Astronomy in Ancient Babylon 


We owe much to the early Sumerian & Babylonian astronomers. For it was these very ancient astronomers who were amongst the first to observe the heavens and recorded many of its movements. The earliest written records of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn have been passed down from the Babylonians and their predecessors. The Sumerians who had invented the cuneiform writing system sometime around 3,000 B.C.E., had named many of the constellations familiar to us today, like Leo, Taurus and Scorpius for example. From the earliest times, their writing system was used for business, administrative documents and fortunately for astronomers recording movements in the night sky. The Babylonians saw 28 ecliptic constellations in their sky and the stars that mark these constellations are listed below. These were later passed on and added to by later groups of people who further developed the myths relating to some of these constellations. (picture courtesy: Ikufumi Makino)

 

The Babylonians were located in a region that is now known as modern day Iraq. Their large temples that were called a 'ziggurat' brought them closer to their gods who they believed resided in the sky. These temples were in the form of a pyramidal tower that often consisted of a number of storeys. Below is a selection of star names marking Babylonian constellations. 

 
1) Kullat-Nunu (Eta Piscium)

2) Arku-Sha-Rishu-Ku (Alpha Arietis)
3) Mahru-Sha-Rishu-Ku (Beta Arietis)

4) Pidnu-Sha-Shame (Alpha Tauri)
5) Shur-Narkabti-Sha-Iltanu (Beta Tauri)
6) Temennu (Eta Tauri)
7) Shur-Narkabti-Sha-Shutu (Zeta Tauri)

8) Mash-Mashu-Mahru (Alpha Geminorum)
9) Mash-Mashu-Arku (Beta Geminorum)
10) Mash-Mashu-Sha-Risu (Gamma Geminorum)
11) Maru-Sha-Pu-U-Mash-Mashu (Eta Geminorum)
12) Arku-Sha-Pu-U-Mash-Mashu (Mu Geminorum)

13) Arku-Sha-Nangaru-Sha-Shutu (Delta Cancri)

14) Sharru (Alpha Leonis)
15) Zibbat-A (Beta Leonis)
16) Rishu-A (Epsilon Leonis)
17) Maru-Sha-Arkat-Sharru (Pi Leonis)

18) Sa-Sha-Shiru (Alpha Virginis)
19) Shepu-Arku-Sha-A (Beta Virginis)
20) Shur-Mahru-Shiru (Gamma Virginis)

21) Nuru-Sha-Shutu (Alpha Librae)
22) Nuru-Sha-Iltanu (Beta Librae)

23) Hurru (Alpha Scorpii)
24) Qablu-Sha-Rishu-Aqrabi (Delta Scorpii)

25) Kash-Shud-Sha-Ka-Tarpa (Omicron Ophiuchi)

26) Qarnu-Shahu (Alpha Capricorni)
27) Mahar-Sha-Hi-Na-Shahu (Gamma Capricorni)
28) Arkat-Sha-Hi-Na-Shahu (Delta Capricorni)


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Updated 14th December 2011