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Chronology & Dates

Ancient chronological methods

During the three millennia of Mesopotamian history, the scribes used three different systems for dating administrative documents:

1) Year names
This system attributes a “name” to the current year, making reference to an official event of the previous year (e.g., a military victory, the foundation of a religious establishment, etc.). This method was common during the Old Akkadian, Ur III, and Old Babylonian periods.


2) Eponyms
This system attributes the name of a "limmu” officer to the current year; this eponym, annually appointed, gives his name to the year in question. This method was the predominant system used in Assyria for more than a thousand years.


3) The counting of years
This system, counting the years of the reign of a sovereign, first began to be used during the ED IIIb period at Lagash and it became the norm in Babylonia from the middle of the second millennium BC until the Seleucid period. A similar system was used to count the years of the Seleucid era.


Other systems were maintained as well. These include lists of the reigns of kings and their genealogies, and a system structured around narrative and chronology, called palû, that was attested in Assyrian inscriptions.

Modern chronological models

Calendars and month names. Seasonal and cultic calendars

The lunar month (iti in Sumerian, warḫu(m) in Akkadian) is defined as the interval of time between two successive apparitions of the first moon. The month begins the evening that the new crescent moon reappears for the first time on the Western horizon just after the setting of the sun. The lunar month consists of 29.53 days, 30 being the number symbolising the moon god. Although it was not always possible to observe the reappearance of the new crescent, the division of the month into 29 or 30 days remained empirical until the first millennium, when the calculations based on the ephemeral tables that took into account the different factors of visibility of the moon allowed the beginning of the month to be fixed.

Early Dynastic Calendars
Late 3rd Millennium BC Calendars
Second and First Millennium BC Calendars
chronology.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/10 17:43 by lafont
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