Aetiology of Culture (PLUS-14)

Additional project

Within this project the varieties of aetiological genres, modes and media were systematically explored and described. The aim was to understand and chart the typical functions of aetiologies in their respective historical contexts and explaining them with reference to the diverse ancient and pre-modern civilizations in which they occur.

The Astral Sciences (PLUS-1)

Additional project

This project investigates how new knowledge emerges from the originally separate traditions of astronomy, astrology and mathematics in a transformation and innovation process. The investigations are based on the research results obtained in research group (D-1) Space of Nature.

Diagrammatic issues concerning Aristotle (B-5-2-3)


This dissertation deals with diagrams in ancient Greek scientific texts, in particular in Aristotle’s logical and natural scientific writings. Because diagrams accompanying ancient texts are generally only found in hand-written texts from the Middle Ages, the question arises as to the existence and the original appearances of antique diagrams. This question can be investigated from explicit and implicit references in the ancient texts, which also give clues as to the various ways in which diagrams were used.

Mapping Water Technology (A-3-3)

Research project

This research project investigates the emergence of hydromechanics in the context of water management systems from antiquity to the Middle Ages.

Ontology of Immaterial Causes (D-4-1)

Research project

Descriptions of heavenly realms and celestial topography can be traced back to the cultural milieu of Second Temple Judaism, which may have been influenced by Platonic and Neo-Platonic concepts. Cosmographic and cosmological ideas were further attested during Late Antiquity in Old and New Testament apocryphal writings and parabiblical compositions, such as the Book of the Secrets of Enoch (or 2 Enoch), Apocalypse of Abraham, Ascension of Isaiah, Third Baruch, Apocalypse of Paul, Apocalypse of the Virgin Mary, etc.), which survive in Slavonic recensions transmitted in the Byzantine Commonwealth. In some cases the Slavonic texts are the only surviving witnesses to the Semitic originals; otherwise they represent faithful reproductions of Greek (Byzantine) redactions.

Mathematical geography (D-1-6)

Research project

Based on the data given in Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography (2nd century CE), which contains information on more than 6,000 localities distributed over the then known world, the project investigates the genesis and transformation of geographical information in Antiquity. The aim is to gain insight into the methods used by ancient scientific geographers to systematize individual space data.

Scales (D-6-7)

Research project

The origin of the scales and of weighing, one of the first measurement technologies in the development of human culture, remains obscure to this day. Standardized finished products provide indirect evidence dating the scale to the middle of the 5th millennium BC. It is reasonable to assume that the scales emerged parallel to the development of copper and gold metallurgy, if not sooner.

There is conclusive evidence that equal-armed scales were used in Egypt beginning around 3000 BC. The first metrological system can be shown to have emerged in Babylon around the same time. By mapping all surviving evidence of scales and weighing practices in the Atlas of Innovations, we will lay the foundation for a better understanding of the emergence and spread of the scales and of metrology.

The Unequal Armed Balance (D-5-5)

Research project

The project investigates the emergence and development of balance scales with variable arm-length of which the so-called Roman steelyard is the most well-known.