[AN-u2.gif] Non-Mathematical Astronomy



Ancient Near Eastern astronomy can generally be divided into two categories: Mathematical and Non-Mathematical. The latter represents the vast body of observations and omens amassed by the astronomers over the centuries.

The Mesopotamian astronomers were strict observers, and the records of their observations are remarkably thorough. When, for example, a significant star rose, the hour was noted, along with the color and brightness of the star (which is sometimes variable due to atmospheric conditions or certian properties of the star itself), what planets were in its vicinity, the condition of the skies and the direction of the wind at that moment.

The result of these efforts was an acute awareness of the periodicity of celestial motion. Catalogues including the heliacal rising and setting (that is, the rising and setting with the sun) times of stars, information on the motion of the planets and a host of other astronomical phenomena were compiled. These records, and the omens which were derived from them, make up the corpus of non-mathematical astronomical works, and comprise the foundation from which astrological predictions were made.


[MUL.APIN tablet] This is a portion of a tablet from MUL.APIN. It is one of only two tablets in the series that gives a date. This one is from 687 BC. The first few lines state that the Sun, Moon and planets all travel on the same path and change their positions. The rest gives an account of the motion of the planets, a description of the solstices and equinoxes, instructions for keeping the calendar, and a few omens (Hunger p. 70-109).
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[scorpion with moon and star] A Guide To Ancient Near Eastern Astronomy

Comments Are Very Welcome

Hope Anthony
August 1, 1995