Short on time?

Get essay writing help

The Mesopotamian Contributions To Astronomy

Words: 1087
Pages: 2
This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

The Mesopotamian civilization was incredibly influential to the development in the human understanding of the functions of the universe, because they laid the foundations for the study of astronomy. There can be many parallels drawn between the conclusions on the workings of the universe that early Mesopotamian civilization drew and what later societies adopted in their own beliefs; most notably, the integration of religion and mythology into astronomy.

The idea of years, months, and days was heavily influenced and defined by the Mesopotamian interpretation of them as is evidenced by their approximation of the length of a year. It is even possible the length of the year influenced the entire Babylonian mathematical model and led them to their sexagesimal (base-60) number system rather than the presently more widespread base-10 alternative. The first astronomers came to the conclusion of an approximately 360-day year by adopting one of the two year tracking methods or averaging both. The lunar year (1 year was equivalent to 12 orbits of the Moon around the Earth) that was nearly 354 days, and the solar year (1 year is one orbit of the Earth around the Sun) that was approximately 365 days. This combination is known as synodic, the conjunction of celestial bodies, and the prime example is the luni-solar year. Much like leap years that include an extra day every 4 years to account for the small margin of error in the Earth’s orbit each year, the luni-solar year includes an additional lunar month every few years to account for seasonal climate variance, both are examples of intercalation. Although the only remaining examples of this synodic calendar are the Chinese calendar used across East Asia and the Hebrew/Jewish equivalent, the solar year used in the rest of the world thought to have originated in Rome, also draws on the knowledge and breakthroughs of Babylon and the rest of Mesopotamian civilizations. (Schlager & Lauer, Gale: Science and Its Times, 2001)

As previously mentioned, Babylonians’ observations of the moon and sun acted as their reference points for timekeeping. More specifically, sunsets marked the ending of one day and the beginning of the next, just as crescent moons were the benchmark for the endings and beginnings of months. Although these methods were close in duration to their modern counterparts, they are one of the least borrowed aspects of Babylonian astronomy because of the variation in the models. Despite the apparent regularity of the moon’s cycle that would seem to lend itself of to be a logical model for a calendar, there are mild variances that don’t account for seasons and make the coordination of today’s solar year and the ancient lunar system unfeasible. The only two current adaptations of the lunar year are first, in the Middle East, where there is virtually no difference in climate across seasons and the other is used solely for religious purposes for those of Jewish faith, not to be followed for timekeeping. (Schlager & Lauer, Gale: Science and Its Times, 2001)

These breakthroughs, although not accidental, were brought about because of the Mesopotamians’ fascination with astrology. Various cultures in the region observed the stars because of the supposed connection to religion and it is believed that said cultures were the first to assign deities to celestial bodies. In this case, Sin, one of the goddesses that Sumerians worshipped was thought to be the Moon. This practice of nomenclature for deities is more well-known as part of Greek and Roman (Hellenistic) culture, but it is thought that it was borrowed from Mesopotamian culture, a theory supported by the similarities in the deities assigned to each star and planet. In Mesopotamia. The Babylonians claimed the Sun was Shamash, a deity who flew a flaming chariot, an identical deity (barring the name) to the Roman counterpart, Apollo. This similarity is a recurring theme across the Solar System, with Venus (both the planet and Roman deity’s name) being Ishtar in Babylon where both cultures’ deities are goddesses of beauty, love and fertility. Then once again, Marduk, the king of the gods, in Babylon was believed to be Jupiter (once again the Roman deity’s namesake) who in Rome had the same role in mythology. (Schlager & Lauer, Gale: Science and Its Times, 2001)

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

The nomenclature of deities was important to Mesopotamian religion, not only as proof of the existence of deities, but because the paths of the celestial bodies they were believed to be were interpreted as omens. This astrology, as previously mentioned, was engrained in Babylonia’s culture because the “omens” were often thought to be related to everyday aspects of life like agriculture and weather. Prior to coming in contact with Babylon’s culture, Greece was an exceptionally superstitious and religious culture that saw religious signs in dreams and other seemingly meaningless events. However, following the exchanging of ideas between the cultures, Greek people adopted the practice of celestial divination. (Evans & Friedlander, 2019)

Babylonian astronomers began to take notes of their observations and make astronomical diaries of said observations. These diaries, dating back to 7th century B.C.E., were varied, from nightly star and planetary shift observations to more major movements like retrograde motion of planets to reappearance of celestial bodies in the night sky. Once there was recorded multi-generational knowledge, those studying the sky in Babylon began to accurately predict the path of the major bodies of the sky, from the Moon to the planets. Despite the yearly variation in planetary paths, the pattern was evident across longer periods of time. This was the first recorded accurate and educated use of predictive planetary astronomy and it predictions eventually evolved into using mathematical concepts rather than observations, increasing the complexity and accuracy of the practice. (Evans & Friedlander, 2019)

Once, astronomy was sufficiently sophisticated, the first temples with both religious and astronomical uses were built. Ziggurats, towers built for worship rituals and sacrifices to deities, began to have astronomical observatories built on them. They were used to observe the planets that the deities each tower was built in honor of represented and their path across the night sky at different times of the year. (Frye, Edzard, & von Soden, 2019)

The substantial amount of advancements in the field of astronomy made by Mesopotamian cultures have shaped the modern human understanding of the universe and the celestial bodies that make it up. By being pioneers in astronomy, the civilization built the foundations and have been the origin of many other culture’s interpretation of the subject; from the religious role of astronomy, to the more literal approach of trying to comprehend the world.

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this Page

The Mesopotamian Contributions To Astronomy. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2023, from
“The Mesopotamian Contributions To Astronomy.” Edubirdie, 24 Feb. 2022,
The Mesopotamian Contributions To Astronomy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Oct. 2023].
The Mesopotamian Contributions To Astronomy [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 24 [cited 2023 Oct 3]. Available from:
Join 100k satisfied students
  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
hire writer

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.