Source-Based Initiatives (2017-)

Visualization and Material Cultures of the Heavens: Image Database Eurasia and North Africa (4000 BCE–1700 CE)

This image database invites research on multiple forms and formats of visualizing the heavens, from deities to demons and from stars to weather phenomena. It is designed to facilitate comparative research on processes of knowledge formation and exchange on the heavens in Eurasia and North Africa. The collection includes calendars, star constellations, planets, and other heavenly inhabitants or phenomena in anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, diagrammatic, or semiotic formats, as well as theoretical models and a broad range of tables. One focus is the emergence, transformation, dissemination, and reinterpretation of the zodiac and its contexts in the form of texts, maps, and imagery on various artifacts. 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?

News & Press

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung publishes on Islamic history at Berlin Science Week, citing Research Scholar Sonja Brentjes.


Past Events

Visualization of Heavens I


The Book of Felicity: Time and Fortune at the Ottoman Court


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