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Keeping Watch in Babylon

The Astronomical Diaries in Context


Edited by Johannes Haubold, John Steele and Kathryn Stevens

This volume of collected essays, the first of its kind in any language, investigates the Astronomical Diaries from ancient Babylon, a collection of almost 1000 clay tablets which, over a period of some five hundred years (6th century to 1st century BCE), record observations of selected astronomical phenomena as well as the economy and history of Mesopotamia and surrounding regions. The volume asks who the scholars were, what motivated them to ‘keep watch in Babylon’ and how their approach changed in the course of the collection’s long history. Contributors come from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including Assyriology, Classics, ancient history, the history of science and the history of religion.

Rita Gautschy, Michael E. Habicht, Francesco M. Galassi, Daniela Rutica, Frank J. Rühli and Rainer Hannig

longer intercalation cycles such as the nineteen-year cycle. Observations of the lunar crescent around new moon as well as a prediction of the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius meet all necessary requirements. Calculations All beginnings of lunar months and the dates of the heliacal rising of

Rita Gautschy

prediction dates from 745 bce (Huber and De Meis, Babylonian Eclipse Observations , 76). 65 According to the calculations the lunar crescent would have been visible under perfect conditions only. 66 It can be excluded that the lunar crescent was observable on i Shemu 1 in 756 bce . 67 See Brunet

Tomasz Markiewicz

famous P. Vindob. D 10000 (= P. Rainer Cent. 3) with the Demotic text known as the “Prophecy of the Lamb.” 16 This text contains a prediction for Egypt pronounced by a divine lamb in the reign of king Bakenranef ( B ¡ k-n-rn=f : col. III, 6 and 12). Naturally, the connection between the above text and


John Z. Wee

easy to notice a certain logical priority of divination over remedy or apotropaism, the latter of which comes into play often in response to a negative prediction. As we will shortly learn, the Diagnostic Handbook was in fact created to reflect this logical order and its implications of epistemic

Geoffrey Winthrop-Young

Amenophis remembers the prediction, declines to fi ght the rebels, hides the divine images, and migrates with the sacred animals to Ethiopia. The lepers and the Hyksos rule Egypt for thirteen years in a way that lets the former Hyksos rule appear, in the memory of Egyptians, like a Golden Age. For now not

Peter J. Huber

heliacal rising of Sirius can be predicted very accurately by simple extrapolation from observations made over a few preceding years—by averaging over several observations, such a prediction is more accurate than any single observation itself. The Babylonians relied on a formula and usually did not even