In 2008, a cuneiform clay tablet that had puzzled scholars for over 150 years was finally translated. It was discovered to be a contemporary Sumerian account of an asteroid impact at Köfels, Austria. However, there is no crater present at the supposed impact site in Köfels, leading to the question of whether or not the event described in the tablet actually occurred. The evidence recorded in the tablet remains a mystery to this day.
The Sumerian Planisphere – A Forgotten Star Map
In the late 19th century, a circular stone tablet with strange markings was found in the 650 BC underground library of King Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, Iraq by Henry Layard. Initially thought to be an Assyrian artifact, computer analysis later revealed that the tablet matched the sky above Mesopotamia in 3,300 BC, indicating that it was of Sumerian origin and much older than previously believed.
Scientists have puzzled over the cuneiform clay tablet, which suggests that the ancient Sumerians witnessed the Köfel's impact event, a massive asteroid crash in the Alps near Köfels, Austria, over 5,600 years ago.
The cuneiform clay tablet is an "Astrolabe," the oldest known astronomical instrument. It is a segmented, disk-shaped star chart with marked units of angle measure inscribed on the rim. However, about 40% of the planisphere on the tablet is missing, likely due to damage sustained during the sacking of Nineveh. The reverse side of the tablet is not inscribed.
This 5600-year-old Sumerian star map demonstrates that, while the ancient Sumerian civilization may not have had a fully developed written script, they had a clear understanding of astronomy and the night sky.
The cuneiform tablet known as "the Planisphere" (British Museum collection No K8538) is still being studied by modern scholars. It provides strong evidence of the existence of advanced Sumerian astronomy.
10 Interesting Facts About The Sumerian Planisphere
The Sumerian Planisphere, which was discovered over 150 years ago, was not translated until a decade ago. It reveals the oldest known documentation of an extraterrestrial object, specifically a comet, that landed on Earth. This ancient Sumerian star map holds many important details and is the subject of this article.
1. The Exact Date Of The Comet's Impact
The inscriptions on the tablet contain the exact date and time of the supposed meteor impact: June 29, 3123 BC.
2. The Ruins Of The Royal Library Of King Ashurbanipal Held 20,000 More Tablets Including The Sumerian Planisphere
During the excavation of the ancient city of Nineveh, archaeologists uncovered over 20,000 antique tablets, which took several years to process. The "Planisphere," which is the focus of this discussion, is believed to be one of the most challenging to interpret. Fortunately, 150 years later, the surviving inscriptions were translated, yielding a wealth of previously unknown information.
3. The Planisphere Is An Exact Copy Of The Original One
Researchers think that the Planisphere is a copy of an older original tablet created by an astronomer who witnessed the event.
4. An Eight-picture Series Depicts The Entire Event, From The Appearance Of The Comet To Its Eventual Impact
Despite its small size (about 14 centimeters in diameter), the Sumerian star map tablet effectively illustrates the series of events by dividing them into eight images. About half of the inscriptions have been lost over time, but the remaining portions can still be translated using modern technology. Despite its limited size and surface area, the tablet's creator managed to convey a significant amount of information about the observation and its significance.
5. There Are Illustrations Of Constellations And Their Reasonable Names On The Sumerian Star Map
Despite our perception of our ancient ancestors as being technologically primitive, they had a highly advanced understanding of the night sky and constellations. The Planisphere includes illustrations of constellations with their names and the exact locations in relation to the comet's path. The third image, for instance, shows that the comet passed through Orion on the 9th day of the event.
6. The Ancient Astronomer Used Impressively Accurate Trigonometrical Measurements
The ancient astronomer who created the Planisphere had a thorough understanding of trigonometry and was able to accurately record the comet's flight path, arrival time, and distance traveled from the moment it was first spotted in the sky.
7. The First Five Pictures Describe The 20 Days Of Astronomical Observance
As previously mentioned, the tablet is divided into eight images presented in a sequential fashion. It is worth noting that the data in these first five images, from first to fifth, covers observations from the initial astronomical sighting until the end of day 20 before the impact on the twenty-first day. Therefore, the comet is depicted in these five images while it was visible in the sky.
8. The Sixth And The Seventh Pictures Explain The Impact And Its Aftereffect
Although the observer did not see the impact up close, as it would have been fatal, he did describe the flash of light in the sky and the massive ash plumes that resulted from the collision, which are recorded on the tablet. The seventh image captures the events of the night following the meteor fall. In the image, red, hot-glowing ash and dust plume columns rise from beyond the horizon and are visible in the darkness.
9. The Eighth Picture, Which Is The Final Shot, Includes The Calculation Of The Comet's Travel Path
The ancient astronomer did not end his observations until he had accurately calculated the comet's trajectory before it collided with Earth. The eighth image, which shows four observations of the comet's flight taken in daylight just before the impact, was created on the 21st day of observation after the impact. The entire sequence of data written on the tablet is truly remarkable, especially given that it was recorded over 5,200 years ago
10. The Comet Described On The Sumerian Star Map May Have Brought The End To Several Ancient Civilizations
Meteors have caused mass extinctions on Earth multiple times throughout history, and scientists speculate that this particular comet may have had a significant impact on ancient life. In particular, the ancient city of Akkad, which has not yet been located by archaeologists, may have been completely destroyed by a comet impact. While the exact location of this ancient city is still unknown, it is possible that it was located close to the impact zone and was wiped out by the comet.
Could The Tablet K8535 Be The Answer To A Giant Mysterious Landslide At Köfels?
The giant landslide at Köfels, Austria, which is 500 meters thick and five kilometers in diameter, has puzzled geologists since it was first studied in the late 19th century. Research in the mid-20th century concluded that it must have been caused by a large meteor impact due to evidence of crushing pressures and explosions.
This theory fell out of favor as our understanding of impact sites improved in the late 20th century. However, the detailed evidence recorded on the Sumerian Planisphere K8535 tablet has brought the impact theory back into consideration.
The K8535 tablet is a late Babylonian copy of an early Sumerian astronomical tablet. The original document, considered of great importance, was copied over a period of more than 2,500 years.
The comet observed in the Sumerian star map passed the Pleiades and Aldebaran, moved towards Orion, and ultimately crashed into the advanced, irrigation-based agricultural civilizations of Akkad and Sumer in 3123 BC, destroying the entire Akkadian empire and its capital city of Agade.
About 40% of the tablet is missing. However, the entire flight path of the comet is still preserved. The missing sections largely contain observations about the impact itself and the immediate aftermath, recorded from the observation tower looking towards the crash site. Despite the missing pieces, there is enough information to reconstruct the detailed advance of the comet and the sequence of the impact process.
The K8538 witness account should be considered along with a large number of preserved "Mesopotamian city laments" that describe the end of Akkad and Sumer due to a massive atmospheric tempest.
These laments were recited on stage in public for centuries, accompanied by a drummer. Their poetic style led some contemporary assyriologists to believe that these documents were simply entertaining, mythical fiction, and that there had never been a destructive tempest in Sumer, despite the testimony of hundreds of historical witnesses.
The K8538 observation tablet was created by an unknown alert Sumerian astronomer who recognized the historical significance of the event from his astronomical lookout tower and decided to document it. Authors Bond and Hempsell have referred to him as "Lugalansheigibar – the great man who observed the sky."
His trigonometric observations document the comet's approach and impact. This is why the K8538 tablet was protected, preserved, and copied over the centuries. It shows the high level of science and astronomy reached 4,000 years ago.
Today, the value of K8538 is not only historical. It is also of great importance for the present and future of humanity because it contains a unique and accurate record of the devastating impact of a cosmic asteroid on Earth.