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ERC Advanced Grant ZODIAC - Ancient Astral Science in Transformation

News from Mar 31, 2020

Unserem Kollegen PD Dr. Dr. M. Ossendrijver wurde für sein Forschungsprojekt zum altorientalischen Tierkreis und den damit in Verbindung stehenden astronomischen und astrologischen Praktiken und Theorien ein ERC-Grant bewilligt. Wir gratulieren sehr herzlich!

 ERC Advanced Grant ZODIAC - Ancient Astral Science in Transformation

The project will investigate the cross-cultural transmission of the zodiac and related innovative astronomical and astrological practices, theories and imagery between Babylonia, Egypt and the Greco-Roman world from the 5th century BCE until the 3rd century AD.


The introduction of the zodiac triggered an ultimately global and enduring transformation of astral science and other realms of scholarship and culture 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 practices daily life, 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 it lacks a satisfactory explanation.


The aim of the project 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.

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