The division of the ecliptic into the zodiacal signs originates in Babylonian (“Chaldean“) astronomy during the first half of the 1st millennium BC. The zodiac draws on stars in earlier Babylonian star catalogues, such as the MUL.APIN catalogue, which was compiled around 1000 BC. Some of the constellations can be traced even further back, to Bronze Age (Old Babylonian) sources, including Gemini “The Twins”, from MAŠ.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL “The Great Twins”, and Cancer “The Crab”, from AL.LUL “The Crayfish”, among others.
Around the end of the 5th century BC, Babylonian astronomers divided the ecliptic into twelve equal “signs”, by analogy to twelve schematic months of thirty days each. Each sign contained thirty degrees of celestial longitude, thus creating the first known celestial coordinate system. Unlike modern astronomers, who place the beginning of the sign of Aries at the place of the Sun at the vernal equinox; Babylonian astronomers fixed the zodiac in relation to stars, placing the beginning of Cancer at the “Rear Twin Star” (β Geminorum) and the beginning of Aquarius at the “Rear Star of the Goat-Fish” (δ Capricorni