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KRONOS Vol V, No. 1

Ninsianna Update


Copyright (C) 1980 by Lynn E. Rose and Raymond C. Vaughan

Our last detailed discussion of the Ninsianna or Venus fragments was in "Analysis of the Babylonian Observations of Venus", which we read at the Velikovsky Symposium at McMaster University in June, 1974, and which was later published in KRONOS, II, 2, pages 3-26. The Appendix to that paper was widely distributed at the Symposium in mimeographed form, and contained a reconstruction of the chronological parts of the Ninsianna document, that is, the section covering Years 1-17 and the section covering Years 19-21b.

We now wish to present in summary form the principal textual results of our continuing Ninsianna studies. (The orbital considerations are a separate subject, and will be dealt with on another occasion.)

In 1975 Erica Reiner and David Pingree published The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa, in which Reiner's identification of ten or eleven additional fragments as parts of the overall Ninsianna document was first announced, and in which the contents of those fragments were published, all but one for the first time. (VAT 11253, the one that had been published before, is not strictly a "Ninsianna" fragment, since it refers to Venus as Dilbat rather than as Ninsianna; it is, nevertheless, from the same overall document.) This near doubling of the number of known fragments (twelve Ninsianna fragments had been identified in the literature up to then) might have been expected to cause radical changes in our understanding of the Ninsianna document, but it did not. Instead, the near-doubling of the sources has served mainly to confirm that our previous readings and reconstructions were on the right track. (A precise count of the newly-identified fragments is difficult because of K. 5963, which Reiner treats as a small join to the end of Rm. 134. She does not claim for herself or assign to anyone else the credit either for the identification of K. 5963 as a Ninsianna fragment or for its join to Rm. 134. Yet we know of no one prior to Reiner who deserves such credit. Perhaps she did not count it as a separate identification because it was a join to a previously-identified fragment.)

Reiner and Pingree refer to Years 1-17 as Section I, they refer to the "artificial insertion" as Section II, and they refer to Years 19-21b as Section III. Their Section IV is the listing of all but two they would say all but three of the entries from Sections I and III in order of the month of disappearance, rather than in chronological order. Reiner and Pingree recognize an additional part of the Ninsianna document (which we will call Section V, though they do not), in which previous material that needed correction was repeated. They regard Year 14 as the only entry that appeared there, but we have concluded that sometimes both Year 14 and Year 5b were put in Section V.

Reiner's identification of a number of additional Ninsianna fragments, together with our own continuing studies, have now led us to make minor revisions in several of the entries in our 1974 reconstruction. Involved are Years 5b, 12, 13b, 14, and 21a. We would change the dates of disappearance and appearance in Year 5b from IX 25 and XI 29, respectively, to IX 24 and XI 28. The disappearance in Year 12 was probably on I 8 rather than on I 9, and the interval of invisibility was probably 5m 17d rather than 5m 16d. The disappearance in Year 13b was probably on IX 20 rather than on IX 21 (though there is not much to go on), and the interval of invisibility was probably 2m 1d rather than just 2m. The disappearance in Year 21a was probably on I 27 rather than on I 26, and the interval of invisibility was probably 6d rather than 7d. These changes are trivial, but worth noting. The only change involving more than one day is in Year 14, which we reconstructed in 1974 as VII 10 (1m16d) VIII 26. After considering Reiner and Pingree's explanation of the purpose of Section V, and after studying the data from K. 7090 (which is one of Reiner's newly-identified fragments and covers Section V), and after reexamining B.M. 42033, which was published by Sachs in 1955, we would now argue that the original readings for Year 14 were VII 21 (1m7d) VIII 28.

We think that at last we have a well-established reconstruction of all of the data from Section I. One of the major repercussions and confirmations of that reconstruction is that we can for the first time make good sense of the artificial insertion, which we will discuss in a later issue of KRONOS.

Some of Reiner's newly-identified Ninsianna fragments relate to our suggestion in 1974 that Years 8b and 16b became confused and conflated in Section IV (where they would have been adjacent), and that the original readings for these two entries were XI 25 (3m9d) III 4 and XII 25 (2m7d) III 2, respectively. The interval of 3m9d has survived only on K. 160, where it is given as the interval for Year 16b of Section I. The interval of 2m7d was known to us in 1974 only from Section IV of K. 2321 + K. 3032, where there is no clear indication whether the entry is supposed to be Year 8b or Year 16b. The Year 16b readings on K. 160 XII 25 (3m9d) III 20 were obviously garbled, but the III 20 could originally have been III 2 (the date of appearance that would be expected with an interval of 2m7d). The Year 9 disappearance on III 11 placed restrictions on the date of appearance for Year 8b, and the similarity of the forecasts in Years 8b and 16b (compare also the third entry of Section II) suggested that both appearances were in month III. Thus we proposed that the interval of 3m9d was in Year 8b, but that the month of disappearance was XI rather than XII. This put the appearance on III 4, a date not then known to us from any fragment. We also proposed that the interval of 2m7d was indeed from Year 16b, and that the original date of appearance was III 2. Accordingly, we suggested that the III 2 had become the III 20 of K. 160, a common sort of cuneiform error. At that time we knew of no fragment that gave 2m7d as the interval for Year 16b.

One of Reiner's newly-identified fragments is B.M. 36758 + B.M. 37496, which gives 2m7d as the interval of invisibility for Year 16b of Section I! Another is B.M. 36395, which gives a Section IV entry (8b? 16b?) with an interval of 2m7d but with an appearance on III 4! The mere occurrence of III 4, even in a garbled context, supports our 1974 conjecture. B.M. 36395 seems to be garbled in a manner analogous to the manner in which Year 16b is garbled on K. 160: B.M. 36395 gives the interval from Year 16b with the date of appearance from Year 8b, while K. 160 gives the interval from Year 8b with the date of appearance (changed from III 2 to III 20) from Year 16b. K. 160 also gives the date of disappearance as XII 25, which is correct for Year 16b. Thus our 1974 conjecture has received weighty confirmation from Reiner's newly-identified Ninsianna fragments, and we can offer our reconstructions of Year 8b and of Year 16b with much greater confidence than before. (This entire matter will be discussed in more detail on another occasion.)

Finally, we wish to note that our continuing Ninsianna studies have shed considerable and needed light on the four Ninsianna fragments published by Sachs in his Late Babylonian Astronomical and Related Texts (1955). For now, we will simply state the location of each of these fragments in the overall Ninsianna document. B.M. 42033 (1560 in LBAT) covers Year 14, Year 5b, and the "footing" (like a modern heading, but at the end) of Section V. B.M. 34227 (1561) is from the beginning of Section IV, and covers Years 12, 21 a, 5a, 13a, and 9. (Thus, Sachs' "join" of 1560 to the beginning of 1561 is a mistake; 1560 is from a much later portion of the text.) B.M. 41498 (1562) has its Obverse and Reverse mislabeled both in LBAT and in Reiner and Pingree. The actual Obverse seems to cover Years 13b, 14, 15, 16a, and 16b from Section I, and the actual Reverse seems to cover Years 9, 20, 4, and 8a from Section IV. (B.M. 41498 may be a fragment from the same tablet as K. 2321 + K. 3032.) B.M. 41688 (1563) covers the footing of Section II, all of Section III including its own footing, and Year 14 of Section V. As we will show elsewhere, Sachs has mishandled all four of these fragments, and has been followed in some (but not all) of his errors by Reiner and Pingree.

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