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Lesson 7 - Temporal Frames: Calendar Systems

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Paul Bargerstock

on 6 October 2014

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Transcript of Lesson 7 - Temporal Frames: Calendar Systems

The Maya recorded their history and their calendar in many documents made of the flattened inner bark of a fig tree, whitened with chalk. The Spanish invaders believed the calendars to be instruments of the devil and burnt great quantities of them. Only four Mayan books survive in the libraries of Europe. Our knowledge of Mayan writing in general and their calendar in particular, is based on these surviving documents, from a large number of inscriptions remaining in the ruins of their cities, and from a partial record of their writing made by a Spanish priest in 1664.
The earliest record of a calendar survives from about 500 BC. This calendar uses a 260 day-cycle which was commonly used by several societies—Zapotec, Olmec, Toltec, Aztec, Mayan, and more—and is still in use among present-day inhabitants of the region.
Days could be lucky or unlucky, or have other qualities; Mayans used the calendar partly to anticipate important days to wage wars and other activities. The calendar was also used to record on stone pillars, or stelae, important events in the lives of their kings. The Maya had knowledge of the behavior of the sun, moon, Venus and Jupiter. The behavior of the planets was important and used to determine the date of important events.
The Maya had two different cycles to measure time. The first was the 260 day cycle in which days were numbered 1 – 13 and 1 – 20 (called vientiena). This meant that any day had two numbers. The Maya also measured a longer solar year of 360 days. This year was divided in 18 months of 20 days each.
When the Maya had to locate a date in a much longer time span they used another system called the ‘long count,’ which was essentially a total of days since the start of an era, called the great cycle. Most scholars now agree that the current great cycle started on Wednesday, 8 September 3114 BC on the Gregorian Calendar.

The Mayan Calendar
This calendar is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures. It is often referred to as the Chinese calendar because it was first perfected by the Chinese around 500 BCE. In most of East Asia today, the Gregorian calendar is used for day-to-day activities, but the Chinese calendar is still used for marking traditional East Asian holidays such as the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese calendar is actually one “lunisolar” calendar, using both the sun and the moon to form its cycles. The months are lunar months, but 12 lunar months are shorter than a solar year. As a result, an extra month must be added periodically. This extra month is called an “intercalary” month.
A lunar month always begins on the day of a dark moon. The beginning of the Chinese calendar (Chinese New Year) always begins sometime between January 20th and February 20th on the Gregorian calendar.
The Chinese calendar uses cycles of sixty years. A year within a cycle is designated by a combination of one of five element names (e.g., "Water") and 12 animal names (e.g. "Rabbit"). A Chinese year is called by an element name, an animal name and a cycle number, e.g., the Water-Dragon year in the 21st cycle.
Historians disagree on when the Chinese calendar started. The first year in the first cycle was either 2697 BC or 2637 BC on the Gregorian calendar, making 2011 either in the 78th or 79th cycle.
The Chinese Calendar
The Islamic calendar has 12 months but, unlike the Gregorian calendar, has only 354 days. This is because the Islamic calendar (or Hijri Calendar) follows the movements of earth's moon.
Like much of Islam, the calendar is based on the Quran and on personal reflections on the relationship between Muslims and Allah. Each month of the Islamic calendar officially begins when the lunar crescent is first seen after a new moon. This is not always an exact time, especially if the skies are cloudy or overcast. In a sense, the start of each month can be different for everyone. Many people, however, prefer to rely on an official announcement by Muslim authorities as to when each month begins. The importance of the lunar crescent is also partly the explanation for why many countries with predominantly Muslim populations have a crescent shape on their flags.
The calendar is properly called the Hijri calendar because it began with the Hijra, or hegira, Muhammad's flight from Medina to Mecca, which took place in 622 on the Gregorian calendar. The hegira took place, on July 16 of the Gregorian calendar.
The Gregorian (western/Christian) calendar measures time beginning with the year 1 A.D. On the Christian calendar, A.D. stands for Anno Domini, which means "In the year of our Lord." The Hijri Calendar has years marked by A.H., which stands for Anno Hegirae, "In the Year of the Hijra." The hegira took place in A.H. 1.
So, the year 2011 on the Christian calendar is A.H. 1432 on the Hijri calendar. Remember that the Hijri calendar is consistently 11 days shorter than the Christian calendar. The Hijri calendar is the official calendar in many predominantly Muslim countries, most notably Saudi Arabia. In other countries, Muslims refer to the Gregorian (western/Christian) calendar for most dates and consult the Hirji calendar only for religious purposes. The Hijri calendar was introduced by Umar ibn Al-Khattab, a follower of Muhammad, in 638 according to the Gregorian calendar.

The Islamic Calendar
The Jewish calendar is very different from the Gregorian calendar. The Jewish calendar is based on the movements of Earth's Moon. It also has many more years in it than the Gregorian calendar.
Because the Jewish calendar is based on lunar movements, it has fewer than 365 days in it. In fact, the Jewish calendar is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian (western) calendar every single year. This explains why the major holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Purim are not on the same day every "year." It depends on which calendar you're looking at. In most western countries, the Gregorian calendar is used, so because the dates don't match up, Jewish holidays seem to move around. (The same thing can be said of Easter, a Christian holiday that is based on lunar movements and is in either March or April every year.)
Confusion reigned in ancient times as the Israelites struggled to come to terms with their lunar calendar. Eventually, they decided to go to 19-year cycles, adding a month every 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. It is also the way in which the number of days in each month was stabilized. Now, each month has either 29 or 30 days in it.
Jews also do not use Christian terms when referring to the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian, or Christian, calendar has B.C. or A.D. after a year in some cases. Since the Gregorian calendar is centered on the birth of Jesus, Christianity's central figure, B.C. means "Before Christ" and A.D. means Anno Domini, which is Latin for "In the year of our Lord." Jewish people, on the other hand, use the terms B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era).
The Jewish calendar has many more years in it than the Gregorian calendar does. For instance, the year 2011 on the Gregorian calendar is 5771 or 5772 on the Jewish calendar, depending on the time of year for both. The larger number was determined when scholars added up the years lived by all of the people mentioned in the Torah. Setting aside the obviously longer-than-written-about "seven days" that it took Yahweh to create the world in Jewish tradition, the world was created in 3761 B.C.E. on the Gregorian Calendar. The Hebrew Calendar today is used primarily for religious purposes.

The Jewish or Hebrew Calendar
The Gregorian calendar is today's internationally accepted civil calendar and is also known as the "Western calendar" or "Christian calendar". It was named after the man who first introduced it in February 1582: Pope Gregory XIII.
The calendar is strictly a solar calendar based on a 365-day common year divided into 12 months of irregular lengths. Each month consists of either 30 or 31 days with 1 month consisting of 28 days during the common year. A Leap Year usually occurs every 4 years which adds an extra day to make the second month of February 29 days long rather than 28 days.
The Gregorian calendar reformed the Julian calendar because the Julian calendar introduced an error of 1 day every 128 years. The introduction of the Gregorian calendar allowed for the realignment with the equinox, however a number of days had to be dropped when the change was made.
Japan replaced its lunisolar calendar with the Gregorian calendar in January 1873, but decided to use the numbered months it had originally used rather than the European names. The Republic of China originally adopted the Gregorian calendar in January 1912, but it wasn’t used in China due to warlords using different calendars. However, the Nationalist Government formally decreed the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in China in January 1929.
Although the Gregorian calendar is named after Pope Gregory XIII, it is an adaptation of a calendar designed by Italian doctor, astronomer and philosopher Luigi Lilio (also known as Aloysius Lilius). He was born around 1510 and died in 1576, six years before his calendar was officially introduced.

The Gregorian Calendar
Temporal Frames:
Calendar Systems

Read about each calendar system and answer the questions from the packet.
Full transcript