Oldest extant horoscope diagram: P. Oxy. 235

Greek horoscope in Oxyrhynchus papyrus P. Oxy. 235. Although its content was dated to 15/22 CE by Neugebauer and Van Hoesen, the papyrus itself may be dated considerably later, possibly third century or later. Despite the question of material dating and the contradictory astronomical data as Alexander Jones has pointed out, this specimen remains nonetheless one of the oldest horoscope diagrams extant. This radial-type Greek horoscope survived in a handful of Byzantine documents, but earlier specimens translated into other languages are found preserved in Japan (as Buddhist horoscopes in Chinese) and in various Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand (as Greco-Indian horoscopes).

A sketch of this horoscope was reproduced in Neugebauer and Van Hoesen (1959). Greek Horoscope, pp. 18–19. The original photo has not been published to my knowledge. The photo here is reproduced here (courtesy of Jones from Neugebauer’s archive) from Mak, Bill. 2018. “The First Two Chapters of Mīnarāja’s Vṛddhayavanajātaka.” Zinbun 66 (48), p.7:

More on Oxyrhynchus astronomical papyri:
Jones, Alexander. 1999. Astronomical Papyri From Oxyrhynchus : (P. Oxy. 4133-4300a). Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
Jones, Alexander. 2007. “Astrologers and their Astronomy.” In Oxyrhynchus: a city and its texts. London: Egypt exploration Society.

P. Oxy. II 235

Seeing “things”? Lowell’s “Mars Canal Map” and Times report on “Life on Mars” (1906)

NASA Mars Times 1906

The idea that Mars is not just a star or a planet like others began when the 17th century Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini discovered with his telescope the rotation period of Mars (24h 40′) similar to Earth’s, as well as its unusual surface markings. Two centuries later another Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed in 1877 to have discovered a network of “canali” (channels, not canals) and seas on Mars. Inspired by Schiaparelli, American amateur astronomer Percival Lowell published a book in 1906 titled “Mars and its Canals” which won him acclaims and awards up to his death in 1916, along with some critics. Lowell claimed to have discovered over 550 canals along with “oases” which served as nodes as the planet’s irrigation system. The idea of life and civilization in Mars was so popular that Lowell’s claims went largely unchallenged in public despite no astronomers could actually observe them. His claims were disproved definitively only after the 1960s when NASA spacecrafts captured the true images of the planet.

More on Lowell and his contempories:…/when-reporters-accidentally-wrote-science…/

First image: “Explore Mars Trek” from

How did Lowell in 1906 see all the Martian canals and oases which never existed? And how did other scientists a century ago accept his claims despite they could not observe them?

It is amazing how our mind can make us see all kind of things. The Buddhists like to tell the story of the “rope” and the “snake”. Or inversely, not seeing things which are staring in your face, like all the holocaust denials, Nanking-massacre denials, climate change denials and the “alt-facts” these days…


Lecture by Dr. Bill M. Mak- Associate Professor at Kyoto University

Date: Friday, November 11, 2016, 3:00 pm

Venue: Temple University, 211 Anderson Hall, 1835 N. 12th Street, Philadelphia


Since the Six Dynasties, a large influx of foreigners from different parts of Eurasia brought to China exotic arts and goods, novel ideas and knowledge. Among these was the astral science of the “West”, a highly idiosyncratic body of astronomical knowledge including meteorology, metrology, calendrics, astronomical measurement, to the more arcane arts of omen reading, apotropaic magic and horoscopy. The new “astral science” of the West was drastically different from the Chinese’s and became highly sought after by the progressive rulers and elites. The legacy and impact of this early contact of the East and the West has remained largely unknown to the scholarly world until manuscripts and fragments from the Silk Road were rediscovered and compared with texts in Greek, Sanskrit, Syriac, Sogdian and other languages.

Bill M. Mak completed his linguistic training at McGill University (B.A. Hons.) specializing in Sanskrit and East Asian languages and received his Ph.D. in Indian literature and Buddhist philology from Peking University. Mak held research and teaching positions at Hamburg University, University of Hong Kong and Kyoto Sangyo University, before his current appointment as Associate Professor at Kyoto University and Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University.