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Posted: June 17th, 2022
The Fable of a 12th Planet: A Transient Evaluation of Cylinder Seal VA 243 Michael S. Heiser Ph. D. candidate, Hebrew Bible and Historical Semitic Languages College of Wisconsin-Madison Introduction Readers of Zecharia Sitchin’s books, significantly The 12th Planet, will acknowledge the above seal, VA 243 (so named as a result of it’s quantity 243 within the assortment of the Vorderasiatische Museum in Berlin). This seal is the centerpiece of Sitchin’s idea that the Sumerians had superior astronomical data of the planetary our bodies in our photo voltaic system.
This data was allegedly given to the Sumerians by extraterrestrials, whom Sitchin identifies because the Anunnaki gods of Sumero-Mesopotamian mythology. Within the higher left-hand nook of the seal, Sitchin argues, one sees the solar surrounded by eleven globes. Since historic peoples (together with the Sumerians in keeping with Sitchin) held the solar and moon to be “planets,” these eleven globes plus the solar add as much as twelve planets. After all, since we now know of 9 planets plus our solar and moon, a part of Sitchin’s argument is that the Sumerians knew of an additional planet past Pluto.
This additional planet is taken into account by Sitchin to be Nibiru, an astronomical physique talked about in Mesopotamian texts. Sitchin’s works element his rivalry that Nibiru passes via our photo voltaic system each 3600 years, and so some believers in Sitchin’s idea contend that Nibiru will return quickly. Some followers of Sitchin’s concepts additionally consult with Nibiru as “Planet X”. Is Sitchin right – in entire or partially? Is Nibiru a 12th planet that can quickly return? Does VA243 show his thesis? Sadly for Sitchin and his followers, the reply to every of those questions isn’t any. This paper will concentrate on the guts of his idea, VA243.
Nibiru is the topic of one other paper on my web site. Technique and Strategy The examine of cylinder seals is definitely a really specialised sub-discipline inside Sumerology and Assyriology. a It’s attainable to find out, via the efforts of cylinder seal specialists of the latest previous and present specialists, to decisively say that Sitchin’s interpretation of this seal is deeply flawed and lacks scholarly benefit. In brief, his idea is fake and is unsupported by the seal itself. Within the dialogue that follows, I’ll reveal that VA243 under no circumstances helps Sitchin’s concepts.
My causes / strains of argument for this are: 1) The inscription on the seal (left hand and proper hand sides – which aren’t mentioned by Sitchin) says nothing about planets or any aspect of astronomy. Reasonably than providing an unbiased translation, I’ll defer to authorities on Sumerian seal inscriptions on this regard to keep away from any cost of bias. 2) The alleged “solar” image on the seal will not be the solar. We all know this as a result of it doesn’t conform to the constant depiction of the solar in a whole lot of different cylinder seals and examples of Sumero-Mesopotamian paintings.
I’ll describe the everyday depiction (decided with certainty as a result of it seems with texts concerning the solar god [Shamash Akkadian, known as Utu in Sumerian]) and supply picture examples. Sources are offered for readers to verify for themselves. The “solar” image is definitely a star (which in Mesopotamian artwork might have six or, extra generally, eight factors). Lest the trendy reader retort that “effectively, the solar is a star,” I provide a number of photographs the place the star image and the solar image (which once more, will not be that in VA243) are side-by-side and distinct from each other.
The Sumerians and Mesopotamians distinguished the solar from stars through the use of completely different symbols – and associating every image with the solar god and different gods, respectively. There may be merely no historic Sumero-Akkadian proof to assist Sitchin’s identification. three) If the “solar” will not be the solar, then what are the dots? The dots are additionally stars, as is finest illustrated by the Sumerian-Mesopotamian depiction of the Pleaides (seven dots along with cheap astronomical accuracy since they’re seen to the bare eye). b The Pleaides are literally some of the steadily depicted astronomical options in SumeroMesopotamian artwork.
As Sitchin factors out (and that is corroborated by precise students within the subject – it’s frequent data), stars had been related to or thought of to be heavenly beings – gods. In Sumero-Mesopotamian paintings, a star represents both a god or an astronomical physique. The identical could be mentioned of the solar – it may possibly both reference the literal solar or the solar god. There are three prospects as to what VA243 is depicting: (A) It’s singling out a deity or particular star and associating it with different stars in some type of zodiacal illustration. I don’t take into account this doubtless as a result of there are different far clearer representations of zodiacal constellations.
Until there are clear zodiacal connotations, a star was symbolic of a deity, which brings us to the second choice. (B) Extra possible is the concept the central star stands for a deity that has some affiliation with fertility (as in crops) for the reason that inscription describes an providing made by a worshipper (who is called) to a seated god who’s related within the seal with fertile harvest. Since there are two different figures within the seal along with the seated god, and one is the offerer, the remaining determine is probably going a deity additionally related to the providing. In favor of this risk are the “implements” a
A wonderful normal introduction is Dominique Collon, Cylinder Seals. I’m not saying the star is depicted amid the Pleiades, solely that the creative depiction of the Pleiades gives a wonderful instance of “dots” = stars. The Pleiadean depiction is all the time seven dots/stars. b proven on the seal with respect to those two figures going through the seated god and the determine’s headdress. Additionally in its favor is the truth that there are actually a whole lot of such “providing seals,” and lots of have a star in higher proximity to the figures’ heads, signifying the determine is a deity (see the instance). C) Because the star is surrounded by eleven different stars (dots), the creative depiction might stand for the lead god of the Mesopotamian divine council and its different eleven (higher tier) members. Recall that (as Sitchin once more factors out) the Mesopotamian council had 12 members. I’ve famous earlier than that the 12 member council isn’t all the time constant in Mesopotamian faith (at instances eight gods are thought of the council), however 12 is the extra prevalent quantity. This thesis is enticing, however I can’t say there’s a lot to commend it over choice B.
The reader is perhaps considering at this level, “Nicely, isn’t the solar god the chief of the pantheon – so if this symbology factors to the divine council the middle image might nonetheless be the solar? ” This may be an misguided line of thought since in SumeroMesopotamian faith the solar god is NOT the excessive god; the excessive god is Anu (later, Marduk), not Shamash. These choices are admittedly subjective, however one factor is definite – the “solar” image doesn’t conform to the abundantly frequent image for the solar in SumeroMesopotamian artwork. We aren’t coping with an outline of the photo voltaic system.
Astronomer Tom van Flandern pointed this out years in the past anyway, for the reason that sizes of the “planets” across the alleged solar don’t conform to the right sizes of the planets and there distances from the pseudo-sun are usually not depicted in such a method as to depict elliptical (or no less than various) orbits. The hyperlink to van Flandern’s critique is on my web site. four) There may be not a single textual content in the complete corpus of Sumerian or Mesopotamian tablets on the earth that tells us the Sumerians (or later inhabitants of Mesopotamia) knew there have been greater than 5 planets.
That is fairly a declare, however is demonstrable via the work of students who concentrate on cuneiform astronomy. Beneath I record all the key works on cuneiform astronomy (catalogues of texts, dissertations / books) and invite readers to verify them out of a library and search for themselves. Actually each cuneiform textual content that has any astronomical remark (even with respect to astrology and omens) has been translated, catalogued, listed, and mentioned within the obtainable educational literature.
The tablets are sometimes fairly detailed, even discussing mathematical calculations of the looks of planetary our bodies within the sky, on the horizon, and in relation to different stars. The sector is certainly not new, and is significantly developed. All the above aspects of the dialogue are actually supplied in additional element with bibliography. I. The Inscriptions on VA 243 VA243 has three strains of textual content (“line 1” is definitely repeated on each side of the seal):
The seal is transliterated (the Sumero-Akkadian indicators in English letters) and translated within the principal publication of the Berlin Vorderasiatische Museum’s publication of its seal assortment, Vorderasiatische Rollsiegel (“West Asian Cylinder Seals”; 1940) by Mesopotamian scholar Anton Moortgat on web page 101. This e-book is in German, so I provide the German and an English translation: Line 1 = dub-si-ga “Dubsiga” [a personal name of an apparently powerful personc] Line 2 = ili-il-la-at “Ili-illat” [another personal name, this time of the seal’s owner] “dein Knecht” [German for “your servant”d] Line three = ir3-su
So the complete (fairly boring) inscription of VA243 reads: “Dubsiga, Ili-illat, your/his servant. ” Nothing within the inscription suggests something remotely to do with astronomy or planets. In an e mail correspondence with Dr. Rudi Mayr, whose dissertation was on cylinder seals, Dr. Mayr commented on the inscriptions and the seal [and I interject a few comments in blue]: “The seated determine is a god; the ‘flounced’ garment is regular for deities (although kings begin sporting them a bit of later); deities even have the distinctive headdress. Most students name it a ‘horned’ headdress, however I’ve all the time thought it seemed extra like flames than horns.
Historical texts usually consult with deities having a shiny, shining, good side [this is true across the ancient near east – witness the “shining one” terminology I discuss in The Facade and in several papers on my website]; they don’t point out horns . . . The introducing determine additionally has the ‘horns’ of divinity” [this is a strong contextual argument that the symbol – again, it’s not the “sun” – to the upper left of the introducing figure is a star. Precisely because they SHINE, stars were associated with deities. Shamash, the sun god, had his own symbol of the sun.
See below for what it looked like]. c Private e mail communication on Dubsiga with Dr. Rudi Mayr, whose dissertation was on cylinder seals. Dr. Mayr can be the supply of the touch upon the second line, which conforms to typical cylinder seal patterns. d Dr. Mayr famous to me in an e mail that the third line may also learn “his servant”, which was his choice. II. The “Solar” Image That is maybe the most important downside with Sitchin’s interpretation of VA243 signifying the photo voltaic system. Merely put, if the central image in his photo voltaic system isn’t the solar, the interpretation collapses fully.
There’s really a great deal of proof to reveal decisively that Sitchin is unsuitable right here. Towards providing that proof, we’ll first introduce a couple of normal feedback on Sumero-Akkadian symbols and transfer to the specifics. A. Normal Feedback Like all historic religions, Sumero-Mesopotamian faith had an awesome concern with heavenly our bodies that might be noticed with the bare eye. Particularly, the solar, moon, and Venus had been vital focus factors due to their ease of visibility, and every was artistically symbolized and stood for a deity.
In Sumer-Mesopotamian faith, the solar god symbology was very clear: Solar god = Shamash (Utu within the Sumerian languagee) The image of the solar god in Sumero-Mesopotamian faith was a central circle with 4 prolonged “arms” with wavy strains in between every “arm” (commonest), or a circle with solely wavy strains. Your entire image was itself almost all the time [I don’t know any exceptions, but there may be one – just being cautious here] inside a circle, as under:f The reader ought to notice instantly that that is NOT the image on VA243.
VA 243’s “pseudo-sun” lacks the wavy strains and isn’t set inside a circle. This solar image is ubiquitous in Sumero-Mesopotamian non secular paintings. The opposite frequent image for the solar god was the god in flight upon a set of wings (an outline akin to the winged disc in Egyptian faith). e See Jeremy Black, Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Historical Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary (College of Texas Press, along with the British Museum, 1992): 168. This is a superb reference supply. Dr. Black is a well-known Sumerian scholar.
He was previously the Director of the British Faculty of Archaeology in Iraq and is now college lecturer in Akkadian and Sumerian at Wolfson School, Oxford. f See above supply, p. 168. The above traditional photo voltaic disk iconography in Sumero-Mesopotamian faith is contrasted with the star image, used to represent both stars in constellations, any deity (the star is both over the deity’s head or above it to the left of proper), or Ishtar (Sumerian Inana), who stood for Venus, essentially the most seen object within the sky other than the solar and moon:g Observe that this instance has eight factors.
That is essentially the most steadily attested model in Sumero-Mesopotamian non secular artwork. The star is also discovered with six (like VA 243) or seven factors, and the factors even range inside the similar seal or stela carving. It wasn’t constant in factors, however what the image stood for was constant – both a star, planet, or deity – however NOT the solar. The star image is both set inside a circle or, way more usually, not inside a circle. It’s clearly distinct from the solar image. How do I do know that the image of VA 243 is a star and never the solar disk?
Aside from the apparent famous above – that VA 243 doesn’t have the wavy strains between the “arms” of the image and isn’t set inside a circle – Sumero-Mesopotamian faith usually grouped the symbols for the solar god with that of the moon god (Akkadian = Sin; Sumerian = Nanna) and Ishtar (Sumerian = Inana). This isn’t stunning since they had been so readily seen. In brief, they didn’t confuse the symbols and neither ought to we. This grouped threesome could be very prevalent in Sumero-Mesopotamian artwork, and compels the commentary that the solar image and star image had been distinguished from one another:
Supply: Ursula Seidl, Die Babylonischen Kudurru Reliefs, Tafel 11, Zweite Gruppe, stela “a” = The Babylonian Kudurru Reliefs, Plate 11, 2nd Group, stela “a”. Observe the wavy strains and encircled solar image on the correct. Ursula Seidl, Die Babylonischen Kudurru Reliefs, Tafel 19, Vierte Gruppe, stela “b” = The Babylonian Kudurru Reliefs, Plate 19, 4th Group, aid “b”. Observe the wavy strains and encircled solar image on the decrease proper. g See Black, 143. The symbols for solar and star/planet are additionally distinguished clearly in zodiacal paintings from Mesopotamia:
The solar image (Left) and star image (Proper) are subsequent to one another beneath the snake (Draco). Observe the wavy strains of the solar image Supply: Ursula Seidl, Die Babylonischen Kudurru Reliefs, p. 47 = The Babylonian Kudurru Reliefs, p. 47 Here’s a close-up of the solar (L) and star (R) image above. Observe that the star on this case has eight factors: A second zodiac instance: The solar image (middle) and star image (R of middle) are subsequent to one another beneath the snake’s tail. Observe the wavy strains of the solar image Supply: Ursula Seidl, Die Babylonischen Kudurru Reliefs, p. zero = The Babylonian Kudurru Reliefs, p. 60 Within the above instance, notice that: (1) the star has seven factors, and (b) the celebrities under it have six factors. Observe additionally that these smaller stars additionally LACK factors – they’re simply dots. This seven dot/circle association is likely one of the commonest motifs in Mesopotamian artwork, and denote the Pleiades. The purpose right here is that dots = stars in Mesopotamian artwork when in an astronomical context (or a context the place a deity is recognized with a star). That is vital for our consideration of VA 243. Once more, here’s a close-up: A 3rd zodiac instance:
Observe that the star image right here has six factors as does the VA 243 star. Supply: Ursula Seidl, Die Babylonischen Kudurru Reliefs, p. 23 = The Babylonian Kudurru Reliefs, p. 23 Some commentary on this final instance is so as. The earlier two examples clearly are in zodiac context, as is that this one. These earlier two examples clearly have the solar image drawn in a way in step with anticipated Sumero-Mesopotamian options (wavy strains, encircled) that unmistakably distinguishes the solar from the star image. The star image signifies the identical astronomical physique in every case, but the variety of factors varies.
Which means that the variety of factors is unimportant for figuring out the star image as a STAR or planet, NOT the solar. Therefore one can not say, “effectively the star image often has eight factors, and the Sitchin seal has six, due to this fact it’s not a star however the solar. ” That is misguided as a result of these examples reveal clearly that a star image can have 6, 7, or eight pts. , and LACKS wavy strains. The image on Sitchin’s VA 243 is NOT the solar. It’s a star, and thus denotes a star, a god, or a single planet. This isn’t my opinion, it’s the Sumero-Mesopotamian artwork conference.
Let’s transfer on to some cylinder seal examples of star symbols. As famous above, the star was designed to indicate a deity or literal star or planet. Right here’s an instance of a cylinder seal with Ishtar signaled because the deity by a star: Supply: Henri Frankfort, Cylinder Seals: A Documentary Essay on the Artwork and Faith of the Historical Close to East (London: MacMillan and Co. , 1939): Plate XXVI-seal L On this instance, the apparent star image has eight factors, and could be very comparable in design to the star image of VA 243. We all know it’s a star and never the solar as a result of the goddess depicted is Ishtar. One other star image of very comparable design to VA 243 is proven under:i The higher left-hand aspect of this seal accommodates the winged solar disk above the pinnacle of what students consult with as a “scorpion man” (notice his tail). Simply to the correct of the winged disk is our star image. This time the star has seven factors, and is kind of much like VA 243. Observe as effectively h See the dialogue in Frankfort (pp. 177-178, 236, 254) and Black, p. 168. See additionally the magisterial survey: E. Douglas van Buren, Symbols of the Gods in Mesopotamian Artwork, Analecta Orientalia 23 (Pontificum Institutum Biblicum, 1945): 8485. Frankfort, Plate XXXIII – seal b. the far higher proper nook – the seven stars grouped collectively are the Pleiades (to which we are going to return in our dialogue). Beneath are a number of examples of seals with six pointed stars: (Frankfort, Plate XXXIII – seal d): Feedback: Observe the six-pointed stars within the higher left and higher proper corners. In each instances, notice the presence of accompanying “dots” in teams of seven – once more, the Pleiades (the “additional dot” over the pinnacle of the smaller standing determine denotes a deity as it’s a star).
The seven dots = the seven stars of the Pleiades (the dots had been interchangeable with pointed stars to indicate stars). As E. Douglas van Buren, an skilled on Sumerian and Mesopotamian artwork feedback: “Within the earliest representations of the 7 dots as but recognized it may be seen that . . . they shaped a hoop or rosette round a central dot . . . [From] the early Babylonian interval onwards it’s more and more frequent to search out the 7 dots organized like stars within the constellation of the Pleiades, and within the final quarter of the second millennium the dots are formed for the primary time as stars. j This commentary is vital as a result of it demonstrates that the “pointed star + Pleiades” sample doesn’t require a sure variety of factors on the celebrities. Recall that the identical state of affairs was true with the zodiac – it doesn’t matter what number of factors a star image has – it’s a star, not the solar. One other instance: j E. Douglas van Buren, “The Seven Dots in Mesopotamian Artwork and Their Which means,” Archiv fur Orientforschung XIII (1941): 277; see additionally E. Douglas van Buren, Symbols of the Gods in Mesopotamian Artwork, 74ff. and E.
Douglas van Buren, “The Rosette in Mesopotamian Artwork,” Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie and vorderasiatische Archaeologie, new sequence, vol. 11 (1939, vol. 45 from previous sequence): 104ff. (Frankfort, Plate XXXV – seal h): On this seal the star has six factors surrounding a central dot. Observe once more the Pleiades image (see under beneath the subsequent level on the “dots” in VA 243). Earlier than leaving the dialogue of the star image, pay attention to the shut similarity in model between the star on VA 243 that Sitchin says is the solar and the star symbols we have now famous above: Frankfort XXXIII-b VA 243
Ishtar star Now evaluate these with the precise solar image: III. The Surrounding “Dots” As I requested within the introduction to this paper, if Sitchin’s “solar” will not be a solar, then what are the dots? Probably the most obvious reply, primarily based on the examples above, is that they too are stars. We’ve got already seen that dots had been used to depict the celebrities of the Pleiades, and confirmed that the seven dots = the seven star symbols elsewhere used for a similar constellation. We additionally noticed above within the seal of Frankfort Plate XXXIII-d that a single pointed star could be related to dots that are additionally stars.
It’s nearly that the “star + seven dots” symbology is saying, “constellation = Pleiades. ” There may be due to this fact ample precedent for asserting that these dots in VA243 are stars. It might be that this seal is “saying”: “Constellation = the one with 11 stars”. Since I don’t know astronomy effectively, I’ll let the reader ponder that one. The introduction additionally famous that the symbology of the seal might simply level to a deity and maybe the divine council. Sufficient mentioned on that. IV. On Sumerian or Mesopotamian Astronomical Information
On this regard I provide the reader a chance to problem my assertion above (and I’m simply quoting specialists in cuneiform astronomical tablets) that there’s not a single textual content in the complete corpus of Sumerian or Mesopotamian tablets on the earth that claims the Sumerians or Mesopotamians knew of greater than 5 planets. Beneath are bibliographical references that anybody can entry (the scholarly, dissertation stage supplies that one wants some data of semitic languages and/or cuneiform, in addition to a background in arithmetic or astronomy, to essentially use are famous in their very own class).
In my paper on Nibiru (obtainable on my web site), I’ll briefly go into what the Sumerians and Mesopotamians knew concerning the planets. For now, although, giving the reader these sources will suffice. Normal Sources: Francesca Rochberg, “Astronomy and Calendars in Historical Mesopotamia,” Civilizations of the Historical Close to East, vol. III, pp. 1925-1940 (ed. , Jack Sasson, 2000) Bartel L. van der Waerden, Science Awakening, vol. 2: The Delivery of Astronomy (1974) Technical however Nonetheless Readable Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (1998) N. M.
Swerdlow, Historical Astronomy and Celestial Divination (2000) Scholarly (Technical) Sources: Otto Neugebauer, The Actual Sciences in Antiquity (1953) Otto Neugebauer, Astronomical Cuneiform Texts (1955) Erica Reiner and David Pingree, Enuma Elish Enlil Pill 63, The Venus Pill of Ammisaduqa (1975) Hermann Starvation and David Pingree, MUL. APIN: An Astronomical Compendium in Cuneiform (1989) Hermann Starvation and David Pingree, Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia (1999) N. Swerdlow, The Babylonian Principle of the Planets (1998) David Brown, Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology (2000)
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