Profile: Henry Zemel is President of the CAENO Foundation, which he established in 2000. The Foundation supports historical and experimental research pertaining to the chronology of early civilizations. He has organized several conferences, including The Origin Of Writing Systems at Peking University, Beijing; Calendars and Years at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana; and What Is Old Is New Again at ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany. Henry Zemel received science degrees from McGill and the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote and directed films for CBC – Television and the National Film Board of Canada in the 1960′s and 1970′s.
Presentation: “Calendars of the Gods”
Abstract: The conversion from a circular to a linear conception of time epitomizes a singular change in the saga of humankind that heretofore has aroused slight interest. We in the West generally think of time as linear; we can envision a timeline of events that runs from a beginning point in the past right to the present and continues into the future. The early civilizations of Mesopotamia had a different sense of time. There was no beginning. Time went round and round, like the planet gods that people worshiped. Sky-watchers observing the planets and stars drew a parallel between the cycles traced by the planet-gods and the pattern of events on earth. The calendar served as a template for celestial omens. Seers focused their attention on the pattern of happenings within a cycle and paid no attention to whether an event had occurred two or ten cycles ago. The forecast for a particular calendar date depended on the happenings that had occurred on the same date in years gone by. Consequently plenty of information about early Mesopotamian civilization has survived, but documentation of the era does not furnish an historical chronology. The advanced science (religion) of the Astral Age was founded on the observation of astronomical cycles. All observations and relationships between measured quantities were expressed as whole numbers or a ratio between whole numbers. The religion of the Astral Age imagined an ideal cosmos in which the the gods operate in accordance with a regular whole number scheme. If the Gods behave appropriately, then life on earth would be as Edenic! What Happened? The Astral Age collapsed, indeed at the end of Cyclical History and the beginning of Chronological History! The new beliefs involved a complete overhaul of humanity’s understanding of the celestial and mundane realms. The notion of a cyclical time morphed into linear time, a luni-solar calendar replaced the ideal solar calendar, and Seers created a new suite of omens to suit the new calendar. In the new paradigm, sky-watchers shifted their concern to actual observations of the planets and stars, which required that they develop new techniques for predicting what they would observe in the future, thereby planting the roots of experimental science. Furthermore, their observations recorded day by day established and defined an astronomical timeline, which modern historians of astronomy have extended intact to the present day!