Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa
SizeLength: 17.14 cm (6.75 in)
Width: 9.2 cm (3.6 in)
Thickness: 2.22 cm (0.87 in)
PlaceKouyunjik (Nineveh)
Present locationRoom 55, British Museum, London

The Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa (Enuma Anu Enlil Tablet 63) is the record of astronomical positions for Venus, as preserved in numerous cuneiform tablets dating from the first millennium BC. It is believed that this astronomical record was first compiled during the reign of King Ammisaduqa (or Ammizaduga), the fourth ruler after Hammurabi. Thus, the origins of this text could probably be dated to around the mid-seventeenth century BC[1] (according to the Middle Chronology) despite allowing two possible dates.

The tablet gives the rise times of Venus and its first and last visibility on the horizon before or after sunrise and sunset (the heliacal risings and settings of Venus) in the form of lunar dates. These positions are given for a period of 21 years.[2]


This Venus tablet is part of Enuma Anu Enlil ("In the days of Anu and Enlil"), a long text dealing with Babylonian astrology, which mostly consists of omens in the form of celestial phenomena.

The earliest copy of this tablet to be published, a 7th-century BC cuneiform, part of the British Museum collections, was recovered from the library at Nineveh. It was first published in 1870 by Henry Creswicke Rawlinson and George Smith as Enuma Anu Enlil Tablet 63, in "Tablet of Movements of the Planet Venus and their Influences" (The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, volume III).

As many as 20 copies of this text are currently on record, many of them fragmentary, falling into 6 groups.[3] The oldest of these copies is believed to be Source "B", found at Kish in 1924. It was copied from a tablet written at Babylon while Sargon II was King of Assyria between 720 and 704 BC.[4]


Several dates for the original omens, as contained in the tablet, were proposed early in the 20th century. The following dates, corresponding to the High, Middle, Low and Ultra-Low Chronologies, were inferred for the beginning of the Venus positions: 1702 BC, 1646/1638 BC, 1582 BC and 1550 BC, respectively.

The tablet's significance for corroborating Babylonian chronology was first recognised by Franz Xaver Kugler in 1912, when he succeeded in identifying the enigmatic "Year of the Golden Throne" ("Venus" tablet K.160) as potentially the 8th year of the reign of Ammisaduqa, based on one of his year names.[5] Since then, this 7th-century BC copy has been variously interpreted to support several chronologies in the 2nd millennium BC.[6]

Many uncertainties remain about the interpretation of the record of astronomical positions of Venus, as preserved in these surviving tablets.[7] Some copying corruptions are probable. Problems of atmospheric refraction were addressed by Vahe Gurzadyan in a 2003 publication.[8] The entry for some years, notably 13 and 21 are not physically possible and are considered in error. Also, the tables used to calculate the heliacal rising of Venus assume a rate at which the earth is slowing, a rate which is not certain, causing "clock-time errors".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hobson, Russell (2009). The Exact Transmission of Texts in the First Millennium B.C. (PDF) (PhD thesis). University of Sydney.
  2. ^ North, John David (2008). Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology. University of Chicago Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-226-59441-5.
  3. ^ Reiner, Erica; Pingree, David Edwin (1998). Babylonian Planetary Omens. Vol. 3. Brill. ISBN 90-5693-011-7.
  4. ^ Hunger, Hermann; Pingree, David Edwin (1999). Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia. Handbuch der Orientalistik. Vol. 44. Brill. p. 32. ISBN 90-04-10127-6.
  5. ^ Franz Xaver Kugler, Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel - II. Buch: Natur, Mythus und Geschichte als Grundlagen babylonischer Zeitordnung, nebst eingehenden Untersuchungen der älteren Sternkunde und Meteorologie, 2. Teil. Heft 1, Aschendorff, 1912
  6. ^ [1] Weir, J. D, "The Venus Tablets - a Fresh Approach", Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol. 13, pp. 23, 1982
  7. ^ Gurzadyan, V. G. (2000). "On the Astronomical Records and Babylonian Chronology". Akkadica. 119–120. Brussels: Assyriological Center Georges Dossin: 175–184. arXiv:physics/0311035. Bibcode:2003physics..11035G. We then discuss why the 56/64 year Venus cycle cannot be traced in the Venus Tablet and therefore cannot serve as an anchor for the fixing of chronologies.
  8. ^ Gurzadyan, V. G. (2003). "The Venus Tablet and refraction". Akkadica. 124. Brussels: Assyriological Center Georges Dossin: 13–17. arXiv:physics/0311036. Bibcode:2003physics..11036G.
  9. ^ John D. Weir, The Pattern of Venus Tablet Solutions, JACF, vol. 7, pp.70-76, 1998

Further reading[edit]

  • [2] H. Gasche, J. A. Armstrong, S. W. Cole, and V. G. Gurzadyan, Dating the Fall of Babylon: A Reappraisal of Second-Millennium Chronology, Mesopotamian History and Environment Series 2, Memoirs 4, Chicago: The Oriental Institute; Ghent: The University of Ghent, 1998
  • V.G.Gurzadyan and D.A.Warburton, Akkadica, vol. 126, p. 195-197, 2005 arXiv:physics/0607137
  • V.G.Gurzadyan, Astronomy and the Fall of Babylon, Sky & Telescope, vol. 100, no.1 (July), pp. 40–45, 2000 arXiv:physics/0311114
  • [3]Huber, Peter J.; Sachs, Abraham (1982), Astronomical dating of Babylon I and Ur III, Undena Publications,, ISBN 978-0-89003-045-5
  • [4] Stephen Langdon and John Knight Fotheringham, The Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga, University Press, 1928
  • Reiner, Erica; Pingree, David (1975), Babylonian Planetary Omens. Part 1. The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa, Malibu: Getty Research Institute, ISBN 0-89003-010-3. The "fundamental edition", superseding Langdon et al. 1928 (Walker 1984).
  • Mitchell, Wayne A., “Ancient Astronomical Observations and Near Eastern Chronology”, Journal of the Ancient Chronology Forum, vol. 3, pp. 7–26, 1990
  • Walker, C. B. F. (1984), "Notes on the Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa", Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 36 (1): 64–66, doi:10.2307/1360011, JSTOR 1360011, S2CID 164022588

External links[edit]