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Measuring time in "moons"
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The awaited return of the most obvious seasonal signal
The "brilliant" sectors of the sky
An assembly of sacred images

Figures portrayed
by stars in the night,
by nature "dramatic" figures

Why make reference to
seasonal stars.
Measuring time in "moons"

When lunar imagery is combined
with stellar imagery to compose a "mythical cinema"

The human condition
and its development
in the collective memory


French version


The "Metonic Cycle" of 19 years

This cycle of 235 moons covers 6940 days during the time that the sun covers 6939, 76 ??? hours, 32 minutes. A sufficiently satisfying approximation: the Jewish religious calendar, among others, uses this system while inserting an additional lunar month every two or three years.
The Greeks glorified Meton for having shown the advantages of this cycle during the century of Pericles.

However the use of the "Metonic Cycle" lasting 19 years apparently significantly predated Meton. According to Diodorus, the "Hyperboreans", peoples of the extreme north of the hemisphere, organized large ceremonial gatherings every 19 years in honor of Apollo, where music and dance were the principle features. On the Island of Delos, it was said that priestesses carrying tablets rich with knowledge came from these regions (precisely where the twinning of Artemis’ lunar cycle with Apollo’s solar cycle was celebrated). Meeting and mixing of history and myth: it was also said that Opis (one of the names of Artemis), who was one of the venerated priestesses of this island, met and was raped by Orion, which tends to confirm that the appearance of this constellation played an important role in launching the cyclic celebrations based on spiritual/physical unions (WP, Opa, Ope, Opis, Ops: Moon that opens the Cycle).

Chinese tradition appears to confirm the northern hemisphere as the source of a prehistoric culture that invented an elaborated religious calendar. The "Metonic Cycle" of 19 years was known in China under the name of Chang ("series" or "chapter") well before the century of Pericles. We find it carved on the tortoise shells (images of the canopy of the heavens and symbols of both the emergence of life in the primordial waters and longevity). The Chang appeared in the company of Fu (to be even more precise, 940 moons in 76 years) on the Ssu Fen calendar, more than a thousand years before Meton. The Chinese attribute the invention of these calendars to "mythical emperors", ambiguous figures at the border of cosmogony and prehistory. In particular, they see Yao, the son of Di Jun, the Great Monkey with a bird’s head (ideogram of the encounter of Orion and the Moon?), as the Emperor who taught men music and computation, and who produced the first calendar that took into account the seasons.

Tradition corresponds to conclusions of recent research. Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez (Doctor of Science in human prehistory) has undertaken remarkably long and meticulous Paleolithic astronomical research, consisting of on-site observations and measurements. Her work demonstrated that the small bone plaque found at the Abri Blanchard (Aurignacian site in Dordogne) represents, as Alexander Marschak anticipated in "The Roots of Civilization", two successive lunar months. In addition, the tiny pits and notches are "scientifically" exact representations of moon phases for two very particular months: the two months in springtime that precede entry into a 19-year cycle.

This work establishes that around 32 000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic, a developed culture defined and used the "Metonic Cycle" as a feature of its collective existence. As part of a long tradition that started this Cycle with the New Moon of Springtime the vestiges left by a prehistoric astronomy buff throws a completely new light on prehistoric cultures.

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