Interest of the general Assyriological community in ancient mathematical astronomy focuses on the potential of securing the dates of unusual astral phenomena recorded on tablets with an absolute chronology starting from our own time and projected back by calculation. Given the Babylonian tradition of recording celestial phenomena, the chances seem great for finding texts that will cite a rare event such as a solar eclipse.

The Venus Tablets

One well-known document that has been used to argue for certain chronological orderings is the so-called Venus tablets. It occurs as tablet number 63 in the EAE series. This document lists the dates of first and last visibility for Venus within a 21 year period. Brief omens are accompanied with each pair of sightings. For example, the first line of the (composite) text reads (from Reiner and Pingree, 1975 pg. 29):

DISZ ina ITI.ASZ2 UD.15.KAM {d}nin-si4-an-na ina {d}UTU.SZU2.A it-bal UD.3.KAM ina AN-e uh-ha-ram-ma ina ITI.ASZ2 UD.18.KAM {d}nin-si4-an-na ina {d}UTU.E3 IGI.DU8 IDIM.MESZ DU8.MESZ {d}IM SZEG3.MESZ-szu2 {d}E2-a IDIM.MESZ-szu2 ub-ba-la LUGAL ana LUGAL SILIM.MA KIN

On the 15th of Shabati (month 11), Venus descended into the west. For 3 days it was behind the sky. On the 18th of Shabati Venus appeared in the east. Springs will open up, Adad will bring his rains, Ea will bring his flood, and king will send message of peach to king.

Most entries are recorded a second time later in the document, sometimes with slight differences in the numbers. At the same time data of a different format is inserted among these observations, all of which suggests the tablet was a compilation and rearrangement of information from multiple source documents (ibid pg. 21).

Franz Kugler was the first to observe (reference?) the document's potential as a tool for chronology. He found a line in the text recording the "Year of the Golden Throne" (MU GISZ.DUR2.GAR KU3.GI.GA.KAM) which he argued referred to year 8 of Ammisaduqa, a king of the first Babylonian dynasty.

With this identification one could now find a best fit for the ephemerides into an absolute chronology, thereby anchoring Amisaduqa's reign in time as well as a whole stretch of history preceding and proceding it.

Early in the 80's P. Huber examined 56 year period of recurring visibilities and dated Ammisaduqa's reign according to the Long chronology (Year 1 = 1702 BC).

applications_to_chronology.txt · Last modified: 2010/03/28 23:14 by ong
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