Inanna as Venus

There may well have been changes in the interpretation of some of these conceptions, as well as both losses and additions, but the overall iconography seems to coincide with later astronomical identifications and interpretations, massively and consistently, at least as far back as the Akkadian period. Prior to that period, the iconographic evidence is not nearly as clear, but Adamson points out that some of the earliest Sumerian representations of Inanna show her as a star, and that the goddess is called "shining Inanna" in early texts from Uruk (period III) and specifically "star Inanna" in Lagash texts of Early Dynastic date. They also show that a month was named "Journey of Inanna"; another name for the same or a different month was "Inanna is my deity" corresponding to Semitic Ululu, about September/October. Still another month name was "the month in which the shining star descends from its zenith" (if a reference to Venus, then the term "zenith" is not a technically correct translation, because Venus can never quite reach the zenith at f = 30°). We do not think that it is reasonable to doubt the identification of Inanna with the planet Venus even at the time of the earliest existing references to her. There seems to be no opportunity for a break in the continuity of this identification and no reason to postulate such a break. Although many earler studies accepted such conti nuity, most recent work by professional scholars working on early Mesopotamia has ignored astronomy. There are, however, some recent studies published in archaeoastro-nomical journals that relate to these materials and parallel earlier studies.

Clyde Hostetter has made three proposals of considerable potential importance in this area. One is that Inanna, the name of the goddess of the planet Venus also among the Batak people of Sumatra (see §9.3), derives her name, her attributes, and her astronomical and calendrical functions from the Sumerian goddess Inanna (Hostetter 1988/1991). The second is that the Sumerian myth of Inanna's descent to the underworld is simply an anthropomorphized description of the movements of the planet Venus (Hostetter 1979a, cf. 1979b/1982). The third is that the Sumerians were already predicting eclipses, using an eclipse series of 112 years, which was also tied to movements of Venus (Hostetter 1979,1991).

These ideas will be considered separately. In DHK's view, the Batak evidence and apparently related material from Northern India offer strong support for the view that Sumer-ian Inanna was, indeed, identified with the planet Venus. The Bataks also say that there were two celestial scorpions, one in Scorpio, and one in or near Betelgeuse, thus explaining an iconographic element that seemed anomalous on the sole basis of presently available Mesopotamian evidence.

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