263 years ago, members of the Royal Society made a tremendous error. At the stroke of midnight on Wednesday the 2nd of September, 1752, the Governing Council of the academy (the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence) adopted the Gregorian Calendar for the British Empire, and through that the world at large. Certainly, it was and remains a measure of time decidedly superior to the Julian Calendar, but it came with two catastrophically obnoxious flaws: 1B.C/1A.D are entirely meaningless dates to 5 out of 7 people on the planet, and 1A.D does not, in any way, represent the dawn of what is now called, the Current Era. Nothing took place in or around this period to mark even some minor shift in the human condition, let alone a paradigmatic event worthy of partitioning epochs. 1B.C (Before Christ) and 1A.D (Anno Domini: In the year of the Lord) are hollow markers, and although efforts to replace these empty Christian waypoints with B.C.E (Before Current Era), and C.E (Current Era) are moves in the right direction, they do nothing to address the root of the problem: the Current Era did not begin 2,015 years ago.
We need a new calendar.
Even the concept of Current Era should be thrown out, or else any newly recalibrated calendar would begin with John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton, which wouldn’t be such a bad idea, but if we put our minds to it we can do much, much better. What is needed is a date upon which we, as a species, laid claim to the title: The Paragon of Animals. That is to say, to better honour our species and express the more palatable elements of who we are and what we’re capable of, to better represent our innate curiosity and drive to improve the societies we build, science, not Christian imagination, should mark the commencement of the Human Era.
Granted, many would argue (and argue correctly) that the art of the upper Palaeolithic, not science, should signal the start of the Human Era. Many others would argue (and argue correctly) that the first Palaeolithic burials 100,000 years ago should be the moment humans became truly “human,” and while I could argue vigorously for both, I personally feel it should be science, for science represents that astonishing moment when our ancestors made the first coordinated attempt to wrestle some sense of permanent order from the chaos swirling around… and the event which best embodies that moment is, I believe, when we started measuring time itself.
The Thaïs bone is credited by UNESCO as being “the most complex and elaborate time-factored sequence currently known within the corpus of Palaeolithic mobile art.” This inscribed rib bone (measuring 87mm × 27mm) is dated from around 12,000 years ago and the meticulously etched sequences on its faces are a 3½ year record of the day-to-day lunar and solar observations taken by a nameless but astonishingly dedicated, magnificent ancestor of yours and mine. The Thaïs bone is evidence someone wasn’t just looking up, but looking up and recording what they were seeing. The Thaïs bone is the first evidence we have of pure science.
Now, possibly even older finds like the Wurdi Youang site in Australia might push this date back even further, but for my purposes here I believe the Thaïs bone should mark the moment the human calendar begins, meaning today is not the 29th of August, 2015, but the 29th of August, 12015. Think about that for a second. Savour the date. Let it sink in. Notice how your perception of human history is instantly reformed? As Marshall McLuhan so aptly put it, “the medium is the message,” meaning the medium (the calendar itself) influences how the message (human history) is perceived. In no small way, this entirely painless recalibration would fundamentally shift the very way we look at our history, and if you change that then you alter the very way we look at ourselves regardless of borders, culture, or belief systems… and that, my friend, is priceless.