1. Introduction

1. A name given to something

Many civilizations have employed names instead of numbers to keep track of years. The system is cumbersome. Each year is given a name and the name is added to the list compiled of all the previous year-names. To work out the number of years between events, the list would be consulted and the year-names counted.

An entry on the list is termed an eponym, meaning a name applied to a time interval.

caeno.orgEponym: dictionary definition

2. Count-the-names calendars

The renowned Athenians of the classical era used the eponym system. They named the years of their calendar after the Chief Archon, the constitutional head of state chosen to preside for one year.

Similarly Roman calendar years were named after Consuls. By the end of the empire, the list of eponyms was nearly a thousand consuls long and working out a time interval could be tedious.

In the New World, the Brule of the North American plains employed a system of naming years after extraordinary events rather than administrative officials.

3. Relatively certain

Eponym lists found in the Ancient Near East come from epochs earlier than the Archons and Consuls of Athens and Rome. Among the records are a collection of overlapping partial lists from the final three centuries of the Assyrian Empire. Historian stitched them together to form an Eponym List which consists of a remarkably unbroken sequence of over 250 names.

Without additional information, the sequence of named years can only furnish relative dates. However, the Eponym List includes a report of a solar eclipse in the year of eponym Bur-Saggile. Modern historians determined the eclipse occurred in 763 BC and thus established the absolute dates of List.  It spans the years 910-649 BC.

4. Stepping back in time

The previous section Nabonassar 747 indicated that astronomical observations can furnish an absolute timeline to 747 BC, but for earlier dates other resources must be addressed.

The exploration of absolute dating continues in the following study by focusing on the Eponym List. Can the sequence of eponyms be used to extend the timeline to 910 BC? And possibly, does this year mark the earliest firm absolute date?