April 23, 2024

1,000-year-old astrolabe: impressive evidence of scientific exchange between Arabs, Jews and Christians

Sciences 1000 year old astrolabe

“An impressive testimony to the scientific exchange between Arabs, Jews and Christians”

An astrolabe can be used to read the positions of the stars on a specific date

An astrolabe can be used to read the positions of the stars on a specific date

Source: Federica Gigante / German News Agency

Rare astrolabe discovery from the 11th century: The astronomical device was repeatedly adapted over the centuries by Muslim, Jewish and Christian users in Spain, North Africa and Italy. Now it brought amazing insights.

HThe astrolabe, which is about 1,000 years old, bears inscriptions in Arabic and Hebrew script, in addition to carved numbers indicating the use of Latin script. Historian Federica Gigante of the University of Cambridge, who examined the astronomical device, said: “It is a moving testimony to the scientific exchange between Arabs, Jews and Christians over hundreds of years.”

For example, an astrolabe can be used to read the positions of the stars at a specific date and time. They have been important tools for astronomers, surveyors, and sailors for centuries.

Now that In the study The described astrolabe belongs to the collection of the Fondazione Museo Miniscalchi-Erizzo in Verona (Italy). After the museum published a new photo of the device on the Internet, it was discovered by historian Gigante. “When I visited the museum and looked at the astrolabe up close, I noticed that not only was it covered in beautifully carved Arabic inscriptions, but I could also see faint Hebrew inscriptions,” Gigante said.

Based on the inscriptions, I was able to trace the origin and use in Spain, North Africa and Italy. “The Verona Astrolabe underwent many changes, additions and modifications when it was moved,” the historian said. “At least three different users felt compelled to make translations and corrections to this object, two in Hebrew and one in Western.” Gigante's study was published in the journal Nonsense.

Because the positions of visible stars change little over the centuries, a historian was able to date the manufacture of the device to the 11th century. In addition, it closely resembles the astrolabes made by the mathematician Ibrahim ibn Sa'id al-Sahli in the 11th century in Toledo, Andalusia, the then Muslim-controlled region of Spain.

Hebrew refers to the Italian diaspora

Toledo and Cordoba, also located in Andalusia, are inscribed with latitude lines on the front and back, respectively. Gigante suggests that the astrolabe may have been made in Toledo at a time when the city was a thriving center of coexistence and cultural exchange between Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

The astrolabe features inscriptions in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin script

The astrolabe features inscriptions in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin script

Source: Federica Gigante / German News Agency

After the original Arabic inscriptions – which include Islamic prayer times – the names of Ishaq and Yunus were engraved; It is the Arabic spelling of the biblical names Isaac and Jonah. Gigante speculates that this inscription was made by a member of the Sephardic Jews in Spain, where the Arabic language was common.

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A second added plaque is inscribed indicating the typical latitudes of North Africa, suggesting that the piece may have been used in Morocco or Egypt at another time in its existence.

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More than one hand added Hebrew writing to the astrolabe. “These Hebrew additions and translations indicate that at some point the piece left Spain or North Africa and spread among the Jewish diaspora community in Italy, where Arabic was not understood and Hebrew was used instead,” explains Gigante.