The Changes In Calendars In The Ancient World As A Tool To Teach The Development Of Astronomy

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Ariel Cohen

Keywords

Teaching of Astronomy; Archeoastronomy; Calendars and Time Keeping; Al-Khwarizmi; Biblical Chronology; Astronomy and Religion; Ancient Cultures and Astronomy; Dating

Abstract

When teaching an introductory science survey course to college students learning astronomy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, we have devoted four hours to teaching the history of astronomy as a fruitful strategy to introduce important concepts surrounding the development of general scientific knowledge throughout history. In order to illustrate the impact of improved accuracy of astronomical measurements, we propose using the example the development of the calendars and, in particular, the widespread Hebrew calendars used throughout the adjacent Millennia of B.C. and A.C. The changes in the several determinations of the Hebrew calendar are demonstrated based on Babylonian and Jewish documents as well as works by al-Khwarizmi from the 9th century AD, found in the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Library, in Patna India.  Our experience suggests that the teaching of calendar development and evolutions demonstrates the interconnectedness between scientific endeavors and social-religious traditions.

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