Ancient Zodiacs, Star Names, and Constellations: Essays and Critiques
Critique of Alexander Gurshtein's Theory of Constellation Development by Gary D. Thompson
Copyright © 2003-2021 by Gary D. Thompson
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Critique of Alexander Gurshtein's Theory of Constellation Development
The theory summary and critique below is based on detailed e-mail discussions with Alexander Gurshtein (life dates 1937-2020) from 30 December 1999 to 19 January 2000 and from 31 August 2001 to 20 March 2002; and the HASTRO-L thread spanning September 1998, February 2002, and February 2003 which discussed Gurshtein's theory. Also, a short HASTRO-L thread and e-mail correspondence in June 2004.
Gurshtein's hypothesis of constellation/zodiacal origins is very much a personal approach involving little more than speculation. I view it as a work of pseudo-scholarship. His ideas are not representative of the general consensus view of the academic community familiar with the evidence. Gurshtein's 'evidence' at times is a single example only. The use of select and diverse examples of proof - usually single-case examples - is highly speculative and methodologically uncritical.
Gurshtein has recently demonstrated he is willing to aggressively promote his ideas, including aggressively attacking and maligning his critics. Alex Gurshtein (HASTRO-L, 15 January, 2011) wrote: "Gary Thompson is the ardent proponent of the Uniformist (mainstream) Model of the Zodiac formation. In my mind, it is absolutely anti-historic to consider that it was born as a 12-strong system at once in the single locale. Another nonsense is to consider that the first mentioning in the written text is the same as the time of its creation. [But this is exactly what the evidence the evidence shows.] But Gary is not eager to hear objections and facts." In response, I made the clear request (HASTRO-L, January 16, 2011): "… if you have any real facts then demolishing my critique of your ideas will not be a problem. Please proceed …. Until you do this your zodiac and its development remains a phantom. Tell me exactly where my critique fails to deal with your 'facts' and logic?" To date Gurshtein has ignored my request. No demolition of this critique has yet been been undertaken by Gurshtein during the 15 years this page has existed (2003-2018). I have no doubt that it will never be attempted. For an example of the ability of Gurshtein to evade issues when dealing with his errors see: Wolbarsht, Myron. Letters to the Editor: "Contesting constellations." American Scientist, Volume 85, November/December, 1997, Pages 500-501. Letter commenting on some of the statements in Gurshtein's article, "The Origin of the Constellations," published in the May/June, 1997 issue, with Gurshtein's response.
Alexander Gurshtein's theory of constellation origins has been strongly influenced by (and are built upon) the ideas set out in Hamlet's Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend (1969), and the essay "The Earliest History of the Constellations in the Near East and the Motif of the Lion-Bull Combat." by Willy Hartner (Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 1965). Also, the ideas of Michael Ovenden. As such Gurshtein combines a precessional approach with a gradualist (stadial development) theory of zodiacal origins. Within the theory there is almost a total reliance upon the scheme of Aratean constellations (which he believes was inherited from Babylon). He also believes that his use of iconographic materials give results completely independent of textual evidence but in total agreement with the textual evidence. However, Gurshtein consistently fails to come to grips with the abundant evidence provided by Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets. Whenever he does make use of astronomical cuneiform texts he makes controversial interpretations of the material to fit his ideas.
Gurshtein's choice for making the constellations descriptions in the Phainomena of Aratus the exclusive starting point of his inquiry is somewhat puzzling. This poem with its qualitative descriptions of the emerging Greek constellations appeared circa 275 BCE. The earliest and most detailed star catalogue that we possess, however, is not that given by Aratus in the Phainomena but appears in the Babylonian Mul.Apin series. The contents of this two-tablet astronomical compendium can be reliably dated to circa 1000 BCE. Whilst the constellation descriptions are also qualitative the constellations described in the text existed prior to the constellating of the Greek sky. Also, they were to be a major influence on the later Greeks and their particular choice of constellations. Gurshtein persistently has the greater focus on the origin of the zodiacal constellations. The Assyriologist Peter Jensen was the first to show, in his book Die Kosmologie der Babylonier (1890), that the Greek zodiac (and zodiacal constellation names) was adapted (with few changes) from the earlier zodiacal scheme of the Babylonians. This basically makes the origin of the Babylonian zodiac the key to the proof or disproof of Gurshtein's particular ideas. The cuneiform evidence is decisive in showing that the 12-constellation zodiac was the invention of the Babylonians in the first millennium BCE. (See Appendix 4 below.)
Alexander Gurshtein's theory of the development of the constellation figures described in the astronomical poem Phainomena by the Greek poet Aratus of Soli (circa 275 BCE) can be divided into 6 key phases. Each of these 6 key phases is described below with an accompanying critique. Gurshtein's theory is eloquent, imaginative, and complete, and has had immense appeal since its introduction in a series of articles from 1993 to 1998. However, all of the 6 key phases are open to substantial criticisms that show the theory has serious flaws which prevent its acceptance. His hypothetical (conjectural-deductive) reconstruction of the history of the constellations lacks any real evidence to support his assertions. His unique interpretation of the evidence he uses to claim support for his theory is usually very controversial and contradicts the carefully established mainstream interpretations.
The Earliest English-Language Gradualist Theory of the Origin of the Zodiac
Appeared in Early Astronomy from Babylon to Copernicus by William O'Neil (1986), page 17; based on Willy Hartner's 1965 article. This is some 8 years before Gurshtein's first English-language article in 1993. Alexander Gurshtein's theory of constellation origins has also been strongly influenced by the essay "The Earliest History of the Constellations in the Near East and the Motif of the Lion-Bull Combat." by Willy Hartner (Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Volume 24, Numbers 1/2, January-April 1965, Pages 1-16).
The Beginning of Modern Theories of Astral Religion/History
Gurshtein's' theory that religion and astronomy shared common origins was first developed by the French writer François Delaunaye in his, L'Histoire générale et particulière des religions et du Culte (1791). At least Gurshtein shows similarities with Delaunaye. Delaunaye attempted to establish the foundation of religion in astral worship. Delaunaye followed the ideas of Jean Bailly and Charles Dupuis in linking the evolution of religious forms to the precession of zodiac signs over the vernal point and, as a direct consequence, the sun's position against the background of the stars at the spring equinox. He set out for the first time a complete theory of history in which astronomical, and so too religious, iconography, developed with the precession of the equinoxes.
Delaunaye was a radical scholar who developed the work of Bailly. Delaunaye's historical cosmology offered an account of social and religious development. The chronological framework is based on division into 2160 (or 2000) year periods, the main characteristics are derived from the astrological associations of each sign or constellation. Parallels are drawn between the animal ruler of the Age in question and the animals featured in the corresponding religious imagery. As example, the Age of Taurus of the 3rd and 4th millennia BCE is said to be demonstrated in the widespread worship of the Bull. The Age of Aries saw the worship of the Ram in Egypt and Palestine, while the Age of Pisces brought the fish symbolism of Christianity.
The Development of the Zodiac
The invention/consolidation of the zodiac circa 420 BCE resulted from the growing need for an exact frame of reference as the Babylonian astronomers became more involved with mathematical computation and measurement. The system of 12 zodiac signs are not star constellations but sectors along the ecliptic.
"One can posit the following steps in the development of the zodiac, although it must be said that our knowledge of how the zodiac was first developed is provisional. The division of the schematic calendar into 12 months of 30 days each, such as was used in MUL.APIN, the Astrolabes, and Enūma Anu Enlil, could be correlated with twelve constellations through which the sun was found to travel in one ideal "year" of twelve 30-day months. Because the spring equinox, which was always close to the beginning of the Babylonian year, was to occur in Nisannu (I.15 according to the tradition of MUL.APIN) then Nisannu, or month I, was when the sun was in the constellation Aries (MUL.LÚ.HUN.GA = Agru "the hired man"). For each ideal month, the sun's position in the sky could be identified by the name of a constellation but schematized to correlate the sun's passage through the constellations with the twelve 30-day intervals. The result would be an association of twelve 30-day months and twelve constellations, later standardized to intervals of 30º along the ecliptic." (The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture (2004) by Francesca Rochberg (Chapter 4: Sources for Horoscopes in Astronomical Texts, Page 129).)
In Mesopotamia the zodiac was conceived of as a band through which the planets move. (The zodiacal band was where planetary events took place.) Certainly it was not conceived of as a 360 degree circle.
"The zodiac was almost certainly constructed through analogy with the ideal year of twelve 30-day months. The sun moves at approximately one degree per day through the zodiac, completing a circuit in one year. In the ideal calendar, therefore, the Sun can be taken to move at a mean rate of exactly one degree per day. This assumption underlies the Dodekatemoria and Kalendertext schemes. The parallelism of the zodiac and the calendar is illustrated by the occasional use of the names of the months in place of the names of zodiacal signs in Babylonian texts. It also explains why Aries was taken to be the first sign of the zodiac since the Sun is in Aries during the first month of the year in the Babylonian calendar during the Late Babylonian period. ... The zodiac consisting of twelve signs named after constellations is first attested in the fifth century BC. A zodiacal sign is an abstract division of a path through the sky, bounded by imaginary borders, and named after one of the constellations through which the Sun passes during a year. (T]here are no gaps between neighbouring signs .... The earliest references to zodiacal signs in the Diaries and related texts probably appear in the Diary for -453, although the terminology is occasionally ambiguous in differentiating between zodiacal constellations and signs in fifth-century BC Diaries." ("Celestial Measurement in Babylonian Astronomy." by John Steele (Annals of Science, Volume 64, Number 3, 2007, Pages 293-325.)
A question for Gurshtein's scheme is: Outside of the Aratean constellations described circa 270 BCE what other cultures have traces of an archaic sky division based on 3 symbolic strata of air (northern region of the sky), earth (equatorial region of the sky), and water (southern region of the sky)? This question is yet to be suitably addressed. Related: In the Mesopotamian scheme of the 3 ways (beginning circa 1500 BCE) Anu = the sky and marks the equatorial band of the sky - not the northern band of the sky, Enlil = the earth and marks the northern band of the sky, Ea = the waters and marks the southern band of the sky. This works against it being supportive of Gurshtein's scheme. (It is worth noting that the concept of water, land, and air divisions is a Panbabylonian tenet.)
(1) The core of Gurshtein's concept of zodiacal origins lies in his speculations regarding zodiacal quartets. Gurshtein argues that the progress of zodiacal quartets reflect socio-cultural changes. For Gurshtein the developing constellation figures indicate socio-cultural changes over time; from developing rural societies to organised urban societies. As far as I am aware Gurshtein's first English-language exposition of his particular ideas on the origin of the zodiac appeared in "On the Origin of the Zodiacal Constellations." (Vistas in Astronomy, 1993, Volume 36, Pages 171-190). (A summary version "When the Zodiac Climbed into the Sky." appeared in Sky and Telescope, 1995, Volume 90, Number 4, Pages 28-33.) This article set out a highly speculative concept of the origin of the zodiac that was divorced from proper consideration of the cuneiform evidence. Gurshtein maintained that the zodiac did not appear fully developed quite rapidly but evolved gradually during several millennia in three main stages starting in pre-written human history. No one, however, is actually claiming that the zodiac was an "overnight" invention of the Babylonians. The fact that the Babylonian origin of the zodiac took place over some 500 years is completely ignored by Gurshtein in favour of a predominantly Egyptian origin for the zodiac. Gurshtein's three stages concept is based on the assumption of the constellations of each quartet being uniformly used for circa 2000 years (and each quartet of constellations being more or less centred on the tropical points). Throughout each stage, a set of four proto-zodiacal constellations (a quartet) had the function of marking four distinctive points on the ecliptic: the two solstices and the two equinoxes. Hence the scheme acted as a solar calendar of sorts.
Gurshtein's theory of the development of the zodiac does not include any variation of his conjectured process of zodiacal quartets; especially time-wise. For Gurshtein the development proceeds at a defined (slow) pace based on the rate of precession. No attempt at competitive ecliptic systems appear anywhere. No culture attempts 'fast-tracking' of a scheme of ecliptic development. Also, for some inexplicable reason, the development process always involves 30 degree divisions of the ecliptic.
(2) Gurshtein believes his methodologies have established the existence of a celestial proto-map comprising some 2 dozen constellations still recognisable today i.e., Ursa Major, Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Bootes, etc., existing at least circa 14,000 BCE. Also, this celestial proto-map reflected an ancient ideology of a tripartite vertical structure of the universe: from top to bottom there were symbolical strata of air, land, and waters. This celestial proto-map was contemporary with the appearance of the world proto-language, Nostratic language. This unique celestial proto-map of circa 14,000 BCE became the proto-type for all later constellation developments (as well as the Nostratic language becoming the proto-type for all other linguistic families.
Later, agriculturalists needed to introduce 4 ecliptic markers for a solar calendar, and adjusted some previously existing constellations. The newly established ecliptic markers reflected the structure of the older celestial proto-map. For the 1st and 2nd quartets the pre-zodiacal constellations were already mapped in the sky befor their use as 1st and 2nd ecliptic quartets. The 3rd quartet of small dim constellations were introduced specifically to upgrade the number of markers on the ecliptic to 12. The constellations of the 3rd quartet are no older than the 1st millennium BCE, when they first appear in written sources.
The ancient Chinese celestial map was ideologically rearranged close to the beginning of CE. We now do not know the features of the really archaic Chinese sky.
(3) Gurshtein's own summary of the main results of his research on constellations origins (Hastro-L, 9 February 2003):
"1. The earliest grouping of stars (forming of constellations) occurred approximately during the same period of time as when lunar phases started to serve for time reckoning (lunar calendar). To the best of modern knowledge, this happened (with great uncertainty) about 30,000 years ago (see Alex Marshack, Boris Frolov, Michael Ruppenglueck, and others). The number of primordial constellations was about a dozen, and each of them contained 7 characteristic stars (Pleiades, Ursa Major, Orion, etc.). From then on, the number 7 was praised as a sacred one (because originally it was taken from the sky).
2. After the concept of constellation (a special group of 7 stars) was born, the number of constellations gradually increased. Very often, there were various constellations in various regions of the world.
3. About 16,000 years ago, simultaneously with the birth of the Nostratic language and probably in the same region of the Euro-Asian landmass, the constellations were meaningfully arranged in order to reflect the “three-fold vertical structure of the World.” The "air" constellations (the Upper World) were grouped into a specific spot around the North celestial pole, while "earth" and "water" constellations organized two belts (the Middle World and the Lower World) around the "air" constellations. As well as the Nostratic language, this picture was disseminated throughout the world and was, of course, frequently distorted. Nevertheless, pieces of this picture survived through Mesopotamia and Greece up to now in our system of modern constellations. The same picture was ideologically transformed in China at the end of BCE.
4. The domination of the lunar calendar was over in connection with the Neolithic Revolution because agriculturists needed the solar calendar. Ca. 5,600 BCE, on the background of existing constellations, the four special starry groups along the ecliptic were chosen to mark solstices and equinoxes. This event opened the way for the solar calendar that later prevailed. In modern terms, those four constellations were Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. The genuine origin of those four constellations was much earlier than 5,600 BCE.
5. To parry the factual influence of precession that compromised the significance of the above-mentioned quartet of ecliptic markers, ca. 2,600 BCE four new markers along the ecliptic were added to the previous quartet. Those four were Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius (Scorpio was interchangeable with Aquila the Eagle). Such an accomplishment took place during the rise of the great agricultural empire of Egypt, and a memory of this accomplishment is alive in the Great Pyramids and Sphinx. Stonehenge was a provincial byproduct of novel celestial concepts. The new celestial quartet marked the new World Age.
6. The completion of the Zodiac forming occurred on the edge of the first millennium BCE, when 4 more markers on the ecliptic were added to the previous 8. Those last four markers were Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. There were various precursors for such an addition, but the high probability is that such an event finally happened in Egypt under Akhenaten.
7. The promotion of the new 12-strong celestial calendrial system (the Zodiac) was due to Moses (or a group of believers who acted under this collective pseudonym). From that epoch on, the number 12 appeared to be sacred too."
Gurshtein's First Zodiacal Quartet Claim
In the 6th millennium BCE (circa 5600 BCE ± 150), during the development of agriculturalism and urbanization (the so-called Neolithic Revolution), amongst other groups of constellations, there were four constellations placed on the path of the Sun that worked as symbolic seasonal markers: twins (spring) a female (summer) a hunter (fall) fishes (winter). (Critique: These were, in effect, equivalent to Gemini-Virgo-Sagittarius-Pisces. This claim is pure speculation that is unsupported by any evidence. Also, why a hunter that later becomes identified as Sagittarius is not explained.) Due to the phenomenon of precession, after a few millennia, these constellations lost their original purpose and new ones were added. However the original quartet of marker constellations continued to remain on the ecliptic. (Critique: Once again this is pure speculation. The requirement for this scenario exists because Gurshtein's idea of zodiacal origins simply falls without it. Why it took circa 2000 years for each hypothetical "zodiacal quartet" to lose their purpose as markers is not reasonably explained. We simply know nothing about the sizes of any early constellations that may have existed.) Gurshtein holds that scholars like to name this period the "Age of Gemini." (Critique: Only the discredited Panbabylonists, in the early part of the 19th-century, referred to a supposed Age of Gemini. No scholar currently uses the term.)
Gurshtein's Second Zodiacal Quartet Claim
Circa the 3rd millennium BCE (circa 2700 BCE ± 200), somewhere in the Near East, the first ecliptic quartet was supplemented with the second quartet of constellations that combined a bull (spring), a lion (summer), a scorpion (fall), and a performer of water rites (winter). (Critique: These were, in effect, equivalent to Taurus-Leo-Scorpio-Aquarius. Currently Gurshtein has dropped his previous Egyptian identification for the origin of the second zodiacal quartet. The reasons for the identification of Aquarius with a performer of water rites remains unsatisfactory. Interestingly, Willy Hartner argued for a Sumerian quartet of constellations, comprising Bull-Lion-Scorpion-Ibex, marking the seasons (i.e., tropical points) circa 4000 BCE.) According to Gurshtein it was this second quartet of creatures that coined the term zodiac. (Critique: There is, however, no term for a constellational zodiac at this early date. Once again we only have unsupported speculation.) It is further maintained by Gurshtein that two different cultural traditions during the "Age of Taurus" resulted in two variants of the second quartet: the eagle could replace the scorpion. (Critique: Once again there is scant evidence offered for this claim of two different cultural traditions regarding the second zodiacal quartet. Which cultures held the differing viewpoints is not explained in any detail. No iconographic evidence for a lion-bull-man-scorpion hybrid is offered. The difficulty of using iconographic material is well illustrated by the iconography of Pazuzu, the Mesopotamian demon of the southeast wind, who had the combined features of a man, eagle, and scorpion. No one is claiming that this particular iconography is constellated related. Also, no evidence is offered to substantiate the claim that there was a ancient concept of an "Age of Taurus?")
In time, as in the case of the first zodiacal quartet, precession rendered the seasonal marking meaning of the second quartet defunct. However, according to Gurshtein, it also continued to survive on the ecliptic as a matter of fact. (Critique: This is pure speculation. It seems obvious that the requirement for such exists because Gurshtein's idea of zodiacal origins simply falls without it. No evidence is presented to demonstrate that the supposed first zodiacal quartet remained on the ecliptic. The question that remains completely unanswered is: Why did it take circa 2000 years for each hypothetical "zodiacal quartet" to lose their purpose as markers? We know nothing about the sizes of any early constellations that may have existed.)
Gurshtein's Third Zodiacal Quartet Claim
In the 1st millennium BCE the last zodiacal quartet was placed on the tropical points of the ecliptic, including a ram (spring), a cancer/lobster (summer), a scale (fall), and a fish-goat (winter). (Critique: Circa 1200 BCE ± 400; Aries-Cancer-Libra-Capricorn. There is no evidence of a ram or sheep constellation in the late 2nd millennium BCE. Most certainly not on, or near, the tropical point of the spring equinox. The constellation Aries the Ram is a Greek creation circa 600 BCE earliest. It replaced the Babylonian constellation of mulHUN.GA, the "hired man.") The "Age of Aries" flourished. (Critique: The claim of an "Age of Aries" is simply an assertion. There is no evidence that establishes the recognition of an Age of Aries at this early period. There is no such concept in written records of this period.) After this development, each month of the year found its own calendrical incarnation in the twelve-constellation Zodiac. (Critique: It is an incredible assertion that it took over 6000 years to develop a calendrical system comprised of 12 x 30 day ideal solar months. The early Babylonians had an ideal year of 12 lunar months x 30 days each, which they changed to an ideal solar year of 12 months x 30 days each.) The proto-Zodiacal constellations were unified within the belt of the Zodiac; The constellation Ophiuchus is a relic of its complicated evolutionary history. (Critique: The process of unification remains unexplained. Why exactly Ophiuchus is to be regarded as sound evidence of this particular gradualist concept of zodiacal origins. It is strange that that none of the defunct seasonal marker constellations fell into disuse or were discarded, or that no one thought ahead and rapidly constellated the still vacant parts of the ecliptic.)
During the next two millennia of the Age of Pisces, the Western Zodiac was well-remembered but its cause was completely lost. (Critique: It is a startling claim that after some 4000 years plus of cross-cultural memory there occurred a complete loss of knowledge of the process that originated the 12-constellation zodiac. Also, no evidence is offered that establishes the assertion of a "well remembered" "Age of Pisces.")
Stage 1: Circa 30,000-20,000 BCE.
This first stage of Gurshtein's theory is dependent on the argument for the existence of Paleolithic lunar calendars per the theory of Alexander Marshack. Gurshtein holds that the origin of the first constellations occurred alongside the development of Paleolithic lunar calendars. The first astronomical knowledge was the month and the week. The 7-day week, a quartet of the lunar month, became the basis for the earliest constellations. The oldest constellations are of the same age as the origin of the lunar calendar. Constellations were required as a background grid (i.e., co-ordinate system) for observations, by hunter/gatherers, of the moon ands planets. The earliest constellations were each originally comprised of 7 bright stars. (The first concept of constellations was special groups of 7 stars - of which there were approximately 12. From this concept the number of constellations increased. The number 7 also became sacred.) The largest constellations are the oldest and are the same age as the origin of the lunar calendar. The origins of the largest Aratean constellations date back to the Paleolithic period. Every prominent (northern and equatorial) constellation contains 7 characteristic stars. The oldest European constellations are the well-known large star groups: Ursa Major, Orion, Bootes, Auriga, Leo, Taurus, Perseus, Pegasus, Virgo, Sagittarius, Cygnus, and Pleiades, and all contain 7 bright characteristic stars. (Whilst there are only 6 stars in the Pleiades world-wide stories inform that there were 7 stars comprising such.) The latitude of the Paleolithic European constellation-makers is estimated by Gurshtein to approximately 30-40 degrees north, between "taiga" (Siberian boreal forest dominated by conifers) and "step" (level and treeless tracts in Asia), southeast of Lake Baikal [Baikel], in Eurasia.
Alexander Marshack's theory of the existence of Paleolithic lunar calendars remains controversial and numerous objections have been raised against such. Early on, many anthropologists objected to the methods employed by Marshack's application of the schematic notational apparatus he devised could extract a lunar cycle from almost any set of markings. As quick examples: Microscopic analysis of some of the same artifacts by other scholars (including Francesco d'Errico) yields different counts of marks, experimental replication of such artifacts suggests other reasons for the distinctions among marks, and there is reason to believe that all the marks were made at one time, rather than being a sort of tally system of time. (See: Megaliths, Myths and Men by Peter Brown (1976); "Paleolithic Lunar Calendars: A Case of Wishful Thinking?" by Francesco D'Errico (Current Anthropology, Volume 30, Number 1, 1989, Pages 117-118) and see also his reply to Alexander Marshack in Current Anthropology, Volume 30, Number 4, 1989, Pages 494-500; "Upper Paleolithic Notation Systems in Prehistoric Europe." by Simon Holdaway and Susan Johnston (Expedition, Volume 31, Number 1, 1989, Pages 3-11); "On the Impossibility of Close Reading: The Case of Alexander Marshack." by John Elkins (Current Anthropology, Volume 37, Number 2, 1996, Pages 185-201) and see also responses and replies on Pages 201-226; "Review of The Roots of Civilization." by Iain Davidson (American Anthropologist, New Series, Volume 95, Number 4, December, 1993, Pages 1027—1028); "Marking Time." by Daniel Rosenberg (Cabinet Magazine, Issue 28: Bones, Winter, 2007-2008. See also critical reviews of Alexander Marshack's publications by Andrée Rosenfeld (Antiquity, Volume XLV, 1971, Pages 317-319); and by Arden King (American Anthropologist, Volume 75, Number 6, 1973, Pages 1897-1900).) John Elkins presented counter-evidence from the same markings used by Alexander Marshack. Francesco d’Errico made the point that Alexander Marshack's classification was based on Marshack's own intuition and in reporting his results, Marshack had manipulated the number of marks and sequences in order to achieve an accumulation correlated to the motion of the sun or moon. It was after reading an article by Jean de Heinzelin (Jean de Heinzelin, "Ishango," Scientific American, Volume 206, June, 1962, Pages 109—110).) that Marshack (1918-2004) was prompted to begin to systematically comparing similarly marked bones. He eventually concluded that a very wide range of examples, including the Lartet bone and the Blanchard bone, adhered to a lunar pattern. Marshack did not actually claim that series of marks on certain bones were intended to be lunar calendar. He did, however, believe they were tallies related to lunar cycles. Marshack speculated that the notches could be read as examples of "lunar phrasing." Marshack never publicly released details of all the objects he thought were relation to marking lunar cycles - only the ones he thought provided the best proof of his ideas.
A stable lunar calendar is not easily enabled and is a complicated undertaking. A month, the time taken by the moon to return to its original phase, lasts 29.53059 days. So to maintain a true lunar month , months should oscillate between 29 and 30 days. Even then, every 3 lunar years, another day would have to be inserted. And every 30 lunar years that day should not be inserted.
The principal arguments against accepting Marshack's lunar calendar interpretation of scribed marks on certain bones relates to the issues of (1) where he decides a particular sequence of marks begins, and (2) how he decides to count the marks. The critical investigation by Francesco D'Errico of Alexander Marshack's claim that lunar calendars were kept by the Azilian culture of France circa 12,000 years ago has not been supportive of the claim. The important experimental work carried out by Francesco D'Errico found that marks that appeared to be made over time by different tools on items that were claimed to be lunar calendars were, in all likelihood, made by the same tool and without time gaps. Further, no example has ever been given by Marshack, or his supporters, of any scheme of correct lunar month counts on any of the notched bones claimed to be lunar calendars. "Marshack's lunar-notation months vary from 27 to 33 days; the first and last quarters vary from 5 to 8 days and periods of Full Moon and New Moon from 1 to 4 days - plus an allowance of ± 1 day for errors in observation. From these very flexible parameters the lunar model used by Marshack can be made significant for any number or sequence of numbers between 1 and 16 and between 26 and 34. The difficulty in accepting Marshack's ideas is that for each example he has studied, each seems to require assumptions to be made about 'cloud-outs' or it requires other adjustments to account for inconsistencies. With good reason critics have claimed that his ideas are too glib and allow too much manoeuvring or arbitrary jiggling of numbers to suit circumstances. (Megaliths, Myths and Men by Peter Brown, (1976), Page 29.)" Also, the moon itself is never depicted on any of the bones claimed to comprise lunar calendars; but animals and other symbols sometimes are. Marshack's interpretations of bone marks are speculative. The bones may well have been only tool-sharpening devices. Permanent calendar keeping in the Palaeolithic period remains controversial. Semi-nomadic hunters had no need for it.
There is no indication that we can easily extend back to the Paleolithic Period for the number 7 or a 7-day week. Grouping days into a 7-day week is relatively late. The method of counting by 7-day weeks was not established until the Roman period. It has been frequently assumed that the four phases of the moon during the month led to a division of 4 weeks (seven and three-eighths days each). In reality the week and month belong to different systems of time reckoning. The 7-day week does not agree well with either a solar or lunar year. Both the day and week (as a numerical series of 7 days) are time systems which are independent of the moon. The month and the week are incompatible - their beginnings only occasionally coincide. All evidence indicates the cultic calendar of ancient Mesopotamia, and likewise the civil calendar, was tied to the phases of the moon, and not at all to a 7-day week. The evidence for a regularised lunar festival dates only to the end of the Sargonic period circa 2200 BCE and the beginning of the neo-Sumerian period circa 2100 BCE. It is still contentious whether the Babylonians possessed/instituted a 7-day week. The concept of the 7-day week is popularly believed to have originated in Mesopotamia/West Asia. It was also commonly believed by early Assyriologists. However, there is no clear evidence that the Mesopotamians (Babylonians) used 7-day weeks. There is no 7-day cycle in any astronomical or other natural phenomena. Relating the 7-day week to four phases of the moon is not obvious. Hence the concept of a 7-day lunar week is different to the issue of a lunar month. (The 7-day week is not actually a particularly good system for dividing the lunar month as it simply does not divide evenly into the actual duration of such. For this reason very few ancient peoples used a 7-day scheme.) The lunar month can at least be tracked by observing the cycles of the moon.
Excursus: The Russian ethnologist Boris Frolov (1939-2005) persistently claimed to have found evidence of Palaeolithic arithmetic. In 1965 Frolov independently made a detailed study of patterns on nearly 200 items (portable ornaments) from Eurasian Palaeolithic sites. Using the simple method of "eye-ball" examination and counting he claimed to have found repeated multiples (groups) of mostly 5, 7, 10, and 14 lines. (Frolov identified almost every number from 1 to 10 on portable ornaments from the Palaeolithic period.) He asserted there is a particular frequency of numbers 5 and 7, with 3 and 4 as supplementary number sets. He put forward the hypothesis that the magic number 7 depicted the allocation of time originating in Palaeolithic times. (No special claim for a lunar association with the number 7 was made by Frolov.) Interestingly, Frolov was opposed by Alexander Marshack who made 2 particular points: (1) the 'numbers' were quite random, and (2) the claim for such repetitions simply indicates the researchers ability to count. There is also the additional point that the claims about these particular marks cannot be tested. It still remains very problematic regarding how to prove that different kinds of engraved marks on portable objects were intended as notation rather than decoration.
According to some early authorities the Babylonians had divided the year into 7-day weeks at least as early as the 15th-century BCE. Whilst the concept of 7 and 7 days was known in Mesopotamia it was not employed as a continuing weekly cycle to measure time (or even the interval between market days). The lunar month formed the basis for time reckoning. There are claims that the 7-day week cycle makes its earliest appearance in Babylonian documents dating to the 7th-century BCE but in this claimed system the 7-day weeks apparently did not succeed one another continuously. Part of the problem is it does not mesh with the 29 day and 30 day month counts. (See, for example: "New Moons and Sabbaths" by William Hallo, In: Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East edited by Frederick Greenspahn (1991).) It has been claimed by early Assyriologists that the Sumerian epic of 'Atra-Hassis' ('Story of the Flood'), preserved in Akkadian from the Old Babylonian period, has the earliest reference to what could be a 7-day week: "After the storm had swept over the country for seven days and seven nights." More likely it is common number symbolism. Simply talking of 7 days and 7 nights does not make a 7-day week. One non-lunar theory is simply the 7-day week originated as a planetary week based on the seven identified celestial bodies Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The Babylonians at least named the seven days of the week after these seven celestial bodies that they knew well. Also, the Babylonian sacred number seven was probably related to the seven "planets." The Babylonian 'Creation Epic' ('Enuma Elish') dating to the Kassite Period (perhaps circa 1600 BCE) or (more likely) Early Assyrian Period (perhaps circa 1100 BCE) has a description of lunar divisions that includes: "Thou shalt shine with horns to determine six days / And on the seventh with half a crown." Stephen Langdon writing in 1923 (The Babylonian Epic of Creation) over-confidently/erroneously states: "The major texts are all based upon a week of seven days, but K 13774 has a version based upon the five-day week." It needs to be understood that this statement of Langdon's was made without sufficient evidence. The Babylonian Creation Epic is full of references to the number 7. As examples: In its original form The Babylonian Creation Epic consisted of 7 tablets (i.e., 7 divisions with approximately 150 lines per tablet - 115 to 170 lines), the 7 winds (and one day was dedicated to each of the winds). However, the god Marduk is also described as stationing the 4 winds, but also arms himself with 7 destructive winds. In the early 7th-century BCE some Assyrian records indicated that work was prohibited on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days of the month. (See: Babylonian Menologies and the Semitic Calendars by Stephen Langdon (1935).) A syllabary from the Neo-Babylonian Period seems to provide evidence of the practice of subdivision of half-month periods into two 7-day periods. (See: Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, Number 93, February, 1944.)
The continuous weekly cycle of 7 days only became a standard unit for the measurement of time during the period of the Roman Empire. The 7-day week was only consolidated with the ecclesiastical division of the year into weeks, each with 7 named days. (The 7-day week only became official in the Roman empire (and the Western World) with its establishment by an edict of the Roman Emperor Constantine (for Christian religious purposes) in 321 CE.) Gurshtein ignores this issue, or seems unaware there is an issue. The 7-day week (at least the continual 7-day week) is perhaps likely to have a double or triple origin in Greek, Jewish, and Mesopotamian ideas. The Jews at least since the Babylonian Exile (beginning circa 597 BCE) have had a 7-day week (6 days and sabbath). The early Christians adopted the Jewish continuous 7-day week. The 7-day week originated within the Western Roman Empire - a reconciliation of the Christian 7-day week with the Roman calendar - and, with the consolidation of Christianity as the State religion, spread throughout the Western Roman Empire.
Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States and Societies by Sasha Stern (2012) sets out reasons for believing that the change from flexible to fixed calendars was the way the 7-day week and zodiac-based horoscope were introduced. The change to fixed calendars occurred within the span 500 BCE to 300 CE. Stern maintains this was totally and purposefully based upon the unique, fixed calendar of Egypt, adopted by the (Zoroastrian) Achaemenid regime and passed on to the Hellenistic kingdoms and Rome's Julian calendar. Leofranc Holford-Strevens sets out (A Short History of Time (2007)): The 7-day cycle known as the (7-day) week became a rival to – and ultimate successor to – the Roman 8-day market cycle. The 7-day week as we know it is a fusion of 2 conceptually different day cycles: (1) the Judaeo-Christian week (beginning on Sunday), and (2) the 7-day planetary week derived from Hellenistic astrology (beginning on a Sunday).
We do not know the sizes of any archaic constellations that may have existed. Gurshtein's approach to "oldest are largest" is based on the sizes of the modern constellations inherited from Classical Greece. Whilst it is reasonable to believe that the earliest constellations undoubtedly incorporated the brightest stars - and the fainter areas of the sky would have been initially left unconstellated - this early approach would not exclude the formation of large constellations at a later date. (Gurshtein actually holds that the large constellation Pisces, which is comprised of only faint stars, originated circa 14,000 BCE.) Argo is the largest constellation but is also a very recent constellation - probably originating with the Greek astronomer Eudoxus circa 450 BCE. There is general (but perhaps mistaken) agreement that the likely source for the large Greek constellation Argo is the Egyptian myth of the ship of Osiris. It more likely owes to the story of the Argonauts and the search for the golden fleece. (Gurshtein concedes that Argo can not be included within his theory of the oldest constellations. The example of Argo ("largest and [almost] last") works against his ideas and serves to demonstrate their speculative nature.) There is no reason to believe that the limits of the original constellations were always laid down. Prior to Ptolemy (circa 150 CE) the Greeks altered the boundaries of the constellation figures.
There is no reason to simply believe that the earliest constellations were the largest. The small star group the Pleiades has been an important early group of stars for agricultural people. Its early use is independent of it being associated with, or forming a part of, any larger bull constellation. The importance of the Pleiades is due to its conspicuous position with respect to the Sun at sowing time and harvest time (i.e., its importance is as an agricultural marker). Outside of early bull mythology, iconography and symbolism, and cultic rituals (with calendrical links) there is no evidence for an archaic "Taurus" constellation. Hydra is the largest of the modern constellations and measures 1303 square degrees. The Greeks identified 27 stars comprising Hydra. Argo was the largest constellation in Greek uranography measuring 1867 square degrees. The Greeks identified 27 stars comprising Argo. The evidence is clear that the constellation Argo, the largest constellation in the Greek sky, was the late invention of the Hellenistic period. It appears to have been invented by the Greeks under the influence of the story of the Argonauts and their voyage for the Golden Fleece. The Pleiades asterism (one of the smallest 'constellations') measuring some 6 square degrees, has existed and been used all around the world as a seasonal/agricultural indicator at a date long preceding the existence of Argo. (Argo had no seasonal/agricultural function.) A Mesoamerican example: The 4 great Mesoamerican civilisations (Olmec, Zapotec, Aztec, and Maya) considered the Pleiades to be an important grouping of stars in terms of the prediction of meteorological and agricultural events. It is impossible to have a late origin for the Pleiades. We have material evidence that in the occident small was early and big was late.
Similarly, the almost total reliance of Gurshtein's theory upon the Aratean constellations produces problems such as: Where the Greeks had the constellation of the "Big Bear" - which incorporates the stars of the "Big Dipper" - the earlier Babylonians had the constellation of "The Wagon," which was comprised only of the 7 stars of the Big Dipper." (Also, if Ursa Major (comprising Big Dipper asterism) was an established Palaeolithic bear constellation circa 20,000 BCE (as some people claim) then why did this obvious earth stratum constellation persist in the air stratum circa 14,000 BCE?)
The astronomer Ed Krupp has made the point that there is no objective data which suggests that most of the "oldest constellations were each originally comprised of 7 bright stars. Aratus does not mention the number of stars in any of the constellations he describes. Ed Krupp succinctly explains (HASTRO-L, September 17, 1998): "The earliest source we have for this information is the Catasterismi of the Pseudo-Eratosthenes. This dates to the first century B.C. but is thought to be a digest of the work of the Authentic-Eratosthenes (third century B.C.)." Ed Krupp also points out (HASTRO-L, September 17, 1998): "In completely independent cultures, elements of the same constellations were often configured entirely differently. The only asterisms in which the number seven is prominent in the Mediterranean system are the Big Dipper and the Pleiades, and it is possible to argue in a broad Eurasian context, for a direct relationship between them for this number." Also, a number of cultures simply identify that the Pleiades are comprised of 6 stars.
Stage 2: Circa 14,000 BCE ± 1000.
Introduction of 3 symbolical strata dedicated to air, earth, and water to divide/pattern the existing constellations. (The constellations were meaningfully arranged to reflect the "three-fold vertical structure of the world.") (Gurshtein believes the air stratum was quite small.) The 3 strata of constellation types - through the development constellation names and designs - were centred on the north celestial pole. The "air" constellations (the Upper World) were grouped around the north celestial pole, the "earth" constellations (the Middle World) and the "water" constellations (the Lower World) were belts organized around the "air" constellations. This development began simultaneously with the origin of the Nostratic language circa 14,000 BCE, and probably also in the same Euro-Asian region. This concept of the three-fold structure of the world was disseminated throughout the world with the diffusion of the Nostratic language as the dominant language of the world. (These 3 symbolic strata were later to become the Babylonian strata of Ea, Anu, and Enlil, which were a reflection of the tripartite structure of the archaic worldview.)
At this period a few new constellations were added to the water stratum but there were few changes to the constellations within the air stratum and the earth stratum. One of the constellations that originated at this period was the huge constellation of Pisces, which does not contain any bright or very noticeable stars. The existence of the constellation Pisces became necessary because of the requirement to have a water constellation/label within the newly forming water stratum. (As a result of precession the constellations in the water stratum in the "zone of accumulation" continued to become larger.) The constellation Draco is identified in the air stratum.
The hypothesis that Nostratic existed as a real language which was spoken over 12,000 years ago is highly controversial. Most linguists do not support the Nostratic hypothesis. The Nostratic language is a linguistic reconstruction that cannot be proved in the archaeological data. The term Nostratic was proposed in 1903 by the Danish linguist Holger Pedersen to denote the language family of northern Eurasia. The modern investigations into the Nostratic hypothesis began in the mid 1960s with the work of the Russian linguist Vladislav Illich-Svitych. The Nostratic hypothesis enjoyed considerable publicity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, proponents have not been able to agree on the set of language families that should be included as descendants of Nostratic. There surely existed several different languages in the Palaeolithic period. There are immense difficulties in reconstructing archaic language families.
There are weaknesses with the argument that constellation types form 3 symbolic strata. An archaic world-view involving a vertical division into 3 celestial zones presents problems both conceptually and practically in representation. There is no evidence in any ancient texts (i.e., Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indian, or Greek, that support the concept that constellations were divided into 3 symbolic strata. Ed Krupp points out (HASTRO-L, September 17, 1998): "Alex has argued for the presence of a layered distribution of "strata" in the Aratean constellations and has likened this to the familiar archaic models of a layered cosmos. We might then expect to see the stars handled in this way in cultures that preserved elements of archaic cosmology long enough for ethnologists to record them. In Siberia and much of Eurasia we do encounter this cosmic metaphor, and we also have at least an inkling of how constellations were handled. Constellation systems are functions of social complexity. Nomadic hunters and herders don't actually develop full constellation systems but select key elements of the sky that are useful. They also don't map the sky in the kind of strata Alex describes, and they don't structure the sky in the terms that Alex outlines (although they fill the sky with levels, usually a lot more than three). We might guess that seasonally-astute nomadic paleolithic hunters would do the same." The scheme for almost every archaic cosmos involved the basic components of a sky world, a land world (i.e., our middle world), and a watery underworld. Gurshtein tends to be flexible regarding his position on whether to link his 3 symbolic constellation strata with the ancient shamanic tripartite division of the cosmos. He originally derived them independently from purely astronomical considerations but also believes the three divisions are reflected in shamanism. The basis for the supposed establishment of 3 symbolic strata needs to be more closely examined.
Ed Krupp made the point (HASTRO-L, September 14, 1998): "I am not really satisfied with the logic of the arguments or the evidence Alex has offered for the antiquity or character of the three celestial zones. For example, the "stratum of air" is, as I read Alex, supposed to include constellations that pass through the paleolithic zenith. If we are talking paleolithic Europe, 45 degrees is a reasonable working latitude. that means constellations whose angular distance from the north celestial pole was 45 degrees are in the fly zone. We do have flying constellations Pegasus, Cygnus, Aquila, and Sagitta, and I'll even relinquish Draco, although tradition does not support the concept of Draco as a winged dragon. These are, however, not the only members of of the frequent flyers club. Alex concludes the bands were symmetric about the north celestial pole at the time they were conceived. When I eyeball the map published with his article in the June, 1997, Sky & Telescope, I see the constellations populating the bands a little differently than summarized. The radius of the air zone also seems to include significant exceptions like Cassiopeia, Cepheus, most of Hercules, and even part of Perseus. They are not really further from the pole than Aquila. I think even Ursa Major, at least that inappropriately ursine tail, is eligible by distance from the pole to slip into the air zone. How could a very important "stratum of earth" constellation like the Great Bear be positioned in the "stratum of air?"
Even though it is located high in the sky the "Great Bear" is quite obviously not a "sky stratum" constellation. How could a very important "stratum of earth" constellation like the Great Bear be positioned in the "stratum of air." Ed Krupp makes the point (HASTRO-L, September 14, 1998): "Alex accepts Owen Gingerich's interesting speculation that the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) should be regarded as one of the oldest constellations with a true paleolithic pedigree. Although this is difficult to confirm (at least the bear part), the Big Dipper is certainly one of the most conspicuous and universally recognized asterisms. If the bear is really a paleolithic constellation, its membership in the "stratum of air" cannot be so easily dismissed. So should we not then be advised to be on the lookout for fossil evidence of extinct flying bears? Discrepancies like this are important and should be addressed."
Air, land, and water constellation strata for the constellations and the 12 zodiacal constellations is a Panbabylonian concept originated by Hugo Winckler and particularly promoted by Alfred Jeremias. It appears that Gurshtein attempt to overcome the problems with it by dating the arrangement to a very early period.
The "cult of the cave bear," dating from the Paleolithic Period circa 50,000 BCE, only existed in the archaeological imagination. (See: The Reader's Advisor, Volume 4, The Best in Philosophy and Religion, edited by Robert Ellwood (14th edition, 1994, Pages 432-433). Also: "The Cult of the Cave Bear." by Philip Chase, Expedition [published by Penn University], Volume 29, Number 2, Pages 4-9. Both are excellent critiques of the idea of a prehistoric cave bear cult.) Bears sought caves as dens for birthing and hibernation.
Ed Krupp also pointed out (HASTRO-L, September 15, 1998): "A discussion of constellation origins that depends on celestial zones, their disposition with respect to the north celestial pole and the zenith, and their behaviour, requires Alex, however, to suggest a latitude. In fact his articles do not mention any latitude other than what might be implied by the inclusion of Greek, Mesopotamian, or Ice Age Europe."
Gurshtein's age for the introduction of the 3 strata of constellations was estimated using the precessional tool. Ed Krupp has made the further point that if the estimation for pole of symmetry of the 3 irregular shaped symbolic strata can only be roughly estimated to match circa 14,000 BCE - because the estimation of the stratum/zones is rough - then there is ample room for latitude in the epoch of origin.
The constellation Draco is identified in the air stratum even though it has never been established as a winged dragon. The fact that the Greeks believed in winged serpents does not equal a winged Draco. The earliest dragons were wingless and had a water association. (However it was not unusual for Chinese dragons to be depicted as wingless and in flight.) "Dragons are almost universally associated with water especially deep pools and wells." (See: An Instinct for Dragons by David Jones (2000).). Some of the oldest beliefs concerning dragons are they lived at the bottom of the sea, and they had control over the waters of the earth. The origin of the dragon was almost certainly the Mesopotamian ocean serpent/dragon Tiamat (who dwelt in the Apsu, a sweetwater ocean beneath the earth). Gurshtein's argument that a winged dragon existed in both Chinese and European folklore is an argument using very late beliefs. So Draco as a water constellation is located in the wrong part of the sky.
Stage 3: Circa 5,600 BCE ± 150.
Gurshtein holds that the zodiacal constellations are much younger than the origin of the majority of constellations. This period saw the introduction, somewhere in the Near East, of the first anthropomorphic quartet of the zodiac onto the background of the 3 strata. The purpose of this was for the first agriculturists to learn the 4 most important sun positions (equinoxes and solstices) and to be able to predict the ongoing seasons. This development was connected with the replacement of the simpler lunar calendars (used by hunter/gatherers) and the introduction of/improvements to the solar calendar (appropriate for farmers) during the Neolithic Period. (The dominance of the lunar calendar declined as the need for an accurate solar calendar prevailed.) The first quartet of the zodiacal constellations (Gemini-Virgo-Sagittarius-Pisces) reproduces the earth and water strata. (However, the genuine origin of these four constellations is much earlier than 5,600 BCE.)
Interestingly, Gurshtein (Sky and Telescope, August, 1999, Page 14) connects the claim made for a massive flooding of the Black Sea circa 5,500 BCE (Noah's Flood, by William Ryan and Walter Pitman (1999)) with his claim for the creation of the first quartet of zodiacal constellations circa 5,600 BCE. The authors/academics Ryan and Pitman contend that this catastrophic event played a pivotal role in forcing a mass exodus and the spread of early farming into Europe and much of Asia. Gurshtein believes that this wave of agriculturalism precipitated efforts to establish a proper (improved) solar calendar and so close attention was paid to the stars.
Stage 3 is purely speculative and proposed without any supportive evidence.
Objections have been raised against the early introduction of a solar calendar. There is no evidence for a Neolithic European solar calendar being used or improved circa 5,500 BCE. (The earliest claim for the Neolithic European use of a solar calendar is Malta (connected with the Megalithic temples) circa 3,600 BCE.) The Sumerians were sophisticated early agriculturists but all Sumerian calendars were lunar, with the month beginning with the first sighting of the crescent new moon. The idealized Sumerian lunar year comprised 12 months of 30 days each. An extra 5 days were not added. Probably solar observations were utilised for the intercalation that was required to ensure the calendar kept in line with the seasons.
There is strong opposition to the theories of Ryan and Pitman (of Columbia University) from University of Newfoundland (and other) geologists who use the same data to maintain that the Black sea didn't flood. They maintain instead that the Black Sea started spilling into the Mediterranean circa 8,000 BCE and has remained connected since then. Hence the speculation of a mass exodus of farmers from the Black Sea region circa 5,500 BCE remains unsupported by a flood hypothesis. (See the pivotal paper: "Persistent Holocene Outflow from the Black Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean Contradicts Noah's Flood Hypothesis." by Ali Aksu, Richard Hiscott et. al. (GSA Today, Volume 12, Number 5, 2002, Pages 4-10).) (Also, shortly after the publication of their book both Ryan and Pitman abandoned the date they proposed for the flooding. I have also been informed that later still they abandoned the entire premise of their book.)
Excursus: Seemingly forgotten is the rather fantastic The Deluged Civilization of the Caucasus Isthmus (1923-1933) by Reginald Fessenden (1866-1932; a Canadian chemist, electrical engineer and inventor). The theme of these multiple monographs predates the more recent Black Sea flood theory proposed by William Ryan and Walter Pitman. (The title is also incorrectly reported as: The Deluged Civilization of the Caucasian Ismus.) Fessenden was a proponent of the Caucasus location for Atlantis and the place of origin of humankind. The 3 monographs were published 1923, 1927(8), and 1933. The publication was noted in the academic journals, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und verwandte Gebiete (1930, Page 115), and Geographisches Jahrbuch (1931, Page 69).
Excursus: Early calendars were also based on natural phenomenon - regular and predictable natural recurrences. Determining the time of year can be based on the phases of certain terrestrial phenomena. Whilst most terrestrial phenomena are too unreliable to be used as calendars makers certain types of phenomena are not. The periodical returns of particular terrestrial phenomena were used as signs to designate the year, the seasons, the months. Almanacs were founded on this of ecosystem processes and cycles. These type of calendars depended on noting that terrestrial events occurred in sequences. Noting certain terrestrial changes (i.e., natural phenomena/weather changes) such as the arrival of the rainy season, the disappearance of snow, the certain (and different) behaviour of plant species (i.e., flowering), bird migration or fish migration or animal migration (departing/arriving) that occurred precisely, or nearly so, every year. Also, changing daylight hours. There is well defined seasonality exhibited by plant species in tropical forests. This type of system can become quite sophisticated and can keep accurate track of the passing of years indefinitely when expertly applied.
Stage 4: Circa 2,700 BCE ± 200.
Egypt introduces?/originates? the second zodiacal quartet of animal symbolism (Taurus-Leo-Scorpio-Aquarius). (Scorpio was interchangeable with Aquila the Eagle.) These 4 new markers were added to the previous quartet. (Gurshtein does not know if this second quartet was an Egyptian invention or whether they borrowed these constellations from elsewhere. Note: As of January, 2011 Gurshtein claims the Egyptians originated the second quartet.) The accomplishment was connected with the rise of the agricultural empire of Egypt. Such is acknowledged by the establishment of a new calendar and the erection of the Pyramids (and Sphinx). Gurshtein holds that the Great Sphinx is a symbolical image for the two solsticial constellations Leo (summer) and Aquarius (winter). Gurshtein believes this approach may explain the presence of vertical water erosion affecting the Sphinx - the presence of such is due to water rituals. (Stonehenge was also a provincial by-product of these new celestial concepts.)
Alexander Gurshtein wrote (Hastro-L 24 January, 2011): "I think I have fulfilled my task and found a lot of Mesopotamian artifacts to support the concept of the second "quartet." The same is correct for ancient Egypt where groups were formed in a little bit [by] another manner. The main hybrid was the Great Sphinx (lion - man, i.e. summer - winter). The second group was bull – scorpion (there is such a mace-head of the same period)."
There is no evidence for Old Kingdom Egyptian use of zodiacal constellations. The evidence is unambiguous that there was no knowledge of the zodiac in Egypt until the Greek Period. There is nether textual or nor iconographic evidence supporting an Egyptian recognition of the constellations Leo and Aquarius, or any other zodiacal constellations, before the Ptolemaic Period. Ed Krupp has pointed out that assertions of Great Pyramid astronomy are largely grounded in unrestrained speculative approaches. Ed Krupp has also made the point that it would be strange for Old Kingdom Egyptians to incorporate zodiacal symbolism into the Sphinx and then make no "mention" of zodiacal constellations for circa another 2,000 years.
The ancient Egyptian year was divided into 3 seasons of 4 months each - something like Autumn = Akhet (Flooding), then Winter = Peret (Growing), then Summer = Shemu (Harvest). So how does the Lion (Summer), Man (Winter), Bull (?), Scorpion (?) fit here? Also, the fact that Gurshtein would join the very large Sphinx (lion-man) with a very small mace-head (bull-scorpion) - two very separate items it must be agreed (but apparently of the same period) - in order to claim their symbolism belongs together and identifies a second zodiacal quartet must surely be intended as a test of credulity.
Stage 5: Circa 1,200 BCE ± 400.
Egypt originates (and adds to the two previous quartets) the third zodiacal quartet (Aries-Cancer-Libra-Capricorn) during the time of Akhenaten (and the figure of 12 now becomes sacred). These last four constellation types forming a zodiacal quartet were not symbolic but allegorical: a vernal festivity sacrifice (a ram), the beginning of the retrograde motion of the sun after the summer solstice (a crab), the autumnal equilibrium of the day and night (a balance), and a body of water for the land of the afterlife (a goat-fish). There were various precursors for such an addition but it most probably was finally implemented in Egypt (by Akhenaten). With the identification of the (last) Aries quartet ancient peoples recognised that 12 zodiacal constellations completed the ecliptic circle and that this number roughly corresponds to the (most frequent) number of months in a solar year. Gurshtein holds that the attempt by Akhenaten circa 1,400 BCE, to introduce the third zodiacal quartet, failed but the knowledge of it was taken by "Moses" when he left Egypt. The final design of the zodiac was consolidated circa 1,200 BCE ± 400. (After losing their original significance the original zodiacal quartet remained in the sky as regular constellations.)
See also the highly speculative views in: "Ethno-Astronomical Testimonies, Written and Architectural, From Ancient Egypt: Evidence for the Discovery of the Solar Year." by A.V. Kuzmin (The State Academy of Oil and Gas) (Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions, Volume 17, Number 6, Pages 515-527); written in collaboration with Gurshtein.
There is no evidence for knowledge of the zodiac in Egypt until the Greek Period. No system of native Egyptian constellations (such as the Decans) were ecliptic-based. (According to the widely accepted interpretation made by Otto Neugebauer in Egyptian Astronomical Texts (Volume 1, 1960), based the Book of Nut texts, the decan stars circled the sky in a zone approximately parallel to and slightly south of the ecliptic. (The decans lay within a wide equatorial belt.) The decanal system has been traced back as far as the 3rd Dynasty (circa 2800 BCE) and may be older still.)
There is no credible evidence for a system of zodiacal quartets (and certainly no evidence for Egypt introducing a system of second and third sets of zodiac quartets). It would appear that by the late 2nd-millennium BCE the Egyptians had divided the sky into a small number of very large constellations. By circa 1100 BCE, not including the 36 decans, an Egyptian catalog of the universe had marked the sky with 5 or 6 very large constellations (including such animal figures as the Hippopotamus, Ox, and Crocodile). Two of these constellations were similar to the Western constellations Orion and Ursa Major. As the Egyptians were accustomed to regard the whole sky as a figure of the goddess Nut, supported on hands and feet, it posed no difficulties for them to develop constellation figures of half that extent. (The constellation figure of Nekht ("mighty man") must, by the description of its hourly parts, have extended over 6 hours.) During the 1st-millennium BCE these constellations would be divided further into some 25 constellations. The ecliptic can be conveniently used as an arbitrary dividing line between the northern constellations and the southern constellations. (Virginia Davis usefully proposed that the Milky Way would have been the boundary between the northern and southern skies of of ancient Egypt.) The southern group of constellations was essentially formed by the belt of individual stars and asterisms comprising the decanal belt.
Gurshtein, when using only one example as evidence for his assertions (as he does with the Egyptian material he chooses to utilise, faces a problem: having only one example as evidence for his assertions. Single source examples prohibit his interpretations being contrasted with other sources of the same type. Historical research would be wise to heed the old Latin legal expression/proverb, testis unus, testis nullus (one witness is (as good as) no witness). This maxim sets out that a single proof of something is really a proof of nothing. Having only one source/example is insufficient to corroborate a theory. At times Gurshtein offers nothing other than single-case 'archaeological' evidence to test his assertions.
On 20-10-2000, Gurshtein posted to Ancient Astrology and Divination Message Board: "The conventional wisdom is that astrology originated in Mesopotamia while Cyril Fagan, the eminent British historian of astrology, with strong argumentation fingerpointed (sic) on Egypt. Are there novel trends in this field?" This post is obviously connected with Gurshtein's attempt to find additional arguments for his ideas. Fagan was a British astrologer who borrowed many of his ideas from conventional historians of science. However, even astrologers doubt Fagan's scholarship and acknowledge he made some serious mistakes. Fagan was not academically trained, Furthermore, he was simply dogmatic (and mistaken) on a number of historical points. As example: Fagan based his theories on the belief that the zodiac originated in 786 BCE. Also, there was no ancient Egyptian astrology. Astrology in Egypt originated in the Hellenistic period. This is a point that the chief proponent Cyril Fagan misunderstood completely.
Stage 6: Circa 500 BCE.
The consolidation, by the Babylonians, of the modern zodiac comprising of 12 equally divided sections using constellation signs. Both the Babylonian system of the "three paths" and the later Aratean constellations embodied the archaic 3 symbolic strata. The Babylonian system of the "three paths" are symbolically identical to the 3 symbolic strata identifiable in Aratus' poem. The Aratean constellations were aligned to the north celestial pole, and era estimation, using the precessional tool, shows they described a sky circa 2,000 BCE. Gurshtein argues that as Archie Roy and others have shown the Aratean constellations to be some 1,500 years earlier than the time of Aratus then the Aratean constellations are contemporary to the Babylonian scheme of the "three paths." Zeus is a symbol of the land strata because he resides at Olympus which symbolically belongs to the land strata. To identify the 3 strata of the Aratean sky it is not necessary to apply the "larger is older" rule. With 4 or 5 exceptions - and these being small constellations that were late additions - the Aratean constellations quite obviously demonstrate the existence of 3 symbolic strata comprising air, land, and water. The Greek stratum comprised a small air strata, an irregular land strata, and a large irregular water strata.
There is no evidence that the Babylonians adopted the zodiac from elsewhere. The cuneiform evidence is sufficiently complete and detailed to show that the zodiac was a Babylonian invention of the first millennium BCE. The Babylonian development of the zodiac was a gradual process which took place from circa 750 BCE to circa 450 BCE.
The Greeks never claimed that the Aratean scheme of constellations incorporated an acknowledged system of 3 symbolic strata. There is no convincing evidence for believing that the Babylonian scheme of the "three paths/ways" are part of a scheme of symbolic strata of constellation types. There is no demonstrated association between Babylonian and Greek 3 symbolic strata for constellations as neither civilization had such a scheme. (The Babylonians did have an area of constellated sky known as the "celestial sea/waters.")
Gurshtein confuses the "three ways" (= 3 concentric "paths") with 3 perpendicular levels. The "three ways" were 3 concentric longitudinal divisions of the sky.
I am not aware that the Babylonian "equatorial" scheme of the "three way/paths" (which can best be described as a concept of "horizontal" divisions) are intended to reflect the vertical structure comprising the Mesopotamian universe. The "three way/paths" are not superimposed levels. (The scheme of the "three ways" may be loosely termed an "equatorial" scheme. There is no evidence, however, the Babylonians formally recognised the celestial equator.) Ernst Weidner, and other pioneering assyriologists, in the early 20th-century thought the circular astrolabes indicated 3 concentric spheres for the three paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. However, this is incorrect. The vertical levels of the (generalised) Mesopotamian universe (from literary texts) are:
Gurshtein uses the Babylonian "three paths/ways" as evidence that air, land, and water strata were known/used astronomically prior to a supposed Greek scheme of such. He identifies Enlil with air/sky, Anu with land, and Ea with water. According to both David Pingree and Erle Leichty (who use both etymology and mythology) the correct identification is Enlil = earth, Anu = sky, and Ea = water. (The Babylonian system of "the three ways/paths" was established circa 1,500 BCE, at the start of the Cassite Period, which began the development of systematic astronomical observations.) The Babylonian "three paths/ways" had the following structure:
North Celestial Pole : Enlil (Earth) : Anu (Sky) : Ea (Water (Fresh Waters)) : Southern Horizon
The structure that Gurshtein seeks to impose is:
North Celestial Pole : Enlil (Air/Sky) : Anu (Earth) : Ea (Water) : Southern Horizon
and that this astronomical scheme is to be interpreted as the Babylonian intention to represent a vertical three-tiered universe.
Apart from the Babylonian "three ways" there is no attempt by Gurshtein to apply the other aspects of his method to the Sphaera Barbarica i.e., the ancient Babylonian and Egyptian (and Chinese) constellations. Gurshtein claims that as we only have an incomplete understanding of the Babylonian constellations (i.e., the Mul.Apin constellation lists) he necessarily cannot use such for examination and support of his ideas. However, there is agreed identification of many of the constellations listed. (See especially the appendix in Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree (1999).) Gurshtein makes no attempt to use such even in a provisional way. Further, the Mul.Apin series dates back to circa 1,000 BCE and contains one of the oldest textual records records of constellation groups.
Gurshtein's use of "rules" for interpretation of constellation stratum are quite flexible. Using both etymology and mythology Zeus is supremely the god of the sky in Greek religion. (Certainly not a god of the earth, as Gurshtein would interpret him.) In the Greek sky Gurshtein has Lyra in the air stratum even though it is not a winged creature and has not convincingly shown it to have replaced a winged creature. Gurshtein argues his case for such from bird depictions for Lyra on early medieval Arabic celestial maps. Also, the constellation Pegasus is placed in the air stratum even though it was not described as a winged horse by Aratus. (Gurshtein recognises there are numerous difficulties with his concept of the "air stratum" on the Greek sphere.) In his articles "Dating the Origin of Constellations by Precession." (1994), and "Prehistory of Zodiac Dating." (1995), the constellation Orion (the Hunter) was identified as archaic earth symbolism. Gurshtein now (2001) discards such and places Orion in the Greek water stratum because he was the son of a water god and had the ability to walk on/under water. (If this identification argument holds for Orion then surely Draco should also be a water stratum constellation.) Interestingly, Douglas Kidd (Aratus Phaenomena, 1997, Page 303) states: "The hero's ability to walk on the sea ... must have originated in the sight of the constellation rising upright on the eastern horizon ...."
Note: It is a mistake to suppose the gods/goddesses of the ancient Greeks had fixed characteristics throughout their history. Their characteristics were changed to suit the varied and changing religious beliefs of the Greek people. According to some ancient writers Orion was the son of Poseidon and Euryale (one of the 3 Gorgon sisters). Poseidon is considered by some scholars to originally be an earth-shaker (a causer of earthquakes) and presiding over the underworld, and only later did he become a sea-god (perhaps due to an association between earthquakes and tsunamis). Although the cult of Poseidon is very old in Greece it does not antedate the Hellenistic period.
For Gurshtein to argue that the Aratean constellations accurately reflect the sky circa 14,000 BCE is extreme speculation.
The arguments of Edward Maunder, Andrew Crommelin, Michael Ovenden, and Archibald Roy to date the Aratean constellations to earlier dates ranging from circa 3,000 BCE-2,000 BCE contain numerous flaws in methodology. Simply, there is no evidence of an Aratean scheme of constellations existing circa 3,000 BCE-2,000 BCE anywhere in the world. The evidence shows that the earliest appearance of many of the modern constellations is in Mesopotamia and they form part of the earliest known constellations. The evidence shows that the Babylonians of the 2nd millennium BCE used a scheme of constellations that included many mentioned by Aratus and others that are not mentioned by him. Simply, many of the later Greek constellations were derived from Mesopotamia. A suitable discussion of numerous other problems with the basic methodologies of Maunder-Crommelin-Ovenden-Roy is undertaken by the astronomer Bradley Schaefer in his important paper "The Latitude and Epoch for the Formation of the Southern Greek Constellations." (Journal for the History of Astronomy, Volume 33, Part 4, 2002, Pages 313-350).
Gurshtein's arguments do not actually involve the use of any quantitative evidence showing actual constellations circa 14,000 BCE. His method is primarily deductive and employs suppositions and also analysis arguments regarding the Aratean constellations circa 275 BCE. Gurshtein primarily uses the precessional tool to attempt to reconstruct an earlier constellated sky. His conclusion is that our inherited Western constellations are an integrated set that originated circa 14,000 BCE. Independent evidence of early knowledge of constellations is not established or even attempted. Gurshtein believes that each celestial "map" contains traces of its own history and we have to learn how to read the features embedded in each celestial "map." Ancient textual sources are not complete enough to enable the history of the constellations to be suitably determined. For Gurshtein the issue is trying to understand/establish the process of a celestial "map's" progressive development. However, for Gurshtein to use the Greek and Babylonian material in the manner he does and then use the precessional tool to date both constellation systems (or aspects of such) to circa 14,000 BCE would seem to push the credibility of the method to the limits. Gurshtein's use of the "void zone" argument is of a different nature to that used by Maunder-Crommelin-Ovenden-Roy. His use of the "void zone" argument is only associated with the huge sizes of the "water strata" of constellations located close to the horizon. There is no evidence to suggest that even circa 3,000-2,000 BCE any culture had a highly developed scheme of constellations much less that there was a highly developed early scheme of constellations incorporating knowledge of the ecliptic, the solstices and equinoxes, or any other of the 11 circles that the later Greeks used to delineate the celestial sphere. Ed Krupp has made the strong point that the methods of argument used by Alexander Gurshtein can hardly claim to establish continuity between a hypothesized Paleolithic constellation system and that which was put in place some 15,000 years later. Constellation identifications that assume the very early existence of a constellation system similar to our modern scheme have yet to include suitable standards of proof to establish such.
Ironically, it is generally agreed that the Pleiades, the smallest constellation/asterism, was likely the earliest recognised constellation (or one of the earliest recognised constellations) because of its time-keeping value for agriculturalists. Further, Argo the Ship, the largest constellation in the sky, was a late constellation that was developed by the Greeks. This runs counter to Gurshtein's deductive/conjectural conclusions.
Appendix 1: The Water Stratum and its "Zones."
Gurshtein does not hold that Argo (which is the largest constellation in area) is amongst the oldest constellations. Instead, he holds that Argo is a special case. (This position (= flaw in Gurshtein's argument) is logically quite unavoidable. It is completely impossible to expect a ship constellation such as Argo Navis to have been invented prior to the development of the ocean-going ship circa 3500 BCE.) It is held to belong to the "water stratum" (Eridanus, Cetus, Aquarius, Pisces, Capricornus, Hydra, Orion, etc.) which was located just above the horizon for the ancient observers. Due to precession there were two special zones within this "water stratum." Whilst the stratum of air and the stratum of earth remained stable the stratum of water was gradually disfigured. Within one of its sections above the horizon there was a "zone of accumulation." Within the opposite section there was a "zone of erosion." As a result, during the millennia the stratum of water appeared not as a belt but as a kind of "horseshoe" with a thick part and a missing part. The constellations Argo, Hydra, and Eridanus are in the thick part of this "horseshoe" of the water stratum. However, there are problems regarding a "zone of accumulation" if Argo is a constellation introduced quite late by Eudoxus. Where the Greeks have Argo the Babylonians had a number of constellations including BAN (the Bow) and KAK.SI.SA (the Arrow), NIN.MAH (Goddess of Motherhood), and GAN.UR (the Harrow). These are all "air/earth" stratum constellations. An additional problem is why isn't Centaurus (which is located under Hydra - and so is closer to the southern horizon) affected by "accumulation" due to precession?
Appendix 2: The Date of the Southern Greek Constellations.
The astronomer Bradley Schaefer has recently re-investigated the "void zone" arguments of Maunder-Crommelin-Ovenden-Roy. See: "The Latitude and Epoch for the Formation of the Southern Greek Constellations." by Bradley Schaefer (Journal for the History of Astronomy, Volume 33, Part 4, 2002, Pages 313-350). His conclusions are that the southern Greek constellations originated in the first millennium BCE, and are basically derived from Babylonia.
Appendix 3: Gurshtein's Claims for Proto-Zodiacal Images in Archaic Iconography.
Over the past several years Alex Gurshtein has focused on the identification of what he believes are proto-zodiacal images in archaic iconography. In his HASTRO-L posting of early June 2004 he stated his concern that his case for the identification of proto-zodiacal images in archaic iconography was being overlooked. The following is my critique of the specific examples he chooses to use as evidence for his very speculative theory. In a personal e-mail to me in late June he briefly detailed his examples of iconographic evidence. However, the iconographic examples given basically repeat earlier postings to HASTRO-L and the nature of the argumentation also remains unchanged.
(1) First Zodiacal Quartet
Currently Gurshtein has not yet identified any archaic iconography that he believes can support his case for a first zodiacal quartet (circa from the 6th millennium BCE onward). However, he does believe that he has identified iconographic depictions of the second quartet in its entirety and also the third quartets in its entirety. This evidence is seen as having key importance in substantiating his claims.
It is interesting that Gurshtein believes that the depiction of hybrid (composite) figures becomes primary evidence for his hypothesis. There is an assumption that this is necessarily logical. Surely the particular separated figures should also be considered evidence of constellation markers for the seasons. Any investigation of this type needs to determine how many "four figure" hybrid types of iconographic depictions there are and what person (or fabulous creature) and animal variations are depicted (and in what ways)? (Note: There are 10 basic categories of composite figures in Neo-Babylonian art.) It is evident that a simplistic approach is being taken regarding how such iconography is interpreted. No weighing of the "zodiacal interpretation" with alternative explanations is evident. Fundamentally Gurshtein's claims still comprise a series of speculative assertions. It is up to Gurshtein to show why this type of evidence and argument has objective value. For a recent study of Babylonian composite figures see: Composite Beings in Neo-Babylonian Art by Constance Gane (unpublished PhD thesis, 2012).
(2) Second Zodiacal Quartet
Example 1 resides in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (B15606). It is a Sumerian limestone plaque unearthed from Ubaid (South Iraq) and dated to the so-called Early Dynastic IIIB Period (circa 2,400-2,250 BCE). This is the early period of the second zodiacal quartet. The plaque is a mix of four symbols: within a single ring, a lion-headed eagle is biting the back of a human-headed bull. Gurshtein claims it is exactly the yearly representation of the second quartet designed in proper seasonal order: a body of the bull (spring), a head of the lion (summer), a body of the eagle (fall), and a head of the man (winter). It is a symbolic proto-zodiacal seasonal calendar for use by the priesthood.
Described and interpreted by Gurshtein as: Within a single ring a lion-headed eagle is biting the back of a human-headed bull. Second quartet designed in proper seasonal order: a body of the bull (spring), a head of the lion (summer), a body of the eagle (fall), and a head of the man (winter).
We have two hybrid figures depicted in combat/contest (i.e., "combined"). No evidence is provided for establishing either a calendar connection or a constellation connection.
The source for this iconography is The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of the Image by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford (1991). The authors of the book do not make any of the astronomical interpretations that Gurshtein does.
According to Gurshtein it was the composition of this quartet that coined the term Zodiac, i.e., a circle of beasts, instead of predominantly anthropomorphic creatures of the first quartet. Gurshtein seems to be asserting that there was likely a specific term at this time identifying the uncompleted zodiac.
Previously Gurshtein had maintained there had been an Egyptian origin for the 2nd quartet. We now have this zodiacal quartet originating somewhere in the Near East. There is nothing to link such to being a representation of a priestly calendar. Also, why do we start with the body of the bull and not the head of the lion, etc? Gurshtein makes the starting point the bull's body, then the lion's head; then the eagle's body, then the man's head. The hybrid human-headed bull is separated and the hybrid lion-headed eagle placed between the body and the head in head and body sequence. Why necessarily separate the whole figure, or the man-bull figure, to interpret the iconography? Curiously, with the Griffin example (Example 3) below, Gurshtein starts (and stays with) the Eagle head of the Griffin (and ignores its lion body). Also, clearly there is no circle of symbols depicted.
Gurshtein now holds that circa the 3rd millennium BCE, somewhere in the Near East, the first ecliptic quartet was supplemented with the second symbolic quartet that combined a bull (spring), a lion (summer), a scorpion (fall), and a performer of water rites (winter). It appears that the previous Egyptian identification of the 2nd zodiacal quartet has been dropped. The question of exactly how Aquarius is to be identified with a performer of water rites also requires answering.
Most interestingly, Willy Hartner argued for a Sumerian quartet of constellations, comprising Bull-Lion-Scorpion-Ibex, marking the seasons (i.e., tropical points) circa 4000 BCE. This particular arrangement, and likewise the date assigned by Hartner for their origin, is ignored by Gurshtein's scheme.
Example 2 is an artifact with exactly the same design as Example 1 above but recovered from Palace G, in Ebla (Syria), (Idlib Museum, Syria 3294). It dates from the Early Bronze Age (circa 2,350-2,250 BCE), which is just slightly later than Example 1. What we observe within this limestone inlay is the same circle of four symbols of the second zodiacal quartet depicting the yearly seasons.
There simply is no evidence independent of Gurshtein's chosen interpretation that such represents (1) a circle of four yearly seasons, and (2) depicts the second zodiacal quartet. Further critique would be the same as above for Example 1.
Example 3 is a Cypriot ivory carving from Enkomi (East Cyprus). Gurshtein claims we again have a circle of four symbols of the second zodiacal quartet depicting the yearly seasons: a lion is tearing a bull, i.e., summer suppresses spring, and a man is fighting an eagle, which is winter getting autumn out. These are two sides of a mirror handle dated from circa 1550-1050 BCE; the end of the second zodiacal quartet period.
Described and interpreted by Gurshtein as: Another circle of four seasonal labels: a lion is tearing a bull, i.e., summer suppresses spring, and a man is fighting an eagle, which is winter getting autumn out. Lion (summer) replaces spring (bull) and a man (winter) replaces autumn (eagle).
We have two separate illustrations. One a lion-bull combat/contest scene and the other a warrior killing a griffin. We have three whole figures and a hybrid figure. There are two figures in two separate combat/contest scenes. The lion and bull are natural animals, the warrior is a natural person, and the griffin he is killing is a fabulous hybrid beast. The griffin is interpreted as an eagle i.e., the eagle face is given significance, not the lion body. However the griffin is clearly out of place within the 2nd zodiacal quartet hypothesis.
The item is discussed in detail in Enkomi et le Bronze Récent à Chypre by J-Cl. Courtois and J. and E. Lagarce (1986). The town of Enkomi circa 1200-1100 BCE was a mixture of Oriental and Aegean cultures.
These are independent dual combat/contest scenes. There is no reason to believe the two scenes on either side of this mirror handle only have sense as a connected (i.e., integrated) four-figure scene. The "Eagle" is actually identifiable as a Griffin. (Basically a creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.) The Enkomi mirror handle is on display in the British Museum and the iconography is identified as: "A warrior attacking a griffin and a lion attacking a bull." The British Museum further explains: "In common with most Cypriot ivories of the Late Bronze Age, the decoration shows a mixture influences from east and west. The lion attacking the bull is a familiar motif in Mycenaean art, while the theme of a warrior slaying a griffin owes its inspiration to Western Asia." The British Museum dates the item to circa 1200-1100 BCE. The arrival of the Achaeans of the Aegean circa the end of the 13th-century BCE probably aided the introduction of new artistic styles. During the 15th and 14th centuries BCE the Griffin figure was most frequent (i.e., popular) in Mesopotamian iconography. Interestingly, the Griffin figure is believed to have most likely originated in early 2nd millennium Syria. Lion-headed eagle iconography existed in the Syrian Kingdom of Mari circa 2600-2300 BCE (and was a common motif in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BCE). In early Mesopotamia the Griffin, comprising of an eagle-headed lion, represented the thunderstorm. Regarding the likelihood that the Enkomi combat/contest scenes are independent of each other in intention and interpretation. Another Cypriot ivory mirror handle (also dated to the Late Bronze Age) has been recovered from chamber tomb KTE VIII in Palaipaphos. This mirror handle apparently only has a decoration on one side of the handle - that of a warrior attacking a griffin. If this is so it works against Gurshtein's interpretation of a connected (i.e., integrated) four-figure scene for the warrior attacking a griffin and a lion attacking a bull on the Enkomi mirror handle. Back to the Griffin. The Griffin is a composite figure. Gurshtein obviously identifies the Eagle-head as the "key" as it matches his ideas. Yet he interprets other two-part composite figures by the body first not the head. Also, why is the Griffin not to be interpreted as representing two figures? Further, as far as I am aware there is nothing astronomical about the Griffin.
The Enkomi mirror handle scene of the warrior attacking a griffin is discussed by the archaeologist Nancy Sanders in her book, The Sea Peoples (Revised edition, 1985, Page 145), and she includes a photograph. Her comments include "... a man with a round shield and sword is stabbing a griffin; he wears the kilt and body armour of the attacking Sea People .... The winged griffin might possibly stand for a Mycenaean enemy (?)."
Also, clearly there is no circle of symbols depicted. No evidence is provided for establishing either a calendar connection or a constellation connection. (The warrior attacking griffin motif has also been identified as depicting the battle with the dragon of chaos.)
Example 4 is deemed by Gurshtein to be the best example. It appears in the Old Testament of the Bible and occurs at the Chebar River (a tributary of the Euphrates River, North Babylonia) during the exile of the Jewish people. The prophet Ezekiel has a vision in which the heavens opened up. Ezekiel saw the likenesses of four living creatures: an earthling man, a calf's face, a lion's face, and an eagle's face. This is another example of the second zodiacal quartet. Later the four creatures of Ezekiel's vision became symbols of the four Christian evangelists.
Described and Gurshtein as: The likenesses of four living creatures: an earthling man, a calf's face, a lion's face, and an eagle's face. However, apart from stating it is an example of the 2nd zodiacal quartet, Gurshtein does not specifically interpret the creatures described in Ezekiel's vision.
No combat/contest depiction. (They are 4 angelic creatures around the throne of Yayweh.)
We have a complex Biblical description presented to us. Human-like creatures each with a composite body and each having the facial likenesses of four living creatures are described. They each had the form of men, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. They each had the face of a man in front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. Ezekiel had 2 visions and likely they were identical – he saw the Tetramoulon (entities with 4 faces in a single head).
No intended 2nd quartet identification is evident. It is simply the identification of primarily certain zodiacal constellations. Ezekiel's visions are dated circa 600 BCE which is after the Babylonians had established a 12-constellation zodiac. The Bull, Lion, Scorpion do exist as asterism names in the Cassite Period 1530-1160 BCE, as pre-zodiacal asterisms/constellations. Using later astrological beliefs to argue the case is fraught with difficulties. In one commonly accepted interpretation the four creatures are supposed to correspond to four signs of the zodiac. The faces of the creatures (cherubim) seemingly correspond to 4 zodiacal constellations (if the Eagle substitutes for the Scorpion). The lion corresponds to the constellation of the lion. The ox corresponds to the constellation of the ox (i.e., the bull). The man probably corresponds to the scorpion-man (an old Babylonian name). The eagle was not taken from Aquarius (the water-bearer) but possibly from the constellation of the eagle in the neighbourhood.
Multiple examples of composite creatures and four-winged creatures (including the god Ninurtu) are prevalent in Mesopotamian, Syrian, and Phoenician art. The old Sumerian god Ninurta (promoted as a fierce warrior god during the Assyrian Period) whose temple is at Nimrud is depicted with four wings. However, the oldest occurrence of the Tetramoulon may date to a bronze cult stand dating circa 1200 BCE (and hence pre-zodiacal) from Cyprus which portrays a cherub with the head of a man, the wings of an eagle, the forelegs of a lion and the hindquarters of a bull (see: Elie Borowski, "Cherubim: God's Throne?" in Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1995). However, no exact or close examples to the description in Ezekiel seem to exist unless aspects of the description are isolated. To cite The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by John Walton, Victor Matthews, and Mark Chavalas (2000, Page 690): "1:6, 10. four-faced creatures. There does not seem to be any exact Near Eastern parallels to these multifaced creatures. ... there are few examples of multiple faces on the same creature."
Leslie Allen, Word Biblical Commentary: Ezekiel, Volumes 28 & 29, 1986) wrote that the 4 faces suggest the 4 cardinal directions (north = Eagle, east = Bull, south = Human, west = Lion). (I do not know if anyone has linked the particular 4 statues at Persepolis with the 4 cardinal directions. The 4 corners of the so-called Gate of All Nations (built during the reign of Xerxes I) is oriented to the 4 cardinal directions. Large bull figures (guards?) are positioned at the east and west.)
Importantly, it is not certain that zodiacal signs figure in Ezekiel's vision. In his commentary on Ezekiel, Verses 1-20, (Anchor Bible, Volume 22, Pages 58) Moshe Greenberg states: "Virtually every component of Ezekiel's vision can ... be derived from Israelite tradition supplemented by neighboring iconography ...." As example: The four faces of the creatures may be traced back to the description of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies in Solomon's temple (See: 1 Kings 6:27, 28). Cherubim were frequently depicted as having the heads of men, the bodies of either lions or bulls - sometimes a lion's fore parts and a bull's hindquarters - and the wings of eagles sprouting from their lion or bull shoulders.
The possible use of zodiacal imagery by Ezekiel adds nothing to the "2nd quartet" hypothesis. Aquarius does not have any bright stars. Scorpius, Leo, Taurus, and Aquila each have a first magnitude star. It is possible that the dates for some of Ezekiel's visions have calendrical significance.
An example of Gurshtein’s distortions and lack of historical knowledge are demonstrated in his recent Hastro-L statement (24th January, 2011): "… My opponents do not wish to notice and absolutely ignore that, later on, during the Babylonian Bondage exactly the same foursome simplegma (sic) was repeated in the Ezekiel vision in the sky. And it became a backbone for numerous images of cherubs." The preceding paragraph on Ezekiel's vision being derived from the description of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies in Solomon's temple has appeared on this page since 2003 and was previously brought to Gurshtein's attention. Also, to make the point again, it refutes Gurshtein's claim that Ezekiel's vision was the foundation for descriptions of the cherubim. Descriptions of the Temple cherubim already existed and were used by Ezekial. (I will ignore Ezekial's contradictory description of his 'vision' (actually a theological statement) where the identification of a cherub is later changed to the identification of an ox.)
Note Regarding Second Zodiacal Quartet Figures
Two different cultural traditions during the Age of Taurus resulted in two variants of the second quartet: the eagle could take the place of the scorpion. This view is backed by later astrological beliefs and the fact that, in Jewish history, the tribe of Dan could correspond to either the Scorpion or the Eagle.
No solid evidence is provided for this assertion. Indeed there is no attempt to explain the extent of the evidence for this claim of two different proto-zodiacal cultural traditions. Also not explained is the cultures that held the differing viewpoints or exactly how they were expressed. Where is the iconographic evidence for lion-bull-man-scorpion? (The difficulty of using iconographic material is well illustrated by the iconography of Pazuzu, the Mesopotamian demon of the southeast wind, who had the combined features of a man, eagle, and scorpion.) The Biblical references to the 12 tribes of Israel are rather confusing. The particular stories of Jacob and the 12 sons of Israel are dated to circa the 7th-century BCE when the Babylonians had established a 12-constellation zodiac. Also, using later astrological beliefs to argue the case is fraught with difficulties. It also demonstrates that early evidence to argue the case does not exist. Regarding the symbol of the tribe of Dan. My understanding is that the tribe of Dan was associated with Scorpio (= a dragon or serpent). However, an Eagle effectively replaced the Dragon/Serpent (and was probably not derived from, or interchangeable with, the Scorpion). The connection of the mythical 12 tribes with the twelve months of the year and also the twelve constellations of the zodiac is not doubted. (The 12 tribes of Israel are undoubtedly linked to the 12 months, but some scholars do doubt whether the 12 tribes are linked to the zodiac.) The occurrences of the Assyrian conquest of the Near East and the Babylonian captivity ensured that Jewish beliefs were saturated with astral concepts. However, Israelite astronomical lore seems to have been substantially independent of Mesopotamian influence, and was probably largely indigenous to Canaan.
Third Zodiacal Quartet
Example 5 is the Leontocephalus monster from the mystery cult of cult of Mithras (Rome, Italy?). The particular Leontocephalus is the white marble figure which features, on the front of his torso, four zodiacal symbols which are the elements of the third quartet. The upper line is a ram and a scale-holder (= spring/fall) while the lower line is a cancer and a capricorn (= summer/winter). The 1.5-meter figure was sculptured in the 3rd century CE in the Roman Empire and is now located in the Vatican (CIMRM 545). Only the torso of the monster is genuine; the remainder is a modern restoration.
Described and interpreted by Gurshtein as: The front of the torso of the Leontocephalus features four zodiacal symbols which are the elements of the third quartet. The upper line is a Ram and a Scale-holder (spring/fall) while the lower line is a Cancer and a Capricorn (summer/winter) Interpreted by Gurshtein as: Ram (spring), Scale-holder (fall), Cancer (summer), and Capricorn (winter).
Whole and separate figures are depicted. No combat/contest depiction.
It is hard to believe that the case could be made for quartet depictions from this period that reflect Gurshtein's particular gradualist ideas of such. Any argument simply based on particular zodiacal constellation figures at this late date (i.e., toward the beginning of the Late Roman Period) means very little unless particularly proven. It would need to be explained why zodiacal 3rd quartet depictions were important some 1000 years after the zodiac was established. Why would the 3rd quartet be emphasised some 1000 years after the zodiac was originated? If they simply happened to mark the tropical points (i.e., solstices and equinoxes) then this is sufficient reason for use of the particular constellations. It is likely the depiction of the zodiacal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, between the folds of the serpent, merely serve the purpose of representing the solstices and equinoxes. (Samuel Brandon (History, Time and Deity, 1965, Plate IV facing page 37) held that the four signs of the zodiac on the body of the Leontocephalus denoted the deity's association with fate.) There is no reason to invoke the "3rd quartet" explanation. The Babylonian origin and later Greek borrowing is sufficient explanation.
Four distinctive types of iconographic representation of the zodiacal quartets are proposed. But there is no real similarity between them or consistency in how they are interpreted. Also, the validity of the method for flexible forms of interpretation remains unexplained. Interestingly, no 2nd zodiacal quartet or 3rd zodiacal quartet iconography from Egypt has been proposed.
Gurshtein holds the substitution of a certain ecliptic quartet with the succeeding one was a prolonged and uneasy cultural process. However, this is merely an assertion. No evidence is given for it. Gurshtein's method needs to explain why an outdated quartet can be found past the time limits of its usefulness as a seasonal marker. In the end it has the ironic effect of using contradictions to Gurshtein's hypothesis as evidence for supporting it.
Gurshtein asserts that his concept of zodiacal origins was developed on purely astronomical grounds plus the decoding of zodiacal iconography in/on archaeological artifacts. However, his ideas, on the case presented by him, largely involve large amounts of speculation and little supportive evidence. It is relatively easy to construct a "tidy" theory in the absence of strong evidence. There is no independent evidence to suggest an astronomical (i.e., constellation) connection for the iconographic "evidence" offered above. We simply have an exercise of a match being claimed. Gurshtein well recognises that his ideas are disputable. Gurshtein believes that some opponents of his idea of zodiacal origins only decline to believe it because of the lack of direct iconographic evidence. However, this is not accurate. The absence of evidence, the ignoring of cuneiform evidence, and the use of disputable "evidence" are the major factors. I am not aware of anyone who has maintained that iconographic "evidence" could be largely decisive for Gurshtein's idea of zodiacal origins. The iconography proposed as evidence can hardly be termed significant. What we have is the controversial use of selected, and limited, iconography.
Appendix 4: A Curious Claim by Gurshtein in His Recent (2005) Article.
"Did the Pre-Indo-Europeans Influence the Formation of the Western Zodiac?" (Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 33, Number 1 & 2, Spring/Summer, 2005, Pages 103-150) is Gurshtein's longest article to date. In the conclusion to the article he makes the incredibly uninformed and misleading statement: "The writers making this claim [that the Western Zodiac originated during the 1st millennium BCE in Mesopotamia] propose no explanations as to why the Zodiac would have been instituted at this certain time in this certain place." The effect of this statement is to make his particular ideas seem reasonable rather than contrary to best evidence. It attempts to create a puzzle that does not exist. It demonstrates that Gurshtein continues to either ignore or remain completely unfamiliar with the Mesopotamian cuneiform evidence. The explanations which he claims are lacking are actually given in a number of the references he cites. No Assyriologist doubts the Babylonian origin of the zodiac. It is an example that Gurshtein will not admit that any type of evidence falsifies his theory - he simply dismisses anything that appears contradictory.
Before being used for astrological speculation the zodiac was an astronomical development whose stages are recoverable from Babylonian astronomical cuneiform texts dating from circa 1000 BCE with the Mul.Apin series. The zodiac of signs was invented for use as a reference point in mathematical astronomy. The Babylonian origin of the zodiac is assured on the basis of cuneiform documentation. (In the Path of the Moon: Babylonian Celestial Divination and Its Legacy (2010) by Francesca Rochberg (Chapter Seven: Babylonian Contribution to Hellenistic Astrology); The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture (2004) by Francesca Rochberg (Chapter 4: Sources for Horoscopes in Astronomical Texts).) Babylonian equivalents of the names of constellations later used for the divisions of the zodiac occur in Babylonian star lists and other cuneiform texts of the 1st-millennium BCE. The earliest cuneiform evidence for the existence of the 12-sign 'ecliptic' zodiac comes from early 5th-century BCE astronomical diaries (Number -453 iv 2, Number -440 rev.3', and Number -418:5, 10 rev.8' and 14'). (Babylonian Horoscopes (1998) by Francesca Rochberg (Chapter 3: Elements of a Babylonian Zodiac).) The concept of the zodiac cannot be found anywhere else before the 5th-century BCE (the pre-Seleucid, Babylonian Persian (Achaemenid) Period).
"One can posit the following steps in the development of the zodiac, although it must be said that our knowledge of how the zodiac was first developed is provisional. The division of the schematic calendar into 12 months of 30 days each, such as was used in MUL.APIN, the Astrolabes, and Enūma Anu Enlil, could be correlated with twelve constellations through which the sun was found to travel in one ideal "year" of twelve 30-day months. Because the spring equinox, which was always close to the beginning of the Babylonian year, was to occur in Nisannu (I.15 according to the tradition of MUL.APIN) then Nisannu, or month I, was when the sun was in the constellation Aries (MUL.LÚ.HUN.GA = Agru "the hired man"). For each ideal month, the sun's position in the sky could be identified by the name of a constellation but schematized to correlate the sun's passage through the constellations with the twelve 30-day intervals. The result would be an association of twelve 30-day months and twelve constellations, later standardized to intervals of 30º along the ecliptic." (The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture (2004) by Francesca Rochberg (Chapter 4: Sources for Horoscopes in Astronomical Texts, Page 129).)
Gurshtein believes that after 3000 years of writing a supposedly extant and ancient zodiacal scheme is finally only attested by writing circa 500 BCE.
From my essay on the origin of the zodiac:
"The zodiac was a development from the Babylonian scheme of 17/18 constellations/stars marking the path of the moon. The Babylonian system of 17/18 constellations/stars zodiac marking the path of the Moon belongs to the Assyrian Period (and perhaps originated circa 1000 BCE) and was still in use in the 7th-century BCE and contained the constellations that were to form the 12-constellation solar zodiac. At least 5 of these 17/18 constellations/stars are not previously listed but are additional constellations/named stars in the Mul.Apin series. Post Mul.Apin (i.e., toward the Neo-Babylonian Period) the number of constellations/stars in the Path(s) of Sin/Shamash was limited from 17/18 to 12. Circa 700 BCE a "zodiac" comprising of 12 irregular sized constellations had been developed. Only those 12 constellations/stars nearest to the path of the ecliptic were used. The other 5/6 were discarded as ecliptic markers. A Babylonian text from circa the 5th-century BCE which lists 12 months (and ignores the intercalary month) and their associated constellations, also assigns both the Pleiades and Taurus to month 2, both Orion and Gemini to month 3, and both Pegasus and Pisces to month 12. This provides an indication of another of the progressive steps towards an eventual zodiac of 12 equal 30 degree divisions and signs. The issue of reducing from 17/18 constellations/stars as marker's along the Moon's path was connected with the establishment of 12 (ideal) solar months of 30 days each. (The fact that certain stars had become connected with the schematic year of 12 months x 30 days each greatly assisted the development of the reduction of the zodiac to 12 divisions. The calendar was schematic because of the fact that the year does not consist of exactly 360 days. This made it necessary to add an extra 13th month now and then. The periodic intercalation of a 13th lunar month was done to keep the lunar calendar in line with the seasons. It was not based on solar observations.) (This theoretical division of the year into 12 months of 30 days each is indicated as dating back to the Old Babylonian Period circa 1800 BCE.) Hence the system of 12 zodiacal constellations was invented mostly from existing constellations/named stars that originated largely during the 2nd millennium BCE for marking a different i.e., (roughly approximating an) "equatorially-centred", sky system. (The Babylonians had no actual recognition of a celestial equator.) The 12-constellation zodiac replaced the earlier 17/18 constellation/star scheme that it developed from. Whilst there is relatively clear evidence that perhaps 8 of our 12 present zodiacal constellations existed in the 2nd millennium BCE there were at least 4 constellations - that were to form part of the zodiacal scheme - that most probably did not exist until the 1st millennium BCE. There is no unambiguous evidence that all of our present 12 constellations comprising the zodiac existed prior to the Late Assyrian Period. Circa the 5th-century BCE the Babylonian skywatchers needed a suitable frame of reference to indicate the positions of the Moon and the planets between the stars along the path of the ecliptic. With the demands of their developing astronomy it was no longer sufficient to continue with a scheme that simply noted that the Moon or a planet was close to this or that star. Circa 420 BCE the Babylonians substituted the original 12 constellations forming the zodiacal scheme with a sidereal scheme of twelve equal divisions of the ecliptic comprising 30º segments. This followed the Babylonian invention of degrees, which was introduced into mathematical astronomy to enable the measuring of celestial "longitude" from a given point (which was the vernal equinox). (A schematic month was comprised of 30 days and therefore each zodiacal segment or "sign" numbered 30°.) The zodiac of 12 equal signs was never used by the Babylonians as a coordinate system. It was only used as a mathematical abstraction for computing lunar and planetary motion. (The Normal Stars, a set of approximately 30 stars positioned around the ecliptic, continued to be used by the Babylonians for locating the positions of the moon and planets. About the middle of the 3rd-century BCE the zodiacal reference system seems to have finally become established as the norm for such.) Also, the Babylonians always simply defined the starting points of the scheme of zodiacal signs by their positions relative to the fixed stars. Hamal, the brightest star of the Ram (= Babylonian MUL.LU.HUN.GA ("Hired Man") was probably used to mark the vernal equinox. However, the completed zodiacal system of the Babylonians, for reasons still incompletely known, did not start at 0º ecliptic longitude but at about 355º, and this difference extends through the whole zodiac. ... In summary: The 12-constellation zodiac arose during the Late Assyrian Period (the Assyrian Period began circa 1100 BCE) from a deliberate scheme which circa 1000 BCE placed 17/18 constellations/named stars (comprising of 12 existing constellations/stars previously used in marking the equatorially-centred system of the "three stars each," and 6 "new" constellations) for use as reference points along the path of the Moon. The development of the 12-constellation zodiac into 12 equal divisions (i.e., 30 degree signs) occurred later during the 5th-century BCE (for mathematical reasons). In its final form the use of the zodiac also included marking the movements of the planets."
Gurshtein has not established any evidentiary reason for claiming that his 'archaeological/artifact' examples and speculative deductions from them have any priority over (later) written sources. None of Gurshtein's 'archaeological/artifact' examples can be aligned to the evidence of the Babylonian cuneiform texts. Also, none of Gurshtein's 'archaeological/artifact' examples - almost all of which are single-case examples (or simply comprise speculative/deductive statements) - self-evidently establish an early process of zodiacal development as he imagines it.
Appendix 5: Gurshtein's Recent Interpretation of the Mesopotamian Iconography of Lion-Eagle Attacking a Bull-Man
Alex Gurshtein (Hastro-L, January 16): "My only assumption is: locations and names of 12 zodiacal constellations originally were symbolic markers for seasonal positions of the Sun on its yearly celestial "road." So far, it is just an unfounded guess. Let us go further. Due to precession we have direct astronomical derivation from this guess: "… during period (approximately) between 4,300 and 1,800 BCE the markers had to be Taurus - Leo - Scorpio – Aquarius …." "… the second quartet points out on Mesopotamian and Egyptian mainly zoomorphic symbolism; in Mesopotamia, we have an eagle instead of an Egyptian scorpion (there are an astrological evidence in this respect); … in Mesopotamia of the corresponding time, we have MANY images with combination of four above-mentioned symbols: a lion-eagle is biting a bull-man (the order in this circle is exactly the same as the order of seasons) …."
The interpretation of scenes in ancient Mesopotamian art (whether cylinder seals or not) is immensely difficult. Interpretation can be helped where there is an inscription. According to Edith Porada, the late eminent authority on ancient Near East imagery, mythological, ritual, or other scenes remain unintelligible due to our inability to identify most of the principal figures and their actions. Some of the major gods/goddesses can be identified on the basis of textual descriptions. There is no compelling reason for the astronomical / calendrical interpretation given by Gurshtein - other than his need to find corroborative evidence. No certain interpretation for the iconography of a lion-eagle attacking (biting) a bull-man is possible.
Gurshtein refers to 2 Mesopotamian depictions of a lion-eagle attacking (biting) a bison-man (not bull-man). One depiction is carved on a horn cup and the other depiction is carved on a limestone plaque. Both depictions show Anzud (also known as Imdugud), the lion-headed eagle, attacking a bison-man (not bull-man). The stylization is identified as the Late Early Dynastic Period. No justification is given for his claim that it represents an ordered circle matching the order of the seasons, and that the eagle substitutes for Scorpio. Iraq has a variety of scorpion species. Also, Babylonian mythology relates that scorpion men were the sons of Tiamat. A scorpion man and a scorpion woman appear in the Gilgamesh epic. (According to F. Wiggerman, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts (1992, Page 180), the appearance of the scorpion-man dates at least to the 3rd-millennium BCE, and is associated with the sun-god.) However, Gurshtein obviously can't find iconography that he can use for his claims if he wanted to use the scorpion-man. This in spite of the fact that a scorpion man could be depicted as an archer and combine the features of a human head and arms (holding a stretched bow), a scorpion's body and tail, and a bird's feet. Hence we have the claimed order bison[bull]-head, lion-body, eagle-head, and man-legs. The starting point for this anti-clockwise splitting is quite obviously arbitrary. (According to some authorities the Mesopotamian bison seems to have become extinct in pre-Sumerian times.)
In Mesopotamia the lion-headed eagle attacking a bison-man (not bull-man) is Anzud (also known as Imdugud). No astronomical / calendrical association is identifiable. The 4 roles of Anzud are: (1) a symbol of power and aggression, (2) an enemy of Ningirsu / Ninurta, (3) as helper (to Lugalbanda), and (4) as fixer of fates (able to fix destiny). Within Mesopotamian mythology Anzud is a negative character and always has a subordinate role. See: Religion, Literature, and Scholarship (2004) by Nick Veldhuis.
Exactly why 2 hybrid creatures are used and then each hybrid creature split so the end result is 2 x 2 = 4 seasonal markers is never explained by Gurshtein. Why not simply 4 individual figures to begin with? Splitting 2 whole hybrid figures forming a symplegma into individual component creatures or halves - as Gurshtein is doing – and then treating each half as a whole, is not indicated as an appropriate thing to do. The bison-man (not bull-man) is being attacked by the lion-headed eagle. (The Sumerian term GUD or ALIM (or gud-alim), Akkadian, kusarikku, clearly establish that male bison / bovine is meant.) To split the bison-man and then claim the legs with hooves is Aquarius and connected with water is odd. What is indicated is the degree of manipulation required to create 'evidence.' The bison and the human-faced bison (bison-man) were associated with the sun-god Utu (Shamash). Bison-men (not bull-men) were frequently shown as guardians of the gate in the mountain used by the sun-god to pass through each day to rise and set. Bison lived in the hilly flanks of the Mesopotamian low-land. According to F. Wiggerman, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts (1992): (1) distant countries were travelled only by the sun, and (2) bisons represented the mountains at the edge of the world through which the sun rises. That the symbolism has nothing to do with a new zodiacal quartet should be obvious. The symbolism/mythology of bison-man (bison[bull]-head) is applicable/relevant to any period. Also, these creatures cannot be traced back to the 5th-or 4th-millennium BCE. The markers for this claimed 'zodiac quartet' seem to have had a late start.
Regarding Gurshtein identifying the legs with hooves of the bison-man with Aquarius. The Mesopotamian/Babylonian precursor to the Greek constellation Aquarius ('Water-Pourer') is dingir/mulGula (= 'Great One' / 'Great Man'). This was a standing male figure holding one or more vases overflowing with streams of water (or 2 streams flowing from the same vase, or 2 streams flowing over his shoulders). It was not a pair of legs with bison hooves. The name gu-la also appears as the name iluGu-la (= the goddess Gula, a healing goddess whose constellation was the Goat star = Lyra). I have not seen any evidence that dingir/mulGula marked the winter solstice in Mesopotamia/Babylonia. (The claim for such is only hypothetical, based on precession and Gula's/Aquila's claimed relationship to other constellations.) The constellation was located in an area of the sky the Babylonians called 'the sea.' The region called "The Sea" has a profusion of watery constellations - at least in Greek uranography - such as: Aquarius, Cetus, Pisces, Piscis Austrinus, Eridanus, etc.
Gurshtein's approach of simply identifying so-called Mesopotamian sun-gods, such as Nabû (the son of the great god Marduk), contributes nothing to his claims. Nabû's greatest importance was not achieved until after circa 800 BCE. In late (Hellenistic) astronomical texts/iconography the scribe god Nabû (the keeper of the "tablets of destiny") was associated with the constellation Gemini. "The twin gods Meslamtaea and Lugalgirra or Nabû and Nergal, holding their characteristic weapons, the hinšu, a whip or goad, and uskāru pāšu "sickle-ax," are the representation of the zodiacal constellation Gemini, mulMAŠ.TAB.BA GAL.GAL, "the great twins." (See: Wallenfels (1994), Hellenistic Texts and Seal Impressions from Uruk.)
Appendix 6: The Myth of an Advanced Egyptian Astronomy
Gurshtein believes the ancient Egyptians developed an advanced astronomical science, and that this was the source of astronomy for the Greeks (Hastro-L, 17 January, 2011, and 19 January, 2011). The comments below by Rene Grognard and Marshall Clagett should be sufficient to demonstrate why this is not feasible.
There are no technical records or writings dealing with Egyptian astronomy until the 1st-millennium BCE, after Egypt's conquest by Persia. Prior to this time the Egyptians used simple astronomical methods to measure time and to develop accurate calendars, as well as to directionally align their buildings. Egyptian astronomy began to flourish after Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great (in the 4th-century BCE). Many of the late Egyptian astronomers, were in fact, of Greek heritage and Egyptian astronomy during this period was, in actuality, Hellenistic in character.
Rene Grognard wrote (Historia Matematica, 10 February, 2000): "Another comment on possible sources of Greek astronomy in Egypt. I don't think that even Herodotus could have made such a claim. Again a long association with Egyptologists (and study of the classical Middle Kingdom language -- for fun) at the nearby Macquarie University gave me no ground to doubt the assessment of Otto Neugebauer and Richard Parker ("Egyptian Astronomical Texts"). Egyptian astronomy was far too primitive to serve as basis to Greek astronomy. For instance the most elaborate "relics" of Egyptian astronomy: the Egyptian Star clock systems (using decans in rising as on the early coffin lids or in transit as in Ramesside period) were unworkable because simply based on the civil year of 36 x 10 days + 5 epagomenoi (in Egyptian: "the ones [left] over"). Indeed there were endlessly corrected with the result of a bewildering confusion of surviving evidence painstakingly sifted by Neugebauer & Parker. In fact it might very well be argued that water clocks were finally adopted simply as a more practical device to measure time. There is no text indicating any Egyptian interest in the complexity of celestial motions, exception made for the 70 day period of invisibility between the acronychal (= at dusk) setting and the heliacal rising of Sirius (and the decanal stars) : period "spent" in the Underworld ("dwt") between their "death" and "rising." This period was adopted for the canonical duration of embalmment."
At least outwardly, there are no surviving inscriptions or documents otherwise indicating that Egyptian astronomical knowledge was not more than tomb decoration, and not very carefully managed over time as a body of knowledge. Notwithstanding a number of temple and pyramid alignments, and several papyri codices suggesting a sophisticated knowledge of trigonometry and even algebra, no similar astronomical documents have survived, or records of astronomical observations. All of the early Egyptian astronomical texts are simply crude observational schemes, lacking mathematical elements. The earliest known copies of an almanac date from 1220 BCE at the time of Ramses the Great. Mathematical-astronomical papyri only appear at the beginning of the 2nd-century BCE. This is also the period when astrological papyri appear. Horoscopes and planetary texts, written in Greek or in Demotic (or both), based on computations, appear later. This indicates that Egyptian astrological lore originated in the Ptolemaic period and is a Hellenistic creation. The Vienna papyrus which described lunar and solar eclipses and their portends (omens), was likely copied by a scribe in the late 2nd-century CE, and presents astronomical knowledge that is essentially Babylonian in origin.
Regarding the usual activities of an ancient Egyptian astronomer: "... in an inscription on his statue (ca. 2nd century, B.C.) an astronomer and snake charmer named Harkhebi enumerated his astronomical, calendrical, and time-telling activities, including the observation of the stars and announcements of their risings and settings, his purification on the days when the decan Akh rose heliacally beside Venus, his observations of other heliacal risings, and particularly his foretelling of the heliacal rising of Sirius at the beginning of the [civil] year, and so on." (Ancient Egyptian Science, Volume II by Marshall Clagett, 1995, Page 128.)
Regarding astronomical books in the Edfu temple library: "... the list of books in the library room of the temple of Edfu (built by Ptolemy VIII, Euergetes II, 170-63, 145-116 B.C.). This catalogue ... had books on the Knowledge of the Periodic Returns of the Two Celestial Spirits: the Sun and the Moon, and on The Governing of the Periodic returns of the Stars. As Otto Neugebauer has shown, Clement of Alexandria (2nd. century A.D.) appears to have read that list as he describes the four Hermetic books on astronomy studied by the Egyptian Horoscopist in order that he might know them by heart: books on the arrangement of the fixed stars, on the position of the sun and the moon and the five planets, on the syzygies and phases of the sun and the moon, and on the risings." (Ancient Egyptian Science, Volume II by Marshall Clagett, 1995, Page 491.)
Appendix 7: Alexander Gurshtein and the 'Russian School' of Speculative Archaeoastronomy
At some time in the early 1990s (or earlier) Alex Gurshtein (then Institute for History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow) initiated a large-scale project in the field of archaeoastronomical analyses of the origin and development of archaic constellations. Unfortunately the key influence for this project was the book Hamlet's Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend (1969). His new hypothesis of the origin of the zodiacal constellations reached back to the Paleolithic period and was based on precession. Under the heading "The ancient world in the light of interdisciplinary studies," the (Russian-language) Journal of Ancient History, Number 1, 1995, published a selection of articles of a round-table discussion Gurshtein's ideas on the origin of the zodiacal constellations. Besides being published in Russian his conclusions were also published in a number of English-language journals. With the involvement of a number of like-minded Russian colleagues (comprising, if you like, a 'Russian School' of constellation investigators) the group performed a broad circle of new archaeoastronomical investigations. (The 'Russian School' includes A. Gurshtein, E. Kaurov [Kaunov], G. Kurtik, A. Kuzmin, N. Nikolov, S. Yershova, and S. Zhitomirsky. It's early history is described by E. Kaurov in his "The development [of] palaeoastronomy in Russia before the conference 'Palaeoastronomy: Sky and Mankind' (1992-1997)." (Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions, Volume 20, Issue 6, Pages 1039-1044).) The early results of the 'Russian School' were published in two thematically orientated issues of the English-language Russian journal "Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions (Volumes 17 (1998) and 19 (1999)). It is generally regarded that the most noticeable early achievement of the 'Russian school' of constellation investigators was the publication of the "Transactions" of the international conference held in the Shternberg State Astronomical Institute (Moscow State University) [Sternberg Institute of Astronomy, Moscow State University], November 19-24, 1997, The project the conference project was Dr E[?]. Kaunov [Kaurov]. The 'Russian school' of constellation investigators is basically distinguished by their somewhat speculative high-end dates for the origin of constellations. Its members assert the subdividing of the stars of the northern celestial hemisphere into constellations has archaic sources and reasons, and began most probably in the Paleolithic period. There is a heavy emphasis also on astronomy attributed to the Neolithic-Bronze age (5th- to 2nd-millennium BCE). (See: Gurshtein, A. et al. 1998). "On the Status of Archaeoastronomy in Russia." (Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions, Volume 15, Issue 1-4, April, Pages 343-348).)
Appendix: 8: Alexander Gurshtein
Alexander Gurshtein (1937- ) is an eminent Russian astronomer and historian of science. Gurshtein has a Candidate of Science (1966) from Sternberg State Astronomical Institute in Moscow. He also has a Doctor of Science degree in Physics and Mathematics (1980) from Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St. Petersburg. As an astronomer Gurshtein was active in the Soviet Union's Lunar Space Program. (In 1974 Gurshtein was a deputy head of a laboratory in the USSR Institute of Space Research. He specialised in planetology.) He has been Head of Council for Astronomical Education, Russian Ministry of Education; and also Vice Director of the Institute for History of Science and Technology, Russian Ministry of Education. Gurshtein was also Editor-in-Chief of the Annual on History of Science published by the Russian Academy of Sciences; and Deputy Editor-in-Chief for the monthly Nature. He has authored several books, numerous articles, holds 5 patents, and has presented at many international forums. Since 1995 Gurshtein has been teaching at Mesa State College in the USA and he now resides permanently in the USA. In his old age Gurshtein has decided to aggressively promote his ideas, including aggressively attacking his critics. Life dates: 1937- . See the biographical entry in: The Encyclopedia of Russian Jewry edited by Herman Branover, Isaiah Berlin, and Zeev Wagner (Volume 1, Biographies A-I, 1998). See Mesa State College student evaluations at: Rate My Professors: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=935140
Appendix: 9: "Relevant Queries In Respect To The Archiac Chinese Sky"
Gurshtein, Alexander. (2003). "Relevant Queries In Respect To The Archiac Chinese Sky." In: Orchiston,W., Stephenson, R., Debarbat, S., and Nha, I.-S. (Editors). Astronomical Instruments and Archives From the Asia-Pacific Region. [Note: A poorly argued attempt by Gurshtein to deal with the contrary evidence from Mesopotamia. Abstract: "An extensive pattern of xing guan (celestial officials)--the asterisms of the Chinese heaven--has very little in common with the European cultural tradition of celestial nomenclature. It was shown in current-day literature, first of all by Sun Xiaochun and Jacob Kistemaker (1997), that the Chinese astronomical nomenclature in question was completed at the end of the Eastern Han (2nd-3rd centuries C.E.). Thus, a grandiose celestial reform was conducted in China the likes of which, fortunately for historians of astronomy, has not been accomplished anywhere else in the world. The European tradition of celestial nomenclature could be easily traced back to Greece and even deeper in time to Mesopotamia. As for China, its newly born pattern comprising of 283 asterisms and 1,464 stars practically ruined and erased all footprints of the preceding ingenuous astronomical pattern. Nevertheless, modern research on the genesis of constellations, especially the Zodiacal constellations, poses a set of problems in the resolution of which the data on the ingenious Chinese celestial nomenclature could play the crucial role. Problems connected with the author's hypothesis of constellation origin are considered. Its challenges with respect to the archaic Chinese sky and corresponding responses in modern literature are discussed."]
Appendix 10: Bibliography of Gurshtein's Publications
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1993). "On the Origin of the Zodiacal Constellations." (Vistas in Astronomy, Volume 36, Pages 171-190). [Note: This paper is a detailed explanation of his ideas on constellation origins.]
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1994). "Dating the Origin of the Constellations by Precession." (Physics-Doklady, Volume 39, Number 8, Pages 575-578). [Note: A succinct explanation of his ideas of the origins of the constellations.]
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1995). "Prehistory of Zodiac Dating: Three Strata of Upper Paleolithic Constellations. (Vistas in Astronomy, Volume 39, Pages 347-362).
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1995). "When the Zodiac Climbed Into the Sky." (Sky and Telescope, October, Pages 28-33).
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1996). "The Great Pyramids of Egypt as Sanctuaries Commemorating the Origin of the Zodiac: An Analysis of Astronomical Evidence." (Physics-Doklady, Volume 41, Number 5, Pages 228-232).
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1997). "In Search of the First Constellations." (Sky and Telescope, June, Pages 46-50).
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1997). "The Origins of the Constellations." (American Scientist, Volume 85, Number 3, May-June, Pages 264-273). [Note: For an example of the ability of Gurshtein to evade issues when dealing with his errors see: Wolbarsht, Myron. Letters to the Editor: "Contesting constellations." American scientist, Volume 85, November/December, 1997, Pages 500-501. Letter commenting on some of the statements in Gurshtein's article, "The Origin of the Constellations," published in the May/June 1997 issue, with Gurshtein's response.]
Gurshtein, Alexander. (1998). "The Evolution of the Zodiac in the Context of Ancient Oriental History." (Vistas in Astronomy, Volume 41, Number 4, Pages 507-525). [Note: This paper is the 3rd part of a single investigation started with publications in Vistas in Astronomy in 1993 and 1995.]
Gurshtein, Alexander. (2003). "Relevant Queries In Respect To The Archaic Chinese Sky." In: Orchiston,W., Stephenson, R., Debarbat, S., and Nha, I.-S. (Editors). Astronomical Instruments and Archives From the Asia-Pacific Region. [Note: A conference paper presented at the International Conference on Astronomical Instruments and Archives from the Asia-Pacific Region in Commemoration of the Inauguration of the Nha Il-Seong Museum of Astronomy Cheongju, Korea, 2-5 July, 2002. The title also appears as: "Relevant queries in respect of the archaic Chinese sky." Publication date is sometimes given as 2004. A poorly argued attempt by Gurshtein to deal with the contrary evidence from Mesopotamia. Once again, Gurshtein suggests the gradual development of the Zodiac from the mythology of the 6th-millennium BCE. Abstract: "An extensive pattern of xing guan (celestial officials)--the asterisms of the Chinese heaven--has very little in common with the European cultural tradition of celestial nomenclature. It was shown in current-day literature, first of all by Sun Xiaochun and Jacob Kistemaker (1997), that the Chinese astronomical nomenclature in question was completed at the end of the Eastern Han (2nd-3rd centuries C.E.). Thus, a grandiose celestial reform was conducted in China the likes of which, fortunately for historians of astronomy, has not been accomplished anywhere else in the world. The European tradition of celestial nomenclature could be easily traced back to Greece and even deeper in time to Mesopotamia. As for China, its newly born pattern comprising of 283 asterisms and 1,464 stars practically ruined and erased all footprints of the preceding ingenuous astronomical pattern. Nevertheless, modern research on the genesis of constellations, especially the Zodiacal constellations, poses a set of problems in the resolution of which the data on the ingenious Chinese celestial nomenclature could play the crucial role. Problems connected with the author's hypothesis of constellation origin are considered. Its challenges with respect to the archaic Chinese sky and corresponding responses in modern literature are discussed." The last 2 sections of the presentation/article comprise: "4 THE ARCHAIC CHINESE SKY AS AN INDEPENDENT VERIFIER My basic source in this very specific area is the book The Chinese Sky During the Han: Constellating Stars and Society by Sun Xiaochun and Jacob Kistemaker (1997). The case of the Chinese sky appeared to be entirely different than the case of the sky in the Mediterranean region. In the centuries before the Common Era, the `Empire beneath the Heavens' reached well-being with a rise in national self-consciousness and the making of its own worldview, an example of which could be the unique Chinese religion without a priesthood. Chinese rulers believed that they had a mandate from Heaven to rule over the Earth. The ideology of imperial China served as the prime mover for a cataclysmic reform of the celestial `megalopolis', which was fully reshaped. Instead of the earlier episodic constellations, Chinese court astrologers of the Han Dynasty thoughtfully peppered the sky with 283 petty asterisms, often comprised of only one or two hard-to-distinguish stars. These newly-formed asterisms were molded to the likeness of the Chinese Empire: the Emperor, Celestial Officials, the Emperor's Facilities, etc. This celestial assemblage was propagated by all Chinese royal astronomical institutions of later times in that the previous celestial repertoire was utterly abandoned. For present-day historians of archaic astronomy, the reshaping of the Chinese sky was a stroke of bad luck. The misfortune happened because of the zealousness of the Chinese court reformers, who eradicated the legacy of ancient epochs in the sky. Nothing like this took place in a tradition that we can call the European tradition. The Mesopotamians followed in the footsteps of their predecessors. Greeks and Romans took the same path. Research of the archaic pre-Han Chinese sky would be of great importance for many reasons, and has to be put on the agenda. Results could be reached through purely astronomical considerations, archaic images, linguistics, and, last of all, probably through mythology. My knowledge of the issues of Chinese mythology, of course, is not complete. So far, I only know of one attempt to analyze some issues connected with it. A question posed by two Russian researchers (Stepugina and Kaurov, 1995) is whether any correlation exists between early Chinese mythology and the symbolism reflected in the names of the constellations of the first Zodiacal quartet. Is it possible to recognize archetypes for Gemini Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces among the mythological characters of archaic China during the era that was synchronous or, at least, reasonably close to the institution of the first Zodiacal quartet? The associated research was carried out by T.V. Stepugina, a well-known historian of Chinese culture, and E.N. Kaurov, a beginner in archaeoastronomy, and I would like to stress that they had no expertise in ancient Chinese astronomy. Their task was rather restricted, and their sources were solely mythological. They aimed to research Chinese mythology for the limited purpose of determining whether the early features of Chinese mythological narration could be interpreted as derived from the same archetypes as the figures of the earliest Zodiacal quartet. The title of their short presentation was "Ancient Chinese Myth and Mythological Grounds of Zodiacal Constellations", and it was published as a part of a discussion in the Herald of Ancient History, an official magazine of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Their conclusions are intensely positive. Concerning the idea of twins, as a Chinese analog to this metaphor they suggest a pair of early Chinese deities: a male, Fuxi, and a divine ruler of world, a female named Nuwa (Lady Wa). It is evident that transliterations of original Chinese names were possible. For example, `Fuxi' could be spelt (sic) Fu-hsi; Paoxi; Fu-Xsing; Pho-hsi; Pi-his, and so on. The same is true in respect of Nuwa. Who are these mythological characters? The goddess, Nuwa, was either a sister or a bride to Fuxi. A later tradition ascribes to them demiurgic activities: this divine couple administered order out of primordial chaos, they designed the world, and they configured human beings with a capacity to create their own sons and daughters. That is absolutely the same idea, in my mind, that was behind symbolism of Gemini in the European tradition. For an analog to the Mother Goddess--an archetype for the Zodiacal constellation of Virgo--they considered the same Chinese goddess, Lady Wa, who was playing a pivotal role in early Chinese mythology and at times was depicted with the body of a fish. Once again, this peculiarity stresses strong aquatic elements in Chinese mythology that could be easily linked with the symbolism of water seen behind the Zodiacal constellation of Pisces. Finally, the fourth metaphor within the first Zodiacal quartet, Sagittarius, was seen to be represented in early Chinese mythology by the Great Archer, Yi, who also has strong astral connotations. This legendary archer saved the Earth from death by shooting down nine of the ten Suns that originally were brought into being. Stepugina and Kaurov's paper strongly argues in favour of a conclusion that suggests that it can reasonably be argued that early Chinese mythology and Zodiacal symbolism of the earliest quartet could possess the very same archetypes. Many interesting details on the same issue can be found in the poster "The Home of Cosmic of Ancient East" presented at this conference by Zhang Chuanqi (2002). 5 AN AVENUE TO SEARCH As mentioned above, I am not an expert in a specific field of early Chinese mythology, and so I cannot critically evaluate the arguments put forward by Stepugina and Kaurov. I am simply telling you about their research as an example of queries into the Chinese sky that are relevant to modern archaeoastronomical issues. As with many other scholars, I consider archaic Chinese data as crucial to the verification or falsification of the hypothesis on Zodiacal development. That is why I appeal to this meeting. With so many experts present, jointly we can track down the puzzles of genesis and development of the archaic constellations that took place before recorded history. I would like to conclude with an allusion to Hamlet's Mill, the precedent book penned by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend and published thirty-three years ago, in 1969. I am deliberately referring to this extremely controversial book despite my knowledge of a stream of criticism and ill-wishing that has fallen upon the heads of these authors. The controversies surrounding this book continue to blaze even today. As a matter of fact, I agree that the authors were really short of `solid' so called `scientific' facts in support of their position. They deal basically with very uncertain mythological material. In the eyes of rigorous astronomers who have no feel for archaic history, this book could be considered bizarre and unconvincing. Nevertheless, as a professional astronomer turned historian, I would like to insist that this book is a great one. It is great because of its point of departure and its methodology, and it is great because of its output. Without serious factual astronomical evidence, due to their mastery of mythology and their intuition, the authors reached some very exciting and--I do not fear these words--`prophetic results'. I consider my model of the genesis and development of the ancient sky to be the next logical step along the same path. I am pleased that a number of my claims agree with the claims of de Santillana and von Dechend, and I am glad to count these very courageous authors as my direct forefathers. And once again, I appeal to this highly-regarded audience to help either verify or disprove the concept of the gradual development of the Zodiac through the three quartets that appeared due to the influence of astronomical precession. In this respect, the application of pictorial, mythological, linguistic and astronomical material from South and Eastern Asia could be very productive. [Stepugina, T.V., and Kaurov, E.N., 1995. Ancient Chinese myth and mythological grounds of Zodiacal constellations. The Herald of Ancient History, 1: 172-175 (in Russian).]" I am not aware that these conjectures bear scrutiny. See: Astrology and Cosmology in Early China by David Pankenier (2013). Also, there has been no follow-up article by Gurshtein or any other Russian researcher even though Gurshtein has declared it is crucial for providing proof of his ideas.]
Gurshtein, Alexander. (2005). "Did the Pre-Indo-Europeans Influence the Formation of the Western Zodiac?" (Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 33, Number 1 & 2, Spring/Summer, Pages 103-150). [Note: This article, his longest to date, is published in a peer-reviewed journal. In the conclusion to the article he makes the incredibly uninformed and misleading statement: "The writers making this claim [that the Western Zodiac originated during the 1st millennium BCE in Mesopotamia] propose no explanations as to why the Zodiac would have been instituted at this certain time in this certain place." This demonstrates that Gurshtein continues to remain completely unfamiliar with the Mesopotamian cuneiform evidence. It attempts to create a puzzle that does not exist. The explanations which he claims are lacking are actually given in a number of the references he cites. Simply, the existing body of written evidence argues decisively against the assertion having any validity in the context of the origin and development of the Occidental zodiac. The proposed 'evidence' for the origin and development of the Occidental zodiac before the Babylonian scheme of the 1st-millennium BCE is simply fantasy and without merit. From my essay on the origin of the zodiac: "The zodiac was a development from the Babylonian scheme of 17/18 constellations/stars marking the path of the moon. The Babylonian system of 17/18 constellations/stars zodiac marking the path of the Moon belongs to the Assyrian Period (and perhaps originated circa 1000 BCE) and was still in use in the 7th-century BCE and contained the constellations that were to form the 12-constellation solar zodiac. At least 5 of these 17/18 constellations/stars are not previously listed but are additional constellations/named stars in the Mul.Apin series. Post Mul.Apin (i.e., toward the Neo-Babylonian Period) the number of constellations/stars in the Path(s) of Sin/Shamash was limited from 17/18 to 12. Circa 700 BCE a "zodiac" comprising of 12 irregular sized constellations had been developed. Only those 12 constellations/stars nearest to the path of the ecliptic were used. The other 5/6 were discarded as ecliptic markers. A Babylonian text from circa the 5th-century BCE which lists 12 months (and ignores the intercalary month) and their associated constellations, also assigns both the Pleiades and Taurus to month 2, both Orion and Gemini to month 3, and both Pegasus and Pisces to month 12. This provides an indication of another of the progressive steps towards an eventual zodiac of 12 equal 30 degree divisions and signs. The issue of reducing from 17/18 constellations/stars as marker's along the Moon's path was connected with the establishment of 12 (ideal) solar months of 30 days each. (The fact that certain stars had become connected with the schematic year of 12 months x 30 days each greatly assisted the development of the reduction of the zodiac to 12 divisions. The calendar was schematic because of the fact that the year does not consist of exactly 360 days. This made it necessary to add an extra 13th month now and then. The periodic intercalation of a 13th lunar month was done to keep the lunar calendar in line with the seasons. It was not based on solar observations.) (This theoretical division of the year into 12 months of 30 days each is indicated as dating back to the Old Babylonian Period circa 1800 BCE.) Hence the system of 12 zodiacal constellations was invented mostly from existing constellations/named stars that originated largely during the 2nd millennium BCE for marking a different i.e., (roughly approximating an) "equatorially-centred", sky system. (The Babylonians had no actual recognition of a celestial equator.) The 12-constellation zodiac replaced the earlier 17/18 constellation/star scheme that it developed from. Whilst there is relatively clear evidence that perhaps 8 of our 12 present zodiacal constellations existed in the 2nd millennium BCE there were at least 4 constellations - that were to form part of the zodiacal scheme - that most probably did not exist until the 1st millennium BCE. There is no unambiguous evidence that all of our present 12 constellations comprising the zodiac existed prior to the Late Assyrian Period. Circa the 5th-century BCE the Babylonian skywatchers needed a suitable frame of reference to indicate the positions of the Moon and the planets between the stars along the path of the ecliptic. With the demands of their developing astronomy it was no longer sufficient to continue with a scheme that simply noted that the Moon or a planet was close to this or that star. Circa 420 BCE the Babylonians substituted the original 12 constellations forming the zodiacal scheme with a sidereal scheme of twelve equal divisions of the ecliptic comprising 30º segments. This followed the Babylonian invention of degrees, which was introduced into mathematical astronomy to enable the measuring of celestial "longitude" from a given point (which was the vernal equinox). (A schematic month was comprised of 30 days and therefore each zodiacal segment or "sign" numbered 30°.) The zodiac of 12 equal signs was never used by the Babylonians as a coordinate system. It was only used as a mathematical abstraction for computing lunar and planetary motion. (The Normal Stars, a set of approximately 30 stars positioned around the ecliptic, continued to be used by the Babylonians for locating the positions of the moon and planets. About the middle of the 3rd-century BCE the zodiacal reference system seems to have finally become established as the norm for such.) Also, the Babylonians always simply defined the starting points of the scheme of zodiacal signs by their positions relative to the fixed stars. Hamal, the brightest star of the Ram (= Babylonian MUL.LU.HUN.GA ("Hired Man") was probably used to mark the vernal equinox. However, the completed zodiacal system of the Babylonians, for reasons still incompletely known, did not start at 0º ecliptic longitude but at about 355º, and this difference extends through the whole zodiac. ... In summary: The 12-constellation zodiac arose during the Late Assyrian Period (the Assyrian Period began circa 1100 BCE) from a deliberate scheme which circa 1000 BCE placed 17/18 constellations/named stars (comprising of 12 existing constellations/stars previously used in marking the equatorially-centred system of the "three stars each," and 6 "new" constellations) for use as reference points along the path of the Moon. The development of the 12-constellation zodiac into 12 equal divisions (i.e., 30 degree signs) occurred later during the 5th-century BCE (for mathematical reasons). In its final form the use of the zodiac also included marking the movements of the planets."]
Gurshtein, Alex[ander]. (2017). The Puzzle of the Western Zodiac: Its Wisdom and Evolutionary Leaps: A Painful Ascent to the Truth. [Note: 350 pages with 24 illustrations. The book is an over bloated discussion in need of an editor. Basically, an expanded version of his English-language constellation speculations published in periodicals between 1993 and 2005. Gurshtein has not succeeded in finding an academic publisher for his intended book setting out his speculations on constellation origins. It was published by AuthorHouse. Highly speculative and unsound as were his journal articles. The author erroneously claims that the Mesopotamian cuneiform records "do not contain any keys to the ... impeti [impetus] behind its inception." Also, "... we do not have any reason to rule out the possibility that the birth of the Zodiac predates the the period of its first written mentions." Simply, the relevant cuneiform evidence shows that opposite is the case. More accurately he writes: Unfortunately, we are really short of facts at hand, and evidence in favor of my concept is scarce and circumstantial. [More accurately his ideas/speculations lack appropriate evidence.] Nevertheless, under fire from skeptics and ill-wishers [= critics?], I turn to the comfort expressed in a piece of common wisdom: absence of evidence is not at all the same as evidence of absence." But this latter statement is a mistaken use of the traditional aphorism (which is a logical fallacy). The burden of proof is on the person making a claim/assertion to offer reason and evidence (that is not speculative) in support of such. Just how good evidence of absence is depends on how hard evidence of presence was sought. The case for evidence of absence depends upon whether or not evidence of any kind exists. If none exists, then absence of evidence is neither evidence of absence or of existence. The book contains numerous factual historical errors. As far as I am aware Gurshteins book ignores my critique. However, he has picked up my early description of his ideas as a "gradualist" model and dropped the term "evolutionary" model. Publisher blurb: "Though familiar to all, the twelve-strong Western Zodiac remains an enigmatic artifice of the archaic past. To date, no scholar has been able to determine who conjured up its constellations and when this might have happened. Nor do we know what the grand design behind this innovative endeavor might have been. This book, however, goes a long way towards answering those questions by combining together a variety of clues from multiple disciplines, including astronomy, archaeology, and linguistics. It provides a comprehensive framework that greatly expands our understanding of the genesis and purposes of this remarkable intellectual relic of our cultural heritage. The book's overarching outcome – that the zodiacal necklace in the sky appeared gradually over time in three different stages, with each reflecting the immanent social and spiritual concerns of its time – provides a fundamental impact to reconsider our understanding of prehistory. No special knowledge is necessary to understand this captivating writing." AuthorHouse advertising description: "AuthorHouse is the leading provider of supported self-publishing services for authors in the United Kingdom and around the globe, with over 70,000 titles released. With our wide range of packages and services, we provide the tools and expertise you need to realise your publishing dreams. Distribute your book to a worldwide audience in classic black & white, vibrant full-colour, paperback, hardback, or custom leather-bound formats, plus all digital formats. For more information or to start your publishing journey, please call us on 0800 197 4150 or +44 1908 309250 if you are calling from outside the UK (international call rates apply). You can also follow @authorhouseuk on Twitter. It's time to share your story with the world!" Publisher's highly misleading blurb (undoubtedly written by Alex Gurshtein): "Though familiar to all, the twelve-strong Western Zodiac remains an enigmatic artifice of the archaic past. To date, no scholar has been able to determine who conjured up its constellations and when this might have happened. Nor do we know what the grand design behind this innovative endeavor might have been. This book, however, goes a long way towards answering those questions by combining together a variety of clues from multiple disciplines, including astronomy, archaeology, and linguistics. It provides a comprehensive framework that greatly expands our understanding of the genesis and purposes of this remarkable intellectual relic of our cultural heritage. The book's overarching outcome - that the zodiacal necklace in the sky appeared gradually over time in three different stages..."]
Appendix 11: The Earliest Mention of the Zodiac
Source: Babylonian Horoscopes by Francesca Rochberg (1998, Page 30).
The earliest mention anywhere of the Western solar zodiac is in the Babylonian diaries (astronomical diaries) dating to the early 5th-century BCE. A diary, VAT 4924 from the year -418, uses both the signs and the constellations of the zodiac for determining the position of planets.
The zodiac is a product of a revision of the Old Babylonian system (the division of the night sky into the 3 paths of Enuma Anu Enlil) in later Neo-Babylonian astronomy in the 2nd-half of the 1st-millennium BCE. Post Mul.Apin (i.e., toward the Neo-Babylonian Period) the number of constellations/stars in the Path(s) of Sin/Shamash was limited from 17/18 to 12. Circa 700 BCE a "zodiac" comprising of 12 irregular sized constellations had been developed. Only those 12 constellations/stars nearest to the path of the ecliptic were used. A Babylonian text from circa the 5th-century BCE which lists 12 months (and ignores the intercalary month) and their associated constellations, also assigns both the Pleiades and Taurus to month 2, both Orion and Gemini to month 3, and both Pegasus and Pisces to month 12. This provides an indication of another of the progressive steps towards an eventual zodiac of 12 equal 30 degree divisions and signs. Interestingly, though the 12 constellation zodiac ideally had 12 months associated with it, with the system of calendar adjustment (the use of an intercalary month) the 13th month could be inserted without having a zodiacal constellation allocated to it. The issue of reducing from 17/18 constellations/stars as marker's along the Moon's path was connected with the establishment of 12 (ideal) solar months of 30 days each. (The fact that certain stars had become connected with the schematic year of 12 months x 30 days each greatly assisted the development of the reduction of the zodiac to 12 divisions.
Appendix 12: The History of Babylonian Celestial Referencing Systems
Gurshtein overlooks the development of Babylonian celestial referencing systems and simply talks in terms of constellations. However, this is inadequate. It is the referencing system that is influencing the development of the zodiac.
Source: Before Nature by Francesca Rochberg (2016, Page 205).
Source: Science Awakening II: The Birth of Astronomy by Bartel van der Waerden (English edition 1974, Page 122).
The Babylonian celestial co-ordinate system of the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil were influential in the development of the 12 constellation zodiac in the last half of the 1st-millennium BCE. The zodiac is a product of a revision of the Old Babylonian system (the division of the night sky into the 3 paths of Enuma Anu Enlil) in later Neo-Babylonian astronomy in the 2nd-half of the 1st-millennium BCE.
Appendix 13: The Origin of the 7-Day Week
An example of Gurshtein's historical errors is the origin of the 7-day week. Two statements within the book: (1) "Today, no specialist in the field would challenge the fact that the seven-day period originates from the lunar month, the week being the natural one-quarter subdivision of the total lunar phase cycle." But the claim is not a fact and specialists today do deny that the 7-day period originates from the lunar month. (2) "Many scholars have reasoned that a lunar month and a seven-day week were the products of the Upper Paleolithic." But no list of these claimants is given. They are perhaps a number of like-minded Russian colleagues.
My essay (Page 9aa) on the origin of the 7-day week:
Notes on the Origin of the Seven Day Week
Seven Days and Seven Day Week Issues
The concept of the 7-day week is popularly believed to have originated in Mesopotamia/West Asia. This was also commonly believed by pioneering/early assyriologists. Some people simply assume the method of counting by 7-day weeks was established by at least circa 2000 BCE - obvious as a 'common-sense' quartering of the period of visible lunar cycling.) According to some early authorities the Babylonians had divided the year into 7-day weeks at least as early as the 15th-century BCE. But 7 is a rather strange number for the early period claimed. There is no clear evidence that the Mesopotamians (Babylonians) used 7-day weeks. The 7-day week is a non-astronomical cycle (as is the Julian cycle of a leap-year every 4 years). There is no 7-day cycle in any astronomical or other natural phenomena. Relating the 7-day week to four phases of the moon is not obvious. Hence the concept of a 7-day lunar week is different to the issue of a lunar month. (The 7-day week is not actually a particularly good system for dividing the lunar month as it simply does not divide evenly into the actual duration of such. For this reason very few ancient peoples used a 7-day scheme.) The lunar month can at least be tracked by observing the cycles of the moon. (The Babylonian months alternated between twenty-nine and thirty days.) Of the 3 types/methods of day units in use in Babylonia the day unit usually used in calculations was the tithis (with 1 tithi equal to one-thirtieth of a synodic month). A few Babylonian astronomical texts do apparently function tacitly with thirtieth parts of the synodic month but the concept of a 'lunar day' is not explicit in any Babylonian text.
The Sumerian epic of 'Atra-Hassis' ('Story of the Flood'), preserved in Akkadian from the Old Babylonian period, has the earliest reference to what could be a 7-day week: "After the storm had swept over the country for seven days and seven nights." More likely it is common number symbolism. Simply talking of 7 days and 7 nights does not make a 7-day week. In Mesopotamia the number 7 was the most commonly revered number. Gods came grouped in 7s, rituals had to be repeated 7 times, etc. In the Old Babylonian literary text (written in Akkadian), "The Epic of Atrahasis," the creation of humanity is at the hand of the womb-goddess Mami, also called Nintu, who mixed the blood of a sacrificed god with clay. She divided the clay into seven pairs of bricks- seven males and seven females. This helps to demonstrate the variety of ways 7 was used in number symbolism.
The Babylonian 'Creation Epic' ('Enuma Elish') dating to the Kassite Period (perhaps circa 1600 BCE) or (more likely) Early Assyrian Period (perhaps circa 1100 BCE) has a description of lunar divisions that includes: "Thou shalt shine with horns to determine six days / And on the seventh with half a crown." Stephen Langdon writing in 1923 (The Babylonian Epic of Creation) over-confidently/erroneously states: "The major texts are all based upon a week of seven days, but K 13774 has a version based upon the five-day week." It needs to be understood that this statement of Langdon's was made without sufficient evidence. The Babylonian Creation Epic is full of references to the number 7. As examples: In its original form the Creation Epic consisted of 7 tablets (i.e., 7 divisions with approximately 150 lines per tablet - 115 to 170 lines), the 7 winds (and one day was dedicated to each of the winds). However, the god Marduk is also described as stationing the 4 winds, but also arms himself with 7 destructive winds.
A Babylonian cylinder seal illustrated two gods fighting a 7-headed dragon. In Assyrian texts that have no connection with astronomy the first 7 days after birth was deemed a special period for mother and child. In the Old Babylonian period at Larsa there was a 7-day ritual.
A syllabary (UCBC 407, a partial duplicate of the large tablet K 6012 + K 10684) from the Neo-Babylonian Period seems to provide evidence of the practice of subdivision of half-month periods (usually comprising 15 days - not 14 days) into two 7-day periods. (See: Adolf Oppenheim, Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, Number 93, February, 1944.) However, Julius Lewy ("Neo-Babylonian Names of the Days of the Week." Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, Number 95, October, 1944, Pages 34-36) makes the case the Oppenheim's argument is based on a misinterpretation of the tablets.
A Neo-Babylonian syllabary (bilingual list of Sumerian words and their Akkadian (Babylonian or Assyrian) equivalents) - some of them containing the names of the days of the month, from the first to the thirteenth - has entries only up to the 7th day, underneath which a line has been drawn. This document implies that the writer considered the first seven days of the month to be a unit. Why this one of the many syllabaries giving the names of the month ends with the 7th day is unexplained. However, this tablet may be an incomplete school exercise, or the unknown scribe may have left his work unfinished. At best it is weak evidence for the existence of a 7-day week.
The strongest apparent evidence for the existence of the week and the observance of the 7th day in Mesopotamia is a letter written during the 2nd-millennium BCE, in which the recipient is admonished to "complete the day of new moon, the 7th day, and the day of full moon, as you have been taught." Hildegard and Julius Lewy, however, have pointed out that the Akkadian expression translated "7th day" - literally "7th" - can only mean the "7th [part of the year]." Little is understood concerning the apparent instruction given in the Babylonian letter, to complete the "7th day" along with the days of the new moon and the full moon. Even if the translation "7th-day [of the month]" be accepted as correct, which is very doubtful, we still do not know what religious or civil duties the sender of the letter had in mind. A lone and ambiguous admonition "to complete . . . the 7th-day" does not of itself constitute proof for the existence of a 7-day week or of a 'sabbath day.'
Whilst the concept of 7 and 7 days was known in Mesopotamia it was not employed as a continuing weekly cycle to measure time (or even the interval between market days). In Mesopotamia the 7-day unit is a schematic device. It is not used as a weekly cycle. In its use as a schematic device a described action continues for 6 days with completion occurring on the 7th day. It was also used to identify lucky and unlucky days. (See: The Hebrew Conception of the World by Luis Stadelmann (1970).)
The lunar month formed the basis for time reckoning. There are claims that the 7-day week cycle makes its earliest appearance in Babylonian documents dating to the 7th-century BCE but in this claimed system the 7-day weeks apparently did not succeed one another continuously. Part of the problem is it does not mesh with the 29 day and 30 day month counts. (See, for example: "New Moons and Sabbaths" by William Hallo, In: Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East edited by Frederick Greenspahn (1991).) Note: The use of the very few 28 day months recorded in the Middle Assyrian Period were usually calendrical adjustments necessitated by results arising from the personal mistakes of observers (due to bad weather impeding observations of the first crescent moon). For a discussion of this issue see: "Month of 28 days in the Middle Assyrian period." by Yigal Bloch (N.A.B.U., Number 1, mars, 2014, especially Page 42.
All evidence indicates the cultic calendar of ancient Mesopotamia, and likewise the civil calendar, was tied to the phases of the moon, and not at all to a 7-day week. The evidence for a regularised lunar festival dates only to the end of the Sargonic period circa 2200 BCE and the beginning of the neo-Sumerian period circa 2100 BCE. The claim for the use of 7-day weeks to measure the synodic period of Venus circa 2000 BCE - made by one enthusiast - seems much too early and is not supported by any cuneiform records. It is still contentious whether the Babylonians possessed/instituted a 7-day week.
The symbolic number 7 has no association with calendars - that is, with a 7-day week in Babylonia. There is no evidence for a 7-day week in Babylonia, and no calendar system of a 7-day week x 52 weeks = a 364-day year. From the earliest Mesopotamian calendrical schemes are based on fundamental ideal periods, such as 30 days for the Moon, and 360 days for the Sun. The moon is frequently designated as d30 (which references the moon's approximately 30-day cycle). These idealisations (periods of round and ideal numbers) existed from the beginning of the 3rd-millennium BCE at least. It is worth noting that in the late 1st-millennium CE, in the calculation of Babylonian planet tables normal months of 30 days were assumed. (In Sumerian texts the Moon is referred to as 'the god' or by the moon god's Sumerian name, Nana. In Old Babylonian celestial omen texts, the Moon is consistently referred to as Suen (dEN.ZU), in later texts almost always written d30.)
Excursus: The Roman nundinal cycle
It is indicated that nundinal cycle (market week, or 8-day week) was the cycle of days preceding each nundinae, occurring every 8 days. The nundinae were the market days which formed a kind of weekend in Rome, Italy, and some other parts of Roman territory. It is sometimes claimed that the week known as the nundinal cycle was developed by the Etruscans circa the 8th or 7th century BCE and passed to Rome no later than the 6th century BCE. Others claim the nundinal cycle was Roman and shared with the Etruscans. The nundinal cycle was absolutely fixed at 8 days under the Republic. The 7-day week began to be observed Italy in the early imperial period, as practitioners and converts to eastern religions introduced Hellenistic and Babylonian astrology, the Jewish Saturday sabbath, and the Christian Lord's Day. The system was originally used for private worship and astrology but had replaced the nundinal week by the time Constantine made Sunday (dies Solis) an official day of rest in 321 CE. For a certain period of time Rome had a week cycle based on 2 cycles, one having weeks of 8 days and and another having weeks of 7 days.
Origin of the Seven Day Week
Grouping days into a 7-day week is relatively late.
It has been frequently assumed that the four phases of the moon during the month led to a division of 4 weeks (seven and three-eighths days each). In reality the week and month belong to different systems of time reckoning. The 7-day week is not a natural (calendar) unit of time. The 7-day week does not agree well with either a solar or lunar year. Both the day and week (as a numerical series of 7 days) are time systems which are independent of the moon. The 7-day week is only a very rough approximation to the periodisation of the moon. The month and the week are incompatible - their beginnings only occasionally coincide. On page 127 of his article "Administrative Timekeeping in Ancient Mesopotamia." (Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Volume XXXI, Number 2, 1988, Pages 121-185), Robert Englund notes that the periods of 7 and 15 days in Mesopotamian administrative time divisions more likely represent successive divisions of the 30-day month by 2 required by household administration. Hence, there is no need to invoke moon phases or magic Babylonian numbers.
The 7-day week is arbitrary though it does have some astronomical/astrological associations. One non-lunar theory is simply the 7-day week originated as a planetary week based on the 7 identified celestial bodies Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The Babylonians at least named the 7 days of the week after these 7 celestial bodies that they knew well. Also, the Babylonian sacred number 7 was probably related to the 7 "planets." Both the Harranians and the Mandaeans perpetuated a planetary week with Babylonian roots independently of Europe. (One non-lunar theory is simply the 7-day week originated as a planetary week based on the 7 identified celestial bodies Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Some persons still assert the Babylonians named the 7 days of the week after these 7 celestial bodies that they knew well.)
The 7-day week (at least the continual 7-day week) is perhaps likely to have a double or triple origin in Greek, Jewish, and Mesopotamian ideas. The Jews at least since the Babylonian Exile (beginning circa 597 BCE) have had a 7-day week. In the early 7th-century BCE some Assyrian records indicated that work was prohibited on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days of the month.
The continuous weekly cycle of 7 days only became a standard unit for the measurement of time during the period of the Roman Empire. There was a gradual rise in the use of the 7-day week from the time of Julius Caesar. Circa the 2nd-century BCE the Jewish 7-day week and the Planetary 7-day week gained popularity. The 7-day week was only consolidated with the ecclesiastical division of the year into weeks, each with 7 named days. (The 7-day week only became official in the Roman empire (and the Western World) with its establishment by an edict of the Roman Emperor Constantine (for Christian religious purposes) in 321 CE. The increasing use and popularity of Constantine's 7-day week amongst Romans was perhaps due in part to its astrological significance.) The 7-day week (at least the continual 7-day week) is perhaps likely to have a double or triple origin in Greek, Jewish, and Mesopotamian ideas. The Jews at least since the Babylonian Exile (beginning circa 597 BCE) have had a 7-day week. In the early 7th-century BCE some Assyrian records indicated that work was prohibited on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days of the month. (See: Babylonian Menologies and the Semitic Calendars by Stephen Langdon (1935).) The early Christians adopted the Jewish continuous 7-day week.
The use of the 7-day week appears in the Western Mediterranean by (at least) the end of the 1st-century BCE; the Roman poet and writer of elegies Tibullus (circa 55 BCE-19 BCE) made reference to it (I.3.18: Saturni sacram me tenuisse diem.). There are 7-day week mentions by the Roman poets Horace (65 BCE- BCE) and Ovid (43 BCE-17 BCE). It is accepted that a now a lost work by Plutarch (46 CE-120 CE) discussed the 7-day week. There is an inscription comprising a public reference to a 7-day week - dated by Mommsen between 19 BCE and CE 14 comprising the remains of a Sabine calendar. The Sabine region comprised Picenum and Campania. A 7-day week Julian calendar has been identified on a stick calendar found at the Baths of Titus (constructed 79 CE-81 CE). Apart from the Roman astrologer Vettius Valens mentioning (circa 170 CE) the 7-day week, the Consul Dio Cassius, in the 2nd century CE, also mentioned the 7-day week
Planetary names for days of the week were a popular tradition of the common people. The (7-day) Planetary week is a Hellenistic invention. Dating in astrological texts depends on use of an astronomical tables and calendars, hence the rarity of the use of popular tradition/terminology in astrological texts. It does not mean that the usage of common terminology was unknown, but simply that it was not used by astrologers as it was not found in the astronomical tables they used. Planetary days are discussed in Greek Horoscopes edited by Otto Neugebauer and Henry van Hoesen (1959). See also: Astronomy, Weather and Calendars in the Ancient World by Daryn Lehoux (2007: Pages 170-171) on the paragegma at Dura Europus with planetary days indicated.
The 7-day cycle known as the (7-day) week became a rival to – and ultimate successor to – the Roman 8-day market cycle. Between the 1st-century and 3rd century CE the 8-day Roman nundinal cycle was gradually replaced with the 7-day week. (The nundinal cycle was an 8-day cycle marked with letters running from A to H. The (effectively) 8-day week of the Romans - due to an inclusive counting method - was named nundinum (= 9).) By the 4th-century CE the 7-day week had become an integral part of the Roman calendar. The 7-day week came into use in Rome during the early imperial period, after the adoption of the Julian calendar in 45 BCE. The 7-day week as we know it is a fusion of 2 conceptually different day cycles: (1) the Judaeo-Christian week (beginning on Sunday), and (2) the 7-day planetary week derived from Hellenistic astrology (beginning on a Sunday). The 7-day week originated within the Western Roman Empire - a reconciliation of the Christian 7-day week with the Roman calendar - and, with the consolidation of Christianity as the State religion, spread throughout the Western Roman Empire.
Three types of calendar systems were used in ancient Mesopotamia: cultic or civil (the calendar of monthly and yearly festivals, 365 days - solar, based on the tropical year), administrative (12 x 30-day months and a 360-day year), and schematic (360 days). Not all are early schemes. The administrative calendar can be dated to the 3rd-millennium BCE. It was decoupled both from the natural month and the cultic calendar. The schematic calendar may have arisen from the administrative calendar. Of the 3 types/methods of day units in use the day unit usually used in calculations was the tithis (with 1 tithi equal to one-thirtieth of a synodic month). It is perhaps worth pointing out that while a few Babylonian astronomical texts do seem to operate tacitly with thirtieth parts of the synodic month the concept of a 'lunar day' is not explicit in any Babylonian text. It was not until circa 300 BCE that Mesopotamia had an accurate, mathematically abstract calendar that was valid for centuries ahead.
Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States and Societies by Sasha Stern (2012) sets out reasons for believing that the change from flexible to fixed calendars was the way the 7-day week and zodiac-based horoscope were introduced. The change to fixed calendars occurred within the span 500 BCE to 300 CE. Stern maintains this was totally and purposefully based upon the unique, fixed calendar of Egypt, adopted by the (Zoroastrian) Achaemenid regime and passed on to the Hellenistic kingdoms and Rome's Julian calendar.
The Hindu astronomical/astrological text, the Yavanajataka (Chapter 75) has a 7-day-week and with the common planetary rulers for these days. There is no conclusive evidence that India had a 7-day week from Vedic times. See the detailed discussion by the Indologist Pandurang Kane (1880-1972) in his, History of Dharmasastra, Volume 5, Part 1. (Published I think in the late 1950s or early 1960s.) The Yavanajataka was written in the 2nd-century. My understanding is that a number of Greco-Roman astrological works were introduced into India during the first few centuries CE prior to the appearance of the Yavanajataka. Rome began trading with India during the reign of Augustus, beginning late 1st-century BCE. Also, My understanding is the Yavanajataka was translated from Greek into Sanskrit prose by Yavanesvara (perhaps a Greek scholar living in India), under the patronage of Rudradaman I, who was the ruler of the (Western) Ksatrapas. The 7-day planetary week and other Greco-Roman ideas were likely introduced into India in the 1st-century CE, hence 2nd-century familiarity. The diffusion of Mesopotamian and Greek astronomy is not deemed an easy issue to understand. There is evidence that early Indian ideas also passed into Mesopotamia.
For an excellent, succinct discussion see: "Pagan and Christian Notions of the Week." by Michele Salzman. In: Time and Temporality in the Ancient World edited by Ralph Rosen (2004, Pages 185-211).
Appendix 14: The Reliability of Aratus' Phaenomena
Gurshtein deems Aratus' Phainomena reliable as the starting point for his series of speculations encompassing some 16,000 years. The Babylonian evidence for the development of the 12-constellation zodiac and the introduction of the 12-sign zodiac beginning 5th-century BCE is downplayed and almost ignored. This is a strange approach as, from the 2nd-millenium BCE onwards the Babylonians were competent observers, and from the 1st-millennium BCE onwards were expert in developing mathematical astronomical schemes.
Aratus' Phaenomena is a didactic poem - a practical manual in verse that instructs the reader how to identify constellations and predict weather. The first part describes the constellations and other celestial phenomena. It describes a seasonal calendar based on references to the risings and settings of constellations. The second part is called the Diosemeia. It instructs how to to make weather predictions. Aratus' Phaenomena - a practical/functional/instructional guide to the activities of observing and recognising celestial phenomena - is the earliest extant complete description of the constellations of the northern and southern hemispheres (comprising anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and inanimate figures) and of the geometrical model of the celestial sphere.
Gurshtein (referencing Evans, 1998), writes "His [Aratus'] poem is the oldest in the world surviving account of the complete set of constellations of the time." According to Gurshtein, Aratus was "The preserver of the ancient's priceless astronomical heritage ...." Gurshtein can only mean that Aratus' text on the constellations has survived. Elsewhere in his book Gurshtein states that "Aratus was not the first to paraphrase Eudoxus in verse." Here Gurshtein follows Hipparchus who identified that Aratus has based his astronomical poem on the earlier work(s) of Eudoxus who described a complete Greek constellation set. Hipparchus makes it clear that Aratus adapted Eudoxus' Phaenomena, and in certain places also consulted the Enoptron. Modern research indicates that Eudoxus mostly was attempting to introduce a standardised Greek sky. In doing so he introduced numerous Babylonian constellations into his Greek constellation scheme.
Eudoxus wrote 2 works (poems) on the constellations - one entitled Phaenomena and the other entitled Enoptron. Eudoxus' Enoptron was probably a revised version of his Phaenomena. The issue is: Did Aratus conflate (combine into one) the 2 earlier works of Eudoxus? This was not a particularly unusual literary procedure in antiquity. Hipparchus indicates that Aratus' did so. Hipparchus makes it clear that Aratus adapted Eudoxus' Phaenomena, and in certain places also consulted the Enoptron. Also, Hipparchus stated (and gave numerous examples, including order and wording) that Aratus closely followed the presentation of the Phaenomena by Eudoxus. Importantly, Hipparchus had cause to speculate that when Aratus found contradictory statements between the constellation descriptions in Eudoxus' Enoptron and Phaenomena Aratus ignored the contradictory passages and included only material about which there would be less debate and doubt. One example is the visibility of Perseus. Hipparchus believed that Aratus had identified a discrepancy in Eudoxus' statements about the rising of Perseus. In Enoptron Eudoxus stated almost all of Perseus could be seen when it rose but in his similar work Phaenomena Eudoxus stated that only half of Perseus could be seen when it rose. Also, Hipparchus seems to have assumed that where Aratus did not choose between contradictory statements by Eudoxus it was because Aratus was not able to examine the facts and to make his own observations. Hipparchus identifies conflation by Aratus. Aratus used the 2 works of Eudoxus on the constellations. Hipparchus suggests that Aratus omits from his work differing traditions within the generally harmonious sources and does not choose between them (because he was not in a position to make an independent judgment). Examples exist where Aratus incorrectly describes the positions of constellations. Hipparchus demonstrated Aratus' dependence on Eudoxus and established the general principle that where Eudoxus is in error Aratus will also be in error.
The real issue is the formation of by Eudoxus of his constellation set in his earlier work the Phainomena. Where did his constellations come from? No one is seriously say that Eudoxus fully inherited a set of ancient constellations that he then used as they conveniently formed a standardised Greek sky - both northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere. It is thought that Eudoxus proposed a constellation scheme made from some already established Greek constellations, some that he introduced from Babylonian uranography, and some that were his inventions. It is my belief that the constellating of the entire Greek sky, and its consolidation, was due to Eudoxus of Cnidus. The introduction of the Babylonian zodiac into Greece circa late 5th-century BCE or early 4th-century BCE was likely the impetus for the systematic constellating of the Greek sky. The introduction of the 12-constellation zodiac into Greece necessarily controlled much else about how we can view the Eudoxan/Aratean celestial sphere. Eudoxus carried out the first systematic constellating of the Greek sky. He also the first systematic consolidation of and description of the constellations of the Greeks. The constellations he used in his uranography were a mix of Mesopotamian constellations current at that time mixed with constellations in use by or established by the Greeks at the period (late Greek Archaic Period/early Greek Classical period). Important Ionian intellectual stimulus - and source of knowledge of Mesopotamian uranography - at that time being due to Assyrian influence through Lydia. There is certainly no requirement to invoke a hypothetical scheme of continual and connected zodiacal/constellation development going back some 16,000 years.
Appendix 15: The Importance of Eudoxus for the Greek Constellations
Most of the Aratean constellations were developed shortly before Aratus' time, perhaps 500 BCE. (Note: Eudoxus is indicated as a key influence in establishing a fixed set of Greek constellations. Eudoxus is indicated as having been influenced by Babylonian uranography (with only about half of his constellations being distinctly Greek). There is no realistic evidence that an Aratean scheme of constellations existed earlier than the time of Eudoxus of Cnidus (4th-century BCE).
Written evidence exists for Babylonian constellations. This evidence is relevant to Greek uranography. A strong Babylonian legacy is evident in Greek uranography. The ancient Greeks borrowed some 24 constellations from Babylonian uranography. The cuneiform texts provide sufficient evidence to show that most Babylonian constellations only came into existence in the late 2nd-millennium BCE.
An example of problems for early dating using only (1) Orion, (2) Hydra, (3) Crater, and (4) Ophiuchus. (1) The Greek constellation Orion was one of the earliest Greek constellations. First mentioned in Greek uranography by Homer, 8th-century BCE. Orion has been identified with the Babylonian SIPA.ZI.AN.NA (sipa.zi.an.na), "The true shepherd of Anu" (Orion). Sibzianna was the shepherd god; "The True Shepherd of Heaven." Orion appears in star names and constellations mentioned in The Prayer to the Gods of the Night (AO 6769 and Erm. 15642). AO 6769 preserves one of two of the earliest examples of the Prayer to the Gods of the Night. The prayer is addressed to the nocturnal stars and constellations. Though preserved on a Middle Babylonian copy (from Uruk-Warka) the text is dated to the Old Babylonian Period circa 1700 BCE. Orion had much the same star configuration as the Babylonian shepherd god. Interestingly, the belt of Orion (the identification of which is without doubt) deviates nearly 15 degrees from the Greek celestial equator circa 2500 BCE. (2) The Greek constellation Watersnake (Hydra) has been identified with the Babylonian MUSH (MUŠ) (Horned Serpent). Hydra appears in the 10-Star Text/Version (AO 6769) which dates to the Old Babylonian Period circa 1700 BCE. It was the sacred animal of Marduk. The symbolism of Babylonian snakes is different to that of dragons, bašmum was a mythical poisonous snake, a horned viper (a kind of serpent-dragon or snake-dragon) possessing several tongues and jaws. Hydra is a very long constellation - the largest in the sky - and is located in the region of the celestial equator. A late 1st-millennium BCE date (circa 500-400 BCE) is indicated for its inclusion in Greek uranography. Hydra was discussed by Pseudo-Eratosthenes and Hyginus. It was first catalogued by Ptolemy (2nd-century CE). (3) The Greek constellation Bowl/Water-Cup (Latin names, Crater) appears to have been unknown to the Babylonians (the stars forming Crater were used by another constellation). It was most likely the invention of the Greeks, by Eudoxus or earlier. Within the initial Greek scheme Crater was associated with Corvus (Raven) and Hydra. Both Crater and Corvus were position on the coils of the Hydra. A late 1st-millennium BCE date is indicated. Crater was discussed by Pseudo-Eratosthenes and Hyginus. It was first catalogued by Ptolemy (2nd-century CE). Crater and Corvus were usually considered to be equatorial constellations. (4) The Greek constellation Serpent Holder (Ophiuchus, Serpentarius). It is not suggested as having a Babylonian origin. The Serpent Holder appears to be a Greek constellation in its origin. A late 1st-millennium BCE date (circa 500-400 BCE) is indicated. The earliest mention of the constellation Ophiuchus is by Aratus (3rd-century BCE). Undoubtedly it was listed in the now lost catalogue of Eudoxus of Cnidus (4th-century BCE). These examples suffice to show that the foundations for an early date for the origin of the constellations exists in a flawed and subjective methodology.
Evidence for direct constellation borrowing by the Greeks from Mesopotamia is almost non-existent. During the Hellenistic period it is possible that Berossus and some Chaldaean contemporaries made the Babylonian sphaera familiar to the Greeks. It is possible that Babylonian uranography was passed to the Greeks through particular intermediaries such as the Phoenicians and Egyptians. Through the Lydians (when a vassal state of Assyria) to the Ionians is also feasible. There were likely "competitive" schemes of Greek sphaera until the wide adoption of the sphaera developed by the Greek astronomer Eudoxus of Cnido and diffused through his written works on the constellations (4th-century BCE). The ultimate success of the Sphaera Graecanica as we have it today (i.e., its complete acceptance by the Greek world and later the Roman world) was largely due to the work of the Greek astronomer Eudoxus of Cnidus (4th-century BCE) and the Greek poet Aratus of Soli (3rd-century BCE). Eudoxus constellated and catalogued the entire Greek sky in his works Enoptron and Phaenomena. Aratus later turned these works into an astronomical poem concerning the constellations. The Phaenomena became hugely popular in the Graeco-Roman world. Without this popularisation by Aratus the works of Eudoxus may never have exerted the lasting influence they achieved.
Many of the Aratean constellations show a similarity with Babylonian constellations. The Greek constellation scheme of Aratus of Soli (3rd-century BCE) contains a mix of both Babylonian constellations and non-Babylonian constellations. The Babylonian component of the Aratean constellations is traceable to both Babylonian "star calendar" constellations of the 2nd millennium BCE and also to Babylonian constellations listed in the later Mul.Apin series (circa 1000 BCE). (It is believed that a number of constellations described in the Mul.Apin series were used in the cataloging efforts of Eudoxus of Cnidus. The few known 8th-century BCE constellations of Homer mirror the constellations already existing in the Babylonian scheme.) The Babylonian scheme of constellations has always been a mix of constellations mentioned by Aratus and other constellations outside the Aratean scheme. A definite Babylonian influence on the later Greek scheme of constellations is reasonably indicated. It is obvious that the Greeks borrowed certain constellations from the Babylonians and it is obvious that the constellations could not have originated, or been adopted, as a single devised scheme by either the Babylonians or the Greeks. If the constellations originated as a set circa 2000-2800 BCE, as commonly claimed by the proponents of the "void zone" method, then they cannot have originated with the Greeks. However, the latitude at which the constellations were believed to have originated as a single scheme cannot refer to Mesopotamia because their earliest scheme of constellations, though dating to the 2nd millennium BCE, was a mix of constellations mentioned by Aratus and other constellations outside his scheme.
The earliest complete (or almost complete) description of the night sky as seen from Greece was written by Eudoxus. Eudoxus' work on the systematic organisation of the fixed stars, the Phainomena and later the Mirror, survives in Aratos' Phainomena and Hipparchus' Commentary on Aratus. Eudoxus appears to have been the earliest Greek writer to write about the constellations solely for the purpose of writing a description of the night sky as seen from Greece. His description mainly survives in the Phainomena of Aratus.
The 5th- and 4th- centuries BCE saw the introduction of celestial mapping in Greece - including celestial globes. It is indicated that Eudoxus was the first Greek to make a comprehensive star globe. According to the Roman poet and orator Cicero (106-43 BCE), It is indicated that Aratus derived his entire systematic description of the constellations from the star globe constructed by Eudoxus. In Aratus' Phaenomena the description of the human figures at least seem to be taken from those on a star globe. However, a star globe is never mentioned. The earliest extant systematic description of the Greek constellations is found in the Phaenomena of Aratus. His astronomical poem contained the description of 43 constellations and named 5 individual stars. The most significant motivation for the construction of celestial globes with constellation figures originated with the astronomical poem Phaenomena by Aratus (1st half of the 3rd-century BCE).
Descriptions of constellations in Greece existed as early as Eudoxus, circa early 4th-century BCE). The Greek astronomer Eudoxus, circa 375 BCE, appears to have been the first person to develop a standardised map of the Greek constellations. A complete set of Greek constellations appears to have been first described by Eudoxus in two works called the Enoptron and the Phaenomena. (Eudoxus appears to have been the first person to have comprehensively arranged and described (i.e., consolidated) the Greek constellation set.) The early method of the Greek astronomer Eudoxus for determining the places of the stars was to divide the stars into named constellations and define the constellations partly by their juxtaposition, partly by their relation to the zodiac, and also by their relation to the tropical and arctic circles. The complete (and standardised) constellating of the Greek sky (with 48 constellations) was possibly first achieved by Eudoxus in his work Phaenomena. (The fragments of Eudoxus' lost works, Phaenomena and Enoptron, were collected and published by the classical scholar François Lassere in his Die Fragmente des Eudoxus von Knidus (1966).)
The first account of all 48 classical constellations was made by Eudoxus of Cnidos (circa 390-340 BCE). Poetic descriptions followed, such as Aratus' Phaenomena, the Catasterisms falsely ascribed to Eratosthenes of Cyrene (circa 275-194 BCE), the Poetica astronomica of Hyginus (2nd-century CE), derivative versions by Marcus Manilius (early 1st-century CE), Germanicus (early 1st-century CE) and Rufius Festus Avienus (4th-century CE), and also more scientific catalogue lists by Hipparchus and Ptolemy. Pseudo-Eratosthenes gave each constellation a mythological identity. These poetic/poetic-based works inclined towards "the transformation of the firmament into a rendezvous of mythological figures."
According to an anonymous Greek commentator of Aratus it was Eudoxus who brought Assyrian uranography to the Greeks. In his works Eudoxus gave descriptions of a large number of constellations known in Mesopotamia. Eudoxus continued the Mesopotamian traditions of constellations in the Mul.Apin series. There is a case for Babylonian astronomy being introduced to the Greeks through Philip of Opus and Eudoxus of Knidos. The detailed description by Eudoxus of the constellations - especially the use of the 12 zodiacal constellations - depended in part on Babylonian traditions. (Philip (or Philippus) of Opus (Opous), was a Greek philosopher and a member of Plato's Academy during Plato's lifetime. There is a case that Philip of Opus is probably identical with the Philip of Medma (or Mende) the astronomer, who is also described as a disciple of Plato.) Philip of Opus is probably identical with the Philip of Medma (or Mende).)
The popular astronomy of the type found in parapegma, based ultimately on Mul.Apin type models, circulated outside Mesopotamia throughout the Mediterranean basin between circa 500 BCE and 500 CE. Prominent Ionian Greek astronomer - Eudoxus of Cnidus (circa 408 BCE- circa 355 BCE). It is reasonably indicated that the Ionian Greeks obtained detailed knowledge of the Mesopotamian constellations in the century or so preceding Eudoxus. Walter Burkert (Weisheit und Wissenschaft (1962, Pages 289-296)) believed he had found evidence for renewed contacts with the East in certain features of Greek astronomy in the period following circa 440 BCE but his evidence is debatable. Circa the 5th-century BCE saw the beginning of mathematical astronomy in Greece. Also, Greek astronomy of the 5th-century BCE, like that of the astronomy of the Near East, was intertwined with the study of meteorological phenomena generally (i.e., with clouds, winds, thunder and lightning, meteors (shooting stars), the rainbow and such).
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