Ancient Astronomers Developed First Known Writing

Ancient Astronomers Developed First Known Writing

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Scientists need theories, archaeologists perhaps even more so, but despite countless scientists studying countless archaeological sites for thousands of years, we are no-where closer to answering the important question: Did an ancient civilization travel the world thousands of years ago, and seed the creation of multiple later civilizations?

Though Pyramid structures and unusually large stone structures are routinely discovered throughout the world, it is impossible using current theory to say that they are connected. Archaeologists to put it bluntly are simply not very good at comparing "similar" objects. For a match to be made the artefacts have to be identical, and as no two archaeological artefacts discovered to date are identical they cannot ever be linked, no matter how similar they may look.

Now that position has been turned entirely on its head. A recent hypothesis made by Dr. Derek Cunningham, an independent researcher, might be on the point of changing everything. By joining four separate scientific fields, astronomy, the study of early written languages, cartography, and archaeology, Dr Cunningham has put forward an entirely new theory that ancient civilizations developed writing from a very archaic geometrical form that is based on the study of the motion of the moon and the sun.

The concept of early writing in the Stone Age has been argued many times over the past 100 years. However, the problem of studying writing is that all current theories look at writing using current known systems for their basis. This working-backwards approach, Dr Cunningham argues, loads the research attempt with a strong structural bias.

Based on evidence that many archaic bones encased with long straight lines are astronomical tally bones, Dr Cunningham's new hypothesis is that the geometrical structure of the lines might just perhaps be astronomical writing. In this new theory it is argued that because the earliest astronomers did not have a modern alphabetical system to work with they simply did the next best thing and that was to write down their astronomical values as angles. In this way a 27.32 day sidereal month would be drawn as a line at 27.32 degrees.

There are of course many astronomical values, but a specific series has been uncovered using this theory that relate to those astronomers used to accurately measure time and to predict the onset of eclipses. These values, which are about seven in number, have been found to explain data from a wide range of archaeological samples dating from as old as circa 400,000 years before present, all the way through to the development of Celtic Ogham writing.

As a theory, the idea is very simple and most important of all, it is easily tested. The theory has also shown incredible consistency, with the idea fully explaining the development from archaic primitive proto-writing to the earliest modern writing styles starting from proto-Cuneiform.

The data also explains numerous gaps in current theories, such as the structure of until now unexplained lines present on the Stonehenge Bush Barrow Lozenge , an intricate gold foil pendant uncovered on the body of a high ranking person.

The theory also question the structure of the causeways located in front of the Great Pyramids, and presence of large enigmatic Giants, such as the Atacama Giant .

The complete theory, and other thoughts on the ancient past is presented in the author's book ‘ The Long Journey: 400,000 Years of Stone Age Science ’.


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Ptolemy, Latin in full Claudius Ptolemaeus, (born c. 100 ce —died c. 170 ce ), an Egyptian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer of Greek descent who flourished in Alexandria during the 2nd century ce . In several fields his writings represent the culminating achievement of Greco-Roman science, particularly his geocentric (Earth-centred) model of the universe now known as the Ptolemaic system.

What is Ptolemy best known for?

Ptolemy’s mathematical model of the universe had a profound influence on medieval astronomy in the Islamic world and Europe. The Ptolemaic system was a geocentric system that postulated that the apparently irregular paths of the Sun, Moon, and planets were actually a combination of several regular circular motions seen in perspective from a stationary Earth.

How did Ptolemy impact the world?

In addition to his astronomical work, Ptolemy recorded longitudes and latitudes in degrees for roughly 8,000 locations on his world map, giving a detailed image of the inhabited world as it was known to a resident of the Roman Empire at its height. While distorted, his work influenced Byzantine and Renaissance cartographers.

What were Ptolemy’s achievements?

Ptolemy made contributions to astronomy, mathematics, geography, musical theory, and optics. He compiled a star catalog and the earliest surviving table of a trigonometric function and established mathematically that an object and its mirror image must make equal angles to a mirror. In several fields his writings represent the culminating achievement of Greco-Roman science.

Virtually nothing is known about Ptolemy’s life except what can be inferred from his writings. His first major astronomical work, the Almagest, was completed about 150 ce and contains reports of astronomical observations that Ptolemy had made over the preceding quarter of a century. The size and content of his subsequent literary production suggests that he lived until about 170 ce .

Mesopotamian origins

Scholars generally agree that the earliest form of writing appeared almost 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Early pictorial signs were gradually substituted by a complex system of characters representing the sounds of Sumerian (the language of Sumer in Southern Mesopotamia) and other languages.

From 2900 BC, these began to be impressed in wet clay with a reed stylus, making wedge-shaped marks which are now known as cuneiform.

4,000-year old tablet recording workers' wages

This tablet preserves an account of wages paid to workers 4,000 years ago.

The process of writing cuneiform stabilised over the next 600 years. Curves were eliminated, signs simplified and the direct connection between the look of pictograms and their original object of reference was lost.

Sometime during this same period, the symbols &ndash which were initially read from top to bottom &ndash came to be read from left to right in horizontal lines (vertical alignments were kept for more traditional pronouncements). In keeping with this, the symbols were also realigned, rotated 90 degrees anti-clockwise.

Eventually, in 2340 BC, Sumer fell to the armies of Sargon, King of the Akkadians, a northern Semitic people who had previously co-existed with the Sumerians. By this time, cuneiform had, for several centuries, been used bilingually to write Akkadian too. Sargon, the latest in a line of expansive Akkadian leaders, built an Empire that ran from present day Lebanon down to &lsquothe nether sea&rsquo (the Persian Gulf). Eventually, as many as 15 languages would use cuneiform-inspired characters.

Sumerian lingered on as the language of learning until at least 200 BC. Cuneiform, the system invented to record it, however, outlived it by almost three centuries: it lasted as a writing system for other languages well into the Christian era. The last datable document in cuneiform is an astronomical text from 75 AD.


Early cultures identified celestial objects with gods and spirits. [2] They related these objects (and their movements) to phenomena such as rain, drought, seasons, and tides. It is generally believed that the first astronomers were priests, and that they understood celestial objects and events to be manifestations of the divine, hence early astronomy's connection to what is now called astrology. A 32,500 year old carved ivory Mammoth tusk could contain the oldest known star chart (resembling the constellation Orion). [3] It has also been suggested that drawing on the wall of the Lascaux caves in France dating from 33,000 to 10,000 years ago could be a graphical representation of the Pleiades, the Summer Triangle, and the Northern Crown. [4] [5] Ancient structures with possibly astronomical alignments (such as Stonehenge) probably fulfilled astronomical, religious, and social functions.

Calendars of the world have often been set by observations of the Sun and Moon (marking the day, month and year), and were important to agricultural societies, in which the harvest depended on planting at the correct time of year, and for which the nearly full moon was the only lighting for night-time travel into city markets. [6]

The common modern calendar is based on the Roman calendar. Although originally a lunar calendar, it broke the traditional link of the month to the phases of the Moon and divided the year into twelve almost-equal months, that mostly alternated between thirty and thirty-one days. Julius Caesar instigated calendar reform in 46 BCE and introduced what is now called the Julian calendar, based upon the 365 1 ⁄ 4 day year length originally proposed by the 4th century BCE Greek astronomer Callippus.

Mesopotamia Edit

The origins of Western astronomy can be found in Mesopotamia, the "land between the rivers" Tigris and Euphrates, where the ancient kingdoms of Sumer, Assyria, and Babylonia were located. A form of writing known as cuneiform emerged among the Sumerians around 3500–3000 BC. Our knowledge of Sumerian astronomy is indirect, via the earliest Babylonian star catalogues dating from about 1200 BC. The fact that many star names appear in Sumerian suggests a continuity reaching into the Early Bronze Age. Astral theology, which gave planetary gods an important role in Mesopotamian mythology and religion, began with the Sumerians. They also used a sexagesimal (base 60) place-value number system, which simplified the task of recording very large and very small numbers. The modern practice of dividing a circle into 360 degrees, or an hour into 60 minutes, began with the Sumerians. For more information, see the articles on Babylonian numerals and mathematics.

Classical sources frequently use the term Chaldeans for the astronomers of Mesopotamia, who were, in reality, priest-scribes specializing in astrology and other forms of divination.

The first evidence of recognition that astronomical phenomena are periodic and of the application of mathematics to their prediction is Babylonian. Tablets dating back to the Old Babylonian period document the application of mathematics to the variation in the length of daylight over a solar year. Centuries of Babylonian observations of celestial phenomena are recorded in the series of cuneiform tablets known as the Enūma Anu Enlil. The oldest significant astronomical text that we possess is Tablet 63 of the Enūma Anu Enlil, the Venus tablet of Ammi-saduqa, which lists the first and last visible risings of Venus over a period of about 21 years and is the earliest evidence that the phenomena of a planet were recognized as periodic. The MUL.APIN, contains catalogues of stars and constellations as well as schemes for predicting heliacal risings and the settings of the planets, lengths of daylight measured by a water clock, gnomon, shadows, and intercalations. The Babylonian GU text arranges stars in 'strings' that lie along declination circles and thus measure right-ascensions or time-intervals, and also employs the stars of the zenith, which are also separated by given right-ascensional differences. [7]

A significant increase in the quality and frequency of Babylonian observations appeared during the reign of Nabonassar (747–733 BC). The systematic records of ominous phenomena in Babylonian astronomical diaries that began at this time allowed for the discovery of a repeating 18-year cycle of lunar eclipses, for example. The Greek astronomer Ptolemy later used Nabonassar's reign to fix the beginning of an era, since he felt that the earliest usable observations began at this time.

The last stages in the development of Babylonian astronomy took place during the time of the Seleucid Empire (323–60 BC). In the 3rd century BC, astronomers began to use "goal-year texts" to predict the motions of the planets. These texts compiled records of past observations to find repeating occurrences of ominous phenomena for each planet. About the same time, or shortly afterwards, astronomers created mathematical models that allowed them to predict these phenomena directly, without consulting past records. A notable Babylonian astronomer from this time was Seleucus of Seleucia, who was a supporter of the heliocentric model.

Babylonian astronomy was the basis for much of what was done in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy, in classical Indian astronomy, in Sassanian Iran, in Byzantium, in Syria, in Islamic astronomy, in Central Asia, and in Western Europe. [8]

India Edit

Astronomy in the Indian subcontinent dates back to the period of Indus Valley Civilization during 3rd millennium BCE, when it was used to create calendars. [9] As the Indus Valley civilization did not leave behind written documents, the oldest extant Indian astronomical text is the Vedanga Jyotisha, dating from the Vedic period. [10] Vedanga Jyotisha describes rules for tracking the motions of the Sun and the Moon for the purposes of ritual. During the 6th century, astronomy was influenced by the Greek and Byzantine astronomical traditions. [9] [11]

Aryabhata (476–550), in his magnum opus Aryabhatiya (499), propounded a computational system based on a planetary model in which the Earth was taken to be spinning on its axis and the periods of the planets were given with respect to the Sun. He accurately calculated many astronomical constants, such as the periods of the planets, times of the solar and lunar eclipses, and the instantaneous motion of the Moon. [12] [13] [ page needed ] Early followers of Aryabhata's model included Varahamihira, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara II.

Astronomy was advanced during the Shunga Empire and many star catalogues were produced during this time. The Shunga period is known [ according to whom? ] as the "Golden age of astronomy in India". It saw the development of calculations for the motions and places of various planets, their rising and setting, conjunctions, and the calculation of eclipses.

Indian astronomers by the 6th century believed that comets were celestial bodies that re-appeared periodically. This was the view expressed in the 6th century by the astronomers Varahamihira and Bhadrabahu, and the 10th-century astronomer Bhattotpala listed the names and estimated periods of certain comets, but it is unfortunately not known how these figures were calculated or how accurate they were. [14]

Bhāskara II (1114–1185) was the head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain, continuing the mathematical tradition of Brahmagupta. He wrote the Siddhantasiromani which consists of two parts: Goladhyaya (sphere) and Grahaganita (mathematics of the planets). He also calculated the time taken for the Earth to orbit the Sun to 9 decimal places. The Buddhist University of Nalanda at the time offered formal courses in astronomical studies.

Other important astronomers from India include Madhava of Sangamagrama, Nilakantha Somayaji and Jyeshtadeva, who were members of the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics from the 14th century to the 16th century. Nilakantha Somayaji, in his Aryabhatiyabhasya, a commentary on Aryabhata's Aryabhatiya, developed his own computational system for a partially heliocentric planetary model, in which Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn orbit the Sun, which in turn orbits the Earth, similar to the Tychonic system later proposed by Tycho Brahe in the late 16th century. Nilakantha's system, however, was mathematically more efficient than the Tychonic system, due to correctly taking into account the equation of the centre and latitudinal motion of Mercury and Venus. Most astronomers of the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics who followed him accepted his planetary model. [15] [16]

Greece and Hellenistic world Edit

The Ancient Greeks developed astronomy, which they treated as a branch of mathematics, to a highly sophisticated level. The first geometrical, three-dimensional models to explain the apparent motion of the planets were developed in the 4th century BC by Eudoxus of Cnidus and Callippus of Cyzicus. Their models were based on nested homocentric spheres centered upon the Earth. Their younger contemporary Heraclides Ponticus proposed that the Earth rotates around its axis.

A different approach to celestial phenomena was taken by natural philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. They were less concerned with developing mathematical predictive models than with developing an explanation of the reasons for the motions of the Cosmos. In his Timaeus, Plato described the universe as a spherical body divided into circles carrying the planets and governed according to harmonic intervals by a world soul. [17] Aristotle, drawing on the mathematical model of Eudoxus, proposed that the universe was made of a complex system of concentric spheres, whose circular motions combined to carry the planets around the earth. [18] This basic cosmological model prevailed, in various forms, until the 16th century.

In the 3rd century BC Aristarchus of Samos was the first to suggest a heliocentric system, although only fragmentary descriptions of his idea survive. [19] Eratosthenes estimated the circumference of the Earth with great accuracy. [20]

Greek geometrical astronomy developed away from the model of concentric spheres to employ more complex models in which an eccentric circle would carry around a smaller circle, called an epicycle which in turn carried around a planet. The first such model is attributed to Apollonius of Perga and further developments in it were carried out in the 2nd century BC by Hipparchus of Nicea. Hipparchus made a number of other contributions, including the first measurement of precession and the compilation of the first star catalog in which he proposed our modern system of apparent magnitudes.

The Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical observational device for calculating the movements of the Sun and the Moon, possibly the planets, dates from about 150–100 BC, and was the first ancestor of an astronomical computer. It was discovered in an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete. The device became famous for its use of a differential gear, previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century, and the miniaturization and complexity of its parts, comparable to a clock made in the 18th century. The original mechanism is displayed in the Bronze collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, accompanied by a replica.

Depending on the historian's viewpoint, the acme or corruption of physical Greek astronomy is seen with Ptolemy of Alexandria, who wrote the classic comprehensive presentation of geocentric astronomy, the Megale Syntaxis (Great Synthesis), better known by its Arabic title Almagest, which had a lasting effect on astronomy up to the Renaissance. In his Planetary Hypotheses, Ptolemy ventured into the realm of cosmology, developing a physical model of his geometric system, in a universe many times smaller than the more realistic conception of Aristarchus of Samos four centuries earlier.

Egypt Edit

The precise orientation of the Egyptian pyramids affords a lasting demonstration of the high degree of technical skill in watching the heavens attained in the 3rd millennium BC. It has been shown the Pyramids were aligned towards the pole star, which, because of the precession of the equinoxes, was at that time Thuban, a faint star in the constellation of Draco. [22] Evaluation of the site of the temple of Amun-Re at Karnak, taking into account the change over time of the obliquity of the ecliptic, has shown that the Great Temple was aligned on the rising of the midwinter Sun. [23] The length of the corridor down which sunlight would travel would have limited illumination at other times of the year. The Egyptians also found the position of Sirius (the dog star) who they believed was Anubis their Jackal headed god moving through the heavens. Its position was critical to their civilisation as when it rose heliacal in the east before sunrise it foretold the flooding of the Nile. It is also where we get the phrase 'dog days of summer' from.

Astronomy played a considerable part in religious matters for fixing the dates of festivals and determining the hours of the night. The titles of several temple books are preserved recording the movements and phases of the sun, moon and stars. The rising of Sirius (Egyptian: Sopdet, Greek: Sothis) at the beginning of the inundation was a particularly important point to fix in the yearly calendar.

Writing in the Roman era, Clement of Alexandria gives some idea of the importance of astronomical observations to the sacred rites:

And after the Singer advances the Astrologer (ὡροσκόπος), with a horologium (ὡρολόγιον) in his hand, and a palm (φοίνιξ), the symbols of astrology. He must know by heart the Hermetic astrological books, which are four in number. Of these, one is about the arrangement of the fixed stars that are visible one on the positions of the Sun and Moon and five planets one on the conjunctions and phases of the Sun and Moon and one concerns their risings. [24]

The Astrologer's instruments (horologium and palm) are a plumb line and sighting instrument [ clarification needed ] . They have been identified with two inscribed objects in the Berlin Museum a short handle from which a plumb line was hung, and a palm branch with a sight-slit in the broader end. The latter was held close to the eye, the former in the other hand, perhaps at arm's length. The "Hermetic" books which Clement refers to are the Egyptian theological texts, which probably have nothing to do with Hellenistic Hermetism. [25]

From the tables of stars on the ceiling of the tombs of Rameses VI and Rameses IX it seems that for fixing the hours of the night a man seated on the ground faced the Astrologer in such a position that the line of observation of the pole star passed over the middle of his head. On the different days of the year each hour was determined by a fixed star culminating or nearly culminating in it, and the position of these stars at the time is given in the tables as in the centre, on the left eye, on the right shoulder, etc. According to the texts, in founding or rebuilding temples the north axis was determined by the same apparatus, and we may conclude that it was the usual one for astronomical observations. In careful hands it might give results of a high degree of accuracy.

China Edit

The astronomy of East Asia began in China. Solar term was completed in Warring States period. The knowledge of Chinese astronomy was introduced into East Asia.

Astronomy in China has a long history. Detailed records of astronomical observations were kept from about the 6th century BC, until the introduction of Western astronomy and the telescope in the 17th century. Chinese astronomers were able to precisely predict eclipses.

Much of early Chinese astronomy was for the purpose of timekeeping. The Chinese used a lunisolar calendar, but because the cycles of the Sun and the Moon are different, astronomers often prepared new calendars and made observations for that purpose.

Astrological divination was also an important part of astronomy. Astronomers took careful note of "guest stars"(Chinese: 客星 pinyin: kèxīng lit.: 'guest star') which suddenly appeared among the fixed stars. They were the first to record a supernova, in the Astrological Annals of the Houhanshu in 185 AD. Also, the supernova that created the Crab Nebula in 1054 is an example of a "guest star" observed by Chinese astronomers, although it was not recorded by their European contemporaries. Ancient astronomical records of phenomena like supernovae and comets are sometimes used in modern astronomical studies.

The world's first star catalogue was made by Gan De, a Chinese astronomer, in the 4th century BC.

Mesoamerica Edit

Maya astronomical codices include detailed tables for calculating phases of the Moon, the recurrence of eclipses, and the appearance and disappearance of Venus as morning and evening star. The Maya based their calendrics in the carefully calculated cycles of the Pleiades, the Sun, the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and also they had a precise description of the eclipses as depicted in the Dresden Codex, as well as the ecliptic or zodiac, and the Milky Way was crucial in their Cosmology. [26] A number of important Maya structures are believed to have been oriented toward the extreme risings and settings of Venus. To the ancient Maya, Venus was the patron of war and many recorded battles are believed to have been timed to the motions of this planet. Mars is also mentioned in preserved astronomical codices and early mythology. [27]

Although the Maya calendar was not tied to the Sun, John Teeple has proposed that the Maya calculated the solar year to somewhat greater accuracy than the Gregorian calendar. [28] Both astronomy and an intricate numerological scheme for the measurement of time were vitally important components of Maya religion.

Since 1990 our understanding of prehistoric Europeans has been radically changed by discoveries of ancient astronomical artifacts throughout Europe. The artifacts demonstrate that Neolithic and Bronze Age Europeans had a sophisticated knowledge of mathematics and astronomy.

Among the discoveries are:

  • Paleolithic archaeologist Alexander Marshack put forward a theory in 1972 that bone sticks from locations like Africa and Europe from possibly as long ago as 35,000 BCE could be marked in ways that tracked the Moon's phases, [29] [page needed] an interpretation that has met with criticism. [30]
  • The Warren Field calendar in the Dee River valley of Scotland's Aberdeenshire. First excavated in 2004 but only in 2013 revealed as a find of huge significance, it is to date the world's oldest known calendar, created around 8000 BC and predating all other calendars by some 5,000 years. The calendar takes the form of an early Mesolithic monument containing a series of 12 pits which appear to help the observer track lunar months by mimicking the phases of the Moon. It also aligns to sunrise at the winter solstice, thus coordinating the solar year with the lunar cycles. The monument had been maintained and periodically reshaped, perhaps up to hundreds of times, in response to shifting solar/lunar cycles, over the course of 6,000 years, until the calendar fell out of use around 4,000 years ago. [31][32][33][34] is located in Germany and belongs to the linear pottery culture. First discovered in 1991, its significance was only clear after results from archaeological digs became available in 2004. The site is one of hundreds of similar circular enclosures built in a region encompassing Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic during a 200-year period starting shortly after 5000 BC. [35]
  • The Nebra sky disc is a Bronze Age bronze disc that was buried in Germany, not far from the Goseck circle, around 1600 BC. It measures about 30 cm diameter with a mass of 2.2 kg and displays a blue-green patina (from oxidization) inlaid with gold symbols. Found by archeological thieves in 1999 and recovered in Switzerland in 2002, it was soon recognized as a spectacular discovery, among the most important of the 20th century. [36][37] Investigations revealed that the object had been in use around 400 years before burial (2000 BC), but that its use had been forgotten by the time of burial. The inlaid gold depicted the full moon, a crescent moon about 4 or 5 days old, and the Pleiades star cluster in a specific arrangement forming the earliest known depiction of celestial phenomena. Twelve lunar months pass in 354 days, requiring a calendar to insert a leap month every two or three years in order to keep synchronized with the solar year's seasons (making it lunisolar). The earliest known descriptions of this coordination were recorded by the Babylonians in 6th or 7th centuries BC, over one thousand years later. Those descriptions verified ancient knowledge of the Nebra sky disc's celestial depiction as the precise arrangement needed to judge when to insert the intercalary month into a lunisolar calendar, making it an astronomical clock for regulating such a calendar a thousand or more years before any other known method. [38]
  • The Kokino site, discovered in 2001, sits atop an extinct volcanic cone at an elevation of 1,013 metres (3,323 ft), occupying about 0.5 hectares overlooking the surrounding countryside in North Macedonia. A Bronze Ageastronomical observatory was constructed there around 1900 BC and continuously served the nearby community that lived there until about 700 BC. The central space was used to observe the rising of the Sun and full moon. Three markings locate sunrise at the summer and winter solstices and at the two equinoxes. Four more give the minimum and maximum declinations of the full moon: in summer, and in winter. Two measure the lengths of lunar months. Together, they reconcile solar and lunar cycles in marking the 235 lunations that occur during 19 solar years, regulating a lunar calendar. On a platform separate from the central space, at lower elevation, four stone seats (thrones) were made in north-south alignment, together with a trench marker cut in the eastern wall. This marker allows the rising Sun's light to fall on only the second throne, at midsummer (about July 31). It was used for ritual ceremony linking the ruler to the local sun god, and also marked the end of the growing season and time for harvest. [39] of Germany, France and Switzerland dating from 1400–800 BC are associated with the Bronze Age Urnfield culture. The Golden hats are decorated with a spiral motif of the Sun and the Moon. They were probably a kind of calendar used to calibrate between the lunar and solar calendars. [40][41] Modern scholarship has demonstrated that the ornamentation of the gold leaf cones of the Schifferstadt type, to which the Berlin Gold Hat example belongs, represent systematic sequences in terms of number and types of ornaments per band. A detailed study of the Berlin example, which is the only fully preserved one, showed that the symbols probably represent a lunisolar calendar. The object would have permitted the determination of dates or periods in both lunar and solar calendars. [42]

The Arabic and the Persian world under Islam had become highly cultured, and many important works of knowledge from Greek astronomy and Indian astronomy and Persian astronomy were translated into Arabic, used and stored in libraries throughout the area. An important contribution by Islamic astronomers was their emphasis on observational astronomy. [43] This led to the emergence of the first astronomical observatories in the Muslim world by the early 9th century. [44] [45] Zij star catalogues were produced at these observatories.

In the 10th century, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (Azophi) carried out observations on the stars and described their positions, magnitudes, brightness, and colour and drawings for each constellation in his Book of Fixed Stars. He also gave the first descriptions and pictures of "A Little Cloud" now known as the Andromeda Galaxy. He mentions it as lying before the mouth of a Big Fish, an Arabic constellation. This "cloud" was apparently commonly known to the Isfahan astronomers, very probably before 905 AD. [46] The first recorded mention of the Large Magellanic Cloud was also given by al-Sufi. [47] [48] In 1006, Ali ibn Ridwan observed SN 1006, the brightest supernova in recorded history, and left a detailed description of the temporary star.

In the late 10th century, a huge observatory was built near Tehran, Iran, by the astronomer Abu-Mahmud al-Khujandi who observed a series of meridian transits of the Sun, which allowed him to calculate the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the Sun. He noted that measurements by earlier (Indian, then Greek) astronomers had found higher values for this angle, possible evidence that the axial tilt is not constant but was in fact decreasing. [49] [50] In 11th-century Persia, Omar Khayyám compiled many tables and performed a reformation of the calendar that was more accurate than the Julian and came close to the Gregorian.

Other Muslim advances in astronomy included the collection and correction of previous astronomical data, resolving significant problems in the Ptolemaic model, the development of the universal latitude-independent astrolabe by Arzachel, [51] the invention of numerous other astronomical instruments, Ja'far Muhammad ibn Mūsā ibn Shākir's belief that the heavenly bodies and celestial spheres were subject to the same physical laws as Earth, [52] the first elaborate experiments related to astronomical phenomena, the introduction of exacting empirical observations and experimental techniques, [53] and the introduction of empirical testing by Ibn al-Shatir, who produced the first model of lunar motion which matched physical observations. [54]

Natural philosophy (particularly Aristotelian physics) was separated from astronomy by Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) in the 11th century, by Ibn al-Shatir in the 14th century, [55] and Qushji in the 15th century, leading to the development of an astronomical physics. [56]

After the significant contributions of Greek scholars to the development of astronomy, it entered a relatively static era in Western Europe from the Roman era through the 12th century. This lack of progress has led some astronomers to assert that nothing happened in Western European astronomy during the Middle Ages. [57] Recent investigations, however, have revealed a more complex picture of the study and teaching of astronomy in the period from the 4th to the 16th centuries. [58]

Western Europe entered the Middle Ages with great difficulties that affected the continent's intellectual production. The advanced astronomical treatises of classical antiquity were written in Greek, and with the decline of knowledge of that language, only simplified summaries and practical texts were available for study. The most influential writers to pass on this ancient tradition in Latin were Macrobius, Pliny, Martianus Capella, and Calcidius. [59] In the 6th century Bishop Gregory of Tours noted that he had learned his astronomy from reading Martianus Capella, and went on to employ this rudimentary astronomy to describe a method by which monks could determine the time of prayer at night by watching the stars. [60]

In the 7th century the English monk Bede of Jarrow published an influential text, On the Reckoning of Time, providing churchmen with the practical astronomical knowledge needed to compute the proper date of Easter using a procedure called the computus. This text remained an important element of the education of clergy from the 7th century until well after the rise of the Universities in the 12th century. [61]

The range of surviving ancient Roman writings on astronomy and the teachings of Bede and his followers began to be studied in earnest during the revival of learning sponsored by the emperor Charlemagne. [62] By the 9th century rudimentary techniques for calculating the position of the planets were circulating in Western Europe medieval scholars recognized their flaws, but texts describing these techniques continued to be copied, reflecting an interest in the motions of the planets and in their astrological significance. [63]

Building on this astronomical background, in the 10th century European scholars such as Gerbert of Aurillac began to travel to Spain and Sicily to seek out learning which they had heard existed in the Arabic-speaking world. There they first encountered various practical astronomical techniques concerning the calendar and timekeeping, most notably those dealing with the astrolabe. Soon scholars such as Hermann of Reichenau were writing texts in Latin on the uses and construction of the astrolabe and others, such as Walcher of Malvern, were using the astrolabe to observe the time of eclipses in order to test the validity of computistical tables. [64]

By the 12th century, scholars were traveling to Spain and Sicily to seek out more advanced astronomical and astrological texts, which they translated into Latin from Arabic and Greek to further enrich the astronomical knowledge of Western Europe. The arrival of these new texts coincided with the rise of the universities in medieval Europe, in which they soon found a home. [65] Reflecting the introduction of astronomy into the universities, John of Sacrobosco wrote a series of influential introductory astronomy textbooks: the Sphere, a Computus, a text on the Quadrant, and another on Calculation. [66]

In the 14th century, Nicole Oresme, later bishop of Liseux, showed that neither the scriptural texts nor the physical arguments advanced against the movement of the Earth were demonstrative and adduced the argument of simplicity for the theory that the Earth moves, and not the heavens. However, he concluded "everyone maintains, and I think myself, that the heavens do move and not the earth: For God hath established the world which shall not be moved." [67] In the 15th century, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa suggested in some of his scientific writings that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and that each star is itself a distant sun.

During the renaissance period, astronomy began to undergo a revolution in thought known as the Copernican Revolution, which gets the name from the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who proposed a heliocentric system, in which the planets revolved around the Sun and not the Earth. His De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was published in 1543. [68] While in the long term this was a very controversial claim, in the very beginning it only brought minor controversy. [68] The theory became the dominant view because many figures, most notably Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton championed and improved upon the work. Other figures also aided this new model despite not believing the overall theory, like Tycho Brahe, with his well-known observations. [69]

Brahe, a Danish noble, was an essential astronomer in this period. [69] He came on the astronomical scene with the publication of De nova stella, in which he disproved conventional wisdom on the supernova SN 1572 [69] (As bright as Venus at its peak, SN 1572 later became invisible to the naked eye, disproving the Aristotelian doctrine of the immutability of the heavens.) [70] [71] He also created the Tychonic system, where the Sun and Moon and the stars revolve around the Earth, but the other five planets revolve around the Sun. This system blended the mathematical benefits of the Copernican system with the "physical benefits" of the Ptolemaic system. [72] This was one of the systems people believed in when they did not accept heliocentrism, but could no longer accept the Ptolemaic system. [72] He is most known for his highly accurate observations of the stars and the solar system. Later he moved to Prague and continued his work. In Prague he was at work on the Rudolphine Tables, that were not finished until after his death. [73] The Rudolphine Tables was a star map designed to be more accurate than either the Alfonsine tables, made in the 1300s, and the Prutenic Tables, which were inaccurate. [73] He was assisted at this time by his assistant Johannes Kepler, who would later use his observations to finish Brahe's works and for his theories as well. [73]

After the death of Brahe, Kepler was deemed his successor and was given the job of completing Brahe's uncompleted works, like the Rudolphine Tables. [73] He completed the Rudolphine Tables in 1624, although it was not published for several years. [73] Like many other figures of this era, he was subject to religious and political troubles, like the Thirty Years' War, which led to chaos that almost destroyed some of his works. Kepler was, however, the first to attempt to derive mathematical predictions of celestial motions from assumed physical causes. He discovered the three Kepler's laws of planetary motion that now carry his name, those laws being as follows:

  1. The orbit of a planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci.
  2. A line segment joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
  3. The square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit. [74]

With these laws, he managed to improve upon the existing heliocentric model. The first two were published in 1609. Kepler's contributions improved upon the overall system, giving it more credibility because it adequately explained events and could cause more reliable predictions. Before this, the Copernican model was just as unreliable as the Ptolemaic model. This improvement came because Kepler realized the orbits were not perfect circles, but ellipses.

Galileo Galilei was among the first to use a telescope to observe the sky, and after constructing a 20x refractor telescope. [75] He discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter in 1610, which are now collectively known as the Galilean moons, in his honor. [76] This discovery was the first known observation of satellites orbiting another planet. [76] He also found that our Moon had craters and observed, and correctly explained, sunspots, and that Venus exhibited a full set of phases resembling lunar phases. [77] [78] Galileo argued that these facts demonstrated incompatibility with the Ptolemaic model, which could not explain the phenomenon and would even contradict it. [77] With the moons it demonstrated that the Earth does not have to have everything orbiting it and that other parts of the Solar System could orbit another object, such as the Earth orbiting the Sun. [76] In the Ptolemaic system the celestial bodies were supposed to be perfect so such objects should not have craters or sunspots. [79] The phases of Venus could only happen in the event that Venus' orbit is insides Earth's orbit, which could not happen if the Earth was the center. He, as the most famous example, had to face challenges from church officials, more specifically the Roman Inquisition. [80] They accused him of heresy because these beliefs went against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and were challenging the Catholic church's authority when it was at its weakest. [80] While he was able to avoid punishment for a little while he was eventually tried and pled guilty to heresy in 1633. [80] Although this came at some expense, his book was banned, and he was put under house arrest until he died in 1642. [81]

Sir Isaac Newton developed further ties between physics and astronomy through his law of universal gravitation. Realizing that the same force that attracts objects to the surface of the Earth held the Moon in orbit around the Earth, Newton was able to explain – in one theoretical framework – all known gravitational phenomena. In his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, he derived Kepler's laws from first principles. Those first principles are as follows:

  1. In an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.
  2. In an inertial reference frame, the vector sum of the forces F on an object is equal to the mass m of that object multiplied by the acceleration a of the object: F = ma. (It is assumed here that the mass m is constant)
  3. When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body. [82]

Thus while Kepler explained how the planets moved, Newton accurately managed to explain why the planets moved the way they do. Newton's theoretical developments laid many of the foundations of modern physics.

Outside of England, Newton's theory took some time to become established. Descartes' theory of vortices held sway in France, and Huygens, Leibniz and Cassini accepted only parts of Newton's system, preferring their own philosophies. Voltaire published a popular account in 1738. [83] In 1748, the French Academy of Sciences offered a reward for solving the perturbations of Jupiter and Saturn which was eventually solved by Euler and Lagrange. Laplace completed the theory of the planets, publishing from 1798 to 1825. The early origins of the solar nebular model of planetary formation had begun.

Edmund Halley succeeded Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal in England and succeeded in predicting the return in 1758 of the comet that bears his name. Sir William Herschel found the first new planet, Uranus, to be observed in modern times in 1781. The gap between the planets Mars and Jupiter disclosed by the Titius–Bode law was filled by the discovery of the asteroids Ceres and 2 Pallas Pallas in 1801 and 1802 with many more following.

At first, astronomical thought in America was based on Aristotelian philosophy, [84] but interest in the new astronomy began to appear in Almanacs as early as 1659. [85]

In the 19th century, Joseph von Fraunhofer discovered that when sunlight was dispersed, a multitude of spectral lines were observed (regions where there was less or no light). Experiments with hot gases showed that the same lines could be observed in the spectra of gases, with specific lines corresponding to unique elements. It was proved that the chemical elements found in the Sun (chiefly hydrogen and helium) were also found on Earth. During the 20th century spectroscopy (the study of these lines) advanced, especially because of the advent of quantum physics, which was necessary to understand the observations.

Although in previous centuries noted astronomers were exclusively male, at the turn of the 20th century women began to play a role in the great discoveries. In this period prior to modern computers, women at the United States Naval Observatory (USNO), Harvard University, and other astronomy research institutions began to be hired as human "computers", who performed the tedious calculations while scientists performed research requiring more background knowledge. [86] A number of discoveries in this period were originally noted by the women "computers" and reported to their supervisors. For example, at the Harvard Observatory Henrietta Swan Leavitt discovered the cepheid variable star period-luminosity relation which she further developed into a method of measuring distance outside of the Solar System.

Annie Jump Cannon, also at Harvard, organized the stellar spectral types according to stellar temperature. In 1847, Maria Mitchell discovered a comet using a telescope. According to Lewis D. Eigen, Cannon alone, "in only 4 years discovered and catalogued more stars than all the men in history put together." [87] Most of these women received little or no recognition during their lives due to their lower professional standing in the field of astronomy. Although their discoveries and methods are taught in classrooms around the world, few students of astronomy can attribute the works to their authors or have any idea that there were active female astronomers at the end of the 19th century. [ citation needed ]

Most of our current knowledge was gained during the 20th century. With the help of the use of photography, fainter objects were observed. The Sun was found to be part of a galaxy made up of more than 10 10 stars (10 billion stars). The existence of other galaxies, one of the matters of the great debate, was settled by Edwin Hubble, who identified the Andromeda nebula as a different galaxy, and many others at large distances and receding, moving away from our galaxy.

Physical cosmology, a discipline that has a large intersection with astronomy, made huge advances during the 20th century, with the model of the hot Big Bang heavily supported by the evidence provided by astronomy and physics, such as the redshifts of very distant galaxies and radio sources, the cosmic microwave background radiation, Hubble's law and cosmological abundances of elements.

In the 19th century, scientists began discovering forms of light which were invisible to the naked eye: X-Rays, gamma rays, radio waves, microwaves, ultraviolet radiation, and infrared radiation. This had a major impact on astronomy, spawning the fields of infrared astronomy, radio astronomy, x-ray astronomy and finally gamma-ray astronomy. With the advent of spectroscopy it was proven that other stars were similar to the Sun, but with a range of temperatures, masses and sizes. The existence of our galaxy, the Milky Way, as a separate group of stars was only proven in the 20th century, along with the existence of "external" galaxies, and soon after, the expansion of the universe seen in the recession of most galaxies from us.

Ancient Astronomers Developed First Known Writing - History

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Oriental Institute opens major gallery on ancient Mesopotamia

The country we know today as Iraq has a history as a civilization going back more than 5,000 years. The ancient Greeks, who recognized the role the Tigris and Euphrates rivers played in the area’s development, called it Mesopotamia (“land between the rivers”).

By 3,500 B.C., city-states had emerged in southern Mesopotamia. These Sumerian city-states included Ur, which according to the Bible was the birthplace of Abraham. The city of Babylon became the capital of much of the area under King Hammurabi (1,792-1,750 B.C.), who is famous for the collection of laws known as the Code of Hammurabi. The northern part of the country, known as Assyria, rose to prominence during the first half of the first millennium (900-630 B.C.). King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 B.C.) undertook vast building projects at Babylon that brought it to the height of its splendor. Babylon fell to the Persians in 539 B.C. The Persians were, in turn, conquered by the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, in 331 B.C.

The ancient Mesopotamians were the first known to use many things we now consider essential. Here are some examples:

Ancient Egyptian Writing Facts For Kids

The Ancient Egyptians thought it was very important to keep a record of information about their government and religion.

To accomplish this goal, they created several written scripts. The most famous of these is hieroglyphics, but the Ancient Egyptians used different forms of writing for different purposes.

Scribes recorded important information on papyrus scrolls, as well as on the walls of tombs and temples.


According to Ancient Egyptian mythology, hieroglyphs were created by the god Thoth. This type of writing was considered sacred, powerful, and holy.

Hieroglyphs are picture symbols. They can stand for the object they represent, but usually each symbol corresponds to the sound of a certain letter or syllable.

For example, the symbol of a foot represents the “B” sound. A rectangle represents the “sh” sound.

Hieroglyphics were used mainly for formal writing on the walls of tombs and temples. Some are in full color, while others are basic outlines.

Scholars believe that most writing systems probably began in this way (with symbols or pictures instead of letters), but most cultures do not have a record of these early forms of writing.

The Ancient Egyptians, on the other hand, purposely preserved hieroglyphics because they believed that these symbols came from the gods and held powerful magic.

Hieratic Script

Shortly after hieroglyphics were developed, the Ancient Egyptians also came up with a system called hieratic script.

The thing about hieroglyphics was that they were complicated and time-consuming for the scribes. Although there were eventually 24 basic consonant symbols, there were over 800 different symbols total.

So, hieratic script was a simplified version of these complicated hieroglyphs. While hieroglyphics were used mostly in formal writing, hieratic script was used more in day-to-day written communication.

It was first used in religious texts, but hieratic script eventually appeared in business administration, personal and business letters, and legal documents like court records and wills.

Demotic Script

Around 800 BCE, hieratic script developed into a cursive script known as “abnormal hieratic.” It was then replaced by demotic script, which was known as popular writing.

Demotic script was used in every kind of writing. Hieroglyphics continued to be used for formal inscriptions on temples, tombs, statues, and so on.

The Ancient Egyptians called demotic script “sehk-shat,” meaning “writing for documents.” It was the most popular form of Ancient Egyptian writing for the next 1000 years.

Coptic Script

Demotic script was eventually replaced by Coptic script when Egypt became a province of Rome. Coptic script was the language of the Copts, or Egyptian Christians.

These Egyptian Christians spoke Egyptian but wrote in the Greek alphabet, with some additions from demotic script.

Coptic script was used to make records of many important documents, including the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It also helped future generations unlock the meaning of the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Rosetta Stone

When Napoleon’s army invaded Egypt in 1799, a lieutenant named Pierre Bouchard discovered the Rosetta Stone. This was a proclamation from Ptolemy V written in Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphics.

The same message was written in all three languages or scripts on the stone. Scholars used the Rosetta Stone to help translate and understand hieroglyphics.

A historian and linguist named Jean-Francois Champollion led the way. He understood Coptic (and many other languages), which was similar to demotic and helped him translate.

Champollion was the first to understand that hieroglyphs could be alphabetic (representing a letter sound), syllabic (representing a syllable sound), or even determinative (representing the meaning of the word itself).

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone helped scholars translate Egypt’s ancient language and uncover the mysteries of Ancient Egyptian history and culture.

Other Interesting Facts About Ancient Egyptian Writing

Scholars aren’t sure if Ancient Egyptian writing came before Sumerian Cuneiform writing or if it originated around the same time.

It’s possible that the Ancient Egyptians were the first society to develop a writing system.

Another reason hieroglyphs were complicated is that they can be written from left to right, right to left, or even in vertical lines running from top to bottom.

Luckily, there’s a trick to figuring out the direction of the writing: Whichever way the people and animals are facing is the beginning of the line.

In Ancient Egypt, not everyone knew how to read and write. The people who did learn to read and write were called scribes. Most scribes were men, but some female doctors were also trained as scribes so they could read medical texts.

Scribes had to attend a special school to learn hieroglyphic and hieratic script. They practiced writing on pieces of pottery, flakes of limestone, or on sheets of papyrus.

Speaking of papyrus, the Ancient Egyptians were the first to discover that papyrus, a tall aquatic plant, could be used to make paper.

Key Facts & Information


  • Ancient astronomers were able to differentiate between stars and planets, as stars remain relatively fixed over the centuries while planets will move an appreciable amount during a comparatively short time. Early cultures identified celestial objects with gods and spirits. They related these objects to phenomena such as rain, drought, seasons, and tides.
  • It is generally believed that the first astronomers were priests, and that they understood celestial objects and events to be manifestations of the divine, hence early astronomy’s connection to what is now called astrology.
  • We have been told that the Earth revolves around the Sun and probably know that planets other than our own have moons, and the way to test to see whether or not something is true is by experimenting. Thousands of years ago, these things were not widely known. The heavens above were anyone’s guess, and the way things were was just the way the gods had made them.
  • It was felt that there was no need to truly understand them or put them in any kind of order. See some of the most famous astronomers and physicists throughout history, from humanity’s earliest observations of celestial events to today’s investigations of deep sky objects that hold the secrets of the universe.


  • Claudius Ptolemy was an astronomer and mathematician. He believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe. The word for earth in Greek is geo, so we call this idea a “geocentric” theory. Even starting with this incorrect theory, he was able to combine what he saw the stars’ movements were with mathematics, especially geometry, to predict the movements of the planets.
  • His famous work was called the Almagest. In order to make his predictions true, he worked out that the planets must move in epicycles, smaller circles, and the Earth itself moved along an equant.
  • None of this was true, but it made the math work for his predictions. This flawed view of the Universe was accepted for many centuries.


  • Aristotle is sometimes called the Grandfather of Science. He studied under the philosopher Plato and later started his own school.
  • He, too, believed in a geocentric Universe and that the planets and stars were perfect spheres though Earth itself was not. He further thought that the movements of the planets and stars must be circular since they were perfect and if the motions were circular, then they could go on forever.
  • He was one of the first to study plants, animals, and people in a scientific way, and he believed in experimenting whenever possible and developed logical ways of thinking.


  • Over a thousand years later, Nicolaus Copernicus came up with a radical way of looking at the Universe. His heliocentric system put the Sun (helio) at the center of our system. He was not the first to have this theory.
  • Earlier starwatchers had believed the same, but it was Copernicus who brought it to the world of the Renaissance and used his own observations of the movements of the planets to back up his idea.
  • His ideas, including the revelation that the Earth rotates on its axis, were too different for most of the scholars of his time to accept. Those who did study his work intact often did so in secret. They were called Copernicans.


  • Born in Pisa, Italy, approximately 100 years after Copernicus, Galileo became a brilliant student with an amazing genius for invention and observation. He had his own ideas on how motion really worked, as opposed to what Aristotle had taught, and devised a telescope that could enlarge objects up to 20 times.
  • He was able to use this telescope to prove the truth of the Copernican system of heliocentrism. He published his observations which went against the established teaching of the Church.
  • He was brought to trial and although he made a confession of wrongdoing, he was still kept under house arrest for the rest of his life. But it was too late to lock away the knowledge that Galileo shared. Other scientists, including Sir Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler, seized its importance and were able to learn even more about the ways of the world and the heavens beyond.


  • These early scientists’ legacy continues to this day. As time goes on, people use instruments, science, math, reasoning, and creativity to learn more about the secrets of the Universe. In this way, people are directly linked to the astronomers of centuries ago who gave us direction to discover more about the dances of the planets and the nature of the stars.

Early Astronomers Worksheets

This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about early astronomers across 18 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Early Astronomers worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the astronomy which is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena, such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies. It applies mathematics, physics, and chemistry in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. More generally, all phenomena that originate outside Earth’s atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy.

Complete List Of Included Worksheets

  • Early Astronomer Facts
  • The Astronomers
  • See Qualities
  • Early Telescopes
  • Heliocentric Theory
  • Galileo’s Telescope
  • Ptolemy’s Almagest
  • Astronomy of Today
  • Other Astronomers
  • Copernicus and His Fate
  • Fave Astronomer

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Ancient Civilizations and Early Writing

Writing evolved independently in various regions, such as the Near East, China, the Indus Valley and Central America. The writing systems that emerged in each of these regions are different and did not influence each other. The earliest known writing system was cuneiform in Mesopotamia, which dates back to 3,100 BC.

Why was writing invented? Perhaps the answer can be found in the first written messages. In most places where writing developed independently, the oldest documents that remain are labels and lists, or the names of rulers. In general, some were much richer than others in the societies that produced these documents, and power was concentrated in the hands of small groups. Therefore, writing is assumed to have been invented as the members of these groups had to organize the distribution of goods and people in order to maintain control over both.

In many societies, writing was also invented for other purposes. For example, in ancient Mesopotamia contracts and other commercial documents, letters, laws, religious rituals and even literary works were written down. On the other hand, in Central America writing was limited for a long time to inscriptions on monuments relating to the monarchy. In these societies where writing was restricted to a small dominant group, there were actually very few people who could read and write.

Logographic Writing

Depending on how they work, writing systems are classified as logographic, syllabic or alphabetic. On occasion, some systems use more than one of these at the same time. For example, the ancient Egyptians used all three systems simultaneously. In logographic writing systems, each symbol represents a word. In many of these systems, grammatical determiners are added to basic symbols these are special symbols indicating semantic or grammatical changes, such as compound or plural forms of words. The most obvious difficulty of this writing system is the enormous number of symbols needed to express every word. The Chinese writing system uses around 50,000 characters, although not all of them are commonly used. This explains why it’s not surprising that very few people could read and write in Imperial China. Even in modern times, it took several decades to create a Chinese language typewriter.

Syllabic Writing

Syllabic writing systems use symbols to represent syllables. Many early writing systems were syllabic: Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform in the Near East, the two writing systems of pre-classical Greece, Japanese kana, and the ancient Mayan writing of Central America.

Babylonian cuneiform is a good example of how syllabic writing was used and developed. It first developed from Sumerian logographic writing, and both were written by imprinting wedge-shaped marks on wet clay tablets. They would put syllabic signs one after the other to form words.

Cuneiform syllabic writing was used for a long time in the ancient Near East, where it was in use between the years 3,100 and 100 BC. It was used to write other languages as well as Akkadian, such as Hittite and Elamite.

Babylonian cuneiform has around 600 symbols, although many of them are used for their different syllabic values.

Alphabetic Writing

Most modern languages use alphabetic writing systems where each symbol represents a basic sound. Spanish and most modern European languages are written with alphabets that come from the Latin alphabet. The great advantage of alphabetical systems is that far fewer symbols need to be learned than in logographic or syllabic systems, as most alphabets feature fewer than 30 characters.

It’s rather ironic, but it’s possible that the invention of the first alphabet was inspired by the ancient Egyptian script, one of the most complex writing systems ever invented. Egyptian hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic symbols. In the middle of the second millennium BC, communities living in the Sinai Peninsula discovered that all of the sounds of their language could be expressed using a small number of alphabetic symbols.

It’s likely that the alphabetic systems descended from the original Sinai script were widely used throughout the Levant until 1150 BC. However, as this type of script was mostly written on perishable materials like parchment and papyrus, very few original materials remain. However, papyrus has been preserved in Egypt due to of the dryness of the desert and the absence of bacteria.

The earliest examples of alphabetic writing, which date from 1450 to 1150 BC, were found at the site of the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit. A writing system consisting of 30 cuneiform symbols was invented to write in Ugaritic. Ugaritic written documents were engraved on clay tablets that are almost indestructible when baked. However, the few remaining documents suggest that the inhabitants of Ugarit were more accustomed to the usual Semitic alphabetic writing tradition of writing on perishable materials.

A very late, and particularly special, example of a surviving original Semitic parchment is the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls. Dating from about 100 BC to 68 AD, these mysterious religious texts written in Aramaic and Hebrew were found between 1947 and 1956 in clay pots in an Israeli desert cave. It’s easier to trace the evolution of the Levantine alphabets used in Semitic languages like Phoenician, Hebrew, and Aramaic after 1200 BC, as there are a few inscriptions carved in stone.

These alphabetic scripts differ from how modern European alphabetic writing is used in two important respects. Firstly, in Semitic writing texts are normally written right to left, instead of left to right. Secondly, vowel sounds and diphthongs in languages that use Semitic scripts (a, e, i, o, u, o, ai, oo, etc.) are not written, and only consonants are recorded (b, k, d, f, g, etc.).

It seems that the writing of vowel sounds occurred by accident, and it wasn’t some sort of brilliant invention. The Greeks were aware of the Levantine alphabets by having established regular contact with the Phoenicians and other peoples of the region between 950 and 850 BC, when they both, among others, established markets throughout the Mediterranean. Some letters that represent consonants in the Semitic sense sounded like vowels to the Greeks.

The Greeks also took their alphabet to Italy, where it was adapted for use in Etruscan, Latin, and other languages. The Roman Empire helped to spread their alphabet throughout much of Western Europe, although the Greek alphabet was still used in the Eastern Empire. By the time the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, it was already a Christian empire. Writing (in Latin) had become essential in ecclesiastical administration. Both the Latin writing system and Christianity survived the empire that gave birth to them. During the early medieval period, the Latin alphabet was adapted to transcribe various languages, such as Gothic, Old Irish, French and Old English. Meanwhile, in the East, the Greek Orthodox Church expanded to the north, Russia and the Balkans, taking the Greek alphabet with them. It’s said that two Orthodox clerics, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, adapted the Greek alphabet to write Slavic languages. This is why the alphabet currently used in Russia, Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern Europe is called Cyrillic, in honor of St. Cyril. In this way, the Semitic, Greek, and Latin alphabets served as the basis of most of the alphabets currently used in modern Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent.

The Incas

The Incas did not possess a written or recorded language as far as is known. Like the Aztecs, they also depended largely on oral transmission as a means of maintaining the preservation of their culture. Inca education was divided into two distinct categories: vocational education for common Incas and highly formalized training for the nobility. As the Inca empire was a theocratic, imperial government based upon agrarian collectivism, the rulers were concerned about the vocational training of men and women in collective agriculture. Personal freedom, life, and work were subservient to the community. At birth an individual’s place in the society was strictly ordained, and at five years of age every child was taken over by the government, and his socialization and vocational training were supervised by government surrogates.

Education for the nobility consisted of a four-year program that was clearly defined in terms of the curricula and rituals. In the first year the pupils learned Quechua, the language of the nobility. The second year was devoted to the study of religion and the third year to learning about the quipu (khipu), a complex system of knotted coloured strings or cords used largely for accounting purposes. In the fourth year major attention was given to the study of history, with additional instruction in sciences, geometry, geography, and astronomy. The instructors were highly respected encyclopaedic scholars known as amautas. After the completion of this education, the pupils were required to pass a series of rigorous examinations in order to attain full status in the life of the Inca nobility.

Names of Ancient Greek Astronomers

It is most certain that the names of Ancient Greek Astronomers are known worldwide, due to their contribution to Astronomy and mathematics.

The Hellenistic period marked advances in astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Hellinistic refers to the Greeks and others who lived after Alexander the Great’s conquests, during which there existed a mixture of civilizations.

The Greek astronomers were able to travel all over the known world and exchange opinions and theories.

The Greek contribution to astronomy was not so much in observation as it was in applying logical thinking and geometry to these observations. That is how Greek scientists figured out that the earth went around the sun, calculated the size of the earth, and understood that the moon went around the earth.

Some famous Greek astronomers were Anaxagoras, who figured out what caused eclipses, Aristarchus, who figured out that the earth went around the sun, and Thales, who figured out that the earth was round.

Here are the names and information about the most known Ancient Greek Astronomers:

Ancient Greek Astronomers

  • Aristarchus of Samos (310-230 B.C.) (Αρίσταρχος ο Σάμιος). Aristarchus suggested that the sun is at the center of the universe with Earth along with the other planets circulating around it. He estimated the distance of the sun from the Earth by observing the angle between the sun and the moon when it is exactly half full.

Greek astronomy is the astronomy of those who wrote in the Greek language in classical antiquity i.e. see Aristarchus of Samos – Greek astronomer/mathematician and his heliocentric model of the solar system.

Greek astronomy is understood to include the ancient Greek, Hellenistic, Greco-Roman, and Late Antiquity eras. It is not limited geographically to Greece or to ethnic Greeks, as the Greek language had become the language of scholarship throughout the Hellenistic world following the conquests of Alexander.

Greek astronomy is also known as Hellenistic astronomy, while the pre-Hellenistic phase is known as Classical Greek astronomy.

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, much of the Greek and non-Greek astronomers working in the Greek tradition studied at the Museum and the Library of Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt.

The development of astronomy by the Greek and Hellenistic astronomers is considered by historians to be a major phase in the history of astronomy in Western culture. It was influenced by Babylonian astronomy in turn, it influenced Islamic, Indian, and Western European astronomy.

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  1. Jujin

    Absolutely agree with you. In there is something also I think it is the excellent idea.

  2. Dewey

    Yes ... By the way ... I should get myself together .. Drink a beer;)

  3. Kienan

    Endless topic

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