©  Carl Olof Jonsson, Göteborg, Sweden, 2009



Review of chapters 5-10:


Can the Persian Chronology be Revised? – Rolf Furuli’s “Response to Jonsson” Examined


Rolf Furuli’s book Persian Chronology and the Length of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews was first published in 2003 as volume I of his two volumes on ancient chronology. As the title of the book shows, the volume deals with two questions: (1) the Persian chronology, and (2) the length of the Jewish exile in Babylonia. The second question is discussed in the first four chapters of the book, and a review of these chapters by this author was published on this web site in 2003. A review of Furuli’s discussion of the first question, however, the Persian chronology, has been published elsewhere, viz., in the British interdisciplinary journal Chronology & Catastrophism Review [C&CR]: “Can the Persian Chronology be Revised? – Part I” (C&CR 2006, pp. 25-40), and “Can the Persian Chronology be Revised? – Part II: The Reign of Artaxerxes I” (C&CR 2007, pp. 38-57).


The basic reason for Rolf Furuli’s attempt to revise the Persian chronology is the Watch Tower Society’s exposition of the “seventy weeks [of years],” or 490 years, of Daniel 9:24-27. Based on Nehemiah 2:1f., it reckons this 490-year period from the 20th year of Artaxerxes I to 36 CE, the supposed expiring date of the 70th “year-week,” in the middle of which the Messiah was to be “cut off” according to Daniel 9:26, 27. This application, however, requires that the 20th year of Artaxerxes I is dated to 455 BCE instead of 445. This is an old idea that can be traced back to the noted theologian Denis Petau, better known as Dionysius Petavius, who first presented it in a work published in 1627 (De Doctrina Temporum, Vol. 2).


The discovery and interpretation of the many thousands of cuneiform tablets dated to the Persian period have made this application untenable. The evidence against the theory has been constantly increasing ever since the study of these tablets started about the middle of the 19th century. The overwhelming burden of evidence against the 455 BCE date available today has caused the Watch Tower Society and its apologists insurmountable problems. As there is no evidence that speaks in favor of the date, their defence of the date has been limited to attempts to undermine the evidence that speaks against it.


In order to move the 20th year of Artaxerxes I from 445 back to 455 BCE, it has been necessary to increase the length of his reign from 41 to 51 years. This pushes back the first year of his reign from 464 to 474 BCE. It also moves all the previous dates 10 years backwards. The 21-year reign of his predecessor, Xerxes, for example, is moved back from 485-465 to 495-475 BCE. It would also move the date for the fall of Babylon, 539 BCE, back to 549 BCE. But as the 539 BCE date is indispensible for the chronology of the Watch Tower Society, the solution has been to create a co-regency somewhere after 539. Furuli’s variant of the co-regency theory implies a two-step solution. Furuli not only lengthens the reign of Artaxerxes I to 51 years (which as stated moves the reign of his predecessor Xerxes 10 years backwards), but he also moves the reign of Darius I (521-486 BCE) one year forward (to 520-485). In this way Furuli creates a co-regency of 11 years between Darius I and his son and successor Xerxes: 




The traditional


Furuli’s “Oslo


Darius I

36 years:  521 – 486

36 years:  520 – 485

Xerxes I

21 years:  485 – 465

with Darius,

11 years:  495 – 485

+ sole rule,

10 years:  484 – 475

Artaxerxes I

41 years:  464 – 424

51 years:  474 – 424


That such chronological rearrangements are untenable was demonstrated in my two-part review in C&CR mentioned above. Anybody interested in reading this review may contact me for an email copy.


In an attempt to defend his variant of the Watchtower chronology (the “Oslo Chronology”), Rolf Furuli wrote a response to my review that was published in the C&CR issue of 2009: “Studies in Persian Chronology – A Response to Jonsson” (pp. 30-39). In this 10-page response Furuli explains that “space prevents” him from “dealing with every argument” I presented (p. 38). Actually, he has avoided discussing most of the evidence I presented and has chosen to focus almost entirely on trying to undermine the strength of the astronomical tablets from the period.



Furuli’s approach to my two-part review


Rolf Furuli starts his “Response to Jonsson” by claiming that “Jonsson bases his arguments and conclusions on secondary sources, that is, on the conclusions drawn by different scholars who have studied the original documents.” (Furuli, p. 30) What does he mean by this?


Furuli has repeatedly claimed that, in contrast to himself, I have not studied ancient languages and have therefore been forced to use translations of the original tablets by leading authorities on cuneiform, Akkadian, and the astronomical cuneiform tablets, authorities like Abraham J. Sachs, Hermann Hunger, Christopher Walker, John Steele, and others. To Furuli this means turning to “secondary sources.”


But firstly, Rolf Furuli knows nothing about my studies and knowledge of ancient languages.


Secondly, Furuli’s own knowledge of cuneiform, Akkadian, and ancient Babylonian astronomy is far from sufficient, as has been demonstrated, time and again, by the critical examinations of the works and articles he has written on the subject so far. His discussions have been shown – not only by me but also by several other scholars – to bristle with serious mistakes, page after page.


Thirdly, all the quotations from the astronomical cuneiform tablets in his 10-page “Response to Jonsson” are literally quoted from the translations in the ADT volumes of Abraham Sachs and Hermann Hunger. (ADT = Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia, Vols. I, II, III, V, and VI.) Thus, as Furuli regards these translations as “secondary sources,” he is just as dependent on “secondary sources” as he claims that I am!


Fourthly, if a scholar who is an authority on cuneiform and the Akkadian language and who has spent most of his adult life on studying ancient astronomical tablets written in that language is to be regarded a secondary source, what are we to say about Rolf Furuli himself, who is neither an authority on cuneiform and Akkadian, nor on the Babylonian astronomical tablets? Can he even be regarded a secondary source? As he so far has not contributed anything that increases our understanding of the Akkadian language, our understanding of Babylonian astronomy, or our understanding of the astronomical cuneiform tablets, can he be regarded as a useful source at all?


And fifthly, if we have questions about how a certain passage in a Babylonian astronomical tablet is to be understood and translated, to whom should we turn? To a leading authority on such texts, or to Rolf Furuli, who is no expert on such tablets, and whose agenda is well known to most of us? The answer is obvious.


When the evidence is overwhelming, a scholar is entitled to draw a definite conclusion. I had to do this 35 years ago when I, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, after much research and resistance, finally felt forced to open my mind to the enormous burden of evidence I had found against the Watch Tower Society’s chronology and to accept the unpleasant facts. In an earlier article in C&CR Furuli points out how important it is, not least for a scholar, to take a “balanced approach” and to be “open-minded.” (“Open-Mindedness and Ancient Chronology,” C&CR 2007, pp. 36, 37) But to emphasize this matter-of-course is one thing; to be such a scholar is another. It is well known to many of the readers of Furuli’s works that he has spent all his adult life on defending the chronologically based claims and dogmas of a religious sect. It seems rather odd, therefore, when he in his 10-page “Response to Jonsson” stoops to using ad hominem arguments by describing me as “categorical”, “dogmatic” and “sectarian.” Not until he begins to take a “balanced approach” to the Watch Tower Society’s chronology, by openly admitting and pointing out its serious weaknesses and problems, will he prove himself to be an open-minded, non-dogmatic and non-sectarian scholar. So far, however, he has never openly criticized the Watch Tower Society’s chronology, the corner-stone of its sectarian claim to be “God’s sole channel on earth.”



Furuli’s “Response to Jonsson” critically examined


My two-part review of Furuli’s discussion of the Persian chronology covers 36 pages in all. About six of these pages (about 17% of my discussion) are devoted to a discussion of astronomical tablets that establish the absolute chronology for the reigns of Darius I, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes I. I used four tablets:


(1)  LBAT 1393 (translated as No. 54 in ADT V), dated to the reign of Darius I.

(2)  LBAT 1419 (No. 4 in ADT V), with one entry dated to year 21 of Xerxes (465/464 BCE).

(3)  VAT 5047 (No. -453 in ADT I), dated to year 11 of Artaxerxes I (454/453 BCE).

(4)  LBAT 1387+1388+1486 (No. 56 in ADT V), mainly dated to the reign of Artaxerxes I. 


As stated earlier, Furuli in his “Response to Jonsson” focuses almost entirely on the astronomical cuneiform tablets. In addition to the four tablets I used, however, Furuli also discusses three other astronomical tablets:


(5)  Strm Kambys 400 (No. 55 in ADT V), dated to year 7 of Cambyses. 

(6)  W 20030/142 (No. -463 in ADT I). Regnal year missing.

(7)  BM 33478 (No. -440 in ADT I). Regnal year damaged.


I did not use any of these three tablets, for the following reasons:


  The first tablet (5), which is dated to year 7 of Cambyses (523/522 BCE), is one of the most problematic astronomical tablets. It is not just a later copy. As scholars point out, it contains a mixture of observations, predictions, and perhaps retro-calculations added by the later copyist. In addition, it also contains a lot of errors and contradictions. (See GTR4, pp. 86, 87)


  On the second tablet (6) both the royal name and the regnal year are missing. Even if the astronomical observations recorded on it may be safely dated to year 464 BCE, it does not establish this as the first year (or 11th, according to Furuli) of Artaxerxes I. It is, therefore, useless for chronological purposes.


  The third tablet (7), finally, is dated to a king named Artaxerxes. The regnal year is partially broken. Hunger tentatively dated it to the 24th year of Artaxerxes I (441 BCE), but he admitted that both the date and the identity of the king are problematic. (ADT I, p. 61) The problems were solved a few years later by Johannes Koch, who demonstrated that the tablet belonged to the 23rd year of Artaxerxes II, 382/381 BCE. (Archiv für Orientforschung 1991/2, pp. 101-103) This conclusion was later, in 1993 and 1998, supported by R. J. van der Spek. (Achaemenid History XI, ed. by M. Brosius & A. Kuhrt, 1998, p. 240) The earlier dating of the tablet to Artaxerxes I, then, had to be abandoned. As it belonged to a period I did not discuss in my two-part review, I did not use it.


Nearly half of Furuli’s discussion of the astronomical tablets is devoted to these three tablets, despite their poor quality, and he tries to use them in support of his “Oslo Chronology.” (C&CR 2009, pp. 31-37) In a lengthy discussion of  no. (7) above (BM 33478 = No. -440 in ADT I), for example, he argues that it should be dated to the 10th year of Artaxerxes I, which he dates to 465/464 BCE. (C&CR 2009, pp. 34-37) There is nothing in the text that supports this. Besides, Furuli does not seem to be aware of Koch’s and van der Spek’s redating of the tablet. A revealing analysis of Furuli’s treatment of this tablet by Ann O’Maly is available on the web:




Because none of these three tablets, and the last two in particular, can be used to establish the absolute chronology of the period I discussed, I did not use them. If Furuli’s use of them is meant to be part of his “Response to Jonsson,” he has completely missed the target as I found no reason to discuss any of them.


Furuli’s discussion of the four tablets that I did use is completely misleading throughout. With respect to one of the tablets I used, number (3) above (VAT 5047), dated to year 11 of Artaxerxes, I challenged Furuli to find one year during the Persian era other than 454 BCE with positions that fully match the pattern of lunar and planetary positions recorded on the tablet. (C&CR 2007, p. 44) Furuli did not take up the gauntlet. Instead he tries to undermine the quality of the positions, claiming that of the positions on the tablet “4 are wrong and 2 are correct” and that the tablet, therefore, “probably contains retro-calculations” instead of observations. (C&CR 2009, p. 33) However, a detailed study of the positions by the aid of a modern astroprogram proves that the problem is not the quality of the positions, but the quality of Furuli’s examination of the positions. At least 5 of the 6 positions may be shown to be correct, while the 6th is problematic. As it is recorded twice, with slightly different readings, at two different places on the tablet (in col. iv, line 2´ and on the upper edge, line 3), this may indicate a scribal or copyist error. Anyway, my challenge still stands.


Furuli’s treatment of the other three tablets I used is of the same poor quality. Of no. (1) above (LBAT 1393) he erroneously claims that “11 positions are wrong, 4 are possibly correct, and 1 is correct.” Again, this indicates to him that “the many wrong positions on this tablet really suggest retro-calculation” rather than observation. (C&CR 2009, p. 32) Of no. (2) above (LBAT 1419), he admits that the record dated to the last year of Xerxes perfectly fits 465 BCE, but argues, mistakenly, that it also perfectly fits 475. (C&CR 2009, pp. 35, 36) And of no. (4) above (LBAT 1387+1388+1486) he claims that, of 43 positions of Venus related to one king, 32 positions are wrong, 5 correct, and 6 possibly correct. Unfortunately, Furuli’s conclusion that the “74% wrong positions can hardly represent observations, but are most likely retro-calculations, made on the basis of a scheme containing errors” is based on the same poor quality of examination that characterizes his treatment of the other tablets.


It would require a very long and tiresome exposition to present astronomical examinations of all the observations recorded on the four tablets. The examination of just one of the four tablets as an example – LBAT 1393 – will be sufficient to show how erroneous Furuli’s claims really are. As even this will probably be a rather boring experience to most readers, the results have been summarized in a surveyable table at the end of the discussion.



The astronomical cuneiform tablet LBAT 1393 (No. 54 in ADT V)


The astronomical tablet LBAT 1393, transliterated and translated by Abraham Sachs and Hermann Hunger and published as No. 54 in ADT V, pp. 158-165, records observations of the planet Jupiter arranged in 12-year cycles. The observations were made in the reigns of Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius I. The tablet was briefly discussed by me on pages 28-29 of Chronology & Catastrophism Review (C&CR) 2006, where it was demonstrated that it punctuates Rolf Furuli’s so-called “Oslo Chronology” for the reign of Darius I. My discussion of this tablet is criticized by Rolf Furuli in C&CR 2009 on page 32, where he states that the tablet records “many wrong positions,” claiming that he has “found that 11 positions are wrong, 4 are possibly correct (15), and 1 is correct.” He does not tell which of the 16 positions he feels are wrong and why, but he suggests that the reason for the supposed erroneous astronomical positions is that they “most likely represent retro-calculations and not real observations.”


Is this correct? A close examination of the observations demonstrates that Furuli’s claims are totally groundless.



Entries that are useless for dating purposes


Some entries on the tablet are severely damaged, and in all but one of them the regnal years are lost. These entries, therefore, are useless for dating purposes. Only a brief description of them will be necessary:


The obverse:

Columns I´ and II´ of the obverse are broken and missing. Column III´ contains six lines with text, but much of the text is damaged, and both the royal name and the regnal years are lost. Although the two preserved observations (one giving the position of Jupiter, the other the date of its last appearance) fit years 512 and 511 BCE, they cannot be used to prove that these were years 10 and 11 of the reign of Darius I.


Column IV´ contains four lines with text, and year number “23” is visible in line 2´. If this refers to year 23 of Darius I, it would correspond to 499 BCE in the traditional chronology. Records of two observations, dated to months III and VI, are preserved on lines 2´- 4´, but as the text is partially damaged and difficult to interpret, I did not use them in my discussion.


The reverse:

The text in column I´ on the reverse is lost in lines 1´, 2´, and 9´. The remaining six lines are partially damaged, but the two observations recorded may be dated to year 526 BCE. The first entry in column II´ contains a partially legible text in lines 1´-3´ and 10´, with two observations that may be dated to 515 BCE. However, as both royal name and regnal years are missing in both of these entries, I did not use any of the four observations in my discussion of the tablet.



Entries that are usable for dating purposes


The remaining parts of the reverse record observations of Jupiter dated to years 8, 19, 20, 31, and 32 of an unnamed king, who may safely be identified as Darius I. The details given for the 13 observations fit no other king. None of these observations can be proven to be wrong, so Furuli’s claim is demonstrably false. In the following the 13 observations will be briefly examined, one by one, with the help of two modern astroprograms, SkyMap Pro 11.04 and PLSV (“Planetary, Lunar, and Stellar Visibility”, available free on the web from Alcyone Software).


The second entry in column II´ of the reverse (lines 11´-17´) contains both year number and month and day numbers. As also most of the text is preserved, it is possible to check and date the observations recorded: 


Reverse, column II´, lines 11´-12´a:


     “(Year) 8. … Month III, …the 4th, last appearance in Gemini.”


In the traditional chronology, year 8 of Darius I began in the Spring of 514 BCE. The 4th day of month III of that year corresponds to May 28/29 (evening to evening) in the Julian calendar. The PLSV program shows that the last visibility of Jupiter in this year could be observed on May 29 after sunset, and the SkyMap program confirms that Jupiter at that time was in Gemini. The tablet, however, shows that the Babylonian astronomer observed the last appearance (in Gemini) in the previous evening, on May 28 after sunset. The difference of one day between the modern calculation and the ancient observation is not problematic. For a number of reasons – weather conditions, uncertainties in the arcus visionis, variations in the planetary magnitude, atmospheric effects and other observational circumstances – the Babylonian observations of the first and last visibility of a planet could often differ by one, two, or more days from the technically more exact first and last visibility established by the aid of modern methods and computations. (See Teije de Jong, “Early Babylonian Observations of Saturn: Astronomical Considerations,” in J. M. Steele and Annette Imhausen (eds.), Under One Sky. Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2002, p. 177.) In consideration of this, the observation recorded on the tablet is in excellent agreement with modern computations.


Reverse, column II´, lines 12´b-13´:


     [Year 8 cont.] “Month IV, … the 3rd, first appearance 5° in front of Cancer.”


Day 3 of month IV in 514 BCE corresponds to June 26/27 in the Julian calendar. According to the PLSV program the first visibility of Jupiter in this year could be seen before sunrise on June 27, just as stated on the tablet. At that time Jupiter was “in front of”, that is, west of, the constellation of Cancer. It is not clear what the distance, 5°, refers to. No specific star is mentioned, and the reference to a whole constellation is very general. The Babylonian boundaries of the constellations at that time were not identical to those recognized today. Furuli correctly points out that “today, it is difficult to know what was then believed to be the exact end or front of a constellation.” (C&CR 2009, p. 32) The SkyMap program shows that Jupiter at that time was about 18.5° “in front of” the center of Cancer. Further, Jupiter was much closer to the constellation of Gemini than to Cancer, and it would have been more natural for the Babylonian scholars, therefore, to give the distance to the bright star β Geminorum, about 7° according to modern calculations. It is possible that the position of Jupiter was calculated on this occasion rather than observed, perhaps due to bad weather. This would explain why a whole constellation instead of a specific star is used as reference. It is also interesting to note that the Babylonian scholars, when they divided the zodiac into 12 signs of 30° each, began the zodiacal sign Cancer with β Geminorum! (Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia, Brill, Leiden-Boston-Köln, 1999, p. 150) It is not very likely, however, that this division had been done already in the late 6th century BCE. Due to the above-mentioned uncertainties it cannot be claimed that the position given on the tablet is wrong.



Reverse, column II´, lines 16´ and 17´:


     [Year 8 cont.] “Month VIII, … the 7th, it became stationary in [….].”


The date – year 8, month VIII, day 7 – corresponds to 25/26 October, 514 BCE. The name of the constellation at the end is lost, but Cancer is the only alternative on this date. The SkyMap program shows that Jupiter became stationary in Cancer about 25/26 October and then began to turn back west again.


Reverse, column III´ line 5´:


The entry in the first four lines of column III´ is damaged and the regnal year is missing, so even if it were possible to date the observation, it would not be of much help chronologically. The next entry on lines 5´ to 12´, however, is dated to year 19 and records four datable observations. The first one is described in line 5´:


     “(Year) 19. Month III, … the 6th, first appearance behind the Chariot.”


Day 6, month III, year 19 of Darius I corresponded to May 29/30, 503 BCE in the Julian calendar. “Chariot” was the Babylonian name for the northern part of Taurus, to which belonged, for example, the stars β Tauri and ζ Tauri. (Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia, Leiden-Boston-Köln: Brill, 1999, p. 271) According to the PLSV program the first appearance of Jupiter could be seen in the morning before sunrise on May 31, 503 BCE. This is one day after it was observed by the Babylonian astronomer. His early observation is not impossible, however, as the distance between the rise of Jupiter and sunrise in the morning of May 30 was about 46 minutes, which is nearly the same as that in the morning of May 31, when it was about 47 minutes – a difference of just about one minute.


As the Chariot, the northern part of Taurus, rose above the eastern horizon before Jupiter, the Babylonian observer concluded that Jupiter was behind (= east of) the Chariot. β Tauri, the bright star at the north-eastern end of the Chariot, for example, rose at 06:44, or 22 minutes before Jupiter. It cannot be claimed, therefore, that this observation was wrong because Jupiter, if measured in relation to the ecliptic, was south of rather than east of β Taurus. In relation to the horizon Jupiter was definitely seen by the Babylonian observer as rising behind the Chariot.


Reverse, column III´, lines 7´ and 8´:


     [Year 19 cont.] “Month VI2,  the 10th, it became stationary behind γ Geminorum;

     the xth, it moved back to the west.  


Year 19, month VI2 (the second Ululu), day 10, corresponds to 28/29 September, 503 BCE in the Julian calendar. The SkyMap program confirms that in the morning of September 29 before sunrise Jupiter had become stationary in the constellation of Geminorum. After a few days – the text is somewhat damaged and the day number is illegible (thus “the xth”) – it could be seen moving “back to the west.” The only problem is the position given Jupiter here as being behind γ Geminorum. At the stationary point Jupiter was almost exactly to the north of this star and only slightly behind it – provided that the ecliptic was used as the co-ordinate axis, which seems to have been the usual practice in most cases. Anyway, this is a small problem as the record is not very specific, with no distance to the star being given. To claim that the position recorded on the tablet is wrong, therefore, would certainly be going too far.


Reverse, column III´, line 9´:


     [Year 19 cont.] “Month VIII  the 9th, acronychal rising.”


Acronychal rising refers to the situation when a heavenly body rises in the east at the time the sun sets in the west. This happened with Jupiter on the 9th of month VIII in year 19, according to our tablet. The date given corresponds to 25/26 November, 503 BCE, in the Julian calendar. The SkyMap shows that at sunset at 19:59 on November 25, Jupiter had just begun to rise in the east, at 19:57. The observation recorded, therefore, is confirmed by modern calculations.


Reverse, column III´, lines 11´, 12´:


     [Year 19 cont.] “Month X,  the 12th or 13th, it became stationary … the Chariot.”


Month X, on day 12 or 13 of year 19, corresponds to January 25/26 or 26/27 of year 502 BCE. The observation is confirmed by the astroprogram. Jupiter, which had approached the northern part of Taurus (= the Chariot) from the east, had reached its stationary point behind Taurus in about January 25-27, 502 BC. A few days later it began to move slowly eastwards again.


Reverse, column III´, lines 13´-16´:


      “(Year) 20. … Month III, the 20th, [….] first appearance [….] the bright star of Gemini (β Gem); it (Jupiter) 

       was bright.”


The date – month III, day 20 of year 20 – corresponds to July 1/2, 502 BCE. The PLSV program confirms that the first visibility of Jupiter occurred in the morning of July 1 before sunrise. For some reason – perhaps bad weather - the Babylonian astronomer did not observe it until next morning on July 2. As discussed earlier, a deviation of one, two, or a few more days is a fully acceptable difference between modern computations and ancient observations. At the time of observation Jupiter was about 5.5° behind (southeast, to be more precise) of β Geminorum. The fact that Jupiter on that day rose as much as about 54 minutes before sunrise probably explains why it was stated to be “bright” at its rising. Further, this also confirms that the observation was a real one, since a planet’s ‘brightness’ wouldn’t have been possible to retro-calculate.


Reverse, column III´, line 17´:


      [Year 20 cont.] “Month V, … the 27th, it entered Praesepe.”


The date (month V, day 27, year 20) corresponds to 5/6 September, 502 BCE. Praesepe is an open star cluster between γ Cancer and δ Cancer, and the astroprogram shows that Jupiter’s position was almost exactly between these two stars in the morning of September 6 before sunrise.


The first two lines of column IV´ of the reverse are damaged. Months XI and XII are mentioned in line 1. There is one observation recorded in line 2´ – “The 25th, last appearance in Aries. [….]” – but as the year number is missing, it cannot be dated with any certainty and has to be ignored.


Reverse, column IV´, line 3´:


      “(Year) 31. Month II, … the 25th, first appearance in the Chariot [….]”


Year 31 of Darius I began in the Spring of 491 BCE in the traditional chronology. Month II, day 25, corresponds to 4/5 June. The PLSV program shows that the first visibility of Jupiter that year occurred in the morning of June 5 before sunrise, and the SkyMap program shows that Jupiter at that time was at the eastern end of the Chariot, the northern part of Taurus. Both the date of the first appearance of Jupiter and its position are in full agreement with those recorded on the tablet.


Reverse, column IV´, lines 5´ and 6´:


      [Year 31 cont.] “Month VI, … the 28th, it became stationary in Gemini; it moved back to the west.”


The date – month VI, day 28 – corresponds to 3/4 October, 491 BCE. As shown by the astroprogram, in the morning of October 4 Jupiter had become stationary in Gemini. A few days later it could be seen moving back to the west again, just as stated on the tablet. Furuli does not believe that the Babylonian astronomers could determine the stationary point almost to the day, because “Jupiter moves slowly (only about 30° each year in relation to the stars).” (Furuli, p. 32) He claims that the translation “became stationary in Gemini” is “misleading” because “Jupiter had been in Gemini for more than two months already and would still be there two months later.” (Furuli, p. 38, note 16) To indicate that the Babylonian astronomers believed that Jupiter “was stationary” in Gemini for several months is a serious mistake. They observed its slow movement regularly and closely and were able to determine almost to the day when it came to a halt and began its retrograde motion. The observation recorded on the tablet is an example of this. Furuli is quite simply wrong.


Reverse, column IV´, lines 9´-11´:


      (Year) 32, … Month III, … on the 10th or 11th, last appearance 6 cubits behind Gemini.”


The date corresponds to 7/8 or 8/9 June, 490 BCE. The PLSV program confirms that the last visibility of Jupiter occurred in the evening of June 7 after sunset, which is in agreement with the tablet. True, Jupiter was behind (east of) Gemini on both days suggested, but it is difficult to understand how the distance – 6 cubits (12°) – was measured. Jupiter was closer to the nearest stars in Gemini (about 2 cubits behind δ Geminorum, for example, and less than 4 cubits behind λ Geminorum). But as no star is mentioned, only the constellation, the reference is non-specific. It could simply be the distance to the center of Gemini.


Reverse, column IV´, lines 11´ and 12´:


      [Year 32 cont.] “Month IV, … the 9th, [first appearance] 5° in front of [….]”


Month IV, day 9, corresponds to 6/7 July, 490 BCE, in the Julian calendar. The restoration “[first appearance]” is certain, as the last appearance of Jupiter had occurred in the previous month (see above). The PLSV program shows that the first visibility of Jupiter in 490 BCE occurred in the morning of July 5 before sunrise. According to the tablet, however, the planet was not observed until two days later, in the morning of July 7 before sunrise, when it could be observed about 5°-6° in front of Cancer. As pointed out earlier, the difference of two days is no problem. Bad weather or other circumstances evidently prevented the observation of the first appearance for a couple of days.



Jupiter observations and modern calculations – summary table:


Date of Darius I

Tablet LBAT 1393

Modern calculation


Year 8, III, 04 =    May 28/29, 514 BCE

“last appearance in Gemini”

Last appearance in Gemini on May 29 after sunset


Year 8, IV, 03 =   June 26/27, 514

“first appearance 5° in front of Cancer”

First appearance in front of Cancer on June 27 before sunrise

Yes, but the distance is non-specific

Year 8, VIII, 07 =  Oct. 25/26, 514

became stationary in [….].”

Jupiter became stationary in Cancer about Oct. 25/26


Year 19, III, 06 =  May 29/30, 503

“first appearance behind the Chariot”

First appearance behind the Chariot on May 31 before sunrise


Year 19, VI2, 10 =  Sept. 28/29, 503

“it became stationary behind γ Geminorum; the xth, it moved back to the west”

Stationary north of and slightly behind γ Geminorum on Sept. 29 before sunrise; then it moved back west

Yes, but the position “behind” is questionable

Year 19, VIII, 09 = Nov. 25/26, 503

“acronychal rising”

Jupiter began rising in the east at sunset on Nov. 25


Year 19, X, 12-13 = Jan. 25/26-26/27, 502

“it became stationary … the Chariot”

Jupiter reached its stationary point behind the Chariot ca. Jan. 25-27


Year 20, III, 20 =   July 1/2, 502

“first appearance [….] the bright star of Gemini (β Gem); it (Jupiter) was bright”

The first visibility of Jupiter occurred on July 1 before sunrise (1 day earlier)


Year 20, V, 27 =   Sept. 5/6, 502

“it entered Praesepe”

Jupiter was in Praesepe on Sept. 6 before sunrise


Year 31, II, 25 =    June 4/5, 491

“first appearance in the Chariot”

The first visibility occurred on June 5 before sunrise in the Chariot


Year 31, VI, 28 =   Oct. 3/4, 491

“it became stationary in Gemini; it moved back to the west”

Jupiter was stationary in Gemini on Oct. 4 before sunrise; it then moved west 


Year 32, III, 10-11 = June 7/8-8/9, 490

“last appearance 6 cubits behind Gemini”

The last visibility occurred behind Gemini on June 7 after sunset

Yes, but the distance is non-specific

Year 32, IV, 09 =   July 6/7, 490

“[first appearance] 5° in front of [….]”

The first visibility occurred on July 5 before sunrise (2 days earlier); 5°-6° in front of Cancer




The examination of the observations recorded on LBAT 1393 (= BM 36823, transliterated and translated as No. 54 in ADT V) shows that 13 of the observations with a preserved regnal year are legible and specific enough to be datable. By the aid of modern astroprograms it has been demonstrated that 10 of these observations are fully correct, while some questions remain with respect to the non-specific distances given for two observations and the position “behind” is questionable for another observation. Other details given for these three observations are fully correct, however. It may be added that the results of the examination above have also been checked and confirmed by other scholars. Furuli’s claim, that “11 positions are wrong, 4 are possibly correct, and 1 is correct,” has been demonstrated to be completely groundless. The problem is how Furuli can have arrived at a conclusion that is so totally wrong.


Furuli’s examination of other tablets in his “Response to Jonsson” proves to be just as disastrous. Most of the observations and positions on the tablets I used that he classifies as “wrong” turn out, on a close examination, to be correct. The real problem, therefore, is not the quality of the positions recorded on the tablets, but the quality of Furuli’s own examination of these positions. The problem seems to be either that (1) Furuli is unable to handle a modern astroprogram properly, or that (2) his understanding of ancient Babylonian astronomy is insufficient, or, most probably, (3) both.