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E: Late Mesopotamian Constellations

8: Assyrian Mul.Apin series

 

Copyright Gary D. Thompson

 

WA 86378 [now BM 86378]. Mul.Apin tablet 1 (obverse side and reverse side) in the British Museum, London. (The tablet, the most complete surviving copy, is 8.4 cms high and is considered to be a masterpiece of miniature cuneiform writing.) The broad astronomical content and significance of the (two-tablet) Mul.Apin series had been identified by the English assyriologists Archibald Sayce and Robert Bosanquet in a journal article published in 1880. The first part of the Mul.Apin series to be published (transcribed but not translated) was BM 86378 in Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum: Part XXXIII (Plates 1-8) by Leonard King (1912). This tablet is almost complete copy of tablet 1. (No complete text of Mul.Apin has survived.) See also "A Neo-Babylonian Astronomical Treatise in the British Museum and its Bearing on the Age of Babylonian Astronomy." by Leonard King (Proceedings of the Society for Biblical Archaeology, Volume 35, 1913). This article by the English assyriologist Leonard King drew attention to the importance of this text for identifying the Babylonian constellations. In the next two years numerous articles and books appeared that utilised its star list information in the attempt to identify the Babylonian constellations and the stars that comprised such.

 

This principal copy of tablet 1 (WA 86378 [now BM 86378]) probably dates to circa 500 BCE and is a late Babylonian copy of tablet 1 of the astronomical compendium Mul.Apin. The earliest copies were recovered from the royal archives of the Assyrian King Assurbanipal (667-626 BCE) in Nineveh (and also from Assur). The Mul.Apin series contains the most comprehensive surviving star/constellation catalogue. It is largely devoted to describing the risings and settings of constellations/stars in relation to the schematic calendar of twelve 30-day months.

The text of tablet 1 was able to be completely restored with the aid of five copies - one dated to the Neo-Babylonian Period, two from Assurbanipal's library (hence written before 612 BCE), and two from Assur.

The principal copy of the second tablet is VAT 9412 from Assur, dated 687 BCE. (This is the oldest of the texts.) Multiple copies of tablet 2 are known: principally three from Assur, three from Assurbanipal's library, and one dated to the Neo-Babylonian period.

In its standard form Mul.Apin  is written on 2 clay tablets and is comprised of almost 400 lines of cuneiform text. Each tablet contains 4 columns with about 50 lines of text per column. The text of Mul.Apin is divided into a number of sections and subsections, usually marked by horizontal dividing lines by the scribes. There are also texts of Mul.Apin in which the two tablets are combined in one large tablet. The connection of a third tablet to the Mul.Apin series, by some modern commentators, was probably only an occasionally added appendix to Mul.Apin.

Many copies of Mul.Apin texts exist from across the entire Neo-Assyrian Period, and it was still being recopied as late as the Seleucid Era.

The Mul.Apin series (the name being derived from its opening words) is obviously a compilation of nearly all astronomical knowledge of the period before 700 BCE. Some statements in the Mul.Apin text (i.e., stars in the paths of Anu, Enlil, and Ea appear in other, much earlier, cuneiform texts; the astrolabes and in the omens of Enuma, Anu, Enlil. Mul.Apin is the first reasonably full exposition of the knowledge developed within the almost millennium-old written tradition of cuneiform astronomical and astral omen texts. Rita Watson and Wayne Horowitz (Writing Science before the Greeks: A Naturalistic Analysis of the Babylonian Treatise MUL.APIN (2011)) state (Pages ?-175): "The consolidation of the MUL.APIN text marks the emergence of a formal written astronomical science. ... MUL.APIN may not represent fully developed science, but it does offer a unique, even vital, window onto its beginnings, and the dynamic, reflective processes involved in the emergence of a formal written science." Also (Page 174): "The observational science of MUL.APIN appears to occupy a pivotal role in the development of the late, more sophisticated mathematical-astronomy of the ACT [Astronomical Cuneiform Texts] tradition."

The content of Mul.Apin was likely assembled from component material that existed independently prior to being assembled together in the Mul.Apin series. There is lack of evidence to determine the nature of the historical process leading to the composition/establishment of the Mul.Apin text. It is generally agreed Mul.Apin represents a cumulative body of astronomical knowledge (with some data originating in the late 2nd-millennium BCE) organised in a systematic manner. Because the Mul.Apin series is most a compilation from various sources no single date is assignable.) It is difficult to identify the history of the text or the sources for its parts. However, it is reasonably certain the origin of the Mul.Apin series dates to the Assyrian Period circa 1000 BCE. (Component parts of Mul.Apin date at least to the early first millennium BCE.) The Mul.Apin series contain improvements to the older astrolabe lists of the stars of Anu, Enlil, and Ea. Various facts make a Babylonian origin of the series probable. Everything that is known about the astronomy of this period is in some way related to the series Mul.Apin. The Mul.Apin series follows the "astrolabe" system (i.e., "three stars each" calendrical system) very closely, but at the same time, it also makes some substantial improvements.

According to Wayne Horowitz, the Mul.Apin series was likely edited in Babylonia rather than in Assyria.

The Mul.Apin text includes star lists (catalogues), detailed descriptions of lunar, solar, stellar, and planetary phenomena, observational science (observations (the seasons, diurnal (night and day) events in the different seasons), measurements (gnomon tables), calculations (the calculation of leap years)), and predictions of weather and human events (omens, and astrological and mythological material). All the information is presented without accompanying  explanative text.

Mul.Apin is essentially a series of structured lists grouped into 18 sections. (It is a compilation of short texts on a variety of astronomical matters.) Each of the various component sections of Mul.Apin relates to a different set of observable or measurable astronomical phenomena. Tablet 1 basically contains eight sections (including five star lists): (1) a list of 33 stars in the Path of Anu, 23 stars in the Path of Enlil, and 15 stars in the Path of Ea; (2) a sequential list of (Morning Rising) dates in the ideal calendar (i.e., based on a year comprised of 12 months of 30 days each) on which 36 fixed stars and constellations rose heliacally; (3) a list of simultaneously rising and setting constellations; (4) time intervals (periodicity) between the Morning Rising dates of some selected stars; (5) the visibility of the fixed stars in the East and the West; (6) a list of 14 ziqpu-stars (i.e., stars which culminate overhead as more fundamental stars helically rise) [May be deemed secondary stars.]; (7) the relation between the culmination of zipqu-stars and their Morning Rising; and (8) a list of stars and planets in the path of the moon. (The beginning of the second tablet continues the listing of (8) in tablet 1.) Tablet 2 basically has ten sections dealing with: (9) the path of the sun and the planets and the path of the moon; (10) Sirius data (rising dates) relating to the equinoxes and solstices; (11) the heliacal risings of some further fixed stars, wind directions; (12) data relating to the five planets (i.e., the planetary periods); (13) the four corners of the sky; (14) the astronomical seasons (i.e., the sun's risings on the eastern horizon on the days of the solstices and equinoxes); (15) Babylonian intercalary practice (i.e., a scheme (actually two schemes) of intercalary months); (16) gnomon tables detailing shadow lengths and water clock data (i.e., weights of water for their clocks) [A list showing, by mathematical calculations, when the shadow of a gnomon (vertical rod) one cubit high is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10, cubits long at various seasons.]; (17) the length of a night watch on the 1st and 15th day of the month, tables of the period of the moon's visibility (Rules for calculating the rising and setting of the moon.); and (18) astral omens connected with fixed stars and comets.

A list of 17/18 stars/asterisms in the path of the moon is given.  A statement that the Sun, Moon, and five planets were considered to move on the same path also appears. Reports of lunar eclipses dating from the 7th-century BCE are also recorded.

The fixed star comprise a dominate feature of Mul.Apin. The Mul.Apin series contains the earliest (surviving) full description of the Mesopotamian constellations. Its detailed constellation material dates to the late 2nd-millennium BCE possibly relates to the Mesopotamian constellations being largely formalised around the time of the completion of the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil. 

The data contained in the Mul.Apin series is not quantifiable (i.e., precisely defined) and appropriate assumptions are required to be made (i.e., of the stars forming each constellation and which of these stars were listed to rise heliacally). In a Hastro-L posting (June 5, 2007) the assyriologist Hermann Hunger explained: "The tablets contain no observations. They state on which calendar date certain phenomena (mostly risings and settings) are supposed to occur. Since that calendar used real lunar months, and years consisting of either 12 or 13 such months, the date of a stellar rising, e.g., cannot occur on the same date each year. Assuming that the dates given in the text are the result of averaging, one can use them as if they were observations."

Analysing all of the star list data in the Mul.Apin series the American astronomer Brad Schaefer has concluded (2007) that the epoch for the data comprising Mul.Apin star lists is 1370 100 BCE with a latitude of 35 1.2. The actual observations to establish the data through averaging were obviously a little earlier. This corresponds with the cuneiform evidence (the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil, the astrolabes (i.e., star calendars), the creation epic Enuma Elish) indicating that most of the Mesopotamian constellation set was established during the late 2nd millennium BCE.

The older types of astronomical information (i.e., star lists) appears in the early sections of the canonical Mul.Apin text. Rita Watson and Wayne Horowitz (Writing Science before the Greeks: A Naturalistic Analysis of the Babylonian Treatise MUL.APIN (2011)) state (Page 171): "The sequence of sections in MUL.APIN, on our view, ... parallels the history of the development of ancient Mesopotamian astronomical texts, starting with lists and ending with procedural instructions."

According to the noted assyriologist Francesca Rochberg, Mul.Apin comprises an 'itinerary' of the heavenly region in the form of a practical astronomy. A function of Mul.Apin is to 'map' major celestial objects, their locations on certain 'paths' designated in the sky, and their relative positions. A practical astronomy enabling an understanding of the natural environment and a means of 'control' over the environment (i.e., rules of prediction relevant to a schematic fixed calendar).

The Mul.Apin series is usually considered to be "astronomical" (an "astronomical compendium") with the primary aim of regulating the luni-solar year. However, many of the stars/constellations listed appear to be out of order. David Brown (Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology (2000, Page 116)) suggests this "may be because the star lists were never intended accurately to reflect reality."  The star-lists reflect divinatory purposes. Tradition and divinatory purpose often determines content rather than a strict observance to observed fact. The dates given in Mul.Apin for heliacal risings of stars - though ultimately observation-based - were produced artificially.

The inclusion of an anthology of 47 celestial omens (drawn from a variety of Mesopotamian celestial divination texts) at the end of the Mul.Apin series suggests its goal was to serve as an introduction to celestial omen literature and the practice of celestial divination. The data contained in the Mul.Apin series was functionally important in the practice of celestial divination in Mesopotamia. The intended audience for the text would have been scribes receiving practical training in celestial divination. (See: "Teaching the Stars in Mesopotamia and the Hellenistic Worlds." by Jeffrey Cooley (Humanitas, Volume 28, Issue 3, Spring, 2005, Pages 9-15). Rita Watson and Wayne Horowitz (Writing Science before the Greeks: A Naturalistic Analysis of the Babylonian Treatise MUL.APIN (2011)) state (Page 170): "MUL.APIN provides the methods and procedures which underlie the raw observations and astrological interpretations of the Neo-Assyrian royal astronomers, which are preserved for us in letters and reports to the Assyrian king ...."

During the late 2nd-millennium BCE the astronomical knowledge summarised in the Mul.Apin series had spread to the Middle East, Greece, Iran and India. It was the Mul.Apin series that formed the basis for inter-relatedness between astronomical systems in these regions outside Mesopotamia.

Note: Ziqpu-stars were stars "so chosen that one crosses the meridian before dawn, in the middle of each month, as another constellation is rising heliacally." (See: Mul.Apin by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree (1989) Page 142.) The ziqpu-stars were useful if, for whatever reason, the eastern horizon was obscured and the heliacal rising of important stars was unable to be directly observed. The most common version of the ziqpu-star list contained 25 stars.

 

Appendix 1: Franz Kugler's Identification of most of the Stars in the Path of Anu, in the Path of Enlil, and in the Path of Ea (SSB. Ergn. II. Teil 1914).

1. Path of Enlil (Northern Stars/Constellations)

1) ĸ. APIN -- Triangulum (at least)

2) ĸ. Š-gi, šēbu (senex) -- Perseus (a) (kkkabu nbū ša ĸ. Šgi -- α or β Persei) (b) (kakkabāni ummulūtum ša Šugi (the dim stars of Perseus -- group of small stars in East Perseus) (c) (ĸ. Nasrapu - most probably ε Persei, (or group composed of μ, λ etc.)

3) ĸ. GM, Gamlu (ritual vessel, "weapon of Marduk") -- Auriga

4) ĸ. Maš-tab-ba gal-gal, Tu'āme rabūti -- most of Gemini, or simply α and β Geminorum

5) ĸ. Maš-tab-ba tur-tur, Tu'āmē sihrūti -- λ and ζ (?) Geminorum

6) ĸ. AL-LUL Šittu (?) -- Cancer, exclusive of β which belongs to ĸ. Siru, the serpent constellation

7) ĸ. Ur-gu-la (the great dog) -- Nēšu (lion) -- Leo (a) (kakkabē ša kakkad ĸ. Ur-gu-la -- (the two stars of the lion's head) -- ε and μ Leonis) (b) (kakkabu IV ša irti-šu -- the 4th star of his breast -- γ Leonis) (c) (ĸ. Lugal (ĸ. šarru) -- king -- Regulus) (d) (kakkabu II ša rapašti-šu -- the 2nd star of his hips -- δ Leonis) (e) (kakkabu edu ša zibbati-šu -- the single star of his tail -- β Leonis)

8) ĸ. A-EDIN, Eru -- Virgo West (Coma Berenices ?)

9) ĸ. HEN-GAL-A-A, Hegalai, nuhšu -- abundance -- Coma Berenices

10.(a)) ĸ. ŠU-PA, kakkabu namru -- the shining star - Arcturus (α Botes), at times probably the entire southern part of Botes

10.(b)) ĸ. Šudun -- yoke -- also Arcturus (a) (ĸ. Šudun-anšu -- the (forward) yoke of the ass -- η Bootis (+ neighbouring stars) (b) (ĸ. Šudun-anšu arkitu -- the rear yoke of the ass - ε Bootis (very probably also ξ, π and ζ Bootis)

11 (a)) ĸ. BAL-UR-A kakkab baltum -- Corona Borealis

11 (b)) (also) ĸ. GAM-tu -- kippatu -- Corona Borealis

12) ĸ. Mar-gid-da, sumbu -- wain -- Ursa Major (a) (ĸ. LUL-A, ĸ. Ka-a, ĸ. Šelibu, -- fox star -- ġ (Alkor) above ζ Ursae Majoris) (b) ĸ. γ, kakkabu ša ina pani (put) Margidda izzazu -- the star which stands before η (?) Ursae Majoris

13) ĸ. MU-GID-SAR-DA, niru ša šamē -- yoke of heaven -- Draco

14) ĸ. Mar-gid-da-an-na - wain of heaven - Ursa Minor

15) ĸ. AN-DU-BA-MEŠ (an-gub-ba-meš) š-ut E-kur -- Serpens

16) ĸ. AN-KU-A-MEŠ (an-dur-a-meš) š-ut E-kur -- Ophiuchus - Southern portion of Ophiuchus is named ĸ. il Za-m-m

17) ĸ. Ur-ku (Lik-ku ?) -- kalbu -- dog -- Hercules (a) (MAŠ-a-ti (ĸ. Aha-a-ti) -- star of the side -- (γ +) β Herculis) (b) (ĸ. Ur-ka-a-ti -- ζ Herculis) (c) (kakkabu edu -- the single star -- μ Herculis)

18) ĸ. Uza -- she-goat -- Lyra (also ĸ. Gašan-din, ĸ. Bēlit balāti) (a) (kakkabu nibū ša ĸ. Uza -- α Lyrae (b) (the two stars behind him (sukal il Ba-u, i.e., α Lyrae) -- probably η and θ Lyrae)

19) ĸ. UD-KA-GAB-A (Ud-da-dŭ-a) -- Panther -- Cygnus + Pegasus + α Andromedae (a) (Kumaru ša ĸ. Ud-ka-dŭ-a -- δ Cygni) (b) (Kakkabu nibū ša irti-šu -- α Cygni) (c) (Kinsu ša ĸ. Ud-ka-dŭ-a -- η Pegasi) (d) (Asidu ša Ud-ka-dŭ-a -- α Andromedae)

20) ĸ. ŠAH (šahu) il Da-mu -- very probably Delphinus

21) ĸ. Sisū -- horse -- very probably Equuleus

22) ĸ. Lulim -- at least Andromeda

2. Path of Anu (Middle of "Equatorial" Stars/Constellations)

1) ĸ. Šim-mah (Šinunutum -- kakkab imbari) -- the swallow and storm constellation -- West Aquarius (α, β, χ, ε and ν)

2) ĸ. DIL-GAN, ĸ. Iku -- constellation which in various periods had different extent - four forms to be distinguished: 1) Aries (= Hired Labourer) + Cetus + East Aquarius, 2) Aries (= Hired Labourer) + Cetus -> East Aquarius - GU-LA, 3) Cetus + East Aquarius -> Aries KU-MAL, 4) Cetus -> Aries KU-MAL / East Aquarius GU-LA

3) ĸ. Anūnitū, ĸ. nār Dillat (Tigris constellation), ĸ. Tultum (worm constellation) the SW portion of Pisces plus the "band" ω-ζ Piscium

4) ĸ. avēl KU-MAL -- Agru, the hired labourer - Aries

5) ĸ. MUL-MUL, ĸ. Sappa -- Pleiades + ζ or ο Persei

6) giš ĸ. Li-e -- tablet (of fate), ĸ. G-an-na, tiara of Anu -- Aldebaran plus Hyades

7) ĸ. Sib-zi-an-na -- faithful shepherd of heaven - Orion

8) ĸ. Maš-tab-ba ša ina mihrit ĸ. Sibzianna -- the twins who stand opposite Orion -- γ and ξ Geminorum

9) ĸ. Dar-lugal -- canis minor or Procyon (α) alone

10) ĸ. Kak-si-di, kakkab mišrē -- bow star -- Sirius plus a star in Southern Canis Major (ε or η)

11) ĸ. Ban, ĸ. Kaštu -- Bow-star -- ε, δ, τ Canis Majoris plus χ, l, Puppis

12) ĸ. Muš, ĸ. Siru -- snake -- Hydra + β Cancri

13) ĸ. U-NAG-GA hu, BD-GA, -ga, Aribu -- raven -- Corvus - and part of Crater

14) ĸ. AB-SIM -- East Virgo (also Spica (α Virginis) alone)

15) ĸ. Zi-ba-an-na, Zibānitu, scale: karān ĸ. Akrabi -- horn (claw) of the scorpion -- Libra

16) ĸ  il Za-m-m -- Southern portion of AN-KU-A-MEŠ -- Ophiuchus

17) ĸ. ID hu, ĸ. Našru -- eagle -- Aquila

18) ĸ. avel BAD (mitu, pagru) death-constellation -- very probably Antinoos

3. Path of Ea (Southern Stars/Constellations)

1) ĸ. HA (ĸ. Nūnu) ĸ. HA (Nūnu) il E-a -- fish, fish of Ea -- Piscis Austrinus, more exactly its Southern portion plus Formalhaut

2 (a)) ĸ. NUN ĸı (Eridu) il E-a -- Eridu, city of Ea -- Vela plus Southern Puppis

2 (b)) (with this (see 2a above) are wholly or partially identified (α) ĸ. MU-GID-a-ab-ba -- ĸ. Šudun a-ab-ba -- yoke of the ocean (of Ea)) (β) ĸ. BIR, il Ni-ru il E-a, yoke of Ea

3) ĸ. Nin-mah -- Very probably Carina East

4) ĸ. En-te-na -- maš-šig, -- Centaurus exclusive of NE section (cf. UR-BE)

5) ĸ.giš GAN-UR (GUŠUR), maškakatu, -- Crux

6) il PA and il Lugal -- the two stars behind Maškakatu - β and α Centauri

7) ĸ. NU-MUŠ-DA -- Namaššu -- group of stars between -- β Sagittarii - α Phoenicis (ref. Indus + Grus)

 

Appendix 2: The Identification of the Mul.Apin Series Star Catalogue by Hunger/Pingree

The primary focus of Mul.Apin is calendric. The fixed-star catalog of Mul.Apin contains 60 rising and setting stars/constellations, 6 circumpolar stars/constellations, and 5 planets. The stars/constellations are arranged into 3 groups according to the 3 "Paths" on which they supposedly rise and set. The Path of Enlil is to the north, the Path of Anu is in the centre, and the Path of Ea is to the south. These Paths are only roughly demarcated bands. The Enlil stars are listed first, the Anu stars are listed next, and the Ea stars are listed last (see: CT XXXIII Plate 9). There are 33 stars in the Path of Enlil (tablet 1, column 1, lines 1-39), 23 stars in the Path of Anu (tablet 1, column 1, lines 39-44 & column 2, lines 1-18), and 15 stars in the Path of Ea (tablet 1, column 2, lines 19-35). Hunger/Pingree (Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia) date the Mul.Apin series to circa 1000 BCE but also allow that some parts comprising the compendium may be earlier (i.e., circa 1200/1100 BCE). Mul.Apin does not completely abandon the "astrolabe" tradition of 36 month-stars (see: Mul.Apin tablet 1, Section 2, which lists 36 stars that heliacally rise consecutively over the course of the year. The following table relies heavily on Mul.Apin (1989) by Hunger/Pingree.

33 Stars/Constellations in the Path of Enlil (Northern Region of the Sky)

Name (Transliteration: Sumerian [Akkadian])

Name (Translation)

Description Given by Mul.Apin

Modern Identification by Hunger/Pingree

mul gisAPIN [Epinnu]

The Plough

The Plough, dEnlil, who goes at the front of the stars of dEnlil

α and β Trianguli with γ Andromedae

mulUR.BAR.RA [Barbaru]

The Wolf

The Wolf, the seeder of the Plough

α Trianguli

mulSU.GI [Sibu]

The Old Man

The Old Man, dEnmesarra [An ancestor of Enlil]

Perseus [When GIGIR Enmesarra is included it extends to the northern part of Taurus]

mulGAM [Gamlu]

The Crook

The Crook, dGamlum

Auriga

mulMAS.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL.LA [Tu'amu rabutu]

The Great Twins

The Great Twins, dLugalgirra and dMeslamtaea

α and β Geminorum [Castor and Pollux] and the stars north and south of them

mulMAS.TAB.BA.TUR.TUR [Tu'amu sehrutu]

The Little Twins

The Little Twins, dAlammus and dNin-EZENxGUD [dNin-ezen-gu4]

ζ and λ Geminorum and the stars north, south, and west of them

mulAL.LUL [Alluttu]

The Crab

The Crab, the seat of dAnu

Cancer

mulUR.GU.LA [Urgulu]

The Lion

The Lion, dLatarak [A lion-headed protector god]

Leo

[mulUR.GU.LA] mulLugal [Urguli [Sarru]]

The King

The star which stands in the breast of the Lion: the King

α Leonis [= Regulus]

MULmes um-mu-lu-tum [mulUR.GU.LA]

The Dusky Stars [Lion]

The dusky stars which stand in the tail of the Lion [Star descriptor is continued below]

5 Leonis? 21 Leonis?

? [mulUR.GU.LA] ? [Urguli]

The Frond [Lion]

The Frond [Sis-si-nu/Sissinu] (of the date palm) of dEru, dZarpanitu

γ Comae Berenices?

mulSU.PA [SU.PA]

[SU.PA]

SU.PA, dEnlil, who decrees the fate of the land

Botes

mulHe-gal-a-a-u [Hegalaju]

The Abundant One

The star which stands in front of it: the Abundant One, the messenger of dNinlil [Wife of Enlil]

β Comae Berenices?

MUL.BAL.TES.A [balti [BAL.TES.A]]

The Star of Dignity

The star which stands behind it: the Star of Dignity, the messenger of dTispak [A warrior god]

Corona Borealis?

mulMAR.GID.DA [Ereqqu [MAR.GID.DA]]

The Wagon

The Wagon, dNinlil

Ursa Maior Note: Circumpolar

mulMAR.GID.DA [MAR.GID.DA]

The Wagon

The star which stands in the cart-pole of the Wagon

Ursa Maior Note: Circumpolar [Not one of the 33 listed stars in the path of Enlil but a descriptor that is a prelude to identifying the Fox]

mulKA5.A [Selebu]

The Fox

The Fox, dErra, the strong one among the gods

80-86 Ursae Maioris? Note: Circumpolar [= Alkor?]

[mulMAR.GID.DA] mulU8 [Lahru]

The Ewe

The star which stands in front of the Wagon: the Ewe, dAya

Northeastern part of Botes? Note: Circumpolar

mulMU.BU.KES.DA [MU.BU.KES.DA]

The Hitched Yoke

The Hitched Yoke, the Great Anu of Heaven

α Draconis [Thuban?] Note: Circumpolar

mulMAR.GID.DA.AN.NA [MAR.GID.DA.AN.NA]

The Wagon of Heaven

The Wagon of Heaven, dDamkianna

Ursa Minor Note: Circumpolar

mulIBILA.E.MAH [Ibila-Emah]

The Heir of the Sublime Temple

The star which stands in its rope: the Heir of the Sublime Temple (the first ranking son of dAnu)

α Ursae Minoris? [Polaris?] Note: Circumpolar

mulDINGIR.GUB.BAmes  [dingirgubbu]  

The Standing Gods   

The Standing Gods of Ekur (temple of dEnlil)

The Standing Gods of Ekur: ζ and η Herculis?

mulDINGIR.TUS.Ames [dingirtusu]

The Sitting Gods

The Sitting Gods of Ekur [The temple of Enlil]

The Sitting Gods of Ekur: ε, π, ο, and θ Herculis?

mulUZ [Enzu]

The She-Goat

The She-Goat, dGula

Lyra

[mulUZ] mulUR.KU [Kalbu]

The Dog

The star which stands in front of the She-Goat, the dDog

Southern part of Hercules

[mulUZ] dLAMMA [Lammassu]

LAMMA

The bright star of the She-Goat: dLamma, the messenger of dBaba

α Lyrae

dNin-SAR    dEr-ra-gal [Nin-SAR u Erragal]

Nin-SAR and Erragal

The two stars which stand beside it: dNin-SAR and dErragal

ε and ζ Lyrae

mulUD.KA.DUH.A [Nimru]

The Panther

The Panther: dNergal

Cygnus, Lacerta, and parts of Cassiopeia and Cepheus

mulSAH [Sahu]

The Pig

The star which stands at its right side: the Pig, dDamu [God of healing]

The head and first coil of Draco?

mulANSE.KUR.RA [Sisu]

The Horse

The star which stands at its left side: the Horse

α, β, γ, and δ+ Cassiopeia?

mullu-lim [Lulimi]

The Stag

The star which stands behind it: the Stag, the messenger of the Stars

Eastern part of Andromeda

mullu-lim [Lulimi]

The Stag

The dusky stars which stand in the breast of the Stag

Eastern part of Andromeda [Not one of the 33 listed stars in the path of Enlil but a descriptor that is a prelude to identifying the Rainbow]

dHar-ri-ru [Harriru] [dTIR.AN.NA = manzt = Rainbow]

The Rainbow

 dHarriru, the Rainbow

18, 31, and 32 Andromedae?

MUL SA5 [mullu-lim] [Lulimi?]

The Stag

The bright red star which stands in the kidney of the Stag

Eastern part of Andromeda [Not one of the 33 listed stars in the path of Enlil but a descriptor that is a prelude to identifying the Deleter]

mulKA.MUS.I.KU.E [Pasittu]

The Deleter

The dDeleter [= The dDestructor?]

β Andromedae

mulSAG.ME.GAR

Jupiter

[Line 37 which is a prelude to the listing of Jupiter] One big star - (although) its light is dim - divides the sky in half and stands there: (that is) the star of dMarduk, the Ford [Line 38 which then lists Jupiter] Jupiter, (it) keeps changing its position and crosses the sky

The planet Jupiter (on the meridian at dawn)

23 Stars/Constellations in the Path of Anu (Central Region of the Sky)

Name (Transliteration: Sumerian [Akkadian])

Name (Translation)

Description Given by Mul.Apin

Modern Identification by Hunger/Pingree

mulAS.IKU [Iku] The Field The Field, the seat of dEa, which goes at the front of the stars of dAnu α, β, and γ Pegasi, and α Andromedae
mulSi-nu-nu-tu4 [Sinunutu] The Swallow The star which stands opposite the Field: the Swallow Its wings are ζ, θ, and ε Pegasi, and α Equulei; its tail the western fish of Pisces
mulA-nu-ni-tu4 [Anunitu] Anunitu [= Fish] The star which stands behind the Field: dAnunitu [Fish goddess/Child-birth goddess] Eastern fish and part of the line of Pisces
mul luHUN.GA [Agru] The Hired Man The star which stands behind it: the Hired Man, dDumuzi Aries
MUL.MUL [d7.BI] [Zappu (= MUL or Bristle) Sebettu (= 7 gods)] The Stars The Stars, the seven gods, the great gods The Pleiades
mulGU4.AN.NA    dis le-e    dA-nim The Bull of Heaven The Bull of Heaven, the Jaw of the Bull, the crown of dAnu Taurus
 [dis le-e    dA-nim] The Jaw of the Bull Shares the descriptor above with the Bull of Heaven α Tauri and the Hyades
mulSIPA.ZI.AN.NA The True Shepherd of Anu/Heaven The True Shepherd of dAnu, Papsukal, the messenger of dAnu and dIstar Orion
mulMAS.TAB.BA [Tu'amu] The Twin Stars The twin stars which stand opposite the True Shepherd of dAnu [Not one of the 33 listed stars in the path of Enlil but a descriptor that is a prelude to identifying the Twin Stars]
dLU.LAL [dLa-ta-ra-ak] Lulal and Latarak [Both lion-headed protective gods] Shares the descriptor above with the Twin Stars π3 and π4 Orionis?
mulDAR.LUGAL [Tarlugallu] The Rooster The star which stands behind it: the Rooster Lepus
mulKAK.SI.SA [Sukudu] The Arrow The Arrow, the arrow of the great warrior dNinurta [God of the city of Lagash] Canis Maior, Canis Minor? and parts of Puppis and Pyxis
mulBAN [Qastu] The Bow The Bow, the Elamite dIstar, the daughter of dEnlil ε, σ, δ, and ω Canis Maioris, and perhaps, χ Puppis
mul dMUS The Snake The Snake, dNingizzada, lord of the Netherworld Hydra
mulUGAmusen [Aribu] The Raven The Raven, the star of dAdad [Storm god] Corvus and Crater
mulAB.SIN [Sir'u] The Furrow The Furrow, dSala [Goddess of war; a symbol of Sala was a barley stalk], the ear of corn α+ Virginis [Spica+]
mulZI.BAN.AN.NA [Zibanitu] The Scales The Scales, the horn of the Scorpion Libra and part of Virgo
MUL dZa-ba4-ba4 [Zababa] Zababa The star of Zababa [God of the city of Kis] [Line 56 has:] The star of Zababa, the Eagle, and the Dead Man [i.e., all these 3 stars/constellations appear in the one descriptor] Parts of Ophiuchus, Serpens, and Aquila
mulTI8musen [Eru] The Eagle The star of the Eagle Most of Aquila
mulAD6 [Pagru] The Dead Man The star of the Dead Man Delphinus?
mulDili-bat [Dilibat] Venus Venus keeps changing its position and crosses the sky Planet
mulSal-bat-a-nu [Salbatanu] Mars Mars keeps changing its position and crosses the sky Planet 
mulUDU.IDIM.SAG.US [Kajamanu] Saturn Saturn keeps changing its position and crosses the sky Planet 
mulUDU.IDIM.GU4.UD [Sihtu [Ninurta]] Mercury [Line 60 lists Mercury and the part descriptor is continued in Line 61] Mercury whose name is Ninurta, rises or sets in the east [Line 61] or in the west within a month Planet 

15 Stars/Constellations in the Path of Ea (Southern Region of the Sky)

Name (Transliteration: Sumerian [Akkadian])

Name (Translation)

Description Given by Mul.Apin

Modern Identification by Hunger/Pingree

mulKU6 [Nunu] The Fish The Fish, dEa who goes at the front of the stars of Ea Piscis Austrinus
mulGU.LA [GU.LA] The Great One The Great One, dEa [This and the star/constellation below appear in the one descriptor (line) as: mulGU.LA    mulNUNki    [GU.LA    Eridu]] Aquarius
mulNUNki [Eridu] Eridu  The star of Eridu [the city], dEa α+ Puppis
mulNin-mah [Ninmah] Ninmah [Greatest Queen] The star which stands at its right: dNinmah [A mother-goddess whose name means 'greatest queen'] Most of Vela
mulEN.TE.NA.BAR.HUM [Habasiranu] The Centaur(s) [Ningirsu] EN.TE.NA.BAR.HUM, dNingirsu [War god] Most of Centaurus and, probably, Crux
mul gisGAN.UR [Maskakatu] The Harrow The star which stands at its side: the Harrow, the weapon of dMar-biti [Descriptor continued in line below as: inside of which one sees the subterranean waters] [God of destiny and war] Eastern part of Vela
dSullat u dHanis [Sullat u Hanis] Sullat and Hanis The two stars which stand behind it: Sullat [Identified with Samas] and Hanis [Identified with Adad], dSamas [Sun-god] and dAdad [Storm-god] μ and ν Centauri?
mulNu-mus-da [Numusda] Numusda The star which stands behind them rises like dEa and sets like dEa: Numusda, Adad η Centauri?
[mulGIR.TAB] mulUR.IDIM [Uridimmu] The Mad Dog The star which stands at the left side of the Scorpion: the Mad Dog, dKusu [Obscure grain goddess] Lupus and ζ+ Scorpii
mulGIR.TAB [Zuqaqipu] The Scorpion The Scorpion, dIshara, goddess of all inhabited regions Scorpius
[mulGABA GIR.TAB] dLi9-Si4 Lisi The breast of the Scorpion: dLisi [God/goddess of fires], dNabu [God of wisdom and writing] α Scorpii [Antares]
mulGIR.TAB [Zupaqipi] The Scorpion The two stars which stand in the sting of the Scorpion [Not one of the 33 listed stars in the path of Ea but a descriptor (line) that is a prelude to identifying Sarur and Sargaz]
dSar-ur4 u dSar-gaz [Sarur u Sargaz] Sarur and Sargaz [The two stars which stand in the sting of the Scorpion] [dSarur [Messenger of Ninurta] Sargaz [Mace-like weapon of the god of war]] λ and ν Scorpii
mulPa-bil-sag [Pabilsag] Pabilsag The star which stands behind them: dPabilsag [Hunter god] Sagittarius and, perhaps, θ+ Ophiuchi
mulMA.GUR8 [Makurru] The Bark The bark [This and the star/constellation below appear in the one descriptor (line) as: The Bark and the Goat-Fish] ε Sagittarii
mulSUHUR.MASku6 [Suhurmasu] The Goat-Fish The goat-fish Capricorn

 

Appendix 3: The Mul.Apin list of (17/18) constellations/stars that marked the path of the Moon (See: Note 2 below)

The list begins with MUL.MUL (Pleiades) and concludes with mulLU.HUN.GA (Hired Man = (Greek) Aries). The list draws from SA2 by Bartel van der Waerden.

MUL.MUL [mul.mul] (= "The stars/the hair brush" (Pleiades).)

mulGUD.AN.NA [gu4.an.na] (The "Bull of Heaven [the bull of Anu];" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations. (Greek zodiac: Taurus (the Bull).)

mulSIPA.ZI.AN.NA [sipa.zi.an.na] (= "The true shepherd of Anu" (Orion).)

mulSHU.GI [su.gi] (= The old man (Perseus).)

mulGAM [mulZUBI] [zubi] (= The sickle sword [The hooked staff] (Auriga).)

mulMASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL [mash.tab.ba.gal.gal] (The "Great Twins;" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Gemini (the Twins).)

mulAL.LUL al.lul] (The "Crab;" [or Prokyon], later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Cancer (the Crab).)

mulUR.GU.LA [ur.gu.la] (The "Lion;" [or Lioness], later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Leo (the Lion).)

mulAB.SIN [ab.sin] (The "Furrow [The barley-stalk];" [or Spica], later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Virgo (the Virgin).)

mulZIB.BA.AN.NA [zi-ba-ni-tum] (The "Scales of Heaven [The balance];" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: originally "the Claws" (of the Scorpion) but the Romans later (re)introduced Libra (the Scales).)

mulGIR.TAB [gir.tab] (The "Scorpion;" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Scorpius (the Scorpion).)

mulPA.BIL.SAG [pa.bil.sag] (The "Grandfather [Pabilsag (a god)];" [archer?], later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Sagittaurius (the Archer).)

mulSUHUR.MASH [suhur.mas.ku6] (The "Goat fish;" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Capricornus (the Goat).)

mulGU.LA [gu.la] (The "Great One [The giant/the great star?];" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Aquarius (the Water-Carrier).)

mulZIBBATI.MESH [mulKUN.MESH] [kun.mes] (= The tails (Pisces).)

mulSIM.MAH [sim.mah] (The "Great Swallow (SW Pisces [+ epsilon Pegasi);" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Pisces (the Fish).)

mulA.NU.TI.TUM [a-nu-ni-tum] (= Anunitum (a goddess) (NE Pisces (+ middle part of Andromeda)).)

mulLU.HUN.GA [lu.hung.ga] (The "Hired Man;" later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Aries (the Ram).)

Note 1: On the uncertainty of 17/18 constellations Bartel van der Waerden (Science Awakening II: The Birth of Astronomy, 1974, Page 80) states: "The number 18 is not quite certain, because the 'tails' zibbati.mesh are probably to be taken together with both the following names ('tails of SHIM.MAH and Anunitum').

Note 2: As the exact identification of Babylonian constellations is still under debate the modern constellations listed as equivalents can, at best, only be considered as partly identical to them. In writing the constellation/star names I have attempted to follow modern convention and give the usual constellation transliterations which variously appear in both capitals or normal (roman) script (conventionally used to indicate Sumerian logographic spelling) and italics (conventionally used to indicate Akkadian) and a mix of the two conventions indicating joint use of both scripts.

 

Appendix 4: Accuracy of Text Transmission

The recent doctoral thesis The Exact Transmission of Texts in the First Millennium B.C.E. by Russell Hobson (2009) includes examination of Enuma Anu Enlil tablet 63 (the 'Venus Tablet') and the Mul.Apin series. Of interest is the concluding statement (Page 494) regarding the lack of stabilisation in the transmission of astronomical/omen cuneiform texts. The latter is interesting. Hobson's examination demonstrates persistent error-making by the trained scribal elite in copying cuneiform astronomical/omen texts. And this error-making occurred over a relatively short period of time.

A tradition of oral transmission existed in Mesopotamia. (The numerous variants of popular myths is used as an argument for an oral tradition in Mesopotamia. A group of 'experts' and later, in the Neo-Assyrian period (circa 950-600 BCE), 'chief singers' is identified with oral tradition. It is accepted by a number of scholars that these persons would make slight changes. It appears that in Mesopotamia there was an early reliance/preference for scribes trained to accurately copy texts. According to The Cambridge History of the Bible (Volume 1, 1975, Page 40): "In Mesopotamia oral tradition played only a limited part in the transmission of literary texts after 2,700 B.C., the scribe using an oral source only when all else failed." It is quite evident that scribal tradition = variation and copyist errors. Even the text of the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil exhibits divergences and was not really fixed.

 

Appendix 5: Dating of Mul.Apin Data

It is not known with any exactness when Mul.Apin was originally compiled in cuneiform. It is known, however that it was copied many times.

The data contained in the Mul.Apin series is not quantifiable (i.e., precisely defined) and appropriate assumptions are required to be made (i.e., of the stars forming each constellation and which of these stars were listed to rise heliacally). In a Hastro-L posting (June 5, 2007) the assyriologist Hermann Hunger explained: "The tablets contain no observations. They state on which calendar date certain phenomena (mostly risings and settings) are supposed to occur. Since that calendar used real lunar months, and years consisting of either 12 or 13 such months, the date of a stellar rising, e.g., cannot occur on the same date each year. Assuming that the dates given in the text are the result of averaging, one can use them as if they were observations." The most recent informed attempt to use the data contained in the Mul.Apin series was carried out by the American astronomer Brad Schaefer. The Mul.Apin series collectively contains nearly 200 different 'idealised' astronomical observations, including measurements related to several constellations. This included the day each year that certain constellations first appeared in the dawn sky. These dates change over the millennia because of a tiny wobble in the Earth's axis. By studying these dates and other astronomical information, such as the dates certain constellations were directly overhead, Schaefer statistically determined the period involved. However, where historians had previously based their arguments on single stars or constellations on the tablets Schaefer's statistical analysis included of all the different data recorded on the tablets. By statistically analysing all of the star list data in the Mul.Apin series the American astronomer Brad Schaefer has concluded (2007) that the epoch for the data comprising Mul.Apin star lists is 1370 100 BCE with a latitude of 35 1.2. The actual observations to establish the data through averaging were obviously a little earlier. Schaefer also determined that the ancient observers lived within roughly 100 kilometres of 35.1 North -  an area that includes the ancient Assyrian cities of Niniveh (Nineveh) and Assur. The assyriologist Hermann Hunger has stated Schaefer's work will help settle a long-standing debate. The rough date of circa 1000 BCE for the tablets, that most historians have settled on, agrees rather well with Schaefer's analysis.

In 2007 the Dutch assyriologist and astronomer Teije de Jong published the results of his analysis of the date of the rising star lists (2) and (4) in Mul.Apin. Only those stars/constellations securely identified with known stars were used in the analysis. He concluded: (1) "The observations underlying the dates of the first appearance of stars and constellations in star list II and IV of MUL.APIN date from -1300 150 BC." (2) "The observations were carried out in Babylon or at some other location with geographic latitude -32." (See: de Jong, Teije. (2007). "Astronomical dating of the rising star list in MUL.APIN." (Wiener Zeitschrift fr die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Band 97, Pages 107-120).)

 

 Copyright 2001-2014 by Gary D. Thompson

 


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