Mursili's eclipse

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The solar eclipse mentioned in a text dating to the reign of Mursili II could be of great importance for the absolute chronology of the Hittite Empire within the chronology of the Ancient Near East. The text records an "omen of the sun," linked to the tenth year of Mursili's reign, which appeared just as he was about to launch a campaign against the Kingdom of Azzi-Hayasa in north-eastern Anatolia. According to the current debate, there are two possible candidates for the eclipse: 13 April 1308 BC or 24 June 1312 BC. The 1312 BC date is accepted by most Hittitologists, e.g. Trevor Bryce (1998), while Paul Åström (1993) has suggested the 1308 BC date.

The 1312 eclipse occurred over northern Anatolia in the early afternoon, and its effects would have been quite spectacular for Mursili and his men on campaign:

24 June 1312 BC, total eclipse, maximum at 10:44 UTC, 38°12′N 13°42′E / 38.2°N 13.7°E / 38.2; 13.7 (Sicily).

In contrast, the 1308 eclipse was annular, and began very early in the morning over Arabia (and only penumbral over Anatolia and Syria), reaching its height over Central Asia:

13 April 1308 BC, annular eclipse (94.8%), maximum at 04:16 UTC, 44°54′N 85°42′E / 44.9°N 85.7°E / 44.9; 85.7 (Tian Shan).

Therefore, the 1312 eclipse would seem to best suit the eclipse mentioned. This means that Mursili would have begun his reign in either 1322 or 1321 BC. This date would be roughly that usually proposed for the death of Tutankhamun. It is known that Suppiluliuma I was besieging Carchemish when he received a letter from the widow of a Pharaoh (who is called Dakhamunzu in the annals). Suppiluliuma died shortly thereafter and his successor was Mursili II (whose brother would have been Prince Zannanza sent to Egypt where he died). Thus this appears to be a chronological anchor. However, there are other views, asserting for example that the dead Pharaoh was Akhenaten or that Tutankhamun died later.


  • Paul Astrom, 'The Omen of the Sun in the Tenth Year of the Reign of Mursilis II', in Horizons and Styles: Studies in Early Art and Archaeology in Honour of Professor Homer L. Thomas, (1993)
  • Trevor R. Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Clarendon Oxford University Press, (1998)

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