Writing Science before the Greeks

A Naturalistic Analysis of the Babylonian Astronomical Treatise MUL.APIN


The beginnings of written science have long been associated with classical Greece. Yet in ancient Mesopotamia, highly-sophisticated scientific works in cuneiform script were in active use while Greek civilization flourished in the West. The subject of this volume is the astronomical series MUL.APIN, which can be dated to the seventh century BCE and which represents the crowning achievement of traditional Mesopotamian observational astronomy. Writing Science before the Greeks explores this early text from the perspective of modern cognitive science in an effort to articulate the processes underlying its composition. The analysis suggests that writing itself, through the cumulative recording of observations, played a role in the evolution of scientific thought.

"All in all, the authors should be congratulated for this groundbreaking study. Apart from significant new insights into MUL.APIN it has opened up a new avenue for research on ancient scientific texts that is likely to yield further interesting results, particularly if the cognitive analysis is combined with other approaches."
Mathieu Ossendrijver, Humboldt University
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Biographical Note

Rita Watson holds the Abraham Schiffman Chair in Education at the Hebrew University and has published primarily on the relation of language and literacy to human cognitive development. Her most recent book is an edited collection on the Toronto School of Communication Theory.

Wayne Horowitz is Professor at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, and has published extensively in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Assyriology, and Mesopotamian astronomy. His books include Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography and a new volume on the Astrolabes.

Table of contents

Chapter 1 MUL.APIN
Chapter 2 Writing and Conceptual Change
Chapter 3 Terms of Analysis
Chapter 4 MUL.APIN Text and Analysis
Chapter 5 Summary of Results
Chapter 6 Discussion: MUL.APIN, Writing, and Science
Chapter 7 Further Thoughts: The Cognitive Functions of Writing in MUL.APIN
Chapter 8 A Final Word: From List to Axiom
Bibliographical References
Appendix I Complete translated text of MUL.APIN from Hunger & Pingree
Appendix II List of Babylonian Month-names, in Akkadian, with Hebrew equivalents and Modern equivalents
Appendix III Tablet and line correspondences with Hunger & Pingree


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