An Ethiopian Journal

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters"

Ethiopian Astronomy/Zodiac

with 29 comments


Ethiopia and the Origin of Civilization Part 2
By John G. Jackson (1939)

In the study of ancient affairs, folklore and tradition throw an invaluable light on historical records. In Greek mythology we read of the great Ethiopian king, Cepheus, whose fame was so great that he and his family were immortalized in the stars. The wife of King Cepheus was Queen Cassiopeia, and his daughter, Princess Andromeda. The star groups of the celestial sphere, which are named after them are called the ROYAL FAMILY (the constellations: CEPHEUS, CASSIOPEIA and ANDROMEDA.) It may seem strange that legendary rulers of ancient Ethiopia should still have their names graven on our star maps, but the voice of history gives us a clue.

A book on astrology attributed to Lucian declares that: “The Ethiopians were the first who invented the science of stars, and gave names to the planets, not at random and without meaning, but descriptive of the qualities which they conceived them to possess; and it was from them that this art passed, still in an imperfect state, to the Egyptians.” The Ethiopian origin of astronomy is beautifully explained by Count Volney in a passage in his Ruins of Empires, which is one of the glories of modern literature, and his argument is not based on guesses. He invokes the weighty authority of Charles F. Dupuis, whose three monumental works, The Origin of Constellations, The Origin of Worship and The Chronological Zodiac, are marvels of meticulous research. Dupuis placed the origin of the zodiac as far back as 15,000 B.C., which would give the world’s oldest picture book an antiquity of 17,000 years. (This estimate is not as excessive as it might at first appear, since the American astronomer and mathematician, Professor Arthur M. Harding, traces back the origin of the zodiac to about 26,000 B.C) In discussing star worship and idolatry, Volney gives the following glowing description of the scientific achievements of the ancient Ethiopians, and of how they mapped out the signs of the zodiac on the star-spangled dome of the heavens:

Should it be asked at what epoch this system took its birth, we shall answer on the testimony of the monuments of astronomy itself, that its principles appear with certainty to have been established about seventeen thousand years ago, and if it be asked to what people it is to be attributed, we shall answer that the same monuments, supported by unanimous traditions, attribute it to the first tribes of Egypt; and reason finds in that country all the circumstances which could lead to such a system; when it finds there a zone of sky, bordering on the tropic, equally free from the rains of the equator and the fogs of the north; when it finds there a central point of the sphere of the ancients, a salubrious climate, a great but manageable river, a soil fertile without art or labor, inundated without morbid exhalations, and placed between two seas which communicate with the richest countries; it conceives that the inhabitant of the Nile, addicted to agriculture from the facility of communications, to astronomy from the state of his sky, always open to observation, must have been the first to pass from the savage to the social state; and consequently to attain the physical and moral sciences necessary to civilized life.

It was, then, on the borders of the upper Nile, among a black race of men, that was organized the complicated system of the worship of the stars, considered in relation to the productions of the earth and the labors of agriculture. Thus the Ethiopian of Thebes named stars of inundation, or Aquarius, those stars under which the Nile began to overflow; stars of the ox or bull, those under which they began to plow, stars of the lion, those under which that animal, driven from the desert by thirst, appeared on the banks of the Nile; stars of the sheaf, or of the harvest virgin, those of the reaping season; stars of the lamb, stars of the two kids, those under which these precious animals were brought forth. Thus the same Ethiopian having observed that the return of the inundation always corresponded with the rising of a beautiful star which appeared towards the source of the Nile, and seemed to warn the husbandman against the coming waters, he compared this action to that of the animal who, by his barking, gives notice of danger, and he called this star the dog, the barker (Sirius). In the same manner he named the stars of the crab, those where the sun, having arrived at the tropic, retreated by a slow retrograde motion like the crab of Cancer. He named stars of the wild goat, or Capricorn, those where the sun, having reached the highest point in his annuary tract, imitates the goat, who delights to climb to the summit of the rocks. He named stars of the balance, or Libra, those where the days and nights being equal, seemed in equilibrium, like that instrument; and stars of the scorpion, those where certain periodical winds bring vapors, burning like the venom of the scorpion.
(Volney’s Ruins of Empires, pp. 120-122, New York, 1926)

The traditions concerning Memnon are interesting as well as instructive. He was claimed as a king by the Ethiopians, and identified with the Pharaoh Amunoph or Amenhotep, by the Egyptians. A fine statue of him is located in the British Museum, in London. Charles Darwin makes a reference to this statue on his Descent of Man which is well worth reproducing: “When I looked at the statue of Amunoph III, I agreed with two officers of the establishment, both competent judges, that he had a strongly marked Negro type of features.” The features of Akhnaton (Amennhotep IV), are even more Negroid than those of his illustrious predecessor. That the earliest Egyptians were African Ethiopians (Nilotic Negroes), is obvious to all unbiased students of oriental history. Breasted’s claim that the early civilized inhabitants of the Nile Valley and Western Asia were members of a Great White Race, is utterly false, and is supported by no facts whatsoever. A similar racial bias is shown by Elliot Smith in his work, The Ancient Egyptians and Their Influence Upon the Civilization of Europe, p. 30, New York & London, 1911. “Not a few writers,” says he, “like the traveler Volney in the 18th century, have expressed the belief that the ancient Egyptians were Negroes, or at any rate strongly Negroid. In recent times even a writer so discriminating as Ripley usually is has given his adhesion to this view.” (The writers referred to here, are Count Volney, the French Orientalist and Professor William Z. Ripley, of Harvard University, an eminent American Anthropologist.) Professor Smith is convinced that these men are wrong, because he holds that there is a “profound gap that separates the Negro from the rest of mankind, including the Egyptian.” (Ancient Egyptians, p. 74.) Another English scholar, Philip Smith, is far more rational in discussing this point:

No people have bequeathed to us so many memorials of its form complexion and physiognomy as the Egyptians. If we were left to form an opinion on the subject by the description of the Egyptians left by the Greek writers we should conclude that they were, if not Negroes, at least closely akin to the Negro race. That they were much darker in coloring than the neighboring Asiatics; that they had their frizzled either by nature or art; that their lips were thick and projecting, and their limbs slender, rests upon the authority of eye-witnesses who had traveled in the country and who could have had no motive to deceive. The fullness of the lips seen in the Sphinx of the Pyramids and in the portraits of the kings is characteristic of the Negro. (The Ancient History of the East, pp. 25-26, London, 1881.)

We read of Memnon, King of Ethiopia, in Greek mythology, to be exact in Homer’s Iliad, where he leads an army of Elamites and Ethiopians to the assistance of King Priam in the Trojan War. His expedition is said to have started from the African Ethiopia and to have passed through Egypt on the way to Troy. According to Herodotus, Memnon was the founder of Susa, the chief city of the Elamites. “There were places called Memnonia,” asserts Professor Rawlinson, “supposed to have been built by him both in Egypt and at Susa; and there was a tribe called Memnones at Moroe. Memnon thus unites the eastern with the western Ethiopians, and the less we regard him as an historical personage the more must we view him as personifying the ethnic identity of the two races.” (Ancient Monarchies, Vol. I, Chap. 3.)

The ancient peoples of Mesopotamia are sometimes called the Chaldeans, but this is inaccurate and confusing. Before the Chaldean rule in Mesopotamia, there were the empires of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. The earliest civilization of Mesopotamia was that of the Sumerians. They are designated in the Assyrio-Babylonian inscriptions as the black-heads or black-faced people, and they are shown on the monuments as beardless and with shaven heads. This easily distinguishes them from the Semitic Babylonians, who are shown with beards and long hair. From the myths and traditions of the Babylonians we learn that their culture came originally from the south. Sir Henry Rawlinson concluded from this and other evidence that the first civilized inhabitants of Sumer and Akkad were immigrants from the African Ethiopia. John D. Baldwin, the American Orientalist, on the other hand, claims that since ancient Arabia was also known as Ethiopia, they could have just as well come from that country. These theories are rejected by Dr. II. R. Hall, of the Dept. Of Egyptian & Assyrian Antiquities of the British Museum, who contends that Mesopotamia was civilized by a migration from India. “The ethnic type of the Sumerians, so strongly marked in their statues and reliefs,” says Dr. Hall, “was as different from those of the races which surrounded them as was their language from those of the Semites, Aryans, or others; they were decidedly Indian in type. The face-type of the average Indian of today is no doubt much the same as that of his Dravidian race ancestors thousands of years ago. And it is to this Dravidian ethnic type of India that the ancient Sumerian bears most resemblance, so far as we can judge from his monuments. And it is by no means improbable that the Sumerians were an Indian race which passed, certainly by land, perhaps also by sea, through Persia to the valley of the Two Rivers. It was in the Indian home (perhaps the Indus valley) that we suppose for them that their culture developed.  On the way they left the seeds of their culture in Elam. There is little doubt that India must have been one of the earliest centers of human civilization, and it seems natural to suppose that the strange un-Semitic, un-Aryan people who came from the East to civilize the West were of Indian origin, especially when we see with our own eyes how very Indian the Sumerians were in type.” (The Ancient History of the Near East, pp. 173“174, London, 1916.) Hall is opposed in his theory of Sumerian origins by Dr. W. J. Perry, the great anthropologist, of the University of London. “The Sumerian stories or origins themselves tell a very different tale,” Perry points out, “for from their beginnings the Sumerians seem to have been in touch with Egypt. Some of their early texts mention Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha. Dilmun was the first settlement that was made by the god Enki, who was the founder of Sumerian civilization. Magan was famous among the Sumerians as a place whence they got diorite and copper, Meluhha as a place whence they got gold. Dilmun has been identified with some place or other in the Persian Gulf, perhaps the Bahrein Islands, perhaps a land on the eastern shore of the Gulf. In a late inscription of the Assyrians it is said that Magan and Meluhha were the archaic names for Egypt and Ethiopia, the latter being the south-western part of Somaliand that lay opposite.” (The Growth of Civilization, pp. 60“61, 2nd Edition, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1937, Published by Penguin Books, Ltd.)

Written by Tseday

September 14, 2008 at 5:10 am

Posted in Ethiopia

Tagged with , , ,

29 Responses

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  1. Hi,

    Just stumbled upon this post. I think this is an amazing account on the history of astronomy. Presently, I am conducting my own research on the history of astronomy in India which can be found on I hope to study the astronomy history of other cultures as well. Do you know of any ancient Ethiopian documents that give an insight into what they thought of the universe back then?


    September 19, 2008 at 4:17 am

  2. Thank you for sharing your comment. You may find the following books interesting:

    – Ethiopic Astronomy and Computus (1979) By Otto Neugebauer
    – Book of Enoch (Ethiopian Bible) Astronomical section

    All the best in your quest for knowledge :)



    September 19, 2008 at 4:40 pm

  3. Interesting STuff


    March 18, 2009 at 3:12 am

  4. The Ethiopian book of Enoch contains the Ethiopian knowledge of astronomy. The information contained in the book of Enoch regarding astronomy are not speculative but are completly accurate. You erred when you implied that Ethiopian literature containing information on astronomy were speculative by asking of “Ethiopian documents” containing information on what Ethiopians “thought” of the universe. The information in the astronomical section of the book of Enoch is not based on what the Ethiopian Prophet/astronomer Enoch thought of the universe but based on what he knew. There is also an Ethiopian book that is entirely dedicated to astronomy called “awde Negast” (Book of the stars). As the first people on Earth to map and name the stars and planets and to make astrological decipherment as it relates to human lives, nothing was based on speculations or guesses. We (Ethiopians) are the originaters of all knowledge systems, therefore within our method and understanding is those knowledge systems, when applied, are in their most pure, active, effective and accurate form. Indians received their knowledge of astronomy from the pre-Caucasoid Ethiopians. Furthermore, the Indians have a distorted understanding of astronomy. They are simply imitators because they, as the seeds of Europeans, are incapable of creating anything original. Your meaningless study of astronomy is futile because real astronomy does not have anything to do with Indians.


    November 2, 2009 at 6:50 pm

  5. It pains me that I went through school learning Greek Mythology, but never knew it had an Ethiopian origins. How come no one has ever made a movie with Ethiopian actors? I definitely will put that on my to-do-list.


    June 9, 2010 at 4:38 am

  6. I glad that someone is finasally recognizing the contributions of Africans to this planet, to science and to education. Keep up the good work.


    June 18, 2010 at 4:18 am

  7. there is a mistake according to AWDE NEGEST ASTROLOGY…..from national treasury book orignal and rare book. it costs 300 euro ancient Ethiopian astrologie
    Wefekare kewakebt,kokeb
    sne mirmr
    Very interesting and old knowledge


    January 16, 2011 at 8:11 am

  8. Everything is futile with a nationalistic attitude.


    February 23, 2011 at 2:23 am

  9. I would really like to see this blog more active. The information and like of thinking is accurate and very much needed.


    May 27, 2011 at 8:52 am

  10. Thank you , keep up the good work.


    June 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm

  11. There are several hidden historical contributions the Ethiopians made. It will come to light in time. Thank you, Tseday.


    June 18, 2011 at 5:20 am


    Daniel Mebrahtu

    December 14, 2011 at 8:51 am

  13. “Nabta Playa is an internally drained basin that served as an important ceremonial center for nomadic tribes during the early part of 9560 BC. Located 62 miles west of Abu Simbel some 60 miles west of the Nile near the Egyptian-Sudanese border. Nabta contains a number of standing and toppled megaliths. They include flat, tomb-like stone structures and a small stone circle that predates Stonehenge (2600 B.C.), and other similar prehistoric sites by 1000’s of years.

    abta Playa is an internally drained basin that served as an important ceremonial center for nomadic tribes during the early part of 9560 BC. Located 62 miles west of Abu Simbel some 60 miles west of the Nile near the Egyptian-Sudanese border. Nabta contains a number of standing and toppled megaliths. They include flat, tomb-like stone structures and a small stone circle that predates Stonehenge (2600 B.C.), and other similar prehistoric sites by 1000’s of years.

    Although some believe the high culture of subsequent Egyptian dynasties was borrowed from Mesopotamia and Syria, University of Colorado at Boulder astronomy Professor J. McKim Malville and others believe the complex and symbolic Nabta culture may have stimulated the growth of the society that eventually constructed the first pyramids along the Nile about 4500 years ago.(1, 2)

    The symbolic richness and spatial awareness seen in the Nabta complex of the Late Neolithic age may have developed from adaptation by nomadic peoples to the stress of survival in the desert. The ceremonial complex could not be more recent than the onset of hyperaridity in the region around 4800 years ago, suggesting that the astronomy and ceremonialism of Nabta occurred before most of the megalithic features of Europe, Great Britain, and Brittany were established. Within some 500 years after the exodus from Nabta, the step pyramid at Saqqara was constructed, indicating that there was a pre-existing cultural base, which may have originated in the desert of Upper Egypt. An exodus from the Nubian desert at 5000 years ago could have precipitated the development of social differentiation in predynastic cultures through the arrival in the Nile valley of nomadic groups who were better organized and possessed a more complex cosmology.”

    Retrieved from Nabta Playa, African Archeology website


    May 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm

  14. A brief description on how to read this Ethiopian Calender:
    The Palermo Stone and the Turin Papyrus listed evidence of rulers of Egypt dating back to around 37,000 BC. But, how could this be? The Vedas/Yugas (Hindu) date their calendar and events to about 40,000 BC it is very similar to the Ethiopian Calendar. Christianity only teaches time for humanity dating back circa 6000 years. This time started in Genesis of the Hebrew Bible with Adam and his descendants (NIV). This is the time everything in history, religion, etc., revolves around. However, non-mainstream or independent scientists will tell you this time is used because it fits the modern paradigm of man and creation (politics and religion). However, independent scientists have interviewed and studied around 30 different cultures; and they all talk mention a descending and ascending time period which starts with an Golden age and move toward the Silver, Bronze, and Iron age, also known as the Dark Ages.

    This time is measured in Procession. A Procession is “the motion of the axis of the earth which wobbles like a spinning top due to a gravitational pull. One complete cycle = 26,000 years, or (1) EON. Every 26,000 years is a great year or Golden age. During this age humans will be at high level of consciousness, enlightenment, and civilizations will reach high points in Spirituality and benevolence. During the Silver age, this declines slightly. By the time we get to the Bronze age around 3113 BC our civilizations deteriorate even more. Around 550 BC we hit the Iron age, or the Beginning of Dark Ages where civilizations are nearing an all time low filled with Chaos, Corruption, and Ignorance. The Mayans started their calendar around 3113 BC at the beginning of the Bronze age which will end on December 21, 2012.

    Two great things about this Date.First, it will be the last day of the DARK AGES !!! the calendar will work its way upward again towards the Golden age and will reach its peak in about 13,000 years. The first Golden Age began around 1 and 1/2 Eons ago. Second, the Mayan calendar date of 2012, corresponds with the Egyptian Calendar that marks the end of the Dark Ages and all the corruption and chaos. The only people who will believe the world is ending are those who benefit and profit from this civilization. December 21, 2012 is “the December Solstice. The sun will be lining up with the center of our milky-way. TCarmen Boulter, Phd, University of Calgary). .

    There are 12 symbols designated by the animals or symbols above ( Zodiac). Each symbol last for a time of 2,000 years which can correspond to times and events in history. (Sir Isaac Newton tried to prove this, but was ignored by his peers) each 12 symbols have distinct energies that are made up of 4 elements.

    1. EARTH = Material sign = (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
    2. AIR = Intellectual sign = (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
    3. WATER = Emotional sign = (Cancer, Scorpio, ?)
    4. FIRE = Creative sign = (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)

    Example, the Sphinx, the sign of the Leo (lion) was built during the time of Leo, which was either 1050 BC or 36,000 BC..

    For more information watch documentary, “The Pyramid Code”. You can watch it on Netflix or buy at Amazon. Also, explains how the Dogon Tribe from Mali, language and knowledge was used to help decode the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Good documentary which includes more fascinating information. .


    May 22, 2012 at 12:07 am

  15. keep it up


    July 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm

  16. Send me how to use it and how to get awde negest and kebre negest.


    September 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm

  17. hey,
    this is really interesting stuff. But i hv questions.
    1.what do u do. Is ur job related to astronomy?
    2. Where can we get this kinds of materials?


    September 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

  18. Amazing story.
    Ethiopia scholars knew these all these mllinia back. But had no access tyo world wide webs. Now somebody had the access.
    Anyway, it is necessary to name and shame Africa as the dark coninent whose inhabitants could not even light a lamp, let alone watch the stars and find meaning to them.

    Great wor and daring act.



    October 11, 2012 at 2:54 am

  19. I really don’t understand your comment. Can you prove Africans were ignorant about astronomy? Read History of Herodotus chs 2, online. Herodotus was a Greek Historian who lived 5th Century BC. He wrote the Greeks received their knowledge of math, philosophy, god, stars, etc from the Egyptians. Egypt is located in Africa. Egyptians called themselves Kemetians. Kemet means Black. Egyptians had a name for White and Red, but chose to call themselves Black. Ethiopia means burnt-face. Amen means Black, Cush means Black. Why would Egyptians and Ethiopians call themselves by names that means black if they were not Black. Study the Dogon Tribe from Mali (WEST AFRICA), they told French Astrologers about Sirius A and B.

    “The Dogon people knew certain celestial bodies that were just discovered/identified properly by Western science in the 50s and 60s. They used the stars in spirituality and devised a divination system… Sirius which Dogon elders confided about its existence to French anthropologists in the 1940s. The Dogon elders said that Sirius had a companion star that was invisible to the human eye. They also stated that the star moved in a 50-year elliptical orbit around Sirius, that it was small and incredibly heavy, and that it rotated on its axis. All these things happen to be true. What makes this so remarkable is that the companion star of Sirius, called Sirius B, was first photographed in 1970. While people began to suspect its existence around 1844, it was not seen through a telescope until 1862”

    Europeans knew nothing about stars until they invented the telescope. And you call Africans dumb, LOL!!!!


    December 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

  20. Fikre,

    I misunderstood your comment. I thought you were saying Africans were too stupid to know anything about astronomy. I am sorry I was so quick to judge you. After I analyzed what you were trying to say, I realized it was a communication error.


    December 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm

  21. @African123:

    Thank you for explaining that it is accurate only the word is precession not procession.

    Ali J

    January 5, 2013 at 2:08 am

  22. Also, aren’t there supposed to be 13 signs corresponding with the 13 months ?

    Ali J

    January 5, 2013 at 2:10 am

  23. Thank you


    September 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm

  24. I want to know about ethiopian 12 stars


    October 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm

  25. Please share me the book Awde negest
    Thank you

    Endalkachew zenebe

    December 23, 2013 at 2:25 am

  26. can you share me the book awde negest please?

    Anna birhanu

    March 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm

  27. I have the book awde negest and related books i have studied a lotz

    Yezidi Sadat

    April 15, 2016 at 4:50 pm

  28. Yeah i’m proud 2 be an ethiopian, i have z awdenegest book and related books and i have studied zis 4 more zan 4 yrs

    Yezidi Sadat

    April 25, 2016 at 11:22 am

  29. Reply to “Oromo” – I hope you are fully aware that the entire continent of Africa was known as Ethiopia and the Atlantic Ocean was formerly named the Ethiopian Ocean. Therefore, when referred to Ethiopia in an ancient context, the country which is today called Ethiopia in not referred to excluisvely of the other parts of Africa.


    December 3, 2016 at 5:27 am

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