Mathieu Ossendrijver

Mathieu Ossendrijver

Babylonian astral science and mathematics

News (31 March 2020): ERC Advanced Grant ZODIAC "Ancient Astral Science in Transformation"

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.

The aim of ZODIAC is 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? What explains their enormous succes? 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.

ZODIAC link at ERC

Press Release FU Berlin

Project BibMAS - Bibliography of Mesopotamian Astral Science



Edited volumes


  • Performances in Assyrian and Babylonian Astral Science, in: Proceedings of the Workshop "Performing (with) Manuscripts", 20-23 may 2019, Observatoire de Paris
  • The Trapezoid Procedures: Area Computations in Babylonian Astronomy, in: Proceedings of SAW conference on Mathematical Practices in Ancient Astral Science, Paris
  • Babylonian Astronomy: Editing and Interpreting an Ancient Science, in: A. Keller, K. Chemla, C. Proust (eds.), Shaping the Sciences of the Ancient World: Text Criticisms, Critical Editions and Translations of Ancient and Medieval Scholarly Texts (18th–20th century)
  • Mesopotamian Astronomical Tables and Late Babylonian Mathematical Tables, in: D. Tournes (ed.), History of Numerical Tables (Springer)
  • Babylonian Astronomers in Context: a Network Approach
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Other documents

Presentations and lectures

Teaching and past workshops

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