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Roman, Jewish, etc.) and differing ways to count the number of days and months in the year (for example, the Jewish calendar has only 360 days).In the last several hundred years as the world standardized on the definition of a year (e.g. At its core, that date—any date really—is just a code.It's a three-part system allowing those in various locations and points of time to distinguish when an event occurred or will occur. Spoilers: The planet's been around longer than any of us—or any of our ancient relatives—can remember.
To read this article in full you need to be either a print archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.The intent of the world's current calendar is to number the years from the date of Jesus' birth (e.g. However, over the past two thousand years there have been a number of differing calendars (e.g. would represent 2010 years from the date of Jesus' birth).C., ultimately completing one cycle and starting anew on the not-at-all-end-of-the-world December 21, 2012. Into this calendar chaos, a humble monk by the name of Dionysius Exiguus stepped in. Surely we can find a better event to start counting from. But while months and days are based on the planet's gravitational forces, and thereby grounded in reality, the third aspect of our dating code is a total mess. Rather, we need to find another, closer Year One to begin things.This, as you'd imagine, is where things get chaotic.“At no point in world history has there ever been a single uniform dating system that's unanimously agreed to be shared by everyone,” says Dr. E., which uses the same Year One starting point, but removes the religious implications by referring to Common Era.Persians, Mayans, Jains, even Freemasons, all have their own eras.But it is the Christian era, counting 'the years of the Lord' from the birth of Christ, that is now ubiquitous in business, politics and historical writing.The first two parts—the month and date—have had a legion of originators, from Cro-Magnon astronomers marking phases of the moon on their eagle bones, to Mayan mystics tracking the movements of the stars from their forest canopies. Tests date the Earth to about 4.54 billion years old, but a whole lot of that time didn't really have anything of substance—to us humans, at least.The 365-and-change-day calendar we use is the result of scientific sweat, an attempt to bring us to a Verifiable Truth regarding how long it takes the Earth to complete one rotation around the sun. Starting a calendar 4.54 billion years ago doesn't make much intuitive sense.