Guest Post: Islamic Art and the Smithsonian Celestial Globe

This is a guest post from Skepchick Network contributor Benny! Benny is best know for his writing on Queereka and we were thrilled when he asked us to post this article on islamic art and it’s link to astronomy. Enjoy!

From Benny:
Since I am attending a Catholic college we are required to take two religion classes as part of our general degree requirements. Luckily the types of classes that qualify are fairly broad, so I ended up taking an Islamic art history class this past quarter. It was interesting, if fairly challenging because it is so far outside of my wheelhouse – I am, after all, an Environmental Science Major.

For the one research paper we had to write for the class we were asked to choose any single work of Islamic art. Being interested in science, and knowing that the Islamic world was for a time at the forefront of astronomy, I looked around until I found some information about celestial globes. I picked the one that had the most information about it and chose that as the work to study. It is owned by the Smithsonian and was made in Lahore in the seventeen century.

What I love about this object is the way in which it displays the intersection of scientific knowledge and art. While globes like this one were used primarily as astronomy educational tools, they are also beautiful and display the adept metalworking, engraving, and design capabilities present in the Mughal empire.

As skeptics we often talk about the ways in which religion or other beliefs work against scientific knowledge. In this case, specific religious practices (the requirement of praying facing Mecca at specific times of day) actually contributed to the need for astronomical understanding and lead to stronger science. So in a way, the celestial globe shows some benefits of the intersection of science, art, and religion.

I hope you will consider reading my paper. It’s short and I really enjoyed writing it. Please note that I’m a college sophomore, so it’s not professional writing. However, I did get an A on the paper, so that was nice!

I also want to thank my professor, Dr. Mark DeLancey, for his help on this paper and his interest in the topic I chose. He can be found here:

Click here to read Benny’s short and fabulous paper!
Paper on IslamicArt-CelestialGlobe

celestial globe

Thank you so much for teaching us about celestial globes, Benny!


Featured image via wikipedia.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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