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03/28/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: The Sky over Ancient Iraq: Babylonian Astronomy in Context

Lecture I: Babylonian Astronomy: Interpreting an Ancient Science

Mathieu Ossendrijver

Due to inclement weather on March 21st, the first lecture of the Rostovtzeff series has been rescheduled for March 28th, and the second lecture of the series has been rescheduled for April 3rd. In the first lecture the geographical and historical contours of Babylonian astronomy are sketched, the cuneiform sources are introduced, and the methodological framework for interpreting Babylonian astronomy as an ancient science is discussed. Babylonian astronomy takes us to ancient Iraq, where thousands of cuneiform tablets with an astronomical content have come to light since the end of the nineteenth century. What can we learn by studying these tablets? While early interpretations were strongly shaped by modern mathematics and astronomy, the focus of much current research has shifted to uncovering the conceptual framework of Babylonian astronomy and exploring its practical, institutional, political, religious, and social context. In order to achieve this, methodological considerations from the wider historiography and sociology of science are increasingly applied.
03/29/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Savoring the Past

The Archaeology of Food and Foodways

Katheryn Twiss

04/03/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: The Sky over Ancient Iraq: Babylonian Astronomy in Context

Lecture II: Keeping the Watch: Babylonian Astronomical Diaries and More

Mathieu Ossendrijver

Due to inclement weather on March 21st, the first lecture of the Rostovtzeff series has been rescheduled for March 28th, and the second lecture of the series has been rescheduled for April 3rd. The second lecture will focus on the astronomical diaries and related texts, which are observational reports that emerged in Babylonia during the seventh century BCE and continued to be written for at least six centuries. Apart from astronomical phenomena, market prices, weather phenomena, river levels and historical events were also reported in these texts. They provide unique opportunities for reconstructing observational practices and the predictive methods to which these texts turn out to be intricately linked.
04/04/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: The Sky over Ancient Iraq: Babylonian Astronomy in Context

Lecture III: Algorithms, Tables and Figures: New Insights into Babylonian Mathematical Astronomy

Mathieu Ossendrijver

The third lecture will present new insights into Babylonian mathematical astronomy, which emerged after about 400 BCE. The underlying mathematical methods for predicting lunar and planetary phenomena are predominantly based on purely arithmetic methods, that is, they operate by manipulating sequences of numbers. However, recent discoveries have corrected this firmly entrenched arithmetic characterization of the Babylonian methods by revealing that some tablets employ geometric concepts in order to compute the distance traveled by a planet. These geometric methods imply a surprisingly deep understanding of the graphical connections between time, velocity and distance on the part of some Babylonian astronomers.
04/11/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: The Sky over Ancient Iraq: Babylonian Astronomy in Context

Lecture IV: Astronomers, Temples, and Society: Babylonian Astronomy in Context

Mathieu Ossendrijver

The fourth lecture will discuss the scholars who pursued astronomy and their institutional, religious, social and economic context. This takes us to the main temples of Babylon and Uruk, in which most of the Babylonian astronomers were employed during the second half of the first millennium BCE. The lecture will also explore how the astral sciences were increasingly linked to other branches of Babylonian scholarship and what role astronomy and astrology played in Babylonian society.
04/12/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Alexander to Iskandar

Paintings from Persian and Turkish Manuscripts

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım, Ph.D.

This talk will trace the story of Alexander from the ancient Greek novel, the Alexander Romance, to its Persian and Turkish adaptations. A variety of Islamic literary texts, namely the 11th century Persian Shahnama of Firdawsi, the 12th century Iskandarnama of Nizami, and the 14th century Turkish Iskendername of Ahmedi, will be discussed. Both famous and rarely-known paintings from Islamic manuscripts dating from the 14th to the 17th centuries in various collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, will be featured. This visual journey will touch upon Alexander’s shift from a military hero/invader to a wise ruler and how the image of Alexander adapted to changing political contexts from the Ilkhanid Tabriz in Iran to Ottoman Amasya in Turkey. Even if the historical Alexander couldn’t conquer the entire world, Islamic traditions certainly imagined him as doing so in their development of his legendary persona.
04/17/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

What Do Barbarians Eat?

Food and Society at the Fringes of the Shang and Zhou World

Yitzchak Jaffe

04/20/2018 09:30 AM ISAW Lecture Hall

Future Philologies: Digital Directions in Ancient World Text

Conference organized by Patrick J. Burns (ISAW), David Ratzan (ISAW), and Sebastian Heath (ISAW)

Future Philologies will provide a forum for historical-language projects with strong text analysis and NLP components to present their work across language-specific barriers in an effort to foster cross-linguistic, comparative feedback, recommendations, criticism, etc. between projects. Moreover, it is meant to embrace the scope of ancient-world languages represented at ISAW, which states in its mission the goal of offering "an unshuttered view of antiquity across vast stretches of time and place.” The format will be presentations on the state of corpus/text analysis/NLP work for each language coupled with recent successes and immediate challenges to be addressed in the near future. Projects will represent Latin, Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Classical Chinese, and cuneiform languages among others. Researchers in Computer Science and Information Science who can offer different perspectives on philological and corpus-based language work have also been included.
04/24/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Babylonians and Elamites in the Zagros

Where Did One World End and the Other Begin?

Daniel Potts

04/27/2018 09:30 AM ISAW Lecture Hall

Text and Image: Transmedial Inquiries into Ancient Near Eastern Cultures

Conference organized by Beate Pongratz-Leisten (ISAW)

In the ancient Near East many monuments and artifacts incorporated both pictorial and written compositions. “Text and Image” has long been a trope in philological and art historical studies inquiring into the mixture or conjoining of the verbal and the visual. Image and language, and discourse and icon, are disjunctive symbolic systems, and there are sense-making operations that do not necessarily take a narrative form. Moreover, when it comes to narrative, it has been long recognized that the migration of a story or message from one medium to another presents cognitive consequences, and that the narrative potential will necessarily be differently actualized. Rather than perceiving of narrative as a linguistic object, this workshop examines narrative in cognitive terms, understanding it in the first place as a mental image realizable in various media.
05/03/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Plato's advice to Alexander:

Amir Khusraw's 'Mirror of Alexander' (1299)

Richard Stoneman

"Plato's advice to Alexander: Amir Khusraw's 'Mirror of Alexander' (1299)" introduces the poet Amir Khusraw and sets his poem in the context of the mirror-for-princes literature of the Arab and Persian Middle Ages. It considers the links of this tradition with the actual work of Plato, and also of Aristotle, and finds little direct connection. In the poem, Alexander visits the hermit Plato in his cave to obtain advice on rulership. Alexander is thus presented as a kind of philosopher-king, as much a Sufi and a sage as he is a monarch.
05/10/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

The Migrations of Islamic Science in Renaissance Europe

Robert Morrison

The Renaissance is often seen as the result of Europeans’ re-engagement with the heritage of Classical Antiquity, which Islamic societies preserved during the Dark Ages. Recent research has shown, though, that the science of Islamic societies from the twelfth through sixteenth centuries was crucial for Renaissance science. This lecture will describe this late medieval Islamic scientific culture and the fascinating stories of how it reached Renaissance Europe, often as a by-product of economic activity and as a result of a quest for social capital. In fact, European scholars in the later sixteenth century and the seventeenth century continued to value the science of Islamic societies, even after European science had blossomed. Renaissance science turns out to have more diverse foundations than previously thought.
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