International Conference „Finding, Inheriting or Borrowing? Construction and Transfer of Knowledge about Man and Nature in Antiquity and the Middle Ages“

The Research Training Group 1876 "Early Concepts of Man and Nature: Universal, Local, Borrowed" invites to its

International Conference
Finding, Inheriting or Borrowing? Construction and Transfer of Knowledge about Man and Nature in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

to be held on 14th to 16th September 2016 at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany).

The overall aim of the Research Training Group (RTG) 1876 is to study early concepts of man and nature based on texts, iconography and material evidence from the Near East, North-Eastern Africa and Europe dating from c. 3.200 B.C. to the Middle Ages. It is interested in establishing where and when similar beliefs and concepts originated, whether this happened independently, if such concepts were transmitted or exchanged between early cultures and how they then changed over time.

For its international conference the RTG wants to focus on the process of developing and legitimizing knowledge.

The conference aims at answering questions dealing with the creation and justification of knowledge, such as: How is 'foreign' knowledge given authority? What are the mechanisms of legitimation? Are the ascriptions by the sources concerning the knowledge’s origin (inherited or borrowed) traceable or artificial and unfounded? Does transferred knowledge create new concepts during the act of borrowing? Are there special fields of knowledge that are linked to certain societies or social groups?

In this conference we want to apply a broad definition of knowledge that includes cultural practice.

In order to open up a coherent discussion of our research questions, we will focus on four thematic sections, each dealing with a special field of knowledge on man and nature:
A) Methodological and Theoretical Aspects
B) Of Man and Moon – Knowledge and Cultural Meaning of the Moon
C) The End of the World in Fire – Imaginations from Antiquity to the Middle Ages
D) Pejorative Description and Distinction Based on Human Perceptions of Animals


September 14th, 2016 Institut Français, Schillerstr. 11, 55116 Mainz

2:15 p.m. - 2:55 p.m. Welcome and Introduction


Panel A: Methodological and Theoretical Aspects

2:55 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Jean-Marc Mandosio (Paris/History of Philosophy)
How Alchemy Was Discovered: Greek, Arabic and Latin Accounts on the Invention of a ‘New’ Science.
3:30 p.m. - 4:05 p.m. Susanne Beck (Tübingen/Egyptology)
Transfer of Knowledge: From Mesopotamia to Egypt.
4:05 p.m. - 4:35 p.m. Coffee break
4:35 p.m. - 5:10 p.m. Jeffrey L. Cooley (Boston/Theology)
Epistemology in the Biblical Tradition: Judean Knowledge-Building, Scribal Craftsmanship, and Scribal Culture.
5:10 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. Lennart Lehmhaus (Berlin/Jewish Studies)
Talmudic Bodies and Nature – Constructing and Authorizing Knowledge in Late Antique Jewish Tradition.
5:45 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. Short break

Public Keynote

6:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Roy Ellen (Kent/Anthropology)
Transmitting Symbolic Concepts from the Perspective of Cultural Cognition: the Acquisition and Transfer of Folk-Biological Knowledge.
7:45 p.m. Reception


September 15th, 2016 Erbacher Hof, Grebenstr. 24-26, 55116 Mainz

Panel B: Of Man and Moon – Knowledge and Cultural Meaning of the Moon

In all epochs, the moon and its changing appearance, its temporary disappearance at new moon and the exceptional event of a lunar eclipse have had a deep impact on humankind. Every culture has created myths and legends to explain these phenomena. As a regular chronological marker, the moon structured everyday life, allowed the establishment of dates for sowing and harvesting, and thus was fundamental for developing calendars, religious festivals, and horoscopes. With a focus on the temporally and spatially co-existing cultures of ancient Egypt, Greece and the Near East, the section aims at a general presentation of the variability or possible parallelisms of interpretation and evaluation of the moon.

9:30 a.m. - 10:05 a.m. Tim Brandes (Mainz/Assyriology)
“He Assigned Him as the Jewel of the Night” – The Knowledge of the Moon in Mesopotamian Texts of the Late 2nd and 1st Millennium B.C.
10:05 a.m. - 10:40 a.m. Victoria Altmann-Wendling (Mainz/Egyptology)
Shapeshifter – Knowledge of the Moon in Graeco-Roman Egypt.
10:40 a.m. - 11:10 a.m. Coffee break
11:10 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. Liba Taub (Cambridge/Classical Philology)
Plutarch’s Concept of the Moon in his De facie in orbe lunae against the Background of his Predecessors.
11:45 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. José Miguel Puebla Morón (Madrid/History)
Iconography of the Moon in the Coinage of Greek Sicily.
12:20 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. Lunch break
1:45 p.m. - 2:20 p.m. Allard Mees (Mainz/Archaeology)
Early Celtic Time Cycles: Adaption and Creation.
2:20 p.m. - 2:55 p.m. Alberto Bardi (München/Byzantine Studies)
Reception and Rejection of Foreign Astronomical Knowledge in Byzantium.
2:55 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. Final Discussion Panel B
3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Coffee break


Panel C: The End of the World in Fire – Imaginations from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Many written sources of past cultures describe concepts of the end of the world. Among these concepts is the very common idea that the world will perish by fire. Variants of this idea are widespread in ancient writings of the Mediterranean and the Orient, as well as in the cultures of the middle Ages. Ancient Greek and Latin authors, as well as medieval ones, assert the validity of these concepts through citation of earlier authorities on the matter. In a comparative overview of Iranian, Greco-Roman, Norse and Medieval Latin sources, the questions will be discussed of which components of the concepts are essential and how the particular ideas of the global conflagration are supported. Consequently, this approach will reveal traditions, parallels, possible borrowings and differences between these various cultures and periods.

3:45 p.m. - 4:20 p.m. Götz König (Berlin/Iranian Studies)
The Idea of an Apocalyptic Fire According to the Middle Iranian Sources and the Question of an Old Iranian Heritage.
4:20 p.m. - 4:55 p.m. Knut Usener (Wuppertal/Classical Philology)
Burning for a Fresh Start.
4:55 p.m. - 5:10 p.m. Short break
5:10 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. Dominic Bärsch (Mainz/Classical Philology)
Poets, Prophets and Philosophers – Otto von Freising’s End of the World.
5:45 p.m. - 6:20 p.m. Jens Peter Schjødt (Aarhus/Religious Studies)
Some Reflections on the Ragnarok Myth in Scandinavia.
6:20 p.m. - 6:40 p.m. Final Discussion Panel C
6:40 p.m. Dinner


September 16th, 2016 Erbacher Hof, Grebenstr. 24-26, 55116 Mainz

Panel D: Pejorative Description and Distinction Based on Human Perceptions of Animals

When distinct groups within or outside a society are described and characterized, our sources tend to make comparisons with, or metaphorical use of, certain images. This can lead to quite elaborate or rather stereotyped descriptions. In the view of medieval and ancient cultures, animals were connected to a wide range of moral, physical and behavioural characteristics that had been ascribed to them in a continuous historical process. Therefore, their images served as a major source for characterization. The aim of this section is to examine the mechanisms of characterization and distinction by pejorative animal imagery in different societies to discover parallels, differences, traditions and borrowings.

9:00 a.m. - 9:35 a.m. Cristiana Franco (Siena/Anthropology & Classics)
According to the Rung. Towards an Intersectional Analysis of Animal Representations.
9:35 a.m. - 10:10 a.m. Idan Breier (Tel Aviv/Jewish History)
Shaming by Naming: “Dog” as a Derogatory Term for Human Beings in Ancient Near Eastern Sources.
10:10 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. Fabio Tutrone (Palermo/Classical Philology)
“Some of you are dogs who can both bark and bite” (Pro Rosc. Amer. 57): Cicero, Lucretius, and the Ambiguities of Roman Dogness.
10:45 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. Coffee break
11:15 a.m. - 11:50 a.m. Tristan Schmidt (Mainz/Byzantine Studies)
Beasts of Prey as a Means of Exclusion and Vilification of Social Groups in the Byzantine Political Discourse (12th ct.).
11:50 a.m. - 12:25 p.m. Imke Fleuren (Mainz/Egyptology)
Animal Imagery as a Means to Describe ‘the Other’ in Ancient Egypt.
12:25 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. Lunch break
1:45 p.m. - 2:20 p.m. Sandra Kyewski (Basel/Classical Archaeology)
Monkey Business – The Defamation of Men through Animal-Like Faces.
2:20 p.m. - 2:55 p.m. Seth F. C. Richardson (Chicago/Assyriology)
Nature Engaged and Disengaged: The Case of Mesopotamian Literatures.
2:55 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. Final Discussion Panel D
3:15 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Concluding Discussion


If you want to participate in our conference, please register at our coordination office: