Adding 4000 years to the calendar and counting human history from the invention of the wheel

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Here's an article on a pretty interesting idea to add 4000 years to the current calendar, making the current year 6010. Why? The date roughly coincides with the time when the wheel first rolled into Europe and Western Asia. It's also around the time when the Bronze Age began and humanity began moving away from stone tools, so a rough estimate of when advanced human civilization began.

The article remarks that the idea is interesting but that it would be a bit like Esperanto in its difficulty of implementation, but it's a bit simpler than that --  because it simply involves tacking on 4000 years to any date, and then adding 1 if B.C. 4000 B.C. for example would become 1, and 2001 B.C. would be 2000. The same awkwardness involving adding a 1 is also found now, since there was no zero; after 1 B.C. was 1 A.D. One large difference though would be that because the numbers would now be counting up, dates would go from 1 to 99 instead of 99 to 1, and this would probably be the main problem with implementing a calendar like that as dates now remembered as B.C. would all be turned around.

The other interesting thing about the idea is that it roughly coincides with Proto-Indo-European, which also was used roughly around that time.

The difficulty with this though is that these are all very rough dates. The wheel was invented more than 6000 years ago, the beginning of the Bronze Age varies depending on what part of the world you're in, and there are many theories on when Proto-Indo-European was used and in which part of the world. Later research may turn up new dates for the origins of many implements and dates we now consider to be about 6000 years old.

Adding an extra 4000 years to old dates though is quite interesting, as it removes the negative number from ancient dates and brings them into the same era that we're in right now. Using that, Gilgamesh now would have ruled in the year 1300, Plato would have been born around 3574, and Rome would have been founded in 3243.

Calendars are always quite messy though, and have always been. Not only do the months not make sense anymore (September = 7th month, October = 8th month, etc.) but months have been robbed of days (February was robbed to make August match July in length), leap years are annoying to keep track of, and on top of it all minutes are based on an originally Babylonian numbering system using 60 (sexagesimal). Oh, and the days (in English anyway) are named after Norse gods, except for Saturday. It's fascinating how such a patchwork system still manages to work.

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