originally published July 29, 2012
Is history a lie?
Actually, history is filled with lies, depending on how specific you want to be. The winners tell the story, and those who penned the particulars were often doing so at the behest of someone in charge who was looking for something to inspire, influence, or quash a group of people. In other words, don’t believe everything you read.
But the general stuff is accurate, right? How far off can the truth really be?
In 1991 Herbert Illig of Germany decided that everything we know is based on a solid foundation of tightly-packed bullshit. His Phantom Time Hypothesis states that there has been an extensive conspiracy to cover up the fact that certain periods of history, notably the early middle ages between 614 and 911AD, never actually existed.
As conspiracy theories go this one is pretty harmless. The government isn’t out to get you, they aren’t trying to embed a mind-control chip under our skins, and those trails that come out the back of jet planes over our cities are simply a natural byproduct of powerful engines. All we have to worry about is whether people ever dressed like this:
Like any good theory, Illig provides us with numbers to back it up. The radiometric and dendrochronological (tree ring science) evidence from that period is lacking, he says. Archeological digs have not come up with sufficient evidence that those years actually happened; all we’re relying on is written accounts. Who can trust written accounts of anything? I wonder if Illig is an atheist.
The Romanesque architecture all over Europe, that’s another give-away. If the Roman Empire fell apart more than a half-millennium earlier, how could there be so much similar architecture from this phantom period of time that didn’t exist? It isn’t possible that people just liked the look of those buildings and continued to build in that particular style, is it? Has anything Romanesque been built in the modern era?
Then there’s the calendar conundrum. Julius Caesar introduced the flawed Julian Calendar back when the Romans were running the show. By the time the world had figured out that the Gregorian Calendar was the way to go, corrections had to be made. The Julian system pegged the year at 365.25 days, when in fact it’s about eleven minutes shorter. Not a big deal, until hundreds of years pass and the equinoxes and solstices are falling more than a week out of place. Subsequently, ten days of 1582 did not exist – they were wiped out in order to set things right under the new system.
Illig finds this suspicious. He believes the number of days skipped should have been thirteen in order to bring the astronomical forces into line. Yet we only skipped ten and it worked. Clearly about three centuries of supposed history never really happened, which is why we had to skip fewer days in order for the summer solstice to line up as the longest day of the year. It’s all a conspiracy and it may have started in 1582.
Okay, it may sound as though I’m making light of this. But Illig has done a lot more research into this subject; for all I know this is his life’s work. I’m no expert – I was writing a pseudo-academic treatise on the history of pogs just a few days ago. Maybe this guy is on to something.
Other people – people more educated and invested than I – have dug into this theory and planted their flags deep into the soil of doubt, allowing the breeze of truth to unfurl the hand-stitched fibers of fluttering evidence… but I digress.
There is astronomical evidence that Illig’s theory doesn’t work. For one thing, there are the Greco-Persian Wars.
History states that when these wars came to an end, there were two solar eclipses within a year and a half. If this is true, it could only have happened in 478 and 480BC. With Illig’s notion of Phantom Time, those eclipses would have actually happened three centuries later. Also, the historical sightings of Halley’s Comet fall into line with the actual years the thing should have been visible in the sky.
Illig’s insistence that dendrochronology supports his theory is inaccurate; in fact, tree ring science supports the claim that 2012 years have passed since the beginning of AD. This is because… actually, I have no idea. I’m not sure how tree-ring science can both support and refute a theory. It all sounds rather suspicious to me.
Also, the Gregorian Calendar was never intended to line things up with what the Julian Calendar laid out when it was introduced (about 45BC). They were more concerned with the changes that were made in 325AD at the Council of Nicaea, which was all about coordinating the distance between the spring equinox and Easter. Because the Gregorian solution was meant to bring things in line with the Council of Nicaea, that accounts for the three “missing centuries” of astronomical data that Illig was using as evidence.
That makes sense. I’m throwing my uneducated and uninformed support on the non-conspiracy side of this argument. But the debate isn’t over.
The New Chronology is another theory which not only believes that our recorded history is full of gaps, holes, and pickles of fact soaked in a bitter vine of chronological deception, but they take it a giant leap further than Illig would have dared. According to this theory, which was concocted by Russian mathematician Anatoly Fomenko and a number of his associates, most of our known historical events occurred between 1000 and 1500AD.
The Old Testament describes events that occurred around the 14th century. Humankind only goes back as far as the late 800’s, so about 1200 years. Fascinating stuff, and too much to cram in to the space I have left. Needless to say, if Fomenko’s calculations have any solid foundation in accurate math, historians don’t care. This theory is even further beyond the fringes of acceptance than Illig’s.
I’ve always been suspect of our written history. One simply has to look at our 24-hour news cycle to see how violently opposing interpretations of events can be reported as fact. That said, if our chronology has been padded by 300 years, I suppose it really wouldn’t change my life.
At least that’s what the chip in my head is telling me.