Jad Adams

Time Out Of Mind

Empires of Time – Calendars, Clocks and Cultures

By

I B Tauris 371pp £16.95 order from our bookshop

 

The Nuer compute time according to male maturity rites, whether events happen before or after the last incision ceremony.The Mayan calendar started at the time the rains came, then ran for 260 days – a human gestation period. The Trobriand islanders set their clocks by the palolo worm. When it comes to the surface of the water and gyrates, thereby loosing its genital products into the Pacific, that is the time the planting month starts. They have measured out their lives in worm ejaculate.

Anthony Aveni’s book is full of such information about the way cultures mould concepts of time and the concepts maintain the integrity of the cultures. The moral of the tale is that when humans talk of time they are relating to social values rather than to an eternal verity about man’s relationship with the infinite. This may be somewhat predictable from a Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology, but the proof of it is so rich and varied that it compensates for any lack of novelty.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,