About this object

One of the four ‘Stobart Tablets’ with Demotic inscriptions on either side recording astronomical observations during the reigns of the Roman Emperors, Vespasian, Trajan and Hadrian between AD 71 – 133. Each tablet gives positions from year to year of the five planets in the ecliptic according to the following order: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. The positions are indicated in the order: month (from 1 to 12 and epagomenae), day (from 1 to 30) and zodiacal sign. Such compilations of planetary tablets were used for the casting of horoscopes; the basis of computation is uncertain. They provided for any specific day the zodiacal sign within which each planet was located. This practice does not go back to Egyptian thought of the Pharaonic period; it derives from the influence of Babylonian astrology in the Graeco-Roman world.

The construction of each tablet is as follows: a wooden frame supports a thin wooden foil covered with white plaster (gesso) on both sides. One side of the frame contains three pairs of holes to permit a number of tablets to be bound together into a kind of book (codex). The ‘pages’ have a little rectangular thickening in the middle, also covered with plaster, probably intended to prevent the wooden foils from warping. Each side of a tablet contains 5 columns, separated from each other by fine double-lines in red. Horizontal lines enclose the groups referring to a single planet in each year, the ‘years’ being written in red. Every column contains about 30 lines (not ruled), except the obverse of M11467a, where the lower part of this page is separated by a horizontal wooden fillet and the remaining small rectangular filed was covered with plaster, which is now almost completely gone. It is therefore impossible to tell why this space was separated from the main text in the upper part of the tablet, from which nothing is missing. One could assume that M11467a, now the first of the preserved tablets, was actually the first page in a book and consequently gave some kind of ‘title’ on its obverse. This is, however, very unlikely in view of the fact that M11467a does not begin with a new year, but somewhere at the end of “year 3” (of Vespasian). All the preserved tablets are written by the same scribe as the ductus clearly shows. The actual state of preservation of the tablets is fairly good, however, for this tablet (M11467a) there is damage in obverse column 5 and reverse column 1/2 by the scaling off of the plaster. One little fragment of plaster is now pasted on erroneously and upside down. Originally there must have been at least eleven such tablets

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Thebes
  • Date made
    71 AD - 77 AD
  • Materials
    Ink; Wood; Gesso
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 3, Ancient Egypt Gallery
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Joseph Mayer
  • Collector
    Henry Stobart
  • Place collected
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Thebes
  • Date collected
    1855 - 1856
  • Measurements
    4 mm x 72 mm x 114 mm
  • Note
    The accesion card from 1867 made by Charles Gatty ('Gatty Slip') notes a copy of the label from when they were displayed in Joseph Mayer's museum on Colquit Street (1857-67): "Four tablets found in a tomb in Egypt in the year 1853 by the Rev. H. Stobart - containing observations on the planets, written in the Demotic character supposed to date to the first year of the reign of Trajan, and ending the first year of the Emperor Hadrian, from AD 97 to AD 116 a period of 19 years". However, we only have record of the Revd. Stobart visiting Egypt in 1855-6 and not in 1853.
  • Related people
    Joseph Mayer ( Previous owner); Henry Stobart ( Collector, previous owner)

Explore related


  • Catalogue of the Mayer Collection Part 1. The Egyptian, Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities. Second and Revised Edition

    Gatty, Charles

    Author: Gatty, Charles
    Publisher: The Committee of the Liverpool Free Public Library, Museum and Gallery of Art
    Date: 1879
    Description: 83 page illustrated catalogue of Joseph Mayer's Egyptian and Near Eastern collection that was on display. It also includes a small number of other collections, such as those given by Mr William Crosfield in 1861, some by Mr Charles Stoess in 1869, and others by Mr J. A. Tinne in 1870. Occasionally reference will be made to the provenance of objects, in particular if they are from the Joseph Sams or Lord Valentia collections. The woodcut illustrations were produced by the noted Victorian illustrator and engraver, Llewellynn Frederick William Jewitt FSA. Compared to Mayer's 1852 catalogue there are more detailed descriptions for inscribed objects such as stelae, giving names and titles and the character of the text. Much of this information was provided by Samuel Birch of the British Museum who visited the collections in March 1877.

  • Egyptian Antiquities collected on a voyage made in Upper Egypt in the years 1854 & 1855 and published by Revd. H. Stobart, M.A., Queen's College Oxford

    Stobart, Henry

    Author: Stobart, Henry
    Publisher: Benj Duprat; F Scheider and Co
    Date: 1855
    Description: Egyptian Antiquities collected on a voyage made in Upper Egypt in the years 1854 & 1855 and published by Revd. H. Stobart, M.A., Queen's College Oxford. Paris chez Benj. Duprat, Rue du Cloitre-St. Benoit 7. Berlin chez F. Schneider & Co. Unter den Linden 19. 1855. Värsch & Happe, liogr. fac-sim. under the direction of Dr. H. Brugsch, Berlin.

  • Egyptian Astronomical Texts III: Decans, Planets, Constellations and Zodiacs

    Neugebauer, Otto; Parker, Richard A

    Author: Neugebauer, Otto; Parker, Richard A
    Publisher: Brown Egyptological Studies
    Date: 1969
    Description: Part of the Brown Egyptological Studies series (no. 6).

  • Egyptian Astronomy

    Neugebauer, Otto

    Author: Neugebauer, Otto
    Publisher: Nature
    Date: 1939-01-21
    Description: A brief article in Nature volume 143. page 115 (21 January 1939).

  • Egyptian Planetary Texts

    Neugebauer, O

    Author: Neugebauer, O
    Publisher: The American Philosphical Society
    Date: 1942
    Description: O. Neugebauer, 'Egyptian Planetary Texts', Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, new series volume 32, part 2, January 1942 pp. 209-250.

  • Gifts of The Nile: Ancient Egyptian Arts and Crafts in Liverpool Museum

    Bienkowski, Piotr; Tooley, Angela

    Author: Bienkowski, Piotr; Tooley, Angela
    Publisher: Her Majesty's Stationery Office
    Date: 1995
    Description: A 130 page illustrated book that focuses on the Egyptian antiquities in World Museum's collections to provide a colourful introduction to the land and its culture in the Pharaonic period. An appendix explains the history of the collection and includes information about the Lady Lever Art Gallery Egyptian collection, which is also part of National Museums Liverpool.

  • Handbook and Guide to the Egyptian Collection on Exhibition in the Public Museums, Liverpool 4th Edition

    Newberry, Percy; Peet, Thomas Eric

    Author: Newberry, Percy; Peet, Thomas Eric
    Publisher: City of Liverpool Public Museums
    Date: 1932-03
    Description: The original handbook and guide was largey the work of Professor Newberry, before he retired from the Chair of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. Professor T. E. Peet saw its completion, but also its revison in subsequent editions. The section on Meroe has been written by Miss D M Vaughan, M.A.

  • Nouvelles recherches sur la division de l'année des anciens Égyptiens suivies d'un mémoire sur des observations planétaires consignées dans quatre tablettes égyptiennes en écriture démotique

    Brugsch, Heinrich Ferdinand Karl

    Author: Brugsch, Heinrich Ferdinand Karl
    Publisher: P Duprat
    Date: 1856
    Description: 1856 publication of the 'Stobart Tablets' when still in the private collection of Joseph Mayer.

  • 'The Egyptian Collection', in Margaret Gibson and Susan Wright (eds), Joseph Mayer of Liverpool 1803-1886

    Shore, A F

    Author: Shore, A F
    Publisher: Society of Antiquaries in association with National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside
    Date: 1988
    Description: Description of Joseph Mayer's Egyptian collection written by A. F. Shore who was Brunner Professor of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. Unfortunately there are a few errors in the description of objects.

  • The Old Coptic Horoscope of the Stobart Collection

    Griffith, Francis Llewellyn

    Author: Griffith, Francis Llewellyn
    Publisher: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft
    Date: 1900
    Description: An article in Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, 38, 1900, pp. 71-85. Can be accessed at this website link http://archive.org/details/zeitschriftfr38brug


  • Stampway to the World

    Start date: 1988-09-23
    End date: 1988-09-23
    Description: The exhibition 'Stampway to the World', was held at the Liverpool Museum from 23 September to 20 November 1988. This was a collaboration between the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside and the Stamp Publicity Board acting on behalf of the British Philatelic Federation.


Previous owners

  • Joseph Mayer

    Owned from: 1857-11-24
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1867
    Disposal method: Donation
  • Henry Stobart

    Owned from: 1855
    How acquired: Collected
    Owned until: 1857-11-24
    Disposal method: Sold
Object view = Humanities
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