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11_30 Venus.jpg (52833 bytes) 11_30 Mars.jpg (61912 bytes)

One observation said that:

"About the twelfth of this month Venus was two fingers above
g  Capricornis.

Most Babylonian observations were made in cubits, a cubit being some 2, with a margin of error of about half a degree. ‘Two fingers’ is only about one fifth of a degree and is therefore quite a  precise measurement.

Such close conjunctions between planets and stars are rare. This one is mentioned on both the tablets and is shown in Fig 1. (A calendar is given at the end of this article comparing Seleucid dates with the Julian ones with which we are more familiar). We checked how often Venus passed within a similar distance of this star in the twenty years between 170 BCE and 150 BCE. The answer was 3 times.

Another, referring to the same day also says the following:

Whereas, towards morning, Mars was above a Virginis"

A similar check showed that Mars neared this star only 11 times in the same twenty years. Significantly, the coincidence of Venus above g Capricornis and Mars above a Virginis was a unique event during those twenty years.

Stephenson and his team made similar checks. They didn’t just look at 20 years. They covered 400 years, starting from the time that the Babylonians began using the star names written on the tablets and finishing at year 40 of the present era; we have no more Babylonian diaries after that date.

All the planets were where the tablets said they were only once. That was in months VIII and IX of the 148th year of the Seleucid calendar, corresponding to October and November, 164 BCE.  Continue