Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

12507Re: [ANE-2] VAT4956 line 18 correction?

Expand Messages
  • Gracie Callier
    May 25 9:57 PM
      Dear colleagues,

      Hermann Hunger noted below regarding corrections:

      "If I happen to read another scholar's transliteration and come to the conclusion that there are errors in it that are important enough to be corrected, I publish the corrections in an appropriate medium, e.g. on ANE-2 or in a journal. I do not insinuate that a colleague is "misleading their readers", but rather say what I think is the correct reading, interpretation etc."

      This is a very good news and reflects the inevitable refinements and corrections we make as closer looks and better resources are available, such as electronic astronomical programs that afford easy and more accurate comparisons of the ancient skies.  However, there was clearly an error made by Sachs/Hunger in their translation/interpretation of a blank found in Line 18 of the VAT4956.  The context of this Line 18 is the 15th of Sivan, the same date as an eclipse.  Sachs/Hunger render that line as follows with the presumed missing text noted in brackets:

      LINE 18:  "[the moon was be]low the bright star at the end of the [Lion's foot]"

      The part of the text that was broken off does not give the planet or moon that would have been in this position around the 15th.  Of note, two previous lines in this text give the lunar position in both Libra and Scorpio:

      Line 15 notes "Night of the 8th, first part of the night. The moon stood 2.5 cubits below beta-Librae".

      Line 16 notes "Night of the 10th, first part of the night. The moon was balanced 3.5 cubits above Scorpii"

      Line 17 introduces an eclipse on the 15th of Sivan then continues with a planet that is "below" the "bright star at the end of the Lion's Foot" in Line 18.   But the actual planet is not noted, that part of the text being missing; only that on this date it was "sap" (immediately BELOW) the "bright star at the end of the Lion's Foot" (BSELF)(MUL KUR sa TIL GIR UR-A).  But here Sachs/Hunger inserted the "Moon" as being in this position on this date without noting any "error."  This is incorrect for 2 reasons:

      1.  As noted in Line 14, when the moon was actually in Virgo on the 5th, it was actually ABOVE the BSELF.  Sachs/Hunger assign the BSELF to eta-Virginis.

      Line 14: "Night of the 5th, beginning of the night.  The moon passed towards the east 1 cubit (above:below) the bright star of the end of the Lion's foot." 

      If you check an astronomy program for this date, you'll see that the moon is about 1 cubit past eta-Virginis but also above it.  Thus during this month, the moon passed by ABOVE both beta-Virginis and eta-Virginis, two bright stars that follow each other in Virgo.  So even on the 5th while the moon was actually in Virgo, it never would have been "sap" or "below" the BSELF which Sachs/Hunger have assigned to eta-Virginis, noting no mismatch for Line 14.

      See some of the astronomy graphics here for the VAT4956:

      So that is problem #1 here.  The moon specifically was never "below" eta-Virginis or beta-Virginis as the text describes.  That is clue #1 this could not be a reference to the moon.

      2.  The second problem, of course, is that the moon had long left out of Virgo by the 15th.  Even on the 5th it was 1 cubit past eta-Virginis (BSELF) and already in Libra on the 8th and Scropio on the 10th.  It is now the 15th! The moon was now in Capricorn.  Sachs/Hunger would have known the moon was in Capricorn on this date had they observed the location of the eclipse event this date from Line 17.

      So how is it that Sachs/Hunger thought this was a reference to the moon on the 15th of this month and that it was BELOW instead of above eta-Virginis? 

      Further, in Line 3, when the moon was noted to be out of position in regards to being 1 cubit in front of the "Rear Foot of the Lion" (GIR ar sa UR-A) which Sachs/Hunger assign to beta-Virginis, they note "an error for the 8th" when the text gives that lunar position for the 9th. Therefore, one wonders, even if they thought the moon had regressed by 10 days back into Virgo why there was no note this was a 10-day "error"?  Not to mention the incorrect position noted as being below rather than above eta-Virginis? Without a note of any "error" the presumption is that this is the astronomically correct position for the moon for this date and that the missing text is correct for the moon; which, of course, it is not.

      Having noted this, though, there is still the issue as to whether this is a spurious reference or not for the 15th.  That is, if the moon clearly is the incorrect choice here, then is this a legitimate position for some other planet?  Well, if you look up the 15th of Sivan for 568 BCE, you will note that the planet Venus is immediately *below* ("sap"=immediately below) beta-Virginis on the 15th.  Thus Venus is clearly in reference here and the obvious match. 

      So the questions for Sachs/Hunger are:

      1.  How could they have missed such an obvious application of the Planet Venus here for Line 18?

      2.  If they truly believed that the BSELF (MUL KUR sa TIL GIR UR-A) indeed was eta-Virginis and not beta-Virginis, then why not note an error for the planet Venus for the 15th by a few days as they noted in Line 3 for the moon?  That is, if Venus didn't work out for eta-Virginis only a few days in error, then why presume the moon here, which was some 10 days in error?  And again, why not note of an error for either Venus or the Moon here.  As noted, making no note of an error would mislead readers into thinking the moon was correctly positioned here, in case they didn't notice the impossibility of the moon being here either on this date or "below" eta-Virginis (or beta-Virginis).

      3. And finally, having noted this error, in what scholarly journal or discussion board post did Sachs/Hunger ever officially correct this error? Reference please.


      The actual correction would involve three lines.  Lines 3, 14 and 18.  That's because if Line 18 is correct in identifying Venus being immediately below ("sap") the "bright star at the end of the Lion's Foot" then Line 18 confirms that the BSELF is none other than beta-Virginis and not eta-Virgins as Sachs/Hunger assign (note Line 14 position for the BSELF is eta-Virgins).   So correction #1 would be assigning Venus to the blank in Line 18.

      Correction #2 would be assigning the BSELF not to eta-Virginis but to beta-Virginis.  The BSELF occurs in Lines 14 and 18.  Therefore Line 14 needs to be corrected from eta-Virginis to beta-Virginis and an error of 1 day noted rather than a match. That is, the Moon is said to be 1 cubit behind eta-Virginis on the 5th, which it is, but should have been 1 cubit behind beta-Virginis, which is an error of about 1 day, just as in Line 3.  This error of 1 day had already been noted by another professor, P.V. Neugebauer, for Line 14; however, Neugebauer presumed that the BSELF was actually a reference to beta-Virginis rather than eta-Virginis. Neugebaur, of course, was correct in making that star assignment. So Correction #2 would be an error of 1 day for Line 14 when the BSELF is corrected from eta-Virginis to beta-Virginis.

      Finally Correction #3 would be Line 3 where the "Rear Foot of the Lion" (GIR ar sa UR-A) is assigned by Sachs/Hunger to beta-Virginis.  Since Venus below the BSELF on the 15th confirms the BSELF is none other than beta-Virginis and not eta-Virginis, then that means the "Rear Foot of the Line" in Line 3 must be the star in front of the BSELF, thus sigma-Leonis.  Of course, sigma-Leonis does actually make up the Rear Foot of Leo!  So that is a perfectly accurate generic reference "the Rear Foot Of the Lion."   In fact, what is akward, now that we are looking at it, is that beta-Virginis would ever be considered the Rear Foot of the Lion since beta-Virginis is not actually in Leo. The "bright star at the end of the Lion's Foot" or a better translation for "TIL" being "behind" and thus the "bright star BEHIND the Lion's Foot" is a perfect generic description of beta-Virginis which follows behind sigma-Leonis, the star that actually makes up the Rear
      Foot of Leo.  

      In summary, there are three obvious errors that need to be corrected in the VAT4956 by Sachs/Hunger. For one, the moon in no way around the 15th of Sivan was still Virgo, and was never "below" either beta-Virginis or eta-Virginis even when it was in Virgo around the 5th. 

      Second, clearly this reference matches the position of Venus for this date which should be corrected.

      However, if this is presumed to be a correct match for Venus on the 15th, then the BSELF is a misassignment by Sachs/Hunger for eta-Virginis for this entire text. The BSELF (MUL KUR sa TIL GIR UR-A) should be assigned to beta-Virginis rather than eta-Virginis. The BSELF is referenced in Line 14 where the moon is noted to be 1 cubit behind and above eta-Virginis and thus no "error" is noted for Line 14 by Sachs/Hunger, though P.V. Neugebauer notes an error of 1 day when he correctly assigns that star to beta-Virginis.  So an "error of 1 day" would be the correction for Line 14 when the BSELF becomes beta-Virginis rather than eta-Virginis.

      Finally, if we assign the BSELF in Lines 14 and 18 to beta-Virginis, which we must, then Line 3's reference to beta-Virginis as the "Rear Foot of the Lion"(GIR ar sa UR-A) by Sachs/Hunger is incorrect and needs to be corrected to sigma-Leonis, which literally makes up rear foot of Leo.

      These transliterations were published years ago and thus plenty of time has passed by to note this error, which some have.  So I would like to know from Professor Hunger in which journals did he make an attempt to formally correct Line 18, and respectively also Lines 14 and 3?  Or if he hasn't actually corrected it yet, does he actually intend to do so now when an obvious error or improvement is noted?

      Thank you, Professor Hunger, for your reply.  But just out of curiously, if you wish, could you please explain why you and Sachs choose the "moon" rather than Venus for application to Line 18?  Also, why didn't you note an "error of 10 days" for the moon in this position since you noted an 'error' of 1 day for the moon in Line 3?

      If you have formally corrected this, please provide the reference for that correction for us.  If not, how soon would you be planning a formal correction of Lines 3, 14 and 18, and in which scholarly journals?


      L. Lynn (Callier) Wilson
      Independent Biblical Chronologist
      Texas, USA

      From: hermannhunger <hermann.hunger@...>
      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thu, May 20, 2010 9:20:39 AM
      Subject: [ANE-2] Re: BM 41536 (LBAT 1421)

      Dear colleagues and Prof. Hunger,
      there are not so many "transliterations and translations of stronomical cunei9form tablets" available in print. I therefore would like a more precise information on "we often find guesses and circular reasoning". What is "often"? Are 10% of the transliterations guesses? Which translations contain "circular reasoning"?

      As for BM 41536, the copy by Pinches can be compared to the photo published by me in the work quoted by Dr. Furuli. As usual, Pinches' copy is very good.
      In my translteration, there are 6 signs marked by "x" which are broken so that I could not read them. I counted the signs on the copy but I did not arrive at 31, which is probably not important. I do not see which "8 clear signs" I did not transliterate.
      If I happen to read another scholar's transliteration and come to the conclusion that there are errors in it that are important enough to be corrected, I publish the corrections in an appropriate medium, e.g. on ANE-2 or in a journal. I do not insinuate that a colleague is "misleading their readers", but rather say what I think is the correct reading, interpretation etc.

      So I expect to hear from Dr. Furuli what is wrong in my transliteration and translation, and what he thinks is correct.

      Hermann Hunger

      --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, Rolf Furuli <furuli@...> wrote:
      > Dear colleagues,
      > In the transliteration and translation of astronomical cuneiform
      > tablets we often find guesses and circular reasonings. But the
      > scholar who scrutinizes a tablet in order to make a transliteration,
      > usually faithfully tries to transliterate all the signs that he or
      > she sees.
      > BM 41536 is believed to list lunar eclipses and is applied to year 42
      > of Nebuchadnezzar II. I was very surprised when I compared the
      > transliteration and translation in H. Hunger et al. 2001.
      > "Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia" V, I pp. 30,
      > 31 with the drawing of the tablet in A. J, Sachs. 1955. "Late
      > Babylonian Astronomical and Related Texts Copied by T. G. Pinches and
      > J. N. Strassmaier," p. 223. I have not collated the tablet, but I
      > assume that the beautiful hand of Pinches or Strassmaier faithfully
      > reproduces all the signs they saw on the tablet.
      > I found that of the 31 clear signs (I count each number as one sign),
      > 8 (26%) were not transliterated. If these 8 signs are taken into
      > account, the interpretation of the tablet could be very different
      > from the one given by Hunger et al. So it seems to me that the
      > authors are misleading their readers. Because the authors are highly
      > qualified scholars who are experts on astronomical tablets, this
      > situation is strange indeed. So I would like to hear the opinion of
      > other list members regarding this situation.
      > Best regards,
      > Rolf Furuli Ph.D
      > University of Oslo

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Show all 9 messages in this topic