The World’s Oldest Map of the Stars, Lost for Thousands of Years, Has Been Found in the Pages of a Medieval Parchment
The ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus catalogued the coordinates of the stars. Now, his efforts have finally been uncovered.
Scholars have discovered part of the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus’s long-lost star catalogue of the—believed to be the first map of the stars—in a manuscript from a Greek Orthodox monastery in Egypt.
The historic document, which comprises 146 folios, comes from St. Catherine’s in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, and the majority is now in the collection of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
A new study published this week in the Journal for the History of Astronomy reveals that it is palimpsest manuscript, in which the original ink had been scraped off to reuse the parchment for a new project—and that traces of the original writings can still be deciphered, revealing what appears to be a reference to Hipparchus’s ambitious project to map the stars, including star coordinates.
Astronomy historian James Evans told the journal Nature that it was a “rare” and “remarkable” find.