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Humans have measured time for centuries and we do so in a number of ways. Some of these are natural, such as days decided by the earth’s rotation on its axis, the seasons based on the lengths of nights and days, months roughly based on the moon’s rotation around the earth, and years, measuring the earth’s rotation around the sun, albeit from an arbitrary point.

Other measures of time are completely made up, for instance the seven-day week has no astronomical basis and was invented by the Roman emperor Constantine in the year 321 CE, after Rome had spent centuries on an eight-day week.

Though we live thinking of days in this simple seven-day cycle, we could just as easily be living in a world with a 10-day week, a four-day one or even none at all.

As for astronomical units of time, those have a longer history, with the first lunar calendar being dated back to 32,000 BCE. Later on this calendar would become crucial in agriculture, as civilizations needed the calendar to know the most efficient time to plant and harvest their crops.

The length of a year was first accurately measured in 330 BCE  by Callippus, a student of Aristotle, to be 365 ¼ days in length. He arrived at this conclusion by measuring the time between the equinoxes and solstices.

This estimate was later improved upon by Hipparchus in the year 120 BCE, when he narrowed the length of the year to 365 days, 5 hours and 55 minutes, almost identical to the modern consensus.

No matter how we measure it, time is always passing, changing the world around us. The recent deaths of Queen Elizebeth II and Mikahil Gorbachev serve to illuminate the passing of time. Even a reign of 70 years must come to an end, for everything, no matter how long it lasts, is ultimately temporary.

Sources: britannica.com/science/week, britannica.com/science/month, sservi.nasa.gov/articles/oldest-lunar-calendars, history.stackexchange.com/questions/7282/who-first-precisely-measured-the-length-of-the-year

Notices

The Montville Historical Society will host an open house at the schoolhouse next to the Town Office on Center Road on Monday, Sept. 19, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. All are welcome.

The Liberty Library will host a Zoom meeting on Maine turtles on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m. You can learn about turtles’ lifestyle and habits as well as meet ambassador turtles for the Center of Wildlife. Go to the Liberty Library webpage to register.