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Egyption Calendar

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago

 The Egyptian Calendar


By: Jenny Wu








Today, we sit beneath the vast totality of the night sky, wondering what its boundless expanse contains.  We are captivated by the sky, but cannot perceive what it offers.  Many people do not acknowledge the sky; it is a merely a substance that is always there, never changing, never interfering.  We are too entranced by the lure of "civilization" to truly comprehend and acknowledge the sky like the deity it once was.  However, what we, the "civilized", so blatantly ignore, the ancient Egyptians embraced.  They studied the sky like the erudite scholars of our greatest institutions, but, unlike our scholars, they incorporated the sky and its accoutrements into all aspects of their lives.  Inventions invoked by the night sky immersed themselves throughout Egyptian culture and influenced the Egyptians’ live and lives for centuries to come.  One invention in particular rose on a dais above the rest – the Egyptian calendar. 





http://www.ferrit.co.nz/WebRoot/ExtImages/Shop0150/16/d1/03/81/0736824847_s.jpg     http://www.observersinn.com/images/dsdec3.jpg      http://robertpriddy.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/moon-23oct-07.gif


The Egyptians invented the first calendar over 5,000 years ago.  They based their calendar on three very different factors –


the Nile River

the star Sirius (Sepdet to the Egyptians)

the Moon


The Nile

The Egyptians’ agricultural lives were so intertwined with the Nile’s movements, that they corresponded their calendar to the rise and fall of Nile.  The three periods into which the Egyptian year was divided were achet, peret, and schemu. 

           Achet – Achet was originally designated by the Nile’s rise in water level.  This flood period began on June 21st and ended on October 21st and was known as Inundation. 

                        During this season, the Nile enriched the normally barren land with an agricultural necessity – rich mud. 

           Peret – Peret was the time for physical agricultural activity in which the Egyptians sowed and planted on the land enriched by “rich black mud.” 

                       This period, known as Emergence, began on October 21st and ended on February 21st. 

           Schemu – Schemu was the harvest period.  Known as Summer, it began on February 21st and ended on June 21st. 







The star Sirius

Through observing the night sky, the Egyptians realized that the star Sirius was a good indicator of the water flow tendencies of the Nile.  Because the Sirius’ cycle through their night sky was more predictable than the Nile’s cycle, the Egyptians based their calendar off of this star.  They justify this correlation because of the similarities Sirius bore to the “Great Mother of all Gods and Nature”, Isis.  They believed that the changes in the Nile were caused by the tears Isis wept after her husband’s death. 


The Moon

The night sky presented the Egyptians with another correlation.  A priest noticed that each of the three seasons saw the birth of four new moons.  Unfortunately, because a lunar month contained 29.5 days, there are sometimes 13 new moons in a year instead of 12. Luckily, because the calendar was based on Sirius, the calendar came back on track every New Year.


A new moon was established as the first day of the Egyptian New Year


The first new moon to appear when Sirius emerges after 70 days of “hibernation” will be declared the first day of the Egyptian New Year. 

This moon also marked the start of the flood period of the Nile, even if the Nile has not truly risen yet. 



Because this form of the Egyptian calendar was not very accurate, a standard calendar was created in the Old Kingdom.  This calendar established the year with 12 months and 30 days per month.  However, a year of merely 360 days was too short to correspond with the length of the agricultural calendar.  Therefore, at the end of each year, five days were added, separate from the months.  These five days were utilized for celebrations and religious festivals. 



Unfortunately, the Egyptians did not take into consideration the extra .25 day of each year.  Even though a quarter of a day may appear insignificant, this accumulation over 1,460 years will result in the lost of an entire year.  Although it took centuries, the Egyptians finally learnt of the modern concept of the leap year.  I guess some could say that the Egyptian calendar was the predecessor of our current calendar, especially since the Egyptians also used a base of six. 












Works Cited


Seagan, Danyel. “Ancient Egyptian Calendar.” Astral Traveler Enquiries. 1999-2008. <http://www.astraltraveler.com/calendars/egyptian.html>.


Weininger, Richard. "The Nile, the Moon and Sirius: The Ancient Egyptian Calendar" InterCity Oz, Inc. 1996 <http://www.touregypt.net/magazine/mag03012001/magf1.htm>










Comments (4)

Anonymous said

at 1:00 pm on Oct 14, 2008

One of the best pages that i've seen. Interesting information, great pictures and easy to understand. Seems like you put effort and time into it. Great job!

Anonymous said

at 12:48 pm on Oct 14, 2008

adequate information and awesome pictures. present the calendar with thorough and clear explanation. very well meets the criteria necessary for the webpage.

Anonymous said

at 12:46 pm on Oct 14, 2008

very informative. information is easy to understand. pictures helps better understand the topic, very nice layout.

Anonymous said

at 12:45 pm on Oct 14, 2008

Your webpage is better presented than my webpage.

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