Does this ancient Greek cup depict the constellations?

A wine cup which dates back to 625 BC portrays a variety of animals in a seemingly random arrangement. Though this was thought just to be an odd piece of decoration, researcher John Barnes thinks otherwise, and suggests these animals are actually ancient constellations.

The cup or skyphos depicts a snake, a bull, a hare or small dog, a large dog, a scorpion, a dolphin and the front half of a lion or panther. Barnes claims that the scene of the snake, rabbit and dog jumped out at him that this might be something more than a simple animal decoration.


Ancient scenes of constellations are very rare, and the only instances of study is done from vases and in this case a cup. Barnes says that some of the animals are out of place, such as the dolphin and scorpion, pointing to an astronomical affiliation.

The constellations suggested are Taurus the bull, the snake is likely Hydra, the rabbit is Lepus, the dogs are Canis Major and Canis Minor, the lion is Leo, the scorpion is Scorpius and the dolphin is Delphinus.

Seeing as the animals aren’t arranged in a traditional nightsky constellation setup, Barnes thinks it may be a seasonal arrangement – the bull represents Fall; the snake, dog and rabbit signify winter; the scorpion and dog represent spring; and the lion and dolphin signify summer.

Read more on this fascinating discover on Live Science.


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