of the Egyptian Empire…

The page talks a bit about the Egyptian calendar (another Lunar one). But the bit that caught my attention was about the Romans. Seems that they had a somewhat lousy calendar and once they got done murdering Egyptians, figured out they had a good one. So adopted chunks of it.

They still felt compelled to muck things up, so February got raided for days to add to July and August (that also got their names changed) so as to glorify the leaders of the murderers… Which we still do to this day. The Romans had a 10 month year, and needed some added months to use the Egyptian system. Rather than tack them on at the end, they stuck them at the front. THAT then shifted the others to be “off by 2″, but as the middle ones had their names changed to honor Roman Emperors, only the last few are obviously screwed up.

And we keep them screwed up to this day.

No wonder the Jews, Muslims, Chinese, Ethiopians, et.al. were not so keen on adopting our “modern” calendar…

Next thing you know, they will be using feet and pounds.

The earliest known date is 4236 B.C.E., the founding of the Egyptian calendar. The ancient Egyptian calendar was lunar. The solar Coptic (ግብጽ) calendar, oldest in history, originated three millennia before the birth of Christ. The exact date of its Egyptian origin is unknown. It is believed that Imhotep, the supreme official of King Djoser C.2670 B.C. had a great impact on the construction of the calendar. Historically, ancient Egyptians initially used a civil calendar based on a solar year that consisted of 365 days only, without making any adjustment for the additional quarter of a day each year. Each year had 12 months. The heliacal rising of Sirius coincides with the arrival of the highest point of river Nile flood at Memphis marking the first day of the year. The new year of the ancient Egyptians started on Meskerem 1 (መስከረም ፩). This date is an Ethiopian new year signaling the end of Noah’s flood. (The Hebrew new years also start in Meskerem. The Egyptian solar calendar consisted of 12 30-day months with five extra festival days at the end of the year.)

As you will note, no leap year. But the Egyptians kept count of full years based on a more precise annual system that started each year with Sirius rising.

It was this Egyptian Perfect Calendar that was adopted by the Romans… except they left out the part about Sirius and keeping the year in sync with the seasons and stars… Doohh!

Following his conquest of Egypt, Julius Caesar consulted the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes (ሶሲጂነስ) about calendar reform. The calendar that Julius Caesar adopted in the Roman year 709 A.U.C. (Ab Urbe Condita, i.e. since the founding of Rome or 46 B.C.) was identical to the Alexandrian Aristarchus’ (የካህናት) calendar of 239 B.C., and consisted of a solar year of twelve months and of 365 days with an extra day every fourth year. This calendar that replaced the Roman calendar became the Julian calendar. The lunar Roman calendar had only ten months with December (the Latin decem for ten) as the tenth month until January and February were inserted. Quintilis, the fifth month, was changed to July in honor of Julius Caesar and Sextilis was renamed August for Augustus Caesar.

So we are still coping with a calendar that ‘has issues’ when compared to the Egyptian one; in that the Egyptians reset to the celestial sphere each year while we drift. Not as much as with the Julian, but still “si muove”!

About Christ

I’m sure folks have heard about the small problem with our calendar vs the birth of Christ. See, in the Bible there are some particular events listed. Which emperor ‘was around when’ kind of thing. We know from Roman records when that was. We also know that this means that the dates of the birth and death of Jesus are off by about 7 years. Oh, and when the Romans were making their calendar they forgot about Year Zero… So we have the 1st year before zero and the first year after zero, but no year zero. Kind of like the first Century BC and then the 1st Century AD, and no Century Zero. Another discontinuity that drives me nuts as every time someone says “18th Century” I have to think “OK, they have an ‘off by one error’, which way did it go? Oh, yeah, they have one too many as they left out zero and that causes the whole ‘start of the century’ to be shifted, so it’s the 1700s they are talking about” I really do wish folks would learn to count “ZERO, one, two, three”…

The interesting thing here is that the Ethiopians were not on the Roman bandwagon, so they have the dates correct. The page is a bit out of date as it is talking about the coming of the new millennium, which has already past. They put it in 2008. So in addition to all the folks arguing over the 2000 vs 2001 millennium celebration dates, we really ought to have had a party in 2008.

When the Roman papal chancellor, Bonifacius, asked a monk by the name of Dionysius Exiguus (ዲዮናሲዮስ ኤክሲጅዮስ) to implement the rules from the Nicaean Council (የኒቅያ ጉባዔ) for general use and to prepare calculations of the dates of Easter, Dionysius fixed Jesus’ birth in such a manner that it falls on 25 December 753 A.U.C., thus making the current era start with A.D. 1 on 1 January 754 A.U.C. It was about 525 A.D. that Dionysius Exiguus, started his count (instead of the Diocletian / ዲዮቅልጥያኖስ of 284 A.D.) with the year 1 A.D., considered to be the year of the birth of Christ. It is likely that Jesus was actually born around 7 B.C. or before King Herod’s death in 750 A.U.C.

The Venerable Bede wrote the history of the early centuries of England in 731 A.D. He adopted the system of Dionysius and its use spread. Unfortunately, Bede made a blunder when he invented the B.C. system and stuck it immediately before A.D. 1. A year and a day were lost because of this error and the controversy on the start of new millennium has even run into 2000 G.C. though 2001 is assumed to be the new beginning.

So now we have both an ‘off by one’ day and an ‘off by one’ year. Oh Joy. And folks wonder why I’m inclined toward having a Henge and just doing what the Egyptians did, marking the year off the rising of a star and the day off the rising of the sun and the month off the rising of a new moon. At least then you always know what time it is, and what date.

There is a marvelous melange of abbreviations for different years used on that Ethiopic page. I thought the whole BC/AD swap to BCE/CE as a PITA…

The Ethiopic calendar differs from both the Coptic and the Julian calendars. The current 1994 Ethiopian Calendar (E.C.) year is equivalent to the 1718 Coptic Calendar (C.C.), the 2001 Julian Calendar (J.C.) and the 2001 Gregorian Calendar (G.C.) years. After the massive killing by the Romans that was so severe and traumatic the Egyptians began a new calendar called “The Martyr’s Calendar” in A.D. 284. The difference between the Ethiopic and Coptic is 276 years. In spite of this, the Ethiopic Calendar is closely associated with the rules and the different calculations influenced by the Coptic Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. (According to Aymro and Motovu, the Calendar of the Ethiopian Church came from Egypt and as to methods and dates agrees with the Calendar of the Coptic Church. But the two calendars differ with regards to the saints’ days and the time of observing them.) According to Ethiopian scholars such as Aleqa Kidane Wold Kiflie (ኣለቃ ኪዳነ ወልድ ክፍሌ), the Ethiopic Calendar A.D. differs from other Christian calendars because of the continuity to these years after completion of the 5500 years and the former is religious while the latter is based on history. The Ethiopic years are seven years behind the Western and Eastern Church calendars. The seven years difference by Meskerem 1 or መስከረም ፩ becomes eight on January 1. Ethiopic uses the 5500 E.B.C. years in proleptic as well as modern calendrical calculations.

According to Asrat Gebre Mariam (ዓሥራት ገብረ ማርያም) and Gebre Hiwot Mehari (ገብረ ሕይወት መሓሪ), the Romans endorsed an inaccurate figure by the time they started from counting the birth year of Jesus Christ. Exiguus suggested that the Romans (drop the A.U.C. calendar and) start with the Christian Calendar in 532 A.M. (and 19 lunar cycles times 28 solar cycles equals 532). Many churches accepted the A.D. 1 (or 753 A.U.C.) calculation of Exiguus, which was off by four years, only because of the difficulty associated with changing calendar rules and regulations established on it. The authors point out to evidence presented by Flavius Josephus and other which include Matthew 2:1. Also Tiberius Caesar became the king of Rome in the Roman 765 year and Jesus started teaching fifteen years into his reign, at the age of thirty, in 780 A.U.C.- see Luke 3:1-23.

Gotta love that A.U.C. From the Founding of Rome.

Isn’t it amazing just how much cruft we’ve accumulated because some politician or another wanted to heap “glory” on themselves and / or capriciously stir the pot? ANY time a politician is looking to fool around with dates, times, money systems, trade, historical commemorations, you name it; they are going to screw up something. In some cases we deal with it for thousands of years…

Like constantly resetting the calendar…

Which leaves us with the odd realization that if you want to know correctly when Christ was born, the best place to figure it out is mostly like in Ethiopia and using the Ethiopean calendar.

And folks wonder why I like old things, old systems of measurement and marking time, old books…

So just what date IS IT, then?

However, the four years gap introduced by Exiguus does not account for the seven years difference between the Ethiopic and the Christian calendars. If Jesus was born in 7 B.C. and nobody made the effort to correct the error, the A.D. years should have remained the same. The Ethiopians imply that Exiguus used 532 in the wrong year without mentioning the A.D. year, though he was working on his Easter calculations in (the proleptic) A.D. 525. The difference of about seven years has moved date of creation of the Julian calendar by as many years relative to the Ethiopian. Further research is justified for historical, chronological, computational and other reasons and to find out how the Ethiopians stayed younger in spite of hanging onto the calendar for millennia. The Ethiopian calendar is neither Julian nor Gregorian. (The difference between the Ethiopian and Julian calendars most likely appeared only after Exiguus came up with Anno Domini.) For instance, Ethiopic days could be references. In a new book in Amharic, ባሕረ ሓሳብ (Bahra Hassab), Getatchew Haile (ጌታቸው ኃይሌ) used 365.25 days per year starting with Tuesday, Meskerem 1, 5500 years before the birth of Jesus. Nevertheless, if the birth of Christ is a new era for Christians we might as well get ready to celebrate the new millennium with Ethiopians in the year 2001 E.C. on September 11, 2008 G.C.

Which means that we’re about 3 years late for the start of the new millennium per the Ethiopian Calendar in 2008 on the Gregorian Calendar.

Then again, the Maya say we have a year to go…

In Conclusion

It looks to me like there is some significant value to “diversity” of cultures, and of calendaring systems. It helps us to preserve some of our history a bit better and keep a sense of perspective.

It also looks to me like there is a constant of human behaviour where some small part of humanity has a compulsion to dominate others, even if it involves the destruction of much wisdom and knowledge. I fear we are in a similar time, today, as there is clear evidence of powerful forces working to hide simple truths, for their own gain. To destroy ancient wisdom for domination.

It has been known since the Ancient Egyptians that Ra ruled the earth. They did not have a “Gas God”, they had a Sun God.

This is not some light statement! The Egyptian Kingdoms and Empires span 4,000 years (maybe more…). These folks studied their history and kept records. They lived and died based on the Nile floods coming on schedule. They had seen the cyclical nature of nature. Then they were destroyed by the Greeks and Romans. Thousands of years of knowledge lost to the dreams of avarice and brutal stupidity.

Perhaps this time we can stop the New Rome and the New Caesars. Perhaps… In the fullness of time… If not, we can only hope that somewhere will be a modern Ethiopia.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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39 Responses to Oct, Nov, Dec, 8 9 10, tenth eleventh twelfth months?

  1. cm says:

    Hi E.M.
    While i was reading this i remembered a little reference to “Ethiopia” in “the illiad” something about the Olympian Gods being in Ethiopia,when Achilles’ mother was looking for them”.It’s been a couple of decades since i last read it but i remember it because it seemed such an out of place line to me… Those Ethiopians seem to have been well known,for a very long time.

  2. boballab says:


    Look up the Kingdom of Axum (aka Aksum):

    The Kingdom of Aksum or Axum, also known as the Aksumite Empire, was an important trading nation in northeastern Africa, growing from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period ca. 4th century BC to achieve prominence by the 1st century AD. It was a major player in the commerce between the Roman Empire and Ancient India and the Aksumite rulers facilitated trade by minting their own currency. The state established its hegemony over the declining Kingdom of Kush and regularly entered the politics of the kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula, eventually extending its rule over the region with the conquest of the Himyarite Kingdom.

    Under Ezana, Aksum became the first major empire to convert to Christiany, and was named by Mani as one of the four great powers of his time along with Persia, Rome, and China. In the 7th century the Muslims, who originally converged in Mecca, sought refuge from Quraysh persecution by travelling to Aksum, which is known in Islamic history as the First Hijra. Its ancient capital is found in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name “Ethiopia” as early as the 4th century.[2][3] It is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant[4] and the purported home of the Queen of Sheba[citation needed].


    As to diverse Culture:


    The Empire of Aksum is notable for a number of achievements, such as its own alphabet, the Ge’ez alphabet which was eventually modified to include vowels, becoming an abugida. Furthermore, in the early times of the empire, around 1700 years ago, giant Obelisks to mark emperor’s (and nobles’) tombs (underground grave chambers) were constructed, the most famous of which is the Obelisk of Aksum.

    Under Emperor Ezana, Aksum adopted Christianity in place of its former polytheistic and Judaic religions around 325. This gave rise to the present day Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (only granted autonomy from the Coptic Church in 1959), and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church (granted autonomy from the Ethiopian Orthodox church in 1993). Since the schism with orthodoxy following the Council of Chalcedon (451), it has been an important Miaphysite church, and its scriptures and liturgy continue to be in Ge’ez.[8]

    It was a cosmopolitan state.[8] Culturally, it was a meeting place for a variety of people: Ethiopian, Egyptian, Sudanic, Arabic, and Indian.[8] The largest cities of the realm had Sabean, Jewish, Nubian, Christian, and even Buddhist minorities.[8]


  3. E.M.Smith says:

    Probably worth pointing out (though it is in the text, its a bit ‘in passing’) that the reason we have Dec 25 th as Christmas is that was the last day of the year before 1-1-1 at the time. I would guess that in that year, December (as with all lunar calendars where months wander relative to the lunar year) had wandered. Probably into spring (though it needs checking). That would explain why the Biblical story has the birth in Spring, and we have it mid Winter…

  4. Mariner says:

    Great post.

    A curiosity for those who have not immersed themselves in Tolkien is that the hobbit calendar (c. the Appendices in the Lord of the Rings) has 12 months of 30 days each. The first and the last day of the year did not belong to any month; and in midyear there was a 3-day holiday. When the 1/4 adds up to a whole day, they added an extra day to the turning of the year. I always found that too neat for the real world, but I guess some people were aiming at neatness!

  5. Pascvaks says:

    Adam lived to be 930 years of age.
    Methuselah lived to be 969 years of age.
    Noah lived to be 950 years of age.

    And then they stopped counting lunar “months” as “years” and made lunar years of 13 months each, and…

    Adam lived to be 71 1/2 years of age.
    Methuselah lived to be 74 1/2 years of age.
    Noah lived to be 73 years of age.

    Thanks to the Babylonians a “year” is a year, is a year, is a year.

  6. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: Given all the depressive stuff involving the Tallbloke raid and discovering massive amounts of TAX money being used by international forces to, basically, abuse the taxpayer and steal there liberties,..
    You are an economist….come on!, these guys don´t want us bad, they just want the product of our work: Our money, that´s all!, and if “Global Warming”, “Climate Change”, or whatever works for optimizing their profits, including some police intrusions into someone´s house, it´s OK.
    Poor kids!: (here I post my comment to our friend “Zeke”):
    @Zeke: But…do you know what will their future be? There are two doors to pass away from this world, tradition tells: One, the “Deva loka”, the gate of the gods, way up to the Sun, for those who have attained higher energy bodies; the other, the “Asura loka”, the gate of the demons, way down to the moon…. :-) Ya know: The moon is hungry, it needs the heat abandoning those bodies for her to warm and develop an atmosphere.
    ” And…there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth….”

    So let´s treat them politely, it´s their “karma”!

    Ten months year: See: Immanuel Velikovsky´s “World in Collision”, where it is stated that in the time when Rome was founded the calendar had to be changed, from one of 10 months with 36 days each….something happened that made the earth`s orbit grow up a little.

  7. PBoucher says:

    @Pascvaks: Interesting idea that they just counted years differently. But, There is not a sudden jump after Noah. There is a slow decline (perhaps because of environmental changes?). If Abraham lived to be 175 years, was that 175 years or 13.5 years? BTW, its kind of crazy but if there are no gaps in the Biblical account and Abraham was in fact the 20th generation, he could have known Noah since they were both alive at the same time.

  8. John F. Hultquist says:
  9. gallopingcamel says:

    adolfogiurfa (22:42:51) :
    I love your comments.

    How do you do it? I am dumbstruck (again). As I can’t think of anything to add, here is something totally “Off Subject”:

    I like Lubos Motl. He is a modern Ayn Rand.

  10. An interesting post, as always. It is a topic I’ve given a bit of thought to, coming from a different angle: one of my novels has a society that uses a lunar calendar. They’re on Earth, but have no exposure to human history (and are unaware of humans entirely, who are long gone) — and these undersea dwellers, bright but without much science, still needed a calendar and time systems.

    I built a spreadsheet to calculate a lunar ephemeris for far-distant dates, then translated it into their base-8 counting system. (They don’t actually have fingers … but they have suckers.)

    I had fun with it, and tweaked the calculations until lunar orbital anomalies were being handled well, and I was off only a tiny fraction of a day after millennia.

    The year began on the full moon just after the Vernal Equinox, and ran for usually 12 moons (with about 1 year in 3 being 13 moons).

    Here’s a 20-year pattern, with months and days:
    13 384
    12 354
    12 355
    13 384
    12 354
    12 354
    13 384
    12 355
    12 354
    13 384
    12 354
    13 384
    12 355
    12 354
    13 384
    12 354
    12 355
    13 384
    12 354
    13 384

    (Some months are 29 days, some 30.)

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  11. Pascvaks says:

    Ref my last, remember reading once that the further back in time you go the years are shorter and so are the months, so maybe all those old people really did live 900+ years after all. But I still think that they were counting something they called “xyz” as a unit of time that was translated by someone many “years” later as a “Year” but it really wasn’t the same, if you know what I mean;-)

  12. Joel Heinrich says:

    The Romans had (since around 450 BC) a 12 month + 1 leap month system, beginning with March. (Number of days)

    March 31; April 29; May 31; June 29; Quintilis 31; Sextilis 29; September 29; October 31; November 29; December 29; Januarius 29; Februarius 28. With a total of 355 days.
    At the second year of a 4 year period a leap month of 22 days was inserted between the 23rd and 24th of Feruary, at the fourth year a leap month of 23 days. Thus were the number of days per year: 355, 377, 355, 378.

    This is 4 days too much per 4 year period, so they had another leap system: In the sixth 4-year period the first leap month only had 21 days and the second was cancelled completly. # of days per year: 355, 376, 355, 355

    Thus a 24 year period had on average 365,25 days per year.

    Now, in the year 153 BC they just changed the beginning of the year to January, 1st, as the day when the new Consuln took over. Thats why the ‘numbers’ of the month are off.

    In the year 45 BC Gaius Julius Caesar changed the system by getting rid of the leap month infilling the months to the numbers we still have and putting a 4-yearly leap day at the end of the year (February 29th).

  13. P.G. Sharrow says:

    I still think that the ancient civilized humans used a 30 day, 12 month, 360 day year, with a party “week” at the end. The priest / astronomer would at some point declare the new year start, party over, winter solstice and everyone goes back to work. For most people good enough, but for an EMSmith or I it must be exact, mental defect. ;-) The present screwed up calender is the result of Roman emperors and the Roman Church using the calender for their own purposes.
    Although many uncivilized tribes used moons as their time keeping. pg

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    How do I do it? Well, that depends on what “it” is…

    Find interesting ‘different’ things: I don’t like football.

    No, really. A good friend watches several hours of football per week. He can tell you all the players, the team stats, the standings, the resumes of the coaches… There are a long list of similar “interests” that occupy most folks eyes and brains; which I avoid. Just not very interesting to me. So ask me who won the SuperBowl last year and I’m likely to respond “I don’t know. I don’t follow baseball…” ;-)

    What I do instead is go looking for something interesting. There are some areas that are regularly fruitful, so I “Dig There” often. Ancient cultures, with an emphasis on Egypt (mostly as they dominated the scene for about 4,000 years…) is one example. That’s how this one began. The pointer to Egypt having a 780 year cycle to their calendar or their capital locations. (A “dig here” I’ve not finished yet, btw)

    Keep Eyes Open: I don’t dismiss odd sidebars.

    So looking into the Egyptian Calendar I ran into this Ethiopian page. I could have just said “Ethiopia is not Egypt – skip”. I didn’t . I said: “Golly, strange alphabet I’ve never seen before, corner of history I’ve not looked in before, does have discussion of calendars, and a Calendar of Enoch I’ve not seen before. Interesting detour…”

    In some cases, be creative: I’m willing to entertain ‘creative’ interpretatons.

    BTW, the more I think about the Calendar of Enoch, the more I like it… I’ve got a “Calendar of Smith” rattling around in my head now. Take the Calendar of Enoch ( 12 months of 30 days = 360 + 4 days each on a solstice or equinox) and add 1 Annual Holiday at the start of the year (which I would put in Spring, but could be put in mid winter as now) and put the “leap year” holiday directly opposite the new year. So some years have a second 2 day holiday mid year. Timing of the Leap Year as in the Gregorian. If you ever get one day out of sync with Sirius Rising (as in the Egyptian Calendar) you have another Leap Year. Easy Peasy you have a very nice, very regular calendar of 12 months all the same size, with a regular holiday every quarter, and a 2 day holiday the start of the year. Every 4 years (minus century marks) you have a second 2 day holiday. (I’d use them to celebrate nature, the sun, moon, stars, life; guess I’m a Druid at heart…) Oh, and on Century marks and other times when there is no Leap Year, I’d leave the calendar alone by have an administrative holiday so folks still took those days off (so they don’t want to screw around with the calendar to get them back…)

    Now that could make a posting all on it’s own, with a bit o window dressing about other calendar systems and a peek into past calendars… For some postings just that kind of “look aside” does end up being the posting.

    Edit Edit Edit: Toss out a large volume of “stuff you saw, read, learned” along the way and distill out the bit that matters.

    Illuminate the connections: Why did these folks do this?

    So, for the Ethiopians, it was their devotion to their religion. That, then, connects to the interesting sidebar on just when was Christ REALLY born. It’s a “loose end” from other excursions anyway, may as well tie it up now… For the Romans, it was their emphasis on military domination first, other stuff not so much. So having dominated Egypt and destroyed much, what did they take home? A damaged Egyptian calendar… Not the prefect one that had existed before they arrived. Like carting back a beautifully crafted engraved gold chalice, dented and crushed…

    Work the Links backwards: Sometimes the trip home is interesting.

    As I’m doing this, I’m also often doing a ‘negative space’ check. What was NOT there. So having reached the end, I realized the Roman Stupidity with the month naming made for a good lead in, a decent ‘tease’ to tie the thread together. (And tie up another loose thread from way back…) In this case there was not a lot of ‘negative space’. I could have looked into ‘what calendar did the Greeks use and why was Greece not in Ethiopa?’ But it just didn’t seem probably productive. The Greeks were more “polite” about their occupation of Egypt and didn’t cart much off; mostly just being caretakers of the place while it slowly decayed. Might look at it someday. Another ‘negative space’ was India. It’s not far away by water. Why no interaction”? The Arab ‘negative space’ is just their conquests. They tend to enter and destroy all, substitute Arab Islam and move on. We already know that. So at the point where the “package” is reasonably complete and there isn’t a BIG ‘smoking gun’ of other loose threads or negative space, I try to polish the edges of the understanding and finish it. Then write it up.

    Persistence: It really helps to be fascinated for days on end.

    Some things, like the Ethiopian connection, can be reasonably thought through in a day or two. Most take accumulating information and background for months, years sometimes, to see the connections and ‘negative space’. The hole in the dust where the chalice HAD been…

    So, for example, I’ve got a little book on how to read Hieroglyphics. Nice book. I’ve read it. I know HOW to read Hieroglyphics, I just can’t. (Why is interesting… you need to know the ancient Egyptian language and how it sounds, which the book doesn’t teach. It is kind of like being able to sound out the Russian Alphabet but not speaking Russian). Now this gives me some insight into Egypt and Hieroglyphs, but I’ll be spending random bits of time improving that skill / interest over the rest of my life. I know the meaning of a few glyphs, so can spot them or spot things that look like they are derived from hieroglyphs, just don’t ask me to translate a tomb!

    Similarly, I have an interest in measuring things. So I keep adding bits to the set of how to: {count, calendar, measure linear volume and areas, count time, do astronomy}. Same thing for chemistry and several others.

    Constantly extending those ‘interest sets’ results in ever more ‘connections’ and ‘negative space’ experiences and having some depth in them and their history gives insight into the ‘loose ends’.

    That’s pretty much it.

    Oh, and maybe a bit of turn of phrase some times and a tendency to be prolix (see solution at “edit edit edit” above ;-)

    Sorry you asked? ;-) Kind of like watching someone else eat dinner… not the same…

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Joel Heinrich:

    I think you need to start a bit earlier to get the 10 month version. Per the wiki:

    Roman writers claimed that their calendar was invented by Romulus, the founder of Rome around 753 BC. His version contained ten months with the vernal equinox in the first month. However, his months were not lunar:
    Calendar of Numa

    Numa Pompilius, the second of the seven traditional kings of Rome, reformed the calendar of Romulus by prefixing January and February around 713 BC to the original ten months; thus the names of Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December (implying fifth through tenth) no longer agreed with their position in his calendar.

    Although Numa wanted to have a lunar year of 354 days, Romans considered odd numbers to be lucky,[4] so Numa added 51 days to the 304 days in the calendar of Romulus and took one day from each of the six 30-day months giving a total of 57 days to share between January and February. January was given 29 days leaving February with the unlucky number of 28 days, suitable for the month of purification. Of the eleven months with an odd number of days, four had 31 days each and seven had 29 days each.

    So you are correct for 450 BC, but it looks like 713 BC and earlier are important too. Either that, or the warmistas are re-writing Roman Calendar history now, too ;-)


    I think the time scales are a bit off. Orbital changes are very slow to happen and humans have only been around as cultural entities for a few tens of thousands of years, near as I can tell.

    Most likely is what you pointed out. The monthly periods got translated as yearly periods. Given some of the time and measurement discontinuities I’ve seen, even if you know the language of an old culture, you can’t get the units right. They had really odd ways of measuring things some times. Take the “Cubit”. You must know the “Cubit of WHOM” to know how big it was. They vary by at least 2 x in size (and with good reasons!). So one thread I’ve followed (but not posted on) is just how big WAS the Jewish Temple? We have it in the Bible in “cubits”. But were those Egyptian common cubits? Royal Cubits? The Jewish sacred cubit? (And how big was it?…) Was the writer speaking as a Jew, with the hidden knowledge of the Jewish Sacred Cubit, or speaking to goyim and using their cubits? Was he speaking from a Roman Dominated time in Israel, so using the Roman Cubit? Or just after leaving Babylon and using a Babylonian cubit? Did the translator get all that interpretive context right? And did he know about the different cubits?

    That is a simple case. Measuring time was much more screwed up… Just look at the Roman calendar (and it isn’t the worst…. but it’s close).

    Add in that some words are a bit ‘flexible’ and that Semitic languages need vowels to be precise and the vowels are not marked in older writing systems…. So you have your three consonant group that means (speculating here) “Time Measure”. If the vowels tell you ‘month’ vs ‘year’ (or ‘moons’ vs ‘suns’) context and experience is supposed to tell you the vowels.

    BUT, as a modern translator you may be lacking enough context (lost text and culture) and not have enough experience to guess the vowels correctly (old language dialects often have small samples, translators may spend small parts of their lives ‘in’ a language, cultural context lost).

    Mix all that together and stir…

    So you hit “FBR LVD FED PRD” How do you translate it?

    It was said as “FooBar Lived 763 Periods” (but with the vowels left out and with letters used for counting – which they did…) . But now, what is a “period”? Where is your context? Must mean years…. (but if the culture counted “moons”?…)

    Oh, just to make it fun, they often did not use a space to divide the text, so you get to work that out, too. It might well have been written as:

    The Geeks did that too, left out the spaces. Oh, and some words were only 2 consonants and some were 4… This reading stuff can get really complicated… :-)

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    Yup. I think that is what StoneHenge was used for, mostly. Astronomical Observatory. The Geeks worrying the bits like Chandler Wobble and Precession of the Equinoxes while the “regular Joe and Jane” would show up for the once a year Big New Years Party… (Sounds kind of familiar ;-)

    So we have archaeologist calling it all religion and Priests… when the reality was more like the announcer on NBC News on new years eve calling the Ball Drop to the minute… “Hey, Nelok, big party at Henge, Bring-Your-Own-Deer with Grog on site. Starts when star rise, end when out of Deer and Grog!” This ties nicely with the very ancient pagan tradition of the Yule Log and the 12 days of Christmas…(before the church defined Yule as Christmas …)

    The Yule tradition was that you started burning a log. The party lasted until the tree was gone… So the biggest guys would go cut down the biggest tree they could haul back… and start a smallish bonfire at one end, that they would then slowly let burn up the tree…

    Personally, I think that is a MUCH easier fit than a bunch of mumbo jumbo about priests and religion….

    Fire was lit on the night of the Winter Solstice…

  16. boballab says:


    I think Bill Cosby did it best to show the problem with cubits:

    For those that have never seen/heard the entire skit here is it too:

  17. TIM CLARK says:

    So, EM, does your mathematically adjusted and modeled calendar predict the exact year CO2 is gonna kill us all? Do we we now have 27 years, or still 20. How many years does it take now for weather to become climate? So many questions, not enough models. ;~P

  18. gallopingcamel says:

    I have heard that the Aztec calendar is elegant in its relative simplicity.

  19. Pascvaks says:

    “Dream Time” – I had a dream the other night. I rarely remember dreams or anything about them. (FWIW/OT – I dream the way I see everything else and don‘t see myself in dreams, my Better-Half sees herself in her dreams, like it’s a movie;-) Back to the point. I have no sense of time when I dream, if I remember anything, I usually have to guess “when” it (the dream) was – in the past, the present, or the future. The other night it was in the “past“, my guess is that it was colonial times, in the 1700′s, in the good ol’ USofA, before or right after it was called the USofA. But who knows. If it was 18th century Russia, I’d have the same feeling of language understanding and wouldn’t know I was speaking Russian, would I? Don’t remember anything worth speaking of. When I awoke, I thought, ‘when was that?’ and I tried to place it all. As I said, maybe ~1700′s.

    Thinking on it all, I also remembered dreaming a “future” dream once or twice. No idea when they were supposed to be (or where;-), had one once on another planet too, honest… still sipping my morning tea, I thought – maybe there really is something funny about time and we (humans) haven’t figured it out yet.

    Some thoughts –

    - Time is backwards: We think it’s going into the future but it’s actually going the other way.

    - The Universe actually ended right after it BANGED: Like a big fireworks display, it was soon over and all dark again, BUT that doesn’t matter because we are (right now) somewhere in the middle of that explosion and time, for us, is moving at a very, very, very slow rate. VERY SLOW INDEED.

    - For those who believe in such things, we jump into a time period and fade out like the page of a book, and we can jump into any page in the book, any when, and any where, but only one page per ‘life’. (Well, who knows, maybe we can be on many pages at the same time in different times and different places; let’s not restrict our dreams, right?;-)

    - Maybe the Universe is Heaven (gigantic playground) and Heaven (what we currently call “heaven”) is like a truckstop we stop in between jumps to relax and recharge our batteries.

    PS: Remember, dreams are weird little things.

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tim Clark:

    The answer, of course, is 42. It’s the units that a bitch to work out … ;-)


    The Azetc Calendar is ‘not so simple’. Yes it is ‘simple’ in that there are a limited number of “wheels” that give a very precise ‘repeat’ on some things (like the return to alignment with the galactic center) so it’s pretty good for astronomy. It also may be useful for some climate related cycles of long duration.

    It’s not so good for tracking a normal solar year nor a lunar cycle calendar…

    There is a fundamental conflict between the solar calendar, the stellar calendar, and the lunar calendar. They all run on things that are independent time sizes. So the sidereal year, the tropical year, and the 19 year lunar cycle run on different scales. Oh, and the Apsidial based anomalistic year too ;-)

    You must decide what you care about to know what year to use…

    Most of us care about the Tropical Year. Why? It gives us the cycle of the seasons and the equinox and solstice periods.

    Some folks care about the Sidereal Year. Why? IT is measured against the stars. Use the rising of Sirius, you are using the Sidereal year…

    Per the wiki:

    The mean tropical year is approximately 365 d, 5 h, 48 min, 45 s
    The mean sidereal year is approximately 365 d, 6 h, 9 min, 9 s

    So you have about a 21 minute difference. (The anomalisttic year is about 9 minutes longer than the Siderial)

    More than you ever want to know about “what is a year?” here:


    The reason there are different years has to do with the way the orbit of the earth changes and how the rotations of the earth relate to the orbital position. It takes a different number of rotations to get to the ‘same place’ relative to the sun vs the stars as we make a rotation about the sun, too, and that counts in one but not in the other (sun centric vs star centric)

    What does this have to do with the Maya? Well, if you want to watch stars you care about a different year than if you want to watch seasons…

    So is it “simple” and elegant? Depends on what you want to watch… For watching seasons is a royal PITA as there is no 365ish day repeat period.

    Again, from a wiki:


    The Maya numeral system was essentially vigesimal (i.e., base-20), and each unit of a given position represented 20 times the unit of the position which preceded it. An important exception was made for the second-order place value, which instead represented 18 × 20, or 360 days, more closely approximating the solar year than would 20 × 20 = 400 days. It should be noted however that the cycles of the Long Count are independent of the solar year.

    Many Maya Long Count inscriptions contain a supplementary series, which provides information on the lunar phase, number of the current lunation in a series of six and which of the nine Lords of the Night rules.

    So if you like counting in base 20, except for one position where you count in base 18… and it’s great for tracking lunations, except it takes a supplemental series of numbers…

    But want to keep track of Venus? Hey, it’s great:

    A 584-day Venus cycle was also maintained, which tracked the heliacal risings of Venus as the morning and evening stars. Many events in this cycle were seen as being astrologically inauspicious and baleful, and occasionally warfare was astrologically timed to coincide with stages in this cycle.

    Now if want to track Venus in OUR calendar, that’s a problem…

    If I were an Astronomer or Astrologer, I would use and love the Maya calendar (as it is star and planet oriented, and very accurate).

    If I were a farmer, sailor, or just wanted to know how many solar years I’d lived; I’d hate it. (That 360 day cycle drifts a lot) and you need a priest to sort it all out… Lunar count is in between those two.

    Later they did add a ‘mostly a year’ cycle, but I don’t know when or how the adjusted for the fraction of a year that count was off:


    The Mayas had a ritual calendar system of 13 months of 20 days (Tzolkin) and later on combined it with another system of 360 + 5 days (18 months of 20 days) into ‘La Rueda Calendarica’, a big calendar wheel (see image). It took about 52 years for both calendars to match again in point zero.

    Their mathematics were vigesimal, based on 20′s, which is a cosmic principle and matches solar energy cycles. They calculated in Kin (day), Tun (360 days = 18×20), Katun (7.200 days = 20xTun) and Baktun (144.000 days = 20xKatun) and thus indicated the number of days passed from point zero which they had found to be in august BC 3113 (there are slight differences in interpretations concerning this date).
    A moment in time would thus been described as meaning: Baktun 12, Katun 19, in year 6 out of 20, month or vigesimal 17, day 9 indicating the number of days passed after point zero).

    Note that 13 months of 20 days is 260 days. Not exactly useful for planting seasons… The 18 x 20 is ‘close’ at 360 when adjusted by the +5 (which we see in ‘western’ calendars); but leaves dangling that whole leap year problem…

    Yes, easy to create with a few ‘wheels inside wheels’ of integer relationship. Yes, nice for precisely dating things into the past relative to each other (they would never have the “Jesus Birthday” problem). Good for tracking Venus and the galactic long 25,000ish year cycle.

    But how many moons did you live? When does spring happen next? How many solar years ago TO THE DAY was I born? (that leap year problem) and what season was that? Those take a bit of math… Base 20 math… except when you use an 18 count…

    I’m not all that enthralled with the Maya Calendar for the simple reason that I care most about seasonal things and secondarily about Lunar things. Venus and the galactic core, not so much…

  21. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. Wow! Elegant system you have for a calendar; I especially like the extra day worked in for solstice and equinox. My wife and I have long agreed that the New Year should be moved back to spring equinox where it used to be before 1752. Well, they had drifted a few days from the equinox by 1752, but at least March 25 (or 22) makes more sense than January 1st!

    As for “So ask me who won the SuperBowl last year and I’m likely to respond “I don’t know. I don’t follow baseball…” ;-) ”

    I feel the same way, but don’t miss out on the great fun to be had on Super Bowl Day. I would have a hard time being more unmoved by football, but Super Bowl is different. Not the game, no! But on Super Bowl day, the streets are empty! Even the police have disappeared. Ever want to scream through town, blasting through the red lights, swerving into the other on-coming lanes, going sideways through the turns? Wheeeeee! That is what Super Bowl Day is for. It is like one of those last-man-living-after-the-great-plague movies. Carpe diem!


  22. @E. M. Smith:

    I’m not all that enthralled with the Maya Calendar for the simple reason that I care most about seasonal things and secondarily about Lunar things. Venus and the galactic core, not so much…

    Exactly. The Octans don’t even know that the Earth is round, and their understanding of gravity is quite vague — but they are big time into agriculture, and the all-important coral crop spawns every year on the same date in their calendar. (They don’t eat coral, but their society is in many ways based upon it.)

    The book The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin addresses the calendar and time topics in an entertaining way, and exposes a different set of details. You’d enjoy it.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  23. Ed Snack says:

    On a side note really, but the gospels are not particularly reliable records for deciding the year of Jesus’s birth. They were not written until some considerable period after the events they purport to cover, and as a result contain various “hearsay” information. The Census information is only one indicator of the date and it may not be particularly reliable.

    The “Star” that is mentioned is also probably apocryphal, it comes from the “Star Prophecy” in Isiah and was probably added to make the “facts” match the prophecy. The same prophecy was used in the later 134-6 Bar Kochba (or however one wishes to transliterate it) uprising, Bar Kochba means “son of the star”.

    Dates are quite uncertain in many ways, another example is that the death of John the Baptist can from historical data be placed around and even possibly after the crucifixion of Jesus and not the much earlier death assumed in the Gospels. Again this is possibly an example of changing the narrative to fit the desired one.

    Thus the Ethiopian calendar might be a better measure of the years since the census, but has the same problems when it comes to fixing the actual date. They would have worked from very much the same mix of original information as the writers of the gospels rather than any new sources.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @Keith deHavelle:

    So, the spouse is asking me for Christmas gift ideas. Is your stuff published? Do I just go to the Sci-Fi section and ask for you ‘by author’ or is there a pen name? (It sounds like an interesting world you are building ;-)

    Feel free to post “Shameless Plug”…

    @Jason Calley:

    Glad you liked it! I’m fond of it – but then again, I’m biased ;-)

    I’m especially fond of the symmetry when mapped onto a disk. Looks rather like the round end of a Celtic Cross ( Hmmmm….. ) Symmetric 3 month seasons, “Cross” of solstice / equinox days” Wider “key Season”, but when a leap year happens, still a symmetry resurfaces…

    Just add a table of when to do leap years and it’s pretty well self contained. Or just say “watch for Sirius Rising on this day, if late, have a leap year this year…”

    Did I say I thought it was self correcting and elegant, too? ;-)

    Haven’t worked in a Lunar cycle synchronizing yet, though …

    @Ed Snack:

    Ah, yes… the actual vagueness of the record. I don’t have any hope of dating things exactly from the Gospels. (Mostly I think we can depend on ‘what season’, secondarily on some specifics of ‘bad things done by Rome’ so a given Emperor being named for a given deed can likely let us map into the Roman historical record).

    Where I think the Ethiopian record has an advantage is just that they have an accurate calendar of LONG duration of consistent use. That lets us iron out a couple of consistent ‘kinks’ from the Roman Calendar Follies…

    I didn’t ‘play it up’ but the Ethiopians had the start time in September. I think they got the year right, but the biblical narrative has spring details in it. I think the narrative is likely correct on that (without sufficient cause ;-) but know that the Roman year is off. From other sources, we know it is off about 7 years. That matches the Ethiopian calendar offset.

    Taken together, I think we can then put the birth of Jesus at about 7 BC in about April (IFF I’ve allowed for the de-Romanizing dates right… that whole year zero thing again… It might be 8 BC depending on which way you adjust the months offset from Sept to April…) but I don’t care enough to make it more precise than that.

    Believe it or not, my major interest was the Roman month names and the Egyptian calendar. The Jesus Birthdate point is, well, a vague loose end (and one a lot of people care about, so interests them).

    As near as I can tell, the old testament is pretty accurate. We also have found reflections of it in the “facts in the ground” at dig sites. The new testament, not so much… (Frankly, a lot of the new testament seems a bit eclectic and maybe edited for effect. That whole Nicean Emperors Edit session… I like the Gnostic texts better for some things… That also has an Ethiopian connection as THEIR Bible is a somewhat different set of books.)

    Then again, a lot of the New Testament seems a bit ersatz anyway. One guy scolding some other churches off somewhere for not doing things his way? THIS is supposed to be great insight into mystic visions? …

  25. DocMartyn says:

    Chiefio, I know you like the ‘what did our ancestors actually look like?” Stuff.
    Well, in terms of body shape, faces and skin color, the out of Africa that crossed the land bridge into Asia and then into Europe were probably closest to modern day Somalis and Ethiopians.
    We know this both from genetics and linguistics.
    The homeland of the Afro-Asiatic language family was near southwestern Ethiopia.

  26. Soronel Haetir says:

    personally I would just rather move the entire Earth so that we had 360 days of 25 current hours. The Earth wobbling and orbital effects are small enough that leap seconds can take care of keeping it aligned. I’d say that’s a fitting engineering challenge for humanity.

    And if I could somehow magically obtain the above, I would also change our basic understanding of seconds so that we had 100,000 of them in a day. Probably 10 hours of 100 minutes of 100 seconds each.

    btw, something I love, so long as you are using a consistent radix notation (eliminating the Mayan 18,20 monstrosity), each user of numbers would naturally think of whatever base they use as “base 10″, even if the base is irrational.

  27. @Soronel Haetir:

    And if I could somehow magically obtain the above, I would also change our basic understanding of seconds so that we had 100,000 of them in a day. Probably 10 hours of 100 minutes of 100 seconds each.

    The Octans — or at least the group we meet in the city-state of Mestan — did something similar. Their day is 64 “aurs” of 64 “mits” of 64 “blinks.” Thus an aur is 22.5 minutes, a mit is about a third of a minute and a blink is about a third of a second. They live their lives fast.

    Too fast, in fact, which is a problem they are trying to solve in the story.

    The number 64 is a natural unit for them; I’ve translated the word as “a hundreight” just as “a thouseight” is 512. These are almost the only non-English words in the book; I needed different ones because “a hundred” wouldn’t be exactly right.

    @E.M. Smith:
    It is not for sale yet, but I’d be pleased to provide you a copy — print or Kindle or Word versions are available.

    Although it sort-of qualifies as a “talking animal” story — these are the far-future descendants of octopuses — it is definitely hard science fiction. But they don’t have ray-guns … and they don’t even yet have electricity. Or fire. Think of the issues involved in doing chemistry when actually immersed in seawater! But they have done pretty well, despite this.

    I think that this is the only race in all of fiction (or reality, for that matter) whose written and spoken languages are exactly the same.

    At least it won’t use up your Christmas budget.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    @Keith deHavelle:

    Well, I can wait for a paid version, if that is of help. Otherwise just send a pdf or word (or anything else that OpenOffice can open) format to the email address ‘hidden’ in the About Box. look for :AT AOL dot COM in the text….)

    Don’t expect a quick review as it will likely be ‘a while’ before I get through all the other stuff I’m doing … sigh…


    From time to time I’ve thought of learning one of the Afro-Asiatic language family languages… Never had done it, though. The lack of vowel marking puts me off of some of them (Arabic) while the degree of shift over time causes me to be reluctant on others as I’d like a lot of time range for reading materials (Egyptian-Coptic-EgytianArabic for example and Modern vs Ancient Hebrew for another. Greek has that problem too.)

    Some of the African languages don’t interest me due to the shortage of written stuff in them.

    But Ethiopian has a certain charm… Vowels are marked (at least in anything from the last couple of thousand years) and they have a long history that implies some reasonable amount of written stuff to read (including recent stuff as the language is still used). Only real downside is the script being a large one with lots of characters and complex form. That makes the details rather small to see (and I’m finding it harder to see things in the ‘serif’ size range…)

    Ah, well… Maybe I’ll just keep pondering it ;-)

    IMHO, the Out Of Africa folks probably did look like those folks, but they ran into Neanderthals that looked more like Europeans, the native Australians and some related near-Polynesians are crossed with a different darker old line, and I suspect the Asians are a three way hybrid of OOA, Neander (small amount) and a third Asian local hominid.

    Time, and a lot of genetic analysis, will tell…

    @Soronel Haetir:

    Um, the French Revolution tried to gives us a Decimal Time system too (along with decimal linear, area, and volume measures).

    I’m rather glad they failed. Folks just rejected it. (It did leave footprints in some very bizarre dates and times on some historical French documents and Yet Another Screwed Up Calendar moment…)

    There are some rather large advantages to using a ‘factor rich’ base for measuring. It is especially so for time. 10 hours has factors of 2 and 5.

    So, what is “”I worked 1/4 of a day”? Oh, a fractional decimal…

    How about 1/3 of an hour? What, 33.333333333333333333333333etc. minutes, you say?

    If you work what is now a normal 8 hour day, that’s a 3.33333333333etc hour work period.

    24 has factors of 1,2,3,4,6,8,12,24 that lets you chop up the pie many ways.
    60 has factors of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, and 60.

    Your 100 is: 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, and 100.

    which is deficient in the 1/3 area (though a lot better than the 10)

    Basically folks chop time up into fractional pies a lot and simply could not swallow the 10 based time last time it was tried. ( I just wish they had shown the same sense with linear, area, and volume… there’s a reason pastries are sold in dozens and not tens ;-)

    They tried to do the same thing to angle measurement (circles) and failed for the same reasons.


    I’d suggest not repeating that experiment… it’s been done a few times before…

  29. wayne says:

    E.M., think your are a programmer as me in past years, we tend to count in bits, not toes. While you are knee-deep in calendars have you never noticed that if Pope Gregory’s experts had chosen 4 years per leap year and 128 years for the leap of the leap year (2^2 and 2^7) instead of leaps of leaps every 100 years and leaps of leap of leap year very 400 years WE WOULD NOT BE IN THIS MESS for 1/2 million years from now. Now that is what I call experts blowing it royally!

    You and your family have a Merry Christmas.

  30. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M:The French Revolution´s financiers, whose descendants keep pushing for a “New World Order” to maximize their profits, though they were and are from the same origin all of them (though only an small elite of them and perhaps atheistic), supposed to be the inheritors of an objective tradition and a cosmology like Kabbalah, promoted the desacralization of the world, the secularization of all human activities so as to separate us from those universal laws implicit in every traditional measure, with the sole purpose of keeping the majority of mankind in ignorance of them, to make us ignore a supreme hierarchy, imposed the metric system, based on ten numbers (from 1 to 10) and, among other changes a circle of 400 degrees! (which,btw, it was never swallowed for anyone.)
    It is very important for you, english speaking countries, not to abandon your system of measures, which reflects the cosmological laws of the three and of the octave: Numbers are from zero (0) to 9 where intermediates are the result of dividing 1/7, 2/7, 3/7, 4/7, 5/7, 6/7: 142857,428571,285714, 571428,714285,857142..
    The human product of such changes are fools, self designated scientists, who believe they know something while they know nothing. This is the origin of what we witness today in “climate science”, etc.
    Hopefully, through pages like these, the truth prevails and seeks to resurface.
    Then let us deal with these “carbon free” nuts as they are: spoiled children. They are not guilty but their masters.
    Hopefully, as we are in times of change, a real Apocalypse (the illumination from above) will happen, and indeed it is happening as humanity is questioning itself, asking themselves if all what was taught to them is true or not, if we are living in a living universe, and not in a chaotic reality, as they contend.
    Let us keep the best of our traditions.

  31. E.M.Smith says:


    Well, I’m trying ;-) I’m going to use feet and gallons to the end!

    But I think someone in Europe left some Monarchies and Peerage laying about after the revolutions and the aristocracy has started sprouting again over on the compost heap of the UN…


    I am, but I’d not noticed that one. Rather nice… I may incorporate it into the Smith Calendar, if that’s OK with you…

    Asked for Ian Plimer’s book and Donna Laframbois’ book and the one about natural gas changing the work (who’s title escapes at the moment) so I’m expecting a Merry Christmas!

  32. wayne says:

    LOL. What no by-line, no Smith-Jackson calendar? Just kidding. You know that algorithm is on my not-even-hooked-up Pentium 3 and I need to go back and look at it again. I could swear there was another term, also power of two, at something like every 262144 years to keep the maximum deviation never more that one year, the whole purpose of the leaps. Wouldn’t that be neat, integer shifts only. But you get the gist. I had even thought of presenting that to a congressman or someone some time before 2048 (sure, I won’t be around). Just seems that’s the perfect point to finally correct our not quite right calendar for antiquity. Just daydreaming.

  33. wayne says:

    E.M., I went back to my old machine and there were additional terms. Since the current tropical year is ~365.2421897 days then an equation as
    365 + 1/4 – 1/128 + 1/262144 – 1/524288 = 365.2421894
    365 + 1/(2^2) – 1/(2^7) + 1/(2^18) – 1/(2^19)
    gets you to where the next one day correction needed to the calendar would be about 3.44 million years in the future. Thought you might get a kick out of that… a near perfect binary calendar.
    (and sure, you can use it freely, it’s yours)

  34. E.M.Smith says:


    Oh Boy! Thanks!

    I think I’ll call it “Smith’s Calendar Wayne’s Leap” ;-)

    Though for day to day use, folks could probably leave off the last term ;-)

    (It would be interesting to figure out just when the first ‘leap or skip’ came that needed the last two terms. If it was, oh, a few thousand years in the future they could be put in a foot note “for later use” ;-)

    Or perhaps “Smith’s Calendar – Jackson’s Leap”…

  35. wayne says:

    @ E.M.> He he, yeah, that last one sounds really professional!! ☺

    Your question on the time of needing a leap. That was one of my problems and I really never got a good answer. It’s like assuming that Pope Gregory XIII’s astronomers were accurate enough, I at first assumed they were, to center the deviation using the date of February 24, 1582 so that 25 days later the equinox would fall precisely where it should per the new calendar. Seems at first they did that. But 1582 is not a leap year. It is exactly in the middle of the four year span of leaps. Ok, that makes sense the center the deviation. But 1582 is not centered in the 100/400 year leap bobble which seems to me to indicate that the calendar was not initially set up to be centered (deviation wise).

    Whew. I gave up. I could see the skew in my Excel chart, up and down every four years and slowly drifting off but in even 100 years, the leap was skipped putting the deviation back on the other side of zero. Ok, in three more hundred years the skip of a leap would put it over one day off, so on even 400 years don’t skip the leap. Ok, but this pattern still gets further and further off as millennia go by so really later, like on even 4000 years go ahead and leap on that 400 year skip the leap… brother! But that still floats off. So what’s exactly correct starting point to the minute? Haven’t a foggy. Maybe jump an email over the pond to the Royal Observatory, surely they know.

    Well, couldn’t change it if we wanted to anyway!

    That was when I was writing a solar system simulator, c/cpp of course for speed, for calculating osculations myself, similar to the Horizon system but easily customized for specialties, and that got me into calendars for that integrator could be used over about +/-5000 years. So, got drug into calendars. That’s when, one night tired of this calendar madness, Bud in hand, I played with just seeing if I could not just correct both Caesar and Gregory’s experts since an Excel spread was already in hand for testing date algorithms. Walla. Two numbers, 4 and 128 put you hugely better that either. Nearly straight two day wide bar over many thousands of years. Wow, so simple, how did they miss that, I guess 10 fingers and 10 toes. That’s where those far off corrections come into play. Those level the deviations within +/- one day up to the limit of 65536 rows in Excel, 4 years per row, and that is where I stopped. Never carried that toy any further until I read your great post.

    When you talked of frustration with calendars… I guarantee you I knew exactly what you were talking about, they are a mess.

  36. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, when I’m Emperor (or king or pope or whatever) you can be assured the Calendar will be accurate, symmetrical, orderly, and not screwed up… With a holiday in remembrance of agriculture, life, death, and Geeks at each of the seasonal turn, and an every 4 years(ish) Holiday to precision…

    Siriusly ;-)

  37. Pingback: Welcome 2012, Views of the 3 Socialisms « Musings from the Chiefio

  38. alfred beilin says:

    hi there hope yous had a nice xmas and heres to the new year
    alf beilin

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