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

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

Mathieu Ossendrijver

Humboldt University Berlin

PLEASE NOTE: We are now fully booked for this event and are only accepting names for the wait-list.

ALSO: 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.

Mathieu Ossendrijver is Professor for the History of Ancient Science in the Department of Philosophy at the Humboldt University Berlin. He holds a PhD in Assyriology from the University of Tübingen and a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Utrecht. His primary research interests are Babylonian astral science and mathematics, Mesopotamian science in general, and contextual aspects of Babylonian scholarship.

Clay tablets from ancient Iraq continue to reveal surprising new insights about Babylonian astronomical and astrological practices during the first millennium BCE. Ever since the first astronomical tablets from Iraq reached the British Museum and other collections at the end of the nineteenth century, Babylonian astral science has attracted the attention of modern specialists. By now, research on this topic has reached a stage where the technical aspects of Babylonian astronomy are relatively well understood, but even here surprises are still possible. The focus of much other research has shifted to various contextual aspects of the Babylonian astral sciences.

In four lectures Mathieu Ossendrijver will explore the textual evidence for Babylonian astronomy during the first millennium BCE, with an emphasis on new textual finds, insights from recent investigations of various corpora of astral science and their interconnections, and questions inspired by new approaches informed by the wider historiography and sociology of science.

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.

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The Rostovtzeff Lectures are supported in part by a generous endowment fund given by Roger and Whitney Bagnall.

Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.

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