Object 1: Astrolabe

June 2, 2021


The first object is an astrolabe, a tool used by sailors during the Age of Exploration. It was a versatile instrument to find latitude of the sun, stars, and time. The astrolabe was initially developed by the Muslims in the 9th century, becoming a valuable object to their culture and religion. The astrolabe was commonly used by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries, allowing them to find their way to unknown countries such as India and Brazil. This granted civilizations to gain new knowledge of the world around them.

This would be enriching for the exhibition as this object was key in defining new knowledge, that ultimately contributed to cultural practices and traditions. It was crucial to the Portuguese to navigate through the oceans and meet with civilizations and cultures in Africa, the Americas and Asia. The astrolabe enabled Portuguese societies to gain a perception of the world and bring to Europe products to be traded, that before, were not accessible to European populations.

For example, pepper is a spice brought by the Portuguese to Europe that became widely used in cultural practices. We can also see this object as a symbol of spirituality in Muslim cultures, helping astronomically determine prayer times and an aid in finding the direction to Mecca.

Interestingly, the astrolabe seems to have rehabilitated into the form of a modern-day phone. Just like previous civilizations that resided on Earth depended on such an object for direction, certainty, and decision-making, we too have our phones that helps us understand the world around us. Through the power of knowledge that the astrolabe gave to us, we were able to develop economically through mathematic calculations used from the object all the way to developments in the fields of science and technology. The relationship between culture and knowledge is clear here, they both need each other: just like society needed the astrolabe to accumulate a perception of the world around them.

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