Ancient Zodiacs, Star Names, and Constellations: Essays and Critiques


Chronological Development of Mesopotamian Star-Lists in the Second Millennium BCE by Gary D. Thompson

Copyright 2011-2018 by Gary D. Thompson


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Chronological Development of Mesopotamian Star-Lists in the Second Millennium BCE

Note: This page is basically a reorganisation and expansion of page 11-7. The repetition that currently exists throughout the page will eventually be removed.

Introduction

Whilst most of the Babylonian constellation names can be identified in translation from cuneiform script, it is often difficult to determine which stars comprised a particular constellation.

"Abstract: Sumerian and Akkadian names of stars and constellations occur in cuneiform texts for over 2,000 years, from the third millennium BC down to the death of cuneiform in the early first millennium AD, but no fully comprehensive list was ever compiled in antiquity. Lists of stars and constellations are available in both the lexical tradition and astronomical-astrological tradition of the cuneiform scribes. The longest list in the former is that in the series Urra = hubullu, in the latter, those in Mul-Apin. Introduction: Cuneiform texts bearing names of stars and constellations are available from the early second millennium BC down to the time of the last available cuneiform tablets of the first-century AD ..., but there is no such thing as an authoritative [standardised] Mesopotamian star list, that is, a standard list of all the stars, or the main stars, known to a set of Ancient Mesopotamians in any one time or place. ... [W]hen speaking of Mesopotamian star lists, what is generally meant is a collection of names of constellations, with the occasional name of a fixed star or planet included. Star lists are found in two very different parts of the cuneiform corpus. First are dictionary lists in the lexical tradition that is best known from the canonical Sumerian-Akkadian series Urra = hubulla ... And the second, sets of star names in the astronomical/astrological tradition. For example, the stars of the Paths of Anu, Enlil, and Ea - the traditional divisions of the Mesopotamian sky. The Lexical Tradition: The canonical version of series Urra = hubulla, dating to ca. 1000 BC, was comprised of 24 tablets with a total of more than 10,000 entries when complete. Included in Tablet 22 of the series was list of star names with a Sumerian name on the left translated by its Akkadian name equivalent on the right. As is typical of the series as a whole, the list begins with the standard sign for stars, that is, the star determinative, Sumerian mul = Akkadian kakkabu, the latter being cognate to terms for stars in the other Semitic languages." (Horowitz, Wayne. (2014). "Mesopotamian Star Lists." In: Ruggles, Clive. (Editor). Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy. (Pages 1829-1833).)

Establishing a chronological listing of 2nd-millennium BCE Mesopotamian constellations is assistive in indicating how the constellations developed in Mesopotamia. Not known are principles of Mesopotamian constellation design. However, it does not suggest which Mesopotamian constellations may have been merged (as part of cultural changes). It is certain that Mesopotamian constellations continued to change and develop during the 2nd- and 1st-millennium BCE.

 

Part 1

Hints of Sumerian Uranography in the Fourth and Third Millennium BCE

It is a widely held popular belief that the constellations and the zodiac originated with the Sumerians circa 3000 BCE. This is wrong on both counts. The existence of reasonable evidence for Sumerian constellations and star names dating to the 3rd-millennium BCE has been lacking until recently. The topic still remains controversial and somewhat speculative. The best evidence for early Mesopotamian constellations and star names still remains with texts (multiple copies of Prayer to the Gods of the Night containing a short star-list) dated to the 2nd-millennium BCE (circa 1800 BCE earliest). Most Babylonian star/constellation names are written in Sumerian. The fact that Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the first century CE has muddled the issue of whether the Babylonians actually inherited any Sumerian star/constellation names, or simply used Sumerian to conveniently write them.

There is no formal astronomy in Sumerian texts. Sumerian literary texts, however, contain astronomical references. (Some knowledge of Sumerian astronomy exists in literary texts and references to calendars.) The Sumerian term UDU.IDIM.MES (Akkadian bibbu) = wild sheep = planets. In the religious text Nanna-Suen Hymn 1 (Sumerian period, 3rd-millennium BCE), the mention of cows is an allusion to the stars in the night sky. (Nanna-Suen (Bronze Age Mesopotamian moon god) Hymn I (of 15 hymns to Nanna-Suen known) has a section on stars and cows. There is an allusion to stars and planets as cattle and the sky as a cattle pen. In a later text the sun and the moon are herdsmen who keep the sky ordered. There is no evidence that the Sumerians were familiar with domes. For the Sumerians the sky is like the curved roof of a cattle pen.) In the religious text the Exaltation of Istar (Middle Babylonian period, circa 1150-1000 BCE), the sun and moon are herdsmen keeping the stars (as cattle) in their order.

Circa 3500 BCE The assyriologist Bendt Alster believed astronomical observations could be discerned in Sumerian compositions dated as early as circa 3500 BCE, which refer to the movement of the heavenly bodies and the constellations. [Note: This viewpoint is not widely held and Bendt Alster (influenced by Hamlet's Mill) later had doubts whether there was sufficient proof to reasonably support this idea.]

Circa 2900 BCE Sumerian pictographic texts discovered on monuments of the Sumerian city-states Uruk and Jemdet Nasr refer to the 29th century BCE, show evidence of calendar inscriptions and records of the rising and setting of Venus, and (supposedly) delineations of several constellations. [Note: An interpretation held by a least one noted Russian assyriologist.]

Circa 2700 BCE the goddess Nisiba [Note: early and current spelling Nisiba but now usually spelled Nisaba or Nidaba] (the patron goddess of scribes) had a knowledge of astronomy attributed to her and her temple in Eres was called the "House of the Stars." She had a lapis-lazuli tablet which is sometimes called the "tablet with the stars of the heavens" or "tablet with the stars of the pure heavens." It was kept in her "House of Wisdom." It is possible that this lapis-lazuli tablet - which was connected with astronomy - was a kind of star-map or symbolic representation of the heavens. [Note: The star-map interpretation is thought to be a legitimate possibility by the assyriologist Wayne Horowitz.]

Circa 2200 BCE Cylinder A of Gudea has a reference to the ominous heliacal rising of a star marking the month. It has been speculated that the star was possibly Aldebaran (though this does not mean that the constellation of Taurus was established). One of the earliest and clearest references to a celestial sign dates to the Sumerian Gudea Cylinder A. Whilst no astral omens in the Sumerian language have been found several lines of inscription on Gudea Cylinder A, in a section dealing with Gudea's commission to build the Eninu [Eninnu], suggest astronomical observations in the 3rd-millennium BCE. These few lines provide some evidence that ominous signs were observed and interpreted. This somewhat sole example is states Gudea of Lagaš looked for signs from extispicy before beginning the rebuilding the temple of his city's god, Ningirsu. The goddess Nisaba tells Gudea, with a sign sent in the form of a bright star, when to begin construction of Ningirsu's temple. The clay cylinders of Gudea, known as Cylinder A and Cylinder B comprise a very important text corpus. Both the cylinders contain texts devoted to the achievements of Gudea (a king). The two Gudea cylinders (both enormous hollow clay cylinders) and thousands of clay tablets were excavated by the French at Lagash between 1877 and 1900. They were among the first Sumerian monuments to be recovered. They were found as foundation deposits in the temple Eninus [Eninnus] devoted to the god Ningirsu. Both Gudea cylinder A and Gudea cylinder B are held in the Louvre museum, Paris. They are both inscribed with lengthy hymns to the god Ningirsu (= Ninuta) and his temple at Lagash.  The texts are quite long with about 1300 lines each. They are the most ancient complete Sumerian literary composition and are an important source for understanding Sumerian. (The language on the cylinders is actually called New Sumerian. Most of our present knowledge of Sumerian is derived from texts in an era in which Sumerian as a spoken language was already extinct.) Lagash was one of the oldest Sumerian cities in the state of Lagash, and in the late 3rd-millennium BCE was also one of the largest cities in the world, if not the largest. A system of named stars is also indicated. (Also, perhaps recognition of Nidaba mul ku-ba as constellation of the 'corn-goddess'?) [Note: The early British assyriologist Stephen Langdon in his flawed book on Babylonian Menologies (based on Pinches' Astrolabe) speculated that the star was a month-star and possibly Aldebaran.]

Circa 2100 BCE Šulgi, king of Ur (reigned circa 2100 to circa 2150 BCE), recorded that he had learned how to calculate the appearance of the new moon while a student in a scribal school. Also in the Post Sargonic/Ur III Period the Sumerian term "house" () is used to apparently denote the celestial positioning of the moon (and to all appearances dropped during the Old Babylonian Period). [Note: The establishment of lunar "houses" at this early period appears in the works of several early British assyriologists and may involve dating/context errors with the source tablets. Hermann Hunger ("The Cultic Calendars of the ancient Near East." in The Journal of the American Oriental Society, October-December, 1996) makes the informed and elucidating comment: "I find it misleading to mention the zodiac (and its subdivisions), which was invented around 400 B.C., in connection with the term "house" of the moon, since the meaning in the older texts is clearly not the same as in the younger. Even if the passages quoted refer to places in the sky, they could not be defined by fixed stars, because the moon is not in the same place on the same calendar date each year. Also, e-[u.sub.4]-7 seems to me to mean "house of day seven" and not "seventh house." And that could be a building on earth, as are the other "houses of the moon" mentioned."]

For the possibility that 2 lunar eclipses described in EAE 20 and 21 date to the Ur III period, and incorporate observational material, see particularly the discussion: "On the Astronomical Records and Babylonian Chronology." by V. G. Gurzadyan (Akkadica, Volume 119-120, 2000, Pages 175-184).

Recent authors who have broached the topic of the possibility of Sumerian constellations and star names are:

(1) Alster, Bendt. (1976). "Early Patterns in Mesopotamian Literature." In: Eichler, Barry. (Editor). Kramer Anniversary Volume, Pages 13-24).

(2) Horowitz, Wayne. (1991). "Further Notes on Birmingham Cuneiform Tablets volume I." (Acta Sumerologica, Volume 13, Pages 406-417). The article includes a brief discussion of possible evidence pointing to a Ur III origin of at least some constellation and star names.

(3) Cohen, Mark. (1993). The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East. (See pages 178-180.) Relies primarily on Cylinder A of Gudea (and the identification of the heliacal rising of the month star Aldebaran (by Thorkild Jacobsen), and the work of the assyriologist Bendt Alster regarding possible astral themes in Sumerian compositions.

(4) Horowitz, Wayne. (1998). Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography. On pages 166-168 the author discusses evidence indicating the possibility of Sumerian star charts.

(5) Brown, David. (2000). Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology. (See especially pages 67, and 245-248.) Relies primarily on Cylinder A of Gudea.

(6) Horowitz, Wayne. (2005). "Some Thoughts on Sumerian Star-Names and Sumerian Astronomy." In: Sefati, Yitzhak. et. al. (Editors). An Experienced Scribe Who Neglects Nothing: Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Jacob Klein. (Pages 163-178). Wayne Horowitz discusses a tablet (The Nippur Forerunner to Tablet 22 of Urra = hubullu) listing 2 star names in Sumerian (line 396 having: mul gisz apin; and line 410 having: mul lu2.hun.ga2) which he believes were in use in Sumer and Akkad in the 3rd millennium. BCE. (The lexical series Urra = hubullu) in its classical 24-tablet form known from first millennium exemplars, presents lists of Sumerian entries and their Akkadian equivalents.)

The latter paper (6) by the assyriologist Wayne Horowitz is an important discussion of the topic. The Sumerian literary work Enki and the World Order (288-289) refers to two constellations. These are "The Field" (= the Pegasus-square) and "The Chariot." Cylinder B of Gudea (ix, 15) refers to the chariot of Ningirsu ("The Chariot" constellation mul.giš gigir). He also expresses the possibility that constellation/star names written in Sumerian but appearing in late texts may actually be genuine survivors from the 3rd-millennium BCE. The name of the "Bull of Heaven" (mul gu4.an.na) in the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven has the same name as the bull constellation Taurus. In the epic Lugalbanda I there are two references (201-3, and 484) to "morning star(s). Two Sumerian hymns to the Moon-god indicate knowledge of stellar movement where mention is made that Nanna-Suen herds cattle (= herds stars). The term cattle meaning stars is obvious from the passage.

Wayne Horowitz concludes ("Some Thoughts on Sumerian Star-Names and Sumerian Astronomy." In: An Experienced Scribe Who Neglects Nothing, edited by Yitzhak Sefati et. al. (2005)): (1) Sumerian texts, dating back to the time of the earliest archives of cuneiform texts, do directly and indirectly indicate evidence of astronomical/astrological activities. (2) The state of present cuneiform evidence indicates that the Sumerians of the 3rd- and 4th-millennium BCE had no formal system of astral sciences (astronomy/astrology) that can be compared to astronomy/astrology in Akkadian texts of the 2nd-millennium BCE.

 

Absence of Astronomical Texts from the Ur III Period

The Ur III period (2112-2004 BCE) (not to be confused with the earlier Uruk III period reaching up to circa 3000 BCE) is generally considered the best documented century in antiquity. It is also termed the Neo Sumerian period or the "Sumerian Renaissance." The tens of thousands of cuneiform tablets that have survived document an immense range of activities. This has resulted in nearly 100 years of intense scholarly work on the Ur III period. Within the context of the active intellectual endeavour recorded at this period no astronomy emerges. For the possibility that 2 lunar eclipses described in EAE 20 and 21 date to the Ur III period, and incorporate observational material, see particularly the discussion: "On the Astronomical Records and Babylonian Chronology." by V. G. Gurzadyan (Akkadica, Volume 119-120, 2000, Pages 175-184).

 

Absence of Sumerian Astral Omens

No astral omens in the Sumerian language have been found. However, there is some evidence that ominous signs were observed and interpreted. The somewhat sole example is Gudea of Lagaš looking for signs from extispicy before beginning the rebuilding the temple of his city's god, Ningirsu. Nothing recovered to date from Sumerian period texts matches the Old Babylonian omen texts.

 

Excursus: Ebla: Star Names in Sumerian-Eblaite List

The Sumerian term mul.mul "The Stars" (= the Pleiades) occurs in a 3rd-millennium BCE bilingual lexical list (Sumerian-Eblaite bilingual vocabulary text) from Ebla as an equivalent of the Eblaite term mul k-ma-t "The Family" (mul-mul=ka\-ma-tu\). The lengthy text was reconstructed from 114 tablets. from the 3rd-millennium BCE. (See: Giovanni Pettinato (1934-2011), Materiali Epigraphici di Ebla [MEE], Volume 4, 1982, Page 288. Giovanni Pettinato, "Vocabulary of Ebla." ["Ebla Vocabulary."] [VE], Materiali Epigraphici di Ebla, Volume 4, 1982, Page 792 [= Giovanni Pettinato, Testi lessicali bilingui della Biblioteca L. 2769, MEE 4, 1982.]. Four more entries in lexical lists from Ebla may be names for stars in Sumerian. (Of the 15,000 tablets recovered from Ebla approximately 80% are written in Sumerian. The date of the tablets is circa 2250 BCE.)

 

Problems with the Use of Sumerian Words

Proponents of a Sumerian origin for the Babylonian constellations like to argue that the names of many constellations are originally Sumerian, not merely Sumerograms (i.e., logograms, or ideograms) for Akkadian. However, the issue is not a simple one. Even late Babylonian astronomical records have a high logographic content. According to Wayne Horowitz it was common practice in 1st-millennium BCE astronomical texts to write star-names with Sumerograms. Akkadian syllabic writings of star-names are rare in the 1st-millennium BCE.

The Semitic Akkadians borrowed the Sumerian-invented cuneiform script for writing their own language. For Akkadian scribes Sumerian was a language learned during scribal education. Though no longer used as a spoken language, Sumerian remained in use as a written language of scholarship and education. "In the Old Babylonian period the bulk of a student's elementary education consisted of learning Sumerian, by then a dead language. (Christine Proust, Tablettes mathmatiques de la collection Hilprecht, 2008)" The Akkadians not only borrowed the idea of cuneiform but also retained numerous Sumerian logographs and phonetic signs (Sumerograms). Additionally they added many of their own. (By circa 2000 BCE the Akkadian use of the Sumerian script had developed many modifications to Sumerian orthography with the Semitic equivalents for many signs becoming distorted or abbreviated to form "phonetic" values.) Because of their shortness Sumerian symbols remained in use in Akkadian writing. The Sumerian language (i.e., cuneiform signs) provided logograms for expediting the writing of Akkadian (i.e., Babylonian and Assyrian). The original Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of Akkadian. Akkadian texts are mostly (approximately 90 per cent) syllalograms. Syllables were frequently represented by signs. An Akkadian word was separated into individual syllables, and each syllable was represented by a Sumerian sign. Most of the signs used to spell Akkadian represent syllables. Most signs had 2 or more values or readings. However, in some cases, 1 symbol could have up to 12 syllabic values. The terms ideograms and logograms are applied to the Sumerian language. The terms Sumerograms and logograms are applied to the Akkadian language. They are used in the graphic representation of a language other than Sumerian. In Akkadian Sumerian logograms are often named Sumerograms because they originate from Sumerian cuneiform signs. A Sumerogram is the use of a single, or group, of Sumerian, cuneiform signs as an ideogram or logogram rather than a syllabogram. An ideogram is a graphical symbol representing an idea rather than a word i.e., graphical wayfinding signage at airports. A logogram is a sign that stands for an entire word. A logogram is a written symbol representing an entire spoken word without expressing its pronunciation i.e., $ for dollar. The term ideogram is also commonly used to describe logographic writing systems.

Beginning circa 2500 BCE the Akkadians adapted the Sumerian cuneiform writing system for writing Akkadian. (Akkadian was the language of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. It seems the Akkadians were the first Semites to borrow the Sumerian writing system.) Most cuneiform signs were taken from the Sumerians. Though the Akkadians spelled their words phonetically they still made use of the old Sumerian system. Semitic scribes preferred to avoid syllabic spelling. Long Akkadian words were preferentially written as Sumerograms. It is generally stated that the term logogram is used to describe a Sumerian word that is used in Akkadian cuneiform writing i.e., has been borrowed into the Akkadian language. But it is not always the case that Sumerograms mean the use of Sumerian loan words. It may be that there has been an Akkadian adaptation of a Sumerian logogram. In Akkadian texts Sumerian words are frequently used to stand for their Akkadian equivalents. A Sumerian word that is used in Akkadian writing usually indicates meaning (words) (i.e., are mostly used for common nouns i.e., "king" or "horse") rather than a syllable or sound. (Present day example: The use of 4 for "four" illustrates a single symbol representing an entire word without expressing its pronunciation.) Use of a Sumerian word is represented by 1 sign in the case of a simple logogram or by 2 signs in the case of a composite logogram. (Composite logograms are separated by a dot.) Use of logograms in Akkadian cuneiform texts are recognisable either because (1) a syllabic reading of the sign makes no sense in the context, or (2) cuneiform scribes usually add (preceding) signs (determinatives) that act as logogram identifiers and indicate the class the (following) logogram belongs to. (See: Beyond Babel by Steven McKenzie and John Kattner (2002).

Sumerian loan words were written just as they were written in Sumerian. However, it is not (always) possible to decide whether the Sumerian words (word-signs or 'ideograms') used in later (non-Sumerian) times are actually Sumerian in origin or are just later Babylonian notions recorded in anachronistic Sumerian. (According to the cuneiform philologist John Heise, Akkadian speakers systematically used the Sumerian language at least to the Old Babylonian Period. It was the language of the Akkadian-speaking scholars.) Because of the ability of the Sumerian language to express multiple words with the brevity of a single logogram the Sumerian language was later used for either technical or ritual purposes. Sumerian logograms offered the advantage of brevity enabling technical terms to be written with a single symbol. (A Sumerogram can be symbol (sign) and would mean one word, or compound symbols (signs) - separated by spacings - representing multiple words.) A logogram used in an Akkadian text could represent either a loan word from Sumerian or a native Akkadian word. Sumerograms did not necessarily represent Sumerian loan words in the Akkadian language. Sumerograms were actually read in Akkadian only. The Sumerian symbols were used because of their shortness. To write the word meaning 'scales' (Akkadian zibanitu(m)), for the constellation Libra, either the single Sumerian logogram RIN could be used or the four Akkadian cuneiform signs zi-ba-ni-tum. "Logograms are used in Sumerian to write nominal and verbal roots or words, and in Akkadian as a kind of shorthand to write Akkadian words which would otherwise have to be spelled out using syllabic signs. For example, an Akkadian scribe could write the sentence "The king came to his palace" completely syllabically: šar-ru-um a-na e-kal-li-šu il-li-kam. He would be just as likely, however, to use the common Sumerian logograms for "king" and "palace" and write instead LUGAL a-na .GAL-šu il-li-kam. (Introduction to Sumerian Grammar by Daniel Foxvog (2011, Page 12))"

Because a logogram is a single symbol, that, for the purpose of brevity, represents an entire word of phase it is understandable that logograms were used as short-cuts in order to write faster and save space on a tablet. Sumerian word signs were frequently used as technical terms in mathematics and astronomy. In some ways the later use of Sumerian in Babylonian texts is somewhat similar to the continued use of Latin in the Middles Ages in Europe (termed 'Classical Latin'). It was the language of a cultural elite (i.e., the lingua franca). It was a general convention in ancient Mesopotamian scientific texts to use Sumerian word-signs to render Akkadian vocabulary words. As such no conclusion can be confidently drawn from the later use of Sumerian terms regarding the time or place of the origin of the content of the texts. Also, there are very few original Sumerian tablets containing any significant astronomical references.

Interestingly, Erica Reiner states (Astral Magic in Babylonia (1995, Page 22)): "Some prayers are written, it appears, in the Sumerian language, but in fact are simple transpositions of Akkadian phraseology into Sumerian words and phrases. They may have been recited  - as in various rituals - by the priest or exorcist  utraque lingua eruditus ('learned in both languages') while the client's prayer was couched in the vernacular, Akkadian."

In 2006 Martin Worthington (Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge) stated: "Translating Sumerian is a particularly demanding and intricate task, as the language presents many more difficulties than modern or even other ancient ones. Sumerian (whose very existence was still disputed just over a century ago) is still not fully understood, and many nuances are provisionally lost to us. Research tools are inadequate -- a comprehensive up-to-date dictionary is lacking. The number of scholars working in the field is small. The literary compositions themselves have to be pieced together painstakingly from thousands of clay fragments housed in museums all over the world. The content of the compositions is often far removed from modern aesthetics and ethics and not always easy to comprehend."

 

Part 2

Earliest Babylonian Constellation/Star Records

The rise of detailed star catalogues/lists was concurrent with the compilation of omen texts (such as Enūma Anu Enlil). The first formal compendium of constellation/star lists only appear circa the mid 12th-century BCE. These are the Three Stars Each (kakkabū 3ta.am) texts (i.e., star calendars). These constellation/star lists also appear in the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil which was consolidated sometime in the last quarter of the 2nd-millennium BCE. (The text of Enūma Anu Enlil circulated in various recensions (versions).) The second formal compendium of constellation/star lists appears circa 1100 BCE. This second (expanded) and more accurate compendium, basically derived from the Three Stars Each texts/lists, appears in the two-tablet Mul.Apin series. Both schemes are based on a tripartite division of the sky: the northern path of the god Enlil, the middle path of the god Anu, and the southern path of the god Ea. In the Three Stars Each scheme the 12 stars in each path are also individually placed into 12 sectors dividing the 3 paths. Two Middle Babylonian Period astronomical tablets (HS 1897 and BM 55502 (82-7-4, 76) contain close examples of a star/constellation catalogue in KAV 218 (= Astrolabe B). However, though related to the 36-star tradition of the Astrolabes they also contain a 30-star tradition (i.e., 10 stars each in the paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea). The Middle Babylonian tablet HS 1897, from Nippur, sets out the earlier 30-star catalogue. (In Babylonian number symbolism 10 was a number of finality or completeness.)

However, the earliest records of Babylonian constellations/stars date to the Old Babylonian Period. One astronomical (observational) text survives (the so-called Venus text (Tablet 63 of the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil)), several astral omen texts survive, and one prayer text (in two slightly variant versions) also survives (Prayer to the Gods of the Night). (There are slightly different versions of these 2 parallel prayers regarding the listing of 10 constellations.) Until recently only one omen text - related to the crescent moon becoming visible at the beginning of the new year (but with no constellation/star names recorded) - was thought to survive.)

The one astronomical text survives as a corrupted 7th-century copy, from the library of King Ashurbanipal (Tablet 63 of the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil), of observations of the planet Venus (and also 59 associated astral omens) most probably made during the 21 year reign of King Ammisaduqa. No constellation/star names are recorded. (The recorded observations of Venus comprised the first and last appearances of Venus in the morning or evening sky, on the occasion of each conjunction with the sun, for 21 years.)

Collections of astral omens were being put together in the Old Babylonian period. (The most extensive and best preserved Old Babylonian tablets dealing with celestial omens are BM 22696 and BM 86381. They both deal with lunar eclipses.) The earliest identified astrological text was published by the Russian assyriologist Woldemar (Vladimir) Shilejko [also spelled Šileicko/Schileico] in 1927 (in the Russian journal Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR). The text contains predictions based on the state of the sky on the day when the crescent moon just becomes visible, at the beginning of the new year. (A summary of the paper was also later published in German in 1929.) No constellation/star names are recorded. The text of the Shilejko omen tablet contains 9 omens concerning the appearance of the sky, some omens concerning lunar phenomena, and some omens concerning atmospheric phenomena. Since then a number of other omen texts dating to the Old Babylonian period have become known (4 Old Babylonian tablets containing lunar eclipse omens have been identified in the British Museum): 5 or 6 tablets deal with lunar eclipse omens, 1 tablet deals with solar eclipse omens, and 1 tablet deals with planetary omens. (See: Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology by David Brown (2000).) Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 29 by Oliver Rouault (2011) discusses a (new?) fragment of a divinatory report dated to the Old Babylonian period. Note: The Pushkin Museum cuneiform collection includes 8 Old Babylonian omen compendia. Two were published by Woldemar (Vladimir) Shilejko 1927 (1929) and the other 6 were published by Yu[ry] Saveliev in 1985 (in Russian) in the Pushkin Museum bulletin. Modern publications dealing with these 8 omen compendia were published by Ilya Khait. One was edited by Ilya Khait in his 2011 paper "A Newly Discovered Distant Join to YOS 10 30 in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts." (JCS, 63: 69-72). The other 7 were edited by Ilya Khait in his paper "The Old Babylonian Omens in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow." (In: Babel und Bibel edited by L. Kogan, et al. (2012) Pages 31-60).

Omen compendia were put to writing for the first time in the Old Babylonian period. They also continued to be built-up. Astronomical traditions and astral omen traditions were built-up during the period that Babylon was incorporated into the Kassite Empire. These traditions were then consolidated during the Middle Assyrian period. Jeffrey Cooley advises that the exact nature of the relationships between omen collections is difficult to ascertain. Different omen collections may be simply contemporary variations of the same (more or less "canonical") list of omens.

Star names and constellations are mentioned in the Prayer to the Gods of the Night (also called Prayer for a Haruspicy at Night). (The relevant texts include AO 6769, K 2315, and K 3507.) This prayer was used in the course of a divination ceremony carried out at night. The great gods who ordinarily control the affairs of the world during the day are regarded asleep and resting during the night. These gods are therefore represented by several of the constellations of fixed stars. These constellations/stars are asked to witness the ritual and to guarantee that a true answer will be divined. One of two known texts of Prayer to the Gods of the Night dating from the Old Babylonian Period (preserved on AO 6769) refers to the names of 10 stars/constellations. The other (slightly variant) version was published by the Russian assyriologist Woldemar (Vladimir) Shilejko and lists only 9 stars/constellations. The earliest version of these is dated circa 1700 BCE. (A 3rd Old Babylonian version was identified in 1996 by Wayne Horowitz and Nathan Wasserman.) Two later versions are known: Hittite (circa 1300/1200 BCE) and Assyrian (circa 700 BCE from the library of king Assurbanipal (the latter actually exist as several fragmentary copies)). The breaks in the fragmentary texts involve the star-list. (A few constellations in this later version vary from those listed in the earliest version i.e., Ferry (= nēberu = Jupiter), Sulpae, Centaurus, and Field.) The Hittite version (on tablet VAT 7445 (published in KUB, Volume 4, Number 47) recovered from Boghazky, the captial of the Hittite empire), embeds in a Hittite ritual a transcription by a Hittite scribe of an Old Babylonian Period text and enumerates 17 stars/constellations (belonging to the path of Ea). The Prayer to the Gods of the Night is the earliest surviving evidence of a 10-star tradition (i.e., 10 stars are assigned to the 12 months of the year). The use of 30 stars of Enlil, Anu, and Ea would appear to show a 2nd-millennium BCE tradition of listing stars in groups of 10 (i.e., 3 x 10; 10 stars each in the paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea). That is a division into 30 individual sectors comprising 3 concentric bands (rings) each divided by 10 radial lines. These would be important - not monthly - stars.) Both BM 55502 and HS 1897 preserve catalogues listing 30 stars - 10 stars each for the three paths of the sky. This scheme was later replaced by a scheme of 12 stars for each of the three paths of the sky (3 x 12 = 36). (One star for each country/path and each month. The paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil perhaps derive from the stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru.) However, the 30-star tradition scheme existed alongside the later 36-star scheme for circa the millennium between HS 1897 (late 2nd-millennium (early middle period)) and BM 55502 (late middle period).

 

The 10-Star Tradition and 30-Star Catalogue

When complete the star lists/catalogues of both HS 1897 (late 2nd-millennium (early middle period)) and, what is taken to be the reverse of, BM 55502 (late middle period) list only 30 stars (i.e., 3 x 10; 10 stars in each of the 3 paths of the sky - Enlil, Anu, and Ea. (What is taken to be the obverse of BM 55502 lists 36 rising and setting stars matching Astrolabe B, Section 4 (and parallels).) The use of 30 stars of Enlil, Anu, and Ea would appear to show a 2nd-millennium BCE tradition of listing stars in groups of 10 in each of the paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea. These would be important - not monthly - stars for each of the 3 stellar paths. They may have been used to help define the limits of the 3 stellar paths.

The Prayer to the Gods of the Night is the earliest surviving evidence of a 10-star tradition. The 10-star version of the Prayer to the Gods of the Night (preserved on tablet AO 6769) matches the Sumerian version of the bilingual menology in Astrolabe B, Section 1. In 10 of the 12 months the first item noted in the Sumerian-language version of the menology is the month-star for that month.

"It is likely that the 36-star catalogue of Alb B II [Astrolabe B Section II] and the 30-star catalogue first known from HS 1897 have a common ancestor; a star catalogue of the type HS 1897 without the short astrological comments." (The Three Stars Each by Wayne Horowitz (2014, Page 102).)

BM 55502 demonstrates a knowledge of both 30-star and 36-star traditions existing alongside each other for nearly 1000 years.

This scheme was later replaced by a scheme of 12 stars for each of the three paths of the sky (3 x 12 = 36). (One star for each country/path and each month. The paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil perhaps derive from the stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru.) However, the 30-star tradition scheme existed alongside the later 36-star scheme for circa the millennium between HS 1897 and BM 55502.

The late mention of the 30-star tradition in the 1st-century BCE writings of the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus is likely a garbled form of the 30-star tradition in Babylonia.

 

Apparent Scheme of Babylonian Star Lists to Mul.Apin/Possible Development of the Astrolabes (Three Stars Each)

(1) The Prayer to the Gods of the Night is the earliest surviving evidence of a star-list (and this star-list indicates a 10-star tradition). The Prayer dates to the Old Babylonian period and was perhaps extant circa 1800 BCE. The 10-star version of the Prayer to the Gods of the Night (preserved on tablet AO 6769) matches the Sumerian version of the bilingual menology in Astrolabe B, Section 1. In 10 of the 12 months the first item noted in the Sumerian-language version of the menology is the month-star for that month. The Prayer to the Gods of the Night listing 10 stars/constellations anticipates the 10-star astrolabe tradition. This 10-star list refers to Ištar, Sn, Šamaš, and Adad bringing judgement. This reflects the 4 divisions of the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil. (The god-stars are invoked (listed) at the conclusion of the incantation/prayer.)

(2) Development of 30-star tradition astrolabe. Circa 1400 BCE development/composition of a list of 30 heliacally rising stars, 10 each in the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. Note: The original list from which both the Astrolabes and the Mul.Apin lists were derived. The Kassite period texts VS 24 120 (from Babylon) and HS 1897 (from Nippur) provide antecedents to Sections 1 and 2 respectively of Astrolabe B. The roughly contemporary text KUB 4 47 Prayer to the Gods of the Night, from Boghazoky, provides the earliest direct evidence for the division of the night sky into the three Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. (Not used, however, is the term harranu (= paths).) No known precursors of any kind are presently known for Sections 3-4 of Astrolabe B. (BM 55502 (obverse unpublished) is also an "Astrolabe" text from Babylon and is dated to the Late Babylonian Period. The reverse of the tablet (published) contained a star catalogue listing 30 stars. Like the earlier "Astrolabes" the text is divided into three groups of ten stars from the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil.) When complete the star lists/catalogues of both HS 1897 (late 2nd-millennium (early middle period)) and, what is taken to be the reverse of, BM 55502 (late middle period) list only 30 stars (i.e., 3 x 10; 10 stars in each of the 3 paths of the sky - Enlil, Anu, and Ea. The use of 30 stars of Enlil, Anu, and Ea would appear to show a 2nd-millennium BCE tradition of listing stars in groups of 10 in each of the paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea. These would be important - not monthly - stars for each of the 3 stellar paths. They may have been used to help define the limits of the 3 stellar paths. Often the stars/constellations do not actually reside in their named star-paths - the paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. This suggests that the star-paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil were introduced later than the stars/constellations assigned to them.

(3) Development of the Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru. 12 stars of Elam, 12 stars of Akkad, and 12 stars of Amurru. (These are actually constellations.) The Babylonian cuneiform tablets are K 250 and K 8067. Circa 1200 BCE tabular lists of the 12 stars of Elam, the 12 stars of Akkad, and the 12 stars of Amurru. Note: The names Elam, Akkad, and Amurru reflect the political situation in the Old Babylonian Period. (Note: It was suggested by Bartel van der Waerden (Science Awakening II) that these star lists preceded, and formed the basis for, the Three Stars Each texts. However, Wayne Horowitz (In: Calendars and Years, edited by John Steele (2007)) writes: "It was suggested at one time that the lists of 36 Elam, Akkad, and Amurru-stars found in The Great Star List were forerunners to the Astrolabe lists, but this idea must now be abandoned given the discovery of the 30 star precursor in HS 1897.") It is thought likely that the stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru formed part of the divinatory background to the astrolabes.

(4) Development of 36-star tradition astrolabe. What is taken to be the obverse of BM 55502 lists 36 rising and setting stars matching Astrolabe B, Section 4 (and parallels). BM 55502 demonstrates a knowledge of both 30-star and 36-star traditions existing alongside each other for nearly 1000 years. This scheme was later replaced by a scheme of 12 stars for each of the three paths of the sky (3 x 12 = 36). (One star for each country/path and each month. The paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil perhaps derive from the stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru.) However, the 30-star tradition scheme existed alongside the later 36-star scheme for circa the millennium between HS 1897 and BM 55502. Circa 1150 BCE circular planispheres (astrolabes) of the "three stars each" star calendars (12 stars of Ea, 12 stars of Anu, and 12 stars of Enlil). The astrolabes may have developed from the early star lists - 10-star tradition and expanded tradition, such as the 17-star list from Boghazky (VAT 7445). Note: The omen fragment 81-7-27 provides a link between the lists of Akkad, Elam, and Amurru stars and the (later) Astrolabe lists. Sections 3-4 of Astrolabe B preserve the earliest surviving lists of 12-month stars for each of the three traditional stellar paths of Mesopotamian astronomy, giving a total of 36 stars. (The Kassite period tablet VS 24 120: 8-9 is a forerunner to the menology of Astrolabe B. See: The Three Stars Each by Wayne Horowitz (2014, Page 65).)

(5) The Assumed Tablet 51 of the Omen Series Enūma Anu Enlil. The consolidation of the Omen Series Enūma Anu Enlil was achieved circa 1100 BCE. (The text was never actually 'fixed.') The star list (and their Paths) of the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil, after Reiner/Pingree Babylonian Planetary Omens 2 (1981).

(6) Circa 1000 BCE the tabular form of the "three stars each" star calendars ("Astrolabes"). (The circular astrolabes preceded the list astrolabes.)

(7) Circa 1000 BCE the list of 71 stars of the "3 ways" - path of Ea, path of Anu, path of Enlil - of the Mul.Apin series. Note: The Mul.Apin list and the "Astrolabes" have 24 constellations in common. The Mul.Apin series does not completely abandon the earlier tradition of 36 stars that serves as the basis for the "three stars each" star calendars ("Astrolabes").

Note 1: There is support for the view that the 'astrolabes' and Mul,Apin (and similar star schemes) were developed primarily as celestial divination documents and are not primarily observation-based astronomical schemes. Rather, they were devised under the influence of ideas regarding celestial divination. They represent an ideal scheme for celestial divination purposes - for contrasting observations against.

Note 2: A few texts (i.e., lists) also mentioning stars and constellations date to the 3rd millennium BCE. However, Hermann Hunger points out that no principle is evident in the order of these celestial objects. "It is only in the 2nd millennium BCE that texts appear which are dealing with phenomena in the sky. In these texts we see a desire to find out how the skies are organised., and a belief that this organization can be understood and described in relatively simple ways. The use of observation is limited: while obviously one must look at the sky to be able to say something about it , schematic approaches were predominant .... An example for this are the so-called Three-stars-each texts which probably go back to between 1500 and 1000 BCE. They list, for each month of the Babylonian calendar, three constellations which are supposed to become visible in this month: one constellation to the North, one near the equator [there is no word for equator in these texts], and one to the South; it is furthermore stated that the same constellations disappear again after six months. This gives a neat scheme of 36 constellations from whose risings one could tell the time of year. However, it would not work in practice: first of all, the period of visibility is different for stars depending on their declination; it is simply incorrect to assign all of them a visibility of six months. Then, the Babylonian calendar is not easily attuned to the solar year so that helical risings of stars will not stay in the same month every year. And, just to indicate that we are far from a secure interpretation, the lists also include planets, which are subject to entirely different visibility conditions, independent of the time of the year; finally there are even variant forms of the list which have only ten constellations - instead of 12 - which makes an alignment with the months of the year impossible. The Three-stars-each lists may be seen as attempts to organise what is known about stars. At about the same time an astronomical text was compiled, called Mul-Apin (which means Plough star) after its first word. It is only attested on tablets from the 7th century [BCE] onwards, but probably goes back to the 13th century BCE." (Hunger, Hermann. (2011). "The relation of Babylonian astronomy to its culture and society." In: Valls-Gabaud, D. and Boksenberg, A. (Editors). The Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture. Proceedings of the IAU Symposium No. 260, 2009. (Pages 62-33).)

 

Part 3

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. Most of the 10 stars / planets / constellations listed are on or near the ecliptic. The Prayer to the Gods of the Night is the earliest surviving evidence of a 10-star tradition (i.e., 10 stars are assigned to the 12 months of the year). (See also: "Another Old Babylonian Prayer to the Gods of the Night" by Wayne Horowitz and Nathan Wasserman (Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Volume 48, 1996, Pages 57-60), for a discussion of a 3rd version of the prayer on a tablet that is probably from Sippar.) Of the 3 copies of likely early versions of the text of the prayer one or more of the tablets are likely Middle Babylonian copies of Old Babylonian originals. However, Jeffrey Cooley cautions against the identification of the Old Babylonian version and the Neo Assyrian version (dated circa 700 BCE): "A more elaborate prayer to night gods also for the purpose of preparing for an extispicy is known from the NA [Neo Assyrian] period as well …, though there does not seem to be any genetic relationship between it and the OB [Old Babylonian] prayer …. Although there is modest overlap, the gods listed in … [the] prayer, Maqlu, and the NA [Neo Assyrian] prayer are not the same. Thus, the epithet "Gods of the Night" is by no means a formal title associated with a fixed set of divinities. Rather, it is simply a descriptive rubric to refer to any divine grouping that is visible at night in astral form and which a particular text wishes to address en masse." (Cooley, Jeffrey. (2011). "An OB Prayer to the Gods of the Night." In: Lenzi, Alan. (Editor). Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns. (Page 71).)

Erm 15642 (listing only 9 stars/constellations) belongs to the Lichačov Collection, Russia, and was first discussed by the Russian assyriologist Vladimir (Woldemar) Šilejk in 1924.

Another prayer/haruspicy also identifies as a "god of the night": the goddess Ninsiana, as the planet Venus in the planet's male manifestation. Also identified in a text as "gods of the night" are mulNe-bi-ru (usually a name of Jupiter), Orion, Ursa Major, the Kidney Star, the Boar Star, Dilgan, Musirkesda, and also Sulpae. (Some commentators believe that Nebiru originally meant a constellation in or near Libra.)

The versions of the Prayer to the Gods of the Night are addressed to (1) gods of fire (i.e., Girra = fire god = Mercury?/Mars?), (2) gods of planets (i.e., Erra = Mars?), and (3) gods of constellations (i.e., the Wagon = 'Big Dipper' asterism).

Jeffrey Cooley writes: "The primary manifestations of most of the Gods of the Night appear to be specific stars and constellations, some of which we are able to identify with reasonable certainty …. On the other hand, Girra and Erra are gods associated with fire and plague respectively and are mostly featured outside of a celestial context in cult and literature. … Girra and Erra are associated with celestial features in addition to their primary mundane hypostases. While we do not know with what astral feature Girra is associated [but in the Old Babylonian myth called "Girra and Elamatum," Girra slays a monster called Elamatum and makes her into a constellation], Erra is later identified as a particular star, the Fox (MUL.KA5.A, Akk. šēlebum) in the Wagon constellation (MUL.MAR.GD.DA, Akk. ereqqum …), or even the planet Mars (via his identification with the Fox star, which is also equated with Mars)." (Cooley, Jeffrey. (2011). "An OB Prayer to the Gods of the Night." In: Lenzi, Alan. (Editor). Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns. (Pages 71-72).)

 

10-Star Text/Version (AO 6769):

1.    the god Girra (Fire God) [Note: = Mercury? / Mars?. The astral identity of the Old Babylonian constellation Girra is uncertain (= Sirius?). Girra the Fire God is both a son of Anu and also a constellation in Girra and Elamatum.  In Babylonian uranography Sirius is also identified with the constellation of the Arrow.]

2.    the god Erra [Note: The astral identity of the Old Babylonian constellation Erra is uncertain (= Mars?). Erra is a god of the nether world.]

3.    the Bow [Note = A constellation or the star Sirius?]

4.    the Yoke [Note: Approximately our Botes (or Arcturus?).]

5.    the True Shepherd of Anu [Note: = Orion.]

6.    the Dragon [Note: The mythical snake-dragon was the sacred animal (symbol) of Marduk. The Dragon is one of two 'serpent' constellations listed. mušhuššum (Akkadian loan-word of Sumerian MUŠ.HUŠ). An unidentified constellation (= the large circumpolar constellation Draco?). mušhuššum (mušhuššum-dragon) was a 'furious snake' or 'aweful snake': "The Snake"/"The Serpent" (= 'Snake-Dragon' or 'Serpent-Dragon' (Horned-Serpent) of the god Marduk). The god Marduk was associated with snakes.]

7.    the Wagon [Note: = Ursa Major (specifically 'Big Dipper' asterism).]

8.    the She-Goat (= Goat Star) (= Lyra (or Vega?)

9.    the Bison [Note: = Capricorn (or Ophiuchus / Serpens?). The stars comprising this constellation have not yet been reliably identified.]

10.  the Horned-Serpent [Note: 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. Provisionally identified as a constellation north of Libra but also provisionally identified with Hydra. Hydra is a very long constellation - the largest in the sky - located in the region of the celestial equator.]

 

9-Star Text/Version (Erm. 15642):

ERM. 15642 preserves one of two of the earliest examples of the Prayer to the Gods of the Night. (The cuneiform tablet ERM. 15642 is in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum (Russia).) In this variant version published by the Russian assyriologist Woldemar (Vladimir) Shilejko, and also dated to the Old Babylonian Period circa 1700 BCE, the following 9 constellations are listed:

1. the god Girra

2. the god Erra

3. the Elamite Bow [Note: The Elamite Bow is not attested in later astronomical texts. (But the Bow does appear in Mul.Apin with the descriptor: The Bow, the Elamite dIstar, the daughter of dEnlil)]

4. the Stars [Note: = Pleiades. Conceived of as the 'mane' of the constellation Taurus.]

5. the True Shepherd of Anu

6. the Dragon

7. the Wagon

8. the She-Goat

9. the Bison

In this version both the Yoke and the Horned-Serpent (Hydra) are omitted and the Pleiades (the Stars) included.

A translation of the Prayer to the Gods of the Night (by F. J. Stephens) in Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament edited by J. B. Pritchard (1950) lists the stars/constellations: (1) Gibil, (2) Irra, (3) Bow (star), (4) Yoke (star), (5) Pleiades, (6) Orion, (7) the Dragon, (8) Ursa Major, (9) Goat (star), and (10) the Bison. I am uncertain of the source text for the list until I can sight my copy of the book.

 

Ura = hubulla [ḪAR-ra = ḫubullu ] star listing

The Ura[Urra]=hubullu (ur5-ra=ḫubullu) is a major (and also oldest known) Babylonian glossary/dictionary (or "encyclopedia") consisting of Sumerian and Akkadian lexical lists ordered by topic. The series of tablets comprise bilingual word lists in Sumerian and Akkadian. The late (circa 1000 BCE) canonical version extends to 24 tablets. The conventional title is the first gloss, ur5-ra and ḫubullu meaning "interest-bearing debt" in Sumerian and Akkadian, respectively. Tablet 22 of the series includes a list of 61 star names. "... [A]fter the sublist e = iku, is a list of stars that begin with ul = kakkabu and mul = kakkabu at Ura XXII: 266'-267'. Immediately after this are entries for mul.mul, "The Stars" (The Pleiades), and then sixty more stars which brings us down to Ura XXII: 327'. This star list occupies most of the fifth column of a number of manuscripts." (Block, Yigal. and Horowitz, Wayne. (2015). "Ura = hubulla XXII: The Standard Recension." (Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Volume 67, Pages 71-125).) (A detailed discussion of the star list is being prepared (2015) by Yigal Block and Wayne Horowitz.) ḪAR-ra = ḫubullu Tablet XXII is based on lists from Old-Babylonian times. The list is not intended to be a complete star catalogue. The text of Ura XXII is currently (2015) based on 12 main sources and 20 school tablets. The majority of tablets come from Babylonia: Babylon, Kish, Uruk, and Ur; and possibly Borsippa, Dilbat, and Sippar. A small number of tablets come from Assyria: Huzirina, and Assur. One bilingual version excavated from Ugarit [RS2.(23)+] is Sumerian/Hurrian rather than Sumerian/Akkadian. It was excavated at Ebla in modern Syria and dates from the early 2nd millennium BCE. The bulk of the series was compiled in the Old Babylonian period (early 2nd millennium BCE), with pre-canonical forerunner documents extending back to the late 3rd millennium BCE. The extant sources for Ura XXII are written in 1st millennium script and dated to circa 1000 BCE. A Neo-Assyrian copy of the lexical text ur5-ra = hubullu is K 4386 (CT 1919) (formerly II R 48 (a list)).

The lexical list genre was very popular in Mesopotamia. Their intended goal was to order the world through careful classifications. The composition of these lists can be traced back to the Sumerians but their production was emphasised during the Kassite period. The intention of the Old Babylonian lexical corpus  was to support the educational goals of the scribal schools (known as the Edubas). Significant parts of this lexical corpus continued in use until the end of cuneiform civilisation. Other kinds of texts found for the first time in the Old Babylonian period (of approximately 400 years) include divinatory compendia and compilations of mathematical problem texts. Lexical texts date from the late 4th-millennium BCE. They underwent redevelopment in the 3rd-millennium BCE.

The listing in the table below (comments excluded) is based on: Block, Yigal. and Horowitz, Wayne. (2015). "Ura = hubulla XXII: The Standard Recension." (Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Volume 67, Pages 71-125).

Line Sumerian Akkadian Comments
266 ul kak-ka-bu ul = kakkabu and mul = kakkabu (kakkabu); a category which includes individual stars, constellations, and often planets and other phenomena in the sky; in its meaning as "star," kakkabu is most often used as a determinative in front of the name of a specific star, planet, or constellation
267 mul MIN mul = celestial body; MIN = UDU = "sheep"
268 mul-mul MIN MIN = UDU; a planet; = wild sheep = planets
269 mul-mul ka-li-tum a constellation of fixed star (used from Old Babylonian period onwards); Bir, kalitu = kidney star
270 mul-mul za-ap-pu namely mul.mul the Pleiades; the common Akkadian equivalent of mul.mul is mulzappu "The Bristle"; MUL.MUL = zappu "The Stars" (Sum.) or "The Bristle" (Akkadian); The Pleiades
271 mulšudun ni-i-r[u] SHUDUN = niru "The Yoke"; Botes; Niru = Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Botes
272 mulikux (AŠ+GN) i-ku-

constellation IKU ("The Field"); ASH.GN = ik " The Field"; alpha, beta and gamma Pegasi with alpha Andromedae; "l-Iku," the Pegasus-square; Babylonian constellation now a Western asterism known as the Great Square of Pegasus

273 mulgu4-an-na is le-e "The Bull of Heaven"; constellation Taurus; the jaws of the bull; = Hyades & Aldebaran (α Tauri)
274 mulsipa-zi-an-na ši-da-al-lu-u SIPA.ZI.AN.NA = shidallu "The True Shepherd of Anu"; Orion
275 mulkak-si-s šu-ku-du

KAK.SI.S = shukudu "The Arrow"; alpha Canis Maioris

276 mul[giš]pan qa-aš-tum mulpan = Bow; qa-aš-tum = BOW
277 [mu]leriduki ŠU Eridu
278 [mu]l dnin-tu dbe-let DIĜIR.MEŠ Nintu = mother goddess
279 muludu-til ŠU  
280 muludu-til bi-ib-bi

the Akkadian word for planet, bibbu, 'wild sheep'; udu-til = bibbu, the planet Mercury

281 muludu-til dSal-bat-a-nu Salbatanu = the planet Mars
282 mulmar-d a-mur-ru MAR.TU = the god Amurru identified with the constellation Perseus; Amurru = ethnic term; Amurru was the Akkadian name for the west, namely the region west of the Euphrates as far as the Mediterranean coast; during the 2nd-millennium BCE the Akkadian term Amurru referred not only to an ethnic group but also to a language and to a geographic and political unit in Syria and Palestine
283 mul dnin-si4-an-na dIš-tar MUL.MEŠ Ištar of the Stars [= Venus?]
284 multir-an-na man-za-tu[m]

a star or constellation; Mul Tiranna, the "Rainbow Star"; rainbow or Bow star; originally the name "Orion's Dog", which appears even in Homer, probably applied to the star Alpha Canis Majoris alone (Sirius)

285 mulĝr-tab zu-qa-qi-pi "Scorpion"; ziqit GR.TAB "The Sting of the Scorpion"; Identified with SHAR.GAZ and SHAR.UR4
286 mulzi-ba-an-na zi-ba-ni-tum zi-ba-ni-tum "the Scales"; zi-ba-ni-tum = the true balance (Western constellation Libra); ZI.BA.AN.NA = zibanitu "The Scales" (Akkadian); Libra
287 mulur-gu-la la-ta-rak

UR.GU.LA "The Lion"; Leo; Latarak = name of Sumerian demon god = Regulus in Leo [Denebola in Leo?]

288 mulur-gir15 kal-bi Akkadian kalbi = 'dog'
289 mullu-lim lu-li-mu

"The Stag"; red deer, stag; Western constellation Andromeda

290 mul ĝišgigir dEn-[me-šr]-ra GIGIR (GISH.GIGIR) = narkabtu "The Chariot"; EN.ME.SHR.RA zeta and omicron Persei with, perhaps, the northern stars of Taurus
291 mulgm [                ] GM = gamlu; "The Crook" (the Sickle Sword ); Western constellation Auriga (or Capella); mulGAM [mulZUBI] [zubi] (= The sickle sword [The hooked staff] (Auriga).)
292 [mul x (x)] x x [x x (x)] x [Obliterated, identification unknown]
293 mulmaš [tu]-a-ma abbreviated form of zodiacal constellation/sign name Gemini
294 mulmaš-maš ma-šu!-u "The Twins"
295 mulmaš-tab-ba tu-a-mu the constellation Gemini "The Twins",  the "Great Twins" [MUL.MAS.TAB.BA]; the Western Castor and Pollux (alpha and beta Geminorum); two sets of Divine Twins are found as constellations in the star lists
296 mulal-lub al-lu-ut-tum

AL.LUL = alluttu "The Crab"; Cancer

297 mulMU.BU-kš-da ni-i-ri  
298 [mu]len-te-na-bar-hum ḫa-ba-si-ra-nu

EN.TE.NA.BAR.HUM = habasiranu, Centaurus; ha-ba-si-ra-nu (= uzu/UZU esemsru)

299 mulmar-gd-da e-req-qu cart, wagon; MAR.GD.DA = eriqqu "The Wagon"; Ursa Major; designation of Venus; MAR.GD.DA.AN.NA "The Wagon of Heaven", Ursa Minor; The Akkadian Name for Ursa Minor: mul.mar.gd.da.an.na = eriqqi
300 mul ĝišapin e-pi-in-nu

APIN = epinnu "The Plow"; Triangulum Boreale with gamma Andromedae

301 mul ĝišgn-r maš-ka-ka-tum  
302 mulab-sn ši-ir-u "The Seed-Furrow"; the Furrow; (= Western constellation Virgo)
303 mul dnu.nu dA-nu-ni-tum mulA.NU.TI.TUM [a-nu-ni-tum] (= Anunitum (a goddess) (NE Pisces (+ middle part of Andromeda)).)
304 mul dnirah ni-ra-ḫu snake/Snake = Western constellation Hydra
305 mulim-šu-rin-na nu-kš--e-ne kak-kab ti-nu-ri al-ma-na-a-ti  
306 mulz en-zu Z = enzu "The She-Goat"; Lyra; constellation Enzu (UZA), "goat"; She-Goat constellation; the Western constellation Lyra was the celestial Ezida, the temple of Nabu in Borsippa
307 mulšah dDa-mu Damu is the son of the healing goddess Gula/Ninkarrak and a healing god himself
308 multi8mušen e-ru- mušen = bird; an eagle = the Western constellation Aquila
309 mulsim-mahmušen si-nun-tum the Swallow; (type of) swallow; star(s) in Pisces and Pegasus; Old Babylonian
310 mulud-al-tar dŠul-pa--a a name of Jupiter; UD.A.L.TAR = "Marduk" = Jupiter
311 mulan-ta-sur-ra sa-ri-ri

AN.TA.SUR.RA = sariru "Flashing"; 'flashing red'; probably a meteor; a star, constellation

312 mulin-um an-na mi-ši-iḫ dPa-bil-sag

the Sumerian god Pabilsag (the Western zodiacal constellation Sagittarius the archer); mulPA.BIL.SAG [pa.bil.sag] (The "Grandfather [Pabilsag (a god)];" [archer?],

313 [mule-tu-r]a-am-me SUKKAL dA-nu-ni-tum

Sukkal (messenger) is identified with the constellation Sipazianna (Orion); The northern fish of Pisces and part of Andromeda was the goddess Anunitum (the Lady of the Heavens)

314 [mul…] x-am-me mulUR.GU.LA "The Lion"; Western constellation Leo
315 mul lsa-gaz ḫab-ba-tum Planet Mars; plunderer/robber
316 mul lhun-ĝ ag-ri "The Hired Man" (Western constellation Aries the Ram)
317 mulugamušen a-ri-bi Raven = Corvus; also code name for Mars and Saturn
318 mulku6 nu--nu mulku6 = 'The Fish'
319 mulmušen is-su-ru a bird
320 mulgu-la ŠU

GU.LA "Great"; Aquarius

321 mullul-la sa-ar-ri

Mars was called MUL.LUL.LA (sarru) "Liar (star)"

322 mul ka-aka5-a še-el-le-bi  
323 mulnu-muš-da nam-maš-šu-

identification Numušda is uncertain/unknown [= swarm]?; the identification of nu.muš.da is uncertain, and also whether it is a name for a constellation or single star (but Hunger/Pingree (1999) identify the star η or κ Centauri).

324 mul dmarduk (AMAR.UTU) ni-bi-ri

mul.dingir.amar.utu = mul.d.Marduk; Babylonian (Akkadian-speaking) scribes most of the time wrote the name Marduk with Sumerian logographs, dAMAR.UTU or dMa-ru-du-uk-ku; Utu (Akkadian rendition of Sumerian UD); Utu – the Sun god; dAMAR.UD = dMarduk. Jupiter; mul.d.marduk, Marduk (= Jupiter); earlier (Old Babylonian) name of Marduk is AMAR.UTU 'Bull Calf of Sun'/'Bull Calf of the Sun-God'; because of Marduk's early identification with Asalluhi (a Sumerian god who is the son of Enki/Ea) he was considered the son of Enki/Ea; title of Marduk: Ni-bi-ru, variant, Ne-bi-ri

325 mul dšul-pa--a ŠU a name of Jupiter
326 mulu4-zal-la kak-kab na-ma-ri a division of time; morning
327 mul-g-zi-ga MIN še-re-e-tum  

 

Part 4

The Star-List from Boghazky (VAT 7445)

The tablet VAT 7445 (published in KUB, Volume 4, Number 47) recovered from Boghazky (the capital of the Hittite empire) in the early 19th-century, preserves a Hittite prayer/haruspicy ritual (based on the Old Babylonian Period Prayer to the Gods of the Night) that enumerates 17 stars/constellations (belonging to the path of Ea). VAT 7445 is dated to circa 1300/1200 BCE. It is possible that the Boghazky  prayer/haruspicy ritual and star-list was earlier than the "astrolabe texts."

1.    a-ha-ti [= "Outside" (= Star/Constellation of the Outside) but W. G. Lambert proposes "Sister (of)." Franz Kugler had "Star of the Side" and identified part of Herculis.]

2.    Ga-ga [A god.]

3.    dDUMU.ZI [A god = Tammuz.]

4.    dNin-ki-zi-da [Sumerian serpent god.]

5.    E-pa-e

6.    MUL.MUL ["The Stars" = The Pleiades.]

7.    is le-e [The Jaws of the Bull.]

8.    Ši-pa-zi-a-na [The True Shepherd of Anu.]

9.    Ka4-ak-si-si

10.  GIŠ.BAN [The Bow.]

11.  GR.TAB [The Scorpion.]

12.  .MUŠEN [The Eagle.]

13.  KU6 [The Fish.]

14.  Ša-am-ma-ah

15.  Ka4-ad-du-uh-hu

16.  MŠ

17.  MAR.TU [The god Amurru identified with the constellation Perseus.]

 

Part 5

Star Names and Constellations Mentioned in Hilprecht's Nippur Text (HS 229 now HS 245)

Based on the discussion of tablet HS 245 in Science Awakening II: The Birth of Astronomy by Bartel van der Waerden. This tablet (setting out an illustrative example for a school mathematical problem-solving text) dates to the Kassite Period (1530-1160 BCE) and the tablet is specifically dated between 1300-1000 BCE. Though purporting to measure distances in the sky The Hilprecht Text preserves preserves part of a mathematical exercise text concerning astronomical distances rather than a serious attempt to investigate distances between stars.

1.    MUL.MUL [mul.mul] (the Pleiades)

2.    SIBA.AN.NA [sipa.an.na] (Orion)

3.    KAK.TAG.GA [kak.tag.ga] (Sirius?)

4.    star SHU.PA [šu.pa] (Botes (Arcturus))

5.    star BAN [pan] (the "bow" consisting of δ Canis Maioris and neighbouring stars)

6.    star GIR.TAB [gr.tab] (Scorpio)

7.    AN.TA.GUB (the "Outermost")

 

Part 6

Boundary Stone Iconography: Constellation Symbols or God Symbols?

Babylonian boundary-stone (kudurru) iconography (Cassite Period 1530-1160 BCE) includes the following depictions:

1.    Bull

2.    Lion

3.    Furrow (= Virgin)

4.    Scorpion-Archer

5.    Hired Man (= Ram)

6.    Goat-Fish (= Goat)

In the early period of Assyriology it was common to identify these symbols as depictions of the zodiacal constellations. Further work in Assyriology has changed this assumption. It not established that constellations or constellation symbols are being depicted. It is established, however, that god/goddess symbols are depicted. For a recent attempt to establish the astral nature of kudurru symbols (from the Cassite Period, circa 1530-1160 BCE) see: "Eine neue Interpretation der Kudurru-Symbole," by Ulla Koch, Joachim Schaper, Susanne Fischer, and Michael Wegelin (Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Volume 41, 1990/1991, Pages 93-114). However, the attempts to date kudurru by assuming their iconography has astral significance and then using the arrangement of their iconography to establish astronomical dates is both speculative and unproven. Ursula Seidl, a present-day kudurru expert, maintains in her article "Gttersymbole und -attribute." (Reallexikon der Assyriologie (Dritter Band 3, 1957-1971, Pages 483-490)) that kudurru iconography has no astral significance. (See also her book: Die Babylonischen Kudurru-Reliefs Symbole Mesopotamischer Gottheiten (1989). In this book, regarded as the standard study of kudurru iconography, she maintains her scepticism that kudurru symbols have an astral significance.)

 

Part 7

The Star Calendars ("Astrolabes")

Extant circular exemplars include: CT 33 11 (= Sm. 162) and CT 33 12 (= K. 14943 +); extant list (tabular) exemplars: KAV 218 (= VAT 9461), LBAT 1499 (= 34713) and LBAT 1500 (= BM 34387). Also, BM 82923. This late 1st millennium BCE star catalogue preserves identification of Astrolabe month-stars.

The so-called astrolabes constitute a fundamental corpus of early Babylonian astronomical texts. The astrolabe group of tablets never reached a canonical form. Competing versions circulated. "For the Astrolabes ... the group never reached a canonical form which could be passed down from generation to generation. Hence, the four sections of the earliest and most complete form of the Astrolabes, the so-called 12th-century Berlin Astrolabe, better known as Astrolabe B, never occur together on any earlier or later tablet belonging to the group, although each of the four sections survives separately into the first millennium." (Writing Science before the Greeks by Rita Watson and Wayne Horowitz (2011, Page 13).)

The main example of the "3 stars each" genre is Astrolabe B (a tabular/rectangular astrolabe). Astrolabe B is not exclusively nor primarily an astronomical document. Astrolabe B is a multifunctional text - serving as an astronomical treatise as well as a theological treatise. It is more strongly a theological treatise. The astronomical content of Astrolabe B is highly schematised. Astrolabe B was composed in the same political context as Enūma eliš and reflects the victory of Nebuchadnezzar I over Elam circa 1100 BCE.

The early Babylonian "astrolabes" only list the names of selected constellations (and planets) that were (deemed important/useful enough to be) placed into schematic arrangements. The star calendars ("astrolabes") were closely related to the tradition of the ideal astronomical year of 12 months x 30 days each. The star calendars are an example of simple mathematical astronomy. Their apparent purpose is to identify stars that rose each month in the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. As such they list 36 month-stars, one for each Path every month. Their functions are to: (1) correlate the heliacal risings of chosen stars with calendar dates; and (2) set out a numerical system for estimating the changing length of day hours and night hours throughout the year. (There is some disagreement amongst assyriologists whether the "Astrolabe texts"/Mul.Apin series primarily had an astronomical function or primarily had a divinatory function.)

Examples of early Babylonian star calendars (so-called "astrolabes" (actually a modern misnomer), properly the Three Stars Each (kakkabū 3ta.am)) exist in both original circular form and later tabular (list) form. Only 2 fragmentary examples of circular star calendars are known. Both date to the Neo-Assyrian period. A larger number of tabular star calendars exist. The theory of the Three Stars Each is briefly explained in KAV 218 D 13-36 (Astrolabe B), and the creation epic Enuma Elish V 1-8. The Three Stars Each group of texts date from the Kassite period.

Examples of star calendars from the late second millennium BCE are known to us in both circular format and list format. The circular format was believed to be the earlier but this may be mistaken. It may simply be that the format/presentation of the Three Stars Each (kakkabū 3ta.am) information was not standardised. It appears likely that the circular star calendars originated as early as the Old Babylonian Period (and certainly no later than the Middle Babylonian Period, possibly originating circa 1150 BCE earliest). For the Babylonian origin, rather than the Assyrian origin of of the "Astrolabes," see the discussion in Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography by Wayne Horowitz (Pages 158-159). Horowitz concludes the earliest surviving evidence for both the month-stars and the Paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea dates to the Middle Babylonian Period (1532-1000 BCE) and suggests the first "Astrolabe" was produced at this time.

The Three Stars Each texts purportedly each set out a calendrical system. They purpose to identify stars that rose each month in the Paths of Anu, Enlil, and Ea. For each of the 12 months of an unintercalated (i.e., "ideal") year an "Astrolabe" lists 3 stars - allegedly one from each of the "three paths." Hence the Astrolabes list 36 month-stars, one star for each Path every month. However, it is easily identified that month-stars for each path are not always properly positioned in their allocated path. According to the assyriologists Wayne Horowitz and David Brown the Mesopotamian 'astrolabes' purport to name the 36 stars that define the 12 months of the schematic astronomical year by the method of identifying 1 star for each month in each of the 3 stellar paths. (In other words, the Astrolabes list 36 month-stars, one star for each Path every month.) However, the empirical structure was subject to divinatory beliefs.

The Mesopotamian star calendars had the function of identifying "stars" that rose (ideally) each month in the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. Each month was marked by 3 calendar "stars" (one lying in each of the star Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil) with the year being marked by a total of 36 calendar "stars." One star in each of the 3 stellar paths rose during each of the 12 months of the year. Thus the scheme of 36 stars served to fix the 12 months of the yearly calendar astronomically in place. It was initially thought that each of the 36 stars comprised a scheme similar in purpose to the Egyptian scheme of decan stars - each of the 36 stars in the astrolabes marking one-third of an ideal month (of 30 days length). Put another way, the assignment of 3 stars for each month were first interpreted as based upon their order of heliacal risings, being specifically chosen so they rose heliacally at regular intervals of 10 days. The 3 stars assigned to each month in the astrolabe schemes are now interpreted as rising together to mark each month. (The assyriologist Wayne Horowitz writes (Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, 1998): "It is not explicitly stated in the "Astrolabes" which day the month-stars were supposed to rise, but there is indirect evidence that the Ea-star for each month, at least, were meant to rise on the first of the month.") This sufficiently enabled the Mesopotamians to know when the lunar months were shifting out of correlation with the seasons. (There are, however, certain problems with this idea.) The numbering system on the star calendars, that has values assigned to each of the month-stars, relates to a system for calculating the length of day hours and night hours over the ideal 12-month calendar year. (The presence of some planets as month-stars suggests that the star calendars had been intended to predict heliacal risings for a single year.)

A number of surviving fragments of both the circular and tabular types preserve supplementary (and other) information to the listed month-stars. (Especially the tabular "astrolabes" Astrolabe B, BM 82923, and LBAT 1499.) Sm. 162 has similarities to HS 245. The reverse side of Sm. 162 (from CT 33 11) contains text (illustrated in one section by a geometrical figure) that seems to be related to HS 245 (formerly designated HS 229 but more commonly known as the "Hilprecht Text"). HS 245 contains a mathematical problem (most likely a student exercise) utilising a number of stars/constellations. A number of stars and constellations are listed (Moon and Stars, Bull, Arrow, Yoke, Scorpion, and Habasiranu) and their "positions" described in a way that suggests an illustrative mathematical problem.

Johannes Koch in his book Neue Untersuchungen zur Topographie des babylonischen Fixsternhimmels suggests that the circular astrolabe was used as a graphic aide-mmoire. It was turned counterclockwise, the dividing line on the right side representing the eastern horizon. (The horizon at least, if not the actual sky, was divided into the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil.) The stars of Enlil would rise in the north, the stars of Anu would rise in the centre, and the stars of Ea would rise in the south.

Erica Reiner and David Pingree (Babylonian Planetary Omens, Part Two (1981)) state that the constellation names appearing in the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil assumed Tablets 50-51 closely follow the constellation names (and refer to the same groups of stars) listed in the early star texts - the Astrolabes and the Mul.Apin series. They identify that the order of the constellation names in Enuma Anu Enlil assumed Tablet 51 is derived from Astrolabe B, and the order of the constellation names in the commentaries on assumed Tablet 50 is also derived from Astrolabe B. The star list in Astrolabe B (VAT 9416 (KAV 218)) dates to circa 1180 BCE but is compiled from older sources.

The assyriologist Wayne Horowitz has, since 1998 (Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography), clearly shown the close connection between Tablet V, lines 1-8, of the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish (comprised of 7 tablets) and the astrolabes. Both the Enuma Elish and the group of cuneiform astronomical texts commonly known as "the astrolabes" (called by the Babylonians "the stars, three of each") describe the same arrangement for the division of the sky. (The stellar system described in the Enuma Elish Tablet V, lines 1-8, matches the organisation of the sky in the astrolabes.) Tablet V of the Enuma Elish refers to the already existing system of assigning 3 constellations to each month (of the ideal year). The astrolabes comprise the earliest surviving group of cuneiform astronomical texts. The parallels between the Enuma Elish and the astrolabes (1) helps establish the late 2nd millennium BCE date for the composition of Enuma Elish (though some of the material is much older), and (2) demonstrates that the astrolabes are not only astronomical-calendrical works (presenting an astronomical-calendrical theory), but also have important religious and theological implications.

The assyriologist Ernst Weidner identified Astrolabe B (= KAV 218 = VAT 9416) as coming from the library of King Tilgath-Pileser I. The assyriologist Wayne Horowitz identifies Astrolabe B (dating to circa mid 12th-century BCE) as being more than simply an astronomical aid for calendar keeping and serving as a sort of theoretical and practical astronomical handbook. Four sections of information are given on Astrolabe B. Wayne Horowitz (In: Calendars and Years, edited by John Steele (2007)) lists these as:

Section 1. A menology for the 12 months of the Babylonian year in which 10 months of the year are assigned month-stars. (It is uncertain to what extent this bilingual menology served as a practical almanac (annual calendar for the coming year, containing important astronomical data and dates).

Section 2. A star-catalogue listing 12 stars for each of the Paths of Anu, Ea, and Enlil, yielding a repertoire of .36 stars.

Section 3. A list-Astrolabe with its list of 36-month stars (1 star for each path per month) in which the repertoire of stars is slightly different from that given in Section 2.

Section 4. A list of 36 rising and setting stars in which the stars listed in Section 3 (incorrectly including the planet Venus (mul dili.bad) and "The Plough" constellation (mul apin)) rise in their path in their assigned month, and then set 6 months later. (KAV 218, Section D, states that all 36 stars with the two exceptions of the planet Venus (mul dili.bad) and "The Plough" constellation (mul apin), set 6 months after rising.)

The nature and widths of the Paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea still continues to create some uncertainty. Opinion still differs whether they were conceived as bands in the sky or arcs along the horizon, and whether they marked declinations of 15, 16 or 17 degrees (with the Path of Anu naturally comprising one of these figures x 2). Hunger/Pingree state (Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia, Page 61): "It is clear that the Paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea meant something different to the author of the second edition of "Astrolabe B" and the compiler of the first list in MUL.APIN."

 

The Circular Astrolabes

The Babylonian circular star calendar was divided into 36 individual stellar sectors (with one sector for each of the 36 stars) comprising 3 concentric bands (rings) (marking the borders between the 3 stellar paths) each divided by 12 radial lines (demarking the 12 months of the year). The stars of Ea comprise the outer band (ring) = the southern part of the sky; the stars of Anu comprise the middle band (ring) = the central band of the sky; and the stars of Enlil comprise the inner band (ring) = the northern part of the sky. (There is no word for 'equator' in the astrolabe texts. The concept of a celestial equator was not recognised.) The 12 radial segments represent the 12 months of the unintercalated (i.e., "ideal") year. The names of each month of the year, from Nisan to Adar, appear in clockwise order/direction in the outer band segments. In surviving fragments of circular "astrolabes" the stars are either drawn as 6-pointed star figures (CT 33 11) or as circles (CT 33 12).

The term concentric describes the "three ways" drawn on the circular astrolabes but they were not 3 concentric spheres (layers) in the sky but rather 3 parallel bands (of stars), with the central band occupying (but not identifying) the equatorial region. Ernst Weidner, and other, in the early 20th-century thought the circular astrolabes indicated 3 concentric spheres for the three paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil.

Multiple fragments of late second millennium circular star calendars are in the British Museum collection. Unfortunately some of these fragments can no longer be located within the collection of cuneiform material. Some fragments now only survive in drawings made in the late 19th-century Some fragments are on display in the British Museum, London. (These circular star calendars originated the popular but erroneous term/name "astrolabes" or "planispheres" but correctly are calendars and have the Babylonian title mul.meš.3.ta.m (= "the stars, three of each"). (See CT 33, Plate 12.) (A true astrolabe is used to measure the angular height of a celestial object.)

Three circular star calendar fragments are briefly described in the Catalogue of the Cuneiform Tablets of the Kouyunjik Collection of the British Museum by Carl Bezold (5 Volumes; 1889-1899):

The description of Fragment Sm. 162 (in Volume IV. Page 1385) is: "Portion of the section of a sphere or astrolabe, 2 9/16 in. by 2 in.; 7/8 in. high. The flat side is inscribed with the names of the months, names and figures of certain stars and numbers of certain degrees." (See also CT 33 11.) SM 162 is a copy of an older text. The text in the British Museum is a copy by Nab-zuqup-kēnu. He was a scribe who flourished during the reigns of Sargon II (720-704 BCE) and Sennacherib (703-680 BCE). The information contained on SM 162 probably dates back to circa 1100 BCE.

The description of Fragment Number 83-1-18, 608 (Page 1904) is: "Portion of a sphere or astrolabe, 2 3/8 in. by 1 5/16 in.; 5/8 in. high. The flat side appears to have been inscribed with the names and figures of certain stars." (See also CT 33 12.) (Astrolabe K = K 14943 (+) 83-1-18, 608 (CT 33 12).)

The description of Fragment Number 81-07-27, 94 (Page 1803) is: "Portion of a sphere or astrolabe, 3 3/4 in. by 2 1/8 in.; 1 in. high. The flat side appears to have been inscribed with the names of the months, and names and figures of certain stars."

Modern descriptions by the British Museum of the circular star calendar fragments in its possession are:

(1) BM registration number: SM 162; clay tablet, fragment, length: 6.35 centimetres, width: 5.71 centimetres, acquired by BM in 18??; excavated by George Smith; excavated/findspot - Kouyunjik (Niniveh); associated with library of Ashurbanipal; period/culture - Neo-Assyrian (circa 911-612 BCE); fragment of a circular clay tablet with a record of constellations (planisphere), 4 curved + 13 lines of inscription and diagram.

(2) BM registration number: 83-1-18, 608; clay tablet, fragment; length: 6.03 centimetres, width: 3.49 centimetres; acquired by BM in 1883; excavated by Hormuzd Rassam; excavated/findspot - Kouyunjik (Niniveh); associated with library of Ashurbanipal; period/culture - Neo-Assyrian (circa 911-612 BCE); part of a circular clay tablet listing constellations (planisphere), 4 lines of (cuneiform) inscription; language: Akkadian; part of same tablet as joined fragments K 14943 + 1881-07-27, 094 (= 1881,0727.94).

(3) BM registration number: 81-7-27, 94 (= 1881,0727.94); clay tablet, fragment [joined with K 14943, described below]; length: 8.89 centimetres, width: 5.39 centimetres; acquired by BM in 1881; excavated by Hormuzd Rassam; excavated/findspot - Kouyunjik (Niniveh); library of Ashurbanipal; period/culture - Neo-Assyrian (circa 911-612 BCE); fragment part of a (circular) clay tablet, part of a planisphere, 3 lines of (cuneiform) inscription; language: Akkadian.

(4) BM registration number: K 14943; clay tablet, fragment, joined with fragment 1881-07-27, 094 (= 1881,0727.94); K 14943 length: 4.12 centimetres, K 14943 width 4.44 centimetres, acquired by BM in 1881; excavated by Leonard King;  excavated/findspot - Kouyunjik (Niniveh); library of Ashurbanipal; period/culture - Neo-Assyrian (circa 911-612 BCE); fragments part of a (circular) clay tablet, part of a planisphere, 5 lines of (cuneiform) inscription, language: Akkadian; curator's comments: part of same tablet as 1883,0118.608 (= 83-01-18, 608).

A reconstruction of a Babylonian circular star calendar by the German Assyriologist Albert Schott was published in 1934 (Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlndischen Gesellschaft, Band 88, Pages 302-337)..

Note: By convention is it usual to call examples of Mesopotamian star calendars 'astrolabes.' It is not correct to call examples of Mesopotamian star calendars 'planispheres.' The astrolabes are not actually planispheric. They are not a star chart representing a sphere or part of a sphere on a plane surface. Astrolabes are not planispheres, and planispheres are not astrolabes. The function of an 'astrolabe' is to 'depict' the entire sky over the course of a schematic (model) year. The early Babylonian "astrolabes" only list the names of selected constellations (and planets) that were placed into schematic arrangements. Thus they are not correctly/truly a planisphere. Examples of Mesopotamian astrolabes are Astrolabe B (tabular), Astrolabe Z (tabular), K 14943 + 81-7-27, 94 (= 1881,0727.94) (circular), and SM. 162 (circular). The only 2 surviving planispheres known are K 8538, and a Neo-Babylonian tablet (from Sippar) showing the ziqpu (zenith) stars. Both of these planispheres are disk-shaped, both divide the circles of the sky into equal parts, and both make use of dots to represent stars. The astrolabes map out stars (and even planets) and constellations in various parts of the sky for the 12 months of the ideal (schematic) year. This is either done by: (1) use of a diagrammatic form (i.e., astrolabe), or (2) by listing. The star calendars are an example of simple mathematical astronomy. Their functions are to: (1) correlate the heliacal risings of chosen stars with calendar dates; and (2) set out a numerical system for estimating the changing length of day hours and night hours throughout the year. Johannes Koch made the point that the purpose of the circular astrolabe was: (1) an orientation guide, and (2) an aid to remembering which stars appear in particular parts of the sky.

 

The Nature of the Three Paths/Ways of Enlil, Anu, and Ea

Reiner/Pingree have identified that the Paths/Ways of Enlil, Anu, and Ea were likely arcs measured along the eastern horizon (sections of the eastern horizon within which stars/constellations rose) rather than bands of declinations in the sky roughly parallel to the celestial equator. For each of the Paths/Ways the respective stars/constellations for the month Nisan was technically the leader. (Though the term "paths" was common, the term "ways" (mālaku (ma-la-ku)) is also used in one hymn text.) The assyriologist Johannes Koch has argued that the boundaries between Anu and Enlil and Anu and Ea are at azimuths of 250 degrees and 290 degrees respectively as observed from the city of Assur.

 

Three Key "Astrolabes"

The unifying principle behind all the of "Three Stars Each"/Astrolabe class of cuneiform texts is a star heliacally rising in each of the "three ways" during each of the 12 months of the unintercalated 'ideal' year, and that a total of 36 stars astronomically fixed the months of the yearly calendar (i.e., fixed the months astronomically in place). The format for presenting the lists of 36 month-stars was not standardised. The 36 month-star lists could appear in either circular or list format. In the tabular (list) "Astrolabes" (such as "Astrolabe B"), the texts are divided into 12 paragraphs, 3 lines each. Each line contains the name of a star, constellation or planet, the explanation of this name and a number. Each paragraph deals with one Babylonian month and each line with a specific Path of the sky (Path of Ea, Anu, or Enlil). Supposedly, the selected stars, constellations, and planets rose heliacally in exactly that month in that Path of the sky. The Path of Ea (south of -17 degrees declination; first line of each paragraph). The Path of Anu (between +17 degrees declination and -17 degrees declination; second line of each paragraph). The Path of Enlil (north of +17 degrees declination; last line of each paragraph). Three key Astrolabe texts are" (1) The Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru; (2) Astrolabe Berlin (Astrolabe B); and (3) Astrolabe Pinches (Astrolabe P).

The Enuma Anu Enlil states the 1st star in each path (i.e., the 1st to rise heliacally when the year begins on the 1st day of the month Nisan): the Plow (Enlil), the Field (Anu), and the Fish (Ea).

 

Part 8

The Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru

There are two cuneiform texts containing lists of 12 stars of Elam, 12 stars of Akkad, and 12 stars of Amurru. (These are actually constellations.) The Babylonian cuneiform tablets are K 250 and K 8067 and both these cuneiform texts are published in CT XXVI (Plates 40-41 and 44). Due to damage to the surviving texts we presently know 27 of the 36 stars of  Elam, Akkad, and Amurru. These 27 stars also occur in the "Astrolabes" and likewise are listed in order of their heliacal-risings. This establishes that the Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru are month-stars.

The names Elam, Akkad, and Amurru reflect the political situation in Old Babylonian times. This enables the assumption that the lists are old and come from the Old Babylonian Period. (However, the assyriologist Wayne Horowitz cautions the lists of Elam-, Akkad-, and Amurru- stars may not be as old as the Old Babylonian period as suggested by Bartel van der Waerden.) The stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru are identical with the stars of Astrolabe B and in each text their order corresponds exactly with the order of the twelve months in Astrolabe B. This verifies that the stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru are month stars, corresponding to the twelve months of the year. Bartel van Waerden (Science Awakening II, Page 68) commented: "There is no astronomical principle to be found in the distribution of the stars over the three countries." This is because the system comprises a regional division rather than an astronomical one.

The term "Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru" may indicate different local traditions. Wayne Horowitz (MCG) states that the names of 27 of the 36 Elam-, Akkad-, and Amurru-stars are presently known. All of these 27 occur in the 'Astrolabes.' (Note: Horowitz, 2014, states 28 names are known.) Horowitz also states that while these stars are month-stars their exact function (for example, omen function for the 3 countries Elam, Akkad, and Amurru - 1 star for each country and each month) is not certain. (At this period the different parts of the moon were also associated with Elam, Akkad, and Amurru. Akkad was the old designation of Babylonia.) The Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil perhaps derive from the earlier month-star system of the politically-based stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru. However, how the correspondence was determined is unknown. In 1949 Bartel van der Waerden suggested that the paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil derive ultimately from the "Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru." The assyriologist Ulla Koch-Westenholz (Mesopotamian Astrology (1995, Pages 49-50)) in part of her translation of the directions for observing and interpreting an eclipse given in tablet 4 of the Astrological Commentary  Šumma Sin ina tāmartišu gives the statement "The Path of the stars of Enlil is for Akkad, the Path of the stars of Anu is for Elam, the Path of the stars of Ea is for Amurru." More recently, Wayne Horowitz states that no principle for the relationship between the Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru and the 'Astrolabes' and the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil is presently discernable. However, in his Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (Page 175) he writes: "A missing link between the "Astrolabe" lists and the [earlier] lists of Akkad, Elam, and Amurru-stars may be found in the astrological fragment 81-7-27, 81 - a learned commentary (mukallimtu) to the series Enuma Anu Enlil."

Horowitz, The Three Stars Each (2014), states the 36 stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru are month stars. The 28 surviving names appear also in astrolabes in order of their heliacal risings. The dating of the 36 Elam-, Akkad-, and Amurru-stars remains uncertain. Also remaining uncertain is the relationship between these lists and the lists of Ea-, Anu-, and Enlil-stars in the astrolabes.

There were 3 major ethno-political forces during the late 3rd-millennium BCE (Neo-Sumerian Period) and early 2nd-millennium BCE (the Old Babylonian Period); Sumer and Akkad, Elam, and Subartu and Amurru. (Amurru, the land of the Amorites, was Syria.) The lists of Elam-, Akkad-, and Amurru- stars may not be as old as the Old Babylonian period as suggested by Bartel van der Waerden. In terms of the "Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru," Elam was the land to the east and was connected to the left, Amurru was the land to the west and was connected with the right, and Akkad, the home country, was located in-between (i.e., central). The god Anu was associated with Elam, the god Ea was associated with Amurru, and the god Enlil was associated with Akkad. In the 'Astrolabes' Anu was the god for the central part of the sky, Ea was the god for the southern part of the sky, and Enlil was the god for the northern part of the sky.

The earliest evidence for the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil dates to the 2nd-millennium BCE. The final section of a Hittite version of the Old Babylonian Prayer to the Gods of the Night (on VAT 7445, dated circa 1300/1200 BCE) enumerates 17 stars belonging to Ea and also refers to the stars of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. Not used, however, is the term harranu (= paths). Wayne Horowitz states (Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography): "The earliest surviving evidence for harranu itself dates to the late second millennium; the Middle Babylonian "forerunner" to the "Astrolabes" HS 1897 from Jena and the slightly later Middle Assyrian Astrolabe KAV 218 (Astrolabe B)."

The lists of 36 Elam-, Akkad-, and Amurru-stars are found in the so-called The Great Star List. The "Great Star List" (Mesopotamian Astrology by Ulla Koch-Westenholz (1995).): "Among the several lists of stars, the most astrological is the so-called Great Star List …. This text is a motley of mythological and astrological data on planets and stars, mixed with other materials. Much of it seems to have been assembled from blocks excerpted from other texts. … Its composite character indicates that the text is not very old. Probably it was meant to serve as a vademecum for the astrologers." The date of this late astrological text is the Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) Period (626-539 BCE).

The table below is based on OAC by John Rogers, and SA2 by Bartel van der Waerden. The conjectural components are derived from OAC by John Rogers (1998).

Month Number Month Name Stars of Elam Stars of Akkad Stars of Amurru
I Nisannu Conjectural: DILI.PAT [= Venus] MUL.APIN [= Plough] I-IKU [= Field]
II Ajjaru Conjectural: MUL.MUL [Star of Stars = Pleiades] Is-li-e [Bull's Jaw = Hyades & Aldebaran (α Tauri)] [A-nu-ni-tum] Anunitum [= Lady of  Heaven] SHU.GI [= Old Man or Charioteer]
III Simānu Conjectural: URA (= UR.GU.LA) [= Lion, or Great Dog] SIBA.ZI.AN.NA (= Shitaddalu) [= Shepherd of Heaven] MUSH (= Shiru) [= Serpent]
IV Dūzu Conjectural: MASH.TAB.BA [= Twins] UD.AL.TAR (= SHUL.PA.E) [= Jupiter] KAK.SI.DI (= GAG.SI.SA) [= Arrow]
V bu Conjectural: BAN (= Pan) [= Bow] MAR.GID.DA [= Wagon] MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL [= Great Twins]
VI Alūlu Conjectural: UGA-(mushen [= Raven]) SHU.PA (= Shudun) [= Yoke?] BIR (= Kalitum) [= Kidney]
VII Tešritu Conjectural: EN.TE.NA.MASH.LUM [= Wild Boar] [zi-ba-ni-tum] Zibanitum (= ZIB.BA.AN.NA) [= Scales of Heaven] NIN.MAH [= Exalted Lady]
VIII Arahsamnu GIR.TAB [= Scorpion] UR.IDIM [= Mad Dog] LUGAL (= Sharru) [= King]
IX Kislīmu Conjectural: UD.KA.DUH.A [= Panther-Griffin] UZA (= UZ) [= Goat] [sal-bat-a-nu] Salbatanu [= Mars]
X Tebētu GU.LA [= Great One] [A mushen] A-mushen (= Nashru) [= Eagle] AL.LUL (= Alluuttum) [= Crab]
XI Šabatu N[U.MUSH.DA] [= Swarm] DA.MU (= SHAH) [= [Pig of] God Damu SHIM.MAH [= Great Swallow]
XII Addaru Conjectural: KUA [= Fish] [ni-bi-rum] Nibirum (= dingir.Marduk) [= Jupiter] KA5.A [= Fox]

Within this "3 Ways" scheme the Stars of Elam belong to the planet Venus, the Stars of Akkad belong to the planet Jupiter, and the Stars of Amurru belong to the planet Mars. (See: SSB Ergan. 3 by Johann Schaumberger (1935).)

 

The months stars of Elam, Akkad, and  Amurru (apparently reconstructed) from cuneiform tablet autographs in Keilschrifttexte aus Assur verschiedenen Inhalts by Otto Schroeder (1920). (Stated to be KAV 218 i.e., (tabular) Astrolabe Berlin, recovered from Assur. See Schroeder page 119.) At this time  it was believed there was a correlation between the month-star system of the politically-based stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru and the (circular) 'Astrolabe' system of the '3 Stars Each' of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. It has been proposed that the Path of the stars of Enlil is for Akkad, the Path of the stars of Anu is for Elam, the Path of the stars of Ea is for Amurru. However, principles for the relationship between the Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru and the 'Astrolabes' and the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil is presently firmly established. Both the lists of month stars in the 'Astrolabes' and in the Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru contain constellations/stars, and planets (dating from circa the Old Babylonian period). The appearance of the 'Astrolabe' in Mesopotamia is dated circa 1200 BCE. In the circular 'Astrolabes' the sections each contain the name of a star, or constellation, or planet, together with simple numbers in arithmetic progression.

 

Astrolabe Berlin (Astrolabe B)

Astrolabe B (KAV 218) is the earliest known example of an astrolabe and also the best preserved version of an astrolabe. (It is almost completely preserved. The tablet measures 18.8 cm in height and 11.4 cm in width.) The tablet (exemplar) was written by the scribe Marduk-bālassu-ērĕs. Astrolabe Berlin (Astrolabe B) was discovered by the young German assyriologist Ernst Weidner amongst the cuneiform tablets collected by the Berlin Museum. Weidner identified Astrolabe B as belonging to the library of the Assyrian king Tilgath-Pileser I (reigned circa 1115–circa 1077 BCE). (The colophon does not give a provenance, but the Akkadian of the menology shows Middle Babylonian grammatical forms. The German assyriologist Klaus Wagensonner points out the Akkadian text contains forms resembling grammatical peculiarities common to Middle Babylonian. He also points out the Sumerian text is deemed problematic, showing numerous peculiarities/irregularities.) Astrolabe B (= VAT 9416, KAV 218) is a rectangular (list) Astrolabe and is a bilingual Sumerian/Akkadian text. The text of Astrolabe B was copied in Asshur in the late 2nd-millenium BCE and is the oldest of the Astrolabes known. (It is thought the tablet was likely copied in the reign of King Ninurta-apil-Ekur (1190-1178 BCE).) Astrolabe B, though recovered from the Assyrian city of Assur, is a Babylonian text. Its scribe has a Babylonian name and the text refers to Marduk (the Babylonian King of the Gods). Astrolabe B, in contrast to the other Astrolabes known, states explicitly that the stars named rise in their month. According to the assyriologist Wayne Horowitz it appears the content of Astrolabe B is a compendium compiled from independent sources of information.

Astrolabe B consists of the following 4 parts: (1) a bilingual menology for each month of the year, (2) a star-catalogue containing 36 stars (12 each for those of Ea, Anu, and Enlil, (3) a list-Astrolabe, and (4) a list of stars (constellations) that rise when others set ("stars that rise as others set"). (The Italian assyriologist Maria Casaburi simply states that Astrolabe B is composed of a bilingual almanac written in Sumerian and Akkadian, a planisphere, a stellar calendar, and the colophon.)

Part A (Section 1) of Astrolabe B associates each of the twelve months with a constellation, a god, mythological events (rites and rituals), and agricultural activities associated with the particular months. The 'mythological notes' in Part A comprise a bilingual menology for the 12 months of the Babylonian year. For each monthly section the Sumerian-language description is given first and this is followed by the Akkadian-language description. In 10 of the 12 months the first item noted in the Sumerian-language version of the menology is the month-star for that month. (Vat 17081 is identified by Wayne Horowitz as a forerunner to the Menology of Astrolabe B.)

Part B (Section 2) of Astrolabe B is a list (star-catalogue) of 36 stars - comprised of 12 stars for each of the Paths of Ea, Anu, and Enlil. Part B usually notes the position of each star by referring to their locations relative to each other, and occasionally refers to the colour of the star, or to particular parts of the constellation. The division into Stars of Ea, Anu, and Enlil (zones approximately parallel to the celestial equator) has scientific characteristics.

Part C (Section 3) of Astrolabe B (lines 1-12) systematically lists three constellations in each of the three Paths, for each month (= 36 stars), according to the sequence of their presumed helical rising. The star list is slightly different to that of Part B (Section 2).

Part D (Section 4) (lines 13-36) states that the 3 constellations of each month rise in that month, and that three other constellations set (i.e., the constellations in the 7th month from it set in that same month). Part D (Section 4) of Astrolabe B also states that those constellations which it states set are specifically those constellations which rise six months later. This schematic 6 month difference is not astronomically possible. Also, the astronomical theory that non-circumpolar stars rise and set at half-year intervals is false. (Actually it is noted that 34 of the 36 stars set exactly 6 months after rising. Part D, states that all 36 stars with the two exceptions of the planet Venus (mul dili.bad) and "The Plough" constellation (mul apin), set 6 months after rising.)

The information in Parts A, B, C and D are unique to Astrolabe B. The information does not occur together in any of the other Astrolabes.

The Rising Stars of Astrolabe B (Section B) given below are based on the table in Science Awakening II: The Birth of Astronomy by Bartel van der Waerden (which owed to Ernst Weidner's article "Fixsterne" in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archologie (Volume 3)); and the table in Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography by Wayne Horowitz. The word/determinative 'mul' (= 'star') in front of the names in the original text has, except for mul.mul where it is part of the name, been omitted. The predicates 'of Ea,' 'of Anu;' and 'of Enlil' which appear after the single names in the original text have been set at the top of the columns. The star and constellation identifications are mostly taken from Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia by Hunger/Pingree.

Month Number Month Name Path of Ea Path of Anu Path of Enlil
I Nisannu iku [Field (= Pegasus rectangle)] dil-bat (dili-bat) [= Venus (Planet)] gis apin [Plough]
II Ajjaru mul-mul [Stars (= Pleiades)] gir-tab [Scorpion (= Scorpius)] annunītu [a-nu-ni-tum (= north eastern part of Pisces)]
III Simānu gud-an-na (gud4-an-na) [Jaw of the Bull (= α Tauri and the Hyades (= is-lē)] zi-ba-ni-tum [Scales (= Libra)] mus [Snake (= Hydra)]
IV Dūzu sipa-zi-an-na  (siba-zi-an-na) [True Shepherd of Anu (= Orion)] u4-ka-du-a [Panther] mar-gid-da [Wagon (= Circumpolar) (= Ursa Maior)]
V bu kak.si.di [Arrow (Sirius) (But see Hunger/Pingree, (1999) for different identification.)] su-gi [Old Man (= Perseus)] [Likely restored as šu-pa? (sul-pa-e? / shul-pa-e?) (= Botes (Arcturus?) [= Star] or (= Jupiter?) (= Planet)]
VI Ulūlu ban [Bow] sim-mah [Swallow] uza [She-goat (= Lyra)]
VII Tašritu nun-ki [(Star of the) City of Eridu (= Parts of Puppis and Vela)] ur-gu-la (ur-a) [Lion (= Leo)] ur-idem [Wolf (= α Trianguli)]
VIII Arahsamnu ninmah (nin-mah) [Great Lady (= Star of the goddess Ninmah.)] mas-tab-ba [Twins (= Gemini)] a-mushen (a-musen) (nasru?) [Eagle. The word 'mushen' means bird, and a-mushen (or more precisely a2-mushen) means Eagle.]
IX Kislīmu uridim [Mad Dog (= Lupus)] mas-tab-ba-gal-gal-la [Great Twins (= α and β Geminorum)] entena-mas-guz [Pig (Boar) (= Head and first coil of Draco (?))]
X Tebētu sal-bat-a-nu [Mars (= Planet)] al-lu-ut-tum [Crab (= Cancer)] u4-al-tar (ud-al-tar) [Jupiter (= Planet)]
XI Šabatu en-te-na-bar-hum (en-te-na-bar-sig) [= Habasirānu (Neither term has yet been translated but thought to be a star name or, perhaps correctly, a constellation (figure of a mouse (mouse-like creature) or rodent (?)) occupying most of the stars of Centaurus.)] uga (ugga) [Raven (Crow) (= Corvus and Crater)] ka5-a [Fox (= Circumpolar) (= 80-86 Ursae Maioris (?))]
XII Addaru nūnu [Fish (= Piscis Austrinus)] nēberu [= Star of the god Marduk [= Mercury? (Planet). Nēberu preceded by both the determinatives 'dingir' and 'mul' is being referred to as both a god and a star. Nēberu and the stations of Ea and Enlil are identified with the last month of the old year, Addaru/Adar.] šudun-im-ux-lu [Southern Yoke (also called several other names in later star lists, including 'Yoke of Ea.' Uncertain identification and whether a name for a constellation or single star.)]

Note: Regarding en-te-na-bar-hum/sig (Habasirānu). There remains some uncertainty about how to transcribe the Sumerian name of this star/constellation, as well as its exact identity. Various transcriptions such as Hasirānu / Habasirāttu are used. Thought by early assyriologists to be a star name but, perhaps correctly, by contemporary assyriologists to be a constellation (figure of a mouse (mouse-like creature) or rodent (?)) occupying most of the stars of Centaurus. (The name infers a mouse or rodent.) In Astrolabe B, Section C, Habasirānu is replaced by nu.muš.da ('Swarm') (and the Hyades are replaced by gu-la (gula) (Aquarius)). The identification of nu.muš.da is uncertain, and also whether it is a name for a constellation or single star (but Hunger/Pingree (1999) identify the star η or κ Centauri).

 

Astrolabe Pinches/Pinches' Astrolabe (Astrolabe P)

A composite list combining information from 4 'astrolabe' tablets. Astrolabe Pinches ("Pinches' Astrolabe" or Astrolabe P) is not a cuneiform text, but a modern composite reconstruction (compilation) made by the pioneering British assyriologist Theophilus Pinches from four different texts in the British Museum and published in 1900. It was Pinches (1900) who first attempted to restore the astrolabe/planisphere from available fragments. This initial work by Pinches later enabled the German assyriologist Albert Schott to publish (1934) a reconstructed diagram of a circular astrolabe/planisphere. Two of the star lists that were used by Pinches remain unknown. However, it is known that Pinches' transcription of the sources he used is accurate. Also, it is known that BM 34713 (LBAT 1499 (= LBAT 1500)) was a major source for Pinches in constructing his composite Astrolabe. At least one text used was the circular Astrolabe fragment Sm 162. (Hunger/Pingree in Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia (1999) identify the tablets Sm 162, K 14943 + 81-7-27, 94, and 83-1-18, 608, as well as 2 additional star lists. Ernst Weidner also thought - from correspondence between Pinches and Fritz Hommel - that Pinches also used tablet 85-4-30, 15. This tablet gives the 12 months and a leading star or constellation connected with each. Weidner did not think that LBAT 1499 was used by Pinches. Also, Weidner (HBA) did not think that 85-4-30, 15 belonged to the genre of 'astrolabe' texts.) Astrolabe P remains important. Astrolabe P does not always identify stars that rise in each of the months. Four of the month-star are actually planets, and 2 (Wagon and Fox) are circumpolar and so they never rise or set.

Month Number Month Name Path of Ea Path of Anu Path of Enlil
I Nisannu Field Venus Plough
II Ajjaru Stars Old Man Anunītu
III Simānu True Shepherd of Anu Lion Crab
IV Dūzu Arrow Twins Jupiter
V bu Bow Great Twins Wagon
VI Ulūlu Kidney Raven ŠU.PA
VII Tašritu Ninmah Scales Habasirānu
VIII Arahsamnu Mad Dog Scorpion King
IX Kislīmu Mars Panther She-goat
X Tebētu GU.LA Crab Eagle
XI Šabatu Numušda Swallow Pig
XII Addaru Fish Fox Marduk

 

Astrolabe S (Schott's Astrolabe)

Astrolabe S = Albert Schott's reconstruction of a circular astrolabe (published in ZDMG, Band 88, 1934) = LBAT 1499 in the British Museum [= LBAT 1500]. Schott was also reliant on Pinches' astrolabe.

 

Circular 'Astrolabe' reconstructed by Albert Schott in 1934. Only fragments of circular 'Astrolabes' have been recovered. The efforts of Robert Brown Junior (1899) to reconstruct the the circular 'Astrolabe' was speculative and misleading. The British assyriologist Theophilus Pinches (1900) made the first critical attempt to restore the circular 'Astrolabe.' He also published copies of a number of fragments of circular 'Astrolabes' in the British Museum. The German assyriologist Albert Schott published (1934) a diagram reconstruction of the 'Astrolabe.' based on Pinches' material. The last reconstruction of the 'astrolabe' was published by the American assyriologist Wayne Horowitz (1998).  In the circular 'Astrolabes' the sections each contain the name of a star, or constellation, or planet, together with simple numbers in arithmetic progression. Note: The term "Astrolabe," as it is used in the context of ancient Mesopotamian astronomy, is a misnomer (a convention introduced by Pinches), having no relation to the antique astronomical instrument of the same name. A true astrolabe is used to measure the angular height of a celestial object.

 

Part 9

Problems Associated With the "Three Stars Each" as Star Calendars

Firstly, after a lengthy discussion of the issues Hunger/Pingree state (Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia, Page 63): "The "astrolabe" lists provide no information useful for identifying the constellations because we do not know the principles of their categorizations."

Heliacal risings are also a problematic issue. Reiner/Pingree in Babylonian Planetary Omens, Volume Two (1981, Page 3) discussing two issues to be understood in relation to 'Astrolabe B' state: "... the association of a constellation with a particular ideal month does not signify that that constellation had its heliacal rising in that ideal month, and that the three paths do not correspond to bands located between certain circles parallel to the equator. ... We presume that these associations with ideal months and with the three paths are influenced by mythological as much by astronomical considerations ...."

There are several significant problems associated with interpreting the "three stars each" lists as identifying ideal heliacal risings. (Only KAV 218 (Astrolabe B) specifically states the listed stars are connected with monthly heliacal risings in the three Paths.) Firstly, the associations of the stars with particular months and also the "three paths" seems to be in part purely religious/mythical. Secondly, some of the month-stars listed are actually planets (i.e., Venus, Mars, and Jupiter), with no annual cycles able to be preserved in the "three stars each" calendrical system. (Planets do not rise in the same position of the sky at annual intervals. Therefore they cannot be used as month-stars if the "three stars each" calendrical system is to be used for more than a single year.) Thirdly, two of the stars (in the northern Path of Enlil) are actually circumpolar (the Wagon and the Fox), and it problematic to see how these could have been used in the "three stars each" calendrical system. (Four more circumpolar stars (making a total of 6) were included in the Path of Enlil in the later Mul.Apin series. The 'fixed-star' catalogue of the Mul.Apin series contains 60 rising and setting stars, 6 circumpolar stars, and 5 planets.)

It is possible that "three stars each" texts listing planets as month-stars may not have been intended to predict heliacal risings for longer than a single year. Another possibility is that certain months were identified with the planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter for religious or mythological reasons. ("Names of fixed stars and constellations may have varied and constellations whose names remained constant may have been composed of different stars in different periods. (Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography by Wayne Horowitz, 1998)"

 

The Views of David Brown on the Function of the Astrolabes and Mul.Apin

The assyriologist David Brown (Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology (2000) believes the astrolabes and the Mul.Apin series had a divinatory use. According to David Brown the Astrolabes and the Mul.Apin series are no more empirically (observationally) based than the Enūma Anu Enlil omen series. The star-lists in either were not intended to accurately reflect astronomical reality. Divinatory thinking took precedence over strict astronomical schemes. The astrolabe sets out an "ideal astrolabe" scheme in which the stars assigned to each star-path were meant ideally to rise heliacally in each of he 12 months of the ideal year. Both the astrolabes and the Mul.Apin series were learned elaborations based only very loosely on observational reality. According to David Brown their purpose was not to regulate the calendar, but to permit celestial diviners to interpret the occasion of a star's first appearance as either good-boding or ill-boding. The aims of the Mul.Apin series are the same as those of the Enūma Anu Enlil omen series. David Brown writes (Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology (2000, Page 124): "... I believe the astrolabes and the Mul.Apin type star lists were formed ... [from] broadly realistic observational data squeezed into ideal schemes of divinatory purpose by certain learned numerical methods." This also explains the inclusion of planets.

 

The Identification of Stars and Constellations

As stated above, after a lengthy discussion of the issues Hunger/Pingree state (Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia, Page 63): "The "astrolabe" lists provide no information useful for identifying the constellations because we do not know the principles of their categorizations."

The primary effort in successfully identifying the constellations and star names listed in BM 86378 (Mul.Apin tablet 1) was carried out by first by Franz Kugler and then by Carl Bezold and August Kopff. The type of information contained in the constellation/star lists in Mul.Apin tablet 1 (BM 86378), an autograph copy of which was first published by the British Assyriologist Leonard King in 1912, provided a unique opportunity for the identification of Babylonian constellations. The Kopff-Bezold results (Zenit- und Aequatorialgestirne am babylonischen Fixsternhimmel (1913)) largely agree with the identifications made by Franz Kugler in his Supplement 1 (1913) to his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel. Further work by later scholars largely confirmed their results.

The two tablets comprising the Mul.Apin series are essentially a series of structured lists grouped into 18 sections. Tablet 1 basically contains eight sections (including five star lists):

(1) A list of 33 stars in the Path of Anu, 23 stars in the Path of Enlil, and 15 stars in the Path of Ea.

(2) A sequential list of (heliacal rising) dates in the ideal calendar (i.e., based on a year comprised of 12 months of 30 days each) on which 36 fixed stars and constellations rose heliacally.

(3) A list of simultaneously rising and setting constellations.

(4) Time intervals between the heliacal rising dates of some selected stars.

(5) The visibility of the fixed stars in the East and the West.

(6) A list of 14 ziqpu-stars (i.e., stars which culminate overhead).

(7) The relation between the culmination of zipqu-stars and their heliacal rising.

(8) A list of stars and planets in the path of the moon. (The beginning of the second tablet continues the listing of (8) in tablet 1.)

The data contained in the Mul.Apin series is not quantifiable (i.e., precisely defined) and appropriate assumptions are required to be made (i.e., of the stars forming each constellation and which of these stars were listed to rise heliacally).

Kugler in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 1, used lists (2) (3) and (6) and computed for 500 BCE at Babylon. Kopff used the same lists and computed for 600 BCE at Nineveh. I am presently unsure what lists Weidner used and what date and location he computed for. Later researchers used different lists. The German assyriologist Johann Schaumberger in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 3, used lists (1) and (2). The Dutch mathematician Bartel van der Waerden in his Anfnge der astronomie (1966) used lists (2) and (4). List (4) is compiled from list (2) and its data is most subject to inaccuracy. Many significant differences exist between the identifications made by these four scholars. Erica Reiner and David Pingree, Babylonian Planetary Omens: Part Two (1981), using lists (3) and (6) in conjunction with a planetarium projector, concluded that the data best fit the date 1000 BCE and the location of Nineveh (circa 36 north). List (3) is independent of the schematic dates of risings in list (2).Also, the simultaneously setting constellations of list (3) are clearly determined by observation. List (3) was also the foundation for the constellation identifications (and the date and place of the observations) made by Herman Hunger and David Pingree in their Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia (1999).

 

Part 10

The Assumed Tablet 51 of the Omen Series Enūma Anu Enlil

The consolidation of the Omen Series Enūma Anu Enlil was achieved circa 1100 BCE. (The text was never actually 'fixed.') The star list (and their Paths) of the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil, after Reiner/Pingree Babylonian Planetary Omens 2 (1981).

Month Number Month Name Path of Ea Path of Anu Path of Enlil
I Nisannu Field Venus Plough
II Ajjaru Stars Scorpion Anunītu
III Simānu Jaw of the Bull Scales Snake
IV Dūzu True Shepherd of Anu Panther Wagon
V bu Arrow Old Man [ŠU.PA?]
VI Ulūlu Bow Swallow She-goat
VII Tašritu NUN.KI [Lion] Wolf
VIII Arahsamnu Ninmah [Twins] Eagle
IX Kislīmu Mad Dog Great Twins Pig
X Tebētu Mars Crab Jupiter
XI Šabatu Habasirānu Raven Fox
XII Addaru Fish Nēberu Southern Yoke

 

Part 11

The Mul.Apin Series

The Mul.Apin series contains the earliest (surviving) full description of the Mesopotamian constellations. Its detailed constellation material dates to the late 2nd-millennium BCE possibly relates to the Mesopotamian constellations being largely formalised around the time of the completion of the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil. (Mul.Apin may only have reached its final form circa the 8th-century BCE.) The astronomical compendium Mul.Apin is an astronomical anthology of materials drawn from more than one original source.

The data contained in the Mul.Apin series is not quantifiable (i.e., precisely defined) and appropriate assumptions are required to be made (i.e., of the stars forming each constellation and which of these stars were listed to rise heliacally). In a Hastro-L posting (June 5, 2007) the assyriologist Hermann Hunger explained: "The tablets contain no observations. They state on which calendar date certain phenomena (mostly risings and settings) are supposed to occur. Since that calendar used real lunar months, and years consisting of either 12 or 13 such months, the date of a stellar rising, e.g., cannot occur on the same date each year. Assuming that the dates given in the text are the result of averaging, one can use them as if they were observations." Analysing all of the star list data in the Mul.Apin series the American astronomer Brad Schaefer has concluded (2007) that the epoch for the data comprising Mul.Apin star lists is 1370 100 BCE with a latitude of 35 1.2. The actual observations to establish the data through averaging were obviously a little earlier. This corresponds with the cuneiform evidence (the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil, the Astrolabes (i.e., star calendars), the creation epic Enuma Elish) indicating that most of the Mesopotamian constellation set was established during the late 2nd millennium BCE.

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

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

Name (Transliteration: Sumerian [Akkadian])

Name (Translation)

Description Given by Mul.Apin

Modern Identification by Hunger/Pingree

mul gisAPIN [Epinnu]

The Plough

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

α and β Trianguli with γ Andromedae

mulUR.BAR.RA [Barbaru]

The Wolf

The Wolf, the seeder of the Plough

α Trianguli

mulSU.GI [Sibu]

The Old Man

The Old Man, dEnmesarra [An ancestor of Enlil]

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

mulGAM [Gamlu]

The Crook

The Crook, dGamlum

Auriga

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

The Great Twins

The Great Twins, dLugalgirra and dMeslamtaea

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

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

The Little Twins

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

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

mulAL.LUL [Alluttu]

The Crab

The Crab, the seat of dAnu

Cancer

mulUR.GU.LA [Urgulu]

The Lion

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

Leo

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

The King

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

α Leonis [= Regulus]

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

The Dusky Stars [Lion]

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

5 Leonis? 21 Leonis?

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

The Frond [Lion]

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

γ Comae Berenices?

mulSU.PA [SU.PA]

[SU.PA]

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

Botes

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

The Abundant One

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

β Comae Berenices?

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

The Star of Dignity

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

Corona Borealis?

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

The Wagon

The Wagon, dNinlil

Ursa Maior Note: Circumpolar

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

The Wagon

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

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

mulKA5.A [Selebu]

The Fox

The Fox, dErra, the strong one among the gods

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

[mulMAR.GID.DA] mulU8 [Lahru]

The Ewe

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

Northeastern part of Botes? Note: Circumpolar

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

The Hitched Yoke

The Hitched Yoke, the Great Anu of Heaven

α Draconis [Thuban?] Note: Circumpolar

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

The Wagon of Heaven

The Wagon of Heaven, dDamkianna

Ursa Minor Note: Circumpolar

mulIBILA.E.MAH [Ibila-Emah]

The Heir of the Sublime Temple

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

α Ursae Minoris? [Polaris?] Note: Circumpolar

mulDINGIR.GUB.BAmes  [dingirgubbu]  

The Standing Gods   

The Standing Gods of Ekur (temple of dEnlil)

The Standing Gods of Ekur: ζ and η Herculis?

mulDINGIR.TUS.Ames [dingirtusu]

The Sitting Gods

The Sitting Gods of Ekur [The temple of Enlil]

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

mulUZ [Enzu]

The She-Goat

The She-Goat, dGula

Lyra

[mulUZ] mulUR.KU [Kalbu]

The Dog

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

Southern part of Hercules

[mulUZ] dLAMMA [Lammassu]

LAMMA

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

α Lyrae

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

Nin-SAR and Erragal

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

ε and ζ Lyrae

mulUD.KA.DUH.A [Nimru]

The Panther

The Panther: dNergal

Cygnus, Lacerta, and parts of Cassiopeia and Cepheus

mulSAH [Sahu]

The Pig

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

The head and first coil of Draco?

mulANSE.KUR.RA [Sisu]

The Horse

The star which stands at its left side: the Horse

α, β, γ, and δ+ Cassiopeia?

mullu-lim [Lulimi]

The Stag

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

Eastern part of Andromeda

mullu-lim [Lulimi]

The Stag

The dusky stars which stand in the breast of the Stag

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

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

The Rainbow

 dHarriru, the Rainbow

18, 31, and 32 Andromedae?

MUL SA5 [mullu-lim] [Lulimi?]

The Stag

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

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

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

The Deleter

The dDeleter [= The dDestructor?]

β Andromedae

mulSAG.ME.GAR

Jupiter

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

The planet Jupiter (on the meridian at dawn)

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

Name (Transliteration: Sumerian [Akkadian])

Name (Translation)

Description Given by Mul.Apin

Modern Identification by Hunger/Pingree

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

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

Name (Transliteration: Sumerian [Akkadian])

Name (Translation)

Description Given by Mul.Apin

Modern Identification by Hunger/Pingree

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

 

The Circumpolar Stars And Constellations (Ref: Hunger and Pingree, Mul.Apin)

In MUL.APIN six circumpolar stars are counted in the Path of Enlil. Since the Paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea are defined by the arcs on the eastern horizon over which the stars, Sun, Moon, and planets rise, the circumpolar stars ought not to be counted among the stars of Enlil.

The Wagon. Ursa Major.

The Fox. 80-86 Ursae Maioris?

The Ewe. Northeastern part of Bootes?

The Hitched Yoke. a Draconis?

The Wagon of Heaven. Ursa Minor.

The Heir of the Sublime Temple. a Ursae Minoris?

 

The Mul.Apin List of (17/18) Constellations/Stars that Marked the Path of the Moon (See: Note 2 below)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mulAL.LUL al.lul] (The "Crab;" [or Prokyon], later to be one of the 12 ecliptic constellations.) (Greek zodiac: Cancer (the Crab).) Note: In June 2015 I received a query regarding a possibly error in suggesting Procyon as part of an ancient constellation Cancer. Basically, "If the Greek constellation is Cancer and Cancer only, "Procyon" should say "Praesepe". If "Procyon" is correct, the Greek constellations would be Cancer and Canis Minor, because Procyon is the alpha star of Canis Minor." Some additional discussion is indicated as required. Part of the issue is the comparison is being made with early Greek constellations. There really is no exact identifications between Babylonian and later Greek constellations. The boundaries of the Babylonian constellations are not known. The Greek constellations and their boundaries only mostly became canonical with Eudoxus (there were later changes), but we do not know what the boundaries were until after the period of Aratus (circa 3rd-century BCE). Aratus does not mention Canis Minor in his Phainomena (but has Procyon among the weather signs). Until the 2nd-century BCE there is no evidence the Greeks recognised Canis Minor as a separate constellation/asterism. Ptolemy, in his Almagest catalogued only 2 stars comprising Canis Minor (1 being Procyon). The ancient Greek constellation boundaries generally lay beyond the visible stars. The article was written in the early 1990s and basically simplifies Bartel van der Waerden's 1952 article on the history of the zodiac. When writing the article I have begun considerations from 1952. Waerden has Procyon in his 1952 article and later book published 1974 in English. Werner Papke who I consider unreliable made the identification KAK.SI.DI = Procyon (not Sirius per Franz Kugler)) + AL.LUL = Sirius = Cancer. Ernst Weidner would have alluttu (crab) = Capricornus, not Cancer. Most have AL.LUL (= alluttu) = Cancer (crab). Most have NANGAR/NAGAR = Praesepe/Cancer, especially Praesepe. Some consider AL.LUL = allutu is likely but not suitably demonstrated, but the later NANGAR/NAGAR as suitably demonstrated. The conclusion that AL.LUL (Sumerian logogram) and alluttu (Akkadian) = Praesepe = (in) Cancer is still recent. Hunger and Pingree in Astral Sciences (1999) have other identifications (i.e., some particular stars in Cancer). Gennadij Kurtik and Alexander Militarev (2005) have: (1) for mulal.lul (mulal.lub) 'crayfish' or 'crab,' located in the area of modern Cancer; and (2) late use of NAGAR as name of constellation and zodiacal sign Cancer. Wayne Horowitz in his 2014 book on Babylonian "Astrolabes" has alluttu = Cancer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some of the Ziqpu Stars listed in Mul.Apin (Ref: Bartel van der Waerden, Science Awakening 2)

The ziqpu stars lie in the path of Enlil.

SHU.PA

BAL.UR.A

AN.GUB.BAmesh

UR.KU.UZA

UD.KA.DUH.A

LU.LIM

SHU.GI

GAM

MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL

AL.LUL

UR.GU.LA

ERU

HE.GAL.A.A

 

Part 12

The 7 Tikpi, 7 Lumāšu, and 7 Māšu Stars

In addition to the 10-star tradition there were also 7-star traditions. The 1st-millennium BCE tradition of Tikpi-, Māšu-, and Lumāšu-stars was based on the number 7. In K 250 and K 2067 (correctly K 8067?) (CT XXVI, Pages 40-41, 45) certain stars are arranged in groups of 7 Tikpi, 7 Lumāšu, and 7 Māšu.

The Tikpi-stars: (a) (1) mul su-gi (Perseus), (2) mul gu4-an-[na] / mul gu-an-na (Taurus), (3) mul sipa-zi-an-na / mul sitaddalu (Orion), (4) mul ur-gu-[la] / mul urgu[lu] (Leo), (5) mul mus / mul siru (Hydra (+ β Cancer) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has Hydra), (6) mul gir-tab / mul zuqaqipu (Scorpius), and  (7) mul lu-lim (Andromeda + Cassiopeia) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has Cassiopeia). (b) (1) mul gumlu (Auriga) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has mul gam = Auriga), (2) mul sarru (Regulus) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has mul lugal = α Leonis), (3) mul a-zu(?)-in (not yet identified) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has mul u5-ri-in = (?)), (4) mul ka-mus.niku.a (Andromeda-fog (?)), (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has mul ka-mus-ni-ku-e = α Cassiopeia), (5) mul gisli (Taurus) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has mul is li-e = Hyades), (6) mul siru (Hydra + β Cancri), and (7) mul us.si (Antares) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has mul NE-gun = α Scorpii). The Babylonians had 7 Tikpi-stars (i.e., red coloured stars) assigned to the planet Mars.

The Māšu-stars: (1) mul tu'amu rabuti / mul mas-tab-ba-gal-gal (α + β Gemini), (2) mul tu'amu sihruti / mul mas-tab-ba-tur-tur (λ + ζ Gemini (or τ + ν Gemini)), (3) mul tu'amu sa ina mihrit sitaddali izzazu / mul mas-tab-ba vis--vis the mul sipa-zi-an-na (? α + γ Orionis (ε + γ Geminorum)) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") has Orion + ε + γ Geminorum), (4) mul nin.sar and mul ur(?).ra.gal (mul ir-ra-gal) (? not yet identified / η + θ Lyrae ?), (5) mul pa and mul lu.gal (? not yet identified) (mul hanis mul sullat (α + β Centauri), (6) mul sar.ur and mul sar.gaz (λ + ν Scorpii), and (7) mul zibanitu / zi-ba-an-na (variation mul ku-an-na / mul ku-ki-sikil-la (The Scales (Libra / α + β Librae)). The 7 Māšu-stars were pairs of stars i.e., 'twin stars.'

The Lumāšu-stars (= Jupiter stars) (CT XXVI) (K250 and VAT 9418): (1) mul su-gi (Perseus), (2) mul u4-ka-du-a / mul nimru (Cygnus + Cepheus, (3) mul sipa-zi-an-na / mul sitaddulu (Orion), (4) mul kak-si-sa / mul sukudu (Sirius + Procyon) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") simply has Sirius), (5) Habasiranu (Centaurus) (Ernst Weidner (RLA "Fixsterne") has mul en-te-na-bar-sig = Centurus?), (6) mul nasru (Eagle (Aquila)), and (7) mul pa.bil.sag (Sagittarius). In Akkadian the term lumāšu referred to (1) one of several stars whose heliacal risings fell at or near the solstices and equinoxes, and thereby served to divide the year, and (2) the zodiacal constellations, or a zodiacal constellation. Franz Boll believed the 7 lumāšu-stars were selected on the principal of the resemblance of their colour to that of Jupiter (planet of Marduk).

 

Appendix 1: Robert Brown Junior and Constellation Identification Errors

Regarding the Charioteer. The stars of the Greek constellation Auriga (= Charioteer) were the stars of the Babylonian constellation Gamlu/Gam (= the Crook (= possibly the Babylonian sickle implement)). The source for the perpetuating error that Gamlu = Babylonian charioteer is Robert Brown Junior in his totally unreliable Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Babylonians. (1899-1900; 2 Volumes). In the Babylonian scheme of the Stars of Amurru SHU.GI (Su.gi/Sibu) was - until rather recently - identified as Old Man or Charioteer. This was done by Waerden in Science Awakening II. However, SHU.GI (in both the Astrolabes / Mul.Apin) is now identified as Old Man (See either: Mul.Apin or Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia by Hunger/Pingree). Hunger/Pingree identify SHU.GI as the stars of Perseus.

Regarding the Babylonian Yoke and the stars of the constellation Botes. In Babylonia the constellation of the Wagon (basically our Ursa Major (Big Bear) but also other stars) was divided into 3 parts, the Yoke, the Pole, the Side-pieces. The Babylonian Yoke [of the Wagon] was a constellation approximately equivalent to the stars of our modern Botes. The Yoke involved Arcturus and likely several stars centred on Arcturus; or stars approximately equivalent to Botes. In the Mul.Apin series SU.PA was the star Arcturus, or Arcturus and the stars of Botes. According to Franz Kugler SU.PA was Arcturus and likely the entire southern part of Botes. Mul.Apin describes SU.PA (Šūp) as: "dEnlil, who decrees the fate of the land." Some writers speculate that the Greek Botes constellation was perhaps originally a Babylonian constellation, and the Greek name derived from such. It has been proposed that the connection of Botes with the idea of 'guard' might owe to its origins as a Babylonian shepherd-constellation. Both this and similar proposals seem unsupported. The error is likely due to reliance on Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Babylonians by Robert Brown Junior (Volume 2, 1900, Pages 133-134) where he erroneously identified Arcturus as the 'heavenly shepherd-guardian.' The Greek name Botes may have had a popular origin. The Greek Botes literally means 'Oxman' but is usually given the meaning 'Ploughman' or 'Waggoner.' However, an alternative Greek name for Botes was Bear-guardian/Bear-warden. Another proposal is the Greek name Botes was earlier than the introduction of the Greek names Archtophylax (for Botes) and Arcturus. The bright reddish star Arcturus (near the tail of the Great Bear) was not strictly/consistently identified by the Greeks as part of Botes. It was located between the kneecaps of Botes. The Greeks only applied the name Archtophylax to the constellation Botes and only applied the name Arcturus to the bright star located between the kneecaps of Botes. Archtophylax has the same meaning as Arcturus. A seemingly unanswerable question is whether the term 'Bear-guardian/Bear-warden' was originally applied to Arcturus the star or Archtophylax the star-group. The Greek constellation Botes (a rather roughly construed figure) is likely to be a later extension of the star Arcturus. Likely the Babylonians had earlier done the same.

 

Appendix 2: The Division of the Sky Into 3 Paths

"The division of the heavens into three 'paths' (KASGAL) is found already in second-millennium texts and acts as the principal way of categorizing stars in second millennium and early first-millennium texts such as MUL.APIN, the so-called 'Astrolabes', and omens from Enūma Anu Enlil , as well as literary texts. No text explicitly states that the Paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea together comprise the entire sky. As first recognized by Bezold, the stars in the path of Anu rise in a region extending about 15 degrees north and south of the east-west line, those in the path of Enlil rise above the horizon to the north of this, and those in the path of Ea to the south of it. The three paths were interpreted by Weidner, Schaumberger (who increased the boundaries of the path of Anu to about 17 degrees), and others as extending in declination bands stretching across the sky. By contrast, Pingree has argued that the three paths did not cover the whole sky but instead were conceived of only as arcs along the horizon over which stars and planets rise or set. Lambert and Horowitz, however, have argued from literary evidence than the three paths were indeed considered to cross the sky from east to west. ("Celestial Measurement in Babylonian Astronomy." by John Steele (Annals of Science, Volume 64, Number 3, 2007, Pages 293-325.)

The accepted identification of the Three Ways is: Enlil (god of the earth) = North; Anu (god of the sky) = Central; and Ea (god of the water) = South. However, at time, some authors identify differently. In Mesopotamian Astrology (1995) Ulla Koch has: Ea = North; Anu = Central; and Enlil = South. In Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (1999) Wayne Horowitz has: Anu = North; Enlil = Central; and Ea = South.

 

Appendix 3: The Nature and Function of the Astrolabes and Mul.Apin

Aspects of early Mesopotamian lunar and planetary astronomy are embedded in the Enūma Anu Enlil omen series, the content and finalisation of which is dated to the late 2nd-millennium BCE. Astrolabe B is closely related to tablet 51 of the Enūma Anu Enlil omen series. (The ideal Astrolabe is reflected in the Enūma Anu Enlil tablets 50-51.)

Essentially the "astrolabe" texts comprised a scheme in which 3 stars, one lying in each of the 3 star-paths, were meant/(supposed?) to rise heliacally in each of the 12 30-day months of the of the "ideal year." (The dates - per Astrolabe B - reflect their ideal first appearances. However, no days, only months, are noted on the Astrolabe texts.) The "ideal astrolabe" was thus underpinned by the "ideal year." It is likely that the "Astrolabe texts" as well as the Mul.Apin series, comprise an invented scheme and not an observation-based scheme. The assyriologist David Brown thinks it highly unlikely that the "astrolabe texts" served the astronomical purpose of enabling a calendar and marking seasonal events. He instead states (Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology (2000, Page 115)): "They were, instead, learned elaborations based only very loosely on observational reality with regard to the heavens, whose purpose was not to regulate the calendar, but to permit celestial diviners to interpret the occasion of a star's first appearance as good-boding if it corresponded with the scheme and ill-boding if it did not."

M[?]. Nickiforov and J[?]. Tabov "Problems of dating of the Babylonian "Astrolabes." (1991?) write: "The calculations show, that there is no historical epoch or turn of the heavenly sphere on a longitude, for which the hypothesis that the order of the constellations in the "astrolabe" follows the order of their declinations is correct. Conclusions: 1. The verifications based on the content of the "astrolabes", the order of the constellations by longitude and the order of the constellations by declination show that the traditional view on the "astrolabes" [as astronomical documents] causes many contradictions. 2. It is possible that the Babylonian "astrolabes" actually do not represent real observations of the star sky. They could be related to some ritual or could be religious or astrological texts. 3. If the "astrolabes" mirror real astronomical observations, probably some basic parts of the Babylonian astronomical texts are deciphered incorrectly, and at least the identification of the constellations, stars and planets for all texts are incorrect. 4. Even if we assume, that the "astrolabes" reflect real astronomical observations, it is difficult to say if the available information could be used for astronomical dating of these observations. Most probably, the "astrolabes" are [to be] dated by some archaeological data or by other reasons."

Astronomical knowledge (the ability to predict lunar eclipses, and the behaviour of planets) did not appear in Mesopotamia circa 700 BCE in isolation; it emerged from a background of divinatory ideas and practice and was somewhat dependent on  divination and divinatory purpose. The mathematical methods used to make astronomical predictions were developed over longer time-spans than an individual's lifetime and did not result from the efforts of individual scholars working alone. Rather, the knowledge for making astronomical predictions arose through the cooperation of groups of scholars networked under the auspices of royal support.

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

The British assyriologist David Brown writes ("The Scientific Revolution of 700 BC." In: Learned Antiquity edited by Alaisdair MacDonald et. al. (2003)): "It was previously argued that compositions such as Mul.Apin, were examples of 'early astronomy', because they contained a preponderance of particular schemes describing how a celestial phenomena changed over time - schemes incidentally found in various divinatory writings. These schemes, for example, provided values for the length of daylight, or lunar visibility, in the days of an ideal 360-day year. At first glance they appear astronomical, for they look as if they were intended to model something observable, something in the sky. In fact their astronomical potential, from a modern point of view, has been confused with their intention, for these schemes woefully misrepresented a reality that was all too apparent to the schemes' creators. To give one simple example, the schemes assumed that all months last thirty days, something it would not take long to discover was nonsense. Instead, I suggest, these schemes were numerical elaborations of widely held views as to the ideal form of the universe and its behaviour. It was the form that the universe was believed to have had when first created, as stated in certain religio-cosmogonical texts. These schemes also drew on the 360-day year ...."

The inclusion of an anthology of 47 celestial omens (drawn from a variety of Mesopotamian celestial divination texts) at the end of the Mul.Apin series suggests its goal was to serve as an introduction to celestial omen literature and the practice of celestial divination. The data contained in the Mul.Apin series was functionally important in the practice of celestial divination in Mesopotamia. The intended audience for the text would have been scribes receiving practical training in celestial divination. (See: "Teaching the Stars in Mesopotamia and the Hellenistic Worlds." by Jeffrey Cooley (Humanitas, Volume 28, Issue 3, Spring, 2005, Pages 9-15).

There is no convincing reason to consider the Astrolabes and the Mul.Apin series to be primarily astronomical documents. They are connected to the creation epic Enūma Elish and all are connected with the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil.

 

Appendix 4: Tablet Number Assumptions

Explanation of the term "assumed tablet number …." With the series Enuma Anu Enlil, for example, there is considerable variation between scriptoria in the numbering of individual tablets. However, the various recensions (critically revised versions) simply differ mostly in the way they order the tablets. Some examples of content differences exist. J[?]. Finke in her edition of the Assur catalogue of the series Enuma Anu Enlil recognizes 6 different recensions; one from Assur, one from Babylon, one from Kish, one from Uruk, and finally two from Nineveh - one being Assyrian and the other being Babylonian. This indicates that the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil was a very fluid tradition.

 

Appendix 5: Transient Nature of Early Babylonian Constellations

An example: "Mušhuššum, "furious serpent." This constellation is only attested in the OB [Old Babylonian] period. It might be the dragon whose origin is described in the Labbu Myth (Frans Wiggermann, "Tišpak, his Seal, and the Dragon Mušhuššu," in To the Euphrates and Beyond: Archaeological Studies in Honor of Mauits N. van Loon [ed. O. Haex et al; Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema, 1989], 117–33, esp. 126). Gssmann equates it with the later constellation MUŠ, though this is by no means certain; if it is the case, however, it is possibly to be identified with the constellation Hydra ...." (Cooley, Jeffrey. (2011). "An OB Prayer to the Gods of the Night." In: Lenzi, Alan. (Editor). Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns. (Page 77).)

Whether or not the Mesopotamians only used a single series of constellations throughout the country at all times is unknown. Alastair McBeath (Tiamat's Brood, Page 41) states: "... Gssmann's work and other cuneiform sources argue for several variant traditions. It is possible each city-state had at least some constellations that were more or less unique to them, as with their gods." There is, however, the possibility that some particular names that occasionally appear were late and/or variant (alternative) names of constellations/stars. It was only late i.e., perhaps 1st-millennium  BCE that constellation and star/planet names became standardized.

 

Appendix 6: Girra and Gibil

Girra was a Sumerian god of fire and light. (Akkadian name Gibil.) Gibil was also a (Sumerian?) god of fire and light. An Old Babylonian god list indicates that there were originally two gods of fire and light, Girra and Gibil. Either during the Old Babylonian period or shortly after Girra and Gibil were merged to form just one god. However, though some sources consider Girra and Gibil as Sumerian names for the one fire god, other sources maintain they were essentially different gods. From around the period of the rise of Assyria onwards, the names Girra and Gibil are used interchangeably to refer to the same god. Girra was later syncretised with the younger god Nuska (a god of fire and light), another deity of fire and light. In the literary composition Enūma eliš, Girra (in the form Gibil) is listed as one of the 50 aspects of Marduk.

 

Appendix 7: The Constellation SIPA-ZI-AN-NA

The constellation name SIPA-ZI-AN-NA (Babylonian, shitadallu) means "True shepherd of Anu" or "True shepherd of the sky;" and is associated with most of present-day Orion. (An (Sumerian)/Anu (Akkadian) is a sky god.) The association of SIPA-ZI-AN-NA with Tammuz is made by modern (some being 19th-century) authors (e.g., Archibald Sayce, Robert Brown Junior, George Davis Junior, John Wilkinson, and John Kitto) from the fact that Tammuz is also a shepherd. The association is not, however, based on ancient texts. In a cuneiform tablet the god Papsukal is stated to be the god represented by SIPA-ZI-AN-NA.

 

Appendix 8: Identifying the Constellations and Star Names

The exact configuration and boundaries of ancient Mesopotamian constellations are not known.

Kugler in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 1, used lists (2) (3) and (6) and computed for 500 BCE at Babylon. Kopff used the same lists and computed for 600 BCE at Nineveh. I am presently unsure what lists Weidner used and what date and location he computed for. Later researchers used different lists. The German assyriologist Johann Schaumberger in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 3, used lists (1) and (2). The Dutch mathematician Bartel van der Waerden in his Anfnge der astronomie (1966) used lists (2) and (4). List (4) is compiled from list (2) and its data is most subject to inaccuracy. Many significant differences exist between the identifications made by these four scholars. Erica Reiner and David Pingree, Babylonian Planetary Omens: Part Two (1981), using lists (3) and (6) in conjunction with a planetarium projector, concluded that the data best fit the date 1000 BCE and the location of Nineveh (circa 36 north). List (3) is independent of the schematic dates of risings in list (2).Also, the simultaneously setting constellations of list (3) are clearly determined by observation. List (3) was also the foundation for the constellation identifications (and the date and place of the observations) made by Herman Hunger and David Pingree in their Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia (1999).

The primary effort in successfully identifying the constellations and star names listed in BM 86378 was carried out by first by Franz Kugler and then by Carl Bezold and August Kopff. The Kopff-Bezold results largely agree with the identifications made by Franz Kugler in his Supplement 1 (1913) to his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel. Further work by later scholars largely confirmed their results. There were 16 agreements in identification between Kugler, Weidner, and Kopff-Bezold. The lower number is due to the lesser number of identifications made by Ernst Weidner.

August Kopff was a German astronomer who worked in Heidelberg; then Berlin. In Berlin he was Director of the Institute for Astronomical Calculation of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-University (now the Humboldt-University).

Franz Boll was a renowned German classical philologist who specialized in ancient astronomy. He had the ability to combine astronomy, religion, and literature with great originality. His death in 1924 at the age of 57 put an end to his further masterly contributions to elucidating little-known traditions. His last academic position was Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Heidelberg.

Sections of the Mul.Apin series have been the key to attempts to reasonably identify Babylonian constellations. The two tablets comprising the Mul.Apin series are essentially a series of structured lists grouped into 18 sections. Tablet 1 basically contains eight sections (including five star lists):

(1) A list of 33 stars in the Path of Anu, 23 stars in the Path of Enlil, and 15 stars in the Path of Ea.

(2) A sequential list of (heliacal rising) dates in the ideal calendar (i.e., based on a year comprised of 12 months of 30 days each) on which 36 fixed stars and constellations rose heliacally.

(3) A list of simultaneously rising and setting constellations.

(4) Time intervals between the heliacal rising dates of some selected stars.

(5) The visibility of the fixed stars in the East and the West.

(6) A list of 14 ziqpu-stars (i.e., stars which culminate overhead).

(7) The relation between the culmination of zipqu-stars and their heliacal rising.

(8) A list of stars and planets in the path of the moon. (The beginning of the second tablet continues the listing of (8) in tablet 1.)

The key problem with the star-list data contained in the Mul.Apin series is that it is not quantifiable (i.e., precisely defined) and appropriate assumptions are required to be made (i.e., of the stars forming each constellation and which of these stars were listed to rise heliacally).

People have chosen to use different star-list data from the Mul.Apin series in order to identify Babylonian constellations. Kugler in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 1, used lists (2) (3) and (6) and computed for 500 BCE at Babylon. (Kugler also identified the Babylonian constellations by assembling a large number of statements in cuneiform texts about simultaneously rising and setting stars/constellations, and also about the angular distances between certain stars. This involved Kugler in a great deal of labour but his results were highly reliable.) Kopff used the same lists and computed for 600 BCE at Nineveh. I am presently unsure what lists Weidner used and what date and location he computed for. Later researchers used different lists. The German assyriologist Johann Schaumberger in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 3, used lists (1) and (2). The Dutch mathematician Bartel van der Waerden in his Anfnge der astronomie (1966) used lists (2) and (4). List (4) is compiled from list (2) and its data is most subject to inaccuracy. Many significant differences exist between the identifications made by these four scholars. Erica Reiner and David Pingree, Babylonian Planetary Omens: Part Two (1981), using lists (3) and (6) in conjunction with a planetarium projector, concluded that the data best fit the date 1000 BCE and the location of Nineveh (circa 36 north). List (3) is independent of the schematic dates of risings in list (2).Also, the simultaneously setting constellations of list (3) are clearly determined by observation. List (3) was also the foundation for the constellation identifications (and the date and place of the observations) made by Herman Hunger and David Pingree in their Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia (1999). They write (Page 66): "The third list in MUL.APIN is of the simultaneous risings and settings of constellations. Whereas the parallel passage at the end of section three of "Astrolabe B" was simply a meaningless rearrangement of the preceding list of three constellations in each month, List III of MUL.APIN is independent of the schematic dates of rising in List II and the simultaneously setting constellations are clearly determined by observation. This list is the foundation of our identifications of the constellations and of our determination of the time (ca. -1000) and place (ca. 36 N) of the observations."

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

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

Note 1: Werner Papke and Early Dating of Mul.Apin:

According to Werner Papke (who holds a PhD in Assyriology) the Mul.Apin data (and the 12 constellation zodiac) date to circa 2340 BCE. Papke also relates these claims to the dating and meaning of the Gilgamesh epic. Papke, however, has been criticised for interpreting the Mul.Apin texts in such a way to show that Mul.Apin contains a record of observations from 2340 BCE. Hunger/Pingree (1989 and 1999) offer criticisms of Papke. Included are that Papke's dating depends on "stars rather arbitrarily selected to fit his theory." Papke has ignored the works of Hunger/Pingree and also Neugebauer and Sachs; and the criticisms of Hunger/Pingree. The analysis by the astronomer Brad Schaefer to determine the most likely dating of Mul.Apin has superseded Papke's dating claims for the 3rd-millennium BCE. Schaefer's work has established the 2nd-millennium BCE for the date of Mul.Apin data. In 2003 the assyriologist Andrew George published a new (2-volume) scholarly edition of Gilgamesh. Also, from 2003-2005 the assyriologist Stefan Maul published translations of 5 new fragments of the Gilgamesh epic. The assyriologist Alasdair Livingstone has pointed out the problems with the claim by Papke for a high standard of astronomical knowledge being achieved shortly after the invention of writing are that it must be envisaged: (1) this astronomical knowledge did not subsequently develop and was ultimately forgotten, and (2) this astronomical knowledge had no appreciable effect on the rest of Babylonian "science." Also, the fatal dating problem for Papke connecting the supposed astronomical content of the Gilgamesh epic with Mul.Apin is that the text of the Sumerian originals for the Gilgamesh epic which were later reworked in the Babylonian Gilgamesh version predate the composition of Mul.Apin by circa 1000 years.

"Papke (Die Keilschriftserie MUL.APIN), on the other hand, recognized that one must deal with groups of stars rather than single stars, but also bases his calculations on "first stars", though a somewhat different set from van der Waerden's. Some of the first twenty of these are selected because they are the "normal stars" of Seleucid texts, and others for a variety of reasons. From the data in the calendar, and using these "first stars", he computes that the observations were most probably made in Babylon in about -2300. Then, depending on this date and place, he changes the identifications of fourteen stars previously arrived at. We question the terrestrial latitude which Papke assumes, and his choice of "first stars". His use of the much later "normal stars", his acceptance of rigidly defined declination circles as the boundaries between the three "paths", his insistence upon basing such an important chronological conclusion on stars rather arbitrarily selected to fit his theory, and his essentially ignoring the data provided in lists III and V all militate against his conclusions. So also does the fact that he dates these rather sophisticated records long before any others found in cuneiform texts – indeed, a millennium or so before the more primitive Astrolabe texts." (MUL.APIN. An Astronomical Compendium in Cuneiform by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree (1989, Pages 10-11).)

Note 2: Giovanni Schiaparelli and the Identification of Babylonian Star Names:

Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910) was an eminent Italian astronomer of the 19th-century. He originally graduated in hydraulic engineering and architecture from the University of Turin in 1854. Though not a linguist or philologist by training Schiaparelli was also an outstanding linguist; especially conversant with Greek and Latin. He also had a deep knowledge of cuneiform, mainly self-taught. Schiaparelli carried out his own investigations into Babylonian stars, planets, and constellations. He was determined to prepare for himself a list of all star names occurring in cuneiform texts. More than 40 years before the publication of Felix Gssmann's Planetarium Babylonicum (1950) Schiaparelli was systematically investigating and compiling an extensive list of Babylonian star names. For his investigations he used a variety of cuneiform texts, including the early works of Joseph Epping and Franz Kugler. Schiaparelli read and interpreted hundreds of Babylonian astronomical cuneiform tablets - many of which were reconstructed by the Jesuit scholars Epping, Strassmaier, and Kugler. He also used Astrological-Astronomical Texts (1899) by James Craig; and The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon (1900, 2 Volumes) by Reginald Thompson. For his investigations Schiaparelli kept a particular notebook listing Mesopotamian star names. His outstanding 3-volume history of ancient astronomy (Scritti sulla storia della astronomia antica (Writings on the History of Classical Astronomy) (1925- 1927; Reprinted 1997)) was completed by his pupil Luigi Gabba, (and also with the assistance of Schiaparelli's son?) more than 10 years after his death. See: Basello, Gian. (2010). "Giovanni V. Schiaparelli Orientalista." (Giornale di Astronomia, Volume 36, Number 4, Dicembre, Pages 13-24). For the first part of his Scritti sulla storia della astronomia antica (actually essays) dealing with Babylonian astronomy, Schiaparelli read and interpreted hundreds of Babylonian cuneiform texts reconstructed by Strassmaier, Epping, and Kugler.

The standard edition of Schiaparelli's writings is the 11-volume collection, Le Opere di G. V. Schiaparelli.

 

Appendix 9: 1999 Catalogue of Tentative Identifications of Babylonian Constellations and Star-Names

 

Source: Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree (1999, Appendix, Catalogue of Constellations and Star-Names with Tentative Identifications, Pages 271-277).

 


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