Professorship of the Cluster of Excellence – History of Science of the Pre-Modern World (Prof. Dr. Annette Warner-Imhausen)

The professorship has a twofold scholarly focus: 1) research on the history of pre-modern science, especially scholarly practices in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia; 2) historiography of early ancient scientific sources.

Normative Orders (and their changes) can be examined in the field of premodern science by analyzing written sources that display formally structured systems of norms. The importance of casuistic procedures, regional and chronological changes and the need for consistency and coherence in their logical structure enable us to describe normative systems in ways that may also be relevant for the study of more recent developments.

The research can be structured into three areas:

1.) The development of Egyptian mathematics from the invention of the number system until the Greco-Roman period.
The development of ancient Egyptian mathematics can be traced over a period of 3000 years against the background of different social and cultural structures. (Monograph: Ancient Egyptian Mathematics: A Contextual History). It can be studied in greatest detail in those periods for which there are extant mathematical texts (Middle Kingdom and Greco-Roman periods). In virtue of their procedural character, mathematical texts can be analyzed as algorithms (ongoing project).

2.) The Normativity of Formal Structures and Procedures in the Ancient World: A Comparison between Mathematical and Judicial Rule Systems.  
Cluster project. See report:

3.) (Book project Daliah Bawanypeck) “Mesopotamian Scholars and their Writings – Normative Orders and Cuneiform Concepts of Knowledge” (former working title: The Role of Normative Structures in the Transmission of Knowledge in Mesopotamia)
Daliah Bawanypeck’s book project “Mesopotamian Scholars and their Writings” was developed further. The study, which analyses cuneiform scholarly texts, literate experts and the places where knowledge was accumulated, aims to shed light on the conditions under which knowledge was created in Mesopotamia, the actors involved and the epistemic procedures and instruments that were influential in the emergence, establishment, transmission and development of written knowledge.

The results can be sketched as follows: In a publication that grew out of two workshops from the first term of the Cluster, eight case studies from the areas of Egyptian and Mesopotamian medicine, magic and ritual, astronomy, mathematics and law were undertaken in order to analyze early ancient scientific sources. Since written knowledge was intentionally stored and passed on in both cultures, the paradigms of institutional normative structures can be found by examining those texts. The individual case studies provide overviews of traditions of texts on some subjects as well as analyses of specific aspects of the sources. The contributions furthermore provide subject-specific advise on ways of translating and commenting as well as a subject-specific overview of auxiliary tools, that are meant to assist with translating, understanding and evaluating already existing translations of ancient scientific texts.

The monograph on ancient Egyptian mathematics is the first history of Egyptian mathematics that covers the time from the invention of numbers until the last indigenous texts. In the description of the individual periods, information about Egyptian mathematics is analyzed against the background of its social and cultural setting to facilitate a better understanding of the respective developments.

After the conference on “Writing of Early Scholars in the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Rome and Greece” and the associated publication, which focused on translations of ancient scientific texts, a follow-up project produced a handbook as an aid to the translation of ancient scientific texts. Experts for the respective cultures presented case studies from the areas of medicine, astronomy, astrology and mathematics, offering proposals for how to overcome certain difficulties in translating premodern scientific texts.

The research for the monograph by Daliah Bawanypeck “Mesopotamian Scholars and their Writings – Normative Orders and Cuneiform Concepts of Knowledge” yielded the insight that Mesopotamian scholarship was based on procedures or conditions (e.g. systematizing knowledge in the form of lists, hermeneutics based on how cuneiform script functions, and bilingual education of scribes) that were prefigured with the invention of writing and took shape during the following three millennia.

The most important publications of this professorship of the Cluster of Excellence:

Imhausen, Annette:  Ancient Egyptian Mathematics. A Contextual History, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Imhausen, Annette & Tanja Pommerening (eds.): Translating Writings of Early Scholars in the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Methodological Aspects with Examples (Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 344), Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016.

Bawanypeck, Daliah & Annette Imhausen (eds.): Traditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 403), Münster: Ugarit, 2014.

Imhausen, Annette & Tanja Pommerening (eds.): Writings of Early Scholars in the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Rome and Greece (Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 286), Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010.

Bawanypeck, Daliah & Annette Imhausen: "Mesopotamien und Ägypten", in: M. Sommer/ S. Müller-Wille/C. Reinhardt (eds.), Handbuch Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 2017, pp. 108-117.

The most important events and presentations of this professorship of the Cluster of Excellence:

International Conference: Joint Maths Meeting in San Antonio, USA, January 2015.

International Conference: “History of ancient Astronomy and Mathematics”  in Xi’an, China, August 23-29, 2015.

Public Lecture: “Schriftentstehung in Ägypten und Mesopotamien”, Goethe Lectures, Offenbach, Germany, October 12, 2015.

2nd annual Huxley Lecture on the History of Mathematics, Maynooth University, Irland, April 24, 2017.


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In der Goethe-Universität finden mindestens bis Ende September 2020 keine Präsenzveranstaltungen statt. Das Veranstaltungsprogramm des Forschungsverbunds "Normative Ordnungen" wird ebenfalls bis auf Weiteres ausgesetzt.

29. Mai 2020, 18.30 Uhr

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