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Old 02-05-2007, 09:55 AM
sweeteviljesus sweeteviljesus is offline
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Oldest historic event

What is the oldest historic event that we know the date of?

Thanks,
Rob
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Old 02-05-2007, 10:04 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is offline
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Since "history" implies the writing down of things, are you wanting to know the first thing that was written down involving a date? Or do you want to know the dating (by modern methods like carbon dating) of some event in the period before things were written down? Or some combination of the two?

Whatever dating system that would have been in use at the time something was written down referring to it, that date would need to be translated into one of the systems in use today.

Maybe you could specify what sort of "event" you're wondering about, too.
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Old 02-05-2007, 10:26 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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I think I know what the OP means. Early historical chronicles tend to date events as happening in the third month of the fourth year of King whatever's reign. It makes it hard to pinpoint the precise date of any event.

I've heard that the earliest date that we can pinpoint exactly is a battle between Lydians and Medes during which a total eclipse of the sun took place. This scared both sides into ending their 54 year long war. Astronomers are able to calculate the exact date as May 28, 585 B.C.
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Old 02-05-2007, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeldar
Whatever dating system that would have been in use at the time something was written down referring to it, that date would need to be translated into one of the systems in use today.
I read the question and understood it perfectly until I read your post. . .

I would say that sweeteviljesus is probably looking for an event recorded by people in some way that persists to today, and includes a date that is somehow meaningful today. As a counterexample, the birth of Jesus of Nazereth is recorded (or at least an account is recorded, though not a contemporary one) but does not give a date that means anything to us today.

There are lots of hieroglyphs carved in stone in Egypt; some of those contain dates. We know the official birthday and coronation day of Ramses II, for example. However, these dates may not be precise, although apparently we know the year with reasonable certainty.
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On February 22, a day celebrating the king's birthday and again on October 22, a day celebrating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of king Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the Theban god of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows all year).

Ramses, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 BC (about 50 years after the death of Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut) made a name for himself by battling the Hittites and the Syrians, Egypt's enemies to the north. . . .

. . . .That the days of illumination correspond to actual days in the life of Ramses is highly unlikely, says Leo Depuydt, an egyptologist at Brown University.

"The Egyptian calendar was based on 365 days and while it was precise, the solar calendar is minutely different from year to year," says Depuydt, who adds that it is also difficult to know the precise date of the birth or coronation of Ramses II.

Last edited by CookingWithGas; 02-05-2007 at 10:31 AM. Reason: added link to source of quote
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Old 02-05-2007, 12:24 PM
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There are some Mesopotamian royalty for whom we know the times of their birth and death to within an hour or so (and the day is known absolutely). They were recorded in terms of "the seventeenth year of the reign of King Ribroast III" and the like, but the key is that the scribes also recorded astronomical observations in the same calendar system. So we can trace back when the heliacal rising of Venus occured on the twelfth date after the summer solstice and Mars went retrograde 22 days before the autumn equinox of the same year, and figure out the calendar from there.
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Old 02-05-2007, 01:48 PM
sweeteviljesus sweeteviljesus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
There are some Mesopotamian royalty for whom we know the times of their birth and death to within an hour or so (and the day is known absolutely). They were recorded in terms of "the seventeenth year of the reign of King Ribroast III" and the like, but the key is that the scribes also recorded astronomical observations in the same calendar system. So we can trace back when the heliacal rising of Venus occured on the twelfth date after the summer solstice and Mars went retrograde 22 days before the autumn equinox of the same year, and figure out the calendar from there.
Is that Babylon or ancient Sumer?

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Rob
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Old 02-05-2007, 03:06 PM
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Sumer, I think, but I'd have to double-check... Just as soon as I figure out where the heck I put my archaeoastronomy book.
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Old 02-05-2007, 03:12 PM
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And of course, as soon as I give up on finding it, I find it. It looks like the earliest usable astronomical records were from the reign of the Old Babylonian King Ammisaduqa (1646 - 1626 BC). Unfortunately, my book doesn't give more details, like which event would be earliest from that reckoning.
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Old 02-05-2007, 04:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
And of course, as soon as I give up on finding it, I find it. It looks like the earliest usable astronomical records were from the reign of the Old Babylonian King Ammisaduqa (1646 - 1626 BC). Unfortunately, my book doesn't give more details, like which event would be earliest from that reckoning.
1646 is the earlier of those two dates.

But seriously, wouldn't the event in that year be him becoming king?
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Old 02-05-2007, 04:30 PM
clayton_e clayton_e is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris
....This scared both sides into ending their 54 year long war. Astronomers are able to calculate the exact date as May 28, 585 B.C.
Would this take into account the change between the Julian and Gregorian calendars? I always wondered if old historical dates were adjusted for it..
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Old 02-05-2007, 04:44 PM
Duke of Rat Duke of Rat is offline
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Originally Posted by clayton_e
Would this take into account the change between the Julian and Gregorian calendars? I always wondered if old historical dates were adjusted for it..
If it was an eclipse, then we should be able to pinpoint the date according to our current calendars (which is what I think the May 28, 585 B.C. date is) from astronomical calculations.

What I mean is, even if it was written down in their texts from a different calendar system, we know what the date was in relation to our calendar.

Last edited by Duke of Rat; 02-05-2007 at 04:46 PM.
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Old 02-05-2007, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
But seriously, wouldn't the event in that year be him becoming king?
Probably, but from my book, it looks like good astronomical records were only taken during that one specific king's reign. So they may have started some time after his coronation, in which case we may not have a good date for the coronation itself. And I don't know what other events might have been recorded meanwhile (probably the birth of an heir, if there was one in that timespan). But even if we go with his death in 1626 BC, that'll probably beat all other contenders.
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Old 02-05-2007, 05:54 PM
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There is a date relating to Menes (first king of united Egypt) that is dateable by the heliacal rising of Sirius method... I've long since forgotten the details, but that takes you way back
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Old 02-05-2007, 05:57 PM
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Well, according to Bishop Ussher, the first dated anything happened on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC.
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Old 02-05-2007, 06:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clayton_e
Would this take into account the change between the Julian and Gregorian calendars? I always wondered if old historical dates were adjusted for it..
The usual convention is to use Julian calendar dates when quoting dates well before the switch.

(That said, the first place I thought to check the May 28th date was A Chronicle of Pre-Telescopic Astronomy (John Wiley, 1996) by Barry Hetherington and that claims to be consistently using Gregorian dates. However a couple of spot checks - the eclipses seen by Columbus and one mentioned and dated by Copernicus in De Revolutionibus - suggests he's actually using dates in the Julian calendar for the older entries, as I'd have presumed.)
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Old 02-05-2007, 06:52 PM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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Quote:
The usual convention is to use Julian calendar dates when quoting dates well before the switch.
Not always. Some information here.

Last edited by Peter Morris; 02-05-2007 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 02-05-2007, 08:24 PM
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Might not be dated to the day, but the Unification of the two Egypts as an historical event is recorded more or less contemporaneously on the Palette of Nar-mer, around 3200 BCE. So that's the earliest known historical document, arguably.
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Old 02-05-2007, 08:53 PM
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I remember reading about what was thought of as an ancient Chinese myth about a morning that had "two dawns'.

It turns out that it sort of actually happened. There was a total solar eclipse just below the horizon so the usual morning light slowly disappeared and then slowly appeared again.

Scientists were able to go back in history and find all the eclipses near China. Now they not only know the story was true, but they also know the exact time it happened.
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Old 02-05-2007, 09:23 PM
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Quote:
There is a date relating to Menes (first king of united Egypt) that is dateable by the heliacal rising of Sirius method... I've long since forgotten the details, but that takes you way back
That can get you the date (June 12 or September 19 or whatever), but not the year. For the year, you need a planet (or preferably, several of them).

Mangosteen, do you happen to remember when the "two dawns" was? I just tried searching for it, but the results are badly contaminated by fundies claiming it as verification of a Biblical miracle.
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Old 02-05-2007, 11:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
That can get you the date (June 12 or September 19 or whatever), but not the year. For the year, you need a planet (or preferably, several of them).
Nope, year is (theoretically) available. Sirius rising at dawn on the summer solstice (that's what the "heliacal rising" bit references) occurs something like once every several hundred years. Obviously, Sirius rises daily, including on the day of the summer solstice. But there's some sort of precessional thing, which I don't understand well, that means that its rising just at dawn on that particular day occurs only once in a long interval, on the order of centuries. And I know that's not a whole lot of help in clarifying matters -- but it actually pinpoints a year during Menes/Narmer's reign (noted above as ca. 3200 BC).
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Old 02-05-2007, 11:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Mangosteen, do you happen to remember when the "two dawns" was? I just tried searching for it, but the results are badly contaminated by fundies claiming it as verification of a Biblical miracle.
This eclipse site gives the date of "China's Double Dawn" eclipse as 20 April 899 BC. It's the fourth one on the list of Solar Eclipses of Historical Interest.
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Old 02-06-2007, 06:01 PM
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Nope, year is (theoretically) available. Sirius rising at dawn on the summer solstice (that's what the "heliacal rising" bit references) occurs something like once every several hundred years. Obviously, Sirius rises daily, including on the day of the summer solstice. But there's some sort of precessional thing, which I don't understand well, that means that its rising just at dawn on that particular day occurs only once in a long interval, on the order of centuries. And I know that's not a whole lot of help in clarifying matters -- but it actually pinpoints a year during Menes/Narmer's reign (noted above as ca. 3200 BC).
In principle, yes, but it would require extremely precise measurements, and I'm not sure I would trust the ancient Egyptian astronomers that far. I'm not even sure I would trust a modern astronomer with modern instruments and calculations that far: That's down into the range where a difference in the heat shimmer towards the horizon could potentially throw the results off.
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Old 02-07-2007, 05:06 AM
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Although they are probably not quite the type of event that the OP was thinking about and are not exact to the day, the dates proposed for the felling of the trees used for 'Seahenge' were astonishingly precise.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/544947.stm
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