The Ancient Study of Astronomy

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  • 0:01 Ancient Astronomy
  • 0:24 The Babylonians
  • 1:20 The Maya
  • 2:09 The Ancient Greeks
  • 3:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will teach you about three important cultures and civilizations that contributed much to our understanding of astronomy. They include the Babylonians, Maya, and Greeks.

Ancient Astronomy

Modern astronomy owes a great deal to ancient people. The people of ancient civilizations were as fascinated with the stars and heavens as we are today. From the ancient Greeks to the Babylonians to the Maya, they all contributed something or discovered an important aspect of astronomy, and this lesson will take a look at just three of the cultures and civilizations that did so.

The Babylonians

Ancient Babylon was a city-state that was located near modern Baghdad. The Babylonians were very advanced astronomers for their day because they had a system of writing so they could record massive volumes of astronomical observations from which they created mathematical models. Mathematical models that created calendars could then be used to time important things throughout Babylonia, like business transactions. Nowadays, the world of business takes such things for granted, but it was very different in ancient times.

It's important to note that while Babylonians contributed much to astronomy, including the ability to accurately predict astronomical phenomena, they did not conduct such investigations from a purely scientific standpoint. Actually, much of their work came about as a result of astrological influences, and Babylon was the birthplace of the earliest forms of modern horoscopic astrology.

The Maya

Like the Babylonians, the Maya, a group of Mesoamerican Indians, were just as interested in astronomy, and seemingly for mainly the same reason: astrology. Unfortunately, little knowledge about the Maya's use of astronomy exists because their texts were burned by Spanish Conquistadors.

What we do know, is they developed something known as the Mayan Long Count calendar, which actually arose out of a very sophisticated number system that used a base of 20, as opposed to the base of 10 we use today.

Regardless, such a numbering system and their astronomical observations allowed them to predict the motions of the planets and things like eclipses, which would often times be used to prognosticate important events or to indicate a good time to do something, like start a war.

The Ancient Greeks

Warfare was also a large part of the Roman way of life. So much so that one ancient astronomer encompasses the melting pot of people that was conquered by the Roman Empire.

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