The Lunar Calendar

The Rich History Behind It!

The lunar calendar has been in existence dating back to 32,000 BC.

moon cycle

It has a mathematical basis and with some intercalucations, you can figure it out. 

However, if we look at from a historical viewpoint, it is fascinating. 

We will look at the archaeological history and the culture that used it to document the constellations, earth’s movement around the sun, and astrological details. 

"Phases of a Blood Moon" by mLu.fotos is licensed under CC by 2.0

What Is A Lunar Calendar?

To better understand what a lunar calendar is, we must first take a look at the types of calendars there are in our world.


⦁12 synodic months (phases of moon)

⦁354.37 days


⦁12 synodic months (phases of moon)

⦁354.3672 days

⦁13 month added every few years to in phase with seasons


⦁This is what we use today

⦁12 months

⦁365 days

The lunar calendar is based on:

  • Synodic months - 29.5306 days per month
  • Solar year - 354.37 days per year
  • The phases of the moon
  • Periodic adjustments/inter calculations must be done to keep in sync with seasons

Phases of The Moon 

A Lunar month is measured by new moon to new moon. 

Various phases of the moon occur in between the new moons and are depicted on a lunar calendar.

The 8 phases of the Moon

New Moon

     ⦁The moon cannot be seen because it is directly in between the           earth and sun.

Waxing Crescent Moon

     ⦁The moon has a crescent look and increases in size within a few       days period.

First Quarter Moon

     ⦁One week after new moon.
     ⦁Half of the moon can be seen.

Waxing Gibbous Moon

     ⦁Occurs during the time between first quarter and full moon.
     ⦁More than half of the moon can be seen and increases in size within a few days period. 

Full Moon

     ⦁The entire moon can be seen.

Waning Gibbous Moon

     ⦁Occurs during the time between the full moon and third quarter.
     ⦁More than half of the moon can be seen, and the shape decreases in size within a few days period.

Last Quarter Moon

     ⦁Half of the moon can be seen.

Waning Crescent Moon

     ⦁The moon has a crescent look and decreases in size within a few days period. 

phases of the moon

Who Uses The Lunar Calendar?

  • First to Use: Aurignacian Culture of Europe, c.32,000 B.C.
  • European Late Upper Palaeolithic (over 10,000 years ago)
  • Islam (present day)
  • Jewish (present day)
  • Hindu (present day)
  • Buddhist (present day)
  • Pagans (present day)

What’s The Purpose Behind The Use Of The Lunar Calendar?

The moon plays a big part for those that participate in ritualistic practices/activities.

It provides a form of time-keeping for various festivals or rituals that occur within a culture.

History Behind The Lunar Calendar

Up to 40,000 years ago, man began documenting the beginnings of the phases of the moon. 

half moon

A European culture known as Aurignacians (see image below) was responsible for inventing what we know as the lunar calendar. 

Photo Courtesy of Libor Balak, Anthropark

An Aurignacian Man

The Aurignacians made many of the lunar calendars on bones; however, stones were also used. 

These were designed for portability to be carried on hunting trips or seasonal migrations.

The ancient lunar calendars indicated that there were different phases of the moon.

These phases were counted which determined that this culture had arithmetic skills.

calculating abacus

The markings on the bone/stone carvings were carefully controlled in line thickness with a direct correlation to lunar phases. 

Photo Courtesy of Nasa Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

“A 30,000-year-old lunar calendar inscribed on bone found in Dordogne, France.”

Photo courtesy of Scott & Elaine Jones, Ancient Wisdom

Modern Day Lunar Calendar

The lunar calendar today looks a lot different than those engraved in bone/stone by the Aurignacians.


If you look at the calendar below, you will notice the different phases of the moon. 

Fun Facts About Calendars!

  • Ancient cultures used the lunar calendar to measure time.
  • Lunar New Year occurs on different dates than our traditional (Gregorian calendar) New Year date. Lunar New Year happens late January to mid-February.
  • The amount of time used for the moon to go through phases (new moon, half moon, full moon) and return back to its original position takes 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 3 seconds. This is known as a lunar month!
  • The way to measure a lunar month is new moon to new moon.


Soderman (n.d.) The Oldest Lunar Calendars, Retrieved from:

Bourrillon, R., White, R., Tartar, E., Chiotti, L., Mensan, R., Clark, Al, Castel, J. Cretin, C., Higham, T., Morala, A., Ranlett, M., Sisk, M., Deviese, T., Comeskey, D., (2018 October 20) A New Aurignacian Engraving From Abri Blanchard, France: Implications for Understanding Aurignacian Graphic Expression in Western and Central Europe, Quaternary International, Volume 491, Pages 46-64, Retrieved from: