The earliest account of the Mesopotamian constellations (from which the majority of the Greek constellations derived) is a much-copied clay tablet called MUL.APIN. This tablet is a compilation of lists including heliacal rise dates, rise/set pairs, and meridian/rise pairs. The earliest dated example is from 687 BC for a cuneiform tablet found in Assyria. The date for the original astronomical observations has been claimed to be anytime from 2300 BC to soon before 687 BC, although the mainstream view is that the observations are from 1300-1000 BC. These dates are based on analysis of just a few of the observations reported in MUL.APIN. To obtain the best possible date (and latitude), I have itemized 190 observations from MUL.APIN and used a chi-square analysis which returns the best epoch and latitude along with quantified error bars. This analysis is similar to my previously reported work on the astronomical lore of Eudoxus for which I found that the original observations date to 1130+-80 BC and a latitude of 36.0+-0.9 degrees. My analysis of MUL.APIN puts the epoch for the observations at 1370+-100 BC with a latitude of 35.1+-1.2 degrees. This time and place is that of the height of the then-dominant culture of Assyria, and it also corresponds to the first expression of most of the constellations in the archaeological record. This time and place is also the same (within error bars) of the origin of Eudoxus' lore, which happens to have substantial overlaps with MUL.APIN in content. As such, it appears that some original Assyrian observer(s) created a set of observations which were passed down through the centuries by multiple paths, with one path going to the Mesopotamian tradition (through MUL.APIN) and another path going to the Greek tradition (through Eudoxus then Aratus and Hipparchus).
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #210
- Pub Date:
- May 2007