photo of a black stone with astrological engravings

Babylonian kudurru or boundary stone from the second millennium BCE showing the solar disc, a crescent moon, an eight-pointed star and representations of Babylonian gods. © The Trustees of the British Museum, 102485


Contact: Rana Brentjes

The protected  image database  developed in the framework of the Working Group “Visualization and Material Cultures of the Heavens” reflects the spatial and temporal breadth envisioned in the project by collecting thousands of visual forms and formats of astral knowledge from Eurasian history of almost 6000 years. The collection includes calendars and other media, instruments, tables, objects of art or architecture with star constellations, planets, and other heavenly inhabitants or phenomena in anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, diagrammatic, or semiotic formats, as well as theoretical models.

A customized metadata scheme including identifiers of the objects, detailed descriptions of the themes they visualize, the places and time periods of the objects’ origin as well as the current holding institutions was designed to facilitate comparative research on processes of knowledge formation, exchange and transformation. It allows our international team of researchers to collaborate in reviewing and editing the data and resources, and thus ensures a highly curated collection. The virtual bringing together of objects, the focus on their life-cycles as well as a fine-grained visualization and statistical analysis of the data aims at challenging the histories that we tell about the places and times of humans making sense of the heavens above.

We invite research on the materiality of the heavens in different cultures, and on the alleged contexts from which these historical artifacts were created—their “Sitz im Leben.”

Questions of interest are:

  1. What pictorial types were developed in different areas of Eurasia in antiquity?
  2. Which components of these pictorial types continued into new cultural and/or geographical contexts?
  3. What were the itineraries and conditions of travel?
  4. Who served as mediators, distributors, and translators?
  5. What is known about their educational, religious, political, linguistic, or artistic contexts?
  6. How did the pictorial types change with movements across space, time, and cultures?
  7. How can we interpret these changes and what do they tell us about cross-cultural exchanges of knowledge?
  8. What is the relationship between text and visual and material representation?

Please contact if you are interested in sharing material with us or would like access to our collections.

Past Events

Imagining the Stars in Premodern Eurasia: Intercultural Comparisons Between East and West Asia


The Grand Zodiacal Tablets and the Papyri Graecae Magicae: Which Connection between Magic and Astrology?


Science in Practice: Astronomical Instruments in the Islamic World


Orientation and Organization of the Zodiacal Image in the Roman Empire


Constellations and Celestial Globes from the Islamic World: The Use of Virtual Reality Technology as a New Interpretative Tool


Sun, Moon, and Mount Meru: Cosmological Mandala as A Visual Metaphor for Universal Monarchy?


Word and Image: The Role of Representation in the Transmission of Astral Knowledge