In the sky-map of ancient Babylon, constellations had two different roles, and thus developed into two overlapping traditions. One set of constellations represented the gods and their symbols; the other set represented rustic activities and provided a farming calendar. Many constellations were shared by the two traditions, but in some regions of sky there were alternative divine and rustic figures. These figures developed in stages from ~3200 BC to ~500 BC. Of the divine set, the most important (although the last to be finalised) were the twelve zodiacal signs, plus several associated animals (the serpent, crow, eagle, and fish), which were all transmitted to the classical Greek sky-map that we still use today. Conversely, the rustic constellations of workers and tools and animals were not transmitted to the West. However, a few of them may have survived in Bedouin Arab sky-maps of the first millennium AD.
Journal of the British Astronomical Association
- Pub Date:
- February 1998