Years b.c.e. and Years before 0


There is great potential for confusion between the ways that archaeologists and astronomers reckon dates before the birth of Christ. For the archaeologist, the year before c.e. 1 is 1 b.c.e. In other words, there was no “year 0.” The convention amongst astronomers, on the other hand, is to count years backward on a linear scale, so that the year before the year 1 was the year 0, the year before that was -1, and so on. This means, for example, that the archaeologist’s year 331 b.c.e. is the astronomer’s year -330.

This issue becomes crucially important, for example, at the Iron Age causeway site of Fiskerton in England, where it has been proposed that episodes of reconstruction may have been associated with lunar eclipses. In order to test this idea, archaeologically determined tree-ring dates need to be compared with astronomically determined eclipse dates.

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