Jan 16 2014

4000 year old calendrical tablet unearthed

Currently being displayed at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, this 4000 year old silt cuneiform tablet, inscribed in Akkadian, contains a schedule listing activities taking place during a week in the month of Shevat, highlighting its Babylonian antecedents. Are any readers of this blog planning to visit the exhibit? If so, I’d enjoy reading your comments.

Dec 02 2013

Forthcoming book — ‘Time, Astronomy, and Calendars in the Jewish Tradition’ (2014)


I greatly look forward to reading the following volume:

Stern, Sacha and Burnett, Charles (Eds.) (2014) Time, Astronomy, and Calendars in the Jewish Tradition. Leiden: Brill.

The table of contents is available here, on the Brill web site, and below, for your convenience.

Table of contents

A Jewish Parapegma? Reading 1 Enoch 82 in Roman Egypt
Jonathan Ben-Dov

Observing the Moon: Astronomical and Cosmological Aspects in the Rabbinic New Moon Procedure
Reimund Leicht

Cosmology as Science or Cosmology as Theology? Reflections on the Astronomical Chapters of Pirke DeRabbi Eliezer
Katharina Keim

Some Early Islamic and Christian Sources Regarding the Jewish Calendar (9th-11th centuries)
François de Blois

The Jewish Calendar Controversy of 921–22:
Reconstructing the Manuscripts and their Transmission History
Marina Rustow and Sacha Stern

The Hebrew Calendrical Bookshelf of the Early Twelfth Century: The Cases of Abraham bar Ḥiyya and Jacob bar Samson
Ilana Wartenberg

Scribal Prerogative in Modifying Calendrical Tables
Israel M. Sandman

Astronomical Tables of Abraham bar Ḥiyya
Raymond Mercier

The Sabbath Epistle by Abraham Ibn Ezra: its Purpose and Novelty
Anne C. Kinneret Sittig

Medieval Jews and Medieval Astrolabes: Where, Why, How, and What For?
Josefina Rodríguez Arribas

Some Hygiene and Dietary Calendars in Hebrew Manuscripts from Medieval Ashkenaz
Justine Isserles

Me pudet audire Iudeum talia scire: A Late Medieval Latin School Text on the Jewish Calendar
C. Philipp E. Nothaft

(Thanks again, Carla Sulzbach!)

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Dec 01 2013

New publication — “Time and Identity: Hellenism in the Calendar Speech of Jubilees chapter 6″

Here is the bibliographic information:

Ben-Dov, Jonathan. (2013) “Time and Identity: Hellenism in the Calendar Speech of Jubilees chapter 6″. (in Hebrew) Meghillot 10.

But why search when it’s available right here, on Academia.edu?

(With deep thanks to Carla Sulzbach for pointing me to this publication)

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Nov 01 2013

New publication: “From Babylon to Jerusalem: The Roots of Jewish Astrological Symbolism”, in ‘Sky and Symbol’ (Eds. Nicholas Campion and Liz Greene)


My article, “From Babylon to Jerusalem: The Roots of Jewish Astrological Symbolism” has now been published in Sky and Symbol (Eds. Nicholas Campion and Liz Greene). The book may be ordered here, at Amazon.com if interested.

Table of Contents

Nicholas Campion and Liz Greene

Part One: The Nature of Symbols
Is Astrology a Symbolic Language?
Nicholas Campion

Art, Astronomy, and Symbolism in the Age of Science
Gary Wells

Ritual Ornamentation—From the Secular to the Religious
Pamela Armstrong

Part Two: Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Expressions
The Burning Sun and the Killing Resheph: Proto-Astrological Symbolism and Ugaritic Epic
Ola Wikander

From Babylon to Jerusalem: The Roots of Jewish Astrological Symbolism
Andrea D. Lobel

The Perugia Fountain: An Encyclopaedia of Sky, Culture, and Society
Darrelyn Gunzburg

Theosis, Vision, and the Astral Body in Medieval German Pietism and the Spanish Kabbalah
Elliot Wolfson

‘Chemistry, That Starry Science’: Early Modern Conjunctions of Astrology and Alchemy
Peter Forshaw

Part Three: Astrological Symbols and Modernity
Katherine Maltwood, H. P. Blavatsky, and the Origins of the Glastonbury Landscape Zodiac
Anthony Thorley

The Celestial Imaginary in Weimar Cinema
Jennifer Zahrt

Reading the Future in the Landscape: Astrology in Zanadroandrenaland, Central East Madagascar
Christel Mattheeuws

Receiving the ‘Messengers’: The Astrology of Jung’s Liber Novus
Liz Greene

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Sep 14 2013

Book announcement: Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature

New Book Announcement:

Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature
Edited by Jonathan Ben-Dov, Seth L. Sanders

This new book (August, 2013), emerged from the 2011 conference held at NYU, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. Among the contributors to this volume are Jonathan Ben-Dov, Seth L. Sanders, and Annette Yoshiko Reed.  Of special note with respect to astronomy and early Judaism is the article ”Networks of Scholars: The Transmission of Astronomical and Astrological Learning between Babylonians, Greeks and Jews”, by Mladen Popović.

I’ve ordered my copy, and greatly look forward to reading the book. I’ll be sure to review it here. (N.B. As of October, 2013,  Amazon lists the book as being available on December 15th.)

Jul 20 2009

Upcoming solar eclipse (July 22, 2009) — of science and superstition

Solar and lunar eclipses have captured both the popular and religious imagination through the millennia. Eclipse records — and myths inspired by eclipses — date back to the earliest historical epochs. These include a multitude of cuneiform tablet eclipse calculations from Mesopotamia, where total solar eclipses served not merely as awe-inspiring events, but as vital religious omens as well.

Today, eclipses are well understood from a scientific standpoint. However, folk traditions surrounding eclipses remain a part of many cultures around the world, as the following articles in the Globe and Mail (Canada) and The New York times attest. In India, for example, one belief is that pregnant women should remain indoors during an eclipse, so as to avoid any harmful effects upon the fetus.

This week’s solar eclipse will begin on July 22nd at 00:51:17 (Universal Time) off the Indian coast, and is notable due to its extremely long maximum totality period of 6 minutes and 39 seconds. That won’t happen again for nearly 150 years.

Those interested in following the eclipse path may be interested in the following sites:




May 19 2009

Film: Agora


While this is decidedly closer to the popular culture pole, I thought that news of a relevant upcoming film might be of interest to many of you. Entitled Agora, it’s the story of the Pagan astronomer and mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria, daughter of Theon, who lived and died according to her beliefs and ideals. The film promises to be quite the epic, with both ample exposition of fifth century Christian-Pagan relations and — I would imagine — some ancient astronomical content. Either way, it certainly seems promising.

Mar 06 2009

Behind the curtain. . .

Just a quick peek behind the workings of this blog. I’m currently spending much of my time reading materials in preparation for my comprehensive exams. (a.k.a. qualifying exams) For now, as has been the case for a few months, until these exams are completed, I only have a limited amount of time to devote to Chaldea (i.e., I’ll post whenever I can). I thought I’d bring a notable source I’m working with to the attention of others in similar fields.

For those interested in cultural perceptions of the heavens in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Israel, Persia, Greco-Roman cultures, as well as early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I highly recommend The Early History of Heaven, by J. Edward Wright. (2000, Oxford University Press)

I first took it out of the library in 2003, but soon found it indispensable, so I bought a copy. It’s a very thorough overview of the important writings and beliefs about heaven and/or the heavens (including heavenly cosmography) in these cultures, and it incorporates archaeological findings as well as textual sources. It is difficult to distinguish between astronomy proper and astral beliefs in many ancient civilizations; this book provides the reader with a solid awareness of the background views of the cosmos in these cultures, thereby setting the stage for later evolutions in cultural astronomy.

Have a good weekend, all!

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