AN astronomical event recorded on a clay tablet found in 1948 among the ruins of the ancient city of Ugarit, in what is now Syria, was identified 20 years ago as a description of a total solar eclipse that occurred on 3 May 1375 BC1,2. The dating of ancient solar eclipses provides reference points to fix the long-term evolution of angular momentum in the Earth-Moon system3. We have reanalysed the Ugarit eclipse record4. A new historical dating of the tablet, and mention in the text of the visibility of the planet Mars during the eclipse as well as the month in which it occurred enables us to show that the recorded eclipse in fact occurred on 5 March 1223 BC. This new date implies that the secular deceleration of the Earth's rotation has changed very little during the past 3,000 years.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 51 print issues and online access
$199.00 per year
only $3.90 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Stephenson, F. R. Nature 228, 651–652 (1970).
Sawyer, J. F. A. & Stephenson, F. R. Bull. School Oriental African Studies 33, 467–489 (1970).
Maddox, J. Nature 313, 733 (1985).
De Jong, T. & van Soldt, W. H. Jber “Ex Oriente Lux” (in the press).
Virolleaud, Ch. Syria 28, 25–27 (1951).
Van Soldt, W. H. thesis, Univ. of Leiden (1986).
Dietrich, M., Lorentz, O. & Sammartin, J. Ugarit Forsch. 6, 464–465 (1974).
De Moor, G. AOAT 16, 245 (1971).
Kudleck, M. & Mickler, E. H. Solar and Lunar Eclipses of the Ancient Near East from 3000 BC-0 with Maps, (Butzon & Bercker Kevelaer, Neukirchen, 1971).
Van Flandern, T. C. & Pulkkinen, K. F. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 41, 391–411 (1979).
Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Ephemeris H. M. Stationery Office, London (1961).
Tuckerman, B. Planetary, Lunar and Solar positions 601BC–AD1 (Am. phil. Soc., Philadelphia, 1962).
Muller, P. M. & Stephenson, F. R. in Growth Rhythms and the History of the Earth's Rotation (eds Rosenberg, G. D. & Runcorn, S. K.) 459–533 (Wiley, London, 1975).
Allen, C. W. Astrophysical Quantities (Athlone, London, 1973).
Hoffleit, D. Yale Catalogue of Bright Stars, 3rd revised ed (Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, 1964).
Parker, R. A. The Calendars of Ancient Egypt (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1950).
De Vaux, R. Les Institutions de l' Ancient Testament Vol. 1, 271 (Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1958).
Rainey, A. F. Bibl. Archeol. 28, 109 (1965).
Neugebauer, O. The Exact Sciences in Antiquity (Brown Univ. Press, Providence, 1957).
Meeus, J., Grosjean, C. C. & van der Leen, W. Canon of Solar Eclipses (Pergamon, Oxford, 1966).
Dickey, J. O., Williams, J. G. & Yoder, C. P. in IAU Colloq. 63, (ed. Calame, O) 209–216 (Reidel, Dordrecht, 1982).
Krasinsky, G. A., Saramonova, E. Y., Sveshnikov, M. L. & Shvesnikova, E. S. Astr. Astrophys. 145, 90–96 (1985).
Wahr, J. Sky and Telescope 545–549 (1986).
About this article
Cite this article
de Jong, T., van Soldt, W. The earliest known solar eclipse record redated. Nature 338, 238–240 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/338238a0
This article is cited by
Earth, Moon, and Planets (2011)
The Earth's palaeorotation, postglacial rebound and lower mantle viscosity from analysis of ancient Chinese eclipse records
Pure and Applied Geophysics PAGEOPH (1995)