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Document Details :
Title: Egyptian Lunar Dates and Temple Service Months
Author(s): BENNETT, Chris
Journal: Bibliotheca Orientalis
Volume: 65 Issue: 5-6 Date: 2008
25 dates of temple service months mostly published in corpora of demotic graffiti and service lease contracts from the Ptolemaic and Roman eras are analysed. It is shown that service months most likely began on day 2 of the lunar month, as Luft has concluded for the Middle Kingdom, and not day 1 as supposed by Parker. It is confirmed that the Carlsberg cycle was not used to regulate the lunar month in Graeco-Roman times, and shown that it is unlikely that any schematic cycle was used. It is shown that rotation of service months by phyle number was occasionally interrupted, so that the phyle number of a service month is not a useful chronological tool over long periods. In combination with 15 lunar and phyle service dates from other sources, it is shown from this data that modern astronomical calculations predict Egyptian lunar dates with only about 55% accuracy. Since there is no longer any reason to believe that the method used to determine the start of the lunar month in Graeco-Roman times is any different from that used in earlier times, this result means that lunar dates which are not tightly constrained by other means, such as those of the Illahun papyri, cannot be used to determine precise chronology by supposing that they are astronomically accurate.