Site Section Links
KRONOS Vol VIII, No. 1
THE LISTING BY MONTHS: AN ANCIENT STUDY OF THE DISAPPEARANCES OF VENUS
LYNN E. ROSE AND RAYMOND C. VAUGHAN
Copyright (C) 1982 by Lynn E. Rose and Raymond C. Vaughan
Of the many thousands of fragmentary clay tablets excavated at Nineveh, Kish, and other sites in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, roughly two dozen have been identified on which a particular type of cuneiform inscription appears, in either Late Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian script. These inscriptions are arranged as a series of entries, each of which reports a set of observations of "Ninsianna" or Venus.
One group of twelve entries seems to be artificial or schematic, but most - about four-fifths - of the entries in the overall Ninsianna document seem to be directly observational, referring to real events. The observational entries typically give the following information: Ninsianna disappears in the west (or east) on such-and-such a date, remains absent for so many months and/or days, and reappears in the east (or west) on such-and-such a date. Each reappearance of Ninsianna is followed by an astrological forecast. About thirty different forecasts are used; two that are repeated fairly often are "the harvest of the land will prosper" and "there will be hostilities in the land".
These Ninsianna inscriptions - often associated with the Babylonian king, Ammizaduga, who reigned in the first half of the second millennium - have received much attention from historians and astronomers, including Rawlinson and Smith (1870), Sayce (1874), Virolleaud (1905-1913), Langdon, Fotheringham, and Schoch (1928), and Reiner and Pingree (1975). All but two of the fragmentary tablets that have been identified to date are in the British Museum, and most writers (including ourselves) use that museum's designations to refer to them: K. 160, K. 2321 + 3032, Sm. 174, B.M. 41688, B.M. 42033, and so on.*
The series of entries on the various fragments overlap to a certain extent, yet they do not agree totally: there are minor discrepancies among some of the entries on different fragments, and there are some fragments that omit individual entries or groups of entries from the series. We agree with the general view that the various fragments are copies, or copies of copies, that reflect an original series of Venus observations with varying degrees of distortion. But we suspect that both the tablets and the observations are from the last two centuries or so before the fall of Nineveh in -611 (astronomical); we do not accept the usual view that the observations were from the reign of Ammizaduga, and that the tablets were copied and recopied over the next millennium or so. Further, we find that the data on the surviving fragments are far less distorted than is generally believed. We remain optimistic that the information that they contain will be adequate for computing the orbits of Venus and Earth at the time these observations were made.
How are the various entries on the tablets related to one another? This must be inferred; the tablets are not explicit. The usual view is that there were originally twenty-six sets of Venus observations extending over a period of twenty-one years.* We have some reservations about a continuous twenty-one-year interval, but, for convenience, we follow the modern convention of referring to each entry by the year in which its disappearance of Ninsianna occurs within the twenty-one-year scheme: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5b, 6, . . ., 19, 20, 21a, 21b.
When all of the two dozen or so Ninsianna fragments are taken into consideration, it is possible to distinguish five different sections in which the entries are arranged. Since no known fragment includes all five sections and since some tablets appear to have lacked at least one section, there is some uncertainty about the historical validity of the separation into five sections, yet it seems plausible that the overall series of entries may have been laid out in this manner at some point in time. Briefly, Section I consists of year-by-year entries for Years 1 through 17, while Section III consists of year-by-year entries for Years 19 through 21b. Section IV repeats all but two of the entries from Sections I and III, but in a month-of-disappearance arrangement. Section II consists of twelve artificial or schematic entries that are apparently not real observations. The Corrigenda Section, which we previously called Section V, contains one or two corrections of observational entries. Each section generally ends with a "footing" or final statement that summarizes the contents of the section; we refer to these as F1, F2, F3, and F4. The footing of the Corrigenda Section will be referred to as Fc. At the end of the overall document there was a colophon, which usually described or dated that copy.
The foregoing paragraphs, although somewhat oversimplified, are intended as an introduction to the present paper, which concerns Section IV. We intend to discuss the Corrigenda Section and some related topics in an upcoming issue, and we have already discussed Section II in KRONOS V:4 (1980). Our work on the tablets as a whole - especially the observational material from Sections I and III - has been described in Penseé IVR III(1973), Velikovsky Reconsidered (1976), and KRONOS II:2 (1976) and V:3 (1980).
It should be understood that our work is ultimately motivated by considerations of astronomy rather than philology. Once we understand the structure and purposes of the overall Ninsianna document, and once we understand the genealogical or generational sequence into which the various copies of that document fall, we will be in a better position to reconstruct the original observations and thus the orbits of Venus and Earth at the time of the observations.
The conventional view is that these tablets might be used to date the reign of Ammizaduga and thereby the First Babylonian Dynasty and much of second-millennium Near-Eastern history; this is supposed to be accomplished by uniformitarian retrocalculation, after removal or correction of many "scribal errors" seen in the text. Our own view is that the actual scribal errors in the text are nothing out of the ordinary: only those who insist upon finding the present orbits of Venus and Earth reflected in the text are forced to see the text as riddled with "scribal errors".* We see these tablets as mainly - and perhaps uniquely - valuable in that they may provide a basis for calculating the orbits of Venus and Earth some twenty-seven and one-half centuries ago, when those two planets were not yet on their present orbits.
For the compilers of Sections I and III, the raw data were the observations themselves; these were recorded in chronological order and combined with astrological forecasts according to some set of procedures. Section IV was invented later, perhaps a number of decades later, by someone who tried putting the entries of Sections I and III into a different order. The individual entries - each comprising a disappearance, a length of invisibility, a reappearance, and a forecast were generally kept intact in this process.
The inventor of Section IV treated the observations in Sections I and III as if they had exactly the same standing, and drew upon both of them in preparing Section IV. The versions of Section IV that have survived seem to employ all but one of the twenty-one entries from Section I (which one of them was not employed is a matter of controversy) and all but one of the four entries from Section III. In Section IV we find these twenty-three entries arranged in order of the month of disappearance.
Table I contains a reconstructed and conflated translation of Section IV. The modern year-numbers and the "F4" to the left have been supplied by us, and are not part of the original text. We have included Year 8b and Year 16b as separate entries, although they seem to have been merged into a single entry in all surviving versions of Section IV. We have also included Year 19, just after the disappearances in the month Ulul, but there is no evidence that Section IV ever contained Year 19. We include it so that readers may refer to its contents when we discuss it later in the paper. No surviving version of F4 (the footing to Section IV) has preserved the number of entries in Section IV. We have put that number at 24, because we are counting Year 8b and Year 16b separately, but not counting Year 19 at all. Since all of the surviving fragments of Section IV seem to have had Year 8b and Year 16b merged into one entry, those fragments presumably gave the total as 23. Our own effort, however, has been to reconstruct the original condition of Section IV, before that merging took place.
We have translated the word a-hu-tum in F4 as "out-of-sequence". Reiner and Pingree translate it as "extraneous", but the point of such a word remains unclear. Since this word has been found in F4 and in Fc - but not, as far as we know, in F1 or in F3 (or, for that matter, in F2) - we suggest, very tentatively, that it carries here the sense of "out of (chronological) sequence"; the entries in Section IV and the Corrigenda Section are real observations (as opposed to the artificial entries of Section II), but they are out of chronological sequence, and the word a-hu-tum may have been chosen to refer to this situation. Our interpretation of a-hu-tum is generally consistent with the suggestion in LFS (Langdon-Fotheringham-Schoch, page 19) that these entries or groups are rather " 'strange', 'rare', 'unusual', that is 'groups arranged in a different order from those on the obverse' ". Our only reservation here is that "on the obverse" and "on the reverse" are inadequate ways of distinguishing chronological material from non chronological material; some versions of the chronological Section III are on the reverse, and some versions of the non-chronological Section IV are on the obverse!
Section IV, or the Listing by Months
(Conflated and Reconstructed)
 In the month Nisan Ninsianna on the 8th day disappeared in the east; for 5 months 17 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ulul on the 25th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: the heart of the land will be happy. [21a] In the month Nisan Ninsianna on the 27th day disappeared in the west; for 6 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ayar on the 3rd day Ninsianna appeared in the east: there will be hostilities in the land; the harvest of the land will prosper. [5a] In the month Ayar Ninsianna on the 2nd day disappeared in the west; for 16 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ayar on the 18th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: there will be rains and floods; the harvest of the land will prosper. [13a] In the month Ayar Ninsianna on the 5th day disappeared in the west; for 7 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ayar on the 12th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: the harvest of the land will prosper.  In the month Sivan Ninsianna on the 11th day disappeared in the west; for 9 months 4 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Adar on the 15th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: king to king messages of war will send.  In the month Sivan Ninsianna on the 25th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 29 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ulul on the 24th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: the heart of the land will be happy.  In the month Tammuz Ninsianna on the 2nd day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 1 day she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ulul on the 3rd day Ninsianna appeared in the west: the heart of the land will be happy. [8a] In the month Tammuz Ninsianna on the 25th day disappeared in the west; for 7 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ab on the 2nd day Ninsianna appeared in the east: there will be rains in the land; there will be disaster. [16a] In the month Tammuz Ninsianna on the 5th day disappeared in the west; for 15 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Tammuz on the 20th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: there will be rains from the sky, floods from the springs; the harvest of the land will prosper.  In the month Ab Ninsianna on the 21st day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 11 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Arahsamna on the 2nd day Ninsianna appeared in the west: there will be rains in the land; there will be disaster.  In the month Ab Ninsianna on the 20th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 15 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Arahsamna on the 5th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: there will be rains in the land; there will be disaster.  In the month Ulul Ninsianna on the 23rd day disappeared in the west; for 20 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Tesrit on the 13th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: here will be hostilities in the land; the harvest of the land will prosper.  In the month Ulul Ninsianna on the 26th day disappeared in the west; for 11 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ulul the second on the 7th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: the heart of the land will be happy.  [In the month Ulul the second Ninsianna on the 2nd day disappeared in the west; for 15 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Ulul the second on the 17th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: the arable land will prosper; there will be a defeat in a distant land; in the palace a maiden. . . . . . . . . .]  In the month Tesrit Ninsianna on the 21st day disappeared in the west; for 1 month 7 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Arahsamna on the 28th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: there will be rains in the land; there will be disaster.  In the month Arahsamna Ninsianna on the 28th day disappeared in the west; for 3 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Kislev on the 1st day Ninsianna appeared in the east: there will be scarcity of grain and straw in the land; there will be disaster.  In the month Arahsamna Ninsianna on the 11th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 8 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Tebit on the 19th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: the harvest of the land will prosper.  In the month Arahsamna Ninsianna on the 10th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 6 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Tebit on the 16th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: the harvest of the land will prosper. [13b] In the month Kislev Ninsianna on the 20th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 1 day she remained absent from the sky; in the month Sabat on the 21st day Ninsianna appeared in the west: the harvest of the land will prosper. [5b] In the month Kislev Ninsianna on the 24th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 4 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Sabat on the 28th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: the harvest of the land will prosper. [21b] In the month Tebit Ninsianna on the 28th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months she remained absent from the sky; in the month Adar on the 28th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: king to king messages of war will send.  In the month Sabat Ninsianna on the 15th day disappeared in the west; for 3 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Sabat on the 18th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: springs will open; Adad will bring rains and Ea will bring floods; king to king messages of reconciliation will send. [8b] In the month Sabat Ninsianna on the 25th day disappeared in the east; for 3 months 9 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Sivan on the 4th day Ninsianna appeared in the west: downfall of a large army. [16b] In the month Adar Ninsianna on the 25th day disappeared in the east; for 2 months 7 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Sivan on the 2nd day Ninsianna appeared in the west: downfall of the Umman-Manda.  In the month Adar Ninsianna on the 11th day disappeared in the west; for 4 days she remained absent from the sky; in the month Adar on the 15th day Ninsianna appeared in the east: king to king messages of reconciliation will send; the harvest of the irrigated land will prosper; the heart of the land will be happy. [F4] 24 Out-of-Sequence Entries About Ninsianna, From the Entries; They Have Reappearances in Them.
In several respects, our reconstruction in Table I differs from other writers' compilations of the surviving fragments of Section IV. LFS would delete Years 9, 16b, and 19, and Reiner and Pingree would delete Years 8b, 9, and 19. These deletions will be discussed later in this paper. In addition, Langdon (but not Fotheringham) would transpose Years 8a and 16a, and also Years 7 and 15, while Reiner and Pingree would transpose Years 13b and 5b.*
There has been considerable disagreement about how the various entries (especially the forecasts) are to be translated. For example, there are sharp differences between Langdon and Reiner about the meanings of some of the forecasts. Sometimes we have followed Langdon, and in other cases we have followed Reiner. In no case, however, does our overall argument depend upon exactly how a forecast is translated.
Apparently the purpose of Section IV was to investigate and display the relationship between the forecasts and the twelve months of the year. The inventor of Section IV, in other words, seems to have been interested in the principle according to which the compilers of Sections I and III originally assigned the forecasts. Section IV does suggest a very loose correlation between the forecasts and the months of disappearance. This correlation is presented in Table II, where for the sake of simplicity we have listed the months by Roman numeral. (Second or intercalary Ulul has been listed as "VI*".) The forecasts are given in Reiner's transliteration, because some of the similarities between forecasts (consider Year 8b and Year 16b, for example) are not apparent in English translation. In one case we have moved a forecast to the right, so that its correspondence to or partial identity with a neighboring forecast will be more conspicuous. (We have also included Year 19, though we need not have done so.) Table II gives the months of appearance as well, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.
The inventor of Section IV may have been satisfied with this rough correlation between forecasts and months of disappearance. But these results are very deceptive. Whenever two entries with comparable forecasts have the same month of disappearance, they also have the same month of appearance. All four pairs in Section IV - Years 5a and 13a, Years 7 and 15, Years 2 and 10, and Years 13b and 5b - are of this sort. (If the reading for Year 8b that was available to the inventor of Section IV was with a disappearance on XII 25 rather than on XI 25 - which is at least possible - then there would have been another such pair composed of Years 8b and 16b. Here, too, the months of appearance would have been the same.)
A further consideration pointing to the months of appearance is that the forecasts in Section II are clearly correlated with the months of appearance. There are only two exceptions out of twenty-four cases, and even those do not seem tied to the month of disappearance; rather, they are alternative forecasts for those months of appearance. (See our paper, "Section II: The Artificial Insertion", KRONOS V:4, especially pages 44-45.) This suggests that the forecasts in Sections I and III, and hence in Section IV, are likewise tied to the months of appearance. Also, several of the footings seem to stress the "reappearances", if that is a correct translation of tajaratu.
In order to investigate this possibility that the Section IV forecasts are tied to the months of appearance, we prepared Table III, which is similar to Table II except that the entries from Sections I and III are now arranged in order of their months of appearance. (Again, we have included Year 19.) This arrangement of all the entries in order of the months of appearance may represent what the inventor of Section IV should have done, for the results are much more striking than anything in Table II. Notice that there are only two outright exceptions or discrepancies, only two cases where appearances in the same month do not have forecasts that are identical or comparable to each other. These exceptional cases are Year 1 and Year 19. Year 1 is from the very beginning of the entire Ninsianna document, and may for that reason have had a distinctive forecast that made reference to Adad and Ea. While Year 19 is not included in Section IV, its forecast is of course known from Section III. Note that Year I is the first entry in Section I and that Year 19 is the first entry in Section III. This suggests that both entries may have had special forecasts because of their lead-off positions; and it also suggests that Section III is not merely a continuation of Section I, as so often assumed, but an independent set of observations whose temporal relation to the observations in Section I should be regarded as unknown until otherwise determined. The fact that Year 19 is unique in being confined to a single intercalary month may also have some bearing on its unique forecast.
Section IV is valuable to us as an additional source of information regarding the entries of Section I and Section III. Caution is required, since Section IV is sometimes rather badly damaged, and seems somewhat astrological in purpose and wrong-headed in concept (due to its focus on the months of disappearance, instead of the months of appearance that actually guided those who originally assigned the forecasts of Sections I and III). Yet Section IV does at least give us additional readings that may shed some light on the history of the Ninsianna document, and represents on balance an additional base for our textual reconstructions. We must take what we can, and we are much better off having Section IV than we would be not having it. The mere fact that Section IV is in order of the months of disappearance reduces the chance that one of those months would be miswritten, just as the artificial structure of Section II makes it unlikely that any month would be misstated there.
The inventor of Section IV must have had access - via some other source than that used by the inventor of Section II, who read Year 8b as XII 25 (2m9d) III 4 - to the original readings for Years 8b and 16b, namely, XI 25 (3m9d) III 4 with a "matti" forecast and XII 25 (2m7d) III 2 with a "manda" forecast. For two different garbled conflations of these entries seem to have been present on different versions of Section IV. As we will explain below, these were XI [or XII] 25 (3m9d) III 2 "manda" and XII 25 (2m7d) III 4 "matti". (The former led to K. 160's report of Year 16 in Section I, with III 2 changed to III 20; the latter led to the Section IV entry for Year 8b/16b on B.M. 36395, on K. 2321 + 3032, perhaps on K. 12186, and perhaps on VAT 11253.)
THE OMISSIONS FROM SECTION IV
Section IV, which repeats all but a few of the entries from Section I and Section III, has its entries not in chronological order but in the order of the months of disappearance. Its word order is distinctive: Sections I and III use the word order, "In the month so-and-so on day such-and-such Ninsianna....", while Section IV uses the word order, "In the month so-and-so Ninsianna on day such-and-such...." (One purpose of this special word order may have been to emphasize the month of Ninsianna's disappearance, by placing the month name adjacent to the name "Ninsianna" and separating it from the day. The same word order, which is also used in the Corrigenda Section, seems to have been adopted for any non-chronological listing of entries.)
There is general agreement that Section IV does not now contain Year 18 or Year 19. (There may never have been a Year 18 at all.) Usually one other entry is also regarded as missing: for LFS it is Year 16b; for Reiner and Pingree it is Year 8b; for us, there are some complicating factors, but we think that earlier versions had both Year 8b and Year 16b, which were then conflated into one. There seem to have been two different versions of this conflation, both of which are reflected in the surviving texts. In addition, uniformitarians are eager to deny that Year 9 occurs in Section IV; this seems to make them more comfortable about rejecting Year 9's reported invisibility of some nine months.
We will examine the possibility that these various entries are indeed missing from Section IV. Aside from our general aim of better understanding the Ninsianna document, the main purpose of this survey is to review cases where uniformitarian bias has swayed philological judgements.
In discussing these "missing" entries, there are four different situations that should be distinguished: (1) The entry is now present on surviving versions of Section IV. (2) The entry is now missing from Section IV, but was once included. (3) Though now extant in Section I or Section III, the entry was never included in Section IV. (4) The entry was never extant at all.
Thus we will argue that Year 9 is in Section IV and that a single conflated version of Years 8b and 16b is in Section IV; that both Year 8b and Year 16b once were in Section IV as separate entries, though they are now conflated and garbled into one; that Year 19, though extant, probably was never included in Section IV; and that "Year 18" probably never existed at all.
Year 18 is something of an enigma. No known fragment includes any entry for Year 18, and it is questionable whether such an entry existed at all. Thus it is most unlikely that Section IV would ever have included Year 18.
Section I, it will be recalled, consists of observational entries for Years 1 through 17. Then come the schematic or artificial entries of Section II, followed by four other observational entries in Section III. According to the usual terminology, Section III covers Years 19 through 2 lb. The implication is that Year 18 is missing from the chronological listings and has been replaced by Section II, the so-called "Artificial Insertion".
But what evidence is there that Year 18 really existed? In other words, did Section III really follow Section I with only Year 18 between them? The evidence turns out to be circumstantial and contradictory.
One of the arguments in favor of Year 18 is that the total span of observations becomes twenty-one years. Since a few of the Ninsianna fragments include a year-formula that has been attributed to Ammizaduga, it seems logical that the observations would cover the same period of time that Ammizaduga reigned: twenty-one years. Another argument in favor of Year 18 comes from the astronomical phenomena involved in linking the last entry of Section I to the first entry of Section III. These entries - for Years 17 and 19 - are both inferior conjunctions. Joining the end of Year 17 directly to the beginning of Year 19 produces a sequence of observations that no one would consider realistic. A more plausible way to join them is to insert a hypothetical Year 18 that has a superior conjunction. This not only restores the usual alternation of inferior and superior conjunctions but leaves about the right amount of room for two periods of visibility and one period of invisibility (at superior conjunction) between the inferior conjunctions of Years 17 and 19.
On the other hand, if we reject the identification of either Section I or Section III with Ammizaduga, and if we do not make the purely speculative assumption that the first observations of Section III were made one synodic period after the last observations of Section I, then there is no particular reason to believe in the existence of Year 18. Based on orbital considerations and on discrepancies between the months represented on the tablets and the intercalary months attested for Ammizaduga, we do indeed reject any identification of the observations with Ammizaduga (as discussed in Penseé IVR III, Velikovsky Reconsidered, and KRONOS IV:2). In our opinion, the year formula of Ammizaduga was added erroneously by a well-meaning later scribe. Subsequent copies repeated the year-formula.
Reiner and Pingree identify the first part of Section I with Ammizaduga but suggest that Section III and possibly the latter part of Section I contain observations not made during his reign. Although their viewpoint here is much different from ours, it is equally detrimental to the arguments for Year 18. The scenario according to which the observations of Sections I and III were originally connected by a now-missing Year 18 "appears very dubious indeed", in Pingree's words.
If there ever was a Year 18 between the XII 11 (4d) XII 15 invisibility of Year 17 and the VI* 2 (15d) VI* 17 invisibility of Year 19, it would probably have involved a disappearance in month VIII or month IX, according to uniformitarian estimates. There is no room for such an entry in that portion of Section IV. The relevant fragments are B.M. 37121 + 37432, B.M. 36395, and especially K. 2321 + 3032.
Thus there is no real evidence that Year 18 ever existed. Absence of evidence, of course, is not evidence of absence; it is possible that there was a Year 18. But it is also entirely possible that the observations of Section III were made a number of years after, or even before, the observations of Section 1.
There is general agreement that Year 19 of Section III is missing from Section IV, and we concur.
Year 19 features a disappearance in a second Ulul (VI*); it is the only entry from either Section I or Section III that has an intercalary month as its month of disappearance.
If Year 19 were to be placed in Section IV, where should it be put? There seem to be only five possibilities. Some of these possibilities are rather implausible; we shall consider them just for the sake of completeness. Year 19 might be put at the very beginning of Section IV, before the month I disappearances. Or it might belong with the other disappearances in month VI (not intercalary). There are two of these, Year 3 and Year 11. Presumably Year 19 could either precede these two entries, or come between them, or follow them. (If it followed them, that would have the same effect as placing the VI* disappearance after the VI disappearances, rather than with them.) Finally, Year 19 might be put at the very end of Section IV, after the month XII disappearances. But there is no room for Year 19 at any of these five points.
All three surviving fragments from the beginning of Section IV show Year 12, not Year 19, as the first entry.
There are only two surviving fragments from the middle part of Section IV, but together they suggest that the sequence was Years 7 and 15, with disappearances in month V, then Years 3 and 11, with disappearances in month VI, and then Year 14, with a disappearance in month VII. (One of these fragments, Sm. 174, breaks off after giving Years 7, 15, and 3; but the other fragment, K. 2321 + 3032, gives Years 7, 15, 3, 11, and 14.)
Two surviving fragments from the end of Section IV are B.M. 36395 and K. 2321 + 3032, both of which clearly show Year 17 as the last entry. (Another fragment, VAT 11253, is badly damaged, but Reiner and Pingree take it to contain Years 1, 16b, and 17. The text then breaks off, and we cannot tell what came next.)
Thus there is no evidence that Year 19 is included in Section IV. Indeed, it is not to be found on any of the surviving fragments of Section IV. While it cannot be ruled out that B.M. 36395 or VAT 11253 or some other source had Year 19 on a part of the tablet that is now lost, the point is that Year l 9 does not occur on any surviving fragment of Section IV.
* * *
Year 19 and Year 18 may be taken as examples of cases in which there really are good and sufficient reasons for saying that such-and-such an entry is missing from Section IV. The high quality of this evidence should be kept in mind as a standard for judging the "evidence" that Section IV omits Year 9, to which we turn next.
If the entries from Sections I and III are to be arranged in order of months of disappearance, we find that Years 12 and 21 a have disappearances in month I, Years 5a and 13a in month II, Years 9 and 20 in month III, Years 4 and 8a and 16a in month IV, and so on. Since Section IV is a listing by months of disappearance, it is not a chronological listing; nevertheless, various secondary ordering principles are chronological. Entries with disappearances in the same month are arranged in Section IV according to several different such secondary, chronological principles: usually they are arranged by Year, but sometimes they seem to be arranged in order of the days of the month.* (At least once there is still another sort of secondary principle - an inferior conjunction (Year 6) seems to have been placed before a superior conjunction (Year 2) - though the rationale for this may have been that Year 6 needed to be placed before Years 2 and 10, which have the same forecast as Years 13b and 5b, in order that four entries with the same forecast could be grouped together.)
* The only instance of this in our reconstruction involves Years 13b and 5b. It is possible, however, that the disappearance in Year 16a was in month V, and it is also possible that Year 15 preceded Year 7 in Section IV. There would then be three pairs of this sort: 16a and 15 (16a and 7 would also qualify), 15 and 7, and 13b and 5b.
Year 9 should be either the fifth or the sixth entry in Section IV, if the principal criterion is the month of disappearance. The secondary principles (order of Years, order of days, and inferior before superior) all suggest that Year 9 should be the fifth entry in Section IV and that Year 20 should be the sixth (Year 9 precedes Year 20, the 11th day precedes the 25th day, and an inferior conjunction precedes a superior conjunction). The position of Year 9 would be between Year 13a and Year 20.
Why all the fuss, then, about Year 9? The reason is the interval of 9m4d, which uniformitarians find totally unacceptable. The Section I reports of such an interval are bad enough, and uniformitarians would prefer not to find them confirmed by a Section IV placement of Year 9 indicative of a disappearance in month III. Because Section IV is generally more battered and damaged than Section I, they seem to feel that it is safe to interpret Section IV as if it never contained a Year 9 with a disappearance in month III.
Such an approach was perhaps more defensible at the time LFS were writing, for they knew of no Section IV sources that covered Years 13a, 9, and 20. Thus there was no embarrassing counter evidence to prevent their simply supposing that Year 9 was never there! They even claim support for this supposition in the fact that the final Section IV entry on K. 2321 + 3032 has a forecast that seems to be a conflation of Year 17's forecast with the Year 9 forecast. LFS take this to mean that Year 9 was once "correctly" placed with the disappearances in month XII, and that it became merged or conflated with Year 17 because both had readings of XII 11 (4d) XII 15. The conflation would thus have taken place in Section IV itself, and would not have been derived from a similar reading in Section 1.
This was not a bad idea, even though it was motivated by uniformitarian considerations. One way to check it is to see whether Year 9 does or does not appear between Year 13a and Year 20. If it does, then the LFS conjecture is refuted. LFS could not test their conjecture in this way, because they had no fragments of that portion of Section IV. Thanks to Reiner, we do. But Reiner and Pingree distort those fragments or ignore their import in such ways that Year 9 is still claimed not to be there! We shall argue that they do contain the Year 9 entry, right where it is supposed to be.
But let us first look at another of Reiner's newly-identified fragments. This is B.M. 36758 + 37496; Reiner and Pingree seem not to realize it, but this fragment undermines the LFS argument that Year 9 and Year 17 were conflated at the end of Section IV. For this fragment suggests that the long, so-called "conflated" forecast also occurred in Year 17 of Section I! There is no need to suppose that it was created in Section IV by an accidental conflation of the shorter forecasts found in Years 9 and 17 of Section I on K. 160.
The Year 9 forecast in Section I of K. 160 is sarru ana sarri salima isappar; the Year 17 forecast in Section I of K. 160 is ebur rutibti issir, libbi mati itab. The last entry in Section IV of K. 2321 + 3032 ends with the words sarru ana sarri salima isappar; [ebur] rutibtu issir, libbi mati itab, which LFS take as a conflation of the forecasts of Years 9 and 17 and as proof that Year 9 was once treated in Section IV as having had a disappearance in month XII. The forecast in Year 17 of Section I on B.M. 36758 + 37496 is mostly lost, but just enough of it has survived to be of great help here, namely, the last part of the word isappar and the first part of the word ebur, which suggests that the so-called Section IV "conflation" was by no means peculiar to or restricted to Section IV, but existed also in Section I. The forecast in Year 17 of Section IV could thus have been based entirely upon the forecast in Year 17 of Section I, and there is no need to suppose that Year 9 supplied any part of the Section IV forecast. The effort by LFS to discredit the Year 9 disappearance in month III will no longer wash.
Now let us examine the fragments that could have included Year 9 in Section IV. Rm. 134, first published by Virolleaud early in the twentieth century, was of course known to LFS, but it covers only Years 12, 21a, and 5a of Section IV. Reiner is mysteriously reticent about the matter, but she, as far as we know, was the one who first publicly identified K. 5963 not only as a Ninsianna fragment but as a join to the end of Rm. 134. The new piece seems to cover parts of Years 5a, 13a, and 9. But since the Year 9 entry consists of nothing more than the upper part of the words, "Ninsianna on day", Reiner tries to get away with calling it Year 20, as if Year 9 was not even there! We cannot hope to use the words, "Ninsianna on day", as proof that this fragmentary entry is Year 9, but we can point out that Reiner's decision to take it as Year 20 is completely arbitrary and begs the very question at issue.
VAT 11253 was published by Labat, but Reiner was the first to recognize that it is from the overall "Ninsianna" document, even though it refers to Venus as Dilbat rather than as Ninsianna. This fragment is very badly damaged, but part of it does seem to include the month III and month IV disappearances in Section IV, the very material that we are now investigating. VAT 11253 is arranged in two columns. Reiner and Pingree identify five entries from the right hand column as Years 13a, 20, 4, 8a, and 16a, and three entries from the left-hand column as Years 1, 16b, and 17. We suggest that, given the data used by Reiner and Pingree, their entries from the right-hand column could just as well be Years 13a, 9, 20, 4, and 8a. (Another possibility is that they are Years 9, 20, 4, 8a, and 16a.) There is little detail here, and what there is is open to various interpretations, so that one such identification is little worse than another. What does make the Reiner-Pingree approach worse is that it is arbitrary, that it is motivated by uniformitarian prejudice against the 9m4d interval, and that it begs the very question at issue without even acknowledging that there is a question! (The entries from the left-hand column of VAT 11253, which Reiner and Pingree identify as Years 1, 16b, and 17, will be discussed in our section on Year 8b, as well as in a future paper. We should state right now, however, that there may be four entries in the left-hand column, not just three. Also, there are significant discrepancies between the Reiner-Pingree account of this fragment and the Labat drawing of it.)
B.M. 34227 was first published by Sachs in 1955. Though Sachs made a muddle of this and each of the other Ninsianna fragments that he published, it seems clear enough that B.M. 34227 covers the first five entries of Section IV. Reiner and Pingree see these as Years 12, 21 a, 5a, 13a, and 20. They offer no reason whatsoever for taking that fifth entry as Year 20 rather than as Year 9. The only datum in that entry that might aid in its identification is that the date of appearance ended in a 5. Surviving dates of appearance from Year 20 are 14 (on B.M. 41688) and 24 (on K. 160). Surviving dates of appearance from Year 9 are 15 (on K. 160 and on K. 2321 + 3032) and 16 (on B.M. 36395). Thus the only straightforward fit is with the twice-reported date of XII 15 from Year 9, and this makes it highly likely that the fifth entry on B.M. 34227 is Year 9. In the light of what there is of available evidence, any other reading is sheer perversity.
A further indication that Year 9 appeared between Year 13a and Year 20 of Section IV is from B.M. 41498, which was first published by Sachs in 1955, but with the obverse and reverse mislabeled! Reiner and Pingree fail to detect this error, so it is perhaps no wonder that they fail to identify any of the entries on either side of B.M. 41498. The actual obverse seems to cover Years 13b, 14, 15, 16a, and 16b of Section 1, and the actual reverse seems to cover Years 9, 20, 4, and 8a of Section IV.*
* We agree with the Reiner and Pingree suggestion that K. 2321 + 3032 and K. 3105 are fragments of the same tablet. In KRONOS V:3 we suggested that B.M. 41498 might also be part of this same tablet, because of its very similar obverse-reverse layout of material. Since then, however, we have learned from photographs that B.M. 41498 is quite different in appearance from the other two fragments, and we must retract our suggestion. We now regard B.M. 41498 as a contemporary duplicate of K. 2321 + 3032 and K. 3105, but not as part of the same tablet.
No matter how much the uniformitarians would like to purge the Year 9 interval of 9m4d from Section IV, traces of Year 9 keep turning up on one fragment after another. There is no evidence whatsoever that the ancients shared the modern aversion to such a long interval of invisibility.
LFS take the next-to-last entry in Section IV as Year 8b. This leads them to argue that Year 16b was omitted from Section IV. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that their analysis of Year 16b in Section I leaves them with the 3m9d interval in Year 16b, as K. 160 has it, and that the 2m7d interval in Section IV becomes Year 8b by default - which leaves them with nothing in Section IV that can be identified as Year 16b. Let us examine their analysis of Year 16b.
The Section I sources for Year 16b that were known to LFS were the fragments K. 160 and Rm. II 531. The data from K. 160 are XII 25 (3m9d) III 20, and Rm. II 531 gives only XII 15 for the date of disappearance. LFS seem to be trying to salvage as much as possible of this discordant material. Their approach is quite reasonable, even though we think that they guessed wrong. They want to keep the reported months, together with the reported interval. The XII 25 and the 3m9d imply an appearance on IV 4, which conflicts with the reported month III. (It also conflicts with the III 11 disappearance in Year 9, but all uniformitarians reject that report anyway, and it does not seem to have affected the thinking of LFS here.) But if the disappearance was on XII 15, then the 3m9d would imply an appearance on III 24. This is a desirable solution, as far as LFS are concerned, because it preserves the reported months as well as the reported interval. The disappearance on day 25 is taken as an error for 15, and the appearance on day 20 is taken as an error for 24. Both of these changes could have resulted just as easily from tablet damage as from scribal error. All in all, it is difficult to find fault with this sort of reasoning.
The only source for the next-to-last entry of Section IV that was known to LFS was K. 2321 + 3032, which gave an interval of 2m7d with no surviving dates of disappearance or appearance. Since they were already satisfied that the interval in Year 16b was 3m9d, it seemed reasonable to them that this Section IV entry was Year 8b, especially since the forecast was different. This meant that Year 16b was omitted from Section IV.
Perhaps the only flaw in this entire line of reasoning arises at the very end: LFS have provided no answer to the simple question of why Year 16b was omitted. After all, Year 16b has nothing special about it. Each of the other candidates for omission - Years 8b, 9, 18, and 19 - has some special feature that someone might try to use as part of an argument for or an explanation of its having been omitted. Year 16b is rather ordinary and has no such special feature. This in itself should have given LFS pause.
Reiner's newly-identified fragments have brought the coup de grâce to the LFS reasoning. B.M. 36758 + 37496 gives 2m7d as the interval of Year 16b in Section I! This alone makes it far more arbitrary than reasonable to take 3m9d as the interval of Year 16b, and increases the likelihood that the Section IV entry might be Year 16b, rather than Year 8b. Another newly-identified fragment, B.M. 36395, makes matters even worse for the LFS suggestion; it concurs with K. 2321 + 3032 in giving 2m7d as the interval in the next-to-last entry of Section IV, but it gives III 4 as the date of appearance! III 4 is the very date that would be expected from an interval of 3m9d and a disappearance on XI 25 rather than XII 25. (Even ignoring the months, if a reappearance on the 4th of some month followed an invisibility of so many months and 9 days, then the disappearance in some earlier month would have been on the 25th, the very day that has the strongest textual support.) Thus both B.M. 36395 and K. 160 seem to be garbled: K. 160 has the interval from Year 8b and the date of appearance (changed from 2 to 20) from Year 16b, and B.M. 36395 has the interval from Year 16b and the date of appearance from Year 8b. (The garbled status of Year 16b on K. 160 may also be indicated by the fact that Reiner and Pingree read the forecast as "miqitti umman-manda; miqitti " - that is, as if the other forecast were about to be repeated here. But this reading is questionable: neither LFS nor Virolleaud saw the last word as the same as the first word.) Probably the K. 160 version of Year 16b is derived from a Section IV conflation of Year 8b and Year 16b that gave XI or XII 25 (3m9d) III 2 or 20 with a forecast about Manda hordes. Our surviving Section IV sources seem to reflect a different Section IV conflation of Year 8b and Year 16b that gave XII 25 (2m7d) III 4 with a forecast about hordes in the land, or a large army, or whatever (the cuneiformists have reached no consensus on this). Originally, Year 8b would have given XI 25 (3m9d) III 4 with a "hordes in the land" forecast, and Year 16b would have given XII 25 (2m7d) III 2 with a "Manda hordes" forecast. (The general idea of a conflation of two Section IV entries into one is not novel; LFS proposed such a conflation of Years 9 and 17, as we have seen.)
Thus, what ended up in various early versions of Section IV was one or another conflation of Year 8b and Year 16b. Neither Year 8b nor Year 16b is strictly or wholly present in Section IV. Neither is strictly or wholly absent from Section IV. And neither was deliberately dropped from Section IV. The garbling and conflating that occurred was accidental and unintentional. Thus, we disagree both with the LFS suggestion that Section IV contains Year 8b but not Year 16b, and with the Reiner-Pingree suggestion that Section IV contains Year 16b but not Year 8b. It is to the Reiner-Pingree suggestion that we turn next.
Reiner and Pingree take the next-to-last entry in Section IV as Year 16b. This leads them to argue that Year 8b was omitted from Section IV. Their only proposed reason for this omission is that Year 8b is incomplete. On all surviving fragments from Section I the year formula, "Year of the Golden Throne", appears in place of the interval of invisibility, the date and direction of appearance, and the forecast. Because of this special situation, according to Reiner and Pingree, Year 8b was omitted from Section IV.
But we have argued that Year 8b was originally XI 25 (3m9d) III 4, with a "matti" forecast. Except perhaps for the XI, all of this material did find its way into Section IV, where it was garbled and conflated with data from Year 16b. (Even the XI seems to have been included in Section IV originally, although it has not survived in either of the garbled conflations.) Section IV must have been prepared when the 3m9d and the III 4 had not yet been replaced by the year-formula. The Reiner-Pingree argument (which, by the way, would probably not have swayed LFS at all) refers to a later situation and has no relevance to the preparation of Section IV.
The actual content of the next-to-last entry of Section IV is not discussed in this connection by Reiner and Pingree, but that content hardly gives decisive testimony. K. 2321 + 3032 gives the interval as 2m7d, with a "matti" forecast. B.M. 36395 gives an interval of 2m7d, but with an appearance on III 4, and a "matti" forecast. As we have already indicated, these reports suggest that this Section IV entry is garbled, with an interval of 2m7d that is from Year 16b, and with a date of appearance and a forecast that went with the interval of 3m9d in Year 8b. To call this entry Year 16b, without even discussing these matters, is to beg the question at issue.
If the author of Section IV had access to the data of Year 8b as well as to the data of Year 16b, why should either have been omitted? We have argued that indeed neither one was omitted, but that they were eventually conflated into one garbled version that led to K. 160's entry for Year 16b of Section I, and another garbled version that led to the several Section IV entries that have survived. Year 8b had not yet been truncated by the insertion of the year-formula, so that the later truncation cannot be used as evidence that Year 8b was omitted.
VAT 11253, despite its damaged condition, or perhaps because of it, is the only surviving fragment that might have both Year 8b and Year 16b in Section IV. The next-to-last entry in the left-hand column on VAT 11253 seems to correspond to the next-to-last entry of Section IV, which is usually a garbled and conflated version of Year 8b and Year 16b. VAT 11253 gives the direction of disappearance as "east" and the forecast as "miqitti ummani matti", which Reiner and Pingree translate as "downfall of a large army", and which LFS understand as a "disaster" of the "army of the land". The next and final entry on VAT 11253 gives no data at all, except that the disappearance was in the east. This could be just a scribal error, but it is noteworthy that this directional report could be correct, if VAT 11253 gave Year 8b (which would have the "matti" forecast) and then Year 16b (which would have an eastern disappearance). Year 17 should have a western disappearance. Perhaps this eastern disappearance is just a scribal error, and perhaps that last surviving entry on VAT 11253 is Year 17. But the possibility that both Year 8b and Year 16b occur on this fragment cannot be absolutely excluded. (Our discussions so far have been based on Reiner and Pingree's identification of the left-hand column of VAT 11253 as the last portion of Section IV. In a future paper, however, we will discuss a radically different interpretation, according to which only the right hand column of VAT 11253 would be from Section IV.)
* * *
We have attempted in this paper to determine the purpose and content of Section IV and to repair some of the misinterpretations of Section IV that have resulted from uniformitarian scholarship. In a subsequent series of papers we shall be dealing with such topics as the Corrigenda Section and the relative dating of the fragments. Then we shall turn once more to the orbital questions posed by the Ninsianna tablets.