Today's emphasis is on extreme accuracy in minute units of time. Our modern world depends upon split second coordination, upon the precise definition of When? and How long? An international conference in 1956 established a new length for one second of time defining it as a fraction of the length of the year. The second had previously been defined as 1/86,400 of a mean solar day. Still earlier 1/86,400 of any solar day was precise enough. Extremely exacting measurements had determined that our day was lengthening 10 to 15 microseconds per year. Thus the mean solar day was not a stable constant. The second has now been redefined as 1/31,556,925.9747 of the year which began at noon January, 1900. Expressed as days and hours, that year contained 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45.9747 seconds. The older value was 46.08 seconds. Small variations in and a progressive slowing of the rotational speed of the earth made this redefinition of the second of time necessary. New, extremely accurate timing devices were allowing the measurement of time in microseconds (a millionth of a second), nanoseconds (a thousand times smaller), and picoseconds (a millionth of a millionth of a second).
Information for Calendar Designers
The most uniform measure of time known to us is the tropical year. It is one revolution of the earth about the sun using the vernal equinox (the moment spring begins) as a marker to tell us that we have completed a revolution. The return of the seasons is our standard year. In terms of the Sacred Calendar, we think of the return of Festivals and Holy Days that were meant to be kept "in their season." Without a knowledge of the length of the year the Sacred Calendar would have drifted from its tie with the spring and fall harvest seasons. Our purpose is to determine how earlier calendar designers measured the relative lengths of the day, the month, and the year. What were the builders of Stonehenge determined to understand? How does the Metonic cycle reveal time measurements? What vital information does the Saros cycle offer?
"Eclipses of the moon give more accurately than any other kind of observation the actual time when sun and moon are in opposition. From an early date, the Babylonian astronomers must have deduced from them not only the mean interval between two conjunctions, but the principle inequality in the motion of the moon and ... as on their geocentric theory they conceived it, of the sun, and they were able to define the periods of these inequalities, which astronomers call the anomalistic month and year... By assuming, what is approximately true, that the Saros of 6,585 1/3 days contained an exact number (a) of synodic Months... (b) of anomalistic months ... (c) of draconic Months... the early astronomers, perhaps in the 6th century B.C., computed the relative motions of the sun and moon, the lunar perigee and apogee, and the nodes. (Encyclopedia Britannica, article "Eclipse.")
How early were men aware of eclipses? They would have been an invaluable aid to any people using a lunar-solar calendar such as the Sacred Calendar preserved today by the Jewish people. The work of Gerald S. Hawkins pointing out Stonehenge as an early astronomical observatory capable of predicting - year, month and even day of solar and lunar eclipses has awakened this generation to the level of intelligence of these early men. Why did men 1500 B.C. care to predict eclipses?
Two methods of keeping time trace their origins back to a time shortly this side of the Flood. The one most familiar to us is the Egyptian system, an easy pattern of 30 days in a month and 12 months in a year. This 360-day "agricultural year" was followed by a waiting period of 5 days for the heliacal rising of a star. The calendar year was thus 365 days in length. No provision was made for "leap year." Only a single observation of the heavens had to be made during the entire year to keep the calendar in order, a single sighting toward the east. First the beauty of dawn, then the sudden appearance of the brilliant star, Sirius, in the southeast, following by the "first flash" of the rising sun at the solstice located in the northeast. A new year had begun. Each succeeding morning Sirius would rise four minutes earlier, easily observed before the rising of the sun. It was an event that every schoolboy might witness and testify to.
In Egypt the four-month harvest season had officially terminated 5 days earlier. Now the flood of the Nile would inundate the lowlands for a four-month flood season beginning the agricultural year. Planting season followed immediately to insure harvest time prior to the next flood of the Nile. Egypt had a year of three seasons, each 120 days in length. This same 12-month, 30-days-in-a-month principle was employed in the Tigris-Euphrates valley but with a different twist. Six years of 360 days were followed by an intercalary month of 30 days, giving a 365-day average. A four-season (rather than three) year suited the agricultural economy, and the flood time of their river was at the spring equinox rather than the summer solstice.
The Egyptian Model in Central America
The Mayas of Central America also had their basic 360-day calendar, but with 18 months each containing 20 days; then an additional 5-day period at the end to complete the solar year. "The year began when the sun crossed the zenith on July 16, and consisted of 365 days, divided into 18 months of 20 days each and an extra week, the days being grouped into weeks of 5 days each." The Universal Standard Encyclopedia, article "Maya." These three calendars (from Egypt, the Tigris-Euphrates valley and Central America) have a common origin. The same spirit of simplicity and uniformity pervades all three. A 360-day work year could be divided into either 3 or 4 seasons. Twelve months of 30 days each could be divided into thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, tenths, and twelfths. But the 7-day week was not followed by these people. Nor did their months follow the moon in its phases.
A Calendar for Tomorrow?
The New World Calendar is based on this same desire for a uniform system to promote commerce and bring "order." Four seasons would contain 91 days each, with the first month of each season having 31 days; the following two months 30 days each, producing a 364-day year. An additional day following December 30 would complete the normal 365-day year. Every fourth year a day would follow June 30 to take the place of our present February 29 that shows up each leap year. The beauty of this system lies in its monotony. Each month would contain 26 working days. Each quarter would begin with a Sunday, and contain 3 months, 13 weeks, or 91 days. The principle of this New World Calendar betrays its origin in ancient Egypt. It is a neat system, ideally suited to commerce. Its single tie with the heavens is the solar year. Its beginning would be near the winter solstice, December 22, rather than the June 21 summer solstice used in Egypt. The unbroken, 7-day week, the lunar month, and other "primitive" concepts would have been conveniently forgotten.