Roku once told Aang something along the lines of “you have mastered the elements 1000 times and you will do it again” and people took this literally to mean that Aang was the 1001st avatar, or approximately so. But I always thought that had to be a gross exaggeration as a thousand-generation timeline would span back to before homo sapiens sapiens, and certainly before any sort of human civilization.
Soo I decided I wanted to figure out how many Avatars there have been realistically, and my primary source for this is going to be the Avatar Sanctuary in the Southern Air Temple, where Aang, Katara, and Sokka find statues of all the past Avatars, with Roku in the middle and spiraling outward with each previous Avatar, going up into darkness.
From this and the floor layout of the sanctuary, we can actually extrapolate and calculate how many Avatar statues there are in the sanctuary. I’m fairly certain that all the Avatars are featured here as well, because it looks to me that the spiral continues on into darkness - the room isn’t filled to the ceiling. So somewhere way up there the first Avatar’s statue is gathering cobwebs, WHOM WE NOW EXCITINGLY KNOW TO BE SOME GUY NAMED WAN.
The article that revealed this also says that his story takes place 10,000 years before Korra’s - another rounded number, and certainly not 1000 avatars’ lives worth of years.
Anyway, with my calculations we’ll be able to figure out how many avatrs there have been (definitely not 1000) and approximately how many years ago the first Avatar’s time was.