Oct 31 2014

Book review: Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature


As promised, my review of the 2013 publication Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature, edited by Jonathan Ben-Dov and Seth L. Sanders. New York: NYU Press.

Mar 25 2014

Conference announcement: The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge in the Ancient World (Brown University, 12-13 April)

This conference programme was posted to Jack Sasson’s Agade list by John Steele. It looks very exciting.

The Circulation Of Astronomical Knowledge In The Ancient World
12-13 April 2014
Brown University, Pembroke Hall 305

This conference will explore the ways in which astronomical knowledge in the ancient world circulated between different communities of scholars over time and space. This broad theme includes both the transmission of knowledge between one culture and another (eg from the Babylonians to the Greeks, or the Greeks to India), and between different groups in the same culture (eg later authors writing commentaries on earlier works, the communication of astronomical knowledge between different cities, the relationship between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ astronomy, and the reinterpretation of earlier astronomical traditions by later astronomers). The circulation of astronomical knowledge provides an insight into both the way that astronomy was practiced, learnt and written down and the wider political and cultural connections between different societies.


Saturday 12 April
Morning Session

9:00am Welcome and Introduction

9:30am Francesca Rochberg (Berkeley / ISAW)
The Brown School of the History of Science: Historiography and the Astral Sciences

10:00am Joachim F. Quack (Heidelberg)
On the Contemporaneity of the Seemingly Incongruous, or Why Astral Lore Cannot be Studied in Isolation from the Rest of the Culture.

10:30am Andreas Winkler (Berkeley)
The Transmission of Knowledge in the Ancient Egyptian Astrological Manuals

11:00am Break

11:30am Daniel P. Morgan (Laboratoire SPHERE, CNRS – Université Paris Diderot)
Mercury and the Case for Plural Planetary Traditions in Early Imperial China

12:00pm Ethan Harkness (New York University)
The Popular Face of Astronomical and Calendrical Knowledge in Early China

12:30pm Guan Yuzhen (Brown University)
The Transmission of Knowledge Between Chinese Astronomers in the 2nd Century AD

Afternoon Session

2:30pm Niu Weixing (Shanghai Jiao Tong University / Brown University)
On the Dunhuang Manuscript P.4071: A Case Study of the Sinicization of Western Horoscope in late 10th Century China

3:00pm Song Shenmi (Shanghai Jiao Tong University)
The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac in the Tang and Song Dynasties: A Set of Signs Which Lost their Meanings Within Horoscopic Astrology

3:30pm Kristina Buhrman (Florida State University)
Classical Texts and Post-Hoc Adjustments: The Revival of the Rule Cycle (章) in 12-Century Japan

4:00pm Break

4:30pm Matthew Rutz (Brown University)
Astral Knowledge in an International Age: Transmission of the Cuneiform Tradition, ca. 1500-1000 BC

5:00pm John Steele (Brown University)
The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge Between Babylon and Uruk

Sunday 13 April

Morning Session

9:00am Zackary Wainer (Brown University)
Tablet 4 of the Series DIŠ Sîn ina Tāmartišu and Traditions of Mesopotamian Interpretive Eclipse Schemes

9:30am M. Willis Monroe (Brown University)
The Micro-Zodiac in Babylon and Uruk: Seleucid Zodiacal Astrology

10:00am John Z. Wee (University of Chicago)
Late Babylonian and Greco-Roman Medical Astrology

10:30am Break

11:00am Toke Knudsen (SUNY Oneonta)
Omens and Omen Series in Mesopotamia and India: Issues of Transmission

11:30am Zoë Misiewicz (ISAW)
Assyrian Lunar Omens in Byzantium

12:00pm Clemency Montelle (University of Canterbury)
Hypsicles of Alexandria and his Little Book of Rising Times

Afternoon Session

2:00pm Alexander Jones (ISAW)
Interpolated Observations in Ancient Astronomy

2:30pm Kim Plofker (Union College)
What, if Anything, is Greek About Aryabhata’s Mean Motions? An Examination of the Controversy

3:00pm Closing Remarks

The conference is free and open to all.


Feb 10 2014

Now available online! ‘Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature’

For your reading and research enjoyment courtesy of the NYU Library’s Ancient World Digital Library, in partnership with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW):

Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple LiteratureEdited by Jonathan Ben-Dov and Seth L. Sanders.

What is there to say but thank you?

N.B. One of my favourite introductory lines may be found in the above volume, in “Networks of Scholars: The Transmission of Astronomical and Astrological Learning between Babylonians, Greeks and Jews”, by Mladen Popović:

“What do we know about what ancient Jewish scholars knew about what Babylonian scholars knew?”

Jan 20 2014

New publication: ‘From Alexandria, Through Baghdad: Surveys and Studies in the Ancient Greek and Medieval Islamic Mathematical Sciences in Honor of J.L. Berggren’

Greek and Islamic astronomy and mathematics

Sidoli, Nathan and Van Brummelen, Glen, Eds. 2014. From Alexandria, Through Baghdad: Surveys and Studies in the Ancient Greek and Medieval Islamic Mathematical Sciences in Honor of J.L. Berggren. [Hardcover]

Of interest to scholars and students of the history of mathematics and astronomy in ancient Greece and Medieval Islam is this volume, honouring the career of history of mathematics professor J.L. Berggren. The volume includes contributions spanning approximately seventy years of research, from the mid twentieth century onward.

Notable astronomical chapters include:

James Evans and Christian Carlos Cartman, “Mechanical Astronomy: A Route to the Ancient Discovery of Epicycles and Eccentrics.”

Alexander Jones, “Some Greek Sundial Meridians.”


David A. King, “An Ottoman Astrolabe Full of Surprises.”

For more information, please see the Springer web site.

Dec 01 2013

New publication — “Time and Identity: Hellenism in the Calendar Speech of Jubilees chapter 6″

Here is the bibliographic information:

Ben-Dov, Jonathan. (2013) “Time and Identity: Hellenism in the Calendar Speech of Jubilees chapter 6″. (in Hebrew) Meghillot 10.

But why search when it’s available right here, on Academia.edu?

(With deep thanks to Carla Sulzbach for pointing me to this publication)

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May 19 2009

Film: Agora


While this is decidedly closer to the popular culture pole, I thought that news of a relevant upcoming film might be of interest to many of you. Entitled Agora, it’s the story of the Pagan astronomer and mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria, daughter of Theon, who lived and died according to her beliefs and ideals. The film promises to be quite the epic, with both ample exposition of fifth century Christian-Pagan relations and — I would imagine — some ancient astronomical content. Either way, it certainly seems promising.

Mar 06 2009

Behind the curtain. . .

Just a quick peek behind the workings of this blog. I’m currently spending much of my time reading materials in preparation for my comprehensive exams. (a.k.a. qualifying exams) For now, as has been the case for a few months, until these exams are completed, I only have a limited amount of time to devote to Chaldea (i.e., I’ll post whenever I can). I thought I’d bring a notable source I’m working with to the attention of others in similar fields.

For those interested in cultural perceptions of the heavens in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Israel, Persia, Greco-Roman cultures, as well as early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I highly recommend The Early History of Heaven, by J. Edward Wright. (2000, Oxford University Press)

I first took it out of the library in 2003, but soon found it indispensable, so I bought a copy. It’s a very thorough overview of the important writings and beliefs about heaven and/or the heavens (including heavenly cosmography) in these cultures, and it incorporates archaeological findings as well as textual sources. It is difficult to distinguish between astronomy proper and astral beliefs in many ancient civilizations; this book provides the reader with a solid awareness of the background views of the cosmos in these cultures, thereby setting the stage for later evolutions in cultural astronomy.

Have a good weekend, all!