CAS Annual Symposium Fall 2016

Divination in the Ancient World

Co-sponsored by the Penn Museum and the University Research Foundation.

The belief in divination, the possibility of learning the future and/or the will of the god(s), is one that is prevalent throughout the world, in both ancient and modern times. In the past, scholars tended to avoid working on divination, which was looked down upon as superstition and not worthy of study. However, over the last few decades more and more scholars have become interested in this topic, realizing that it provided insights into the fears and belief systems of ancient peoples, and that it had real effects on how people acted. This conference brings together leading scholars to present and discuss original scholarship on divination in ancient societies across the world.


All sessions are in Rainey Auditorium at the Penn Museum.  For the Thursday plenary talk, please enter via the Kress Entrance.

Speaker Biographies

Thursday, Nov. 10
6:00-7:30 Plenary Talk: Philip Peek (Drew University),"African Divination Systems: Twins, Silence, and Ways of Knowing."

Friday, Nov. 11

Welcome and Introduction
9:00-9:10 Grant Frame and Annette Y. Reed (University of Pennsylvania)

Morning Session
Chair : Annette Y. Reed (University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies)
9:10-9:50 Jean Turfa (Penn Museum), "Etruscan Divination: Not Just Sheep Livers Anymore!"
9:50-10:30 Benjamin Anderson (Cornell), "The Oracular Image: A Byzantine Invention?"

10:30-10:50 Break

Chair: Deven Patel (University of Pennsylvania, Department of South Asia Studies)
10:50-11:30 Ulla Susanne Koch (University of Copenhagen), "Divine writing - Extispicy and astrology in Mesopotamia."
11:30-12:10 Toke Knudsen (SUNY Oneonta), "Signs Far and Near: Traditions of Divination in India."
12:10-12:50 Edward Shaughnessy (University of Chicago), "Of Trees, a Son, and Kingship: Recovering the First Chinese Dream."

12:50-2:00 Lunch

Afternoon Session
Chair : Holly Pittman (University of Pennsylvania, Department of the History of Art)
2:00-2:40 Robert Ritner (University of Chicago), "Private Divination and Public Oracles in Ancient Egypt."
2:40-3:20 Isabel Cranz (Penn), "Biblical Discourse on Divination: Deuteronomy and the Holiness Code as Case Study."
3:20-4:00 AnneMarie Luijendijk (Princeton), "Christian Lot Books and Oracle Tickets in Greek and Coptic from Egypt."

4:00-4:20 Break

Chair : Grant Frame (University of Pennsylvania, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations)
4:20-5:00 Rachel Parikh (Harvard Art Museums), "Know and Be Aware: The Falnama or 'Book of Omens.'"
5:00-5:40 John Pohl (University of California, Los Angeles), "Thinking Outside the Book: Divination and Image Sorcery in Ancient Mexican Manuscripts."
5:40-6:00 Concluding Discussion led by Grant Frame

Saturday, Nov. 12
11:00-11:30 Peter Struck (Penn), "Divination and Intuition in Greek Antiquity."
1:30-2:00 Adam Smith (Penn), "Divination in Early China."
3:00-3:30 Ann Guinan (Penn Museum, Consulting Scholar), "Omens of the Past: What Modern Culture Can Tell Us about Ancient Divination"