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First Millennium AD discussion

"On more than one occasion this month, Clark Whelton has assured the readers of Intersect that AD dating did not come into general use until the 1400s (see his statement below). Like so many of the revelations announced by Clark and Gunnar, this one struck me as strange. In fact, it is not only strange, it is demonstrably false as I learned after five minutes of research on the internet." - anonymous

Reply by CW

“Five minutes on the Internet” is apparently the standard of scholarship for the writer of the above statement.  Needless to say, anyone can use this worthless standard to refute EU theory, Saturnian theory, myth-related theories about Mars, or just about anything that appears on Intersect.  The ideas of those who seek to overturn an orthodoxy can inevitably be debunked by quoting their orthodox targets.

The credulous writer, however, simply accepts mainstream information whole, without trying to apply it to the issue being debated.  He believes “The AD dating system was especially popular in Anglo-Saxon England.”  As those who have been following these exchanges on Intersect will recall, until the 10th century “Anglo-Saxon England” is an archaeological abyss.  Fireplace stones, graves, garbage pits, latrines, roads, records of Anglo-Saxon royalty, the evidence is fragmentary at best. Even evidence of Anglo-Saxon agriculture is missing.  Those scribes supposedly writing AD dates  in the 7th century must have been living in invisible buildings. 

Early Christians did not count years Anno Domini (AD).  They counted years Annus Mundi (AM), the number of years that have supposedly elapsed since the creation of the world.  As noted by Richard Landes in his classic paper  “Lest the Millennium Be Fulfilled,”  ( Louvain, 1988), pp. 137-211).

"Literate cultures share an almost universal tendency to produce chronological systems; and although regional years and local systems predominate, some larger societies have adopted a single overarching era. Within both Christianity and Judaism, such a system emerged more or less simultaneously, based on the age of the world (Annus Mundi = AM). But whereas both the Greek Christians and the Jews established their current erae mundi in the early centuries of the Common Era (c. 100-250 CE), Latin Christianity, curiously, made two major revisions in its dating system during the following six centuries (c. 250-850) before ultimately abandoning AM entirely in favor of Annus Domini.”

In brief, early Christian computists placed their own era in the 6th century AM, which worried them immensely because they thought the world was going to end in the year they called 6000 AM. So they constantly tinkered with their AM chronology, hoping to delay the Apocalypse.  Landes writes...

Finally, and rather suddenly, AM disappears from common usage in its 5900s, giving way to another dating system (AM II) that rejuvenates the world by about three centuries.”

Early Christians, in other words, manipulated their calendars, not to make them more accurate but to ease their fears of catastrophe. Landes, who supports mainstream chronology, believes that, following the introduction of yet another calendar manipulation (AM III), Christians finally began turning to AD dating in the 9th century.  Later, the Julian calendar was reformed by Pope Gregory in the 16th century, but the Gregorian calendar was not accepted by Great Britain and its colonies until 1752.  Other countries used the Julian calendar until the 19th and 20th centuries.  Eastern Orthodox churches still use it today.

In Gunnar Heinsohn’s revised chronology, a massive natural catastrophe strikes down the Roman Empire circa the date we call 930 AD.  Surviving Christians began to rebuild their communities and religion, with the High Middle Ages beginning around the year 1000 AD.   At what point AD dating appears is more difficult to determine than some would have you believe.  Documents are almost useless, since they are copies of missing originals and dates can easily be forged.   An original document from the 13th century AD, the Magna Carta, does not bear an AD date.  It is dated to the 17th year of King John.  In the 14th century, Edward III dated documents to his regnal year.

For years I searched for original AD dates inscribed in stone or metal, which would make such dates more difficult to forge.  The earliest AD date I found was supposedly cast into a bell in an English church in the 13th century.  There is a brass plaque on a tomb in Salisbury with a 14th century date, though the plaque may have been added later. 

Evidence indicates that Britannia, like other Roman provinces, was devastated by a catastrophe. 

"Many [British] building sequences appear to terminate in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. […] The latest Roman levels are sealed by deposits of dark coloured loam, commonly called the ‘dark earth’ (formerly ‘black earth’). In the London area the ‘dark earth’ generally appears as a dark grey, rather silty loam with various inclusions, especially building material. The deposit is usually without stratification and homogeneous in appearance, It can be one meter ore more in thickness. […] The evidence suggests that truncation of late Roman stratification is linked to the process of ‘dark earth’ formation” (Yule, B. (1990), "The ‘dark earth’ and Late Roman London”, in Antiquity: A Review of World Archaeology, Bd. 64, Nr. 244, September, 620-628; http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9433499
 p. 620)

What is the oldest original AD-dated document signed by a Pope?  I’d like to know.  I don’t doubt that there are early examples of AD dates, mostly in theological contexts, but I stand by my original statement.  AD dating does not “enter into general use” until the mid-1400’s.    


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