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INHALTSVERZEICHNIS  TABLE OF CONTENTS

Vorwort V

Preface IX

Einleitung  Introduction 1

| I
I EMPIRICISM IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST

BABYLONIAN METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS


AND THE EMPIRICAL BASIS OF ANCIENT SCIENCE
von Gerd Graßhoff 33

REMARKS ON THE EMPIRICAL FOUNDATION OF EARLY MESOPOTAMIAN


KNOWLEDGE ACQUISITION
von Gebhard J. Selz 49

A HAIR PERHAPS DIVIDES THE FALSE AND THE TRUE


von Petr Charvát 71

IN KLEINEN SCHRITTEN ZUR MESOPOTAMISCHEN KURZCHRONOLOGIE


DES 2. JTS. VOR CHR.
von Regine Pruzsinszky 83

GOAL-YEAR PERIODS AND THEIR USE IN PREDICTING PLANETARY PHENOMENA


von John M. Steele 101

14-MONTH INTERVALS OF LUNAR VELOCITY AND COLUMN Ф


IN BABYLONIAN ASTRONOMY: ATYPICAL TEXT C
von Lis Brack-Bernsen und John M. Steele 111

TABLETS, TIDES AND THE LEVEL OF EUPHRATES


von Salvo De Meis 131
Inhaltsverzeichnis

MATHEMATICS HIDDEN BEHIND THE PRACTICAL FORMULAE


OF BABYLONIAN GEOMETRY
von Kazuo Muroi 149

SPEZIALISIERUNG UND DIFFERENZIERUNG IM BEREICH


DER ALTORIENTALISCHEN MEDIZIN
von Jeanette C. Fincke 159

II |  
II THE EMPIRICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MESOPOTAMIAN SUBSISTENCE

IRRIGATION MANAGEMENT IN THE UR III PERIOD: A RECONSTRUCTION


BASED ON A CASE STUDY OF THE MAINTENANCE OF THE ÍD-NINA-ŠÈ-DU CANAL
OF THE PROVINCE LAGAŠ
von Stephanie Rost 211

THE SIZE OF THE CULTIVATED AREA OF THE MESOPOTAMIAN ALLUVIUM


AS AN HISTORICAL AND POLITICO-EMPIRICAL PROBLEM
von Daniel T. Potts 271

BABYLONIAN LAND SURVEY IN SOCIO-POLITICAL CONTEXT


von Heather D. Baker 293

BUNTE KÜHE? ZU DEN FRÜHESTEN FARBBEZEICHNUNGEN IM ALTEN ORIENT


von Rosel Pientka-Hinz 325

ZUR REKONSTRUKTION VON SPEISEN IN SUMER


ANHAND ADMINISTRATIVER URKUNDEN
von Hagan Brunke 375

III THE ORGANISATION AND PERCEPTION OF SPACE

ZUR FUNKTION MESOPOTAMISCHER TEMPEL


von Dominique Charpin 403
Table of Contents

WILLIAM KENNETT LOFTUS AND THE BEGINNINGS


OF “SCIENTIFIC” ARCHAEOLOGY IN IRAQ
von Craig Crossen 423

ASPEKTIVE UND PERSPEKTIVE IM NEUASSYRISCHEN FLACHBILD


von Jürgen Borchardt und Erika Bleibtreu 477

MESOPOTAMISCHE BAUZEICHNUNGEN
von Ariel M. Bagg 543 | III

IV TRANSMITTING EMPIRICAL KNOWLEDGE

SCHULE VOR DER SCHRIFT


von Hans J. Nissen 589

EMPIRICAL SCHOLARSHIP IN THE NEO-ASSYRIAN COURT


von Eleanor Robson 603

EXZELLENTE NETZWERKE: DIE ASTRONOMEN VON URUK


von Mathieu Ossendrijver 631

A SCRIBAL FAMILY AND ITS ORTHOGRAPHIC PECULIARITIES.


ON THE SCIENTIFIC WORK OF A ROYAL SCRIBE AND HIS SONS
von Klaus Wagensonner 645

DAS SUMERISCHE NUMERALIASYSTEM –


VERSUCH EINER TYPOLOGISCHEN EINORDNUNG
von Thomas E. Balke 703

Indices
A Sachregister  General Index 733
B Eigennamen  Proper Nouns 749
C Zitierte Texte  Texts Cited 755
D Wörter  Words 763
GOAL-YEAR PERIODS AND THEIR USE IN PREDICTING
PLANETARY PHENOMENA

J.M. STEELE (Brown University, Providence)

The recent publication of the Goal-Year Texts by Hermann Hunger as volume VI


of the Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia series has drawn
attention to an aspect of Late Babylonian astronomy that has been largely ne-
glected by recent scholars: the prediction of planetary phenomena through the | 101
identification of periodic repetitions of observed events. The development of this
technique for predicting planetary phenomena probably antedates the so-called
ACT methods of mathematical astronomy (Neugebauer 1955), but continued to
be used alongside the ACT methods until the end of Babylonian astronomy.
Furthermore, unlike the ACT methods, which are directed towards the calcula-
tion of the date and longitude of the synodic phenomena of a planet (e.g., first
and last visibilities), the application of Goal-Year periods to observed records
also allowed conjunctions of the planets with stars to be predicted.
Two types of planetary phenomena are reported in Late Babylonian astro-
nomical texts: synodic phenomena (also known as ‘Greek Letter Phenomena’ –
see Neugebauer (1955: 280)), which depend upon the spatial relationship be-
tween the planet and the sun as seen from the earth, and sidereal phenomena,
which depend upon the position of the planet within the fixed stars. For Mars,
Jupiter and Saturn the synodic phenomena are: first visibility, first station,
acronychal rising, second station, and last visibility. Mercury and Venus are
visible as both morning and evening stars and so their synodic phenomena are:
first visibility in the east, first station, last visibility in the east, first visibility in
the west, second station, and last visibility in the west. For all of the planets, the
sidereal phenomena reported in Late Babylonian astronomical texts are conjunc-
tions of the planets with a group of fairly bright stars near the ecliptic known
today as ‘Normal Stars’.
The prediction of planetary phenomena using periods is based upon the
assumption that after a certain number of years, a particular phenomenon will
occur again on about the same day in the Babylonian calendar. For example,
roughly every thirteen months Jupiter will be seen in the night sky shortly
before dawn for the first time. After 71 years, however, Jupiter will make this
first appearance on very nearly the same day in the Babylonian calendar. In
other words, if Jupiter makes its first appearance on the 10th of Month IV of a
J.M. Steele

certain year, then 71 years later Jupiter will again make its first appearance on
about the 10th of Month IV. The same principal applies to the other planets with
different numbers of years.
Already in the oldest Astronomical Diary and in some of the letters and
reports sent by scholars to the Neo-Assyrian kings we find evidence for the pre-
diction of planetary phenomena. For example, in Diary No. –651 col. I 6–8 we
read:

The 14th, ..., Mercury’s last appearance in the east behind Pisces, and Saturn’s last
102 |   appearance behind Pisces; I did not watch because the days were overcast. (Sachs and
Hunger 1988: 43)

In this example it is not certain whether the last appearances of Mercury and
Saturn were predicted using periods or simply estimated as being on one of the
overcast nights between the last evening on which the observer had been able to
see the planets and the next clear night when they were no longer visible.
However, some of the Neo-Assyrian letters and reports appear to indicate that
periods were sometimes used to predict future planetary phenomena at this date
(Brown 2000: 197–198).
Clear evidence for the use of periods to predict planetary phenomena is found
in the famous text Strassmaier Camb. 400 (Hunger 2000: no. 55, Kugler 1907:
61–74), which contains lunar and planetary data for year 7 of Cambyses (523–
522 B.C.) and some planetary data for the following years 8 and 9. Britton
(2008) has shown that much of the planetary data recorded on the tablet agrees
significantly better with modern computation on dates 71 years earlier for
Jupiter, 56 or 8 years earlier for Venus, 59 years earlier for Saturn, 32 or 47
years earlier for Mars and 6 years earlier for Mercury than on the dates recorded
on the tablet. Furthermore, several calendrical irregularities (the placing of
intercalary months in years that contradict other sources and a ninth year for
Cambyses who is known to have died in his eighth year) disappear if it is as-
sumed that some of the planetary data was copied across from earlier observa-
tions.
Evidence of Babylonian interest in understanding planetary periods is found
in two compilations of planetary observations dating from the end of the sixth
century B.C. to the beginning of the fourth century B.C. BM 36823 (Hunger
2000: no. 54) originally contained Jupiter phenomena arranged in 12-year
cycles for at least 536–535 B.C. to 498–497 B.C. BM 45674, BM 32299 and BM
42083 (Hunger 2000: no. 56) are disconnected fragments of a tablet that
originally contained Venus phenomena arranged in 8-year cycles for at least
Goal-Year Periods and their Use in Predicting Planetary Phenomena

463–462 B.C. to 393–392 B.C. Both tablets are ruled into a strict grid with each
cell of the resulting table containing one year’s worth of planetary phenomena.
Sometimes the cells are filled with writing, other times only a small amount of
the available space is filled with writing, depending upon how many observa-
tions were made that year. Going down the columns of the table, each cell
concerns successive years. Going along the rows, entries are separated by 12
years on the Jupiter text and 8 years on the Venus text. 12 years is a rough
period for Jupiter and 8 years a very good period for Venus. By arranging the
observations in this manner, similarities in observations separated by these | 103
periods can easily be seen. The same approach to formatting observational data
is found in several lunar texts arranged in 18-year cycles.
To illustrate what can be seen by arranging planetary data in cycles, I repro-
duce below part of BM 36823 containing Jupiter data arranged in 12-year cycles
(Hunger 2000: 158–165). I have abbreviated the indication of the length of the
month to “30” and “1” to save space.

[Year 7…] first appearance Year 19. Month III, 1; the Year 31. Month II, 1; the
[…] in front of the Chariot. 6th, first appearance behind 25th, first appearance in the
[…] Month V, 1. the 27th the Chariot. Month IV, 30. Chariot […] Month III, 30.
[…] η Geminorum. […] Month V, 1. Month VI, 30. Month IV, 1. Month V, 30.
Month XI, 1; [the xth] it Month VI2, 30; the 10th, it Month VI, 1; the 28th it
moved back to the east. became stationary behind  became stationary in
Month XII, 30. Geminorum; the xth, it Gemini; it moved back to
moved back to the west. the west. Month VII, 1.
Month VII, 30. Month VIII, Month VIII, 1. Month IX,
30; the 9th, acronychal 30. Month X, 1. Month XI,
rising. [Month IX, x]. Month 30. Month XII, 1.
X, 30; the 12th or the 13th, it
became stationary … the
Chariot … Month XI, 1.
Month XII, 1.

Year 8, Month I [… Mon]th Year 20. Month […] 1; the Year 32. Month I, 1. Month
II, 30. Month III, 30; the 4th 21st […] clouds, I did not II, 30. Month III, 30; on the
last appearance in Gemini. watch. Month III, 1; the 20th 10th or 11th, last appearance
Month IV, 1; the 3rd, first […] first appearance […]  6 cubits behind Gemini.
appearance 5° in front of Geminorum; it was bright. Month IV, 1; the 9th, [first
Cancer. Month V, 30 Month Month IV, 30. Month V, 1; appearance] 5° in front of
VI, 30. Month VII, 1. the 27th it entered Praesepe. […]
Month VIII, 30; the 7th, it Month VI, 1. Month VII, 30.
became stationary in […]
J.M. Steele

Inspecting the upper row of the table, we can easily trace the observations of the
phenomena of Jupiter at 12-year intervals. Beginning in year 7, on a date that is
broken away, Jupiter made its first appearance in front of the constellation of
the Chariot. Twelve years later, in year 19, Jupiter made its first appearance on
the 6th of Month III, and was again near the Chariot. After another twelve years,
Jupiter’s first appearance was on the 25th of Month II, this time in the Chariot.
This suggests that after twelve years, first visibilities of Jupiter occur about 10
days earlier in the year, and at about the same place in the zodiac. The same can
104 |   be seen when we look at the observations of Jupiter’s first station. In year 19,
the station took place on the 10th of Month VI2 behind the star  Geminorum,
and twelve years later the station took place on the 28th of Month VI, when
Jupiter was within the constellation of Gemini. Once more, the phenomena of
Jupiter takes place about 10 days earlier in the year and at about the same place
in the zodiac after the twelve year period. Similar correspondences can be found
in the lower row of the table.
Compilation tablets such as the example just discussed for Jupiter and the
Venus tablet mentioned above provided the Babylonian astronomers with clear
evidence of the utility of planetary periods for predicting future occurrences of
phenomena. However, they also showed that periods such as the 12-year period
for Jupiter and the 8-year period for Venus were not exact. A small, but fairly
constant, discrepancy in the date of the phenomena and its position could be
identified from the observations. Thus in order to use these periods to predict
future planetary phenomena, it was necessary to correct the date by a number of
days. Tablets such as these allowed the appropriate correction to be estimated
fairly easily, just by comparing the observed dates of phenomena separated by
the particular planetary period. It is interesting to note that both of the
preserved tablets arranged using planetary periods record the length of every
month, something that is not generally recorded in other texts containing
planetary data. Knowledge of the number of 29- and 30-day months would have
been useful in estimating the number of days correction that must be made to
the period.
Several texts are known that contain details of the planetary periods and the
corrections in days, and sometimes also in degrees along the zodiac, that are to
be applied when using the periods to predict future phenomena. The most
important examples of these are detailed in Table 1. Also noted in Table 1 are
the periods that are used in the Goal-Year Texts (see below). It is clear that the
periods chosen to be used in the Goal-Year Texts are generally those that
required the smallest corrections in either date or position in the zodiac.
Goal-Year Periods and their Use in Predicting Planetary Phenomena

Jupiter Venus Mercury Saturn Mars

Goal Year 71 years (GL) 8 years 46 years 59 years 79 years (GL)


Texts 83 years (NS) 47 years (NS)
Atyp. Text E 12 yr – […] 8 yr – 4 days 13 yr – 3 days 59 yr – 6 days 32 yr – 5 days
12 yr – 1 mon 16 yr – 2 days 46 yr – 1 day 30 yr + 9 days 47 yr +4 days
12 yr + 5° 48 yr + 2 days 125 yr 30 yr + 7:20° 64 yr + 4 days
71 yr 64 yr + 1 day 147 yr 126 yr
83 yr – 7 days 64 yr + 2 days
8 yr – 4°
16 yr – 2°
LBAT 1515 71 yr – 5° 8 yr – 4 days 46 yr exact 59 yr – 5 day | 105
83 yr – 7 days
12 yr + 6°
BM 45728 8 yr – 4 days 6 yr + 10 days 59 yr exact 47 yr + 12
day
TU 11 72 yr 64 yr 13 yr 59 yr 79 yr
16 yr 47 yr

Table 1. Planetary periods described in selected procedure texts. Entries in bold


correspond to the Goal-Year periods. GL indicates Greek Letter (i.e., synodic) phe-
nomena; NS indicates conjunctions with Normal Stars.

The corrections are broadly in line with what we find from modern
computations of planetary data (Gray and Steele 2008). For example, according
to modern computations, after 59 Babylonian calendar years synodic phenomena
of Saturn should take place about 6 days back in the Babylonian calendar. The
correction given in LBAT 1515 is –5 days and that in Atypical Text E is –6 days.
After 46 Babylonian calendar years Mercury phenomena should take place about
1 day earlier. A 1-day correction is specified in Atypical Text E. In LBAT 1515,
the 46-year period is said to be exact. It is interesting to note the frequent small
discrepancies as to the size of the corrections that should be applied to the Goal-
Year periods that are specified in the different texts. Although there is some
distribution in the dates of the texts – BM 45728 may date to the seventh century
BC (Britton 2002: 61), Atpyical Text E can be dated to about 320 BC through the
name of the scribe given in its colophon (Neugebauer and Sachs 1967: 206), and
LBAT 1515 is probably a late text (C. B. F. Walker, personal communication) – I
do not believe that the values given in later texts represent intended
improvements over earlier values, but rather illustrate the plurality of astronomy
in Babylonia, in much the same way as the co-existence of different versions of
the ACT schemes for each planet.
The utility of the method of predicting planetary phenomena using periodic
repetitions was exploited in a group of astronomical texts called ‘First days,
J.M. Steele

appearances, passings and eclipses which are established for year x’, generally
known to modern scholars as ‘Goal-Year Texts’ (Hunger 2006: ix). Goal-Year
Texts contain collections of planetary and lunar phenomena to be used in
making predictions of the same kind of phenomena for a coming ‘Goal Year’.
The texts are divided into several sections: (i) Jupiter’s synodic phenomena
taken from 71 years before the Goal Year, (ii) Jupiter’s passages by Normal Stars
taken from 83 years before the Goal Year, (iii) Venus’s synodic phenomena and
passages by Normal Stars for 8 years before the Goal Year, (iv) Mercury’s
106 |   synodic phenomena and passages by Normal Stars for 46 years before the Goal
Year, (v) Saturn’s synodic phenomena and passages by Normal Stars for 59 years
before the Goal Year, (vi) Mars’s synodic phenomena for 79 years before the
Goal Year, (vii) Mars’s passages by Normal Stars for 47 years before the Goal
Year, (viii-x) lunar data for 18 and 19 years before the Goal Year. Sections are
normally separated by horizontal rulings and the lunar data is subdivided into
three columns separated by vertical rulings.
The principal underlying the Goal-Year Texts is that by copying out
observational material (presumably taken from the Astronomical Diaries) for one
Goal-Year period earlier than the year for which the predictions are intended,
the phenomena recorded will correspond to the phenomena that can be expected
in the coming year. The periods chosen for each planet were those that give the
most exact repetition of phenomena on dates in the Babylonian calendar, whilst
still being short enough to ensure that records of observations from the earlier
years were readily available. Two separate periods were used for each of Jupiter
and Mars to allow more precise predictions of synodic phenomena and passages
of the planet by Normal Stars.
The predictions resulting from the Goal-Year Texts are almost certainly found
in the Almanacs and Normal Star Almanacs. These texts contain predictions of
astronomical phenomena for a coming year, arranged month-by-month.
Common to both Almanacs and Normal Star Almanacs are predictions of the
synodic phenomena of the planets, the length of the month, solar and lunar
eclipses, and the dates of solstices, equinoxes and Sirius phenomena. In addition,
the Normal Star Almanacs contain predicted passages of the planets by the
Normal Stars and the set of time intervals known as the lunar six, whereas the
Almanacs contain instead the dates when the planets pass from one sign of the
zodiac to the next and the dates of the so-called lunar three. The Goal-Year Texts
contain the requisite material to predict all of the data in the Normal Star
Almanacs except for the dates of solstices, equinoxes and Sirius phenomena
(Sachs 1948). However, this latter data is all given by a simple scheme known
Goal-Year Periods and their Use in Predicting Planetary Phenomena

today as the ‘Uruk Scheme’ (Neugebauer 1948, Sachs 1952). The dates of
entrances by planets in zodiacal signs found in the Almanacs were derived from
the dates of passages by certain Normal Star (Huber 1958). Thus everything in
the Almanacs and Normal Star Almanacs could be predicted using the Goal-Year
Texts or the Uruk scheme.
Comparison of planetary data in Almanacs and Normal Star Almanacs which
are preserved for years where the Goal-Year Text for that Goal Year is also
preserved indicates that the predicted data in these two types of text were
indeed based upon the material in the Goal-Year Texts (Hunger 1999, Gray and | 107
Steele 2008). I give below some examples of comparisons between a Normal Star
Almanac (Sachs 1955: no. 1008) and a Goal-Year Text (Hunger 2006: no. 10) for
SE 96:

GYT: SE 49, Month I, night of the 25th, first part of the night,
Mars 14 fingers above α Leonis
NSA: SE 96, Month II, night of the 11th, first part of the night,
Mars 14 fingers above α Leonis

GYT: SE 50, Month II, the 13th, Mercury’s last appearance


in the evening in the beginning of Gemini
NSA: SE 96, Month II, the 13th, Mercury’s last appearance
in the evening in Gemini.

GYT: SE 88, Month III, the 3rd, Venus’s last appearance in the evening in Gemini
NSA: SE 96, Month II, the 29th, Venus’s last appearance in the evening in Gemini

As we would expect, the dates of the predicted phenomena are not exactly the
same as those of the observations recorded in the Goal-Year Texts but have been
corrected by a number of days forward or backward. By and large the
corrections applied are in rough accord with both astronomical reality and with
the corrections given in procedure texts (see Table 1), although there is a
considerable variation in the corrections applied for certain planets.
Because the Babylonian calendar inserts intercalary months roughly every
three years, a further correction of one month to the date of predicted
phenomena was required in certain years. Table 2 illustrates this issue. It shows
the number of months between a given month an observation year and the same
month in a Goal Year 8 years later (the Goal-Year period for Venus), for each
year of a 19-year intercalation cycle beginning in SE 1. Since at least the middle
of the fifth century BC continuing throughout the whole of the Seleucid period
the placement of intercalary months was strictly governed by a 19-year cycle
J.M. Steele

(Parker and Dubberstein 1956, Britton 2007); thus the pattern in Table 2 repeats
every 19 years. For Venus we see that the number of months in most cases is 99.
However, where the observation date is in months VI2 to XII of year SE 18 or
Goal date is in months 1 to VI of year SE 18 (implying the observation is in year
SE 8), the number of months is only 98. Thus, in these two circumstances, a one-
month correction to the predicted date is required, and so an observed Venus
phenomena in Month III of year SE 18 would result in a predicted Venus
phenomena in Month IV of year SE 26. Similar tables can be constructed for the
108 |   different planets, each with a different pattern of years in which corrections are
necessary (Gray and Steele, in preparation). Comparison of Goal-Year Texts with
Almanacs and Normal Star Almanacs indicates that these corrections were
indeed made when required.

Observation Year Goal Year Months Correction Required?

1* 9* 99
2 10 99
3 11 99
4* 12* 99
5 13 99
6 14 99
7* 15* 99
8 16 99
9* 17 99
10 18** I-VI 98 C
10 18** VI2-XII 99
11 19 99
12* 20* 99
13 21 99
14 22 99
15* 23* 99
16 24 99
17 25 99
18** I-VI 26* 99
18** VI2-XII 26* 98 C
19 27 99

Table 2. The number of months between a date in an observation year and the same
date in a Goal Year 8 years later for Venus. * after a year number indicates that the
year contains an intercalary month XII. ** after a year number indicates that the year
contains an intercalary month VI.
Goal-Year Periods and their Use in Predicting Planetary Phenomena

An interesting situation surrounds the one-month correction for the prediction of


lunar phenomena. For the lunar period of 18 years, a correction is needed on
those occasions where the Goal Year contains an intercalary month. In some
Goal-Year Texts for years where this correction would be necessary, the lunar six
data was re-labelled one month later than it was observed (Brack-Bernsen 1999).
For example, an observed lunar six measurement in Month III would be recorded
as being in Month IV. Lunar six data would be recorded for a Month XII2, when
that particular year did not contain an intercalary month (Kugler 1909–24: 459–
460). In other words, the one-month correction was in these cases made when | 109
the lunar data was compiled and copied onto the Goal-Year Text, rather than
when the predictions were made. It appears that this practice only took place in
Goal-Year Texts for SE 107 and earlier. In later Goal-Year Texts the lunar six
data are always recorded without any re-labelling, and the correction would
have to be made when making the predictions of the coming lunar six.
Interestingly, this practice is restricted to the lunar data. Nothing equivalent
occurs with the recording of planetary data on the Goal-Year Texts.
The Goal-Year Texts represent a remarkably simple yet powerful aspect of
Babylonian astronomy. They reduced the prediction of planetary phenomena to
little more than record-keeping, something well within the scope of any scribe.
At the same time, the results of Babylonian Goal-Year astronomy were
surprisingly accurate, producing predictions of visibility phenomena that were
frequently as good as those that were predicted using the more complicated
methods of mathematical astronomy.

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