Dr. Dr. Mathieu Ossendrijver
Babylonian scholarly knowledge and its underlying concepts, in particular the astral sciences (astronomy, astrology) and mathematics; contextual and sociological aspects of Babylonian and Greco-Roman scholarship; knowledge transfer between Babylonia and the Greco-Roman world including Egypt.
Mathieu Ossendrijver studied astrophysics and theoretical physics in Utrecht and Assyriology in Freiburg i. Br. He graduated in astrophysics with a dissertation on solar and stellar dynamo theory (1996, Utrecht) and in Assyriology with a dissertation on Babylonian astronomical procedure texts (2010, Tübingen).
From 1997 until 2005 he held research positions in astrophysics at the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics (Freiburg i. Br.). In 2005 he changed the focus of his research to Mesopotamian astral science. Since 2005 he has held research positions in ancient science with a focus on Babylonian astral science at the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO), Leiden, the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), University of Tübingen, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), New York University), and at the Excellence Cluster TOPOI, Humboldt University Berlin. From 2013 until 2018 he was professor for the History and Ancient Science at the Institute of Philosophy, Humboldt University Berlin. He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow of the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO), Leiden.
In 2018 he held the Rostovtzeff Lectures at ISAW (New York University) and the Neugebauer Lecture at Brown University (Providence).
During the first Millennium BCE Babylonian scholars developed predictive methods for meteorological, economic, medical and other terrestrial phenomena, using empirical and mathematical procedures that were modeled after methods that had been developed for predicting astronomical phenomena. Often this involved an assumption that the phenomena in question are correlated with specific planetary or lunar phenomena that were predictable on account of their cylicity.
My project aims to explore the changing Babylonian conceptions of time and of phenomena as signs. The way in which phenomena were conceptualized as signs underwent a change with respect earlier forms of Mesopotamian divination. While phenomena were previously either perceived of as unpredictable, single acts of divine communication, terrestrial phenomena such as market prices are now correlated to chains of cyclically repeating astronomical phenomena. Apart from resulting in predictability, the cyclical nature of the phenomena suggests that the Babylonian conceptualization of time changed with respect to earlier Mesopotamian, predominantly linear notions of time.
Visiting Research Fellow, Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO), Leiden
2018 – 2019
Senior Research Fellow, Excellence Cluster TOPOI / Institute of Philosophy, Humboldt University Berlin
2013 – 2018
Professor for History of Ancient Science, Institute of Philosophy / Excellence Cluster TOPOI, Humboldt University Berlin
2011 – 2013
Senior Research Fellow, Excellence Cluster TOPOI / Humboldt University Berlin
2010 – 2011
Visiting Research Scholar, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), New York University
PHD Assyriology (University of Tübingen)
2006 – 2011
Research Associate, Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), University of Tübingen
Visiting Research Scholar, Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO), Leiden
1997 – 2005
Research Associate (Astrophysics), Kiepenheuer-Institute for Solar Physics and University of Freiburg i. Br.
PHD Astrophysics (University of Utrecht)