Counting the Moon: Two equals 59 days

Above: Title Slide of my 2015 Lecture

Counting the lunar month has a deep history, reaching right into prehistory. Firstly, how does one find a phenomenon that gives a whole number of days. Its actual length is now known to be 29.53059 days, and to give a whole number just two lunar months gives 59 days, leaving just 1.8 days too little. But never mind, for the stone age this looks promising but how can one observe the moon at a fixed point and which phase is best to count.

Within a day, before or after the full moon, the Moon looks pretty full, changing little and offering no decisive moment between to count between two full moons. For this reason, a few prehistoric bones give clues to their method which involved counting days with some mark representing the Moon’s phase. This led to the sickle/cresent marks to left “(” or right “)” and between these a round mark “O” and dashes of dark or invisible moon “-“. These are what Alexander Marshack saw in the Albard Plaque, carved on a flat bone from a midden:

Figure 1 (left) Alexander Marshack investigating marked bones in Europe and a crucial interpretation of a 30,000 year old bone as a double lunar month of counting. From my 2015 lecture in Glastonbury about my work prior to Sacred Number and the Lords of Time in 2014.

Marshack demonstrated plausible evidence that consecutive day marks were used in the stone age, stylised to indicate lunar phase within a pattern recognizing that two lunar months formed a recurrent structure in time in a whole number of days, namely 58 days. The utility of the calendric device was that the cycle could be visualized as a whole, making the plaque an icon of both knowledge and meaning. This could be shared but also gave the possessor of this small bone, a power to predict when hunting is possible in lighter nights the light cycle of the moon. In addition, the moon’s phase locates the location of the sun and how many hours were left before the dawn. The bone was an overview of a daily process during most of which the moon is visible by night and day.

In following posts I look at many other ways to count the month, based on longer counts and also look at where in the lunar phases one can best start and stop counting.

You may like to watch my lecture at Megalithomania
(which starts with an ad you may skip).