Explanation of lunar phases by Abu l-Rayhan al-Biruni (d. after 1048) for Lady Rayhana from Khwarazm, MS London, British Library, Or. 3849, f. 31b; al-Biruni, Book of the Stars, copied in 1435.

Project (2017-)

Visualizations of the Heavens and Their Material Cultures in Eurasia and North Africa (4,000 BCE-1700 CE)

An annotated image database is being created, which collects images of the heavens as a whole or of celestial phenomena documenting the multiple materials employed for those visualizations. The database will serve to investigate processes of knowledge formation and exchange in Eurasia and North Africa with regard to astronomy, astrology, meteorology, the formation of myths, political and religious rituals, healing and medical theories, and the organization of time.

The representation of different aspects of the heavens from deities to demons and from stars to weather phenomena offers a rich and broad array of possibilities for studying contacts, commonalities, overlaps, differences, and ruptures across different territories, time periods, social organizations, and linguistic communities. The materiality of such representations unveils movements of concepts, values, and lifestyles across social strata within a given society as well as the stability or fluidity of their subsets and thus provides access to sociocultural complexities of individual, communal, societal, and cross-cultural modes of organizing relations, knowledge practices, and human interactions with natural phenomena and the celestial realm on different sociocultural levels.


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