by Glenn R. Smith
Western archeologists have a curious notion that although human beings have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, civilization itself is a recent invention of only six thousand years ago. It is believed and taught that the cradle of civilization began in the fertile crescent of the Mesopotamian valley and from there spread to Egypt, India and beyond. But there seems to be reason to believe that as one becomes free from cultural and religious bias one may discover that important accomplishments of mankind may be traceable to far beyond that time barrier.
The problems in tracing origins back through time are many. First is the fact that great periods of time have a tendency to erase traces of cultures. When all traces decay then the culture is effectively obliterated. Whatever is left undestroyed by time becomes subjected to the cultural and personal opinions of archeologists. Such opinions may destroy and obliterate knowledge of the culture much more effectively than time ever could. Another problem is in the epistemology or method of knowledge used by countries foreign to the country or culture being studied. In the west we have a tradition of trying to understand life by studying corpses or trying to know health by studying disease. Archeology becomes an exercise of the imagination when trying to reconstruct a living culture based on remains of pot shards, bones and bricks.
Prior to the nineteenth century, it was piously believed in western civilization that the earth was created in seven days at around five thousand years ago. The Biblical version of creation was challenged by the dual developments of Darwinism and the discovery of dinosaur fossils. Even though the gradual acceptance of these new ideas forced a revision of geological time scales, a corresponding revision within archeological studies lagged. Part of this may have been due to another emerging ideology of the nineteenth century called progressivism. Progressivism is the idea that human beings are in a progressive march towards a goal of better living and greater knowledge. This seductive ideology had its roots in earlier centuries but had its greatest impact in the second half of the nineteenth century where it influenced the thinking of such great men as Darwin and Marx. Although it is easy to accept and defend this way of thinking as logical and sound, it does have some devious implications. In a simplistic way it implies that we as a species are infinitely more cleaver than our ancestors. Since it is possible to measure our advancement in linear terms, there must be a point beyond which in the past human beings were infinitely stupid and not clever. Such human beings were incapable of civilization and they must have lived just prior to six thousand years ago.
These ethnocentric blinders that some western thinkers unconsciously wear before venturing into the past have resulted in the tunnel vision view of history as we know it today. The western tradition of writing history may be traced to the Judeo-christian scriptures wherein one group of people with shared beliefs write about the happenings of that group and the people outside that group. The six-thousand year barrier seems to be a common trait to that tradition. Other cultures, the Hindus for example, regard the earth in terms of billions of years old and civilization in terms of hundreds of thousands of years. The Hindus do not think of time in linear terms with a beginning and an end. Rather, they think in terms of great cycles of thousands and millions of years. The archeological method of digging, study and dating of artifacts may be ill-suited to understanding different cultures that don't share similar attitudes towards time scales.
Hindu scriptures were routinely disparaged by early British indologists as exaggerated stories an myths. Biblical stories on the other hand where accepted by the same indologists as being somewhere between salient fact and articles of faith. German indologists Max Mueller proposed the theory about Aryan invaders colonizing India from the north. This implies that the Indians are so inferior that it is unlikely, if not impossible, for them to civilize themselves without outside help. Native versions of the Indian origins found within living tradition and culture were totally ignored and thought to be unreliable. The British occupation of India produced scholars who's pious duty was to discredit the Hindu tradition and culture. Dates of events given in Hindu scripture based thousands of years ago were redated by the English to have occurred after the birth of Christ for no other reason than one could never rely on the version of a Hindu; the speculations of an English nobleman being wholly preferable. It remain s ironic, however, that even if the dates given by the English be accepted at face value, the Hindu accomplishments in art, architecture, science, mathematics, literature, medicine and philosophy were made at a time when the English and all of Europe were still living a neolithic lifestyle.
To diminish this embarrassing fact, the European scholars have held up ancient Greece as their cultural champion even to the point of making ridiculous claims that the Hindus borrowed all the salient features of science and civilization from them. In no uncertain terms we are lead to believe that the Hindus were incapable of any high scientific reasoning on their own and therefore depended upon help from outside sources for further development. Contrary to this point of view, it can be shown that not only did the Hindus develop a mature culture independent from western influences, the western cultures borrowed from the Hindus more often than otherwise.
One thing to point out is that each major culture of the ancient world had calendars that were unique in themselves. Calendars are dependent upon the accurate observation of heavenly phenomenon. In this endeavor the ancients were not lacking. The five major time schemes of the ancient world are of the Mayan, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese cultures. The Jewish calendar is based upon an earlier Babylonian system and has nothing uniquely original. The Greeks had no calendar that possessed characteristics different enough to place them in a separate and distinct category for they also followed the Mesopotamian standard. The Romans, who borrowed heavily from the Greeks, found it necessary to borrow from the Egyptians in order to improve accuracy. This demonstrates that the Romans considered the Greek chronography incomplete and lacking.
Hindu astronomy, their method of observation and the resulting calendrics differs considerably from the Greeks. Now the question arises that if the Hindus borrowed from the Greeks why didn't the Hindus also modify their calendar with the Greek calendar? Remember that ancient astronomy and calendrics were inseparable. Another point: It is a usual occurrence that a borrowed concept takes along a borrowed technique. The methods of observation usually accompanies the knowledge of the things observed. Why is it that the Hindus have a totally unique system of measurement and observation indigenous to their astronomical lore? The champions of western culture would have us overlook these details.
It seems highly evident that the co-existing Indian and Mesopotamian cultures exchanged ideas long before the Greeks learned how to civilize themselves. Any similarity between Greek and Hindu sciences is either co-incidental or due to Greek plagiarism of Indian and Mesopotamian concepts. Yet the bias regarding Greek primacy in all things ancient persists in western educational institutions today. Cultural bias is as destructive of fact as is the passage of time erasing artifacts. What is often passed off as profound knowledge and discovery is nothing more than the reinforcement of bias.
The main concern that would indicate the existence of civilization long before six thousand years ago is that of time measurement or calendrics, the study of which reveals much of what is missing from the digging and dating of bones. The calendar is a vital point of focus for any organized culture or society. Religious, economic and agricultural activities revolve around the calendar. To construct accurate tables of heavenly cycles, a culture must observe the sky for many centuries or at least borrow tables from another culture that has spent centuries studying the heavens. The amount of accuracy derived from observing the heavens over a long period of time suggests that the roots of civilization and some of its earliest accomplishments are much older than six thousand years. Specifically the Indian and Mesopotamian cultures.
BASIS OF THE SEXAGESIMAL SYSTEM
The sexagesimal system of measurement is based on the number sixty. There are sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in a hour. When we measure angles, we use the sexagesimal to express units in degrees, minutes and seconds. This method of measurement familiar to both the Indian and Mesopotamian cultures. It may be that one culture borrowed from the other or that both developed the system independently. Or it could be of such antiquity that both cultures shared a common origin. Whatever the case, it seems quite evident that the sexagesimal system may be based in large part upon the observation of the planets, specifically Jupiter and Saturn.
After every sixty years, Jupiter and Saturn will return to the same relative place in the zodiac. Even though they conjoin every twenty years, it is every third conjunction that they will be in the same zodiacal position as they were sixty years before. Jupiter takes twelve years to complete one circuit of the zodiac. It takes thirty years for Saturn to complete a similar circuit. Consider the following:
* Jupiter takes twelve years years to transit the zodiac. The zodiac has twelve signs. Jupiter travels an average thirty degrees or one complete sign in one solar year.
* Saturn takes an average thirty years to transit the zodiac. Each zodiacal sign has thirty degrees and Saturn travels one degree per month. Thirty months for Saturn to travel one sign. Three hundred and sixty months for Saturn to transit the entire zodiac. Jupiter divides the zodiac into twelve parts or signs. The number derived from Saturn's motion suggests the division of each sign into thirty parts or degrees.
* Jupiter and Saturn take sixty years between conjunctions to reach the same place in the zodiac. This joint motion suggests the third and fourth division of the degree into sixty minutes and each minute into sixty seconds.
The sixty years cycle of Jupiter and Saturn gives rise to another interesting number. In a sixty year period, Jupiter will complete five circuits of the zodiac and Saturn will complete two circuits. The combined individual cycles equal seven which is also the total number of visible planets plus the two luminaries.
SEVEN DAY WEEK
The primacy given to Saturn and Jupiter becomes apparent by the study of the origination of the seven day week which, contrary to common opinion, was not followed by everyone in the ancient world.
The ancient Egyptians had a ten-day week. The Vedic Indians had a six-day week. The ancient Babylonians who started the month on the day after the new moon, had the first, eighth, fifteenth and the twenty second day marked out for religious services. This was a kind of seven-day week with sabbaths, but the last week might be of eight or nine days duration, according as the month, which was lunar, had a length of 29 or 30 days. The ancient Iranians had a separate name for each day of the month, but some days, at intervals of approximately seven, were marked out as Din-i-Parvan, for religious practices. The pattern followed appears to have been similar to the Babylonian practice.
The continuous seven-day week was evolved on astrological grounds by unnamed Chaldean astronomers at an unknown epoch, but at least, long before the first century A.D. The Jews adopted it as a cardinal part of their faith during the days of their contact with the Chaldeans.
Chaldean astronomers flourished between the seventh century B.C. and the third century A.D. They gave particular attention to the study of the movement of the Sun, the Moon, and the planets, which they identified with their gods. They believed the destiny of kings and states were controlled by the gods, (the planets), and attached the greatest importance to the observation of their positions and movements. They attached magical value to the number seven which was the number of planets or gods controlling human destiny. The two outermost planets, Jupiter and Saturn, moved slowly and solemnly and therefore determined the measured boundaries of all planets within. After every sixty years Jupiter and Saturn meet in the same general area of the zodiac. During that sixty years, Jupiter completed five circuits of the zodiac and Saturn completed two circuits. The combined number of circuits for these ponderous planets is seven.
Jupiter and Saturn along with the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars, were identified with the chief gods of the Babylonian pantheon.
Notice that the order of the planets in table 1 coincides with the apparent average daily motion of the planets from the slowest, Saturn, to the fastest, the Moon.
These seven gods, sitting in solemn conclave, control the destinies of kings and countries, and it was believed that their will and judgment with respect to a particular country or its ruler could be obtained from an interpretation of the position of the seven planets in the heavens, and the nature of the motion of the planets (direct or retrograde). Part of the divinatory practices included knowing what part of the day or night was being ruled or watched over by the gods. Occurrences during a particular watch was believed to forebode particular events consistent with the nature of the watching god.
The day was divided into 24 hours, and each of the seven gods was supposed to keep watch on the world over each hour of the day in rotation. The particular day was named after the god who kept watch at the first hour at Sunrise. Thus on Saturday, the watching god on the first hour was Saturn, and the day was named after him. The succeeding hours of Saturday were watched by the seven gods in rotation as follows: SEE FIGURE 1
Above shows the picture for Saturday. On this day Saturn keeps watch at the first hour, so the day is named after him. The second hour is watched over by (2)Jupiter, third by (3)Mars and so on. Saturn is thus seen to preside at the 8th, 15th and 22nd hours of Saturday. Then for the 23rd, 24th and 25th hours come in succession (2)Jupiter, (3)Mars and (4)Sun. The 25th hours is the first hour of the next day, which is accordingly named after the presiding planet of the hour, viz, (4) which is the Sun. We thus get Sunday following Saturday. If we now repeat the process, we get the names of the week days following each other, as follows: SEE FIGURE 2
Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
The Jews, it may be mentioned, reckon the days by ordinal numbers---the first, second, third.....seventh day. Although they derived their calendar almost entirely from the Babylonians, they eschewed the god names as being inconsistent with their monotheistic religion. the ordinal first day is Saturday, which is their sabbath.
The ancient Indians did not use the seven day week. The most ancient usage of day names used in India was that of the Nakshatra. There are twenty seven lunar asterisms or constellations in the old lunar zodiac. This number was derived from the average number of days it took the Moon to complete one circuit of the heavens in relation to any particular star (one sidereal revolution). Since the Hindus didn't use hours to divide their day, the natural consequence of using a seven day week would not follow. Instead they divided a day into 60 equal parts called ghatikas. Each ghatika is equal to 24 minutes. The word "ghatika" means little jar and thus the use of water clocks suggest itself. A ghatika is further divided into 60 vinadikas. So between the two cultures, it was the Hindus who made direct use of the sexagesimal system whereas the Chaldeans used an indirect method of 24 hours.
It wasn't until much later in the third century AD where we find the first usage of the seven day week in India. Indeed much of the rest of the world had not adopted it until after the first century AD. It was unknown to the writers of the New Testament who did not mention anything about the day of the week on which Christ was crucified or the the week day which he is alleged to have ascended to heaven. The fixing of Friday and Sunday for these incidents is a later concoction, dating from the fifth century after Christ. All that the New Testament books say is that he was crucified on the day before the Hebrew festival of Passover which used to be celebrated and is still celebrated on the full-moon day of the month of Nisan. The continuous seven day week was unknown to the classical Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus and early Christians. It was introduced into the Christian world by an edict of the Roman emperor Constantine, about 323 AD, who changed the Sabbath to the Lord's Day (Sunday), the week day next to the Jewish Sabbath. Its introduction into India is about the same time and from the same sources. The week days are not found in earlier Hindu scriptures like the Vedas of the classics like the great epic Mahabharata. They occur only from 484 AD, but not in inscriptions of 300 AD or earlier. Even now, they form but an unimportant part in the religious observances of the Hindus which are determined by the Moon's phases and lunar asterisms.
In the schema of the Moon's phases we see a repeated pattern to that of Jupiter and Saturn. A lunar month is made up of 30 tithis. Each tithi is determined when the moon moves in advance of twelve degrees ahead of the Sun. Here we see the numbers 30 and 12 that are common with Saturn and Jupiter. A complete synodic period (a complete revolution around the zodiac in relation to the Sun) of the Moon, however, takes only 29 civil days. (A civil day for the Indians is reckoned from sunrise to sunrise). It is quite a regular occurrence for a tithi to be expunged from the consecutive civil day count. This c