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The ideograms were succinct, and most could be represented with a single symbol. The Babylonians also used combinations of cuneiform symbols pronounced phonetically to create written words that sound like the Akkadian spoken word. van der Waerden's example is that of the constellation Libra, which in Sumerian is RIN, and the symbol combinations zi-ba-ni-tum for zibanitum in Babylonian.

Several of the Babylonian constellations were adoped by the Greeks, especially the zodiacal constellations. There are also many important differences, as Table 7.4 indicates, but the probability of getting this degree of similarity between two independent lists is so low that it may be dismissed as a reasonable possibility. See ยง15 for a discussion of what constitutes adequate evidence of cultural contacts.

The Mesopotamians had a list of stars, called "normal stars" after Epping's (1889) "Normalsterne," that is, stars used as positional standards in measuring planetary locations. The Akkadian term for these stars, MUL SIDmes, was most likely read kakkabu-minati (Sachs and Hunger 1988, p. 17). These may have come into general use in the 4th century b.c. or slightly earlier (Lindsay 1971, pp. 38-39). The list of these stars appears in Table 7.5. They have been numbered for convenience and appear in the order and with the ecliptic positions for the year 601 b.c., as given in Sachs and Hunger.

As with the Indian and Chinese lunar mansions, these stars are not uniformly placed around the ecliptic. Note the very large gap between the end of the table and its beginning, and between stars 29 and 30. In the gaps, there are stars that are as bright as the normal stars. No satisfactory explanation for these gaps has yet been found. The list overlaps those of Tables 15.3 and 15.4, but is not identical to either.

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