Were there ever any farming societies without a calendar?

For example, the Egyptians had a calendar to help them know when to plant and when to harvest. The ancient Greeks had a calendar, as did the Romans. Were there ever any societies that lived by farming (as opposed to pastoralism or hunting/gathering) without a calendar to keep track of the parts of the year?

  • 1
    Does Stonehenge count as a calendar to your thinking? Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 18:43
  • @SevenSidedDie, I'm not sure we know what Stonehenge is with enough certainty to count it as a calendar. My guess is that the society that built Stonehenge is simply too poorly-understood to be an answer to this question.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 19:07
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    Interesting question, I'd wonder how the society would be able to farm effectively if they did not have some sort of system to keep track of when to plant or harvest.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 23:08
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    @MichaelF My thoughts exactly; without a calendar, when would you know when to plant your crops.
    – Russell
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 2:57
  • This must be tightly connected to the nature of the agriculture and seasons. In a tropical rainforest where plants grow all year around you might not need to control when you plant. In a northern clime where day length varies over the year by ±6 hours and the seasons move from ice and snow to blazing sun, then you crop once a year and need to regulate planting.
    – user55099
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 9:12

1 Answer 1


One example would be the Amondawa who are a group of indigenous peoples of Brazil. The Amondawa are a sedentary group that utilize various forms of hunting fishing and agriculture to provide for their community, yet according to researchers the Amondawa lack an "abstract concept of time."

The University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have hypothesized that the lack of the time concept arises from the lack of "time technology" - a calendar system or clocks - and that this in turn may be related to the fact that their number system is limited in detail and only goes up to four.

Amondawa seasons are decided by weather, the changing landscape and by the rhythm of agriculture itself. The irony being that instead of agricultural activities being performed by a season designated by "time", agriculture is an integral part of what actually determines the seasons.


The Amondawa were first "discovered" by anthropologists in 1986 and according to recent studies the Amondawa language has no word for "time", or indeed of time periods such as "month" or "year".


Source: Amondawa tribe lacks abstract idea of time, study says

By Jason Palmer, Science and Technology Reporter
BBC News | Science & Environment


Prof Sinha and his team, including a linguist and anthropologist, spent eight weeks with the Amondawa researching how their language conveys concepts like "next week" or "last year". There were no words for such concepts, only divisions of day and night and rainy and dry seasons.


Source: Amazonian tribe has no calendar and no concept of time

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
The Telegraph | Science News

Research team's collective article:

When Time is not Space: The social and linguistic construction of time intervals and temporal event relations in an Amazonian culture.

Article appears in Language and Cognition, 3(1): 137-169.


Chris Sinha (University of Portsmouth)
Vera da Silva Sinha (University of Portsmouth)
Jörg Zinken (University of Portsmouth)
Wany Sampaio (Federal University of Rondônia)

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