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HOMINIDS
Neanderthal Timekeeping
Copyright © 2002 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
Earth has three natural timekeeping units: the day (the
time it takes the Earth to revolve once on its axis), the month
(the time it takes the moon to orbit the Earth), and the year
(the time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun).
Because of our agricultural economy, which is based on
seasonal sowing and harvesting, we emphasize the year — and
corrupt the true lengths of all three units to make them into
simple multiples or fractions of each other.
The actual sidereal year (one orbit around the sun, relative
to the fixed stars) is 365 days 6 hours 9 minutes 9.54 seconds,
but we reckon common years as 365 whole days and leap years as
366 whole days.
The true synodic month (a complete cycle of lunar phases) is
29 days 12 hours 44 minutes 3 seconds, but we have "months"
ranging from 28 to 31 whole days long.
And the true sidereal day (a complete revolution of the
Earth, measured relative to the fixed stars) is 23 hours 56
minutes 4.09 seconds, but we round that up to 24 hours.
Further, many of our religions obfuscated the calendar to
reserve power to the clergy (the secret of how to calculate the
date of Easter, for instance, was originally closely guarded).
But with a nonagricultural society and no religion, the
Neanderthals have no reason to make timekeeping complex. Because
of its importance to their reproductive biology, they never
corrupt the length of the synodic month (the time between
successive full moons). Of course, anyone can keep track of this
time unit just by looking up at the night sky, so this is far
more egalitarian than our system.
The smallest common unit of Neanderthal timekeeping is the
beat, originally defined as the duration of one atrest
heartbeat, but now formally defined as 1/100,000 of a sidereal
day.
The rest of Neanderthal timekeeping is mostly based on
decimal multiples of the base units. Here are the standard
units, in ascending order of duration, and their approximate
equivalents in our units:
Neanderthal unit Equivalent

beat 0.86 seconds
hundredbeat 86 seconds
daytenth 2.39 hours
day 1 sidereal day
month (all of identical length) 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes
tenmonth 295.32 days
year 1 sidereal year
hundredmonth 8.085 sidereal years
generation 10 years (1 decade)
thousandmonth 80.853 years
(Very roughly, one can think of a beat as a second, a hundredbeat
as a minute, a tenmonth as a year, a hundredmonth as a decade,
and a thousandmonth as a century.)
The Month
The Neanderthals divide the month both into its obvious
quarters (new moon, waxing halfmoon, full moon, waning
halfmoon), and into specific groupings based on menstrual
cycles:
Day Event

1 new moon
1  5 peak menstruation
8 waxing halfmoon (first quarter)
10  17 pregnancy possible
15 full moon
15 peak ovulation
22 waning halfmoon (last quarter)
25  29 "Last Five"
Generations
Generations are born every ten years. The year is used as
the basis for generational calculation because births are timed
to always occur in the spring; infantmortality rates are reduced
by giving the child eight months before having to face its first
winter.
Calendar dates are designated by three numbers: the
generation number, the month within that generation, and the day
within that month: 148/118/28 is the 28th day (when the moon is
a mere sliver, and about to disappear) of the 118th month (the
middle of the ninth year) of the 148th generation since the
founding of the modern Neanderthal calendar (which happened in
the year we call A.D. 523).
Generation Year Current Age Members
Begun of Members
(A.D.) (years)

148 1993 9 Megameg Bek, Dab
147 1983 19 Jasmel Ket
146 1973 29
145 1963 39 Ponter, Adikor, Daklar Bolbay
144 1953 49
143 1943 59 Dabdalb (keeper of alibis)
142 1933 69 Sard (adjudicator)
141 1923 79
The Companion Era began when Lonwis Trob introduced the
implants near the end of generation 140, in the year we call
A.D. 1922.
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