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Neugebauer was not the first to inquire into cuneform, but he contributed mightily to our understanding of ancient Sumerian contributions to mathematics and astronomy. How ill informed are those who scoff at astrology and the primitive astronomy of the ancients! To have gotten as far as they did with the tools they had required enormous persistance and intelligence. Hats off to the Sumerians for inventing the modern world, almost inventing civilization itself and to Dr. Neugebauer for peering through the tiny keyhole that a few baked clay tablets give us to view a small corner of their world.
Besides a lifetime of very diverse scholarship, Dr. Neugebauer brings much needed common sense and healthy skepticism to a field that is cluttered with assorted quacks, dilettantes, mystics and frauds. Not all of Dr. Neugebauer's conclusions have withstood the test of time and he acknowledges his debt to his Nineteenth Century predecessors, but Neugebauer is almost alone in setting this important branch of scientific history on a firm foundation. Best of all, he does so in clear and enjoyable prose, with great sympathy for both the reader and the ancient scholars.
An extraneous biographical note: According to Wikipedia, in 1933, when the Nazis came to power, Neugebauer resigned his academic position rather than take an oath of loyality to the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. A lot people talk a good game, Neugebauer had the courage of his convictions and paid a price.
Why only four stars? About half of the book is in German, a language I can only read with difficulty. At least I added the word Keilschrifttexte to my German vocabulary.
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