Scientific Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East

This article first appeared in ISAW Newsletter 25 (Fall 2019).

The international research collaborative Scientific Papyri from Ancient Egypt (SPAE) is pleased to host its second annual conference at ISAW. This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together scholars working in the history of science and medicine of ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Near East. The leading sciences in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world were medicine and divination, above all astrology, and astronomy. Ancient medical texts reveal early conceptions of human physiology and pathology and provide information about methods of diagnosis and prognosis of patients, critical commentaries on transmitted medicaments and treatment methods, as well as early attempts at systematized botanical classification. From ancient astronomy and astrology developed the early calendrical and time-keeping systems that influenced those still in use today. Astrology was importantly used in the science of divination, which included the art of predicting the future through interpretation of the position of the heavenly bodies, interpretation of dreams, and interpretation of various other phenomena. Today, such practices are considered pseudo-science, but they were taken extremely seriously by the ancients.

Organized by Amber Jacob (ISAW), Sofie Schiødt (University of Copenhagen), Lingxin Zhang (Johns Hopkins University), Alexander Jones (ISAW).