As I mentioned earlier, we literally organize our lives in accordance with the sun and the moon. Our concept of a year is based on the earth’s trip around the sun. Our concept of a month is one complete orbit of the moon around the earth. The thing about these orbits though is they come with wiggle room. A month isn’t exactly 720 hours long. Sometimes a month has 744 hours. Were we to calculate moon to moon, a month is actually 29.53 days long.
We also go by the notion a year is 365 days long but it’s not. It’s actually about 365.25 days long. (that .25 is reason leap years are every four years)
That wiggle room is easier to see if you do the math by hours. Even though it works out this way on a calculator 24 x 365 = 8 760, a year is never exactly 8 760 hours long. It’s often 8765.81277 hours long. Over time that .81277 adds up and there’s an adjustment to be had.
A lot of time has passed between tally sticks and the calendar we employ today. Like I said yesterday, calendars have always been imperfect timekeepers. The ancient Roman calendar, for example, was a major mess. Rome had conquered most of their world and absorbed other calendars as well. The priests and politicians in the Roman Empire exploited this blended calendar for political gain by adding days and months to it to keep the politicians they favored in office. With all this going on, at one point, the Roman calendar was about 445 days long and it didn’t make a lick of sense lining up with the seasons. Eventually one man said enough is enough and set our feet on the path we follow today. That man was Julius Caesar.
It’s said that after Julius Caesar’s romance with Cleopatra, he brought a little Egyptian order to the messy Roman calendar. The Egyptians of that time were long following a solar calendar instead of the lunar calendar because keeping track by the moon failed to tell them when the Nile would flood. Around 4236 B.C.E, someone noticed Sirius the dog star was visible before sunrise on a certain time of the year and it always preceded the flood by a few days. Based on this observation, the Egyptians devised a 365-day calendar.
Tweaked and tidied with Egyptian common sense, the Roman calendar became the Julian Calendar and was in common use for centuries. But because that wiggle room hadn’t been factored in, Julian’s version had drifted a full 10 days off course by the late 1500s and no longer meshed with the seasons. Pope Gregory stepped in and reformed the calendar by adding an extra day to February once every four years.
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🙂 On this date in 1924 Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus, his mummy, and burial treasure were discovered. King Tut’s tomb had been discovered in 1922 near Luxor, Egypt. Check out this fascinating video by National Geographic Examining Tut . And that’s a post for another day.
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