Mayan Astronomers at Caracol

“The first men to be created and formed were called the Sorcerer of Fatal Laughter, the Sorcerer of Night, Unkempt, and the Black Sorcerer … They were endowed with intelligence, they succeeded in knowing all that there is in the world. When they looked, instantly they saw all that is around them, and they contemplated in turn the arc of heaven and the round face of the earth … [Then the Creator said]: ‘They know all … what shall we do with them now? Let their sight reach only to that which is near; let them see only a little of the face of the earth!… Are they not by nature simple creatures of our making? Must they also be gods?”


Popol Vuh

The Devil’s Advocate

My friend Bob it’s a very nice guy, but a little on the stubborn side, when it come to arguing about anything, he rather choose an eccentric point of view than a logical one, he prefers to abandon common sense than to be subjected to established rules, or measures of any kind, as an example recently it took me half an afternoon to explain him, against his better understanding of why we have leap years, his argument was since a day has 24 hours and a year consist of 365 days why we have a need of leap days, and leap years?

When I pointed out a year has no relation to the rotation of the Earth around it’s axis,  24 hours a full rotation known as a day, but  to the Earth  orbit around the Sun 149.60 millions kilometers, 92.96 million miles, he couldn’t figure out why there was not a synchronicity relationship of exactly 365 days, but a leftover roughly a quarter of a day (256. 363 004 parts of a day), and therefore the need every four year to add a leap day to keep an accurate calendar system, I tried to explain him to the best of my ability that a calendar it’s just a conception of the measure of time for utilitarian purposes, and point to the fact even our months are not all of 30 days thanks to the 5 days over 360, a beautiful division of our 360 degrees of a circle, in twelve months of 30 days, but in reality an idealized way to divide a circle,  if we wouldn’t add a leap year in a century we would be roughly 25 days off time, and in a millennium that would add up to 250 days off the mark and that would throw off the seasons, our January first would be somewhere in early September.

Of course my friend Bob argued that if calendars were arbitrary and relative measures of time why we couldn’t just divide time as we pleased, as simple as cutting a cake in 365 equal parts!

Neither to say at this point of the conversation I had to point to the obvious need of an standard system of measure, in order to have consensus, that it may be relative to, but not arbitrary, just like going to his house the time it may take him in his car, has no relation as to how many times it’s wheels may spin, since that it’s determine, by the diameter of the wheels, x π (pi)=circumference or size of the wheel, in relation to the distance, regardless of the speed,  he could be driving 5 miles an hour, or 60, it will not matter, the number of spins from the wheels will be the same, independent of the time it make take him to get there.

Bob pensive (800x800)

Cuneiform Tablets

Measure it’s related to honesty, and justice, maybe you will be surprised to know how our writing it is related to this virtues, not surprising writing was not as we know it today. In Mesopotamia it started out as simple counting marks, alongside which sometimes a non-arbitrary well understood sign, in the form of a simple picture image, that was cut into wood, stone, pots but more often pressed onto clay tokens. In that way, recorded accounts of amounts of goods involved in a transaction could be made. This convention began when people developed agriculture and settled into permanent communities that were centered on increasingly large and organised trading marketplaces. These marketplaces traded sheep, grain, and bread loaves, each and every one of these items was recorded by clay tokens. These initially very small clay tokens were continually used all the way from the pre-historic Mesopotamia period, 9000 BC, to the start of the historic period around 3000 BC, when the use of writing for recording was widely adopted.

No doubt this was simply a practical reason to keep record of any transaction, and in this way to keep people of short memory honest!

Administrative Cuneiform tablet

Any measure it’s Relative to

We have come a long way since, and a preconception of time involve a complex set of variables for a celestial planet, or star in relation to other celestial objects, just like our planet Earth year it’s in relation to our Sun, by it’s orbit, so do the rest of our Solar system, as for example a year in Venus it’s 224.7 days long, but a day in the other hand takes a whooping 243 day of our Earth, imagine a day in Venus, is longer than a Venus year!

A year in Jupiter it’s the equivalent of 11.86 years on Earth. As for a day time it depends on where you are in Jupiter! Because Jupiter is not a solid body, its upper atmosphere undergoes differential rotation. The rotation of Jupiter’s polar atmosphere is about 5 minutes longer than that of the equatorial atmosphere; three systems are used as frames of reference, particularly when graphing the motion of atmospheric features. System I applies from the latitudes 10° N to 10° S; its period is the planet’s shortest, at 9 hours 50 minutes 30.0 seconds. System II applies at all latitudes north and south of these; its period is 9h 55m 40.6s. System III was first defined by radio astronomers, and corresponds to the rotation of the planet’s magnetosphere; its period is Jupiter’s official rotation.

Cassini views Jupiter and Io

Human measure systems

As we saw every planet has it’s own particular conditions, and therefore ruled by different time standards in relation to one another, but this is not so different from our way to measure anything here on Earth.

We had so many calendars through History, by every civilization you can think of, that a whole post wouldn’t be big enough to enumerate, and do justice to the subject. There is Solar calendars, Lunar calendars, and Luni-solar.

A little known fact outside of France was the French republican calendar also commonly called the French Revolutionary Calendar (calendrier révolutionnaire français), was a calendar created and implemented during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871. The revolutionary system was designed in part to remove all religious and royalist influences from the calendar, and was part of a larger attempt at decimalization in France (which also included decimal time of day, decimalization of currency, and metrication).

Each day in the Republican Calendar was divided into ten hours, each hour into 100 decimal minutes, and each decimal minute into 100 decimal seconds. Thus an hour was 144 conventional minutes (more than twice as long as a conventional hour), a minute was 86.4 conventional seconds (44% longer than a conventional minute), and a second was 0.864 conventional seconds (13.6% shorter than a conventional second)

There were twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks called décades. The tenth day, décadi, replaced Sunday as the day of rest and festivity. The five or six extra days needed to approximate the solar or tropical year were placed after the months at the end of each year and called complementary days. This arrangement was an almost exact copy of the calendar used by the Ancient Egyptians, though in their case the beginning of the year was marked by summer solstice rather than autumn equinox.

A period of four years ending on a leap day was to be called a “Franciade”. The name “Olympique” was originally proposed but changed to Franciade to commemorate the fact that it had taken the revolution four years to establish a republican government in France.

The leap year was called Sextile, an allusion to the “bissextile” leap years of the Julian and Gregorian calendars, because it contained a sixth complementary day.

French Revolutionary pocket watch showing ten-day décade names and thirty-day month numbers from the Republican Calendar, but with duodecimal time

Weights and measures have taken a great variety of forms over the course of history, from simple informal expectations in barter transactions to elaborate state and supranational systems that integrate measures of many different kinds. Weights and measures from the oldest societies can often be inferred at least in part from archaeological specimens, often preserved in museums. The comparison of the dimensions of buildings with the descriptions of contemporary writers is another source of information. An interesting example of this is the comparison of the dimensions of the Greek Parthenon with the description given by Plutarch from which a fairly accurate idea of the size of the Attic foot is obtained. Because of the comparative volume of artifacts and documentation, we know much more about the state-sanctioned measures of large, advanced societies than we do about those of smaller societies or about the informal measures that often coexisted with official ones throughout history. In some cases, we have only plausible theories and we must sometimes select the interpretation to be given to the evidence.

Athena Pathenon

By studying the evidence given by all available sources, and by correlating the relevant facts, we obtain some idea of the origin and development of the units. We find that they have changed more or less gradually with the passing of time in a complex manner because of a great variety of modifying influences. It is possible to group official measurement systems for large societies into historical systems that are relatively stable over time, including: the Babylonian system, the Egyptian system, the Phileterian system of the Ptolemaic age, the Olympic system of Greece, the Roman system, the British system, and the metric system.


Standard weights and measures have existed in the Indus Valley Civilization since the 5th millennium BCE. The centralized weight and measure system served the commercial interest of Indus merchants as smaller weight measures were used to measure luxury goods while larger weights were employed for buying bulkier items, such as food grains etc.Weights existed in multiples of a standard weight and in categories. Technical standardization enabled gauging devices to be effectively used in angular measurement and measurement for construction. Uniform units of length were used in the planning of towns such as Lothal, Surkotada, Kalibangan, Dolavira, Harappa, and Mohenjo-daro. The weights and measures of the Indus civilization also reached Persia and Central Asia, where they were further modified.

Every System Had A Utilitarian Purpose

My point is every measure system had a human origin base on a practical purpose, and could differ according to the specific needs of the task, and the cultural backgrounds of the people who invented the system, a relatively new invention The metric system is a called a decimal-based system because it is based on multiples of ten. Any measurement given in one metric unit(e.g., kilogram) can be converted to another metric unit (e.g., gram) simply by moving the decimal place. Adopted by most of the countries in the world even England the creators, except us here in the United States of America we keep company with Myanmar, and Liberia the other two countries where we cling to the more complicate British Imperial, or Exchequer System.

However no system it’s a God’s given system attuned to every need since as we see in the Heavens every planet, and Star holds different conditions particular, and specific to the given celestial body with their own calendar. Could we have a better calendar now days? Very likely, however changing a calendar just because it’s better it’s not practical just like the Republican French found out, people it’s used to what we have, changing things may bring a lot of unhappiness for the sake of accuracy, an expedience.

As a bit of anecdote the Toltec, Olmec, and the Maya build their calendar, according to their own Cosmological views with their own logic, that until recent were totally unknown to the rest of the world, some people argue the Julian it’s still a better calendar, but the fact remains the Maya adjusted their calendar five days every 52 years, meanwhile in the same period we adjust it 13 times!

Maya pyramid


About theburningheart

This entry was posted in Ancient Civilizations, Calendars, Cosmology, Cuneiform Tablets, Decimal System, French Revolutionary Calendar, History, Inspiration, Maya Calendar, My Friend Bob, Relativity, Science, Uncategorized, Weights & Measures and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Sha'Tara says:

    In one word: fascinating! J’appréçie là description des mesures du temps de la révolution Française.

  2. sherazade says:

    Il tuo amico Bob non ha studiato bene quello che si impara nelle scuole di vari livelli .
    Anyway tks for yr reminding me of the French calender !

    • theburningheart says:

      Non ho detto sul mio blog, ma gli ho detto esattamente questo, e, inoltre, non è stato il mio lavoro per colmare le lacune sulla sua formazione, proprio perché non stava studiando correttamente i suoi compiti!
      Grazie sherazade per il tuo commento, lo apprezziamo! 🙂

  3. Bill says:

    Fascinating post. Interestingly, the Islamic lunar calendar is never adjusted, so over time the months will fall in different seasons.

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, it’s Lunar, not Sun related,but also their year it’s based in a Cosmological relation to their Religion, that take precedence over astronomical considerations, and there still arguments by different sides about the proper way to determine it.The same way the Maya calendar was tied to their Cosmological views, our calendar the Gregorian has a Religious connotation as well by marking saints as patrons of the days, and remember how we shift Easter every year, what it’s a little know fact it has Astrological considerations to it!
      Thank you for your interest! 🙂

  4. Christy B says:

    I love coming here to learn more about the world, history, and, in this case, Bob! I hadn’t realized the differences of the French Revolutionary Calendar so that part really intrigued me. I say “cheers” within two seconds of the sixty-second minute of the hour. I could go more in depth but you know I like it all 🙂

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, what can I said my friend Bob He’s a pain on the neck, but you would like him, He’s a great reader of novels, not science, as you could easily figure out by his opinions! But in all honesty never would occurred me to write about this subject if not because this argument,I wrote this post that same evening!
      There is a lot to be said about Calendars, it’s quite a complex issue.
      Thank you for reading and your nice comment Christy! 🙂

  5. What a great post! Very informative. Thanks for stopping by my recovery blog. I also am a writer, author, and columnist and enjoy helping authors learn how and where to book promote on my Book/Readers blog. Stop by anytime!

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    • theburningheart says:

      Thank you kindly for reading, and commenting on my blog, you seem to be a Lady of multifaceted interests, I like that! 🙂

  6. kutukamus says:

    The Mayans were amazing, weren’t they? And calendar-wise, they still are!
    A very good read. And thanks to Bob as well, I guess.
    (PS: if he’s into fiction, I wonder maybe you could suggest him Isaac Asimov’s kind of fiction? Just a thought 🙂 )

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, not only their calendar help them to keep track of the dates, but it has a deep Cosmological meaning, only comparable to the Hindu Vedic and Puranic Vedic texts that describe units of Kala measurements, from Paramaṇu (about 17 microseconds) to Maha-Manvantara (311.04 trillion years). According to these texts, the creation and destruction of the universe is a cyclic process, which repeats itself forever. Each cycle starts with the birth and expansion (lifetime) of the Universe equaling 311.04 trillion years, followed by its complete annihilation (which also prevails for the same duration). This is currently 51st year of Brahma, and this is the “year” when the solar system was created according to Hindu astrology, and is the first mahayuga for humanity.
      The Maya had the Tzolk’in or Count of days with an intricate Cosmology as well by days, months, and years cycles, or Long count, something our pedestrian, utilitarian calendars completely lack.
      About my friend Bob he doesn’t like Science Fiction, only good Literature, he also very likely was not a very good student of Science at school!
      Thank you for your comment, we appreciate it! 🙂

  7. natuurfreak says:

    Very interesting post and brilliant write down.

  8. Nancy J says:

    Fascinating! I am a history, geography, ethnicity, and world cultures buff. Your blog is amazing! Packed with interesting, intriguing facts. I glad I took the time to read this post. It is excellent.

  9. “It must also be gods?”
    The mistake of the human being, to want to be compared to God
    Merry Christmas from Messina Sicily

  10. Wow, lots of interesting info here! And quite timely too,
    with the end of our current calendar year so near 🙂 💜 Jackie@KWH

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