This post was inspired by Lynn over at Word Shamble. When I was bemoaning my lack of time–or perhaps my lack of time management–she said, oh let’s have 30 hour days and we will get it all done! A great idea. How do we do that? That’s when I started giving some serious thought to time. Time as we know it, as we grasp it, and time as we control it. Today I am digging into the history to see how time as we know it came to be.
Time as we know it: who decided on the 24 hour/7 day week/4 week month/12 month year? While many societies played around with the basics of time, we may thank the Egyptians for settling into a 365 calendar year. They actually had three calendars, a lunar, a civil and one to bridge the two. As the Egyptians settled primarily along the Nile, the annual flood was an immediate concern for them. It was observed that the beginning of the inundation–akhet–was simultaneous with the rising of the star Serpet (Sirius). From there they built the lunar calendar that they farmed by. It was separated into the twelve months, based on first day in which the old moon crescent was no longer visible in the East at dawn. The second calendar was for administrative and made out of the 365 days they observed between the risings of Serpet.They split the year into twelve 30 day months, with the left over 5 days attached at the end of the year.
Long before it was known that it took 24 hours for the earth to turn on its axis, the day was based on the movement of the sun and stars and divided into those 24 hours. The days were then made into weeks. But by who? There seems to be no certain answer to this question. While, as we all know, the week is mentioned in the beginning of the Bible, the concept of the week was used in Rome before Christianity. It was used in the imperial calendar in the Roman Empire, and the popularity increased as it was used by the Christian Church. The British Empire also used it and carried it worldwide. How did seven become the popular number? There is a theory of practical geometry: tying 7 things together makes a perfect hexagon. Other number combinations are more likely to slip out as they are carried. For primitive peoples wrapping tent poles, firewood for the next camp, or other round objects; the number 7 may come to have a mystical significance. Another viable theory is the stars. The seven planets (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn) that were known to the ancients and may have provided another mystical connection to the number 7. These answers we may never know for sure. Interesting to ponder, though, aren’t they?