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well...madara getting EMS...i wouldn't call recent.
as far as sacrifices...i didn't mean willingly...such as the way madara/itachi/sasuke achieved their power MS/EMS especially the latter...
Keep in mind the Elder Son of the Sage was the first "Uchiha". He probably didn't call himself Uchiha, but it would be his offspring that would form the Uchiha clan. Given the fact the Sage was considered a legend, I'd say he'd at the very least have to be something like 300 to 500 years old, possibly going back even further.
Definitely was longer. Remember, Fukasaku was surprised that the Rinnegan was real and he had been around for 800 years. So at the very least, we're talking about 2000 years plus for the Rikudou Sennin to have become a legend. Then again, Hashirama's power was considered a legend and not much time had pass since he had lived...
I doubt it's a merging. If that was the case, I fail to see why it would be referred to as a transplant over and over again-it's not like it would be a major shocking reveal to say "The eyes merge together, they're not replaced".
I'd find it more likely that either A ) The new wielder's chakra implants upon his brother's eye when it's implanted, thus creating the mixed design, or B ) There is no explanation; Kishimoto thought it would look cool, so he did it.