Monday, March 8, 2010

A Greek Papyrus Containing Babylonian Lunar Theory

A Greek Papyrus Containing Babylonian Lunar Theory Cover

Book: A Greek Papyrus Containing Babylonian Lunar Theory by Alexander Jones

The papyrus presented here, which is owned by Prof. M. L. Colker (University of Virginia), was first described, as a writing exercise, in two dealers’ catalogues.1 Subsequently Dr David Jordan identified the mathematical nature of the text on the reverse, and in turn enlisted the assistance of O. Neugebauer.

Neugebauer published an article containing photographs of both sides, a partial transliteration of the reverse, and a discussion demonstrating the relation of the numerical table to Babylonian lunar tables.2 Neugebauer fully appreciated that the papyrus was a document of remarkable importance for the history of astronomy; but because he set out his discovery with characteristic brevity and understatement in a volume devoted ostensibly to assyriology, few who are not specialists in ancient mathematical astronomy know about it.

The present article hopes to bring the papyrus to wider attention, and to supplement Neugebauer’s article in several respects, most importantly by providing a fuller description and the first proper transcription of the astronomical table.

Download Alexander Jones's eBook: A Greek Papyrus Containing Babylonian Lunar Theory

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