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Ancient Astral Science in Transformation

Project description

Taking a closer look at how zodiacal astral science spread

Zodiacal astral science spread from Babylonia in the 5th century BCE to Egypt, the Greco-Roman world and beyond. This so-called zodiacal turn was accompanied by a mathematical turn in astronomy and a personal turn in astrology. So how did zodiacal astral science emerge and spread to different ancient cultures? What explains the enormous success of this cross-cultural phenomenon? The EU-funded ZODIAC project will answer these questions. It will conduct an interdisciplinary investigation, focusing on all aspects determining the cross-cultural transformations. For instance, the accuracy of ancient predictions will be cross-culturally analysed using modern astrophysics. The research will contextualise astral science in a new framework developed in dialogue with existing models of innovation, transmission and theory change.

Objective

The introduction of the zodiac in Babylonia in the 5th century BCE was a turning point in the history of astral science - astronomy and astrology, scholarship and culture at large. The “zodiacal turn” was accompanied by a “mathematical turn” in astronomy and a “personal turn” in astrology. From Babylonia, zodiacal astral science spread to Egypt, the Greco-Roman world and beyond. In view of its entanglement with social practices, religious doctrines, philosophical theories and iconographic expressions, its global spread can be compared with that of Christianity, Islam, or Copernican astronomy. How did zodiacal astral science emerge, develop and spread to different ancient cultures and take root there? What explains the enormous success of this cross-cultural phenomenon? Until now, scholarship has failed to answer these questions, because crucial evidence has been ignored.

ZODIAC will develop an account based on the hypothesis that zodiacal astral science offered universally appealing, adaptable solutions to social, religious and political needs that emerged in multi-cultural empires. It achieve this with an interdisciplinary approach that pays full attention to all aspects that shape transmission by conceiving astral science as a package of entangled astronomical, astrological, mathematical and other practices. It wil carry out the first in-depth, comprehensive study of cross-cultural transformations in textual and iconographic sources, including pivotal groups of overlooked ones, to reveal strategies that foster acceptance in new contexts. The accuracy of ancient predictions will be cross-culturally analysed using modern astrophysics. Recent scholarship on ancient empires will contextualise astral science in a new framework that transcends microhistorical approaches. The new account will be developed in dialogue with existing models of innovation, transmission and theory change, thus connecting ancient astral science to contemporary narratives of globalisation.

Host institution

FREIE UNIVERSITAET BERLIN
Net EU contribution
€ 2 499 778,75
Address
KAISERSWERTHER STRASSE 16-18
14195 Berlin
Germany

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Region
Berlin Berlin Berlin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 2 499 778,75

Beneficiaries (1)