Astrolabes, the Star Calendars of Ancient Mesopotamia

Kurtik Gennady E.

The article deals with the so-called ‘Astrolabes’ – stellar calendars, which were widespread in ancient Mesopotamia from the late 2nd millennium to the late 1st millennium BC. The Astrolabes used the division of the sky into three ‘paths’ (the stars of Enlil, Anu and Ea) and were based on annual observations of heliacal risings of stars. The article provides a detailed insight into their history on the basis of cuneiform sources and systematically analyzes the main types of the Astrolabes, circular and rectangular (in the form of lists). In particular, the structure and content of the earliest and most extensive Astrolabe B dated to the 12th century BC is studied in detail. The texts reflecting the content of the four sections of this Astrolabe, namely the menology, the star catalogue 12 × 3, the list of stars 3 × 12, and the other star lists are discussed as well. We also provide a comparative study of the star lists in Astrolabe B and look into the purpose of Astrolabes.

Keywords: ancient Mesopotamian astronomy, stellar calendars, Astrolabes

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