Historical Events  Science
Lost 300 years

What year is it? An innocent, if not naive question to most - but there are some who think we're actually in the 18th Century because the years AD 614-911 were "doctored" from the calendar we're now using, and any events we think occurred in that period either happened outside it or were fabricated.

Termed the Phantom Time Hypothesis, it was first proposed by German historian Heribert Illig in 1991.

Phantom time hypothesis

The claim is that the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III changed the calendar to place himself at the special year of 1000 AD. This meant adding 297 years to the calendar of the middle ages, and the fabrication of any documents which contradicted this act.

The theory is controversial, and there is strong evidence against it. Documentation of solar eclipses throughout the ages exists which can be retrospectively confirmed by modern day astronomers to have occurred on the dates claimed, according to the traditional calendar.

Archaeological evidence

Much if the reasoning for the missing 300 year hypothesis comes from archaeology. It turns out there is actually very little scientific, i.e. that can be accurately carbon dated, evidence from this period and all we know of it is from written sources. This comes from authors who presumably used whatever date was prevalent at the time, no matter how it had been manipulated or otherwise. There is also the presence of Romanesque architecture in 10th Century Western Europe, which is how it would be if the Roman Empire wasn't as far away in the past as is currently believed.


Counter-evidence is provided in the accurate dating of solar eclipses. These can be very accurately back traced today thousands of years, so matching up written documentation by, for example, Pliny the Elder in 59 AD, places him independently at that date using the conventional calendar.


Some of the worlds oldest religions are still bein fully observed today. These document events which go back in an unbroken line past the period in question. A good example is the Catholic Church, where each Pope's reign is fully detailed from Constantine in 312 to the modern day. 


It is well-known that the current Gregorian calendar was introduced by it's namesake, Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582. His new calendar removed 10 days from the one introduced by Julius Cesar, which didn't account for the few extra seconds in each day which would otherwise accumulate. Could it be possible the idea of these actual missing days somehow grew into a conspiracy theory where they became 300 years?