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Astral sciences

The following aspects of ancient Mesopotamian astronomy are treated in the articles on astral sciences:

- Introduction to Babylonian Astronomy

- Omens from celestial phenomena

- Theoretical texts, schematic

- Observations

- Procedure texts, mathematical

- Table texts

- “Astrology”
From a modern point of view, it can be disputed whether celestial omens should be included among sources of Babylonian astronomy. For the Ancients the modern difference between astronomy and astrology certainly did not exist, as can be seen, e. g., from the inclusion of lunar tables in Tablet XIV of the omen collection Enūma Anu Enlil (see the article on Schematic astronomy).

Text types

Among the texts on astral science, the following types be can distinguished. The table below lists these types, provides their ancient name if any, indicates an approximate dating and a rough estimation of the number of tablets known to date. These text types are presented in detail in the articles on astral sciences.

Text type Period of attestation Ancient name (if known) Number (approx.)
Omens 2nd mill. BC – 2nd c. BC
Letters and reports 8th – 7th c. BC egirtu, u’iltu 650
Theoretical texts 14th – 2nd c. BC
Diaries 7th – 1st c. BC naāru ša ginê “regular watching” 1500
Goal-year texts 3rd – 1st c. BC U4-1-KAM IGImeš DIB-qameš u AN-KU10meš šá ana MU-x-KAM kunnū
„first days, appearances, passings, and eclipses which were established for year x“
Almanacs 3rd c. BC – 1st c. AD meši “predictions”(?) 250
Eclipse records 8th c. BC– 1st c. AD 40
Procedure texts 4th – 1st c. BC 100
Table texts (math.) 5th – 1st c. BC tersītu 300
“Astrology” 5th – 1st c. BC 70


Web Sites

Editions of texts

  • Horowitz, Wayne. 2014. The Three Stars Each, The Astrolabes and Related Texts. Wien: Institut für Orientalistik.
  • Hunger, Hermann and David Pingree. 1989. MUL.APIN, An Astronomical Compendium in Cuneiform. Horn: Berger.
  • Neugebauer, Otto. 1955. Astronomical Cuneiform Texts. London: Lund Humphries.
  • Ossendrijver, Mathieu. 2012. Babylonian Mathematical Astronomy: Procedure Texts. New York: Springer.
  • Sachs, Abraham J. and Hermann Hunger. 1988, 1989, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2014. Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia. Vols. I-III, V-VII. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.


  • De Jong, Teije. 2016. "Babylonian Astronomy 1880-1950: The Players and the Field" in: Alexander Jones, Christine Proust, and John Steele (eds.), A Mathematician's Journeys: Otto Neugebauer and Modern Transformations of Ancient Science. New York: Springer.

General books

  • Brown, David. 2000. Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology. Groningen: Styx.
  • Hunger, Hermann and David Pingree. 1999. Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia. Leiden: Brill.
  • Neugebauer, Otto. 1969. The Exact Sciences in Antiquity. 2nd edition, New York: Springer.
  • Neugebauer, Otto. 1975. A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy. Berlin, New York: Springer.
  • Rochberg, Francesca. 2004. The Heavenly Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Steele, John M. 2008. A Brief Introduction to Astronomy in the Middle East. London – San Francisco – Beirut: Saqi.

Other Books and Articles

  • Brack-Bernsen, Lis. 1997. Zur Entstehung der babylonischen Mondtheorie. Stuttgart.
  • Britton, John P. 1989. "An early function for eclipse magnitudes in Babylonian astronomy" Centaurus 32:1-52.
  • Epping, Joseph, with Johann N. Strassmaier. 1889. Astronomisches aus Babylon. Freiburg i. B.: Herder.
  • Fadhil, Abdulillah and Markus Hilgert. 2007. „Zur Identifikation des lexikalischen Kompendiums 2R 50 + (K 2035a + K 4337)“ Revue d’Assyriologie 101:95-105.
  • Gray, Jennifer M. K. and John M. Steele, “Studies on Babylonian Goal-Year Astronomy I” Archive for History of Exact Sciences 62:553-600.
  • Huber, Peter J. and Salvo De Meis. 2004. Babylonian Eclipse Observations from 750 BC to 1 BC. Milano: Mimesis.
  • Koch, Johannes. 1989. Neue Untersuchungen zur Topographie des babylonischen Fixsternhimmels. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Kugler, Franz X. 1900. Die babylonische Mondrechnung. Freiburg i. B.: Herder.
  • Kugler, Franz X. 1907-24. Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel. Münster: Aschendorff.
  • Pingree, David and Christopher Walker. 1988. “A Babylonian Star-Catalogue: BM 78161”. In: Leichty, E., Ellis, M. deJ., and Gerardi, P. (eds.). A Scientific Humanist, Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs, p. 313-322. Philadelphia: The University Museum.
  • Reiner, Erica. 1995. Astral Magic in Babylonia. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  • Reiner, Erica and Miguel Civil, MSL XI. 1974.The series ḪAR-ra = ubullu. Tablets XX-XXIV. Rom: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum.
  • Rochberg, Francesca. 1998. Babylonian Horoscopes. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  • Smith, Sidney. 1969. “Babylonian Time Reckoning”. Iraq 31:74-81.
  • Steele, John M. 2000. Observations and Predictions of Eclipse Times by Early Astronomers. Dordrecht.
  • Steele, John M. 2007. "Celestial Measurement in Babylonian Astronomy" Annals of Science 64:293-325.
  • Steele, John M. 2011. “Astronomy and Culture in Late Babylonian Uruk” in: Ruggles, Clive (ed.), “Oxford IX” International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy, 331-341. Cambridge.
  • Swerdlow, Noel M. 1998. The Babylonian Theory of the Planets. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Von Weiher, Egbert. 1988. Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk, Teil III. Berlin: Gebr. Mann.
  • Weidner, Ernst. 1927. „Eine Beschreibung des Sternenhimmels aus Assur“. Archiv für Orientforschung 4:73-85.
  • Weidner, Ernst. 1967. Gestirn-Darstellungen auf babylonischen Tontafeln. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
babylonian_astronomy.txt · Last modified: 2016/05/25 21:51 by gombert
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