Tag Archives: Sargon

Cosmic Calendar: Oh the Humanity!

December 31st, at 10:30 pm, on the Cosmic Calendar:  Modern humans, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, have finally arrived!  Our entire history, both written and archaeological, is only one and a half hours on the cosmic calendar.

December 31st, at 11:46 pm, on the Cosmic Calendar:  Fire is discovered.  What we did for the 2 and a quarter million years before we had fire I cannot imagine.  Carpaccio and sashimi every day?  They must have had guts of steel.  These were not neanderthals — these were home sapiens exactly like you and me in every way… except perhaps dental hygiene.

11:59 pm:

December 31st, at 11:59:20 pm, on the Cosmic Calendar:  The domestication of plants and animals begins.  20,000 years ago.

December 31st, at 11:59:35 pm, on the Cosmic Calendar:  Settled agricultural communities become the first cities, during the neolithic revolution.

December 31st, at 11:59:50 pm, on the Cosmic Calendar:  Recorded history beginsMohenjo-daro, ancient Sumer and Egypt.  Everyone you have ever heard of, from Sargon of Akkad, Tutankhamun, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Queen Elizabeth, Abraham Lincoln, to Carl Sagan and you and me — lived in the equivalent of 10 seconds out of a year.

When the entire history of the universe is compressed into one calendar year, one second is 500 years, one minute is 30,000 years, and one day is 43 million years (43,200,000).  If this cosmic calendar were the size of a football field, all of human history would be a handful of dirt you could scoop up.

An hour and a half we’ve been here, and we haven’t done anything of significance until the last 40 seconds of the cosmic year.  Frankly we’ve lived like animals for the majority of our time here.  In the last 5000 to 8000 years, we’ve really only just started!  🙂  Look out universe!

Note the comparison of skulls — not just the hottie… we’ve become? Don’t know about you, but I’m not that hot.  Obviously.  You can tell from my avatar I look more like that guy in the middle.

You may remember Cosmos, the 1980 PBS series by Carl Sagan. Maybe you also recall Sagan’s “Cosmic Calendar” from the series, where in order to put the immensely vast history of the universe into a comprehensible scale, he mapped it onto a calendar year. In other words, if the entire history of the universe were one year, with the big bang in the first second of midnight on January first, and the present day on the last second of December 31st, New Year’s Eve. A project of mine this year has been to note the major events in the Cosmic Calendar, on the real calendar, on this blog!

And Happy New Year!

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Tiglath Pileser

I collect funny names.  Funny names have a charm all their own.  This “collection” started when I was in high school and reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  At one point the protagonist, Bernard, is brought before Mustapha Mond, the Resident World Controller for Western Europe.  Philosophical discourse on the state of the brave new world ensues.  But a lot of that went over my head the first time I read it, so distracted I was as I marveled at this incredible name — Mustapha!  Was it a real name?  Could it be?  This is science fiction after all — science fiction has quite the tendency to make up names.  Later I learned that it was in fact a real name!  “I have to remember this!” I thought.  Thus was my collection of funny names born.

At some point after that I further learned that Mustapha, or Mustafa, is actually a very common Arabic name, but that did not tarnish its luster — it was still captivatingly unusual to me.

Next in the collection was Zbigniew.  As in Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter in the ’70s.  Mention of his name on the evening news became part of the background of my life.  So, it’s a Polish name of course, but what a name!  It was definitely on the list.

In college I took a course in medieval history and found it a treasure trove of odd names — Sigibert and Fredagunda were so on the list!  Conversations with friends about this added a few more names from their family trees.

  • Mustapha
  • Zbigniew
  • Sigibert
  • Fredagunda
  • Minerva
  • Wilhemina
  • Felamina
  • Nevaline
  • Erasma
  • Alfareta

And there the list sat, forgotten as mere youthful skylarking… until last week.  Lately I’ve been listening to one of the Great Courses as I commute:  Ancient Empires before Alexander, by Professor Robert L. Dise.  It is fascinating.  The history — not of civilization — just since there have been Empires, extends 300 years further away from the time of Jesus than we stand today.  The first empire (we currently know of) of Sargon of Akkad went from c. 2334 – 2278 BC.  The 2300’s AD is where we’ve placed Star Trek in our fictional future.  And that’s just the first empire; civilization itself goes back even further.  It’s kind of mind-blowing to realize that civilization has more history BC than there has been AD — a lot more.

Ancient history is also a treasure trove of funny names!  Studying ancient history though, you quickly become accustomed to unusual names.  Names like Utuhegal, Hammurabi, Thutmose, and even Shamshi-Adad quickly cease to even raise an eyebrow after you’ve gotten into the idiom of ancient history.  But then you run into a name like Tiglath Pileser!  Wow!  Tiglath Pileser, Emperor of Assyria.  Leaving aside how brutal the Assyrians were — possibly even more brutal than the Romans — I still just have to say, “Wow!  What name!”

Suppiluliumas and Shalmaneser are also definitely on the list!  Suppiluliumas was a Hittite “Marcus Aurelius” or “Constantine” you might say.  A later emperor who reversed a declining situation for the Hittites and rebuilt and expanded the Hittite empire.  Shalmaneser was another Assyrian emperor.  I forget his claim to fame — other than being an emperor of course — but again, what a name!

  • Tiglath Pileser
  • Suppiluliumas
  • Shalmaneser

Do you have any favorite odd names?

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