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Phantom Time Hypothesis


Android Futureman
Aug 7, 2002
What do ya'll think of this theory?
When Dr. Hans-Ulrich Niemitz introduces his paper on the "phantom time hypothesis," he kindly asks his readers to be patient, benevolent, and open to radically new ideas, because his claims are highly unconventional. This is because his paper is suggesting three difficult-to-believe propositions: 1) Hundreds of years ago, our calendar was polluted with 297 years which never occurred; 2) this is not the year 2005, but rather 1708; and 3) The purveyors of this hypothesis are not crackpots.

The Phantom Time Hypothesis suggests that the early Middle Ages (614-911 A.D.) never happened, but were added to the calendar long ago either by accident, by misinterpretation of documents, or by deliberate falsification by calendar conspirators. This would mean that all artifacts ascribed to those three centuries belong to other periods, and that all events thought to have occurred during that same period occurred at other times, or are outright fabrications. For instance, a man named Heribert Illig (pictured), one of the leading proponents of the theory, believes that Charlemagne was a fictional character. But what evidence is this outlandish theory based upon?

It seems that historians are plagued by a plethora of falsified documents from the Middle Ages, and such was the subject of an archaeological conference in München, Germany in 1986. In his lecture there, Horst Fuhrmann, president of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, described how some documents forged by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages were created hundreds of years before their "great moments" arrived, after which they were embraced by medieval society. This implied that whomever produced the forgeries must have very skillfully anticipated the future… or there was some discrepancy in calculating dates.

This was reportedly the first bit of evidence that roused Illig's curiosity… he wondered why the church would have forged documents hundreds of years before they would become useful. So he and his group examined other fakes from preceding centuries, and they "divined chronological distortions." This led them to investigate the origin of the Gregorian calendar, which raised even more inconsistency.

In 1582, the Gregorian calendar we still use today was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII to replace the outdated Julian calendar which had been implemented in 45 BC. The Gregorian calendar was designed to correct for a ten-day discrepancy caused by the fact that the Julian year was 10.8 minutes too long. But by Heribert Illig's math, the 1,627 years which had passed since the Julian calendar started should have accrued a thirteen-day discrepancy… a ten-day error would have only taken 1,257 years.

So Illig and his group went hunting for other gaps in history, and found a few… for example, a gap of building in Constantinople (558 AD - 908 AD) and a gap in the doctrine of faith, especially the gap in the evolution of theory and meaning of purgatory (600 AD until ca. 1100). From all of this data, they have become convinced that at some time, the calendar year was increased by 297 years without the corresponding passage of time.

Sometimes a hypothesis which challenges convention can be alluring, particularly when it seems to fit most of the facts… but as Carl Sagan used to say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It seems to me that all of the evidence provided by Illig and his group is circumstantial, and their conclusions misguided. The hypothesis does raise some interesting questions and point out some inconsistencies in history, but to jump to such an outlandish conclusion indicates an unscientific approach to the problem.

Not only that, but their suggestions for the possible motives behind the calendar-changing conspiracy border on ridiculous. For instance, the first hypothesis they put forward is that Otto III modified the calendar in order to reign in the year 1000 AD, because this suited his understanding of Christian milleniarism.

I consider myself a rather open-minded chap, and I researched this hypothesis with unbiased curiosity when I first learned of it. Granted, most of the materials regarding this theory are written in German and have not been translated into English, so there may be more specific arguments for the hypothesis than those available to me. But from what I can tell, this theory has no basis in fact.
I find myself wondering if you have to look like the great European-American actor Peter Lorre to believe in and promulgate this stuff.
What about chinese history and carbon dating...?
MrRING said:
What do ya'll think of this theory?


It's somewhat reminiscent of Immanuel Velikovsky's AGES IN CHAOS and possibly even inspired by it.

But while Dr. Velikovsky's views on history were outrageously radical they were by no means THIS outrageous radical!
graylien said:
If this is really 1708, then I'll have to start wearing a wig and breeches.

Don't even go there, do you have any idea how difficult it is to drive in a historically correct corset :lol:
HelzAngel said:
graylien said:
If this is really 1708, then I'll have to start wearing a wig and breeches.
Don't even go there, do you have any idea how difficult it is to drive in a historically correct corset :lol:
Drive? In 1708? Drive what? A coach and horses?

This hypothesis is fantastically bold, I'll say that. And pretty hard for a layman to disprove - it's sort of the opposite of the Matrix situation, in which we just think we're living in in 2007, but actually it's 2306 or something. I'll settle for both those theories being true, so they cancel each other out, and I can at least pretend to be living in the present.

Of course, Dr Niemitz isn't claiming that any sort of mass hallucination is going on, but rather that someone such as Otto III decided he'd like to rule in the year 1000 rather than 700, and like a medieval Jean-Luc Picard, said "Make it so". As an explanation of the facts Niemitz quotes, it's as good as any, in its own bizarre way, but I'm sure there must be many other (inconvenient) facts which need to be ignored for this to work.

The theory does bring home, though, just how difficult it is to know anything about the past. It's the old philosophical mind-game, isn't it: I tell you that the world and everything in it was created 10 minutes ago, and you try to prove me wrong.
I knew we already had a thread on this one, somewhere.
Pietro_Mercurios said:
I cycled down to South Limburg and over the border into Germany to visit Aachen and Charlemagne's cathedral, last week. When I returned, FT issue 276 was waiting for me, with an article on Dr. Hans-Ulrich Niemitz and his missing time theory. According to him, Charlemagne was a fictional character! :lol:

Hadn't heard that one before, so I had to check out wikipedia's article on the phantom time hypothesis. Uh, yes. Well. Sorry, those years are not missing.
You tell us your theory on this one, SHAYBARSABE and I'll tell mine! :D
I'm just wondering how tree ring dating, coring analysis and archaeology stack up with this. I know there are gaps in the tree ring record but other methods....?
Pietro_Mercurios said:
You tell us your theory on this one, SHAYBARSABE and I'll tell mine! :D

The theory is Western-centric. Asian records exist for the suggested "missing time."
There are quibbles about the trees chosen for the tree ring analysis, apparently.

No doubt, Asian records at the time were indeed more chronologically complete. After all, the early Islamic culture was at its zenith, especially in Spain.

However, alongside the claims for a mini-Ice Age and some evidence for devastating plagues, after the fall of the Roman Empire's grip on Northern Europe, some three hundred years previously, there's also the fact that pagan groups, like the Visigoths, Angles, Saxons, and Norse, had pretty much had the place to their own liking for a while. It took time before the Franks and Merovingians managed to assert real authority in the region.

Eventually, when Charlemagne came into a position of influence and power, he decided that he would re-invent the spa town of Aachen as a place of Christian pilgrimage, based on existing Roman remains and influenced by examples of Byzantine art. They were rough, illiterate, times in North Western Europe. Events were either not written down, or carefully scraped away from the palimpsest of history by later Christian scribes. Not much remains. Beowulf, is probably a good example of how an oral, poetic, record of events during the missing period of time, or, 'Dark Ages', might have been passed around. Albeit that it is a Christianised version, taken down in writing, by some monk with an ear for great poetry and a good story, a considerable time later.
The problem with the Dark Ages is that they're still being figured out. Whether they were actually a time from which we can glean little is a moot point. I'd agree that current outlooks are decidely Eurocentric, but that may be down to academic treatment of the period rather than actualities.
This is not as stupid as it sounds. I actually studied under Prof Fuhrmann in the little known (but very charming) German town of Tübingen. And we discussed the Middle Ages and the problem of the forged documents (though "missing time" didn't come up). That was in the late 80s.

However, to conclude from that that Charlemagne was a fictional character is completely absurd IMO. And to match documents from the time in question to Asian or Arabic records is next to impossible due to the fact that just about everything we "know" about that time is from later transcriptions.

However, if you look at the definition of the "Middle Ages", you will find it to be a rather long period and amazingly ill defined time.

There just isn't much available in source material from the end of the Roman Empire to about 1000BC - and this hypothesis might just explain it.

While I am not convinced as such, I'd put it in the "possible" basket. Some unafraid historian should look into it. Gosh - I now wish I still had access to the library in Tübingen!
As far as I can see, the position of Dr. Hans-Ulrich Niemitz, on the subject of missing time, is quite similar, if much more extreme, to the position of Dr Ronald Hutton, on folk traditions and paganism. If it wasn't written down at the time, it probably didn't happen!

Are we seriously debating the fact that the Page 3 illuminated nubile calendar didn't exist until relatively recently? Lordy. Paleolithic Man had a calendar, the Romans had a calendar, even a stick in the sand is a sundial so it's a bit of a stretch to make out no-one was keeping count.
You don't understand. The white people didn't write anything down, and you can't trust anything the darkies might have written, so it can't have happened...

Seriously, the Chinese, the Moors, and various other non-European civilisations have records of the period so it happened. And it ought to be relatively straightforward to connect accounts of events in all cultures at either side of the Dark Ages, so it's really a non-starter.

Plus, we have accounts of astronomical events going back that far, and we know how they move.
They´re not saying those 300 years are missing from every civilization. The Chinese will of course have had calendars for that time. The problem is in correlating them with European events, there might not be anything obvious which can be used. So the two calendars end up 300 years out of synch.
You misunderstand. There are events either side of the "missing" time, particularly astronomical events, that will be recorded by the Chinese (for example) as well as by Europeans. You just need to align those to show whether it happened or not.

In fact, you don't even have to go to the Chinese for your proof. We know the periodicity of solar eclipses, and how they move around the calendar. We can show where the stars were on a given day of history (or prehistory for that matter), and how the constellations have moved since. The Greeks and Romans, for a start, wrote these things down. There are centuries worth of text on this exact topic (much of which only existed in Arabic during the Dark Ages, but that's beside the point).

And then there are the written records of Western Europe from the Dark Ages themselves. They do actually exist, just not as many of them as we'd like. The monasteries did keep scholarship and literacy alive during the period, it's only the vast masses without access to them.

Basically, there is (or ought to be) a large amount of evidence to prove it either way.
I always understood the Dark Ages to be a period following the demise of a single/majority ruling body, I/E. Roman, who went into decline in Europe, as such, there was a certain amount of turmoil, where the priority of the folks around were physically establishing themselves, but not necessarily writing about it.

I also understood it to be a singulary European thang. I've never had the chance the look seriously towards other non European cultures to support any European evidence. However, I never thought there was any missing time issue.

The article posted in the leading post, still has some ambiguity about it.

Is it missing time, or bad maths? The article already states that there was an adjustment of of 'years' between two calendars.

I don't think it's about missing time, just a conflict about how we have judged time. As we increasingly establish definitive periods of history and pre history, perhaps there will be another adjustment.
After reading Jerry Glover's article, I searched for more information on the net. I don't believe this theory, but it is a good reminder of how historical knowledge is fragile and uncertain. And how interpretation plays a major role. I have never had any trouble in accepting that roman techniques were lost in Europe after the 5th century, resulting in a lack of new buildings ; I was a little surprized to see that for some, it was evidence that this time had never existed. I feel that the methods used by the proonents of this theory look like those of the debunkers.
Precedents for whole history made-up, we have. The Bible springs to mind. But the scribes and the priests who forged more than one millenia of imaginery Jewish history couldn't affect Egyptian and Mesopotamian archives.

This is where in my opinion this theory fails. Archives from both western and oriental Europe exist for this period. It supposes either that the Eastern Roman emperor chose to fake three centuries, and that the Holy Roman emperor, who was not his best friend, decided not to denounce the fraud, but to support him in this gargantuan task ; or vice-versa ; or that they both teamed up. With the complicity of the Pope, of any monarch in Europe, and of thousands of scribes forging thousands of events. With every later generation forgetting.

And it doesn't account for non-european history. China was widely disconnected from Europe at the time, so it is difficult to correlate them (although not completely impossible, as evidenced by last FT issue's letter column). India became disconnected only at the end of the Antiquity, and the dates of later dynasties seem to correlate with European history. There are also the Arab and Persian archives, who are roughly consistent with those from Europe.
It is true that early muslim history is obscure. But supposing that this time frame didn't exist doesn't make its emergence more clear, on the contrary. Not only it doesn't explain how Islam surfaced, but it fails to account how it became accepted in such a large area. Certainly not ex-nihilo. There is a dark period, of half a century or more, when the Quran seems to have been rewritten, or maybe even made-up. Three generations is what it takes for a new mythology to be accepted as the truth. I don't know Uwe Topper's and Manfred Zeller's arguments well, but this lapse of time is consistent with their phantom period. More probably a matter of rewriting history, than to invent 8 decades out of nowhere.

Astronomical events are often put forward to counter PTH. But as its proponents contest them, I think this argument should be precised. However, these German academics point genuine and serious problems.

Charlemagne, a mythical character ? Like King Arthur, for example ? Probably not, but fictionalized, this is certainly possible. I agree with Illig that probably to much is ascribed to him. The Church needed a paragon of a perfect, idealized Christian ruler. In fact, we know almost nothing of the true Charlemagne. And it may be true of any character or event from this time. Given the number of fakes and the propensity of the Church to rewrite history for its benefit (the forged Donation of Constantine is a very good example), what we really know of the Dark Ages amounts to virtually nothing. What is taught in schools and related in books, usually does not follow the rules of historical research.
There I agree with Glover's suggestion, to call for a project to establish what we can really say of the Early Middle Ages.