OUR FORGOTTEN ASTRONOMY
A Quick Historical Summary
For you who would like a quick higher-level overview of history than I gave in the video, our ancestors seem to have first become aware of Jupiter and Saturn’s conjunction cycle in about 3200 BC. Things then moved slowly; Babylonian priests’ next major focus was ironing out a lunar calendar, beginning in approximately 2000 BC. A little over 400 years later they began deeper investigations.
Primary among those was working out Venus’s appearance and disappearance cycles – the artifacts we possess show observations being made around 1582 BC. Additionally, that is near the time they started a systematic study of the moon, stars, and planets, in order to predict their first and last visibilities.
The Canaanite/Israelite priests also paid deep attention starting a century afterwards, as testified to by Samson’s heavenly underpinnings. If they performed celestial investigations before this, or did anything else besides watch the two slowest visible wanderers conjunct, I’m unaware of any records of those endeavors.
The next significant event was understanding the ecliptic, which occurred in about 730 BC. It is easy to believe Israelite observations of Jupiter and Saturn’s conjunctions were somewhat responsible for this breakthrough. Samson’s grand saga ends with an astronomic transaction in 979/978 BC, and a very compelling reason exists to think they watched the next meeting of their ‘gods’ in 920 BC before finishing their tale. Those celestial ponderings, with time, led to a more modern age: mathematical techniques began being applied to heavenly problems circa 612 BC. Soon afterwards our world started to be treated as a sphere.
Switching to Israel’s history, they appear to have rebelled against their earlier rulers in a drawn-out process between 2200 to 1250 BC. They remained pagans, but the Samson story indicates some priests were tired of praying to gods they seemed to get little benefit from: the celestial narrative no longer portrayed Mars as a full god. Instead, he was something of an enigma – still powerful, but not a deity you would want to follow if you valued intelligence. (Also, his mother was presented as human, although there is a good chance his father was originally said to be God.)
The event which shook their culture began in 599 BC, when they revolted against Babylonian rule. After a siege, Babylon sacked Jerusalem in 597, and extradited many prominent leaders, probably to break up power structures in order to avoid future trouble. Rabble-rousing continued to abound, though, and further uprisings caused Babylon to once again wage war, with more Israelites being taken ‘hostage.’
Israelite leaders decided this must have been a Divine Retribution, so they pretty much turned their backs on their pagan ways in an effort to appease a newly-imagined ‘supreme deity’ – Yahweh (who was actually an older god, and seems to have embodied both Jupiter and Saturn at various points in time). They succeeded in creating a major shift, although paganism still lingered on for another few hundred years.
An interesting fact worth pondering is the Samson story’s astronomic backbone indicates Israel’s priestly scientists were at the forefront of scientific endeavors back then, but once they convinced themselves their ‘gods’ weren’t worthy of being followed they apparently shut down their celestial investigations. Another interesting fact is the Philistines appear to originate from around Greece, and Greeks were the first to treat the world as a sphere in around 500 BC. We have forgotten many cultural interactions from those times.
A Note On Video Dates
I need to clarify two dates used in the video. In it I said the Mayans counted planetary cycles two thousand years ago, whereas Babylonians reached that phase three millennia earlier. This statement is not strictly accurate, but accuracy is hard to achieve in this area with our current knowledge.
The Dresden Codex underlies my assertion. It is a document which appears to record astronomic events about 1000 AD. (Don’t take that link to be the final word on this subject – many other sources indicate we don’t understand the astronomy depicted in those illustrations very well, although much seems to be known.) Therefore I performed a rough extrapolation a millennium earlier for my ‘two thousand years ago’ statement.
As far as the Babylonians, an estimate is they discovered the Saros Cycle – a major advancement in understanding eclipses’ periodical nature – about 500 BC. This indicates a lot of watching and counting took place before then. In addition, we know they used the sexagesimal system over five millennia ago. My investigations show the origin of that use stems from tallying consecutive years between Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions.
So my statement should technically be “...many people are currently impressed with the Mayans astronomical prowess a thousand years ago. But our forgotten Babylonian and Sumerian ancestors’ achieved the same level of knowledge fifteen hundred years earlier. Also, they started keeping track of planetary cycles long before then: in about 3000 BC.” Please forgive this ‘scholarly’ lapse – creating videos is hard.
One Last Note
Many dates in the previous timeline come from Gary David Thompson’s work. He did a fantastic job of summarizing the existing scholarship on his website. These are located at http://members.westnet.com.au/gary-david-thompson/page9h.html.