Press of the BeComingOne Church

Absolute Date

Cuneiform VAT 4956


This a a copy of the cuneiform tablet: <Click image for larger view

This is a transliteration of VAT 4956. (This may take a while to load) The capital letters are word-signs or ideograms. "The Akkadians took over from the Sumerians not only the syllable-signs, but also the word-signs (Ideograms). But they read these as though they were the corresponding Akkadian word. So the Sumerian sign lugal, 'king,' when it occurs in an Akkadian text, is read as though it were the Akkadian word for king, sarrum." (An Akkadian Grammar, 1984, 6th printing, Marquette University Press, p. 10)

This is the English translation of VAT 4956 (This may take a while to load) It is from Abraham Sachs', Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia. (This copy is reproduced for scholarly research only.) Most of the astronomical phenomena as reported in this tablet can be traced to 568-567 B.C. [or -567 to -566 in astronomical dating system]. In order to better understand the translation you need a good understanding of the Babylonian calendar and you may need to read the "Introduction" in Sachs book. It will also help if you have a copy of Robert R. Newton's book, Ancient Planetary Observations and the Validity of Ephemeris Time, wherein his tables give modern equivalent dates to the Babylonian dates. Note: This English translation is not a literal translation:

"Remarks on Translation

The terminology used in the diaries is rigid and very condensed. The order of items recorded is also to a large extent fixed. Because of the repetitive character of these texts, the scribes apparently, tried to reduce as much as possible the number of words they had to write.

In translating I have tried to imitate this style by using a similarly rigid terminology. Unfortunately, the almost exclusively logographic writing of the diaries frequently makes it impossible to determine whether the Akkadian text consisted of sentences or asyndetic sequences of nouns. Where this can be decided with the help of one of the rare sylabie writings. I have of course translated accordingly. But more often I had to choose some fixed translation which may not be syntactically equivalent to the Akkadian hidden by the logograms. In addition, several statements which are very short in cuneiform had to be translated by longer expressions to convey the meaning without creating a new artificial terminology. The way in which the diaries indicate the length of a month can serve as an example. This length can be 29 or 30 days. The diaries are arranged in sections each of which deals with a single month. Each section begins with the name of the month; after the name, a "1" indicates that the preceding month had 30 days; a "30", that it had only 29 days, in which case the next month begins with a "1st" day: if a month has only 29 days, its successor begins, so to speak, already on the "30th" day which would have been theoretically possible for the preceding month. In order to make this visible in the translation, I have formulated sentences which contain the words "the 1st" or "the 30th" (which are all that is written in the text), and at the same time clearly state the situation: Month X, the 1st (of which followed the 30th of the preceding month), or: Month X, (the 1st of which was identical with) the 30th (of the preceding month)." (Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts From Babylonia, p. 38)

See the Chronology Papers for more information on absolute dates, calendars, etc.
Also see CP 2 under "
Absolute Dates" for more information on absolute dates and VAT 4956



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