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ZODIAC workshop "Imagining the Sky: The Zodiac and Related Astral Imagery in the Ancient World", Freie Universität Berlin

Sep 21, 2022 - Sep 23, 2022

The project Zodiac: Ancient Astral Science in Transformation (ERC) at the Institute for the History of Knowledge of the Ancient World, Freie Universität Berlin, is hosting a workshop on 21–23 September 2022:


Imagining the Sky: The Zodiac and Related Astral Imagery in the Ancient World

Fabeckstraße 23–25, room 1.2051

14195 Berlin


Convenors: Mathieu Ossendrijver and Andreas Winkler


In the wake of the introduction of the zodiac, images played an important role in representing astral knowledge and disseminating it across the ancient world. However, ancient astral science and its cross-cultural transmission are still studied primarily on the basis of texts, with relatively little attention to images. For instance, even several well-known and strikingly similar zodiac-related images from Uruk (Babylonia) and Dendera (Egypt) have not been systematically investigated as evidence for the cross-cultural transmission of astral science. Secondly, the interactions between image and text, which have become a central topic in research on ancient mathematics, have not yet been adequately addressed in research on ancient astral science. This workshop brings together historians of science, Egyptologists, Assyriologists, classical philologists, papyrologists, archaeologists, and art historians. It focuses on the zodiac and related astral imagery (constellations, planets, moon, sun, melothesia, etc.) and diagrams from Babylonia, Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world, but it also engages with imagery from other regions, communities and periods. The objectives of the workshop are to share examples of zodiac-related imagery from different regions, communities and periods, to discuss the evidence in an interdisciplinary setting, to begin a dialogue with new approaches and tools from art history, image theory and digital humanities, and to exchange ideas about the following questions:


- What theoretically informed methods and approaches can be proposed for studying ancient astral imagery?

- What are the relations between the images and the material aspects of their carriers?

- Who produced the images and how were they produced?

- What knowledge and which practices are reflected in the images and what are their meanings, functions, and contexts?

- How to analyse and characterize the interactions among image, text, tables, and other media?

- How to analyse the cross-cultural transmission of astral imagery, and what can be said about the available examples?


Since places may be limited, we ask anyone interested in attending to RSVP before 1 September by writing to zodiac@geschkult.fu-berlin.de and providing your full name, country of residence, anf affilation (if any), and indicate whether you want to attend in person or remoteley. If you have any questions, please write to andreas.winkler@fu-berlin.de.

For the preliminary schedule, please click here

Time & Location

Sep 21, 2022 - Sep 23, 2022

Reception, Wednesday 21/9/2022, Planetarium am Insulaner, Steglitz.

Conference days Thursday 22/9/2022 and Friday 23/9/2022, Freie Universität Berlin, Fabeckstr. 23-25, room 1.2051, 14195 Berlin