Friday, April 29, 2011

Worldbuilding A to Z: Y is for Year

An Egyptian Calendar

The passage of time and its measurement.

No surprise here, I'm modeling the measurement of time in Akhet on that of Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians were quite advanced in this area. They had a year of 365 days. It was comprised of 12 months of 30 days each. That sounds pretty familiar, but it only nets 360 days. Which is why the Egyptians tacked on an additional 5 days at the end of the year. They were 5 days of feasting and celebration in honor of the gods Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nephthys and Horus. Thus we get a total of 365 days. However, the Egyptians did not have an equivalent of leap year and each year was about a quarter of a day short leading to stellar events that "wandered" through the calendar. Thus it is sometimes called the "wandering year".

Each month was divided into 3 weeks of 10 days. Days were comprised of 24 hours, 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. But the Egyptians based their hours on observations of the movement of the sun. From sunrise to sunset was 12 hours and from sunset to sunrise was 12 hours, equally divided. Thus the length of the hours would change during different times of the year. For instance, during the summer solstice the day time hours would be longer and the night time hours would be shorter.

The Egyptian year started with the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, or Sopdet, just before the summer solstice. The months were divided between three seasons and the first season began on the summer solstice. The season of Akhet (or Inundation) lasted from June 21st to October 21st. This was when the annual flooding of the Nile occurred and while farming was impossible people were employed on building projects. The season of Peret (Growth or Emergence) from October 21st to February 21st followed the receding of the Nile waters. During this season the newly silt enriched land was farmed. Last was the season of Shomu (Harvest) from February 21st until June 21st. During this time the crops planted during Peret would be collected in an interesting contrast with the rest of the world which started their planting at this time.

How does it work in your fantasy world? Is it the same as our earth? Or did you invent your own seasons to make your world unique?


  1. In my fantasy setting, I kept the passage of time the same as our earth. I guess it probably started out as laziness but it evolved into more of a necessity.

    I like what the Egyptians did though. Five days of feasting and celebrating sounds fun!

  2. What a beautiful calendar!

    In my SciFi WIP, the planet is a little larger than earth, so the days are longer.

  3. In my book, time is seen from a child's view, which we know (as mothers) is distorted and condensed. That allows me to write rather freely.

  4. This was a very informative post. Set me thinking about the time in the world I'm creating.

  5. Sarah, we did it! Congratulations! I have an award for you!!

  6. I like this a lot more than our current calendar. Five days of feasts and celebrating? Count me in! Although, I'm not sure how I would feel about an 8-day work week...


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