Was there one?
Some historians, scholars, and scientists, along with a few popular authors, have claimed that ancient civilizations used a 360-day annual calendar. This single web page seeks to catalog all known ancient primary sources on the topic. The evolutionary worldview suggests that the most ancient of known civilizations were only recently removed from the grunting cavemen who had just groped their way into emerging villages. However from around the world evidence documents ancient sophistication in areas such as architecture, metallurgy, math, and astronomy. Meanwhile, a 360-day calendar (as history shows) would inflict serious hardships on a society. Why then would a civilization use such a year? So our primary question is, “Did ancient civilizations use a 360-day calendar?” And if so, then “Why?” Here is the data...
Mayan Calendar: The Mayan baktun equals 144,000 days of exactly four hundred 360-day years. Their tun was a year of 360 days. Twenty tun equaled a katun, twenty katun equaled a baktun. The earliest excavated Mayan settlements date to 1800 B.C. and NASA reports that back in 650 B.C., "Mayan astronomers [made] detailed observations of Venus, leading to a highly accurate calendar." Mayans had varying interrelated calendars but to identify an actual date in history, they used the Long Count calendar of 360-day years. The Maya demonstrated tremendous mathematical skill with their base 20 number system and a representation of their number system in Arabic numerals shows that 1 = 1; 10 = 20; 100 = 400; and 1000 = 8000. However, in a telling departure, transliterating (so to speak) the Mayan Long Count calendar into Arabic numbers results in 1 = 1; 10 = 20; 100 = 360; 1000 = 7200 (rather than 8000); and 10000 = 144,000 (rather than 160,000). This modification of the number system is a stunning fact of ancient history (reminiscent of the Sumerian number system anomaly from far across the ocean). Most worldviews simply cannot account for such extraordinary history. Because many deem an historical, actual 360-day year as a physical impossibility, dramatic worldwide evidence to that effect gets ignored or discounted.
Egyptian Calendar: Writing about the Roman 360-day year, the scholarly 1859 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (see scan below) states:
The setting aside of the last five days agrees with the practice which Herodotus [~440 B.C.; and see below] ascribes to the Egyptians of considering the five days over the 360 as scarcely belonging to the year, and not placing them in any month.
In about 440 B.C., as Herodotus himself put it:
With regard to human affairs, all the priests agreed that the Egyptians were the first to discover the year and to divide it into twelve parts. They obtained this this knowledge by studying the stars. The Egyptian calendar seems to me to be much more sensible that that of the Greeks; for the Greeks, to make the seasons work out properly, intercalate a whole month every year, whereas the Egyptians, basing the calendar on twelve thirth-day months, intercalate five additional days every year, whereby the cycle of the seasons returns with uniformity.
The 36 decans of ancient Egypt were groups of stars carved into the ceilings of tombs and coffin lids beginning from at least 2100 B.C., to the tomb of Senenmut, the chancellor of Queen Hatshepsut in about 1450 B.C., to that of Ramesses IV in 1150 B.C. in the Valley of the Kings, to at least the Late Period presenting them in the main temple to Hathor at Denderah. Just like the word pharaoh is not from the Egyptian language but is the Hebrew word for the King of Egypt's palace, so it was the Greeks who named these stars decans because every tenth morning just before dawn the next grouping of stars in the series would rise. Then in about 1550 B.C., The Ebers Papyrus, written during the reign of Pharaoh Amenophis, presents a 360-day year calendar on the reverse side of the first "page" of the 66-foot long scroll. (The lengthy document preserved many Egyptian medical practices for posterity including their knowledge of the heart as the center of one's blood supply with its vessels extending throughout the body.) And in the 1200s B.C., Pharaoh Ramesses II had engraved an astronomical ceiling depicting a 360-day year. Marshall Clagett, science historian and a leading scholar of the 20th century, noticed that the five "epagomenal" days often added to complete ancient 360-day calendars were simply absent in these ancient Egyptian calendars. Highlighting the ancient world's calendar difficulty, the first editor of the journal Nature, astronomer Herbert Lockyer, (1894, pp. 243-248) reported that the "first law" of the Pharaohs was their pledge, taken on the day of ascension to the throne, to never change the calendar. (This recollects Daniel's warning that the anti-Christ, "shall intend to change times and law.) Regarding an ancient prayer to fix the calendar to the seasons, Emmeline Plunket in Ancient Calendars and Constellations writes, "that Amen is implored to bring the calendar into touch with the real seasons of the year."
Aztec Calendar Stone: 12-feet in diameter, the Aztec calendar stone has its Ring B of 18 quincunxes which combines with the 20 uinal day signs for a 360 day year. Also, according to popular author Geoff Stray (The Mayan and Other Ancient Calendars, p. 28), Mesoamerican cultures would give a name to every day of the year, and they would name the year itself. Curiously, “Some groups (including the Aztecs), used a terminal year-bearer system, in which the year is named after the 360th day.” The Encyclopedia of Time, p. 49, says of the Aztecs, "they carried on and further developed calendrical traditions that had their roots some 2,000 years before their own time." And like other Mesoamericans, the Aztecs had differing and complex calendar systems, yet one of them, "The solar year... consisted of eighteen months of twenty days, with a remainder of five days." Even though their calendar was not based on the lunar cycle, significantly, they continued nonetheless to pay homage to a 360 day year, and of course out of necessity tacked on the extra five intercalary days.
India Calendar: Encyclopedia of Indo-Aryan Research, G. Thibaut, states: "All Veda texts speak uniformly and exclusively of a year of 360 days. Passages in which this length of year is directly stated are found in all the Brahmanas." And further, that the Vedas (1500 - 500 B.C.) never mention intercalary days. The Sanskrit Mahabharata from the 1st millennium B.C. indicates a year of twelve months of 30 days, which forced the addition of a thirteenth month every five years. Also, the Vedas contain four ages, such as the Golden Age, the Silver Age, each of which is divisible by 360, including the Silver Age (Treta Yuga) which is 360 * 3600 years long. "Now the lunar month... in Hindu calendrical usage divided into thirty equal portions of time called 'tithis,' which are considered as lunar days..." writes Plunket in Ancient Calendars and Constellations. Then Plunket quotes a publication titled The Indian Calendar for 1892: "The Hindu Lunar months invariably consist of thirty Tithis, or Lunar days; and the whole month is divided into two equal parts of fifteen Tithis each, the one called Shukla or Shuddh Paksha—the bright half or increase of the Moon; the other Krishna or Vadya Paksha—the dark half or decrease of the Moon."
Sumerian Calendar: The calendar and the sexagesimal "base 60" (as contrasted to our own base 10) number system have an ancient relationship, as described by Robert K. Englund, Ph.D., professor of Assyriology & Sumerology at UCLA, in his paper Administrative Timekeeping in Ancient Mesoptamia in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 1988, pp. 121-122:
The sexagesimal system of counting... is attested in periods much earlier than any secure attestation of the Sumerian language, namely in the periods Uruk IV-III [~3200 B.C.], and possibly in some token assemblages from clay envelopes unearthed in levels of proto-elamite Susa corresponding to Uruk V [~3400 B.C.]. ... A mixture of this sexagesimal system with a heritage of natural cycles resulted in the 3rd millennium time divisions attested by administrative documents. ... The resulting system... which without question complemented throughout the 3rd millenium natural, lunisterllar divisions, is attested in its basic form of a twelve-month, 360-day year in the archaic documents from the end of the 4th millenium [B.C.].
The Ecliptic: Because of their great distance, the stars beyond our Sun appear fixed in the sky. The Earth's orbit over the course of a year therefore makes the Sun appear to rise day after day adjacent to differing stars to complete what looks like a full circle through the heavens. Ancient Sumeria, Babylonia, and apparently some in India divided this circle, called the ecliptic, into 360 degrees. God said that He gave us the Sun and the Moon (Gen. 1:14-15) for seasons and days and years. 360 is a highly composite number so consider how manageable a calendar God would have made with a year of that many days. 360 is thus divisible by many numbers including (in bold) those especially helpful for calendars and timekeeping: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 24, 30, 36, 40, 45, 60, 72, 90, 120, and 180. A year of 360 days is reasonably divisible even by the 2 equinoxes, 2 solstices, four seasons, 12 months, etc., 24 hours in a day, 24 time zones of 15 nominal degrees each, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute (and consider also our comfort with a "dozen" and with 12 inches in a foot and 36 inches in a yard).
Greek Calendar: Herodotus is called, by those unlearned in the Books of Moses, the Father of History (for example, by Roman philosopher Cicero in about 51 B.C.). In about 440 B.C., Herodotus quoted the famous statesman Solon of Athens (638 - ca. 558 B.C.) as saying:
"...you ask me about human affairs. Over a long period of time, many things come to pass which no one would wish to see or suffer. I propose seventy years as the average life span for a man. These seventy years represent, excluding intercalated months, 25,200 days."
25,200 days divided by 70 years equals a year of 360 days. (Herodotus, or perhaps Solon, then incorrectly calculates, by about an additional one day per year, the number of days when including the intercalation.) So this famed and learned ancient Greek calculated using a 360-day year. Regarding the Attica calendar generally (for the ancient region of Athens), "We read that in the Attic year 'each month was divided into three decades,' and the statement that may confirm us in the opinion that, following an almost too mathematically imagined calendrical method [!], the ancestors of the Aryan race in remote ages counted their months, not as containing twenty-nine-and-a-half solar days, but as a portion of time containing three great equal divisions" reports Plunket, who had no axe to grind in that this scholar was in no way arguing for an actual 360-day year. She continued, "the first, the second, and the third—Ekata, Dvita, Trita—each of these three parts being again subdivided into ten equal tithis."
Roman Calendar: Written within a decade of 115 A.D., Plutarch's Life of Numa states: "during the reign of Romulus [claimed 753-716 B.C.], they had been irrational and irregular in their fixing of the months, reckoning some at less than twenty days, some at thirty-five, and some at more; they had no idea of the inequality of the annual motions of the sun and moon, but held to this principle only, that the year should consist of three hundred and sixty days." About the Egyptian and Roman 360-day years, the scholarly 1859 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (see right) states:
The setting aside of the last five days agrees with the practice which Herodotus ascribes to the Egyptians of considering the five days over the 360 as scarcely belonging to the year, and not placing them in any month. So completely were these five days considered by the Romans to be something extraneous, that the soldier appears to have received pay only for 360 days.
In Ancient Calendars and Constellations, Plunket states, "the Greeks (and the Romans also, as shown by their cumbrous system of Kalends, Nones, and Ides) retained the plan of a threefold division of the months, but lost the originally concomitant arrangement of the ten equal divisions of each part into tithis, whence much difficulty ensued for Greek and Romans alike in counting lunar months of alternately thirty and twenty-nine days. Indian astronomers, on the other hand [retained the] elaborate division of the month into equal tithis..."
Chinese Calendar: From the ancient Chinese, as commonly around the world, lunar calendars were in use even though it was exactly the use of lunar, rather than solar, calendars which caused enormous difficulty. Also as Plunket writes, "There is in the great History of China a description given of a reformation of the calendar carried out by the Emperor Tchuen-Hio, whose date is placed at 2510-2431 B.C."
The Bible's Year: John wrote the Book of Revelation in about 95 A.D., a century and a half after the Julian calendar reform of 45 B.C. which adopted a 365-day calendar with modern leap years. However, in verses 11:2-3; 12:6, 12:14; and 13:5, John explicitly indicates a year of 360 days. By a 365-day calendar, three and a half years would equal 1278 days. However, John wrote of 1,260 days (3.5 * 360) in Revelation 11:3 & 12:6, which equals exactly the three and a half (360-day) years that he mentions in Revelation 12:14. That number also exactly equals the 42 months of Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. These year and month equivalents are exactly equal, and only equal 1,260 days, when calculating with months of 30 days each. Additionally, the prophet Daniel proclaimed, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and seasons..." (Dan. 2:20-21). Of course this could be a reference to the seasons as in Genesis 8:22. The first Hebrew word Daniel used in that statement is typically translated moment, time, or times, and the second word here rendered "seasons" is also translated times, or appointed period, epochs, or time. Thus Daniel may have been suggesting to his ancient audience that God's power was evident even in the world's changing calendars. As an end-times prophet, Daniel's book refers us to the latter days. Thus in the Lord's prophetic countdown in the Book of Revelation toward the New Creation, though written in the age of the modern calendar, God used His own originally perfect length of the year. The Book of Esther implies a 30/360 calendar in that King Ahasuerus reigned over 127 provinces (Esther 1:1; notice this is not rounded). And the king "made a feast lasting seven days" (i.e., one week; Esther 1:5) just after a feast of "one hundred and eighty days" (i.e., half a year; Esther 1:4) suggesting that those 180 days were exactly six months. Other passages consistent with Revelation's explicit 360-day year include Daniel 7:25 and 12:11-12. Finally, regarding the global flood, Genesis 7:11 7:24 and 8:3-4 twice mention a period of exactly 150 days, the five months from the 17th day of the second month to the 17th day of the seventh month. Because lunar months vary between 29 and 30 days and not until Roman times did men use a 31-day month, Moses here records calendar dates that present a pre-flood 30-day month, assuming the use of exclusive counting (as in Neh. 5:1). Thus like Daniel and Esther, Genesis too implies a 360-day year as consistent with what is explicit in Revelation.
Popular Science: The Arrow of Time, 1990, by Coveney and Highfield states, "the concept of time emerged from the pursuit of astronomy... the rising and setting of the Sun, the monthly movement of the Moon" (p. 40). Note the enduring connection of the Moon's orbit with our calendar month, even to these modern authors. For back in antiquity, "Most important of all in ancient times was the lunar cycle, which [today] lasts around 29.5 days between each time the crescent of a new Moon appears in the western evening sky" (p. 31). And then, "Many ancient calendars had 12 months based on the average period of around 30 days between new moons, making a year that fell short of the solar year and had to be extended: the original Egyptian calendar had 12 months and, being linked to the Moon's 30-day cycle, produced a 360-day year. [Though the authors ignore this, of course 12 x 29.5 would produce a 355-day year.] Later it had an additional five days added at the end of the year to keep the lunar month and the solar-based seasons coordinated and thus the calendar in step..." (p. 42).
Early Calendar Turmoil: Interest in ancient calendars is a necessary part of being, "interested in the history of the human race," judged Emmeline M. Plunket in 1903 in Ancient Calendars and Constellations (p. 188). Egypt's ancient prayer to fix the calendar to the seasons and their first law of the Pharaoh to not change the calendar (see above) both testify to the intensity of the difficulty of ancient man, though brilliant, to come to terms with a year which they knew very well was just longer than 365 days, but which they could not seem to reconcile with.. In China, astoundingly, Confucius recommended something similar to the first law of the Pharaoh. "We read in the Confucian Analects that in answer to his 'disciple,' who had asked him, 'how the government of a country should be administered,' the Master said—as the first of five rules—"Follow the seasons of Hsia.'" Much earlier, about 2500 B.C., the emperor had undertaken undoubtedly a herculean effort to realign their calendar with the seasons. In Akkad, in the third millennium B.C., as Plunket reports, "in the inscription engraved on Gudea's diorite statue we had evidence of a reform of the already existing Accadian calendar—in use from a date much earlier than Gudea's in the neighbouring Babylonian kingdom."
Calendar and Language Gods: For all the idols worshipped even in the modern world, it is not likely that any society today would begin worshipping the alphabet or the calendar (just as they're not likely to worship a doorknob). Likewise, if writing and alphabets had developed slowly over millennia, it is just as unlikely that ancient cultures would have worshipped them. The deification of such concepts implies both their extreme cultural significance and sudden adoption or dramatic change. Therefore, following the actual, historical dispersion from Babel and the confusion of the languages, not unexpectedly, pagans worldwide invented wisdom gods associated with the invention of the alphabet, literature, writing, and even as with the Aztecs, the calendar.
Babylon: Murray R. Adamthwaite (Ph.D. from Melbourne University in Near Eastern History and Languages) describes the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish with Marduk killing Ti'amat splitting open her skull and body. In the Journal of Creation, 27(2) 2013, p. 99, he writes, "The upper half he makes into the sky; the lower half into the earth. From this chaos comes order: the Sun, Moon, and stars appear, and the calendar is formed: '... As for the stars, he set up constellations corresponding to them. He designated the year and marked out its divisions, apportioned three stars each to the twelve months' (Tablet V:1-4)." (Just as nearly every culture shares the world's collective memory of a global flood, other aspects of biblical history find themselves expressed in secular antiquity such as the precipitous decrease of lifespans after the flood that prompted mighty rulers to spend their lives building tombs preparing for their deaths.
Sumeria: Three of the Mesopotamian deities worshipped by many including by the Babylonians and the Sumerians were the gods of writing Nabu [Nebo], Al-Kutbay, and Nidaba. (Consider also that, as molecular biologists describe environmentally-triggered irreversible genetic switches, the kind that undoubtedly enabled fish to differentiate into salt or freshwater species, after the flood the ancient Sumerians mythologized the creation from the union of the fresh and saltwater deities Apsu and Ti'amat.)
Armenia: The wisdom god Tir, with a name possibly derived from the Armenian word dpir "scribe", or vice versa, is the ancient Armenian patron of written language.
Egypt: Among the many who worshipped an alphabet god were the Egyptians with their Thoth, and they bowed to their god of writing Seshat. And from an exhibit at the British Museum, "The ancient Egyptians called their writing 'God's words', which translated into Greek as hieroglyphs (sacred carvings)."
China: The Chinese too worshipped the literature god Wenchang Wang.
India: And Hindus worshipped their literature god Saraswati.
Mesoamerica: The Mayans and Aztecs also worshipped gods to whom they attributed the invention of writing and also of the calendar: Itzamna and Quetzalcoatl.
Ancient Genius: The earliest civilizations had a great genius, especially in astronomy. Real Science Radio interviewed Don Landis on his book The Genius of Ancient Man. Landis observes, "All over the world there are similar findings of world travel, advanced astronomy… ancient man had the advanced knowledge of astronomical movements, including the process of precession …found everywhere," Landis writes. For example, Roman sailors used an Antikythera mechanism with dozens of gears to track the Sun, Moon and planets." The evolutionary paradigm of grunting cavemen conflicts with the actual widespread historical, anthropological, and archaeological evidence of a brilliant and sophisticated ancient human civilization. Likewise in Plunket wrote: "We should also be led to think of the common ancestors of the civilized races not as ignorant barbarians, but rather as men graced with high intellectual gifts—men whose teachings have been handed down through all the ages to this present day, and of whose imaginings the Zodiac remains as the most ancient monument of the work of intelligent man." Finally realize that human IQ has not been increasing but decreasing. A journal paper in Trends in Genetics by a Stanford professor of pathology and developmental biology Dr. Gerald Crabtree titled Our Fragile Intellect, concludes from, "new developments in genetics, anthropology, and neurobiology" that, "if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 B.C. were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions..."
Summary Statement of the Calendar of Ancient Nations: Isaac Newton, documenting his affirmation of biblical chronology, wrote more about ancient history than he did about physics and math. Distilling his knowledge of the world's ancient cultures and their earliest calendars, in 1728 he wrote: "All nations, before the just length of the Solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon; and years by the returns of winter and summer, spring and autumn: and in making Calendars for their Festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a Lunar month, and twelve Lunar months to a year... " Thus after years of historical study, by his assessment of the data Newton believed that originally, nations had a year of 360 days. He then surmised, possibly wrongly, that the cause of these facts must have been that the ancients consistently arrived at their incorrect and troublesome calendars merely because they were "taking the nearest round numbers..." Then, Newton states, apparently correctly, that it was the 360-day year from "whence came the division of the Ecliptic into 360 degrees."
Physical Mechanism: It has been inconceivable to secularists, and even to most all creationists until recently, that in historical times the Earth's rotation could have sped up. However, Dr. Walt Brown's Hydroplate Theory presents just such a mechanism. The 46,000-mile globe-encircling crack known as the mid-oceanic ridge winds itself around the Earth like a seem on a baseball. That massive ridge is the scar remaining from the global flood's eruption of the fountains of the great deep. As the crust began to erode away, most severely in the Atlantic region, the mantel below rose precipitously, isostatically rebounding with the crust in the Pacific sinking into the Earth. Thus, much of the oceanic crust in the Atlantic is missing, and much of the crust in the Pacific is buried (see our video). As mass shifted through the Earth from the Pacific to the Atlantic, friction melted what became the molten outer core, seven moons worth of mass, doubling the density of that material. That tectonic activity is what destabilized the Earth. The deep melting is the ultimate cause of the unexpectedly deep earthquakes that confound many old-earth geologists (because after billions of years the deep earth would be far more stable than it actually is). That far more dense, melted material also shrunk the circumference of the Earth by about 180 miles. So by the law of the conservation of angular momentum, like a spinning figure skater pulling in her arms, the Earth's rotation sped up. This changed the year from a perfect 360, to our current difficult-to-calculate-with 365.2425 days. And the violent impacts that hit mostly on the moon's near side reduced its perfect 30-day orbit to today's 29.53-day lunar month.
Contact us to give input or if you'd like to help with this research project. Currently, we are especially interested in:
1) Finding a primary source to document the first law of the Pharaoh to not change the calendar
2) Obtaining a full description, photos and drawings of the 360-day calendar depicted on a ceiling of a building associated with Pharaoh Ramesses II
3) Obtaining two valuable books, Chronological Antiquites, and Calendars in Antiquity, that our team would like to read if perhaps one of our patrons (you?) might purchase this expensive resource for us from our Amazon.com Wish List.
5) A German language reader to translate for us relevant portions of this 1899 text.
4) Obtaining the full text or a copy of pages 385-394 of this 1925 text by Meissner, Babylonien und Assyrien.
6) From The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, written ~1600 B.C., we would like to obtain additional information on Problem #87 which has calendar references. That additional information may exist in the Vol. II sequel of this Vol. I work by Chace and Archibald. Volume I of this work on pg. 119 does have information, though scant, on that problem. Separately, pg. 43 has a challenging calendar problem of its own for us to attempt to solve, found in footnote 4 of this 1927 translation. If you can explain that riddle, which Egyptologists consider quite a mystery, please email your solution to Bob@rsr.org. Thanks! (Also, on his Fall 2015 research tour of England, RSR's Bob Enyart spent a brief time in Liverpool and while the Liverpool University's catalogue suggested that they would have the desired Vol. II, library staff were unable to locate it. However, along with exploring other avenues to obtain this title, the archaeology stacks at that library still may hold this resource.)
Information Sought: When generations of scholars came across ancient references of a 360-day year, they routinely tended to minimize its significance. Possibly, some may have occasionally even omitted such references as they reported their findings in their papers and books. For it was inconceivable that the ancient world could actually have had a 360-day year. And if a scholar's publication depends partly on the reliability of his ancient writer source, if a text implies a 360-day year, then that source could be viewed as especially unreliable. As with paleontologists ignorning mammal fossils in dinosaur digs and cosmologists ignoring evidence against the big bang, there may be gems of calendrical information hidden within primary sources that have yet to be popularized. Linguists attempting to make sense of ancient texts may even have mistranslated passages that correctly translated might imply a 360-day year. So if you have any additional relevant information that would fit into any of the categories below, please send it along to Bob@rsr.org. Thank you, and please pray for the this work.
- Calendar turmoil: primary sources documenting ancient calendar turmoil
- Primary sources: for an ancient 360-day calendar
- Scholarly sources: reporting an ancient 360-day calendar
- Ancient genius: of the earliest civilizations in math and astronomy
- Lunar calendars: prevalence of ancient lunar vs. solar calendars
- Zodiacal signs: ancient use of 12 symbols to divide the ecliptic
- Popular science: reporting an ancient 360-day calendar
- Contrary evidence: ancient evidence against 360 days
- Scientific evidence: for 360 days in a year if any
- 365-day calendars: the oldest known with 365 days
- A 360-degree circle: from India, Sumeria, Babylon, and perhaps elsewhere
- Geology: more discoveries regarding a 360-day calendar indicating recent melting in the inner earth
Hear 360dayyear.com on Real Science Radio: RSR co-hosts Bob Enyart and Fred Williams discuss the evidence presented above at rsr.org/360-day-year.