The Ancient Armenian Proto-Hayk Calendar

The Ancient Armenian Proto-Hayk Calendar

“There is direct evidence of the existence of the proto-Hayk calendar,” said Ph.D. in astrophysics and calendar scientist Grigor Brutyan.

“In antiquity, calendar studies in Armenia were considered to be a rather rare specialty. Moreover, it was highly respected. But how much do we know about this science and its origins?”

“Let’s start with the fact that scientists’ information about calendars refers to the Christian period. We have only medieval sources. The most ancient source, albeit indirect, is considered the evidence of Movses Khorenatsi.

However, there are works related to earlier periods. In the first half of the 5th century, the calendar of Andreas of Byzantium was translated into Armenian. And the first Armenian calendar work that has reached us is dated to the 7th century.

This is a grandiose work by Anania Shirakatsi called “K’nnikon” (“canon”). Canons were chronological lists of rulers, and in any calendar, these canons played an important role because chronology was determined thanks to them. Shirakatsi’s K’nnikon hasn’t been preserved completely, but, fortunately, excerpts from it were copied in different periods, and they have survived to this day, although in a rather distorted form.”

“And what is the value of K’nnikon in terms of calendar studies?”

“According to researchers, the work of Shirakatsi was in fact an encyclopedia of almost all sciences, but with a bias towards natural sciences. And, which is extremely important, calendars, including the Armenian calendar, were also presented in K’nnikon.

Why were calendar studies considered such a rare specialty in ancient times? To answer this question, it is necessary to understand what scientific and educational systems in Armenia were all about. In the Middle Ages, they were significantly different from the ones we know today. The entire system of sciences was divided into seven so-called ‘free sciences’.”

“Free sciences?”

“I do not know how adequate such a translation is, but I find it difficult to suggest another one. These seven ‘free sciences’ were divided into 2 parts. The first part (introduced by Khorenatsi in Armenia) covered grammar, rhetoric. and logic (or philosophy).

The second part (which became widespread in Armenia thanks to Shirakatsi) included mathematics (arithmetic, number theory, etc.), geometry, astronomy, and music. Do not be surprised because musical canons are directly related to the laws of geometry, and the theory of music is based on the laws of physics and mathematics.

In the old days, musical works were created exclusively by well-known canons, and the magnificent sharakans written by medieval Armenian authors fully justify this approach to music. In short, in the 7th century, a complete education system has already been established in Armenia, and it is not by chance that it was after this that universities appeared.

Prior to this, there had only been higher schools that trained high-class specialists in various fields, but there had been no university education covering the widest possible range of sciences. So, in universities, the study of calendar studies began after students had mastered all the seven sciences listed above.

That is, it was believed that knowledge of the calendar requires prior knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, geometry, astronomy, and music.”

“Why did antique calendars have such a development?”

“Let’s ask ourselves the question: what is the place of the calendar in the human worldview? Practically in all books on the history of the calendar, you will read that the calendar was formed along with the development of human economic activity because a more accurate knowledge of the time was necessary – people had to know when to sow, when to harvest, etc. That is, the only “customer” of the calendar was life.

In my opinion, this is extremely wrong because this explanation of the creation and development of the calendar leaves many unanswered questions.

Why, for example, people that have lived in a certain territory for thousands of years suddenly change their calendar, and not always for the better? If the necessity of the calendar is explained by purely economic activities, then how to explain changes that have occurred in the absence of developments in economic activity, climate, etc.?

But if, for example, we pay attention to important historical events that took place in a certain segment of the history of this or that nation, it will become obvious that all radical changes in the calendar were preceded by a change in religion. Religious changes after some time were followed by calendar changes. So, there is some correlation, there is a connection.”

“And what is it expressed in?”

“What is, in fact, a religion? It is a system of dogmas in which we believe, and a system of rites and rituals that are performed according to certain requirements. And in order to know the place of a particular ritual in time, we need a system of temporary reference points, that is, a calendar. There can be no religion without a calendar, and there can be no calendar that does not originate from religion. Therefore, when religion changes, so does the calendar. The whole history of mankind is proof of this …”

“And how many times has the Armenian calendar changed?”

“Many times. Studies show that in pre-Christian times, there existed many calendars in different periods in Armenia. There is, for example, the Hayk calendar which, according to the Armenian tradition, was invented by Hayk, the progenitor of Armenians.”

“So is this the very first Armenian calendar?”

“It has been long considered the first. But while studying this calendar, I was lucky to find facts that indicate that it had a predecessor. I even managed to restore a certain calendar which I called the ‘proto-Hayk calendar.’ But I think that this is not the end either.”

“That is, not the beginning?”

“I imply research that will most certainly lead to new evidence of the existence of even more ancient Armenian calendars. There is information, you just need to be able to find it. The calendar is a very interesting thing. Since it has a mathematical structure, it is easy to analyze.

Analyzing one or another calendar, you can find many layers that lead you centuries back. Suppose some people that have lived in a certain territory for thousands of years change religion and, therefore, the calendar.

But no people can radically erase their past culture and the traces of the obsolete religion and accept something new from scratch overnight. From the old, something remains anyway. We adopted Christianity 1,700 years ago, but we have preserved much of the pre-Christian period — names, for example, or even rituals.

The same thing applies to the calendar. All new Armenian Christian calendars contain grains preserved from the old pre-Christian calendars, albeit very small grains. True, these grains are randomly scattered, and to put them together is incredibly difficult, but it is possible.”

“And which century after the adoption of Christianity by Armenia is the first Armenian calendar dated to?”

“The first calendar (it is called the Great Armenian Calendar) was created in the middle of the 6th century by the order of the Catholicos Movses Yeghvardetsi. Its creator was Atanas Taronatsi, the leader of the Msho Surb Karapet monastery.

The Easter lists compiled by Taronatsi – numbers of years, basically – became the years of the Armenian calendar. Then, already in the 7th century, Anania Shirakatsi, by order of Catholicos Anastas Akoretsi, created a new version of this calendar which, unfortunately, was not approved by the Church Council.

Meanwhile, the works in which Shirakatsi presented the draft of the new Armenian calendar have reached our days. A part of the aforementioned K’nnikon named Tomar is devoted to the improved version of the Armenian calendar.

For the first time after a long break, Grigor Magistros found the works of Anania Shirakatsi. This was in the 10th century. He discovered the K’nnikon in the archives and asked the Catholicos Petros Getadardz for Shirakatsi’s work for rewriting.

Thanks to the copies, we today have the opportunity to investigate the K’nnikon which would have been otherwise irretrievably lost in the archives.

In the 11th century, two exceptionally serious Armenian calendar scientists appeared – Hovhannes Kozern and Hovhannes Sarkavag, the latter being among the most significant Armenian philosophers. He made a great contribution to the development of Armenian calendar studies. In his times, the first 532-year cycle of the Armenian calendar ended.”

“And why does one cycle last exactly 532 years?”

“The cycle of lunar phases repeats itself once in 19 years. Once in 28 years repeats the parallelism of the days of the week, and calendar dates are repeated – that is, dates correspond to the days of the week. And Christian holidays are based on the phases of the moon, the days of the week, and dates.

First, Easter is determined, and then, on the basis of Easter, all other holidays. Easter is determined based on the vernal equinox, lunar phases, and days of the week.

According to the decision of the First Council of Nicaea held in 325 AD, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first spring full moon. Multiplying 19 by 28, we get 532 – the time necessary for the set parameters to repeat.”

“Yes, you can’t do well without math… So what did Hovhannes Sarkavag do?”

“In 1084 ended the first cycle established by Atanas Taronatsi in 552. Hovhannes Sarkavag created calendar lists – the so-called Computus for the new cycle – for the next 532 years.

Then, he created a new Armenian calendar, the kinds of which have never existed before. From times immemorial, the Armenian calendar was mobile – that is, the calendar year consisted of only 365 days, without the use of the leap system. The beginning of the year was not always fixed – such years were called wandering.

Hovhannes Sarkavag created the Armenian permanent, non-roaming calendar by introducing the leap day.

Did the ancient Armenian names of months, days of the week, etc. reach us? Yes – thanks to the works of Anania Shirakatsi, we know the ancient Armenian names of all the months, days, and even the names of all the hours of the day.”

“Is it possible, based on ancient calendar sources, to calculate how old the Armenian nation is?”

“This is possible, although so far, no calendar researchers have delved so for in studies. In 1974, a ceramic jug was found in Shirak dated to the 33th-32th centuries BC. On this ceramic vessel, there are ornaments that have value for calendar studies.

It was possible to restore this ancient calendar, which turned out to be very similar to the proto-Hayk calendar that I had been able to find on the basis of an analysis of the preserved Armenian calendars. This is direct evidence that the proto-Hayk calendar has really existed…”

Social and political newspaper “Voice of Armenia”


The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. On the photo: Paris Misakovich Herouni (Armenian Academician of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (1996, corresponding member since 1982), doctor of technical sciences, professor, head of the antennas department of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni

The ancient Armenian calendar, recreated and designed by Paris Herouni. Photo provided by Nana Herouni



Related Publications


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.