Nov 05 2015

Special session: ‘Astronomy in the Ancient Near East’, November 10th at the SEAC conference, Rome

Courtesy of the Agade listserv and Dr. Lorenzo Verderame, the following special session on the ancient Near East will take place on November 10th, during the SEAC (Société européenne pour l’astronomie dans la culture / European Society for Astronomy in Culture) annual conference on Astronomy in Past and Present Cultures, to be be held in Rome, 9-13 November 2015.

More information available at


Special session: ‘Astronomy in the Ancient Near East’, November 10, 2015

8:00-9:00 Posters Mounting

9:00 – 9:20 J. A. Belmonte, M. C. Pérez Die, L. Díaz-Iglesias Llanos Shrines of Ram-Headed Divinities and Canopus: Skyscaping at Herakleópolis Magna

9:20 – 9:40 A. C. González-GarcÌa, J. A. Belmonte, A. Polcaro A diachronic analysis of monument orientation in the Levant: the Jordanian paradigm

9:40 - 10:00 S. Gullberg The Babylonian Astronomical Diaries: A Graphical Analysis of their Implied Reference System

10:00 – 10:20 A. Jones Eclipses in Greco-Roman Egypt: Trends in Observation, Prediction, and Interpretation

10:20- 10:40 D. Nadali, A. Polcaro The sky from the high terrace: study on the orientation of the ziqqurat in ancient Mesopotamia

10:40 - 11:00 E. Orrelle Identifying transition in ritual power in the Neolithic of the Levant

• 11:00 Coffee break

11:15 – 11:35 S. Pizzimenti The Kudurrus and the Sky. Analysis and Interpretation of the Astral Symbols as Represented in Kassite Kudurrus Reliefs

11:35 - 11:55 E. Ratson Ideal Lunar Velocity

11:55 – 12:15 A. Rodríguez Antón, J. A. Belmonte, A. C. González-Garcìa Romans in Near East: Orientation of Roman towns and forts inmodern Jordan

12:15 - 12:35 S. Shinnar Rabbinic Standards for Accuracy in Lunar Observation: Regulating the Calendar in the Mishnah Rosh Hashanah

12:35 – 12:55 J. Steele Evidence for the Practice of Astronomy and Astrology in the “House of the ašipu’ in Uruk

12:55 – 13:15 L. Verderame Pleiades in ancient Mesopotamia



Jul 09 2015

The Nebra Sky Disc — an astronomical Bronze Age treasure

Photograph by Gerhard Singer, on Flickr

Photograph by Gerhard Singer, on Flickr

Discovered in 1999, the European Bronze Age astronomical artifact known as the Nebra Sky Disc was nearly lost to the black market, but fortunately found itself in the hands of the scientific community. It is now on display at the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany.

Dated to circa 1600 BCE, the bronze and gold-emblazoned disc contains a graphical representation of the sun, moon, and the constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia, among other celestial objects of agricultural and calendrical importance, including the Pleiades.

The astronomical sophistication it demonstrates is remarkable. Astronomer Ralph Hansen has determined that the disc served to coordinate the solar and lunar cycles for agricultural purposes.

Perhaps just as important is the glimpse it offers into the astral religion of the Bronze age in Northern Europe. This is supported by Hansen’s research, which demonstrated a striking parallel to a rule of intercalation (i.e., adding a thirteenth month to the year) related to the lunar crescent found in the Babylonian MUL.APIN, dating a thousand years later, to the seventh-sixth centuries BCE.  According to Hansen, the intercalary month would be added every two to three years when the position of the Pleiades in the night sky matched its position on the Nebra sky disc. However, according to archaeologist Harald Meller of the State Museum for Prehistory at Halle (who was involved in the recovery of the disc), later layers suggest that at least some of its astronomical function was eventually lost, and “that in the end the disk became a cult object.” Astronomers Emilia Pasztor and Curt Roslund go even further, stating that it more likely served a religious purpose for the Northern Bronze Age European elite, including chiefs and shamans. [The full article, in Antiquity 01/2007; 81 (312):267-78, may be accessed here.]

In 2013, the Nebra sky disc was added to UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ Register.