Mathieu Ossendrijver

Mathieu Ossendrijver

Babylonian astral science and mathematics

ZODIAC - Ancient Astral Science in Transformation (ERC Adv. Grant)

The introduction of the zodiac triggered an ultimately global and enduring transformation of astral science and other realms of scholarship which took shape in Babylonia, Egypt and the Greco-Roman world between the 5th century BCE and the 3rd century CE. The zodiac became the central concept for interpreting, predicting, computing and representing celestial phenomena. The associated “mathematical turn” has shaped scholarly and cultural practices ever since and horoscopic astrology is omnipresent around the globe. While originating in Babylonia, zodiacal astral science was transformed through interactions with Egyptian, Greco-Roman and other ancient cultures. Due to its entanglement with social practices, religious doctrines, philosophical theories and iconographic traditions, this is an innovation that shaped science and culture globally but lacks a satisfactory explanation.

ZODIAC aims to reconstruct and explain the spread of the zodiac and the associated practices and theories. How did these innovations emerge and transform through cross-cultural transmission? How could they take root in Egypt, the Greco-Roman world and other ancient cultures? In the project ZODIAC an interdisciplinary team of researchers will try to answer these questions with the hypothesis that zodiacal astral science offered universally appealing, adaptable solutions to social, religious and political needs that emerged in multi-cultural empires.


Press Release FU Berlin (2020)

BibMAS - Bibliography of Mesopotamian Astral Science


Presentations and lectures

Teaching and past workshops

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