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Islamic planispheric astrolabe in brass, unsigned and undated
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overall: 160 mm x 10 mm, 120 mm, 2kg
Brass Islamic planispheric astrolabe of Syrian origin with cursive & Kufic Arabic script, fitted with three latitude plates (28/31o, 36/39 o & 30/42 o - later 16th century?), unsigned without date, 901-1100 CE. Latitude plate engraved on mater. Fitted with later hexagonal nut and bolt.
Knowing the time for prayer and locating the direction of the holy city of Mecca is a key part of Islam. Medieval Islamic scholars developed the original Ancient Greek design for an astrolabe to create a highly sophisticated instrument.
Many 11th-century mosques employed their own muwaqqit or astronomer-timekeeper who was responsible for using an astrolabe like this one to determine the essential prayer times and directions.
Made in ninth century, this unsigned brass Islamic astrolabe is from the Middle East and probably of Syrian origin. This front view shows the moveable fretwork plate called the rete that denotes star positions by straight tapering pointers. The astrolabe is in essence a model of the universe that an astronomer could hold in their hands. Popular in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, its many uses included timekeeping, astrology and surveying. The astrolabe is a two-dimensional depiction of the heavens whose layout is achieved using the mathematical technique of stereographic projection. From its origins in the Ancient World, Islamic astronomers developed the astrolabe from where it spread to Europe.
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