Books of Clay: Proof That Man Has Been Reading The Skies For Millennia
Posted by Rebecca Moore
Mankind has been reading the stars for signs since they first raised their eyes to the heavens. The stars, sun, moon, and planets have taken their turns to offer explanations for phenomenon that would otherwise go unexplained. Three-thousand years ago, ancient farmers used celestial objects to guide them in their planting and harvest. Essentially, they knew what crops would thrive by reading the stars. This shows how the stars have been shaping man’s life and choices for millennia, well before the advent of books as we know then now.
The Enuma Anu Enlil
The archeological proof of this reliance on the heavens can be found in two ancient stone tablets that served as books to people of the Babylonian and Mesopotamian periods. The tablets are between 2500 – 3000 years old, and are currently on display at museums in Oxford and London, England.
The Enuma Anu Enlil is a large collection of works that consist of omens that were used to interpret a wide range of phenomena that occurred in the atmosphere and sky. These interpretations/predictions were always made relevant to the King and activities regarding state matters.
Tracking Celestial Objects
The subjects listed in the Enuma Anu Enlil followed a pattern that first described the moon and its appearance in the night sky. For example:
If the moon was visible on the first day of the month, happiness would flow over the land. If the moon appeared with a crown (what we refer to as a lunar halo), it meant that the King would reach the highest rank.
Entire sections of the Enuma Anu Enlil are dedicated to lunar eclipses and which regions they would affect. The Babylonians even created a mathematical table to determine when the moon would be visible in the sky.
Solar phenomena, including eclipses, colors, and markings, are explained in 16 tablets of the text. The people of the time paid special attention to the sun’s relation to storm clouds upon rising.
These predictions/explanations included weather patterns and phenomena. These were especially concerning to the people, and the nine tablets that deal with weather often emphasize earthquake and thunder activity.
The final 20 tablets of the text is dedicated to the planets, the stars, and the constellations. The movement and activity in all of these heavenly bodies were used even back then to predict and explain both the present and the future. They were seen as messages from the gods, signifying an upcoming change to society and the kingdom.
The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa is also known as Tablet 63 of the Enuma Anu Enlil. It deals specifically with the observations made of the planet Venus dating back to the first millennium BC. The writings track the visibilities of Venus, from rise times to the setting of the planet. Tracking occurred before and after both sunrise and sunset. The observations were recorded for a period of 21 years. This shows how important planet tracking was to the Babylonians to explain and predict their world.
The earliest copy of the tablet was first published in 1870 from 7th Century writings recovered from the library at Nineveh. It was written in early Sumerian cuneiform, a type of wedge-shaped markings. It has been determined that the tablet was originally written in Babylon at the time when Sargon II was the King of Assyria, dating it between 720 and 724 BC.
The 7th Century writings in the Venus Tablet have been interpreted over the years to support several events in the 2nd Millennium BC. One section of the tablet has been determined as describing the 8th year in the reign on Ammisaduqa.
Interpreting the observations of Venus that were written at the time still pose a challenge today, but those errors could have occurred during the copy process. There are also discrepancies in the tables used to calculate the planet’s rise times.
The fact that specialists have been able to prove that these texts were written so long ago speaks volumes about how long the sky has affected our lives. Though the times and worries were different, the questions we have about the world still remain. If we’re lucky, we just might be able to get an answer or two from celestial observation.
What Does This All Mean?
This all shows how man has relied on the sky to interpret and explain life for ages. This is why the stars, constellations, the sun, and the moon continue to play a large part in the lives of many people to this day. While we don’t quite rely on the sky to set our agricultural schedule anymore, we rely on what it can tell us about ourselves. Astrology and horoscopes can tell us a lot about where we should go, who we should pursue relationships with, and what we should do with our lives. Times have changed, and mankind along with it. But there is one thing we can all agree on: The stars can still provide answers to those who are bold enough to seek them.
About the Author
At an early age my passions included astrology, horoscopes, and a love for the stars. As I got older, I discovered an equal love for animals. This led me to a college where I could study animals and become a veterinarian.
The love of both animals and astrology led me to create WeLoveHoroscope. Through this website, I hope that you and others can find answers to tough questions, learn more about the stars, or purchase unique gifts.
Main photo: designed by Freepik; Enuma Anu Enlil tablet 5: Public Domain; Enuma Anu Enlil tablet 63, Creative Commons CC By 3.0