Notes on Culture & Antique Art, Ethnic Decor & Vintage Fashion | Wovensouls Art Gallery

The Batak Calendar from Sumatra, Indonesia

Everyone reading this would know that it is the year 2012. And everyone would also know that the world did not begin 2012 years ago – so what does this mean?

If you belong to a community that is non-christian you would probably know that this is not the only dating system that is prevalent today.

I knew about the Hindu calendar and the Islamic calendar.

And now as I travel I have found the Batak tribal calendar.

The script is unique and writing skills were restricted to priests

A language that is almost extinct – with few living people practicing or transmitting the knowledge of this script, it is mostly found in scriptures stored away in museums.

On my recent travels I found a fascinating antique calendar inscribed on bone :

The concept that different groups of people have intelligently found alternate methods – all of which predict the same future through different means has captured my imagination.

Calendars came into being primarily to predict seasons for agricultural purposes based on astronomical data. Some used lunar cycles while others used solar cycles.

The language of science converged in Europe and this lead to thinkers building on each other’s work instead reinventing the wheel in their own isolated language cells oblivious of the development of others. And it is to this commonality of language that we owe the great advances in the predictive powers that science possesses today.

As Isaac Newton said “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”

It would be erroneous to attribute this success to the professors of the Gregorian calendar – rather it is the success of the team work of thinkers who used the Gregorian calendar as a base for their calculations.

Had the thinkers of the Renaissance period used any other calendar as a base for their calculations chances are that they still would have been able to predict the Transit of Venus or eclipses and leap years with equal accuracy.

Because while the notation and the Zero starting point differ – the logic having been derived from astronomical observations would have been the same. And given sufficient time for sufficient observations, the errors arising out of non-inclusion of factors or wrongful assumptions would have ironed out resulting in the same logical models.

A glance at Wikipedia showed me 2012 in other calendars :

Armenian calendar 1461        
Assyrian calendar 6762    
Buddhist calendar 2556
Burmese calendar 1374
Byzantine calendar 7520–7521
Chinese calendar

— to —4649/4709-11-19
Coptic calendar 1728–1729
Hebrew calendar 5772–5773
 Hindu Vikram Samvat 2068–2069
Iranian calendar 1390–1391
Islamic calendar 1433–1434
Korean calendar 4345

It would be a fun exercise to work out the paths that each group took to arrive at each of these different systems, and the logic and assumptions on which they based it!

The antique Batak Calendar is a part of the WovenSouls Collection linked here


June 2012


In November 2013, I received a note from Derek Scott, Canada. An excerpt is given below:

“I came across your description of the Batak Calendar inscribed on a bone while doing some searching for a similar one I also own.
I purchased several items  including a bone calendar inscribed identically to the one you have illustrated on the wovensouls website. Interestingly, however, they also gave to me a photocopy of the meanings of the calendar symbols. Please find attached a copy from the original”

The scans are linked below:

Batak Calendar – 1

Batak Calendar – 2

Thank you Derek!

jm | December 2013

8 comments on “The Batak Calendar from Sumatra, Indonesia

  1. boudewina verkaaik
    June 21, 2013

    Thank you for showing this Batak calendar I have one what is already t an old one given to me as a child when we were living ion Sumatra
    ilike to know what it says it is written on wood as a harmonica with two lizards on the top

  2. wovensouls
    June 21, 2013

    I am hoping that someone will come along and ‘translate’ the meanings that are locked in these calendars.
    I personally know very little about this object. If you wish, you could email me a picture of yours and I could add it to this blog.

  3. wovensouls
    December 3, 2013

    Thank you Derek Scott, for sharing the cipher for the Batak calendar. Am sure other readers will be as grateful as I am!

  4. Anonymous
    July 2, 2015

    You might come to USU (Universitas Sumatra Utara), there are few people that can translate it for you.

  5. wovensouls
    July 2, 2015

    Thank you!
    Will figure out how to do that

  6. Nick
    September 1, 2017

    A number of years ago I bought something Incredibly artistically similar to this one, it has taken me some time but with assistance I have managed to begin to transliterate some of the batak script, a difficult job considering there are no apparent word breaks and there are a number of different forms of batak, mine is written in Simalungun batak. Generally the inscription will be to ward off evil spirits, bring good luck or bring good health- interestingly as well the kissing lizards represent a connection between the ancestors world (the lower lizard when hanging) and the word we live in. I’d love to share more information but my time limit is up!


  7. wovensouls
    September 1, 2017

    Hello Nick!
    Thank you for sharing this! These unimaginable fact about the lizards could not have been arrived at through logic. Your story is much appreciated! I hope you will get more time in the future to tell us some more about this!

  8. Firefly
    April 29, 2018

    Thank you Jaina, thank you Derek, I just bought a bamboo calendar about 17cm in length. The information you sent is really helpful, now I just need to find out what today is on the calendar.

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