Re: Why not 13 months? (Was La Systeme Metrique)

Michael L. Siemon (
Sun, 09 Jul 1995 22:02:18 -0400

Sigh; I guess I'll try a round or two...

In article <3toma1$>, (Whittet) wrote:

+I am not sure why Mike feels calenders are not supposed
+to be circular, but the rhythically repeated arrangement of the glyph sets
+is well known.

I mentioned the shape and layout of the disk so that those who did not
know it would understand how unlikely your identification is _prima
facie_. Circular representations of calendars are not uncommon (cf.
the famous Aztec one); a spiral is a rather unlikely choice of layout,
but might be admitted *if* you have a case for it...

+There are twelve months on one side indicated by glyph sets ending in heads
+preceeded by disks,

I have on hand only one rather poor reproduction of the disk, in R. W.
Hutchinson's Pelican Book, _Prehistoric Crete_; the disk diameter is
about 4 cm. in the photo, one side is quite clear, the other a bit blurry.
So, let's look at what we see. The glyphs you mention are those with
numbers 2 and 12 in Hutchinson's table on page 68. By the way, the
analysis in the Cambridge Ancient History makes the text run the
other way, so that your glyphs would *begin* their groups -- don't
you think that would be better :-)

I see a number of quite serious difficulties in identifying these as
months. Please give something other than ad hoc fantasizing to
justify your casual statment above:

o To get 12 such groups, you have to assume that a division line
was NOT drawn (by mistake?) in one case -- otherwise, the
third group from the outside circumference is not at the end
of a group (or the beginning in my prefered order of reading)

o The head/disk groups are *irregular* in sequence across the
disk -- usually there are two (more or less :-)) groups between
successive head/disk groups. In some cases, however, (the 6th
7th, and 9th and 10th from the outside), they are adjacent.

This is *horribly* unpromising material for a calendar, and
needs *very* compelling reason to associate the glyphys as
months. If you are assuming pictographic reasons, don't --
both signs appear (not in conjunction) in other groups on the
disk. If you assume (as e.g. the CAH does) that the 45 signs
are a syllabary, you have an IMPOSSIBLE task in making any
kind of semantic association on the basis of the 61 groups
(presumably words) of the disk.

But let us, for the moment, presume that you *have* some reason
for taking these twelve irregularly spaced signs to be months in
a calendar:

+and one month on the other indicated by a glyph set
+ending in a head preceeded by a disk.

Bizarre. A calendar of 13 regular months with one invisible on the
back. If I were to entertain ANY calendric notion here, I'd have to
give preference to the 13th month being the "abnormal" intercalary
of a standard lunar/solar calendar -- such as the ones we know of
from the era :-), except for the then-strictly-lunar Middle Assyrian
one, and the Egyptian dissociation of solar from lunar calendars.)

The side with a single head preceeded
+by a disk divides a month into days and weeks, and the other side divides a
+year into months.

That side has 30 groups. 29 excluding the one you want to read as the
13th month. There is no regular division in these groups, and you are
indulging in totally unsubstantiated fantasy about 4 weeks of 7 days
in a month on the basis of these glyphs. (Incidentally, this is the
side that is clear in the Hutchinson plate :-))

+Woven through the glyph sets are icons to indicate the passing of seasons
+and the appropriate activities in good "book of hours" fashion.

Oh, good grief. You are projecting faces in clouds. If the signs on the
glyphs are pictographs, as would be *necessary* for such an interpre-
tation, then you CANNOT conclude anything about months from the
head/disk signs, as then there are more instances of the signs you
are using to mark months than you have room for in your calendar :-)
Special pleading that the head/disk arrangement is conventional and
the OTHER signs pictographic is contemptible. From a corpus of 241
signs, with no relation to any other script or culture, any such "con-
clusions" are idiotic.

On the other hand, if you have any REAL citations for a 52-week calendar
from ANY early West Semitic source, I would be interested -- though
knowing you I won't hold my breath for anything of substance.

Michael L. Siemon (

"For all but the last ten thousand years of human history,
unfettered travel was impossible, and diffusion of sweatshirts
was very limited." -- Jared Diamond