Ancient Zodiacs, Star Names, and Constellations: Essays and Annotated Bibliographies

Compiled by Gary D. Thompson

Copyright © 2001-2018 by Gary D. Thompson


References Suitable For Quick Overview

Go to:
Constellation Origins
Origin of Star Names
Babylonian Astronomy
Egyptian Astronomy
Greek Astronomy
Mesopotamian Astral Omens

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Constellation Origins:

Baity, Elizabeth. (1973). "Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy So Far." (Current Anthropology, Volume 14, Number 4, Pages 389-431). [Note: Comments immediately follow the article from pages 431-439. The authors reply immediately follows the comments from pages 439-449. World-wide in scope, a little dated (and uncritical) in some areas but still very useful.]

Genuth, Sara. (1997). "Constellations." In: Lankford, John. (Editor). History of Astronomy: An Encyclopedia. (Pages160-164). [Note: Excellent short article to read in conjunction with that by Gerald Toomer (see below).]

Hogg, Helen. (1950). "Out of Old Books - The Constellations." (Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Volume 44, October, Pages 196-201). [Note: A brief clear history of the establishment of the modern Western constellations from the heritage of the ancient Greeks.]

Hunger, Hermann. and Hübner, Wolfgang. (2004). "Constellations." In: Cancik, Hubert. and Sneider, Helmuth. (Editors). Brill's New Pauly. (Antiquity Volume 4 (Cyr - Epy), Columns 1187-1194). [Note: An excellent and informed entry on both Babylonian and Greek constellations. Brill's New Pauly is the English edition of the authoritative Der Neue Pauly, published by Verlag J.B. Metzler since 1996.]

Krupp, Ed [Edwin]. (2000). "Night Gallery: The Function, Origin, and Evolution of Constellations." (Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture, Volume XV, Pages 43-63). [Note: The best overall summary study to date. It establishes the benchmark for discussions of the origin, development, function and transmission of constellations. (It continues (2016) to be the best article overall on the subject.) For a relatively short article it is very comprehensive in scope and insightful. An extensive list of references is given. Originally presented by the author at Oxford VI, June, 1999. The article discusses the fundamental mechanisms of constellation function, origin, and development. The article was an invited review paper and Krupp used the opportunity to prepare a critical review of constellation origin hypotheses and to propose what he believed is the most accurate model for constellation origin and development. Supportive of Willy Hartner's controversial views on the earliest constellations. It is somewhat (but not wholly) critical of the ideas of Alex. Gurshtein. I regard both as unreliable. If Krupp were to revise this article it would perhaps incorporate more cautious/critical ideas on the views of Hartner and Gurshtein. The author is the Director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and an expert on the early history of astronomy and astronomical lore. Edwin Krupp: 1944 - .]

Schaefer, Brad[ley]. (2006). "The Origin of the Greek Constellations." (Scientific American, Volume 295, Number 5, November, Pages 70-75). [Note:  Reliable account of the origin of the Greek constellations consolidated in Ptolemy's star catalogue and included in his book Almagest. Slightly dogmatic regarding the existence of a Paleolithic bear constellation.]

Toomer, Gerald. (1996). "Constellations and Named Stars." In: Hornblower, Simon. and Spawforth, Antony. (Editors). The Classical Oxford Dictionary. Third edition. (Pages 381-383).


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Origin of Star Names:

Kunitzsch, Paul. and Smart, Tim. (1986; 2nd revised edition 2006). Short Guide to Modern Star Names and Their Derivations. [Note: The original publication is a 64-page pamphlet. Paul Kunitzsch is an expert on Arabic star stars and their influence on modern Western star names.]

Kunitzsch, Paul. and Smart, Tim. (2006). A Dictionary of Modern Star Names. [Note: The revised 2nd edition of Short Guide to Modern Star Names and Their Derivations. This revised 2nd edition is a 76-page pamphlet. Like its predecessor it focuses on Western star names in current use.]

Werner, Helmut. (1986). Synopsis der Nomenklatur der Fixsterne / Synopsis of the Nomenclature of the Fixed Stars. [Note: Completed and edited by Felix Schmeidler. The text is both in German and English.]


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Babylonian Astronomy:

Aaboe, Asger. (1991). "Babylonian Mathematics, Astrology, and Astronomy." In: Boardman, John. et al. (Editors). The Cambridge Ancient History. Second edition. Volume III, Part 2. (Pages 276-292).

Brack-Bernsen, Lis. and Hunger, Hermann. (1999). "The Babylonian Zodiac: Speculations on its invention and significance." (Centaurus, Volume 41, Pages 280-292). [Note: An important paper.]

Chadwick, Robert. (1984). "The Origins of Astronomy and Astrology in Mesopotamia." (Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture, Volume VII, Numbers 1-4, Pages 89-94).

Rochberg, Francesca. (1995). "Astronomy and Calendars in Ancient Mesopotamia." In: Sasson, Jack. (Editor in Chief). Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Volume III. (Pages 1925-1940).

Rochberg, Francesca. (1997). "Babylonian Astronomy." In: History of Astronomy: An Encyclopedia. (Pages 87-92).

van der Waerden, Bartel. (1945/1948). "On Babylonian Astronomy I: The Venus Tablets of Ammisaduqa." (Jaarberichte Ex Oriente Lux, Volume 10, Pages 414-424).

van der Waerden, Bartel. (1949). "Babylonian Astronomy II: The Thirty-six Stars." (Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Volume VIII, January-October, Pages 6-26).

van der Waerden, Bartel. (1951). "Babylonian Astronomy III: The Earliest Astronomical Computations." (Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Volume X, January-October, Pages 20-34).

van der Waerden, Bartel. (1952/1953). "History of the Zodiac." (Archiv für Orientforschung, Volume 16, Pages 216-230).

van der Waerden, Bartel. (1978). "Mathematics and Astronomy in Mesopotamia." In: Gillespie, Charles. (Editor in Chief). Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Volume XV. Supplement I. (Pages 667-680). [Note: Supportive of Willy Hartner's controversial views on the earliest constellations.]


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Egyptian Astronomy:

Chatley, Herbert. (1940). "Egyptian Astronomy." (The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Volume 26, Pages 120-126).

Parker, Richard. (1974). "Ancient Egyptian Astronomy." In: Hodson, Frank. (Editor). The Place of Astronomy in the Ancient World. (Pages 51-65). [Note: The papers comprising the volume originated from a joint symposium on ancient astronomy held by The Royal Society and The British Academy. They were also published in the "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London," Volume 276 A, Number 1257.]

Parker, Richard. (1978). "Egyptian Astronomy, Astrology, and Calendrical Reckoning." In: Gillespie, Charles. (Editor in Chief). Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Volume XV. Supplement I. (Pages 706-727).

Toomer, Gerald. (1971). "Mathematics and Astronomy." In: Harris, John. (Editor). The Legacy of Egypt. (Pages 27-54). [Note: The previous edition, with different contributors, was published in 1942 and edited by Stephen Glanville.]


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Greek Astronomy:

Schaefer, Brad[ley]. (2006). "The Origin of the Greek Constellations." (Scientific American, Volume 295, Number 5, November, Pages 70-75). [Note: Reliable account of the origin of the Greek constellations consolidated in Ptolemy's star catalogue and included in his book Almagest. Slightly dogmatic regarding the existence of a Paleolithic bear constellation.]

Toomer, Gerald. (1996). "Constellations and Named Stars." In: Hornblower, Simon. and Spawforth, Antony. (Editors). The Classical Oxford Dictionary. Third edition. (Pages 381-383).


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Origin and Development of Mesopotamian Astral Omens:

Brown, David. (2000). Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology.

Hunger, Hermann. and Pingree, David. (1999). Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia.

Koch-Westenholz, Ulla. (1995). Mesopotamian Astrology: An Introduction to Babylonian and Assyrian Celestial Divination.


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